Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mini-Bagel Breakfast Sammies

6 mini bagels (free after coupon)
2 whole eggs ($.15)
2 egg whites ($.15)
6 sausage patties ($.60)
3 slices reduced fat cheddar cheese, cut in half diagonally ($.25)
1 T. butter ($.10)

Toast mini bagels and lightly butter them.

Scramble whole eggs with egg whites, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add 1/2 tsp. butter to a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When butter is hot, add seasoned egg mixture and cook over medium heat until egg is set, turning over once halfway through cooking.

Heat sausage patties through according to package directions.

Cut egg into 6 wedges or pieces, top bagel with a section of egg, on sausage pattie and 1/2 slice of cheese.

Serve hot.

Yields 2-3 servings
Cost: $1.25
Cost per mini-bagel: $.21

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spinach Mandarin Salad with Chicken and Walnuts

I was looking for some new recipes, and came across a simple spinach salad with mandarin orange wedges which looks just divine. I wanted more on an entree salad than a side salad, so I browsed through my refrigerator and pantry and came up with this - a salad exploding with flavor and color - a treat to the palate and the eyes.

3 C. baby spinach (free after coupon)
8.5 oz. can mandarin oranges (free after coupons)
3 T. chopped pecans ($.35)
1/2 C. thin sliced chicken breast ($.40)
1/4 red bell pepper, julienned (free after coupon)
1/4 C. shredded munster cheese ($.30)

Toss all ingredients together. Serve with your favorite dressing.
Yields - 1 entree sized salad or 2 side salads
Cost: $1.05

Olive Garden Inspired Chicken Alfredo Margarita Flatbread Pizza

DH & I used a free Olive Garden gift card for a mini-date a few weeks ago, and just went for appetizers and dessert. As much as we love their entrees, we love their appetizers even more. On a lark, we decided to order the Chicken Margarita Flatbread - and it was amazing.

Then this past week, we had a good ol' time with the $3 off bakery bread coupon from Jewel and I grabbed 2-3 flatbread pizza crusts that I'm eager to work with. Since DH was craving a roasted chicken and happened to have one on hand, I'm roasting a chicken for tonight's dinner and the leftover white meat (DH & I are dark meat fans through and through) will be perfect on top this lovely recipe.

Since fresh herbs tend to be rather expense here, I'll substitute in dried basil for fresh, but this recipe looks like a great treat for far less than the $7.95 the Olive Garden charges!

1 flatbread pizza crust ($.49 after coupon!)
1 C. chicken breast strips ($.55)
2/3 C. alfredo sauce (light (free after coupons)
1 T. basil ($.10)
14 oz. can Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained ($.29 after coupons)
2/3 C. reduced fat mozzarella cheese ($.79)
1 medium red bell pepper, julienned (free after coupon)
1/4 C. parmesan, if desired ($.35)

Spread the alfredo sauce evenly on flatbread crust. Dust with basil, sprinkle with cheese. Thoroughly drain the diced tomatoes, top flatbread with chicken, bell pepper, and diced tomato. Top with parmesan.

Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crush is lightly golden.

Cut into wedges and serve.
Yields = 16 wedges
Cost: $2.57
Cost per wedge: $.16
Servings: 4 (appetizer-style), 2 (entree)

Want a simple variation? Go meatless by removing the chicken. Top with sliced pepperoni or Italian-style chicken sausage, swap out marinara or pesto for alfredo, or add on your favorite veggies.

Chicken, Bacon, Ranch Tostadas

If you love the idea of a wrap, but want something a little lighter in these hot months, give tostadas a try. Simple, fresh ingredients, minimal cooking, and crunch-tastic - these are definitely the way to go when you're looking for a great meal that everyone will enjoy and you don't have more than 15 minutes to spare. Here's how:

12 tostadas ($.99)
1 heart of Romaine (or half a head of Iceberg), shredded $.29
1 1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese ($.95)
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (pre-cooked), sliced very thin ($1.09)
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled ($.50)
1 C. diced tomatoes, if desired ($.50)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped ($.25)
1 bottle (12-16 oz.) ranch dressing ($.29 after coupons)

Drizzle tostada lightly with ranch, top with any (or all) of the above ingredients, drizzle again with ranch, if desired.

Yields = 3-4 servings
Cost: $4.86
Cost per tostada: $.41

Sunday, July 25, 2010

4 Ingredient Chicken Wing Glaze

Hubby was grilling some chicken wings and chicken drummies the other night and I offered to whip up a quick glaze - all it took was a little rummaging in my pantry and fridge - and a new flavor of wings were winging their way to our table. And it took all of 90 seconds to put it together!

