Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Ambition Lunch

I was seriously lacking ambition today at lunch and didn't feel like making anything. On those days, this is one of my quick fixes. Works really well when I have a little bit of everything left over. Thanks to my friend Elizabeth for the creative serving idea. The boys think this is a great picnic treat.

Take a muffin pan and fill in with your odds and ends. Today we ended up with saltines, dried cranberries, cheddar cheese, croutons, carrots, almonds, fruit snacks, and cherries. I really consider this a free meal because it's all leftovers where I've included the costs to other meals already. Realistically, this meal represents less than $2.00.

  • Veggies - Carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, peppers, grape tomatoes, etc
  • Fruits - various dried, apple slices, orange segments, pear slices, peaches, nectarines, plums, bananas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.
  • Nuts & Cheeses
  • Snack foods - crackers, chips, fruit snacks, cookies, etc
  • Dips - veggie dip, fruit dip, hummus, salsa, chocolate, etc
  • whatever you like.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Looking for Inspiration

I find myself looking for inspiration. I've fallen into the rushed rut of cooking the same things. I have a recipe book full of favorite recipes ready to share with you, but I'm on a quest for imagination.

So this week I'm looking for something to light a fire in my soul and my mouth. Want to share with me what you love? What makes you happy when you eat?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cream Cheese Frosting

This simple recipe has become a favorite. It refrigerates well. Makes plenty for a layered cake or enough for two 9X13 cakes. Good for a filling between cookies (vanilla wafers, sandwich cookies, etc). Good consistency for cake decorating.

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe:

2 (8oz) Cream Cheese packages, softened

½ c Butter, softened

2 c Sifted powdered sugar

1 t Vanilla

Make sure that the butter and cream cheese are well softened. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the powdered sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

Total Costs: $3.50

Cream Cheese $2 (Aldi's)

Butter $1 (Aldi's)

Powdered Sugar $.50 (Aldi's)


Replace Vanilla with Butter flavoring, or other flavored extracts

Color to your preference

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Leftover Quesadillas

One of my favorite ways to "morph" or make the most of my leftovers, is quesadillas. Really, you can fill a tortilla with just about anything as long as you cover it with cheese. No need for one of those small appliances to make them, just pull out a griddle or large saute pan. Works great for a quick lunch using leftovers from the night before.

I chop my veggies and meats quite small so they cook quickly. For peppers, I saute them a bit before adding them to the quesadilla - both to soften them up a bit and add a bit of flavor.

Start by heating your griddle or large pan over medium heat. Once heated, spray lightly with non-stick spray. Put a tortilla down and cover half with shredded cheese. Top with a thin layer of meat (chicken, pork, beef), veggies, seasoning (Salt/pepper/goya adoba), and top with a thin layer of cheese. Fold over the tortilla and heat until tortilla is crispy. Flip and crisp the second side until cheese is melted.

Allow the quesadilla to cool slightly and cut into wedges. You can use a large knife or a pizza cutter works well too (thanks T for that tip). Serve with sour cream, salsa, lettuce, and any extra veggies that you have.

Quesadilla Recipe: $5.25 (less with leftovers)
Tortillas $1.00 (Aldi's)
Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack $1.00 (Aldi's)
Chopped Chicken $2.00 (Meijer) - often $0 as leftovers
Diced Tomato $.25 (Meijer)
Diced Peppers $.50 (Aldi's)
Sour Cream $.25 (Aldi's)
Shredded Lettuce $.25 (Meijer)

Green chilies & Chicken
Steak, Onions, & Peppers
Shredded Pork & Pineapple

Sunday, July 19, 2009

BLT Salad

So I'm in the mode of sharing some of my favorite recipes from friends, so here's another. I have a love/hate relationship with Elissa's BLT Salad. I love to eat it, and hate how much of it I end up eating. But what's not to love about bacon and pasta together?

It's one of those recipes that is a part of great memories. I still remember eating several bowls of it with the breeze blowing off the lake with great friends. Again at a graduation party and then tonight's birthday party... perfect for summer. The picture does not even begin to do this one justice. Sorry it was a quick pic at a party. This makes a large salad, great for a party.

