Archive for March, 2012


A planned turkey dinner made for an easy decision of our sweet this weekend. There’s nothing like a Thanksgiving dinner in the springtime. We have a large family and unfortunately do not get to spend the holiday with everyone, so we decided to have a dinner and invite some of those we will not get to see this year.

It will be a very frugal dinner as the star attraction was a gift from my dad. I’m making stuffing out of rolls that I had frozen and left over from a birthday party. I do not stuff the turkey, but make the stuffing separately in a pan or form it into balls which I bake on a sheet pan as my mother, her mother, and her grandmother did before her. I do not stuff the turkey because I feel you have to overcook it to make sure the stuffing is done. I believe the “filling balls” came about way back when it was traditional to stuff poultry, but were used to stretch the meal along with any meat, stuffable or unstuffable. I realize bread was not the most healthful ingredient one could choose to fill up on, but when money was tight and you had a large family to feed that stuffing turned into tummy-warming balls of yumminess that were quite satisfying and cheap. It would be wise to be knowledgable about the frugal ways of our depression-era ancestors during these uncertain economic times.

Pumpkin Pie

I used a graham cracker crust that I had on hand to make this quick. It will also make things a little bit sweeter and mix things up a bit. You can often find these crusts on sale during holiday times of the year, or you could make your own with crushed graham cracker crumbs and butter pressed into a pie plate. Any traditional or “healified” pie crust recipe would work also.

1 cup milk

1 15 oz can 100% pumpkin (or use the equivalent of fresh, but make sure it is well-drained because the cans are solid pack)

2 large eggs

3/4 c white sugar

2 Tbsp corn starch

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Combine wet ingredients in a large bowl, then add dry. Stir until well combined. Pour into 9-inch pie crust. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on rack. Refrigerate left overs. Makes 8 servings.

Pumpkin is a superfood. Rich in antioxidants, one serving of this pie will meet or even exceed your vitamin A requirement for the day. Cinnamon helps stabilize blood sugar, which comes in handy when paired with a higher carbohydrate treat like this. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle a little more on your individual serving. It would look so pretty sprinkled on top of a small dollop of whipped cream. 🙂

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A few weeks ago my mom and I were discussing meal ideas for the Lenten season. She remembered this recipe that her mom used to make on Fridays for her family of six. It makes two thin-crust sheet pizzas. You may also make one thick-crust pizza, which is what I plan to do.

My Grammie has a wonderful personality. She’s always pleasant, friendly, and loves to talk and joke with everyone. Her easy-going attitude is reflected in several of her children. Even as a child I noticed it seemed very easy for her to take things in stride. Not all of us have the personality to allow things to just wash over us and accept things come what may. I believe it’s part personality traits and part religious convictions. Whatever it is, it makes her one of the friendliest, easy-going people I know.

Homemade Pizza – Grammie style

Box of hot roll mix, using the pizza crust recipe (I used Pillsbury and it called for 1 1/4 c water & 2 Tbsp olive oil)

28 oz can plum tomatoes

4 c shredded sharp cheese, or less to taste

Italian seasoning blend, to taste

Garlic powder, to taste

Make your pizza crust with the hot roll mix. For one thick-crust pizza: Generously grease a 14 inch pizza pan or large cookie sheet and pat dough in pan using greased hands after mixing and kneading for 5 minutes. For two thin-crust pizzas: Use two 12-inch pizza pans or cookie sheets. After patting the dough in the pan(s), pricking the dough with a fork and letting it rise for 15 minutes, crush the tomatoes with your hands and distribute them evenly over the dough. Make sure to squeeze the excess juice out of the tomatoes. You can either puree or blend the tomatoes to have enough for two pizzas, or use another can for a chunkier effect. Sprinkle with seasonings and herbs. Sprinkle cheese evenly over tomatoes. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 to 25 minutes or until edges are deep golden brown. For one thick crust pizza bake at lowest oven rack position. For two thin crust pizzas, switch pans on oven racks halfway through bake time. Makes 6 servings.

The cost of this meal was less than $1 per person, using canned tomatoes and cheese on sale combined with coupons.

You could dress this up any way you like with tons of other veggie toppings and/or serve with a salad.

