Friday, December 11, 2015

Blonde Brickle Brownies - Toffee Blonde Brownies

Call them Brickle Brownies or Blondies, these sweet treats will definitely answer!  I used to make these for my father every Christmas and it's a tradition that I must admit I miss.  So this year, I'm making the blonde brickle brownies as I always made them in my youth - with a little more brown sugar, a little less fanfare, and tons of yummy toffee goodness!  Dad, this one is for you.

4 eggs ($.40)
1 C. dark brown sugar ($.10)
2/3 C. granulated sugar ($.05)
2/3 C. butter, melted ($.75)
2 tsp. vanilla extract ($.25)
1/4 tsp. butter extract ($.25)
2 3/4 C. flour ($.25)
1 tsp. baking powder ($.05)
1/2 tsp. salt ($.05)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, optional ($.05)
1 bag Heath Bits of Brickle or chopped toffee pieces ($1.50)
1/2 C. chopped pecans, if desired ($1.50)

Heat oven to 350.
Grease a 13x9" baking dish, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs well.  Stir in brown and granulated sugars, cream together.  Stir in melted butter and both extracts.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix well to combine.  Fold in toffee pieces and chopped pecans, if desired.

Spread into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting.
Serves well with vanilla ice cream.

Yields: 24 brownies/bars
Cost: $5.20
Cost per serving: $.24

Monday, October 19, 2015

Creamy Homemade Chicken Stew

The cooler autumn weather really puts me in the mind for soups and stews, hearty pastas, and savory roasted treats.  Lately, chicken has been what everybody's in the mood to eat, so I took some odds and ends out of the fridge and pantry and came up with a hearty and slightly creamy chicken stew that was a huge hit - and there are a few store-bought shortcuts to make this an easy weeknight menu option, too.

I made a chicken and vegetable stock from scratch, as I had lots of veggies that were getting a little too soft for snacking - but that's the beauty of soup!  You can make use of a lot of things you already have on hand and end up with an amazing meal for so little money.  Here's what I did:

Chicken and veggie stock:
1 T. olive oil ($.15)
3-4 small onions, skin on and thick sliced or chopped ($.10)
1/4lb. baby carrots, roughly chopped ($.15)
4-5 celery stalks, roughly chopped ($.25)
4 pieces bone-in chicken (I used drummies) $1.00
1 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, oregano, black pepper, and fennel seed ($.10)
2 T. basil ($.10)
2-3 tsp. salt (to taste) ($.05)

Heat olive oil in a 5-7 qt. stock pot over medium heat, add celery, onions, and carrots and cook at medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add all remaining ingredients except salt and top 4 quarts of water.  Raise heat to a medium-high and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Taste and add salt and additional seasonings as needed.

2 T. olive oil ($.30)
1/2 T. butter ($.10)
1/4 lb. baby carrots, finely chopped ($.15)
3 celery stocks, finely chopped ($.15)
2-3 small onions, minced ($.10)
4 cloves garlic, minced ($.10)
1 shallot, minced ($.05) (optional)
3-5 T. flour ($.05)
2-3 C. chicken, rough chopped ($1.25)
1/8 C. white wine, optional ($.25)
2 small or 1 large potato with skin on, sliced paper thin ($.10)
1 T. basil ($.10)
1 1/2 tsp. each black pepper and oregano ($.05)
1/4 C. heavy cream ($.25)
Chicken and veggie stock (see above or you can use storebought stock)

Heat butter and olive oil over a medium heat until oil starts to shimmer.  Then add onions, celery, carrots, shallots, and garlic to pan.  Sautee over medium heat until just tender, then add basil, oregano, black pepper, and salt to taste, stirring well.  Add in flour, a tablespoon at a time and stir constantly, add white wine.  Stir in stock by the ladleful, while stirring.  Once stock is incorporated, add potato and chicken and let simmer over a medium-low heat for 30-45 minutes.  Stir in heavy cream 5-8 minutes before serving, keep stew at a low simmer.  Top with fresh parsley, parmesan, chives, green onions, or cheddar cheese as desired.  I topped mine with 1-2 T. parmesan.

Serve with salad and warm yeast rolls.

Yields: 10-12 servings
Cost: $4.90
Cost per serving: $.49

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sweet Citrus Pork Tenderloin

A tender, succulent grilled pork tenderloin that was made for sandwiches...that is the life I aspire to.  And with this take on a tenderloin, I think I am one step closer to sandwich nirvana.  I love creating new flavors and have a considerable spice cabinet to pull from and here, I've used bold citrus flavors with sweet and a little tang to punch up a pretty piece of pork.

In the summer, when the whole pork tenderloins go on sale, I'm right there, grabbing a couple and thinking of all the ways I can use them.  I take them home and cut them into meal sized portions of about one pound to a pound and a half and vacuum seal them, after I've marinated them for 24 hours.  When I'm cutting up the pork tenderloin, the small scrappy pieces become stew meat (or in my house, stirfry or taco meat) so there is no waste from a beautiful tenderloin.  I even cut thick chops for stuffed pork chops and prep them on the spot, including stuffing them.  Whenever I can spare the time, I will freeze the pork for a couple of hours, just enough to make it easier to get a good slice and a neat edge when I'm portioning the pork out for our meals.  During the week, I just have to thaw a portion and roast it when I'm home from work.

