Monday, December 30, 2013

Fresh Herb and Cheese Pinwheels

I have embraced the beauty and simplicity of keeping crescent roll dough on hand for emergency appetizers.  How else would I have been able to whip up these pinwheels in a few minutes on Christmas Day when the people were getting nibbly and the lasagna was taking longer than usual to cook through?  The genius in these is using whatever you have on hand.

I'll be doing quite a few variations on this recipe - I'm already planning to make a twist on these for our New Years Eve bash.  Super simple, 3 step recipes are amazing and if you want to make these for a party, you can whip up the filling mixture up to a week ahead of time and just let it soften enough to spread before using it.

1 package of crescent roll dough ($2.00)
2 oz. cream cheese ($.15)
1/2 C. shredded cheese, I used gouda, cheddar, provolone, and swiss ($.20)
1 T. parmesan ($.05)
1 tsp. fresh thyme ($.10)
1/2 tsp. dried basil ($.05)
1 T. each mayo and garlic butter ($.10)

Heat oven to 375.
Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Blend well all ingredients except crescent rolls.  Roll out crescent roll dough and pinch perforations to seal tightly.  Spread evenly the cheese mixture over the crescent roll dough and roll up tightly.  Slice dough into pinwheels, should yield 16 pinwheels.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until dough is lightly golden at the edges.

Yields: 16 pinwheels
Cost: $2.65
Cost per pinwheel: $.16

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jumbo Peanut Butter Cups

Found this awesome recipe on Pinterest and had to give it a try - I did make a few tweaks to this recipe to help match up with the ingredients I happened to have on hand.
Since I come from a family of chocolate lovers, this is the perfect time of year to give this tasty treat a try and this recipe does not disappoint.  The best peanut butter cups I've ever had!!
1 C. creamy peanut butter, divided ($.30)
1 T. butter, softened ($.10)
2/3 C. powdered sugar ($.20)
1/8 tsp. salt, optional ($.05)
2 1/4 C. milk chocolate chips ($1.25)
1/2 C. dark chocolate chips (optional) ($.30)
2 T. chopped peanuts or colored sprinkles (for garnish), optional ($.10)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract ($.10)
Fill muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar. and salt until smooth, set aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips with the 1/2 cup of remaining peanut butter, stir until smooth. Microwave in 30-45 second intervals, stirring well between each cycle.  (This usually takes about 2-3 minutes).  Stir in vanilla extract once chocolate mixture is melted.
Spoon 1 tablespoonful of chocolate mixture into cupcake liners.
Top with a 1/2 tablespoonful of peanut butter mixture.
Cover with chocolate mixture to completely top peanut butter.  Approximately 1/2 T. of chocolate per cup. 
Garnish with chopped peanuts or candy sprinkles if desired.
Refrigerate until set.  Keep chilled before serving.
Yields: 12 jumbo peanut butter cups
Cost: $1.40
Cost per cup: $.12
For a variation on this recipe, use a mini muffin tin filled with candy cup or mini muffin liners to get smaller peanut buttercups.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tangy Ginger and Lime Infused Chicken Strips

Lately, I have been on a wicked chicken kick - I cannot seem to have enough chicken.  Well, my craving has really centered around chicken strips, but I really needed to give the standard strip a new twist.  I surprised myself with the new take on chicken, combining my love of ginger pad thai with some limes I needed to use up and came up with this recipe.

I served it with fried rice and salad - though for kids, it could pair with a potato and would be awesome served in a tortilla with shredded cabbage or lettuce, chipotle-infused sour cream, and a little cilantro.  This  recipe is definitely a keeper and doesn't require a lot of money to make.


1/2 C. flour ($.05)
1 tsp. ginger ($.05)
salt and pepper ($.05)
1/4 C. bread crumbs ($.10)
zest of 2 limes (free)
1 T. parmesan ($.05)
1/2 tsp. each garlic and onion powder ($.05)
pinch of cayene or chile powder, optional

1/2 C. milk ($.10)
1 tsp. soy sauce ($.05)
juice of 2 limes ($.15)
1 T. sour cream ($.05)

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts ($2.80)
Frying oil - vegetable or canola work well ($1.50)

In a large, shallow dish, combine flour, parmesan, breadcrumbs, with ginger, lime zest, salt and pepper to taste, garlic and onion powder, and cayenne or chile powder.  Set aside.

Whisk together milk, soy sauce, lime juice, and sour cream.  Set aside.

Cut chicken into strips or bite sized pieces, if you prefer.
Heat oil in a deep skillet (2-3" of oil in the bottom of skillet) to 350F.

In small batches, add chicken to the wet mixture and let set 1 minute.
Transfer chicken to the dry mixture and toss well to coat.  Shake of excess breading and add chicken to the hot oil.  Fry until golden on both sides, about 1-3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towel.

Repeat until you have fried all the chicken.

Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce.

Yields: 6-8 servings
Cost: $5.00
Cost per serving: $.63-.94

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Raspberry White Chocolate Pound Cake

1 1/2 C. flour ($.15)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder ($.05)
1/4 teaspoon salt ($.05)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened ($.20)
1 stick butter, softened ($.30)
1 1/2 cups sugar ($.15)
1/4 C. slivered almonds ($.15)
4 eggs ($.30)
1 tsp. vanilla ($.05)
1/3 C. white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries ($.30)

1/2 C. powdered sugar ($.10)
1 to 2 tsp. milk ($.05)

Heat oven to 325 F.
Light grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using a mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter on medium-low speed until well combined, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar to the mixer bowl and continue beating until fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs, on at a time, mixing well after each egg.  Mix in the vanilla extract. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until just combined, stir in the white chocolate chips.  The dough will be sticky.

Pour half of the batter to the prepared pan, drop in the raspberries evenly, then top with the remaining batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, top should be golden brown. Cool the cake, then transfer to a large plate.

Whisk together all ingredients and pour over cooled cake.
Serve while warm or room temperature.

Yields: 10-12 servings
Cost: $2.05
Cost per serving: $.21

Monday, August 5, 2013

Spanish Style Marinade

1/4 C. olive oil ($.10)
1 T. red wine vinegar ($.05)
1/4 C. red wine ($.25)
1 T. water (free)
1 T. lemon juice ($.05)
salt and pepper ($.05)
1/2 tsp. each: paprika, onion powder, and oregano ($.05)
2 tsp. minced garlic ($.05)
1/8 tsp. thyme, optional

In a medium sized bowl, combine all dry seasonings and add vinegar, wine, lemon juice, and water - stir well.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking while you drizzle to full incorporate.