There have been a lot of celebrations around here lately. We’ve just had two birthdays in the house and now Easter is just around the corner. Because we really try hard to eat a healthful diet normally we tend to splurge a little during celebrations. There comes a time when you feel you’ve lost a little ground in the nutrition realm and need to make up for it fast. I’ve turned to the bean for a little help. Beans are nutritious powerhouses and are cheap. I threw together a quick chili and froze portions to be reheated as needed. Chili seems to be one of those dishes that tastes better that way.

Four-bean chili

1 can each of black, light kidney, dark kidney, and cannellini, rinsed well and drained.

1 lb grass-fed ground beef, cooked, crumbled, and drained. (You can rinse and drain the meat too to get rid of even more fat)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped (Use the color or colors of your choice)

1 28 oz can plum tomatoes, crushed with your hand

1 28 oz can tomato sauce

garlic powder, Italian herb seasoning, and cumin, to taste (you could always use chili powder too or instead)

Saute your onion and garlic with the ground beef, add the remaining ingredients and simmer at least an hour. You could also pour everything in a slow cooker, after browning the ground beef and cooking the onions and garlic a little and allow it to cook all day.

You could cut down the amount of meat used by half or leave the meat out of this recipe, making it vegetarian, and serve it over rice or another more interesting grain.

I made the homemade chips by spraying whole wheat tortillas with olive oil, cutting them like a pizza pie and putting them on a cookie sheet into a 400 degree oven for 5 – 10 minutes. Make sure they do not get too brown but are toasted. Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and or seasonings.

Eggs on Sale = Freezer Quiche

It’s springtime and soon there will be many deals on eggs to be found at the market. When you’ve had your fill of pickled eggs and all of the other seasonal egg dishes that are served this time of year, or if you simply want to take advantage of cheap egg prices, I have an idea for you.

Freezer Quiche

In each freezer bag combine:

1 cup milk, 4 eggs, 1/2 cup flour and 2 tsp baking powder that you mixed until well blended. Add approximately 1 cup or more or less to taste of a cooked meat of your choice. You might choose, bacon, ham, Canadian bacon, or sausage, or go meatless. Also add a good amount of frozen veg, such as broccoli, spinach or asparagus, about 1/2 cup of chopped onion and a cup of cheese. I used about 1 1/2 cups frozen chopped veggies. Freeze. On serving day thaw bag in frig and then grab the bag and make sure everything is mixed up. Pour into a nonstick deep dish pie plate or an 8″ x 8″ small baking dish that you prepared with a little nonstick spray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes or until set. Be careful if you add a ton of vegetables to use the baking dish instead of the pie plate, as you may experience overflow.

I set up an assembly line and make six of these at a time varying the flavors. You could do spinach and turkey sausage, mushroom and swiss, sweet roasted red bell pepper or sun-dried tomato with mozzarella, black olives and greek oregano with feta, or whatever happens to be your favorite flavor. Use your imagination. This is a great quick and frugal meal for a weekend breakfast with fruit or a weeknight supper with a salad.

Do you know a busy mom or one coming home with a new baby? How about a friend or neighbor who you know just had surgery? If you know anyone who could use a break from meal preparation this is a very easy, frugal idea to be able to share and lend them a hand. You couldn’t ask for easier prep. They only have to thaw, pour and bake. You could even provide them with a foil pan for easy clean up, and the recipe just in case they would like to know exactly what’s in it so they can make one too.  Just pick up some fruit, crusty rolls or bread, and/or a prewashed salad on your way over to deliver it.

Last week I got caught up in the warm spell around these parts and decided I needed to plant something. My mini herb garden is off to a good start but just in time for a hard freeze to hit us tonight here in Pennsylvania. I think I’ll pull the little guys out of the window right after the sun stops shining on them this evening, and then I’ll go outside and see what’s budding that I can possibly cover and save from the freezing weather. I guess it’s just mother nature’s way of telling us to grow some patience.

Here’s where we are at with the mini herb garden.

One out of the three pots has sprouted. It is exciting to see the little seeds that you planted turning into  living, growing plants. Tend your plants well and barring anything beyond your control you shouldn’t need to buy herbs again. It is very satisfying to go out into your yard and pick your own organic produce.

