admin / April 11, 2018

Three Ingredients and a Slow Cooker Dessert

Most of you know I like to keep a full pantry. A couple of times a year I sort through it and begin using the older supplies. Last week (a surprisingly chilly one for this time of year), I wanted something gooey and sweet for dessert. I had a box of Devil’s Food cake mix that needed using and soon. A quick search of the rest of the pantry yielded candied ginger and a can of sliced pears. The combination sounded too good to pass on and with the help of the slow cooker, this dessert was ready in a couple of hours. I topped it with Greek yogurt but I’m guessing ice cream would be good too. Serving size is around 6-8.

 

Ingredients

1 box Devil’s Food Cake Mix (don’t follow the ingredient measurements…I went with ¼ oil and just 1 egg)

2 tablespoons finally chopped candied ginger (more if you like the heat)

1 15 ounce can of sliced pears (drained)

 

 

Spray the slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.

Place the pears and ginger at the bottom.

Make the cake mix and pour on top of the pears and ginger.

Turn on low and cook for about two hours.

Serve warm.

 

admin / February 10, 2012

A Budget Friendly Appliance-The Slow Cooker

One kitchen appliance I love for saving me both time and money is my slow cooker. Actually I have two of them. If you haven’t tried using one to cook a couple of meals a week, here are some resources I gathered up to help you-

Converting Recipes

I have lots of recipes using the slow cooker that I use over and over again. And yes, that’s the problem. I wanted to convert some of my other recipes to this style of cooking but didn’t know where to start. I found this useful guide from a site called Saving Dinner…you can sign up for the newsletter too.

http://savingdinner.com/articles/crockpot-troubleshooting/

Lots of Good Recipes

One site I have bookmarked, and I also checked out the book at the library and loved all the recipes is this one. (One plus is the author gives some feedback on how the recipe turned out so you know what to expect)-

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

More Slow Cooker Tips

Even after you’ve been using your slow cooker for years there are still things to learn-

http://shine.yahoo.com/shine-food/7-tricks-for-better-slow-cooking-in-your-crock-pot-2590707.html

Reasons to Love the Slow Cooker

Cheaper Foods Cook Well

One thing the slow cooking process does is tenderize cheaper cuts of meats so it’s a good way to stretch your budget.

Save on Energy

A slow cooker uses less energy than turning on the oven and a couple of burners. You can put everything, meat, potatoes and veggies in one pot and you’re done. In summertime it doesn’t overheat your kitchen.

Clean Up is Easy

If you’re short on time, cleaning up one pot is simple.

Walk Away and Leave It

One of my favorite things about a slow cooker is I can put everything into it in the morning, walk away, do my work and not have to worry about it until dinner time. It’s almost like having a live in chef.

Makes Just About Anything

And it’s not just soups and stews you can make. I’ve heard people who have great success with baking cakes in theirs. I’ve made apple butter in mine, baked cheese for an appertizer during the holidays. And in my opinion rice and bread puddings made in one are fantastic.

Cooking Beans is Simple

Last year I decided not to buy any more canned beans. I know they don’t break the budget but from one pound of beans that costs around $1.20 I get about six cans for beans. And I can buy varieties I can’t always find in the canned version.

My routine for cooking them is simple. After dinner I soak them for a few hours, drain them, and then add more water. (make sure you have about two inches of water above top layer of beans), I add peppercorns and bay leaves and let them cook on low overnight. When I get up the next morning they’re cooked and ready to be drained. If I’m not using them all at once I freeze them.

Lessons Learned

A couple of things I have learned not to do. When I first starting cooking with one, I’d remove the lid every hour to check on things…that’s a no-no because it increases the cooking time.

Also, don’t add things that cook quickly straight away. For example, if you’re using canned beans they don’t need to go into the slow cooker until the very end. Same goes for zucchini that quickly disappeared. And tofu, nope, cook it in a skillet and add it during the last five minutes just to warm it through.

admin / January 20, 2012

Three New Recipes to Try

I always love the recipes the folks at Pringles send my way. Here are three  that look easy to make but I’m sure delicious. I’m told the chicken fingers are especially good. And with fish going on sale next month when Lent rolls around, the fish nuggets will make an ideal meal.

Chicken Pringlers 

INGREDIENTS

·   2- 6.38-ounce cans of  Pringles (BBQ, Honey Mustard, Xtreme Blastin Buffalo or any of your favorite Pringles flavors)

·   2 pounds of boneless chicken breast or chicken tenders, cut into 1 1/2” nuggets

·   2 cups of skim milk or buttermilk

 DIRECTIONS

1.   Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle.

2.   Place nuggets in milk.

3.   Puree the Pringles in a food processor, and pour into a large sealable plastic bag. Place two or three nuggets at a time in the bag and shake to coat.

4.   Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and place the well-coated nuggets in a single layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. 