BLT Salad Recipe:

8 oz Pasta (you pick the shape)
1 lb Bacon, diced
2 Tomatoes, diced
2 c Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 head Iceberg Lettuce (or more if you like)
3/4 c Italian Dressing
1/2 c Mayo
  1. Cook pasta acording to package directions. You want it al dente (firm). Cool
  2. Meanwhile chop bacon into small pieces and saute until crisp but flexible. Drain and cool.
  3. Wisk together dressing and mayo and add to pasta, tomatoes and bacon. Refrigerate for 1/2 hour.
  4. Add lettuce and cheese just prior to serving.
Add 1/2 c chopped onion
Add 1/2 c chopped red pepper

TOTAL COST: $.5.25
Bacon $2.50 (Meijer)
Lettuce $1.00 (Aldi's or Meijer)
Tomato $.50 (Aldi's or Meijer)
Cheese $.75 (Costco)
Mayo $.25 (Aldi's)
Dressing $.25 (Aldi's)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Berry Cobbler

This is another delectable treat that I served at the WAR party earlier this week. It's actually a recipe that I got from my friend Andrea. The recipe is made even better based on the fact that it's made with black raspberries picked fresh from our own woods. However, any berry will work (fresh or frozen), or combination of berries. Blackberries and blueberries together is really nice.

1/2 c Sugar
1 T Corn starch
4 c Berries
1 t Lemon juice
3 T Shortening (or coconut oil)
1 c Flour
1 T Sugar
1 1/2 t Baking Powder
1/2 t Salt
1/2 c Milk

1. Bring 1/2 c Sugar, corn starch, berries and lemon juice to a boil. Stirring and let boil for 1 minute to thicken.
2. Meanwhile, cut in shortening and flour with a pastry blender or fork.
3. To flour mixture, add sugar, baking powder and salt.
4. Stir milk into flour mixture and stir until just combined.
5. Pour berry mixture into a 8 X 8 or 9 X 9 pan.
6. Drop spoonfuls of pastry mixture onto the berries and bake in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until cobbler is lightly/golden brown.
7. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

I like adding 1 t of cinnamon to the berry mixture.
If you like, a dash of nutmeg would work as well.

TOTAL COSTS: $1.20 - $4.00
Berries - free from woods or $2.80 (frozen @ Meijer sale)
Sugar - $.20
Flour - $.30
Milk - $.20
Lemon - $.50

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pineapple Cheesecake Dip & Grilled Pineapple Skewers

I hosted a party tonight for Women At Risk, Intl. (WAR). It's a great organization that works to protect women at risk - preventative education, safe houses for rescued women where they can find employment/education/safety, and being the voice for so many who have lost theirs... If you aren't family with the organization, I'd encourage you to take a look.

Part of the employing the women is giving them a trade, on in particular is jewelry making. I hosted a party to put their work on display, and to share their stories. What would a party be without food? I made a adapted a recipe I got from blog world and took the filling out of the pie to make Pineapple Cheesecake Dip (with graham crackers) along with grilled pineapple skewers. Definitely will do this one again.

Pineapple Cheesecake Dip Recipe:
1 can Crushed Pineapple
1 box Vanilla Pudding
1 (8oz) Cream Cheese, room temp
1 t Vanilla
1 (8oz) Whipped Topping

Whip cream cheese with vanilla until smooth. Add pudding mix, pineapple (with juice) and beat until incorporated. Gently fold in whipped topping. Refrigerate. Can pair with graham crackers or vanilla wafers with the dip or pour into a graham cracker crust.

Grilled Pineapple Recipe:
Fresh pineapple is a must for this. Trust me.

Remove exterior of pineapple. IF you don't know this. You do not eat the core of the pineapple. It's hard and doesn't taste very good. Slice around it, cutting it into large wedges. Insert a skewer into the fruit and place on a hot grill. Allow to sit until starting to caramelize (leaving brown lines on the fruit). Turn carefully with tongs. Remove and let cool. Great paired with fish, shellfish, chicken, Asian or Polynesian food.

Crushed Pineapple $.79 (Aldi's) *
Cream Cheese $1 (Aldi's)
Whip Topping $.89 (Aldi's)
Pudding $.49 (Aldi's)
Crackers $$.40 (Aldi's - one sleeve)
Fresh Pineapple $1.69 (Aldi's)

* Can't remember exact cost... it's an estimate.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Herbed Pork and Apples

This is definitely a favorite of mine for entertaining. It's super easy with amazing flavor. This pairs well with stuffing or mashed potatoes and leaves tasty leftovers. The rub sounds like lots of herbs, but the flavor is worth it. Don't have these exact herbs, experiment. I've replaced marjoram with parsley in a pinch. For fresh herbs, chop them super fine. Ratio is 1 t dry herb to 1 T fresh chopped herb.

