Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Maple Pecan Apple Crisp

I was craving a sweet and fruity dessert tonight, so I tossed together some premade, homemade apple pie filling with a few pantry staples. Looks like I've got another favorite that doesn't require any "fancy" ingredients. I can't wait to try this with an apple and pear combination and some walnuts. With dozens of possible variations, I'm thinking I can even soak some raisins in a dark rum and add that as another twist.

1 quart-sized bag apple pie filling ($.50)
1 C. brown sugar ($.20)
2/3 C. rolled oats ($.10)
1/2 C. flour ($.10)
3 T. maple sugar ($.15)
1 T. molasses ($.10)
2 T. margarine ($.10)
2 T. pecans ($.20)

Grease a loaf pan.

Heat oven to 375.

Combine apples with maple syrup and molasses. Add to loaf pan.Combine all remaining ingredients except margarine and pecans.

Cut the cold margarine into the dry ingredients until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Sprinkle this over the apples, top with pecans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Yields = 3-4 servings
Cost: $1.45
Cost per serving: $.49

Onion and Chicken Rice

I love fried rice, seasoned rice, well - I'm definitely a rice eatin' kind of girl. Since I often have chicken broth/stock on hand and onions are a pantry staple, this hearty side dish came about mostly due to the ingredients on hand. Easy to tweak and personalize, rice dishes are some of my most affordable and favorite go-to sides when I'm making a 30 minute meal, or when I simply do not have a lot of fresh ingredients on hand.

2 C. white or brown rice ($.29)
4 C. chicken broth or stock ($.25)
2 cubes beef bouillion ($.10)
1 medium onion, finely minced ($.10)
pinch of cumin ($.05)
1 T. oil ($.05)
1 clvoe garlic, minced ($.05)

In a large, nonstick skillet, add oil and heat over medium-high. When oil is hot, add finely minced onion and cook over medium high to carmelize. Once onion is brown, add garlic and rice, toast rice (cook until rice is no longer translucent).

Add stock and bouillion. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook 15-18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed.

Yields = 6-8 servings
Cost: $.89
Cost per serving: $.15

Portabella Alfredo over Fettucine with Grilled Chicken

I forgot to thaw something for yesterday's dinner, so I decided to build a meal around some of my pantry basics. I always keep a variety of pasta sauces and pastas on hand for moments like this. While I like my made-from-scratch sauces better, the variations you can make using a jarred sauce as a base for pasta are endless. Last night, I had a handful of cremini mushrooms (baby bellas) still in the fridge that I needed to use. This recipe idea just popped into my head....and, to be honest, it might have been inspired by the Olive Garden commercials.

1 jar Bertolli 4 Cheese Alfredo ($.75 after coupons)
1 tsp. olive oil ($.10)
6 cremini mushrooms, chopped small ($.13)
1 lb. fettucine pasta ($.50)
1/2 Italian Herb grilled chicken breast, cut into thin strips ($.45)
salt and pepper ($.05)
2-3 T. water (free)

Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain and rinse.

In a nonstick skillet, add oil and heat over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add chopped mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat until mushrooms are just fork tender. Pour sauce into pan, add water to pasta sauce jar, shake well and add that to the pan, cook over medium-low for 6-10 minutes.

Toss 2/3 of pasta with sauce to coat well. Top with chicken.

Yields = 3 servings
Cost: $1.98
Cost per serving: $.67

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hot Beef Sammies

I love fun sammies and diner food. There's nothing better for a busy week night dinner than a fancier-than-grilled-cheese sandwich and a good salad for dinner. I keep the fixin's for both on hand, when time gets a little too short to do the recipe I originally had scheduled in my meal plan, or one of the major components for the meal is missing.

I have a bread outlet store less than 3 miles from my house, which typically sells breads for under $1 a loaf, making sammies a clear favorite for my hubby and I. With cheap and easy access to bread, a crockpot, and a cabinet full of spices and tons of free marinades (from my couponing adventures), I'm usually in good shape to whip up a hearty sandwich and salad dinner. This helps the budget, too. We get takeout maybe once a month. I honestly can't remember the last time I had takeout.

3 lb. boneless beef rolled roast ($4.51)
2 envelopes onion and mushroom soup mix ($.10 after coupons)
1 envelope savory garlic and herb seasoning mix (free after coupons)
4 C. water (free)
1 cube chicken bouillion ($.06)
salt and pepper ($.05)
3 T. corn starch ($.05)
1/4 C. water (free)
4 slices pre-sliced Italiaf loaf bread ($.10)

Rub roast with contents of seasoning packets. Place in crockpot, season with salt and pepper (if desired). Add water cube of chicken bouillion, and cook over high heat for 4 hours, reduce heat to low and cook an additional 2-3 hours. When roast is just fork tender, remove from crockpot.