The actual growing season begins on May 31 here in my neck of the woods. That’s the date you should be able to set out tender plants without fear of frost. It’s a ways away, but in the meantime you can still plan your garden, buy your seeds and get them started indoors. If you’re getting antsy too and want to start, you can find some of that information here. I can’t wait to be able to dive back into my gardening series.

These are great dunked into coffee.

Chocolate Orange Biscotti

1 cup flour

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

1 egg white

1/2 cup chopped almonds

2 Tbsp orange zest

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Grease a cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Beat the egg and egg white and add to flour mixture. Then stir in the almonds and orange zest. Knead until you get a smooth ball.

Roll the dough into a log approximately ten inches long and place on greased cookie sheet. Press down or roll log until it is six inches wide. Bake this for 25 minutes. Cool on rack and cut into one inch slices using a serrated knife. Place slices, cut side down on cookie sheet and return them to the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Turn your slices over halfway through the baking time.

After your cookies cool, melt your chocolate, allow to cool slightly and dip one side of the biscotti. Allow cookies to dry on a wire rack chocolate side up.

This recipe yields around 10 cookies which allows your family to have a special treat without being tempted by a lot of leftovers. These cookies also look pretty packaged up and taken to friends or family as a special treat.

White spaghetti also know as spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino, or spaghetti with garlic, oil and chili peppers, is one of the many fond food memories I have of my grandfather or Pop pop as I called him when I was a child. He went to walk with God when I was in middle school, and I miss him very much. He was a kind, gentle, patient man and an excellent gardener and cook. I never heard him raise his voice and never heard him gossip one word against another person. He was born in Italy and when he spoke you could tell. To this day, whenever I hear that “broken-English thick with Italian accent” spoken by anyone it always makes me tear up. There were several beautiful fruit trees in his yard and many vines of fragrant white grapes, as well as a bountiful garden.

The trick to this recipe is to cook your garlic slow in the olive oil so that the oil also becomes infused with the flavor of the garlic. I use a lot of garlic, a bulb to a pound of pasta. You can use as much or as little as you like. The olive oil that you use is up to you. It should be of good quality. Some prefer the more pronounced flavor of extra virgin and some prefer a milder flavor. I say use whichever you prefer.

Cook your pasta according to package directions. I prefer mine al dente. Do this while you are heating the olive oil in a pan that will be large enough to contain the oil and the cooked pasta, and slowly cook your garlic. You don’t want your garlic to burn as it will become bitter. I chop the garlic in rather large pieces and remove it for finer chopping later on and add it back in to help prevent this. You may start out with a fine chop from the beginning but you have to watch it very carefully. It is difficult to keep your oil at an even temperature with an electric stove. You may want to keep that in mind if you have one.

You want enough oil to evenly coat your pasta without it really dripping from it. I usually eyeball this and it does take some practice. Start with a half a cup of olive oil to a pound of pasta.  After your pasta is cooked and drained well carefully add it to your pot of olive oil and garlic. I stir it around and let it cook just a little so the flavor really penetrates the pasta. Keep this in mind when you are boiling your pasta so it does not become overdone and mushy during this stage. This recipe also calls for grated red pepper flakes. We add these at the table as everyone here does not enjoy the “heat” of the pepper flakes. We also pass the Parmesan cheese. A garnish of parsley is a nice finish and then all of the colors of Italy’s flag are represented by the green parsley, white pasta, and red pepper flakes. This meal goes well with a crusty loaf and a nice green salad with juicy ripe tomatoes and a good oil and vinegar dressing. This is a very cheap meal but I doubt you’ll hear any complaints.

We are enjoying this white spaghetti as a side dish today with broiled haddock and a salad.

What are some of your fond food memories that you associate with a loved one?

Processed Food Disaster

There is good cause to elaborate on yesterday’s post  Views on Processed Foods. I made the muffins and they were absolutely horrible. A few family members didn’t think they were that bad. At the first bite I was met with a strange bitter flavor that my daughter said may have been the 100 percent whole grain. Having had plenty of 100 percent whole grain fare in the past, I had to disagree. I wondered if it may have turned rancid due to the whole grain but the expiration date on the box was not past due, still had a couple of months.