3 T. barbeque sauce (Sweet Baby Rays Sweet Vidalia) ($.05)
1 T. honey ($.20)
2 T. marinade (Hawaiian) (free after coupons)
1/4 tsp. hickory smoke (salt or liquid would work fine) ($.10)

Whisk and brush over chicken during last few minutes of grilling.

Yields = 1 batch (enough for 3 lbs. of chicken)
Cost: $.35

Tip: Make this ahead and refrigerate. Allow to come to room temperature before using. This can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

10 Tips to Baking on a Budget - Gourmet Style

This weekend, my husband and I decided to "tour" a local upscale market and see if they had anything interesting on offer. Boy, were we in for a shock! A 10 oz. pkg. of simple, chocolate chip cookies was selling for $4.39. Yep, not kidding. I couldn't make up prices that ridiculous. But, I also couldn't pay prices that ridiculous either. I may not have walked away with a small package of over-priced sweets and confections, but I did leave with some great ideas and a few tips for anyone looking to bake beautiful concoctions on a shoe-string.

1. Play up the presentation. We saw adorable mini-brownies that had been baked in a mini-muffin tin, dust with powdered sugar, and cost over $7 for a dozen and a half. I bet your average brownie mix could yield at least 2 dozen and all your ingredients cost less than $3. That's more than a 65% savings. We also saw cookies topped with chips, instead of stirring them into the batter. I'd probably go 50-50: stir in half and use the over half of the chips (nuts, etc.) for topping. Bringing goodies to a function? Bag cookies in small, cellophane bags tied off with curling ribbon, bring a loaf presliced on a pretty plate, or wrap a few biscotti in a coffee mug. Grab small items from clearance sales, dollar stores, and garage sales and offer your goodies as a hostess gift, too!

2. Flavor combinations. Everyone has their favorite flavor combinations - from chocolate and caramel, to white chocolate macadamian nut, to lemon almond. Want a different flavor of muffin? Use a favorite pie or cookie flavor combo and you'll have a new family favorite in no time. I saw dessert breads for $7.49 a loaf in my favorite muffin flavors (cranberry orange or lemon almond). Looks like I have a new recipe just waiting to be created.

3. Bringing back tea time. Yes, that's right - more people are opting for finger foods reminiscent of what you'd serve at tea time. Mini-scones, anyone? A dozen mini-scone wedges (in orange cranberry, again) for $6.99. Hmmm...after having learned to make scones earlier this year, I don't think I'd ever pay for them again - let alone at that price. Not a scone fan? Bake a sweet bread in mini-loaf pans and serve the lovely, little slices. I saw 10 slices of a raspberry swirl mini-loaf selling for $5.49.

4. It's all about size. I noticed that mini- is all the rage. From mini-muffins, mini brownies, mini scones, and mini-bagels - pound per pound, people are paying a hefty premium for less - more than 20% more on average. Mini-treats are easy to do at home - mini cookies are a snap, mini scones (just cut the dough in half, then form the discs and cut into wedges), mini muffins and more - with very little equipment required. For the cost of a pkg. of mini-muffins, you can buy a mini-muffin tin (or two).

5. Convenience is key. Keeping basic baking staples on hand will save you a fortune: from the delicious traps that most bakeries are, and the expense of having to get there. I already have flour, sugar, eggs, baking soda/powder, flavors and extracts, spices, and some nuts, a few dried fruits, and chips on hand. With simple things like that, I can make most of what I saw at that bakery. Don't worry about the expense of cookbooks - there are thousands of websites and blogs (including this one) that give great tips, recipes, and ideas - for free.

6. Planning ahead. You can make and freeze/refrigerate cookie dough. If you have the inredients to spare, you save time and a little cash by making a double batch. It's less dishes to wash later on, saving on water, dish soap, and it doesn't take you much longer to make a double batch versus a single batch.

7. Experiment. This is the time of year that many local fruits are in season. My favorite discovery this year has been the versatile, bountiful peach. I've made peach almond bars and muffins that were huge favorites among fmaily, friends, and coworkers. Best part is: I'm saving a bundle - the peaches were the cheapest in-season fruit that week and I needed to bake for a few get-togethers anyway.

8. Imitation is the finest form of flattery. Love the look of those bluebery pies in the window? Make your own version of it! Many ideas of mine come from the delicious inspiration of cookbooks, bakeries, and are built around what I have on hand. Not enough blueberries for a full pie? Make a mixed berry pie. Don't have a lot of berries hanging around? Try a blueberry loaf, bluebery buckle, blueberry scones, or blueberry muffins. Love the flavor of that chocolate cherry cake - make a cookie version.