In a medium, nonstick skillet, add broth from the crockpot, salt and pepper. Heat to a simmer, uncovered. Mix well corn starch and 1/4 C. water. Whisk this slowly into the broth, stirring constantly until mixture reaches desired consistency.

Remove any netting from beef (if necessary), discard. Slice beef thin. Toast the bread.

Add 4-6 slices of beef on top each slice of bread, top with gravy.

Yields 1 open-faced sammie per person (4 servings)
Cost: $4.87
Cost per serving: $1.22

Leftover Makeover:
Beef in a Creamy Mushroom Gravy

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oatmeal Walnut Cookies

2 sticks margarine ($.25)
1 heaping C. dark brown sugar ($.15)
1/2 C. granulated sugar ($.10)
2 eggs ($.15)
2 tsp. vanilla extract ($.10)
1 tsp. walnut extract ($.10)
1 3/4 C. flour ($.20)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg ($.10)
1 tsp. baking soda ($.10)
3 2/3 C. oats ($.75)
1 C. chopped walnuts ($.80)

Heat oven to 350.

In large mixing bow, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and extracts - mix until well blended. In separate bowl, mix together flour, nutmeg, and baking soda.

Slowly add dry ingredients to the large mixing bowl - stirring til well blended. Stir in oats (I do this by cup-full), stir in walnuts.

Drop cookies by spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9-10 minutes for soft cookie 13-14 minutes for crunchy cookie.

Yields - 4 1/2 dozen small cookies
Cost: $2.80
Cost per cookie: $.05 per cookie

Italian Herbed Crusted Chicken

Hubby made this for dinner tonight and must admit, I'm pretty impressed. Better than what I've had at Olive Garden, this recipe is too easy to be believed for as good as it turned out. I can't wait to use this for entertaining, I'm sure if paired with a skin-on mashed potatoes in a light sauce (something reminiscent of a parmesan-garlic cream sauce). Served with a salad of mixed greens or seasonal roasted veggies, this is my new go-to for dinner entertaining or date nights at home.

2 envelopes Weber's Italian Herb marinade (free after coupons)
1/4 C. olive oil ($.35)
1/2 C. water (free)
3 T. white wine vinegar (free after coupons)
3 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into filets ($4.55)

Whisk together all ingredients except chicken. Marinate chicken in mixture for 2 hours.

Grill chicken over medium heat for 10-12 minutes per side. Chicken is done when juices run clear and internal temperature reaches 165 F.

Serve with rice or pasta, on top of a salad, or slice thin and use this to top a pizza.

Yields = 6-8 servings
Cost: $4.90
Cost per serving: $.82

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sharp Cheddar & Pepper Frittata

1 large or 2 medium red bell peppers, seeds removed, and quartered ($.40)
2 tsp. olive oil ($.20)
2/3 C. sharp cheddar, shredded ($.45)
6 whole eggs ($.40)
3 egg whites ($.20)
3 T. light sour cream ($.10)
3 T. milk, skim or 1% ($.05)
salt and pepper ($.05)

Heat oven to 325.

Drizzle bell pepper with olive oil, place on a grill pan over high heat, roast until skin is blackened, turning over once, approximately 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from grill pan, place pepper in a paper bag. Let set for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, egg whites, sour cream, milk, and salt and pepper. Grease a pie plate well with canola oil. Add cheese, pour egg mixture on top.

Remove bell pepper from bag, discard bag, and remove skin from pepper. Chop the bell pepper as fine as you'd like (I like mine chopped fairly fine). Add to egg mixture and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Frittata is done when egg is cooked through and lightly golden on top.
Yields = 4 servings
Cost: $1.85 or $.47 per serving

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beef in a Creamy Mushroom Gravy

3 lbs. boneless beef rolled roast ($4.50)
8 oz. white button mushrooms, thin sliced ($.99)
2 C. water (free)
2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers ($.10)
2 envelopes onion mushroom soup mix ($.05 after coupons)
2 T. flour ($.05)
1 T. water (free)
2 T. minced garlic ($.05)
2 T. light sour cream ($.05)
1 tsp. oil ($.05)
1 tsp. basil ($.05)
salt and pepper ($.05)

Rub soup mix into roast. Pierce roast and insert garlic slivers. Top with basil.