Use marinade on:
beef (marinade 4 hours to overnight)
pork (marinade 2-4 hours, less time for thinner or boneless cuts of meat)
chicken (marinade 30 minutes for boneless, 1 hour for bone-in)
seafood (brush with marinade 15-20 before cooking or grilling)

Yields: 1-2 batches of marinade (2-4 pounds of meat for each batch)
Cost: $.60

Tasty Tapas Idea:
Try this marinade on boneless pork chops (cut 1" or thicker).
Marinade 1-2 hours and remove from marinade and fry lightly in a nonstick skillet on medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side.  Transfer to the oven (heat to 350F) for 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165F).  Cool 5-10 minutes, slice thin and serve on a crusty baugette slice or hard roll wedge with a few spinach leaves and a small piece of munster cheese.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Blueberry Almond Pound Cake

1 2/3 C. flour ($.15)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder ($.05)
1/4 teaspoon salt ($.05)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened ($.20)
1 stick butter, softened ($.30)
1 1/2 cups sugar ($.15)
1/4 C. slivered almonds ($.15)
4 eggs ($.30)
1 tsp. almond extract ($.15)
1/2 tsp. vanilla ($.05)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries ($.30)

1/2 C. powdered sugar ($.10)
1/8 tsp. amond extract ($.05)
1-2 tsp. milk ($.05)

Heat oven to 325 F.
Light grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using a mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter on medium-low speed until well combined, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the sugar to the mixer bowl and continue beating until fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the eggs, on at a time, mixing well after each egg.   Blend in the almond and the vanilla extracts.  Slowly beat in the flour mixture until just combined.  The dough will be sticky. 

Pour half of the batter to the prepared pan, drop in the blueberries evenly, then top with the remaining batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, top should be golden brown.   Cool the cake, then transfer to a large plate.
Whisk together all ingredients and pour over cooled cake.
Serve while warm or room temperature.

Yields: 10-12 servings
Cost: $2.05
Cost per serving: $.21

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Italian Style Chicken Drummies

2.5 lbs. chicken drummies, skin on (6-10 drummies) ($.1.75)
2/3 C. fat free Italian salad dressing (free after coupons)
2 T. Italian seasoning ($.20)
1 T. flour ($.05)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped ($.35)
2 medium onions, quartered ($.15)
8 cloves of garlic, crushed ($.30)
2 T. olive oil ($.20)

Marinade the chicken drummies in the salad dressing for 2-4 hours.

Remove the chicken drummies from the marinade (do not discard the marinade) and lightly pat dry.  Combine the Italian seasoning with the flour.  Toss the chicken with the seasoning to coat well.

Heat oven to 375F.  Drizzle 1 T. olive oil in the bottom of a 13x9" baking pan (with 2" sides or higher).

Add tomatoes, garlic, and onion to the bottom of the pan and place the chicken on top.  Drizzle chicken with final tablespoon of olive oil.

Place uncovered in oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until meat temperature reaches 180F.

Serve with rice or potato of choice and a spinach salad topped with orange wedges and parmesan.

Yields: 3-5 servings
Cost: $3.00
Cost per serving: $.60-$1.00

Leftover Makeover Ideas:
1.  Top a mixed green salad with shredded chicken
2.  Remove skin and de-bone 2-3 chicken drummies, chop chicken and stir in 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning, 1/4 C. light mayo, 1 T. sundried tomatoes, and 1 tsp. parsley for a chicken salad filling for sandwiches.
3.  Serve in a warmed corn tortilla with shredded cabbage and cheddar cheese and 1 T. salsa.
4.  Stir into an alfredo sauce.
5.  Serve in a hard roll with havarti cheese, spinach, and 1 T. mayo with a pinch of basil.
6.  Stir into your favorite rice dish.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spanish Style Slow Cooker Pork Roast with Root Vegetables

This is a great recipe to use an inexpensive cut of pork (a pork butt roast works great and can usually be found for $1.49 lb. or less).  With a few ingredients out of the spice rack and some hearty veggies, you'll have an easy to make meal with only 15 minutes of prep time needed.

The leftover meat for this recipe freezes very well and at the bottom of this recipe, I've included a few ideas to help you make over this leftover.

3-4 dry bay leaves ($.05)
1/4 tsp. each: paprika, oregano, salt, and thyme ($.05)
1 tsp. each: garlic powder and onion powder ($.05)
1/2 tsp. black pepper ($.05)
5.2 lb. pork roast, fat trimmed ($5.15)
3-4 medium onions, sliced thick ($.40)
2-3 carrots, cut into thick slices ($.30)
2-3 medium russet or red potatoes, quartered ($.50)
3 T. worchestshire sauce ($.10)
1/4 C. white wine ($.30)
1/2 C. water (free)

Mix together all seasonings, except bay leaves.  Rub seasoning blend into the pork roast.

In a 4.5 qt. or larger crockpot, place seasoned pork.  Add in onions.  In the bottom of the crockpot, add the water, wine, and worchestersauce sauce.

Cook on the low setting for 5-6 hours.  Add potatoes and carrots and cook for 1 to 2 more hours, or until veggies are fork tender.

Yields: 6-10 servings
Cost: $6.95
Cost per serving: $1.16

Leftover Pork Roast Ideas:
1.  Serve in a sandwich with toasted whole wheat bread, top with brick cheese, tomato, and lettuce.
2.  Serve in a tortilla with refried beans and thin sliced onions
3.  Serve over mashed potatoes with gravy (use liquid from the crockpot, whisked with mixture of 2 T. cornstarch with 1/4 C. water or milk).

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ham and Cheddar Frittata

I'm trying to pull together a lighter menu with 10 ingredients or less per recipe.

For me, this is a real challenge, since I love to cook with lots of bold flavors, which really can make an ingredient list add up.  Most of the recipes I'm now working on are done in 30-45 minutes or less and cost $5 or less to make.  These recipes are all tested before I post them and I hope to average 1 new lighter menu meal a week until I have at least 25-30 new recipes posted.

Here is a twist on one of my favorites - the classic frittata.  This classic Italian dish isn't just a go-to breakfast or brunch menu staple, it's great for dinner, and can make an amazing breakfast sandwich.  Paired with sourdough or whole wheat toast or English muffins and a side of fruit or a mixed green salad, this is a fun recipe to whip up any day of the week and is fantastic at room temperature and reheats well.