1 t Dried sage

1 t Dried thyme

1 t Dried rosemary

1 t Dried marjoram

1/2 t Onion powder

1 t Pepper

2 t Sea salt

1 Red onion, chopped (optional)

3 T Brown sugar

6 lbs Pork loin roast

4 Apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1” chunks

1 c Apple juice or cider

2/3 c Real maple syrup (no substitutes)

1 T Corn Starch

  1. In a small bowl, combine herbs. Rub over roast. Cover and refrigerate roast for 6-8 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 325. Place roast in a shallow roasting pan, and bake in the preheated oven for 1 – 1 ½ hours.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix apples and onion with brown sugar. Spoon around roast and continue to cook for 1 hour more, or until internal temp of 160 degrees.
  4. Transfer the roast, apples and onion to a platter, and keep warm.
  5. To make the gravy, skim excess fat from juices. Pour drippings into a skillet. Stir in apple juice and syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until liquid has been reduced by half, about 1 cup. If in a hurry, cook down drippings, juice, and syrup while mixing cornstarch with equal parts water. Wisk into dripping and bring to boil for 2 minutes.
  6. Serve roast with apples, onions, & sauce. Extra roast can be used for morphing leftovers.
Total Costs: $16.20
Keep in mind that this provides enough meat for 2-3 meals
Roast: $12 (Meijer or Costco)
Apples: $2 (Aldi's)
Herbs: from stock
Maple syrup: $2 (Meijer)
Juice: $.20 (Aldi's)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pork Tacos

I've had this love affair with tex-mex food as long as I can remember. It's a family favorite and the saga continues. This is a great example of "morphing" or "creative leftovers." This is a great follow up to the Herbed Pork & Apples recipe that I'll post shortly. The apple flavoring is a great back ground to the spice of the taco.

Take the pork left over from the roast and shred it. Throw it in a crock pot with a package of taco seasoning (or your favorite spice blend) a dash of cinnamon, and water or chicken stock to cover. All it to slow simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally. If you don't have time to slow simmer, it can be done in a hurry in skillet, but take care that it doesn't dry out.

Serve with warm tortillas, sour cream, cheddar or Monterey jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sauted peppers, etc.

Total Costs: $4.90
Meat: $2 (part of larger meat purchase)
Seasoning: $.20 (Costco)
Tortillas: $1 (Aldi's)
Lettuce/Tomato/Peppers: $1 (Aldi's)
Sour Cream: $.20 (Aldi's)
Cheese: $.50 (Costco)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cranberry Spinach Salad

Another one of my favorites from

1 T Butter (or coconut oil)

¾ c Almonds, blanched and slivered

1 lb Spinach, rinsed and torn

1 c Dried cranberries or cherries

2 t Toasted sesame seeds

1 T Poppy seeds

½ c White Sugar

2 t Minced onion

¼ t Paprika

¼ c White wine vinegar

¼ c Cider vinegar

½ c Canola oil

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook and stir almonds in butter until lightly toasted. Remove from heat, and let cool. In a large bowl, combine spinach, almonds, and dried fruit.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, onion, paprika, vinegars, and oil. Toss with spinach just before serving.
Spinach $2 (Meijer)
Dried Fruit $.75 (Aldi's)
Almonds $.50 (Aldi's)
Sesame Seeds $.50 (Bulk)
Dressing - from stock

Lightly sugar the almonds and substitute strawberries for the cranberries
Add grilled chicken for a meal.

Frugal Feasting Tips

One of my best frugal and time saving tips I learned from Robin Miller's "Quick Fix Meals" on the Food Network. She refers to the method as "morphing." I think of it as creative use of leftovers.

The Premise: cook a large portion of meat for the first meal and use the leftovers to create additional meals from. This saves LOTS of time and helps you take advantage of when specials are run on particular meats. It also helps to build and layer flavors. Watch for more of these recipes in the days to come.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Homemade Slushies

So I don't know why I never thought to make my own slurpee or slushie before. My boys are addicted to the sweet treat and I'm often a softy at the grocery store to keep them occupied so I can concentrate...