In a large crockpot, add roast, 2 C. water, and minced garlic.

Cook over low for 6-8 hours, until meat is tender.

Cool meat to room temperature, remove netting (if tied), cut in thin slices. Remove fat from liquid, add 1 T. water and flour - mix well.

In a nonstick skillet, saute mushrooms in oil over medium heat until fork tender (6-8 minutes). Add liquid from crockpot (after fat has been removed) and flour/water mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Cook until gravy reaches desired consistency. Stir in sour cream and add beef slices.

Serve with toast, over mashed potatoes, or on rice.

Yields = 8-10 servings
Cost: $5.94
Cost per serving: $.60

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hickory Pork Tenderloin

My favorite cut of pork (or meat, for that matter) is pork tenderloin. Boneless, lean, and adaptable to any of the dozens of great recipes I can think of, this meat has a light, subtle flavor that plays well with many of the spices, sauces, marinades, and condiments I can think of. It doesn't hurt that this meat is often found for under $1.50 lb. and looks absolutely elegant when you're entertaining guests for dinner. This can meat can be as simple as a thin sliced sandwich meat, hearty slices can be topped with sauces or gravies, and looks bold enough to be served in a holiday meal.

Here, I'm taking some of my favorite smoky flavors, tossing them together in a dry rub, and I'm faking out the BBQ experience by roasting it to develop the flavors. When you don't have time, conducive weather, or the energy to grill - this entree will fool everyone. If you want to complete the grilled look, pop this meat on your grill pan on high for a 5-6 minutes per side before transferring it to an over-safe dish to bake.

3.5 lb. - 4 lb. pork tenderloin half ($4.39)
3 1/2 tsp. cumin ($.10)
1 tsp. garlic powder ($.05)
1 tsp. onion powder ($.05)
1/2 tsp. season salt ($.05)
1 1/2 tsp. hickory smoked salt ($.15)
1 tsp. smoked paprika ($.05)
1/2 T. oregano ($.05)
1 T. brown sugar ($.05)
1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder ($.05)
cooking spray

Combine all ingredients except tenderloin and cooking spray, mix well.

Rub mixture directly onto tenderloin.
Spray a baking dish with cooking spray, bake uncovered at 350 for 1 hour 45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165.

Let meat rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Slice thin using a meat slicer for amazing deli meat. Freeze in 1/2 to 1 lb. packages and pull them out when you want to.

Cavatappi in a Garlic Portabella Sauce

1 lb. cavatappi ($.50)
6 cloves garlic ($.15)
2 tsp. olive oil ($.18)
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced very thin (baby bellas) ($.99)
8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced very thin ($.99)
2 T. flour ($.05)
2 C. chicken or vegetable stock ($.69)
1/4 C. sour cream, light ($.15)
1 T. basil ($.10)
1 tsp. oregano ($.10)
1/2 tsp. black pepper ($.05)
1 tsp. salt ($.05)

Boil cavatappi as directed on the package to al dente. Drain.

In a large, nonstick skillet, add oil and thin sliced mushrooms and cook over medium heat. Add garlic, salt, and pepper when mushrooms are almost tender. Once mushrooms are tender, whisk in flour. Once flour and oil are well incorporated, stir in stock and remaining seasonings. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken. Once sauce starts to thicken, stir in sour cream. Heat through to desired consistency. Stir in cooked pasta, cook an additional 5 minutes, and serve.

Yields = 6-8 servings
Cost: $4.00
Cost per serving: $.58

Smoky Pork French Bread Pizza

Over the last few weeks, we've been using grilled pork ribs as a meat option (since I have a few meals sized bags already grilled, lightly shredded) in my freezer. I used my Easy Rib Rub on them before grilling - and it gives them such a lovely flavor. I've still got 1/3 of a quart-sized bag of ribs left to use this week - and it's more than enough for one, but not quite enough for two. This simple twist on a flatbread pizza recipe I saw in Houlihan's is a great alternative to eating out (too expensive) and a traditional (more calorie-laden) pizza.

The only thing that can compete with the flavors in this dish are how budget-friendly it is to put together!

