admin / October 29, 2013

Items for the Holiday Gift Guide and a New Line of Frozen Dinners


I’m beginning work on the Annual Budget Smart Girl Holiday Gift Guide so if anyone has any suggestions for items feel free to leave a comment or contact me. It could be something you think is a good deal and a great product, something you make and sell on sites like Etsy, or if you have a friend or relative who sells something that might be a perfect fit for the guide. I can’t promise that I’ll include every single one, but I’ll try.

And if you’re sticking with Meatless Mondays and enjoy Quorn products, some of their items have mail in rebate forms on their packages so basically you get to try them for free-

This looked like an easy recipe, I’m going to try it with real pumpkin to see how it turns out

And these look like a tasty treat that’s good for you-

And lastly, I recently got to sample one of the new Old El Paso products, frozen entrees for two. I think they’re perfect for storing in the freezer for those days when you’re not in the mood to cook or even when you’re tired after holiday shopping-
Old El Paso website –
Old El Paso on Facebook –

The information and free sample were provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

Have a safe and happy Halloween

admin / October 28, 2013

It’s Meatless Monday-Cheese Soup with Mustard Crusted Cauliflower


I love soups all year round but there’s nothing more comforting than stepping into the kitchen on a fall day and knowing you have some homemade soup ready to eat.

Last week I was in soup making mode and thought I’d share this recipe with you for Meatless Monday.
I had some cauliflower florets that I didn’t know what to do with…too few for a side dish so decided to use them as the topping for this soup. I think it worked out perfectly and now I’m going to try this topping as a holiday side dish when I have larger amounts of the white veggie to work with.

While I always promote eating soup the day after so all the flavors blend together, this one I don’t. I did have some leftover and found that it separates out. So eat it straight away if you can. It’s not a good candidate for freezing either.

For this one I used leeks for flavoring as I think they give soups just the right about of kick without being too overwhelming like onions can be.

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
1 leek, (some of the green parts can be included, use the rest for stock), finely chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk (I used coconut milk because I had some leftover but regular milk works too)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or any cheese of your choosing)
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons oil, divided
1 cup small cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

For the cauliflower topping-
In a skillet and over medium high heat, heat one tablespoon of oil and then add the florets. Add some salt and pepper and continue stirring until the cauliflower is cooked and golden brown.

Stir in the Dijon mustard and make sure all the pieces are well coated. Cook for a few more minutes, turn off the heat, and set pan aside.

For the soup-
In a large saucepan, and over medium high heat, heat two tablespoons of oil and then add the chopped leek and celery. Cook until softened but not browned. Add some salt and pepper and then slowly add the stock and bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer for about five minutes and then slowly add the milk.

Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Stir well and make sure it’s melted.

Meanwhile reheat the cauliflower.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with about a tablespoon of the cauliflower mixture.

Serves 4

admin / October 21, 2013

It’s Meatless Monday-‘Pumpkin’ and Chickpea Curry


Sometimes recipes are created by looking at a vegetable and wondering what you can make with it. That’s how this week’s Meatless Monday dish came about. Inside the CSA box was what I initially thought was a pumpkin. It was in fact, a red kabocha squash. Either way I was tempted to keep it for Halloween as it looked so festive sitting on the table. However, I got curious as to how it would taste and what I could do with it.
As the weather’s turned cold with some snowflakes in the air, something warming like curry came to mind. So this is what I came up with, a Thai inspired curry that’s accented with all things from my collection of Thai Kitchen products that were gifted to me last year by the company. Don’t worry if you don’t have any or can’t find them because I used a base of cumin seeds, ginger and garlic that created a wonderful depth of flavor, and all you’d need to do is add some spice to suit your comfort level of spiciness. Coconut milk finishes off the dish, giving it a creamy texture. Serve it with some brown or Jasmine rice and I think it makes the perfect fall supper.

3 cups of chopped squash (I think butternut would work for this recipe too)
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1 small onion, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Handful of Kefir Lime Leaves (they’re like bay leaves so be sure to remove them before serving)
1 teaspoon of Thai basil
1 stick of dried lemongrass (Another thing to remove before serving)
If you like your curry really hot, add some red pepper flakes
2 ½ cups of coconut milk…I use the So Delicious brand as I think it’s less expensive than the canned varieties…use the unsweetened one!

In a small bowl, or mortar and pestle if you have one, smash the garlic and ginger together with some salt until you get a paste.

In a large saucepan and over medium high heat, add about two tablespoons of oil and once it’s heated, add the cumin seeds and cook until they’re fragrant.

Add the garlic/ginger mixture and cook for a few minutes making sure it doesn’t get too brown.

Add the onion and cook for another couple of minutes.
Add the Kefir leaves, lemongrass , Thai basil, and red pepper flakes if you’re using them, and also the cubed squash and make sure everything is well coated. Continue cooking for about five minutes or until the squash turns a little golden brown.

Add the drained chickpeas and stir everything together.

Slowly add the coconut milk into the mixture. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for about fifteen minutes or until the squash is cooked.

Add more coconut milk if necessary and remove lemongrass and Kefir leaves.
Add more salt if necessary and serve immediately.

Serves 4

admin / October 14, 2013

It’s Meatless Monday-Herbed Mushroom and Smoked Cheese Bread Pudding


I hate wasting food but sometimes we all make mistakes. Case in point, an artisan loaf of bread I bought for $1.75. When I got home and took it out of the wrapper, it looked like a block of cement. Not wanting to risk broken teeth or a lost filling, I thought the only thing to do was toss it. Conscience about throwing away good food got the better of me so it sat on the countertop waiting for a better solution.