As a random idea the other day I threw some lemonade and ice into the blender and wa-laa! Instant slushie. It's not quite a slurpee consistency, but still good, my boys were occupied for quite a while at home. I know some of you are thinking, "duh" granadas have been around forever. Yes, I know, but I've never made them. And the virgin version of the drink is definitely frugal... and hits the spot on a hot day.

Lemondate Total Costs: $.40
Lemonade $.40
Ice - FREE

Strawberry Lemondate Total Costs: $.90
Lemondate $.40
Frozen Strawberries $.50
Ice - FREE

Lemonades - Limeade, Peach, Kiwi, Strawberry, Blackberry,
Sodas - Cola, Orange, Lemon/Lime, Cream Soda, Dr Pepper
Creamsicle - Orange & Cream Soda or OJ + Cream
Juices/Nectars - Peach, White Grape/Peach, White Grape/Raspberry, Grape, Mango, Watermelon, Berry, Lime, etc

Please give me ideas!!! What would you make?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Red, White & Blue Jello Cake

Celebrated our country's birthday with dessert of course. This is a super easy treat that my boys helped me make. Again, think of this as a method and all the variations and concoctions that you could create.

Patriotic striped cake starts with a standard white cake and then add in some red and blue jello. I chose a berry variety in blue and raspberry in red. Choose what you like.

After the cake is baked and cooled, take a fork and poke lots of holes into the cake. Since I was going for a stripe look, I poked the holes in a stripe pattern. A random array of holes will give you the best distribution of jello.

Make the jello according to package directions and cool slightly. For the stripes I used a turkey baster and carefully squirted the jello into stripes. Keep in mind, a certain amount of jello settles on the bottom - so there were a few "purple" spots on the very bottom.

Once covered in jello, place in the fridge to cool and set. Finish the cake off with whipped cream or cool whip for frosting. Can toss some berries or sprinkles on as well for a finishing touch.

Cake Mix - $.90 (sale at Meijer)
Eggs - $.25 (Aldi's, D&, or Meijer)
2 Jello Mixes - $.96 (Meijer)
Cool Whip - $1.29 (Aldi's)

Strawberry cake, strawberry jello, strawberry cool whip
Lemon cake, lime jello, cool whip
Yellow cake, orange jello, vanilla cool whip
and the list could go on and on and on...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cinnamon Toast Cupcakes

I'm gonna post this recipe before I make it and take pictures, because I can't wait to share it. My sister-in-law made these for family celebration and I seriously fell in love. Not only did I enjoy my own, but I "had" to finish off my boys cupcakes after they ate the frosting and took off to play. I'm certainly making these soon, so a picture may magically appear soon.


1 pkg (18.25 oz) Plain yellow cake mix
1 pkg (3.4 oz) Vanilla instant pudding mix
1 1/4 c Whole milk
3/4 c Vegetable oil
3 lg Eggs
1 T Ground cinnamon
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set aside.

  2. Place the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low for 30 seconds. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium and blend 1.5 - 2 minutes more. The batter should look thick and well combines. Spoon 1/3 c batter into each cupcake liner, filling until 3/4 full.

  3. Bake cupcakes until golden and spring back wehn lightly pressed with your finger - 18 to 22 minutes. Cool in pans for 5 minutes before moving to wire rack.

  4. Frost with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (see below).


1 pkg (8 oz) Reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temp
4 T Butter, at room temp
3 c Confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 t Ground cinnamon
  1. Place cream cheese and butter in large missing bowl. Blend with electric mixer on low until combines, 30 secs. Stop the machine and add the sugar, a little at a time, blending with mixer on low until sugar is well incorporated, 1 minute. Add the cinnamon, then increase speed to medium and blend until fluffy, 1 minute more.

  2. Frost cupcakes and try not to "taste" too much.
Cake Mix $1 (Meijer/Aldi)
Pudding Mix $.38 (Aldi's)
Eggs $.25 (Aldi's)
Oil (from stock)
Milk $.30 (Aldi's)
Cinnamon (from stock)
Cream Cheese $1 (Aldi's)
Butter $.25 (Aldi's)
Sugar $2 (Meijer/Aldi's)