4 whole eggs, 2 egg whites ($.75)
2 T. water (free)
salt and pepper ($.05)
1/4 C. cubed ham ($.25)
1/4 C. shredded cheddar ($.25)
1/2 tsp. vegetable oil ($.05)

Whisk together eggs, egg whites, water, salt, and pepper.
In a 9" pie plate, add oil and coat well.  Sprinkle ham and cheddar on the bottom of the pan and pour egg mixture over the top.

Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until top is lightly golden.
Cool 5 minutes, then cut into 8 wedges and serve with chilled fruit or mixed green salad.
Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Yields: 3-4 servings
Cost: $1.35
Cost per serving: $.45

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Baked Ziti in a White Wine and Tomato Cream Sauce with Italian Sausage

1/2 lb. penne rigate ($.25)
2 T. olive oil ($.15)
1/2 lb. white button mushrooms, chopped ($.69)
salt and pepper ($.05)
pinch of thyme and oregano ($.05)
1 pt. grape tomatoes, quartered ($1.00)
1/2 medium orange bell pepper, minced ($.20)
1/2 C. moscato or your favorite white wine ($.40)
1 1/2 T. basil ($.05)
1/4 tsp. each: paprika, oregano, fennel seed, and roasted garlic powder ($.15)
3 cloves of garlic, minced ($.15)
1/2 lb. cooked Italian sausage ($.65)
8 oz. can tomato sauce ($.29)
3-4 T. heavy cream ($.25)
1/4 C., plus 1 T. parmesan cheese ($.15)
1/2 C. mozzarella cheese ($.50)

Add 1 T. olive oil to a nonstick or cast iron pan (3-4 qt.) over medium high heat.  When oil is hot, add chopped mushrooms, thyme, and a pinch of oregano.  Cook over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When just tender, season with salt and pepper to taste.  When fork tender, remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Add in tomatoes and all their juices, minced pepper, and minced garlic to the pan with 1 T. olive oil, season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium high heat for 8-10 minutes. When tomatoes are tender, stir in wine and simmer until wine reduces by half (roughly 3-5 minutes).  Stir in heavy cream, tomato sauce, seasonings, and 1/4 C. parmesan.  Stir in mushrooms and Italian sausage.

Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente.  Drain and set aside.

Lightly grease a 8x8" baking dish and add sauce and pasta in layers.  Top with mozzarella cheese and 1 T. parmesan cheese and 1/2 tsp. basil if desired.  Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.

Serve with garlic bread and salad.

Yields: 4-6 servings
Cost: $4.98
Cost per serving: $1.25

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Basil and Tomato Summer Pasta with White Wine

1 T. olive oil ($.10)
1/2 pint grape tomatoes or 4-5 plum tomatoes ($.80)
1 T. minced garlic, about 2-3 large cloves ($.10)
pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
3-4 T. white wine ($.30)
1 T. basil ($.10)
2 T. parmesan ($.15)
1/4 lb. angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti ($.15)

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat a medium sized nonstick skillet over low heat for 2 minutes, then add olive oil.  When oil is warm, add garlic and saute for 2 minutes or until fragrant.

Finely chop plum tomatoes or quarter grape tomatoes, add this to the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 5-8 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in basil and white wine.  Cook over medium heat until the wine has reduced by half.  Stir in parmesan.

When pasta is cooked to al dente, add it to the pan with the sauce, toss to coat well, and cook 1-2 minutes.

Serve with salad and garlic bread.

Yields: 2 servings
Cost: $1.70
Cost per serving: $.85

Want to make this recipe a little heartier?

1.  Stir in thin sliced spinach when you add the parmesan for a pasta florentine.
2.  Start the pasta sauce with 2 slices of cubed bacon and lightly fry.  Omit the olive oil and follow the recipe as directed.
3.  Julienne 1 medium red or orange bell pepper and saute with garlic.  Follow the recipe as directed above.
4.  Stir in roasted, shredded chicken after the white wine has reduced.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken

1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs.) ($4.05)
1 large lemon ($.30)
1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper ($.05)
1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary ($.50)
2 T. olive oil ($.10)

Heat oven to 325F.
1.  Lightly grease a baking dish with 1-2" high sides.
2.  Clean and pat dry the chicken.  Remove liver and gizzards and discard.
3.  Zest the lemon, cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice of one half of the lemon over the top of the chicken.
4.  Take both halves of the lemon and place those along with the rosemary sprig into the cavity of the chicken.
5.  Rub lemon zest under the skin of the chicken.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
6.  Roast at 325F. for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of chicken reaches 180F.

Yields: 4-6 servings
Cost: $5.00
Cost per serving: $1.25

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lemon Pepper Chicken Cutlets served Sub Sandwich Style

When you have some chicken breasts on hand and not a lot of time to get a meal ready - this is a huge time saver.  I took some chicken breasts and cut them into cutlets (slightly larger than chicken strips, but roughly 1/3" thick).  With a store bought marinade and a few spices, this was actually done in about 30 minutes.  Including marinading time.

One thing to know when marinading chicken: if you use an assertive or acidic marinade (which is anything citrus or acid based), you should never marinade boneless chicken more than 15-30 minutes.  I went with 10-15 minutes on the chicken and got picture perfect results.  If chicken marinades too long, it can become mealy and not brown properly when it's baked or pan-fried.

I'm sure this would have been great on its own, but I love using it as a substitute for deli meat.  It works well in hot or cold sammies.  When I served this hot, I topped the chicken with provolone and cheddar cheese, carmelized onions, and a brush of SBR BBQ sauce.  For the classic sub, I used good mayo, shredded lettuce, thin sliced onion, and seasoned the chicken with a few grinds of white pepper and a dash of basil.

If you make a double batch - this recipe freezes beautifully for about 6-8 weeks and comes in very handy on those days when you forget to pull something out of the freezer for dinner.  All you have to do is put the chicken (while in a freezer or vacuum sealed bag) in a bowl of lukewarm water for about 30-45 minutes, turning over every 15 minutes to fully thaw.  Grab some buns or french rolls, I like to stop at Jimmy Johns for their day old bread, and dinner is served.

2 chicken breasts ($1.98)
2 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning ($.10)
1/2 tsp. black or white pepper ($.05)
1/2 tsp. flour ($.05)
1/2 C. lemon pepper marinde (free after coupons)
2 T. olive oil ($.05)
2-16" loaves French bread ($1.00)

Cut chicken breasts into cutlets.

Combine lemon pepper seasoning, pepper, and flour and season the chicken well.
Whisk together olive oil and lemon pepper marinade.
Marinade chicken for 10-15 minutes.