Bread pudding seemed to be the answer. Not a sweet one but a savory one, and being short on time, the slow cooker was another easy solution. So for this Meatless Monday it’s a cheese and mushroom bread pudding that’s a breeze to put together, and I think it would also make a great Sunday brunch item too. The mushrooms are sautéed first along with some thyme to give them more depth of flavor. I used a smoked cheese that I think kicks the flavor up a few more notches.

2 cups of cubed bread (if you’re not using a crusty loaf style bread, use about 3 cups)
1 8 ounce package of mushrooms (sliced)
Salt and pepper, dried thyme
4 eggs
2 cups of milk
1 cup shredded smoked cheese

Over a medium high heat, heat about two tablespoons oil, add mushrooms and then add some salt and pepper and a good sprinkling of thyme. Cook until slightly browned, set aside.

In a medium size bowl, beat eggs, add milk, and some salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and then add the bread cubes, and mushrooms.

Let everything soak together for about five minutes and then pour the mixture into a slow cooker which you’ve sprayed with some cooking spray.
Cook on low for about 3-4 hours.
Serves 4

Wishing all the Canadian readers a very Happy Thanksgiving.

admin / October 7, 2013

It’s Meatless Monday-Cheese Ravioli with Mushroom Stroganoff Sauce


Sometimes recipes are created after a case of sticker shock. A few weeks ago I spotted a new line of ravioli and pasta sauces at the supermarket. These ready-made meals looked inviting but the $8 price tag didn’t. I walked away, shopping cart empty, but in the back of my mind thought about creating my own combo of delicious pasta and sauce.

While I don’t have a pasta machine, or the patience and time to make my own, I had seen lots of recipes for ravioli using won ton wrappers. So this is what I came up with. Cheese ravioli with a mushroom stroganoff sauce. Any leftover sauce…should you have any, can be thinned down with more milk or stock and turned into a soup. I’ve also made an extra batch of the ravioli and stored in the freezer.
Just add a side dish of steamed green beans and I think you have a meal worthy of a gourmet restaurant.

For the ravioli-
1 12 ounce package of won ton wrappers
1 cup ricotta cheese
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese or any other strong flavored variety

For the stroganoff sauce-
1 12 ounce package mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter or low fat spread
1 tablespoon of fresh or 1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt and pepper

To make the ravioli
In a medium sized bowl, add the ricotta cheese and slowly blend in the onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper and finely fold in the shredded cheese.

Place one won ton wrapper on the counter top and put about a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture on top. Brush some water around the edges of the wrapper and place another one on top and seal the edges together.

Place on a plate and continue until all the wrappers and cheese mixture are gone.

For the sauce
In a saucepan and over medium high heat, add the butter, let it melt and then add the mushrooms and onion. As mushrooms absorb moisture and fat, you might need to add some more butter, oil or if you want to lower the fat content, some veggie stock.

Cook until the mushrooms and onions are soft and slightly browned.
Stir in the dill and paprika and cook for another few minutes.

Add the flour and make sure everything is coated.

Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Depending on how thick or thin you want the sauce, either add more flour or milk or even stock.
Set aside while you cook the ravioli.

In a large saucepan bring salted water to a boil and add about four or five pieces of ravioli at a time. They’re ready when they float to the top. Place them on a plate and try not to let them touch until they’re slightly cooled.

Continue cooking the ravioli and then place them on a platter.

Reheat the sauce and pour in it over the ravioli. Sprinkle on more dill and paprika.

Serve immediately

Serves 6

admin / October 4, 2013

The Best of Fall Produce


One way to save money is to buy what’s in season, and right now that’s goodies like apples, pears, cabbage, beet and squashes. The trick is to find ways to make them a meal. One thing I love to accompany sandwiches is coleslaw. However, after eating the same old, same old during the summer I was in the mood for something a little different. Just so happened that in this week’s CSA box there sat a red cabbage, and at the grocery store I saw bags of apples on sale for 97 cents a pound. Anytime something goes under a dollar a pound, I buy it and then decide what to do with it later.
So with the apples and red cabbage I came up with a different take on coleslaw. I used another fall favorite beets and actually cheated a little here because I used the beets I’d canned from last year’s CSA box but I’m sure fresh ones will work too.

½ red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 small apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup diced beets
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt (this gives it a nice bite)
1 tablespoon of vinegar (I used some from the canned beets but red wine vinegar is perfect too)
½ teaspoon of celery seeds
1 tablespoon honey mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
And optional- some sweetened dried cranberries for decoration

Place the cabbage, apples and beets in a bowl and toss thoroughly.

In another bowl add the mayonnaise, yogurt, vinegar, celery seeds, mustard, salt and pepper together. Whisk well and then add to the bowl with the cabbage mixture.

Stir together until everything is well coated and then put in the fridge to chill.
Serves 6-8

And if you’re looking for more recipes featuring apples, I found this one online a few days ago and made a batch of it yesterday. Half is for now, the other half I’ve frozen for winter enjoyment.

Another produce item that’s in stores right now is kale. I’ve been putting it in soups and even added it to a vegetarian meatloaf which I think was the perfect way to use it. It’s a nutritional powerhouse and good value for money so here’s a link to other ways to use it-

Happy saving and have a good weekend.

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