1 twin-loaf package of french bread ($1.19)
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil ($.10)
1 C. shredded pork ($.40)
1 tsp. cumin ($.10)
3/4 C. shredded cheddar, reduced fat ($.35)
8 thin slices provolone cheese, cut in half ($.65)
1 T. steak sauce (free after coupons)
1/3 C. BBQ sauce (free after coupons)
1 T. teriyaki marinade (free after coupons)
1/2 medium orange bell pepper, cut match-stick sized ($.16)
1 tsp. oregano ($.10)
1/4 C. parmesan, if desired ($.20)
1 T. parsley ($.05)

Whisk together steak sauce, BBQ sauce, and marinade. Cut each loaf of french bread in half lengthwise. Brush with olive oil and lightly grill (indoors or on a grill) until bread is lightly crispy on cut side (approximately 3-4 minutes).

Toss pork with oregano and cumin. Brush BBQ sauce mixture onto bread, top with pork and bell pepper. Top bread evenly with pizza (first provolone, then cheddar). Dust with parmesan if desired. Top with parsley.

Bake at 400 for 8-11 minutes.

Cut each pizza into quarters, serve with BBQ or marinara for dipping.
Serve with side salad.

Yields = 6 servings
Cost: $3.30
Cost per serving: $.55

1. Cut pieces smaller to use as an appetizer.
2. Swap in pulled chicken for the pork and basil for the oregano.
3. Make it 100% veggie by adding carmelized onions and thin sliced mushrooms in place of the pork, topping with a little minced garlic.
4. Want something more decadent? Add in fontina cheese for the provolone - it will be more expensive, but fontina would be a great addition to this recipe.
5. Make it kid friendly by using pepperoni in place of the pulled pork and cut the amount of parlsey used in half.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hubby's Amazing Meatballs

My hubby has been craving restaurant-quality (and sized) meatballs for a little while now, so he did what every man has to do sometimes....he made them himself. And they were delicious. Tender, juicy, and bursting with flavor - his meatballs bested the ones we've had at restaurants hands down. All I can think of to say is:

Grab your meatballs, Mama, we're coming to a fork in the road!

3/4 lb. ground beef ($1.39)
1/2 lb. bulk Italian sausage, mild ($.79)
1 egg ($.07)
2 T. worchestshire sauce ($.15)
2 cloves garlic, minced ($.10)
1 tsp. fennel seed ($.05)
1 T. basil ($.15)
1 heaping tsp. oregano ($.10)
1 C. bread crumbs ($.20)
1/4 medium yellow onion, minced very fine ($.05)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg and add add remaining ingredients. Mix by hand until all ignredients are just incorporated. Overmixing will cause meatballs to be very dense and hard, to make juicy meatballs, handle the dough as little as possible.

Divide dough in half, divide each half into 4-5 equal sized portions. Roll gently into a ball and place on a greased baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

Remove from baking dish and place into pasta sauce (marinara) to simmer for 12-15 minutes.

Serve over pasta.

Yields = 9-10 meatballs
Cost: $3.05
Cost per meatball: $.30

Variations: After simmering the meatballs in marinara, serve on a provolone or mozzarella topped roll for an amazing meatball sub. Since these are large meatballs, you may want to cut them in half when making this sammie.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blueberry Dessert Bread

2 eggs ($.15)
1 C. white sugar ($.18)
1 C. milk, fat free ($.10)
1 tsp. vanilla extract ($.10)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil ($.10)
3 C. all-purpose flour ($.18)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, optional ($.05)
4 teaspoons baking powder ($.15)
1 C. frozen blueberries ($.28 after coupons)

Mix together beaten eggs with the sugar. Add milk, extract, and vegetable oil.

Sift together flour, cinnamon, and baking powder. Combine mixtures, stirring only until blended. Carefully fold in frozen blueberries.

Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

Cool in pan but try to turn it out of pan before it is completely cooled. It will be easier to remove. This can also be made in 2 small loaf pans.
Yield = 1 loaf
Cost per loaf: $1.29
Cost per servig (yields 16 servings): $.08

For a twist on this recipe, substitute 1 tsp. lemon extract and 1/2 tsp. for lemon zest for vanilla.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ginger Lime Roasted Chicken

I love the flavors of summer, and this twist on chicken is light, bursting with flavor, and super simple to put together on a busy weeknight when you don't have time to watch something cooking on the stove.

4 bone in, skin on chicken breasts ($1.99)
juice of 3 limes, plus the zest of 1 lime ($.25)
2 T. minced ginger ($.25)
1 tsp. black pepper ($.05)
1 1/2 tsp. salt ($.05)
1 tsp. olive oil ($.10)
1 T. brown sugar ($.05)

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredents except chicken. Remove skin from chicken, marinade in the ginger lime mixture for 2 hours.

Bake uncovered at 325 for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink.