Add 2 T. vegetable oil to a preheated skillet and sear the chicken breast over a medium-high heat.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, when chicken is browned, flip over and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes.
Slice into thin pieces and serve in a sandwich.

Serves well hot or cold.

Yields: 6 servings (as a sandwich ingredient)
Cost: $3.23
Cost per serving: $.54

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

French Fusion Marinade with Red Wine Vinegar and Sweet Smoked Paprika

I discovered a forgotten beef boneless pot roast in my freezer today and was struck by inspiration...the kind of inspiration that marries elements of Julia Child, Mario Batali, and my personal favorite - Emeril Lagasse.  I was originally looking for some chicken breast to make more lemon pepper chicken for sandwiches.  The last batch disappeared today and it tastes so much better than sodium-laden deli meat that I figured on making a second batch.  But, the beef totally had my attention.  It tends to do that since I cook with it only once a month or so.

Though I don't cook with beef very often (my frugal side is partly to blame for that, I suppose), I get very excited when I can.  Beef is strong enough to stand up to flavors that would overwhelm a classic chicken dish so I went bold.  Very, very bold.

One of the things that is inspirational about having a fully stocked kitchen - I can whip up a marinade in 5 minutes that I could never find in the stores.  This marinade might've started out being inspired by Julia Child, but BAM!  Emeril's cooking style snuck in there too.

I used roughly 3/4 C. of marinade for about 2 pounds of beef.  You can adjust that according to your tastes, but I probably could've used 1/2 C. and still gotten the same flavor.

3-4 T. garlic red wine vinegar (free after coupons)
3-4 T. worchestershire sauce ($.10)
3-4 T. olive oil ($.10)
2 T. Italian salad dressing (free after coupons)
1-2 T. water (free)
2 tsp. oregano ($.05)
1/2 tsp. each: garlic powder, black pepper, steakhouse seasoning, and onion powder ($.10)
1/4 tsp. each: salt, white pepper, sweet paprika, and ancho chile powder ($.10)
1 T. minced garlic (I used 4-5 small cloves of garlic) ($.05)
2 T. minced shallot ($.10)

Combine all ingredients except olive oil and water.  Whisk together.  Drizzle in olive oil while whisking to combine.  Whisk in water to thin out if mixture is too thick.

Spread or pour evenly over beef.  Marinade at room temperature 2 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Meat can be slow roasted (roast covered at 250F for 3-6 hours), grilled over indirect heat (at 350 for 1 hour 30 minutes), or can even be seared in a pan then braised (in the marinade) in a crockpot for 6 hours over low.

When beef is cooked to desired doneness, slice thin and serve on a classic French roll with provolone cheese, sauteed mushrooms, and carmelized onions.  Top with sundried tomato aioli or your favorite mayo and you are ready for sandwich nirvana.

Yields: 2 batches of marinade.
Cost: $.60
Cost per batch: $.30

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rustico Pizza Sauce with Grape Tomatoes and Basil

There is nothing like necessity to make your creative juices flow....or maybe that's just me.  When my hubby wanted to make pizza the other night, he apparently thought we had some pizza sauce (or is usually the case in our house, some leftover marinara sauce or even jarred pasta sauce).  Unfortunately for him, that was not the case.

However, I did have a few ingredients on hand that I hoped could turn into something resembling a sauce.  Most of the pantry stuff we haven't been able to unpack because of some problems in the basement, so I looked into my fridge and found a few things I could, hopefully, turn into a sauce.

A cup of golden grape tomatoes, a small ancient bell pepper, some leftover white wine, some garlic herb butter, and a dash of flour and parmesan later - we had a rustico sauce.  This had a chunky texture but was still spreadable - for more of a saucy consistency, you would need to cook this longer than I did.  But I'ver never had a pizza with a sweeter, more flavorful sauce anywhere.

It's a different kind of pizza sauce, but it's a really good different.  It was so good, I took some more of the grape tomatoes and another small ancient pepper and made another batch.  Yes, I'm looking forward to another pizza tomorrow!

1 1/2 T. garlic butter ($.10)
1 C. grape or cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped ($.30)
1 small ancient bell pepper (or 1/4 red bell pepper), minced ($.05)
2/3 C. white wine ($.15)
1 tsp. basil ($.05)
salt and pepper to taste ($.05)
1/2 tsp. flour ($.05)
1 T. parmesan cheese ($.05)


Heat small nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add garlic butter.  Once melted, add the minced pepper and chopped tomatoes (seeds, juices, and all).  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper and stir well.  Stir in the flour completely, then add all remaining ingredients.  Cook 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cool 5 minutes before spreading on unbaked pizza crust.  Top with your favorite toppings and cheeses, bake crust as directed.

Yields: 1 small batch rustic pizza sauce
Cost: $.80

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sweet Maple and Cracked Pepper Pork Roast

It's nearly 90 degrees, the humidity is high, the pollen count is actively trying to kill me and what do I decide to do?  Turn on the oven and roast a large (though inexpensive) pork roast.  After the success of the different turkey breast flavors I've managed to create, I guess hubby thought it was time for me to practice my, albeit limited, culinary skills on an unsuspecting piece of pork.  (Well, that and I sent him freezer-diving for our next it is partially my fault).

Last time I got hold of a pork roast I went all Julia Child on its butt - pun intended - and created something French, decadent, and delicious.  With BBQ season upon us, I thought it was time to try to marry some of the traditional smoky flavors notorious for the grill onto a lovely pork roast.  I have been want to try another deli flavor that I've been missing from back home, though this was done on turkey breast - I figured it's worth a try on pork.  And cracked black pepper seems to be the next big thing as far as flavor profiles go, so here's my twist on the trending taste of the season.

This serves incredibly well.  Here are some ideas of how to serve this delicious pork roast:
  • Lightly shred and serve in a sub sandwich with coleslaw mix, BBQ sauce, on a hearty yeast roll
  • Use as a filling in a torta with a bolio, refried beans, cheddar cheese, and cilantro.  Guacamole is optional
  • Serve in a tortilla topped with cilantro and onions
  • Serve with a fruity BBQ sauce and pair with potato salad, corn on the cob, and cornbread
  • Serve with mashed potatoes and salad
  • Shred and serve as pulled pork in your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Serve in a hearty market style sandwich on whole wheat bread with mayo, lettuce, and tomato
  • Chop well and serve in a chili, Brunswick stew, or stir into baked beans
  • Add some zip to your nachos and add this pork in place of ground beef or chicken


2 T. cracked black pepper ($.15)
1 tsp. each white pepper, salt, garlic powder, and smoked sweet paprika ($.15)
1/2 tsp. each: cumin, onion powder, and ancho chile powder ($.10)
1 T. maple smokehouse seasoning blend ($.20)
1 large onion ($.10)
2 T. vegetable oil ($.10)
2-3 T. maple syrup ($.25)
8.2 lb. pork butt roast ($8.00)
1/2 C. water (free)

  • Heat oven to 375.
  • Combine all dry seasonings until well mixed.
  • Drizzle 1 T. in bottom of a 4.5 qt. cast iron or large baking dish.
  • Chop onion into thick slices and add to bottom of pan.
  • Rub meat with seasoning mixture on all sides and place (fatty side up) in the prepared baking dish/pan.
  • Drizzle with maple syrup and remaining oil.
  • Add water in the bottom of the pan (so the meat doesn't scorch to the pan).
  • Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 2 1/2 hours or until internal temperature of meat reaches 180F.
  • Baste every hour is desired or drizzle with more honey or maple syrup.

