admin / March 28, 2011

The Blog-Desperation Dinners Ahead

Before I forget…Congratulations to Alma who was the winner of the Debbie Macomber novel.

I spent most of yesterday working on a couple of week’s worth of menus as April’s going to be a busy month. I”m teaching an online writer’s workshop and getting back to work on The Budget Smart Girl book. I’m now half way done with the project and hope to have it completed by the beginning of summer. I’d love to have some input from you about what you’d like to see in a budget related book. Is there something you think most books miss? Topics that are never covered? Feel free to e-mail me with your responses.

Yes, almost April which means the newsletter. I hope to get that ready for Friday and there’s lots of good stuff this month.

Here are some articles I thought worth reading this week-

Inexpensive ways to add value to your home-

http://realestate.yahoo.com/promo/improving-your-home-for-1000-or-less.html

One ingredient face masks-

http://shine.yahoo.com/event/green/11-one-ingredient-diy-face-masks-2460089/

Classic American Beauty Products…some are very budget friendly-

http://shopping.yahoo.com/articles/yshoppingarticles/554/9-classic-american-beauty-products/

Have a good week.

admin / March 25, 2011

A Budget Smart Good Buy

One food I always think’s a good buy is fish. And this time of the year it’s an even more of a bargain. Two reasons-Lent and Frozen Food Month. During March I stock up on lots of items like fish sticks, canned tuna, frozen cod and salmon, stick it in the freezer or pantry and use it throughout the coming months. Besides being a good price there are lots of reasons to like this budget smart good buy-

Perfect Speedy Meal

I have about ten favorite desperation dinners as I call them. Meals that can be ready in less than 30 minutes and at least half of them are fish dishes. It’s easy to defrost and simple to cook too.

Freezes Well

Even if you cook a fish meal ahead of time you can freeze it for later. Just about any type of fish freezes well too.

Variety

There are more varieties of fish than I’m sure most of us can name so you never get bored. It’s also great to take a recipe and try a different type of fish for a change.

It’s Good For You

In moderation, fish is a good food choice. Many years ago I wrote an article about Omega-3 and how most of us don’t get enough of it in our diets. Salmon is one of the best sources and canned salmon is on my list of budget buys.

It Makes Any Kind of Meal

Best thing about fish is you can make a hearty dinner with it, use it as a filling for a sandwich, or even a light salad on a hot summer’s day.

Favorite Fish Recipes

Some of my favorite stand by recipes include, salmon fish cakes…I always use crackers now instead of mashed potatoes as I think, one, they taste better and two, they hold together much better which makes freezing them easier too. I sometimes make tuna pot pies. I have made them with salmon too and puff pastry is really good with it. Salmon quesadilla are easy as well. Fish sticks often get turned into tacos. I sprinkle on taco seasoning before I cook them. I’ve even tried using cod with some taco seasoning and lime juice added which is really good. Top it with coleslaw and it’s a quick and easy meal.

One of my favorite sandwiches for a light supper is salmon and cucumber. The combination is great and perfect for the summer.

Fish chowder are also easy to put together. In the summer and when it’s too hot to cook I often make gazpacho soup and add shrimp so it’s more of a meal.

Fish Recipes

Here is a recipe I recently found on a UK site-

http://www.allaboutyou.com/food/italian-fish-linguini-recipe/recipe

I actually made this other night because I was short on time and thought what’s quicker than fish and pasta for dinner? I didn’t have any red wine so I used vegetable stock. I think you actually need more than the recipe states so if you try it, double it. I used the tilapia but next time I’d opt for the cod. I didn’t have linquini on hand so used spaghetti instead. While I was making it I thought it might work with canned tuna too. Plus, next time around I’d use more olives.

I also found this on another UK site, ten classic fish dishes-

http://www.redonline.co.uk/food/10-best/10-best-classic-fish-dishes

And if you missed my salmon chowder recipe the first time, here it is again

 

(Serves 4-6)

1 tablespoon oil

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups diced peeled potatoes

1 cup sliced carrots

1 teaspoon of fresh dill or ½ tsp. Dried dill

1 can (14 ½ oz.)  chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup corn

1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk

Leftover ingredients-

Salmon—I used a leftover salmon steak from a previous dinner. It was probably about 1 cup of salmon, a 7 ½ oz. can of salmon could probably be used to0, maybe two if you wanted more salmon in the chowder.