Yields = 4 servings
Cost: $2.74
Cost per serving: $.69

Chicken Sausage & Pepper Flatbread Pizza

1 chicken sausage link $.25
1/2 medium orange bell pepper $.10
1 clove garlic $.05
1 flatread pizza crust (free after coupon)
1/2 C. marinara sauce $.15
1/2 tsp. Chicago Deep Dish Pizza spice $.10
2 T. parmesan $.10
4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese $.50
3 oz. shredded cheddar $.40
1 tsp. basil $.05

Thinly slice chicken sausage, julienne bell pepper, cut strips into bite-sized pieces. Mince garlic, spread sauce evenly onto crust. Top with minced garlic and half of the sausage slices and half the bell pepper pieces. Sprinkle with Chicago Deep Dish pizza spice, top with mozzarella and cheddar, add remaining toppings, and sprinkle with parmesan and basil.

Bake at 400 for 10-11 minutes.
Cut into squares and serve
Yields = 2-3 servings (12 square pieces of pizza)

Cost: $1.70

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Easy Rib Rub

2 tsp. granulated garlic $.05
1 tsp. cumin $.05
1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder $.05
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder $.10
1/4 tsp. ground mustard $.10
1/4 tsp. hickory smoked salt $.10
1 tsp. oregano $.05

Mix well and rub onto ribs. Grill over medium heat or cook in crockpot with 1/2 C. water and 1/4 C. teriyaki marinade until tender.

Yields = rub for 3-4 lbs. of ribs
Cost: $.50

Monday, August 9, 2010

Simple Pork Tacos

1 1/2 lbs. pork ribs, lightly shredded $1.69
12 corn tortillas $.39
1 medium onion, minced $.15
1 bunch cilantro, rough chopped $.33
1 C. shredded quesadilla cheese, optional $.60

In a nonstick skillet, add cooked pork, and cook over medium high heat to lightly crisp.

Warm tortillas on a griddle pan. Add 2-3 T. shredded pork to a tortilla, top with onions, and cilantro.

Serve hot.

Yeilds = 12 tacos (3-4 per serving)
Cost: $3.16
Cost per taco: $.26

Diner Classic: Monte Cristo

I love this diner classic, with it's simple and hearty flavors, it's been a longtime favorite of mine for years. Since we have no diners anywhere near our town (not kidding - it really kills me, too!), I have to go out on a limb and make my own. This is much healthier than standard restaurant fare, using egg whites for the batter dip, and whole wheat bread for the sandwich!

6 slices whole wheat bread (not thin sliced) $.28
2 egg whites $.20
12 thin slices of brown sugar or honey ham $.69
12 thin slices of smoked turkey breast $.79
3 thin slices of reduced fat swiss cheese $.66
1/4 tsp. white pepper $.05
pinch of salt $.05
cooking spray

In a deep bowl, whisk egg whites with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Top 3 slices of bread with 4 slices each ham and turkey and 1 slice swiss cheese each. Top each with another slice of bread, and dunk thoroughly into beaten egg mixture.

Cover a non-stick pan with cooking spray and lightly fry each sammie for 3-6 mintues per siude, turning over once when crust is lightly golden, bread is cooked through, and cheese is melted.

Serve hot.

Yields = 3 sammies
Cost: $2.72
Cost per sammie: $.91

Teriyaki Sweet BBQ Sauce

1 C. BBQ sauce - your favorite variety (I use Sweet Baby Rays Sweet Vidalia) $.30
1/4 C. teriyaki marinade (free after coupons)
1/4 medium onion, minced ($.15)
1/4 tsp. oil ($.05)

Saute onion in 1/4 tsp. oil. Mix well all ingredients, heat through. Use on top pork, chicken, beef, or atop hearty veggies.

Yields = 1 batch (enough to cover 2 - 3 lbs. meat or veggies.
Cost: $.50

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Italian Sauteed Mushrooms

1/2 lb. white button mushrooms ($.99)
1 tsp. canola oil ($.05)
1 clove garlic, smashed ($.05)
1 tsp. basil ($.05)
salt and pepper to taste ($.05)

Slice mushrooms thin, add oil to a nonstick pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. When mushrooms are almost fork tender, add garlic and basil. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

Serve: on top of meat, poultry, or seafood, serve in gravies and sauces, serve with pasta or potatoes or over a rice dish.

Yields = 1 batch (2-3 servings)
Cost: $1.19

This is great to change up any leftover - top a leftover chicken breast with mushrooms and serve with a light sauce, gravy, or topped with melted cheese - works great on many dishes!