Yields: 20-24 servings
Cost: $9.05
Cost per serving: $.45

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bacon and Three Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

It's no secret that appetizers and cocktails have made the foodie world go gaga over itself.  I will readilly admit, I've gotten sucked into the cortex of pairing wines and the occasional cocktail with small plates and appetizers.  I even have tried my hand at tapas - time consuming, but worth every moment, to be honest.

One of my tried and true favorites is stuffed mushrooms.  One of the easiest and most versatile appetizers I've made, stuffed mushrooms lends itself well to a great many flavors and I like that I can make loads of variations depending on what I have on hand at the time.  This time, I had the usual cream cheese and sour cream to make the base of the stuffing, but was out of breadcrumbs....and a little too lazy to make them myself.  Oh, and I happened to have some extra Italian sausage and a few strips of cooked bacon on hand.  That's when things started to get interesting.  And my interesting, I mean yummy.  Very yummy.

When making stuffed mushrooms, feel free to use whatever you happen to have on hand.  Below the recipe are some easy variations you can try.

16-18 white button mushrooms, stems removed ($1.00)
3 oz.cream cheese (free after coupons)
3 T. sour cream ($.10)
2 cloves garlic, minced ($.05)
1 tsp. basil ($.05)
1 T. fat-free Italian salad dressing (free after coupons)
1/2 tsp. each: pepper, salt, and oregano ($.05)
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika ($.05)
1/2 link hot Italian sausage, chopped fine ($.25)
2 slices of cooked bacon, chopped fine ($.25)
3 T. parmesan cheese ($.15)
1/8 C. shredded brick cheese ($.25)

Combine all ingredients except mushrooms and brick cheese in a bowl - mixing until well combined.
Fill mushroom caps with cheese mixture and top with shredded brick cheese.

Place filled mushrooms in a medium sized baking dish, lightly sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is golden and mushrooms are tender.

Yields: 16-18 appetizers
Cost: $2.20
Cost per appetizer: $.14

Possible substitutions:
For the herbs:
Use Italian seasoning, house seasoning blend, BBQ seasoning, garlic and herb seasoning blends, or even some minced fresh rosemary and basil.

For the cheese:
I like a cheese that melts well, so provolone, mozzarella, munster, colby jack and even gouda are fun pairings.  You can use an Italian cheese blend, Mexican cheese blend, or a mild cheddar, for some bold variations.

For the sausage and bacon:
Poultry works amazingly well here.  Think roasted chicken, chicken sausage, roasted turkey, or leftover grilled chicken.  If you like pork, using some leftover ham gives tons of smoky, sweet flavor and pork sausage (of any variety) can really punch up the dish.  If you are a seafood lover, feel free to add in whatever strikes yout fancy, from shrimp and scallops to crab - it's all good here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Havarti Topped Sliders

I have a fascination with finger foods, appetizers, hors d'oeuvers, tapas, whatever you want to call it - if it's small plates, bites, or a general sampling of delicious treats - I'm there. 

One of the most common ones I've had on my radar lately is the common slider.  While I can snap up a classic slider any time, my tastes generally run to the bold and flavorful, versus the standard and tried and true.  Having had some rather mixed feelings on sliders I've tried just about everywhere my hubby and I have gone (he's a burger aficionado), this was something I knew I could easily improve on from the sampling I've tried.  Well, except for the ones from the Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Downtown Disney.  Those were just awesomeness.  Truly, they were.

The great thing about appetizers in general and sliders in particular is how flexible they can be.  Here, we had a few thick slices of herbed Havarti cheese on hand from a great deal I happened onto and hubby was craving burgers.  It's like the stars were in alignment.  Or a lot of planes were flying overhead.  Who knows?  But these were some of the best sliders I've ever had.  Not counting the awesomeness from WPC.

2 slices Havarti cheese (free after coupons)
2 slices brick cheese ($.20)
1.25 lbs. ground chuck ($2.90)
1 T. worchestershire sauce ($.05)
2 cloves garlic, minced ($.05)
1 tsp. each: salt, garlic powder, and onion powder ($.10)
1/2 tsp. each black pepper and white pepper ($.05)
8 egg buns ($1.00 on a mark down rack)
2 T. garlic butter ($.25)

Cut each of the cheese slices into 4 equal parts and set aside.
Cut the egg buns in half and butter.  Cook on a griddle pan until toasted.  Set aside.

Combine ground beef (or chuck) with dry herbs, garlic, and worchestershire sauce until just blended.
Score mixture into 4 equal parts.  Divide each part in half.  Form each portion into a patty and slightly intent the center.  This helps keep the burger at an even thickness as they tend to plump slightly when cooked.

In a nonstick pan over medium high heat, add patties (3-4 at a time) and fry until the bottons start to brown, then flip each patty and top the fry pan with a lid and reduce heat to just medium.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, top with a sqaure of each of the cheeses and put lid back on the pan.  Let the residual heat melt the cheese.  Repeat with remaining patties.

Serve on buttered, grilled bun.
Yields = 8 sliders
Cost: $4.60
Cost per slider: $.58

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mesquite Turkey Tacos

Last week I posted a recipe for sweet mesquite turkey breast....well, it was such a hit, I decided to try a few different ways to serve it.  The first serving made amazing sandwiches - topped with Havarti cheese and slaw mix with plenty of mayo.  After the second round of sandwiches, I was looking for something with a little kick.

I decided to try a taco.  Tacos are as common as sandwiches in my house and this made the last of the leftover turkey disappear in a matter of minutes.  Another huge hit!  I love it when something is easy to make, affordable, and is full of flavor.  Though, it may be said that I am eager to try anything as a taco.  I don't think the universe can have too many you?