Green Beans—I used about ½ cup chopped cooked green beans.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, sauté the onion until softened, add the garlic, carrots, celery and potatoes and stir together, sprinkle in the dill and add the chicken or vegetable broth. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in the corn, green beans and then gradually stir in evaporated milk. Gently stir in salmon and heat through.

Serve with bread or crackers.

Coupons

One site I always check for coupons is Gortons-

http://www.gortons.com/coupons_promotions.htm

admin / March 16, 2011

Cutting Down on Ready Made Foods

March means St. Patrick’s Day which always makes me think of my grandmother who was from County Cork. I’ve been paging through cookbooks figuring out what I’m going to make this St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate my Irish heritage. I’ve found recipes for dishes like colcannon and Irish soda bread. Aside from trying to recreate the foods my grandma grew up eating, I’ve been thinking about the approach her generation took toward preparing a meal.  Nothing came prepackaged and they shopped for fresh local produce every day. Besides being healthier, my grandmother’s generation probably saved a whole bunch of money too. It seems supermarkets aren’t just about food any more but places we go to buy convenience. Here are some foods I say pass by every time you see them-

Ready Prepared Produce

One thing that always amazes me is the individually wrapped potatoes and onions you find the produce department. I’ve seen price tags of $1.50 stamped on them. Today I bought a 3 pound bag of onions for $2.99 (seven onions) so there’s a big markup for having someone do the little work of peeling an onion for you. The same goes for the stew packs I often see, potatoes, celery, onions and carrots, vacuum packed and double the cost than if you put them together yourself.

Cheeses
Yes, I’m guilty of this one. I’ve been tempted to buy the bags of shredded cheese and  cheese squares. And really how long does shredding cheese take us? It’s probably one of the quickest chores. I’m a big fan of those soft cheeses flavored with garlic and onion and packaged in tubs. In fact, I had a holiday recipe that called for two tubs and got a bad case of sticker shock when I saw they were almost $5 each. It’s basically whipped cream cheese and a little milk to thin it down with chopped garlic, green  onions and black pepper. Next time you’re thinking of buying something like that check your cookbooks or even the Internet and I’m betting you can find a replica recipe. (In fact, check out the Web site below)

Juice and Jell-O

I never buy pre-made is juice and Jell-O unless they’re on sale or I have a coupon because making your own is a lot cheaper. And if these are items you regularly eat, invest in small plastic containers and juice boxes and fill them yourself.

Mixes

It took me a long time to get out the habit of buying packaged taco and gravy mixes but there are so many recipes on the Internet that it’s much cheaper to make your own. Plus, you always have a supply on hand and they’re preservative free too. One site I really like is this one-http://www.copykat.com/2009/03/27/homemade-taco-seasoning-mix/

Salad Dressings

Salad dressings are another food item that I used to buy ready-made but then decided to make my own. It all started when I had a recipe for a dressing I just couldn’t find and ended up making my own. Now I like making them not only for the money saving aspect but I can put my own spin on things like Thousand Island and blue cheese dressings. http://www.recipetips.com/recipes-collections/salad_dressing_recipes.asp

My Thousand Island Dressing Recipe (makes about 1 ½ cups)

 

 

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup chili sauce

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish

1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

Pinch of salt and pepper

Mix everything together and this keeps for weeks in the refrigerator. It’s also a good dipping sauce for fish sticks too!

admin / March 14, 2011

The Blog-Spring is Almost Here

The days are getting longer, nights are lighter and yes, it has me thinking about a whole bunch of things I want to get done in the months ahead. One being hold a yard sale. During the winter the basement has become my makeshift craft area for my flower arranging. I realized just how crowded it was and when next year rolls around I’ll face the same problem trying to fit everything in there. I took a look around and saw some items we no longer use or want so looks like in May I’ll be holding a sale.

Check out the April issue of Reader’s Digest…I’ve been receiving a free subscription from ELF cosmetics. Lots of good stuff in there, where to find the best deals, discounts, etc. Making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Also an interesting feature on how the rececession has changed so many lives and the way people think about money.