9. Speak up. Don't be afraid to ask someone for their recipe for a dessert you like, either. In all my years, I've never had someone say they couldn't possibly share a recipe. Also, I've always shared a recipe when asked for it. That's partially how this blog came about. I wanted to keep all my recipes in one central location and people would often ask for a particular recipe when I would be at a function. Now, all I have to do (if I don't have the recipe with me), is refer them here with the recipe title.

10. Build on what you already know. For years, I was the cookie queen. Then, on a lark - I decided to try my hand at bars. Next thing you know, I'm bold enough to take on biscotti - and I've never looked back. Once in a while, I still get a bit nervous trying a type of dish I've never made, but if you challenge yourself just once a month - by the end of the year - you'll have added a dozen new dishes (that you can make variations of) to your repertiore.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Peach Syrup

This was a recipe by accident. I was hoping to make something resembling preserves or even peach butter. Let me explain...

I was blanching peaches to freeze and a few of them cooked a bit too much for slicing. So, after I peeled the overcooked peaches, I tossed them into a pot I had next to me, and when I was done, I slowly simmered the peaches with a few choice ingredients, mashing the peaches as they cooked.

Since the mixture isn't all together thick - like spreadable thick, I would call it a syrup. Perfect to serve over pancakes, french toast, and waffles - which is exactly what I plan to do with it!

8-10 ripe peaches, peeled (free after coupons)
1 1/2 C. brown sugar ($.20)
2-3 T. butter ($.25)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon ($.15)
1/8 tsp. nutmeg ($.10)

Add all ingredients to a pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, breaking up the chunks of peaches until they're very soft. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until most of the peaches have dissolved.

Cool and store in airtight jars in the fridge.

Yields = 3 pints
Cost: $.70
Cost per pint: $24

Chicken Alfredo Subs

Doesn't that just sound too tasty to be true? All the creamy, dreamy goodness of alfredo sauce and the lovely flavor of chicken all rolled into a handy sandwich...I'm hungry for it all ready! Would you ever beleive that I can make 4 of them for under $2 - not $2 a serving, but $2 total?? This is going to be lunch for tomorrow - and I can't wait! I bet hubby really likes this one.

4 sub rolls or french rolls (free after Jewel coupon)
1 large chicken breast ($1.29)
salt and pepper ($.10)
1 C. alfredo sauce (free after coupons)
1 C. baby spinach (free after Jewel coupon)
1/2 C. mozzarella cheese ($.20)
1/4 C. parmesan cheese ($.15)

In a nonstick pan, add 1 tsp. oil over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add chicken breast (seasoned with salt and pepper to taste), and cook for 5-7 minutes per side, chicken is done when it's golden on the outside and juices run clear. Let rest 5 minutes, then slice very thin.

Warm alfredo sauce in a pan on the stove for 5-6 minutes, or until it reaches desired temperature. Or if you prefer, serve the alfredo sauce at room temperature.

Cut each roll in half and top with 1/4 of the chicken mixture. Top each sammies with shredded mozzarella, a sprinkling of parmesan, and drizzle with alfredo sauce. Top with spinach and serve.

Yields = 4 sammies
Cost: $1.74
Cost per sammie: $.45

Want to make this sammie a meal? Top with additional veggies and toppings like:
Bell pepper strips
Thin sliced or carmelized onions
Thin sliced, sauteed mushrooms
Sundried tomatoes
Crumbled bacon
Green onions
Fresh basil
Shredded carrot

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Zesty Bean Dip

16 oz. can refried beans, fat free $.50
1/8 to 1/4 C. salsa (your favorite variety) $.20
2 T. minced onion ($.10)
pinch of chili powder or cayenne powder ($.05)

In a microwabe safe bowl, add all ingredients and stir well to combine. Top with 2 T. shredded cheese, if desired. Heat through and serve with tortilla chips, corn chips, whole wheat crackers, or as part of a taco, tostada, or Mexican bar/buffet.

Yields = 8-12 servings
Cost: $.85
Cost per serving: $.10

Peach Lime Spritzer

1-2 fresh peaches (free after coupons)
8 fresh limes ($.40)
6-8 C. cold water (free)
1 C. crushed ice (free)
1 1/2 C. sugar ($.45)

Rinse fresh peaches, cut in half, remove the pit, then slice very thin (leaving the peel on). Add sugar and 6 C. water to large glass pitcher, stir to dissolve sugar. Add in ice, sliced peaches, and juice from 7 limes. Slice remaining lime into thin rings, and add to pitcher. Chill and serve. Add additional water if desired.

