Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lasagna Rolls

I love the richness of lasagna, but I don't like all the time it takes to make it. Plus you make a big 9 X 13 pan of it and there is so much leftover (by boys will be old enough soon to take care of that), and it never tastes as good reheated.

So this is a great option for us. Lasagna rolls. These are great to customize with fillings that each family member likes. Also for those concerned about portion control, this makes life simple.

This is really less of a recipe and more of a method. The fillings are up to you, the sauces are up to you. Here's what I did for this batch and I'll offer others that I've enjoyed.

1 box Lasagna noodles, regular or whole wheat
1/3 c Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 c Alfredo Sauce
1 Pepper (red, green, yellow, etc), sliced and sauted
1 lb Sausage, ground and browned
1-2 c Spaghetti Sauce (my loaded sauce recipe coming soon)
1 c Mozerella, shredded
  1. Boil and drain noodles, rinse with cold water and keep moist
  2. Meanwhile brown sausage and drain and saute peppers
  3. Take half of the spaghetti sauce and line the bottom of your pan with a thin layer.
  4. Assemble rolls. Spread thin layer of Alfredo on noodle, top with thin amount of sausage and peppers, sprinkle a bit of Mozerella cheese on top. Begin to roll up from one end slowly extra fillings may fall out but can be used for topping the rolls.
  5. Fills pan with rolls, cover with remaining/desired amount of spaghetti sauce and/or alfredo (I like it mixed) and any remaining toppings you have. Sprinkle parm cheese on top.
  6. Bake at 350 for 30 - 40 minutes. Till warm and bubbly.
TIPS: Can assemble and freeze for later use. Increase baking time to 50-55 minutes. I make a full batch and freeze half for later.

Sauted chicken, broccoli, garlic, Alfredo, Mozerella & parm cheese
Loaded sauce, Mozerella, hamburger
Variety Pan - you can mix and match for your family's preferences
TO TRY STILL: Pesto, shredded chicken, pinenuts, Parm cheese

TOTAL COSTS $7.28 - $10.28
Noodles $1.29 (Meijer)
Sausage $1.99 (Aldi's)
Peppers $1 (Aldi's)
Sauce $1 - 4 (homemade/Aldi's)
Cheese $2 (Aldi's)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lunch On A Budget

Lunch always seems to be a hassle in our world. Between busy days and getting tired of the same thing over and over... I get really bored with lunch food. So I try to mix things up as much as any stay/work-from-home can. Here's one of my favorite tricks.

I buy in bulk and break things down into small packages. Here's a how I save money doing it...

I head on over to the local GFS (Gordon Food Service), it's a bulk warehouse type store with no membership fees. I can get a good quality meat sliced into lunch meat for $2.50 or less a lb. That's turkey, roast beef, ham, etc. However, I end up with 10+ lbs of each form of lunch meat. Not going to eat through that any time soon, so what do I do?

I purchase lots of sub buns from the discount bread store ($.89 for 8) and Costco Cheddar ($4 for 2 lbs) and make a variety of different sandwiches and freeze for my hubby's lunches. He grabs one and they thaw by lunch and keep the rest of the lunch cool in the process.

Then, I break down the meat into 1/2 lb packages and throw them in the deep freeze. So when the mood strikes, I can pick whatever whatever sounds good.

Saves us a TON of money on eating out and lunch supplies. Plus it's healthy and filling.

***Do you have a frugal lunch idea? Would love to hear!!!***

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Potato Chip Casserole

DISCLAIMER: This is not the most elegant or healthy dish ever created. In fact, visually it isn't incredibly appealing either... But it is DELICIOUS. Growing up we had this almost every week for dinner. Recipe came from one of those family tree cookbooks where everyone submits their favs. Don't discount this one. I often bring this meal to people who are sick/recovering/new baby/etc and get rav reviews.

Completely uncomplicated directions. Brown a pound of hamburger and start dumping all the ingredients in.

Mix it all together in an oven-safe bowl and bake with crushed potato chips on top.


1 lb Ground Beef

¾ c Minute Rice

1 can Cream of Celery Soup

1 can Cream of Chicken Soup

1 can Evaporated Milk

2 c Crushed Potato Chips

**Oven Directions:

Brown meat. Add other ingredients. Put in casserole dish. Top with crushed potato chips. Bake at 350 for 45 min - 1 hour.

**Microwave Directions:

Brown meat. Add other ingredients. Put in microwave casserole dish. Cook on high 5 minutes – stir. Cook 10 minutes – stir. Cook 10 minutes – stir. Add crushed potato chips and cook 5 more minutes. Let dish to set for 5-10 minutes before serving.

*I like it best in the oven for the crunchy potato chips. Sprinkle a bit of soy sauce over the top and enjoy.*

Sorry I don't have a picture of this one finished because my mom baked it for my boys while I was working. I did however, devour all the leftovers when I got home.