5.   Remove and let stand, uncovered, 5 to 10 minutes to crisp.

Crispy Fish Nuggets

 

INGREDIENTS

·    2- 6.38-ounce cans of Pringles Salt & Vinegar flavor

·    2 pounds cod fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes

·    2 cups of skim milk

DIRECTIONS

1.   Place nuggets in milk.

2.   Puree the Pringles in a food processor, and pour into a large sealable plastic bag. Place two or three nuggets at a time in the bag and shake to coat.

3.   Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and place the well-coated nuggets in a single layer. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. 

4.   Remove and let stand, uncovered, 5 to 10 minutes to crisp.

Loaded Twice-Baked Taters Appetizers

 

INGREDIENTS

·   2 – 6.38-ounce cans of Pringles Loaded Baked Potato flavor

·   1 1/2 cup skim milk

·   1 egg

·  1 slice of cheese

·   Dried chives for garnish

·    Bacon bits for garnish, optional

 DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.   Place one 6.38-ounce can of Pringles Loaded Baked Potato crisps in a food processor and puree until well crushed.

3.   Add milk, egg and cheese slice into mixture and puree until well mixed.

4.   Take Pringles from remaining can and place 48 crisps on a cookie sheet with the curve of the crisp and sides facing down.

5.    With a very small spoon, place a rounded scoop onto each crisp and sprinkle with dried chives and bacon bits.

6.   Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

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 / June 11, 2010

More Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollar (and some recipes)

Entering the Grocery Challenge contest? Here are some more ways to help stretch your food dollar along with some recipes.

Shop at the Drug Stores
Don’t just think of the supermarket when you’re buying groceries. Sometimes you can get better deals at places like Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy.

Friends with Memberships
You might not want to pay $50 for a membership to a warehouse club but for this challenge ask if friends, family or co-workers if they do and stock up some pantry essentials. When I had a membership to Costco I found things olives, sun dried tomatoes and most cheeses were great deals. And if you want to make some ready to eat meals, these stores have excellent prices on essentials like eggs and milk.

Low Cost Snacks
I’m assuming that the price of snacks is included in the challenge and one of my favorites that’s both healthy and low cost is cheese and crackers. Visit most coupon sites and some manufacturer always seems to offer a cheese coupon. Yogurt is another item that is often on sale and most times has a matching coupon. With produce in abundance, fruit kabobs are another quick and easy snack. And you can turn berries and peaches into smoothies.

National Dairy Month
Speaking of all these dairy products. June is National Dairy Month which means a lot of in store specials and coupons on the Internet.

Products with Coupons
While I was shopping this week, I couldn’t help notice how many products have coupons attached to them these days. Even if it’s not a brand you were thinking of buying, if it’s double coupon day it can save more money.

Buy Supermarket Brands
This goes without saying, most of the time you can save money by choosing supermarket brands over the major brand names. I’ve found there’s little difference in taste or quality.

Look High and Low
And I probably don’t have to tell you the most expensive items in the store are placed at eye level. Yep, they know we’re a lazy bunch of shoppers. Most bargains are placed on the top and bottom shelves and that’s the places to look first.

Substitute Ingredients
I sometimes make tuna instead of chicken pot pies not because of cost but just for some variety. Substituting a lower cost item can help stretch your dollar too.

Here are some of my favorite low cost recipes. The first one I came up with when I thought about the wonderful deep fried stuffed poblano peppers at a local restaurant. Delicious but I didn’t want to go to all the trouble of making the recipe myself so this was a quick and easy alternative.

Chile Rellano Casserole (Serves 4-6)•2 4 ½ ounce cans of chopped green chiles
•2 cups, shredded sharp cheddar cheese
•3 eggs, beaten
•3 tablespoons flour
•1 cup of salsa, your choice of mild or spicy
•1 small can (7 ½ ounces) evaporated milk
•To serve…more shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.
Place the chopped green chiles on the bottom of the dish, top with the cheese.
Mix together the eggs, milk and flour and pour over the cheese.
Pour the salsa on top
(Don’t Mix any of these layers together)
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the center is set and the top lightly golden brown

Blue Cheese Roasted Potatoes
This one I like because it can really add some pizzazz to plain hamburgers or it’s great just by itself.
(Serves 4 or 8 as an appetizer)

•2 pounds of potatoes Yukon Golds are great
•¼ cup oil, olive or vegetable
•salt and pepper
•½ cup of crumbled blue cheese

1.Wash and scrub the potatoes well, but don’t peel them. Cut them into wedges and place in a bowl. Add the oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. I sometimes use some Mrs. Dash seasoning too. Make sure all the potatoes get coated with the oil and seasonings.
2.Place the coated potatoes on a baking sheet and cook in a 350 degree oven until they’re golden brown…usually about 30-40 minutes. While they’re cooking tear off pieces of foil and make squares about 8 by 8 inches.
3.Take the potatoes out of the oven and place a serving size on each piece of foil and sprinkle them with blue cheese. Wrap them so they look like packages. Serve immediately.

I’ve also added herbs like oregano and substituted feta cheese for the blue cheese for a really Mediterranean flavor. And if you’re a vegetarian, they’re great all by themselves or pair perfectly with veggie burgers.