Yields = 10-14 8 oz. servings
Cost: $.85
Cost per serving: $.08

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Peach & Almond Muffins

With the crazy good prices of peaches lately ($.39 lb.), I've been loving the crazy-good recipes I've been coming up with to use them. This is the first summer where I've seen such a good price on peaches, and will confess that before this season, I'd never bought (or had) a fresh peach in my life. Now, there's no turning back!

I've made peach salsa (which I absolutely adore), peach & pecan bars (heavenly), grilled peaches (beyond words...they are that good), and now....peach almond muffins. Why muffins? Because I was baking a batch of them anyway. While I was in the kitchen baking blueberry vanilla muffins and white chocolate raspberry muffins, I sectioned out some muffin dough and tossed in peaches, a splash of rum extract, and a palmful or two of sliced almonds. The result: a light, sweet, delicious muffin variation that I've never seen - anywhere. The only thing better than a new recipe turning out well - coming up with a flavor combination that you've never seen done before.

At a fraction of the cost of bakery muffins (roughly a dozen muffins for the price of one bakery muffin!), these will be a hit with your wallet and your family!

1 egg, beaten ($.07)
1/2 tsp. rum extract ($.10)
1/4 tsp. vanilla ($.05)
1/2 C. milk (fat-free) ($.05)
1/4 C. vegetable oil ($.10)
1 1/2 C. flour ($.15)
1/2 C. sugar ($.15)
2 tsp. baking soda ($.10)
1/4 C. sliced almonds ($.25)
1-2 peaches, peeled and chopped small ($.20)

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Stir in rum, vanilla, milk, and oil. Add flour, sugar, baking soda and stir 15 times. Add in almonds and peaches, fold in until just combined.

Heat oven to 400.

Grease muffin tin and fill cups (3/4 for small muffins, to the top for larger muffins)

Bake for 17-20 minutes, muffins are done when tops are lightly golden on top.

Cool and serve

Yields 9-12 muffins
Cost: $1.22
Cost per muffin: $.14

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Boneless Chicken Wings with a Sweet Apricot Glaze

2 large chicken breasts, boneless, skinless ($2.00)
1 egg white ($.07)
salt and pepper, to taste ($.05)
1 C. flour ($.10)
1 T. canola oil ($.05)
1 tsp. garlic powder, optional ($.05)
2 T. lemon juice ($.15)
4 T. brown sugar ($.20)
2/3 C. apricot preserves ($.65)
1 T. soy sauce (optional) ($.10)
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)

Cut chicken into bite sized nuggets. Combine flour with salt, pepper, and garlic. Whisk egg white with 1 tsp. water. Dunk chicken nuggets into egg wash, then into the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour.

Add oil to non-stick pan over medium high heat, then add chicken nuggets. Cook until brown on the outside and juice run clear (5-7 minutes).

In a small pot, add lemon juice, brown sugar, apricot preserves, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a simmer, cook until mixture is well combined and has thickened slightly.

Drizzle the apricot glaze over chicken just before serving.

Yields = 4-6 servings
Cost: $3.42
Cost per serving: $.86

Sweet Honey-Lime Chicken Drummies

I am a huge fan of bone-in chicken, particularily the drummies. In my area, I can typically buy drummies for under $.79 per pound, making it a great, budget-friendly staple. This recipe would work equally well with bone-in breasts or wings, if your family prefers white meat. No chicken on hand? Try this with pork chops - an easy way to get more variety out of your meals is by swapping chicken out for pork in a recipe (or vice versa). For chicken, always reduce your marinating time by half is using in a pork-based recipe.

I'm excited about the bright, bold flavors of this dish - I love the tangy bite of lime paired with the smooth sweetness of the honey. With a dash on ancho chile powder for some heat and a bit of kick, this is sure to be a favorite for kids and adults.

With many of the ingredients of this dish on sale now, I'll be working this into next week's meal plan. I can't wait to see how it turns out!

juice and zest of 2 limes ($.10)
3 T. honey ($.25)
3 T. soy sauce ($.15)
1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder (you can use regular chile powder or paprika if you don't have ancho) ($.10)
1 T. chopped scallions, optional ($.35)
8-10 chicken drummies, bone in ($2.20)

Whisk together juice and zest of limes, honey, soy sauce, and ancho chile powder. Pour half of this over chicken and marinate for 1 hour. Reserve the other half of the marinade.