Remember Marlene Alexander, the Dollar Store Diva who gave us some great tips on furnishings our homes with dollar store finds? This morning she set me a link to this great article she’d written about saving money while you’re traveling, here’s the link for you to check out http://www.walletpop.ca/2011/03/12/how-dollar-stores-can-save-you-money-on-food-when-you-travel/

Check out Gorton’s they have a BFF contest where you and your best friend can win a home theater system http://www.welovefishtacos.com/promotions

And as spring is around the corner it’s time to get outside and start walking. What to know how many miles you’ve walked? Check out this free giveway http://www.icejump.com/specials.php A great idea when you fill out a request for freebies is to have an e-mail address just for this type of correspondence.

On Budget Smart Girl this week–Cooking the old fashioned way means saving money. And how preparing vegetarian meals can help stretch your dollar.

Have a great week.

admin / March 11, 2011

Another Budget Buy-Green Split Peas

 

Last month I featured black beans as a favorite budget find. This time it’s split green peas. Like beans, split peas are also a fat free, high in fiber food. And they’re inexpensive…this bag cost just 99 cents. Unlike beans, they need no presoaking. All they require is a wash and rinse to make sure they’re free of dust and the odd small stone that can sometimes creep into the mix.

One of my favorite recipes is split pea soup. I had one I’d used for years but it took a long time to cook. Unless I continually monitored it, I was always faced with split peas and potatoes that got stuck to the bottom of the pan. The soup was sometimes ruined and clean up, a nightmare.

Lately I’ve been relying on on my slow cooker when it’s time to make any type of soup. So I thought about ways I could convert this recipe. If you’ve ever read tips on how to do that, everyone seems to recommend that you cut the liquid in half but I found for split peas it doesn’t work. They expand and soak up the liquid quickly, even in a slow cooker. I also found that the vegetables didn’t have as much flavor as the old method. So with some trial and error, I decided to saute the veggies with the spices and then add them to the slow cooker. The old recipe also used sage and as I was out of my supply from the garden, I switched to poultry seasoning which is perfect. When you’re cooking this soup you’ll think of the Holiday season and stuffing.

So here’s my new version of the split pea soup, slow cooker style. It serves 10-12 and freezes very well.

1 bag (1 pound) split dry green peas

8 1/2 cups of water (even stock if you prefer)

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of dry mustard

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

2 slices of bacon, chopped (optional and this recipe is just as good without, bacon just adds a little smoke flavoring).

1 cup chopped onions

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 cup chopped celery

3 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

Some oil for sauteing the veggies

Wash the peas, add to the slow cooker and add the water, bay leaves, salt and mustard. Turn the cooker on low while you’re preparing the vegetables.

In a large skillet heat the oil and add, the bacon…if using, all the vegetables and garlic. Saute until they’re starting to get slightly golden and then add the poultry seasoning and make sure everything gets coated. Continue cooking until the vegetables are light golden brown and then add to the slow cooker.

I cooked mine on high for about three hours and I think on low would be about five.

This soup is great all by itself for a hearty lunch. Also good with French or Italian bread and a salad for a dinner.

admin / March 7, 2011

The Blog-Pancakes

Many of you know that I grew up in London, England and a tradition there is to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday…the day before Ash Wednesday. These aren’t the sort of pancakes you’ll find at IHOP but more like a crepe. My grandmother was the expert in the family at making these tasty treats. I don’t think she ever followed a recipe but had learned everything from watching her own mother make them. Mine never turn out as well as hers but I keep trying. Tomorrow I’ll be serving them for dessert which got me thinking about some of the old food traditions and recipes. Most are made from inexpensive items and very budget friendly. In the case of these pancakes, flour, eggs and milk and then some lemon juice and sugar when you serve them. If you’d also like to try your hand at making them I found this site on YahooUK http://uk.lifestyle.yahoo.com/food-drink/make-pancakes-article-hku7.html

It uses metric measurements but here’s a site that lets you convert everything http://www.botanical.com/botanical/cvcookix.html

And here’s something I saw featured in one of the newsletters I receive.  If you type in your zipcode it will show you local cinemas where they show free screenings of new movies-http://www.gofobo.com/screenings/search 

This week on Budget Smart Girl-why frozen foods can be a budget cook’s best friend and a bargain buy-split green peas, including one of my favorite soups using this inexpensive item.

Have a good week.

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