Hamburger $2.99 (had to look it up, we buy a side of beef)
Rice $.75 (Aldi's)
Soups 2 @ $.49 (Aldi's)
Evap Milk $.59 (Aldi's)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Easy BBQ Pork

Okay - so this is a "stretch" to call it a recipe, but it's about as easy as a meal can be. Actually it could be several meals...

Boneless pork loin is one of my favorite cuts of meat. Good flavor, fairly healthy, and can be used in so many different ways. For this, simply take 1/2 a loin (I usually cut off excess fat), a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce, and a can of cola. Throw them all together in a crock pot on low for 7-9 hours. About half way through, start breaking up the meat and shredding it with a couple of forks. Stir occasionally to braise evenly in sauce.

Serve it on a hamburger bun/kaiser roll, over rice, or potatoes (mashed or baked). This freezes really well and can be made well ahead of time. Great for parties, picnic, family meals, and a quick go-to meal. One batch usually provides about 3 meals for us.

Costs: $8.20
Pork $7 (Costco $14 full loin)
BBQ Sauce $.90 (Aldi's)
Cola $.30 (Meijer)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

It takes a lot of willpower to resist a fresh chocolate chip cookie. Everyone has their favorite style/recipe of these chip-o-rrific cookies -- for me I love a good, soft, and chewy cookie. A few summers ago, my husband's aunt brought here famous chocolate chip cookies. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many of them I ate that day.

So I got the recipe and tweaked it a bit, trying to add a bit of fiber and make them a bit healthier - but still chewy good. This is what I came up with.

1 c Brown Sugar

½ c White Sugar

1 c Butter

2 T Water

2 Eggs

1 t Salt

1 t Baking soda

1 t Vanilla

1 c Wheat Flour

1/2 c White Flour

3 c Oatmeal

2 T Milled Flax Seed

2 c Chocolate Chips or Raisins

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and water. Add dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips or raisins. Drop cookies onto baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes. Makes 40 - 45 cookies (depending on how much dough you eat).

Can omit the chips and add 2 t of cinnamon for a great oatmeal cookie. My boys like it when I add food coloring - eating a green cookie or purple is lots of fun!

Total Costs: $4.24
Flours $ .75
Oatmeal $ .50
Chocolate Chips $1.59
Eggs $ .15
Butter $1.00
Sugars $ .25
(all items from Aldi's)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dollar Stretchers

Here are a few of my favorites foods that gives a lot of bang for the buck. The list could go on and on, but here is the start.

  • White or Brown Rice - There's a lot of rice in that bag. I make a big batch and then morph the rice into the next meal or use it to freeze leftovers for a later time. Beef & Broccoli with rice one night becomes beef friend rice the next...

  • Pasta - Oh how I love thee, let me count the ways... orzo, linguine, cavitappi, rotini, bow tie, rigatoni, lasagna, spaghetti, etc. There are limitless combos for salads, side dishes, and meals.

  • Pork Loin - a fairly healthy meat. 1/2 a loin can be cooked and used for 2-3 meals - chops, bbq, sweet, savory, or spicy. Frequently on sale.

  • Applesauce - I can my own, so it's a better deal/taste than store bought. Either way it's great for replacing oil in baking, marinading/topping pork, waffle/pancake/french toast topping, or as a healthy side dish.

  • Broccoli - Little bit can go a long way in soups, pasta dishes, salads, etc.

  • Frozen Spinach - using spinach to make purees for tomato based sauces adds an incredible depth of flavor, much more economical than fresh

  • Won Ton or Egg Roll Wrappers - There are a lot of those pastry wrappers for the amount you are paying. Baked in a muffin tin they are great appetizer cups, can stuff them with anything that you can imagine, do freeze pretty well.

  • Parmesan Cheese - a lot of flavor for a small amount of cheese. Love it as a simple topping for Italian dishes, pizzas, breads, etc.

  • Cinnamon - naturally sweet taste when added to baked goods or breakfast foods without all the calories. a little bit goes a very long ways. great marinade.

  • Oregano - my all time favorite herb. grows at an astronomical rate and easy to dry/use. Love it in spice rubs, meat marinades, topping pizza or breads, mixes into sauces for many ethnic foods

  • Tomato Sauce & Paste - the base for so many sauces and marinades. easy to transform into pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce/marinara, soups, etc. very inexpensive

Coming soon... chocolate chip cookies, casseroles, and creative uses for leftovers.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grandma J's Crepes

I inherited this recipe a few years ago and it's a good one. I like it because it is a high protein, lower carb recipe (depending on how you top them). While it contains two items I don't particularly care to eat on their own (eggs & cottage cheese), the processing and combination is great.