Remove chicken from marinade, and grill over medium heat (or pan fry over medium heat) for 4-6 minutes per side, turning over once or twice while cooking. Chicken is done when meat is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Heat remaining half of marinade over medium low, stirring often. Mixture should thicken slightly. Cook over low for 5-8 minutes.

Pour glaze over chicken, then serve.
Top with scallions, if desired.
Serve with rice, tortillas, stirfry veggies, or with mixed greens salad.

Yields = 4-5 servings
Cost: $3.15
Cost per serving: $.79

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 C. brown sugar ($.10)
1/2 C. granulated sugar ($.10)
1 stick softened margarine ($.18)
1 egg ($.09)
1 tsp. vanilla ($.10)
1/2 tsp baking powder dissolved in 1 T. hot water ($.10)
2 C. flour ($.20)
3/4 C. semisweet chocolate chips ($.70)

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix well sugars and margarine. Stir in egg and extract, mix well. Stir in dissolved baking soda, stir in flour 1 C at a time, mixing until well blended. Stir in chips. Drop by rounded spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 9-11 minutes, longer for a crunchy cookie.
Yield - 24-30 cookies
Cost: $1.57
Cost per cookie: $.06

Summer Fruit Salad

2 medium apples, sweet snacking varieties ($.88)
2 T. lemon juice concentrate ($.10)
2 small peaches, skin on ($.38)
1/2 lb. grapes, any variety ($.40)
1 C. golden raisins ($.45)
1/4 C. orange juice blend ($.20)
1/2 C. chopped pecans, optional ($.50)

Place raisins in microwave-safe bowl, add juice and heat for 45 seconds. Let raisins stand until they absorb all the juice and get plump.

Peel apples and slice both the apples and the peaches very thin. Toss with lemon juice to prevent browning. Rinse grapes and add to bowl. Stir in raisins and top with chopped pecans.

Yields = 6-8 servings
Cost: $3.01
Cost per serving: $.50

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sweet Mesquite Chicken Strips

1 pkg. Mesquite Marinade (dry seasoning packet) (free after coupons)
1/2 C. flour ($.05)
2 T. brown sugar ($.05)
1 tsp. garlic powder ($.05)
1/2 tsp. black pepper ($.05)
1 1/4 lbs. chicken breast, cut into strips ($2.25)
cooking spray or 2 tsp. oil ($.05)

In a wide, shallow bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken. Dip chicken strips in flour mixture, turning to coat thoroughly. Add cooking spray (or oil) to a non-stick pan and cook over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, turning over once during cooking.

Yields = 5 servings (3-5 strips per person)
Cost: $2.50
Cost per serving: $.50

4 Cheese French Bread Pizza

I absolutely adore French bread pizzas. So simple, so tasty - I got hooked on those shortly after meeting my hubby, they've been a favorite of ours for years. I will hang my head and admit, I first tried the frozen ones. Now, I'm not a big fan of prepared frozen foods in general, and it wasn't long before I figured out a way to make this one in particular.

During Lent, this meatless basic turns up on the menu fairly often, but even in the summer, when I am crazing some pizza goodness, without a heavy, hearty meal, this twist on the classic pizza is a perfect go-to recipe. Served with a side salad and some marinara dipping sauce, this is a ideal summer meal.

1 loaf French Bread ($.99)
2 T. olive oil ($.15)
1-2 T. finely minced garlic ($.10)
1 T. basil ($.10)
1 C. parmesan ($.60)
2 C. mozzarella cheese, shredded ($1.75)
8 slices provolone cheese ($.50)
3/4 C. Munster, shredded ($.75)
1 T. parsley ($.05)

Heat oven to 400.

Cut French bread in half lengthwise, then width-wise.

Combine garlic, olive oil, and basil. Place french bread on a baking sheet, crust side down. Brush top evenly with seasoned olive oil. Top each portion with 2 slices of provolone, then evenly distribute shredded cheeses. Top with parmesan and parsley.

Bake for 6-9 minutes, or until cheese in melted and lightly golden. Cut into slices and serve with marinara for dipping.

Yields = 4 dinner sized portions or 12 appetizers
Cost: $4.99
Cost: $1.25 (per dinner)
Cost: $.41 (per appetizer)

For variations:

Top with:
Roasted bell pepper strips
Carmelized onion
Grilled chicken breast strips
Thin sliced mushrooms
Crumbled bacon
Black olives
Roasted garlic chips
Sundried tomatoes
Or any of your favorite pizza toppings!