1 1/2 C. Sweet Mesquite Turkey ($1.25)
8 corn tortillas ($.35)
1/3 C. shredded sharp cheddar cheese ($.30)
1/2 C. sour cream ($.30)
2 T. cilantro, chopped ($.10)
1 medium onion, sliced into thin sliced ($.10)
1 T. vegetable oil ($.05)
1 C. shredded lettuce ($.15)

Warm vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add onions and cook 5 minutes.  Add in lightly shredded turkey and warm for another 5-7 minutes or until turkey is heated through.

Serve in warm tortillas with cheddar cheese, cilantro, lettuce, and top with sour cream if desired.

Yields: 8 tacos
Cost: $2.60
Cost per taco: $.33

Friday, May 31, 2013

Orange Raspberry Fizz

I was at Trader Joe's last time we were in Chicagoland and noticed that they carry Prosecco.  I've long want to try my hand at some tasty cocktails with the luscious summer fruits and finding this gem really made my day!

When I had a friend over for dinner, I couldn't wait to give this recipe a try and it was an instant hit!

Ready in just a few minutes and the perfect accompaniment to a lovely spring dinner, I'll be trying variations on this throughout the summer as more fruits are in season.

2 C. Prosecco ($3.00)
1 C. crushed ice (free)
2 1/2 C. orange juice ($.65)
1/2 C. raspberry lemonade or 1/4 C. lemon juice ($.15)
1/2 C. fresh raspberries ($.50)

Combine all ingredients except fresh raspberries.
Add raspberries to the bottom of the glass, pour in the orange fizz.

Yields: 4 servings
Cost: $4.30
Cost per serving: $1.08

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pulled Pork Potato Skins

I noticed this on a local menu and thought that this was an idea that had so much potential, and I could happily do this myself.  With a few ingredients that I happen to have on hand and some green onions, I was set to give this quick and inexpensive appetizer a try.  And hubby and I were so glad I did!

Lately I've been working on getting some new recipes together for appetizers and desserts - I'm definitely in the mood for something new and looking for some new inspiration.  This recipe was a keeper on a few different levels - first, it's fairly affordable and helps me use up little bits and pieces of leftovers, which is another huge plus.  I love appetizers for how you can incorporate what you have on hand and this little gem is already a fan favorite at my house.

Another great plus for a recipe, at least for me, is if variations lend themselves well to the mix.  I can see a few varations like swapping in chicken for the pork or using minced red or orange bell peppers when I have them on hand.

4 medium sized russet potatoes, baked and lightly hollowed out ($.40)
1 C. shredded sharp cheddar cheese($.60)
3 T. parmesan cheese ($.10)
2 T. garlic butter ($.15)
1 C. shredded pork ($.75)
1/4 C. thin sliced green onions ($.35)
2 T. minced cilatro ($.10)
1 1/2 C. sour cream ($.75)


Brush the inside of the hollowed out potato skins with garlic butter.
Top the potato skins with pork, cheddar cheese, parmesan, and green onions.
Bake at 425F until cheese is melted - about 7-10 minutes.

Top with cilantro and serve with sour cream.

Yields: 8 servings
Cost: $3.20
Cost per serving: $.40

Monday, May 27, 2013

Italian Turkey Breast - Deli Favorites Made at Home

We recently relocated for my husband's work and the new area we find ourselves in doesn't have all the choices that dear ol' Chicago did.  I never thought I'd enjoy cooking at home as much as I have, but maybe it's being a first time home owner and cooking in my own kitchen, maybe it's a slower pace of life, or I'm just hankering for some of the old favorites that has me spending more time than ever in the kitchen.

I recently picked up a couple of turkey breasts when I found them on sale for $.99/lb. at the local grocery store - the first real deal I've seen on meat since we moved out here.  Setting aside one to make a traditional turkey dinner, I still had a few left to experiment on and one of my favorite deli sandwiches starts with Italian seasoned turkey breast and I always have on hand all the ingredients to make an Italian flavored....well, anything, so I whipped up a favorite that has my mouth watering just from thinking about it.

Super easy to make, all it takes is a handful of classic ingredients and 5-10 minutes of prep time, pop it in the oven, and a delicious meal is ready to go.

1 C. light Italian salad dressing (free after coupons)
3-4 T. Italian seasoning, your favorite blend or homemade ($.10)
2 T. parmesan ($.10)
3 tsp. house seasoning ($.05) (contains salt, black and white pepper, onion powder, and garlic)
2 T. olive oil ($.10)
1 T. balsamic vinegar ($.15)
2-3 T. white wine, optional ($.10)
6.2 lb. turkey breast ($6.10)
1 tsp. cooking oil ($.05)

Heat oven to 325F.

Whisk together salad dressing, vinegar, and white wine.  Set aside.
Combine house seasoning and Italian seasoning blend.  Dry turkey breast completely with paper towel, then season with seasoning blend.

Place turkey breast skin side up in a baking dish or cast iron casserole dish that has been lightly drizzled with cooking oil.  Drizzle with salad dressing mixture that you made earlier, then drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Bake uncovered at 325F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Cool 15 minutes before carving.
Cool overnight if you plan to slice thin for sandwiches.  (It's easier to thin slice meat that is fully cooled than meat that is warm or even room temperature).

Cost: $6.75
Yields: 16-18 servings
Cost per serving: $.42

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sausage and Mushroom Filled Ravioli

I am absolutely crazily in love with ravioli.  There should be a 12-step program for people like me.

With that being said, I am a bit of a ravioli snob.

Maybe it's the chewy texture of the pasta, maybe it's the mild sweet tang of the fennel in the Italian sausage, or the earthiness of the mushrooms - or a combination of all the above, but the combination of it all together is simply fabulous.  There is no other way to put it.  I love well flavor ravioli and have been looking everywhere to get it.  Until I had an epiphany.  It was time to learn to make it.  Why??

Because I stopped buying frozen ravioli a few years ago since it never tasted half as good as the description sounded on the package.  I know that packaging is supposed to draw you in, but it always left me unsatisfied.  For Christmas, I asked for a ravioli press, the plates that help form ravioli to keep them a uniform size and shape.  I already had the pasta roller and a killer recipe for the pasta dough from the Food Network...which I've already added my unique twist to so making a ravioli with my favorite pizza toppings was a natural progression, I suppose.

I found that I had all the ingredients on hand to make this little treasure so I promptly headed to the kitchen....even though we were leaving the next day to visit family and from there we were off on a much needed mini-vacation to Florida, a little business coupled with some sightseeing and R&R.  Good thing that ravioli freezes well, otherwise we'd have been giving some much desired treasures away to those that might not have appreciated them as much as we have!