These muffins tasted bad enough to me to forbid my family from eating any more for fear there was something really wrong with them. I’m feeling a little guilty about this now after just reading a post entitled Americans Waste up to $2000 on Discarded Food over at Money Educate. I supposed I feel a slightly justified mostly because they were free and I want to do all I can to protect the health of my family. It was nice to have a reminder about all that is wasted in this country. We normally do quite a bit to make sure we aren’t guilty of wasting food. For more tips you can check out one of my previous posts here.

Would I take another chance on a free or almost free item that I have never tried? Of course I will, as long as it meets the nutritional guidelines that I try to live by. I’d like to confess that those guidelines often change. There’s always something new to learn about food, how it’s produced and how it affects us.  We should not take the “I don’t want to know” attitude when it comes to our food. We are only given one body, and we should do our best to know all we can about the fuel that powers it and helps heal it. More on that subject later.

Have you made anything lately that has not come out as expected?

Suave Deal at CVS

While picking up an Rx today at my local CVS I scored the following deal and found it noteworthy.

Check this past Sunday’s paper for Suave coupons.

My deal consisted of the following with corresponding coupons.

$1.00 Suave deodorant x 2 = $2.00 – $1.00 off two coupon

$2.00 Suave Professionals shampoo and

$2.00 Suave Professionals conditioner = $4.00 – $1.00 off two coupon

$2.00 Suave styler – $1.00 off coupon

$2.00 Suave Naturals body wash x 3 = $6.00 – B2G1 free coupon

For a total of $14.00 – $6.00 in coupons (I did not notice until I got home but they gave me $3.00 off for the body wash which must have been its original price and not its sale price)

I spent $8.00 out of pocket and also received $4.00 in extra bucks to use on a future purchase. So $4.00 for all of these products.

I’ve been there. Have you? You see some fabulous coupon match ups on sale items in your grocery store flyer. The items turn out to be free or only cost pennies. The downfall is that they are processed items. They come in a box. It’s certainly a frugal find, but is it healthful?

We all have our own ideas about where we draw the line when it comes to what we put into our body. I’m all for saving money, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of my family’s health. How bad for you are these boxed items? If you look around you’ll notice manufacturers are trying to healthify their products. I’ve seen boxed dinners that contain whole grain and others that state boldly that they do not contain high fructose corn syrup.

It is best for your health to shop the perimeter of your grocery store, as this is where all of the fresh produce, meats and dairy are located. It’s the center aisles where you want to be wary. I’m all for getting free or close to free products so I usually end up in those center aisles sooner or later. As has been mentioned before, everything in moderation. Generally I check the label of the item. If there is something unidentifiable or something I just cannot live with listed then I don’t buy the item. In another season of my life I would just scarf up whatever I could for free or for pennies because that’s where we were financially. If that’s where you are now another option would be to look at the item or items and see if you could whip something up from scratch for pennies by combining whole food products.

While cleaning out and reorganizing my pantry I found a box of healthified muffin mix. I did notice that the blueberries are packed in a light syrup that contains HFCS. Oh well, I’ll rinse the berries. There are some bananas that are almost too ripe on my counter so I will ramp up the nutrition a bit and use the blueberries in half of the batter and mashed up banana in the other half. This will increase the fruit to muffin ratio a bit and probably only result in maybe a more moist muffin. It will also please the blueberry snubber in the house.

These muffins claim to contain whole grain. A better look at the label confirms this, as the first ingredient is whole wheat flour. Unfortunately the second ingredient is sugar. Having made these from scratch I could have controlled that, but then I wouldn’t have free muffins. It’s a give and take world.

Now I’m off to bake them and see how it works out. The calorie count per muffin is 200 using the cholesterol-free instructions. There are 3 grams of fiber, but a whopping 19 grams of sugar. It’s a sweet and it isn’t even Saturday. We’re almost out of bread and breakfasty type foods though, so I’m counting on these muffins to bridge the gap until it’s shopping day. After all, who wants to waste gas at almost $4 a gallon? Also, the less you visit the store, the less you end up spending.

How do you feel about food that comes in a box?

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