Friday, February 26, 2010

Roasted Vegetables

My mother-in-law makes these amazing roasted vegetables for family dinners. I look forward to them every time. The hint of lemon brings just the right amount of zing to the veggies. This recipe serves an army, but you can pair it down for your family, or just make the full amount and turn the leftovers into a great soup.

4 carrots, julienned
1 1/2 lbs asparagus-trimmed and halved
1 large red pepper
1 large yellow pepper
1 med red onion sliced and separated into rings
5 cups fresh cauliflower florets
5 cups fresh broccoli florets

Whisk together:
1/4 to 1l2 cup Olive oil
3 T lemon juice
3 garlic cloves-minced
1 T Dried crushed rosemary
1 t salt
1 t pepper

Drizzle dressing over veggies and toss to coat. Transfer to
2 large 15-10-1 inch greased cooking sheets and bake uncovered at 400 for 20-25 minutes. Yield 12 servings

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fried Rice

This is the perfect leftover meal and so much healthier than the take out version. Use what have on hand. Any meat will do - beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or none at all.

4-5 c uncooked white rice
2 T canola oil
2 t sesame oil
1 sm onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c Diced meat, cooked (chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, ham, etc)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 c water chestnuts, chopped or bean sprouts (optional)
1 c frozen green peas & carrots mix (thawed)
2 egg, beaten
1/4 cup soy sauce

Cook rice according to package directions. Cool completely. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in canola oil and stir in onion.

Lower heat to medium and stir in veggies and garlic. Fry until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add meat and heat until warm through. Mix rice thoroughly with vegetables and stir in soy sauce. Make whole in the middle of the pan and stir in beaten egg and cook just until egg is scrambled and firm. Drizzle with sesame oil. Adjust seasoning to your preference and serve immediately.

TOTAL COST: $.70 - $4.20
Rice $.50 (or leftovers)
Meat $2.00 (or leftovers)
Veggies $1.00 (or leftovers)
Oil - from stock
Soy Sauce $.50 (Meijer)
Eggs $.20 (Aldi)

  • You can use cooked ramen noodles or rice noodles rather than rice for a variation. Reduce oil a bit. Toasted sesame seeds add a lot to the noodle version.
  • Remove meat for a great vegetarian dish or basic side dish.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Salsa Chicken

Simple and tasty, not to mention quick.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
1 cup salsa
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2-4 tablespoons sour cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle taco seasoning on both sides of chicken breasts, and pour salsa over all.

Chicken $4.00 (Aldi)
Seasoning $.25 (Costco)
Salsa $1.25 (Meijer) or from stock
Cheese $.75 (Aldi - shredded from block)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fresh Salsa

My youngest boy LOVES salsa. Must have something to do with all the Mexican food I ate during my third trimester (after the puking stopped). Usually it's the thinner restaurant style. Today I made a chunky pico de gallo style and figured he wouldn't touch it with visible tomatoes and peppers in it. To my astonishment, he inhaled it. If salsa gets him to eat more veggies, I might make this every week.

1/2 sm sweet onion, chopped
2 t garlic, minced
1/2 green/red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 fresh Jalapeno Peppers (to taste)6 fresh tomatoes, quartered (or diced)
2 t olive oil
2 t red or white wine vinegar
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 t salt
Sugar (to taste)

OPTION #1 DIRECTIONS - Restaurant Style
1. Place onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and jalapeno peppers into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add tomatoes, and pulse just a few times until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl with a tight-fitting lid.2. In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice, garlic, sugar, and salt.
3. Pour dressing over tomatoes, and stir well. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

OPTION #2 DIRECTIONS - Pico de Gallo
1. Place finely dice onions, bell pepper, cilantro, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes. Toss together.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice, sugar and salt.
3. Pour dressing over tomatoes, and stir well. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

  • If you like a bit milder/smokier taste (which I do) you can saute the onions, peppers, and garlic before adding. Makes the onions a little sweeter.
  • Add a bit of FRESH (or frozen if no fresh is avail) corn and it's a sweet taste to top it off.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Frugal Tips: Holiday Meat Stock Up

Holidays are about feasting, family, and faith. Easter is no different. It's a time to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is also a time to enjoy family, and that usually includes feasting. Many of us will be enjoying more than our fair share of ham for the holiday.