Vegetable Stuffed Poblano Peppers
A few years ago I was asked to write an article on low fat Mexican cooking and had to come up with three recipes, this was one of them. It makes the most of inexpensive beans and vegetables. If you can’t find poblano peppers, green peppers work too.
(Serves 4)

•4 poblano peppers, small to medium size
•1 tablespoon oil
•1 cup of chopped onion
•1 medium size carrot, grated
•2 small zucchini, cut into bite sized cubes
•1 15.5. can pinto beans
•1 10 oz can enchilada sauce, mild or spicy to your liking
•1 teaspoon chili powder
•1 teaspoon oregano
•1 teaspoon cumin
•Salt to taste
•1 cup shredded cheese, divided. I use a sharp cheddar because it has a strong flavor and you end up having to use less cheese.

1.Wash and cut open one side of the peppers, leave the stalk intact, but remove all the seeds and membranes, rinse and place in a large saucepan filled with water. Cook the peppers for about five minutes until they turn a deeper green color. *Make sure you put a lid on as I’ve found although poblano peppers aren’t that spicy, you can get some ‘pepper fumes’ that fill the kitchen. Drain and set aside.

2.Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan, add the onion and cook for about 2-3 minutes.

3.Add the zucchini and carrots and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chili powder, oregano and cumin and make sure all the vegetables are coated.

4.Add the pinto beans, stir and remove from the heat.

5.Add ½ cup of shredded cheese and stir until it’s melted.

6.Pour about half the can of enchilada sauce into a casserole dish.

7.Stuff each pepper with the vegetable mixture and place on top of the sauce. Pour the rest of the sauce over the peppers and cover the casserole dish with foil.

8.Place in a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the pepper and return them to the oven until the cheese has melted.

Serve with salsa and sour cream, or for a more substantial meal, you can serve them on top a bed of rice and warmed tortillas.

admin / March 26, 2009

Budget Foods and Ideas to Check Out

Everywhere you look these days, food companies are offering suggestions for low cost recipes. Even the local supermarkets have arrows pointing to great deals. I’ll admit some bargain foods taste awful and they can get boring after you’ve served them a couple of times. Here are some foods I got on sale and have to say they tasted anything but bland or inexpensive.

photos-for-budget-food-blog-002

The first one is the Chef Boyardee pizza kit. Remember money saving experts say you should look on the bottom and top shelves because that’s where the bargains are. It’s true because this pizza kit was sitting on the top shelf and cost only $3.45. And it makes two 12 inch pizzas. Why I think this is a good buy is you can eat it as is or you can add leftovers to it. Maybe vegetables, bacon, or even more cheese. And as you make it yourself, children really like to get involved.
Next product is the Yakisoba noodles. I purchased these from Walgreens and three boxes cost $3.33. Once again they’re great on their own for a quick lunch or you can dress them up with more vegetables and even leftover roast chicken for supper.
The Pasta Roni cost just $1. I’ve been buying Rice a Roni for many years and use their Spanish Rice flavor for everything from burritos to stuffed tomatoes in the summer. I hadn’t tried the Pasta Roni, before. Once again I was really impressed. I just love the Tomato Parmesan flavor. I added more cheese as a topping and served it with a salad. The Four Cheese flavor is great as a more sophisticated mac and cheese. Sun dried tomatoes are also a nice addition or even tuna.

photos-for-budget-food-blog-003

The Michelina’s products were on sale for $1 each. Sometimes I’m weary of the low cost frozen items, but once again I was really impressed. I served a chicken stir fry with the rice and vegetables. And all the lasagna needs is a side salad.

photos-for-budget-food-blog-004

And here are some ways I use other low cost items.

Spaghetti
Spaghetti is great for making Asian dishes. One of my favorite recipes is to take cooked spaghetti, add some oil, soy sauce, some stir fried vegetables like carrots and red peppers. Toss everything together and top with some chopped peanuts or sesame seeds.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
Who doesn’t love tuna noodle casserole? But if the family starts getting sick of it, try adding things like fresh sautéed mushrooms, and I’ve even added curry powder.

Fish Sticks
This is a great time to stock up on things like fish sticks. Most kids love them, but once again they can get boring if you serve them too often. One alternative is fish tacos. You can use hard or soft shell tacos. Spread the shells with a mixture of mayonnaise and taco seasoning. Add the fish sticks and top with the usual lettuce, tomato and salsa. I’ve found pineapple salsa is really great with the fish.

Potatoes
Potatoes are still a bargain and here’s something I’ve been making for years. If you have a picky eater in your house, they’ll love this.
Bake a potato, cut it in half, scoop out all the potato and put it into a bowl. Mash it with butter/margarine, milk and enough cheese to taste. Put your empty baked potato shells on a baking sheet. Take a can of baked beans and spoon the beans into the empty baked potato shells. Top with the mashed potato and then top with more shredded cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until everything is heated through and the cheese is bubbling.

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