Pasta Dough recipe: ($1.25)
I do add in 1 tsp. garlic powder and 1/4 tsp. white pepper to the flour before I begin mixing the dough, but that is entirely optional.

1 1/2 tsp. fennel seed ($.05)
3 cloves of garlic, minced ($.05)
1 T. olive oil ($.05)
2 tsp. basil ($.05)
1.1 lb. mild Italian sausage ($1.90)
1 lb. mushrooms, finely chopped ($2.00)
3 T. garlic butter ($.10)
salt and pepper ($.05)
2/3 C. ricotta cheese ($.40)
3 T. parmesan ($.10)

Egg Wash:
1 egg white ($.10)
1 tsp water (free)
Blend these together well.

Fillng directions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, fennel seed, and garlic.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant.  Add in sausage and cook over medium heat just until sausage is cooked through.  Remove from pan and set aside to drain on paper towel.

Add garlic butter to the same pan over medium heat.  Once fragrant, add in finely chopped mushrooms and cook until tender.  Remove from heat and fold into Italian sausage.  Once fully cooled, stir in parmesan and ricotta.

Ravioli directions:

Roll out pasta until the dough is thin, usually to the second to last setting on your pasta roller.
Cut pasta dough to the length of your ravioli press and press 1 sheet into shape.

Brush edges of dough with egg wash and add 2-3 tsp. of filling to each ravioli.  Cover with another sheet of pasta dough, then use a rolling pin to smooth out edges and to help seal all edges and press pasta into shape.  Gently shake ravioli out of the press and separate, if needed.

Repeat process until you have used all remaining ingredients.

Set aside on a well floured baking sheet.  If you intend to free ravioli, let ravioli set for up to an hour to dry before sealing in a freezer bag.  Ravioli can be frozen up to 6 weeks.

Cost: $6.00
Yield: 64 mini ravioli or 8 servings
Cost per serving: $.75

Sweet Mesquite Turkey Breast

I found a deal this past week on Jennie-O frozen turkey breast for $.99 a pound and since I have long want to experiment on a smaller portion of turkey, I was excited to pick up a deal on this.  I have want to try my hand at creating turkey with so me of the deli flavors I love especially since I have been on a sandwich kick ever sense I found out Jimmy John's sells their sandwich bread for $.50 a loaf.
I know...I know...It's a fantastic price for tasty bread!  It's made sandwich time so much happier....and cheaper in my home.

From my favorite deli, there is a mesquite turkey that I adore and thought it would be great to make a slightly sweeter version of this classic that has graced many a sandwich of mine.  Since I've moved to an area that doesn't have much of a selection for deli offerings, it's high time I learn to make my deli style favorites.  I guess moving a little ways away from my beloved city will challenge (my challenge, I mean force) me to learn how to make even more dishes than I ever imagined.  Though, every time we head back towards the Windy City, we stock up on tons of our favorites, but that's another topic for another time.

Having lived near a specialty spice shop, I picked up some mesquite flavoring a month ago and I have been drying to give it a try.  Pairing that with some pantry staples, I think I've come up with a winner, and with some great, inexpensive sandwich bread - I'll be lunching my way to heaven!

1 tsp. mesquite flavoring ($.15)
1/2 tsp. cumin ($.05)
1 1/2 T. brown sugar ($.05)
1/2 tsp. chile powder (I used ancho chile, but regular will work fine too) ($.05)
1 tsp. black pepper ($.05)
2 tsp. salt ($.05)
3/4 tsp. each onion and garlic powder ($.10)

2 T. olive oil ($.10)
1 T. honey ($.10)
1 T. maple syrup ($.05)
6.1 lb. frozen turkey breast, thawed completely ($5.95)

Heat oven to 325F.
Combine all dry spices and brown sugar.
Pat dry turkey breast with paper towel and season under the skin and the skin evenly with the spice mixture.
Place seasoned turkey breast into baking dish or cast iron casserole.

Drizzle with honey and maple syrup, then drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

*Bake at 325F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until internal temperature reaches 170F.  Let rest 15 minutes before carving.

*(Bake for 20-30 minutes per pound)*

I plan to serve this with some classic potato salad and a hearty salad of mixed greens topped with some clementine wedges.

Cost: $6.70
Servings: 16
Cost per serving: $.44

Friday, February 22, 2013

French Pork Roast with Mushrooms and Herbs

Who says making a fantastic French meal has to cost a fortune?  With a few kitchen staples, some fresh herbs and a cheap pork roast, you can have a restaurant quality meal that is sure to tickle your tastebuds.

I married a few of my favorite ideas together to get this recipe.  It's part Beef Burgundy, part pot roast, and has a definitive French flair thanks to the addition of thyme and heavy cream.

If you want to make this up ahead of time, roast the meat and you can refrigerate it for up to 5 days, then cook the mushrooms and strain the stock, make the sauce and enjoy.

*I used FlipFlop's Left Coast Malbec wine in this recipe - use your favorite full bodied red wine, the richness perfectly compliments the flavors of the herbs and roast.*

5.42 lb. pork butt roast, bone in ($6.44)
2 tsp. thyme ($.20)
salt and pepper
2-3 T. olive oil ($.20)

2 sprigs of rosemary ($.50)
2 C. beef or veal stock ($.80)
1/2 C. red wine ($.40)
1-2 medium onions, julienned ($.12)
1 shallot, minced ($.20)
8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole ($.25)
1 pkg. onion soup mix with mushrooms, optional (free after coupons)

1 C. heavy cream ($.99)
2-3 T. butter ($.25)
1/2 lb. mushrooms ($.99)

Season pork butt with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Heat 1 T. olive oil in a cast iron dutch oven over medium heat.  Drizzle 1 T. olive oil onto the roast and sear the roast on all sides (3-5 minutes per side).

Heat oven to 250.

Add wine, stock, rosemary, shallot, onion, garlic, and soup mix (if desired) to the skillet.
Cover and roast for 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until meat reaches 180F and starts to pull away from the bone.

Remove pork from the pan and set aside.  Strain stock.

Add butter and 1 T. olive oil to cast iron over medium heat and add mushrooms, cooking until just tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  When cooked, remove from pan.

Add strained stock to pan and heat to a simmer.  Stir in heavy cream and cook until sauce reduces by half.  Add in meat and mushrooms.

Serve over potatoes, rice, or egg noodles.