1 c Cottage cheese

6 Eggs

1/2 c Flour

1/4 t Salt

1/4 c Oil

1/4 c Milk

1/2 t Vanilla

Put eggs and cottage cheese in a blender, blend til smooth. Add all other ingredients and blend until just incorporated (don't over mix). Heat griddle medium-high heat (or shallow pan). Grease well with butter or oils spray. Pour a 1/4-1/2 cup of batter on griddle, turning it slightly to thin it out into an even circle. Cook until edges are firm and slightly brown. Crepe should be fairly solid. Flip carefully. Cook 30 sec - 1 minute more. Enjoy warm. Makes about 6 large crepes.

Flipping these thin little suckers is the hard part. Use a thin spatula and move quickly. If they break - they still taste great. You just stack them up or make mini-rolls.

I like mine rolled up with toppings inside and out. My husband likes them flat with toppings on top. Choose whatever you like.

  • Low Cal / Low Carb - Strawberry slices w/dusting of powder sugar
  • Fruit Toppings - Strawberries, blueberry, raspberries, blackberries, applesauce, bananas (for juicy fruit add 2 T sugar, for sauce add 1/2c sugar &1 T corn starch heat till thick)
  • Whipped Cream - works with everything
  • Powdered Sugar - works with everything or by itself
  • Syrup - my hubby eats them this way, but I'm not a fan
  • Mini Chocolate Chips - the melt when you roll the crepe (or use nutella)
  • Whipped Cream Cheese - sweet with 1/4c powdered sugar and whip, great with fruit toppings
  • Savory - leave out the vanilla, fill with sausage, hash browns, bacon, sauteed veggies (mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc) like an omelette almost.
TOTAL COST: $1.50 before toppings
Eggs $.50 (Meijer or Aldi's)
Flour $.10 (from stock)
Cottage Cheese $.70 (Aldi's)
Milk $.10 (from stock)
Oil $.10 (from stock)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Budget Friendly Mexican Tostadas

I adore Mexican food. Probably my favorite ethnic food. Love the spice, the crunch, the veggies - pretty much everything except for the super heat that my northern taste buds can't handle...

One of our favs around here is tostadas, a.k.a. the big chips by my boys. These can be whipped up in a matter of moments, are inexpensive, and low calorie/carb (if you want).

Here are a few layering techniques I've learned. You want something "sticky" for the bottom layer - on top of the tostada. I typically use sour cream or spanish rice (cooked until it's a bit drier/stickier). Follow that by your meat and cheese so the cheese begins to melt over the warm meat. Top with your favorite veggies... press down slighly to compact and make a BIG mess while trying to eat the yummy goodness.

1 lb Turkey $1.29 (Aldi's)
Spices $.29 (Aldi's - or pennies using large bottle from Costco)
Shredded Cheese $.50 (Costco $4/lb cheddar)
Tomatoes $.30 (Meijer romas)
Lettuce $.50 ($1 Meijer/Aldi's)
Sour Cream $.10 (Aldi's)
Fried Corn $.30 (Meijer $1 frozen corn)
Sauteed Peppers $.20 (Aldi's)
Tostada $1 (Meijer $3 pkg or $1.50 on clearance!!)

Meat & cheese (for my veggie fearing boys)
Vegetarian (really yummy this way)
With Spanish Rice (adds a bit more substance and creamy texture)
Sauteed All Veggies (adds a smokey flavor)
Mess Pile - scoop up everything that fell off w/tortilla chips
Salsa (adds flavor but makes it runny, opt for pico de galo)
Meats - can use turkey, pork, chicken, or beef

Any other suggestions?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Roasted Corn

What's summer without corn on the cob? It's got to be one of the messiest, best tasting ways to eat a vegetable. Yes, I know that diabetics consider it a carb... But that's another discussion.

For parties I've taken to roasting my corn. It's a really easy process that can be prepped well in advance and leaves it ready for your family/guests to enjoy.

Husk your corn just before cooking. If you peel and peak, or husk ahead, you are losing moisture and will get dry, chewy corn. To pick a good one, feel the top of the ear (in the husk). If it is solid, thick, and firm -- you've got a good ear. If it feels narrow - the top is probably underdeveloped. If it's squishy - it's rotting.

Once you've husked your corn, butter and season your corn, and wrap it in tin foil. I opt for simple sea salt and cracked pepper. Anything goes though.

Wrap the corn up and place on a cookie sheet (with sides). Roast at 325 for 30-40 minutes. Corn can remain in the foil to stay warm for serving. You could do this on the grill, but keep it rotating so it doesn't burn. Corn has a lot of natural sugar and it will begin to carmelize/burn if overcooked.

COSTS: $2.50
12 Ears of Corn - $2 (sale at Meijer)
Butter - $.50 (1 stick of $2 Aldi pack)
Salt & Pepper (from stock)

Lime Butter, Salt & Pepper
Parmesan Cheese, Garlic Salt, & Butter
Lawry's Salt & Butter
Browned Butter