While this recipe could work well with most citrus flavors, I just went with what I had on hand at the moment.

1/4 C. each: white wine, orange juice ($.25)
1/8 C. each brown sugar, olive oil ($.25)
2 T. molasses or honey ($.10)
1 small red or orange bell pepper, minced ($.35)
1/2 tsp. each: black pepper, garlic powder ($.05)
1 tsp. each: salt, paprika, onion powder ($.10)

1.5 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed ($3.40)
Whisk together all ingredients.  Marinate pork in mixture overnight.

Roast in oven at 400F for 1 hour 20 minutes or until meat is golden and internal temperature reads 180F.  Cool 10-15 minutes, slice thin for sandwiches or thicker for an entrée.

Yields: 3-4 servings
Cost: $4.50
Cost per serving: $1.12-$1.50

Serve with tortillas and salad, sliced thin and piled on sub rolls with cheddar, lettuce, and onion, or with white or fried rice and sautéed peppers and onions.  Can also be served as an appetizer on small rolls with coleslaw on top.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Peppery Smokehouse Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is one of my signature dishes and I've been having a blast this summer finding new ways to season it, though my Italian garlic seasoned tenderloin is a classic, I have been so inspired by all the amazing flavors and recipes I've been reading so it was time to update this classic.  And what screams summer more than a smoky, peppery flavor that is super savory and a little tangy.  This pairs well with a fruity lemonade or a crisp white wine based cocktail.  Peach and lime sangria, anyone?  Next time I'm going to try a sweet citrus pork tenderloin.

Another thing I love about pork tenderloin - it makes fabulous, decadent, over-the-top gourmet sandwiches with the addition of crusty bread, some good cheese (I love Havarti, gouda, sharp cheddar, or even some smoked provolone), caramelized onions/charred peppers/sautéed mushrooms.  Pair with a classic side or spinach salad and dinner is done.  And it looks beautiful enough for a casual dinner with friends, too.  Just put out a few cheese and bread options, let people serve themselves.

1/4 C. each worchestershire sauce, steakhouse marinade, and red wine ($.50)
2-4 T. brown sugar ($.05)
a few dashes of liquid smoke ($.05)

Season blend:
1 tsp. each: cumin, paprika, garlic powder, ancho chile powder ($.20)
2 tsp. smokehouse black pepper (free after coupons)
1 tsp. California black pepper seasoning and hickory smoked salt (from the Spice House) ($.20)
1/2 tsp. each: oregano, onion powder, mesquite seasoning ($.15)

1.5 pounds pork tenderloin ($3.25)

Mix marinade ingredients together and marinade the pork overnight.
Heat oven to 400F, line a 2 qt. baking dish with aluminum.  Season the pork tenderloin with pepper blend and place in the prepared baking dish.

Bake at 400F. for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in center reads 180F.  Cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cost: $4.40
Yields: 2-4 servings
Cost per serving: $1.10-$2.20

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lemon Mesquite Roasted Chicken

We've been eating tons of chicken lately, maybe because I'm finding huge deals on chicken or just because we are poultry kind of people.  I rarely cook with beef, the prices being as high as they have been lately, but chicken is my go-to protein choice.  This recipe works as well on the grill as it does in the oven, and the ingredients are wonderfully versatile.

4-5 lbs. bone-in chicken, I used leg quarters ($1.95)
juice of 2 lemons or 4 limes ($.50)
1 stick, 1/4 C. butter or 4 T. butter and 4 T, olive oil($.50)
6-8 cloves garlic ($.20)
1 small shallot ($.20)
3 T. dry white wine, optional ($.10)
1/2 tsp. worchestershire sauce ($.05)
2-3 T. mesquite season blend ($.75)

Melt butter over medium heat in a small saute pan, add shallot and garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.  Stir in all remaining ingredients except chicken, remove from heat, and cool 5 minutes.  Toss chicken with half of the herbed butter mixture.  Set aside remaining butter blend.

Bake chicken in an uncovered dish at 400F for 35-45 minutes, basting every 10 minutes until chicken is a deep golden hue and cooked through.  Drizzle with remaining butter blend upon serving.

Yields: 4-6 servings
Cost: $4.25
Cost per serving: $.71-$1.06 per serving

Serves well with:
1.  Garden salad, Italian or French bread
2.  Spinach salad, potatoes au gratin
3.  Baked beans, corn on the cob, side salad
4.  Spanish rice, refried beans, tortillas
5.  Potato salad, fresh watermelon
6.  Angel hair pasta in a scampi sauce, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms

Mesquite Seasoning Blend

I generally make my own season blends so I can control the salt content and as much as I love some of the store bought combinations, they never pack the flavor punch that I can create.  Here is my newest favorite, a mesquite and herb blend that has tons of flavor and is 100% salt free:

1 T. mesquite flavoring ($.35)
2 tsp. each: oregano, onion powder, granulated garlic, black pepper ($.25)
2 T. California sweet paprika ($.20)
1 tsp. each: basil and fennel seed ($.05)
3 tsp. cumin ($.05)
1/2 tsp. cayenne, optional ($.05)

Mix together, store in a sealed, airtight container.
Yields: 1-2 batches, enough to season 3-6 pounds of meat, poultry, or veggies.
Cost: $.95