Yields = 12 servings
Cost: $11.34
Cost per serving: $.95

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Stuffed Chicken Marsala

Though this recipe does take a little time and effort, the results are more than worth the work.  This dish has long been a favorite of my hubby's whiand after trying a few variations on this recipe, we finally came up with one that has the right balance between the sweetness of the Marsala wine, the creamy blend of cheeses, and a hint of richness from the heavy cream.  If you are looking for a meal that is sure to impress - this is definitely it.

Having tried this at many Italian restaurants, our version is definitely on par with what we've had when we go out, but at less than a quarter of the price.  This recipe, to me, screams date night at home or a perfect dish to impress the new in-laws, visiting friends and family, and can be a great holiday meal.

If you want to make this meal ahead, most of this can be done ahead of time, from premixing the stuffing, to prepping the chicken - you can have this meal pulled together in about 30 minutes, if you prepare the chicken and the stuffing ahead of time.

And absolutely no one would believe this meal came together for under $10.

Serves well with a garden salad, mashed potatoes, and some Italian bread.


2 whole chicken breasts ($2.15)
1/4 C. flour ($.05)
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. cooking oil ($.05)

1/2 C. shredded mozzarella ($.40)
1/8 C. smoked provolone ($.15)
4 T. ricotta cheese ($.25)
1/2 C. parmesan ($.15)
1/8 C. sour cream ($.10)
2 cloves minced garlic ($.10)
2-3 T. sundried tomatoes, minced ($.10)

1 T. butter ($.10)
1 small onion, minced ($.05)
6-8 medium sized white button mushrooms, sliced thin ($.75)
1-2 tsp flour ($.05)
1/4 C. Marsala wine ($1.50)
1/2 C. chicken stock (free after coupons)
3/4 C. heavy cream ($.75)
2 T. parmesan ($.05)
pinch of parsley, optional


Heat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a large baking pan.

Combine all stuffing ingredients until well blended.

Cut whole chicken breasts in half.  Pound out each half to uniform thickness.  Butterfly open each chicken breast half.  Place a quarter of the stuffing mixture onto one side of each chicken breast half, then fold over the other side of the chicken.

Combine the flour with salt and pepper (to taste).  Dredge chicken in the flour.  Add oil and heat a large skillet over high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add chicken breasts and brown on each side.  Remove chicken from pan into prepared baking dish.  Bake chicken at 350 until stuffing reached 165F - roughly 15-20 minutes.

Using the pan from the chicken, add 1 T. butter and heat over medium low.
Add minced onion and cook for 2 minutes, then add in the sliced mushrooms.
Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until mushrooms are just fork tender.
Stir in the flour.
Deglaze the pan with Marsala wine and increase heat to medium high.
Cook until the wine reduces by at least half, then add the chicken stock.
When mixture reaches a simmer, add heavy cream and continue to simmer until sauce starts to reduce, whisk in the parmesan and cook until well combined and the sauce has reached desired consistency.

Serve chicken and mashed potatoes with sauce drizzled over the top.
Top with parsley if desired.

Yields: 4 servings
Cost: $6.75
Cost per serving: $1.69

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bananas Foster

4 ingredients of pure heaven.

Really, that's all it takes.

Hubby and I were making waffles for breakfast and I got the urge to create.  Having some ripe bananas on hand, I decided on a whim to make bananas foster.  I had seen it done on the Food Network a few times so I thought I dwould give it a try.

Amazingly easy.  Really, one of the simplest recipes I've made in ages.

Served over French toast, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, or blondies - all I can say is YUM!
Here's how easy it is.

2 T. butter ($.15)
2 ripe banans ($.20)
4 T. brown sugar ($.05)
2-3 T. half and half or heavy cream ($.10)

Melt butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat.

Cut bananas into thick (1/2") slices.  Add bananas to butter and saute for 1 minute.  Stir in brown sugar until incorporated.  Stir in half and half or heavy cream, simmer 1-2 minutes, until caramel sauce comes together.

Serve warm.

Yields: 4 servings
Cost: $.50
Cost per serving: $.13

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bacon, Herb, and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

I saw this on a menu in a restaurant in downtown Davenport last week and thought that I could easily make a version of this on my own.  Stuffed mushrooms are a favorite appetizer of mine and one that is great to make at home.  Full of flavor, herbs, bacon (or ham), and cheese - these are a go-to for me when it comes to do-ahead appetizers.

What's great about these?  I can make enough appetizers for a party of 8-10 people for less than half what I spent on these tasty treats in the restaurant.

8 slices of applewood smoked (or your favorite) bacon, cooked ($.50)
3-4 T. bread crumbs ($.10)
1/3 C. parmesan cheese ($.30)
1/4 C. ricotta cheese ($.30)
3 T. sour cream ($.10)
1/3 C. shredded mozzarella or provolone ($.50)
8 thin slices of munster cheese ($.50)
1 1/2 tsp. each: basil, minced garlic, and Italian seasoning ($.10)
2 T. Italian salad dressing (free after coupons)
salt and pepper to taste
32 medium sized white button mushrooms ($2)
1-2 tsp. olive oil ($.10)


Heat oven to 400.  Grease a 9x9" baking dish.

Chop bacon finely.  Remove mushroom caps and set aside for another use (I like to use them in stocks, soups, pasta sauces, etc.)  Cut slices of munster cheese into quarters.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except mushrooms, olive oil, and sliced munster cheese.  Mix well to combine.

Fill each mushroom with 1-2 T. of filling.  Brush bottom of mushrooms with olive oil and top each with a slice of munster.

Line mushrooms up (not touching) in prepared baking sheet.

Bake at 400 for 25 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and cheese is melted.

Yields: 32 mushrooms or 10 servings
Cost: $4.25
Cost per mushroom: $.14

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Restaurant-Style Garlic Spread

In my house, we love Italian and that tends to be on the menu at least once or twice a week.  I have experimented with a few different garlic butters and spreads and after watching the Cooking Channel - I had an epiphany: olive oil.  I know it's a little different, but adding olive oil to my garlic butter really made it perfect.  After several attempts, here is a great make-ahead garlic spread that has tons of flavor and gives your garlic bread or pasta an instant WOW-factor.

1 stick butter, softened ($.50)
3-4 T. olive oil ($.20)
2-3 T. parmesan ($.20)
1 1/4 tsp. basil ($.05)
1/2 tsp. parsley or oregano ($.05)

Mix well all ingredients and use to dress pasta or spread on garlic bread or breadsticks.
Yields: 1 batch
Cost per batch: $1.00

Use this spread on:
French Bread
As sandwich spread
In pasta sauce
Chicken or pork
With seafood