The good news is that there are amazing sales going on over the next couple of weeks on ham. It's a versatile meat, and this time of year, very affordable.

This week I bought a large bone in ham, uncut for $11. It produced enough meat for 4 dinners, lots of sandwich meat, and I diced up the odd pieces to cook up for 2 breakfasts. That's a lot of bang for the buck.

With the way my boys and husband have been devouring it this week, I think I'll be headed back to the store for more.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mini Kid Pizza

Growing up my mom made pizzas on english muffins many Sunday nights. We loved pizza, but the the english muffins - not so much. So here is my adaptation of mini-pizzas. It's a quick fix and often with things that I have on hand or have just a bit of leftovers to use up.

The beauty of these little things is that my boys help me make them and everyone gets the toppings that they want.

1 tube Grands style flaky biscuits
Pizza Sauce or Loaded Tomato Sauce
2-3 c Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
Toppings of choice

TOTAL COSTS: $3.00 - $9.00
Biscuits $1.50 (Aldi)
Sauce - from Stock
Cheese* - $1.50 (Aldi)
Meat & Veggie Toppings - $0.00 - 6.00 (Meijer/Aldi/Costco)

* I shred the block myself, it melts better and I'd rather not eat the wax they coat shredded cheese with.

  • Pepperoni - Son #2 (3 years old)
  • Pepperoni & Sausage - Son #1 (6 years old)
  • Ham/Green Peppers/Oregano or Chicken/Broccoli/Oregano - Me (not telling years old)
  • Meat Lovers - Husband (he can't remember years old)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Beef and Broccoli

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or 2 T corn starch)
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 pound boneless round steak, cut into thin sliced pieces
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger root (or 1 t new dried ginger)**
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chopped fresh broccoli

In a small bowl, combine flour, broth, sugar, and soy sauce. Stir until sugar and flour are dissolved.

In a large skillet or wok over high heat, cook and stir beef 2 to 4 minutes, or until browned. Stir in broth mixture, ginger, garlic, and broccoli. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until sauce thickens and broccoli is tender.

** Dried ginger looses it's flavor quickly. If you have older ginger on hand, you can double or triple the amount to get the flavor desired. You're better off to toss it and get new.

Flour $.10 (Aldi)
Beef broth $.50 (Aldi)
White sugar $.05 (Aldi)
Soy sauce $.35 (Meijer)
Round steak $3.00 (Sale)
Ginger & garlic - from stock
Broccoli $2.00 (Aldi)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beef Brisket 2 Ways

I got marinade option 1 from a friend and modified it for version number two. This is a great main course for the holidays as an alternative to the usual turkey or ham.

Marinade Option 1:
2 pkg Onion Soup Mix
1 Bottle of red wine (Burgandy, Merlot, etc)

Marinade Option 2:
1 pkg Onion Soup Mix
4 c Beef Broth
4 T Worchestire Sauce
2 t Black pepper

Marinade beef brisket in fridge for 24 hours. Bake in an oven bag for 5 hours at 300 degrees.
Set aside drippings and wine marinade to cool and use for gravy. Cool meat completely.

While cold, slice the meat against the grain. Reheat until warmed through. Removed cooled fat from drippings, heat and add cornstarch to thicken.

Serve with mashed potatoes. Leftovers are great as a smothered open faced sandwiches or on a kaiser roll. Can add some bbq sauce to the meat to disguise leftovers.

TOTAL COSTS: $10.50 - $26.00**
Brisket $8 - 15 (depending on size) - Costco/Meijer/Meat Market
Onion Soup Mix $.50 - 1.00 (Aldi)
Wine $4 - 10 (Wherever)
Broth $2.00 (Aldi)
Seasonings from stock

** Price varies based on marinade and size but makes a lot of food. When you break down the cost per person it is a frugal feast.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New KIDS Category

I'm not sure why I never offered this classification for recipes before, but it's starting now. Kids are finicky eaters and there is no guarantee what they will eat, or if they will eat it again on another day.

That being said, I'm classifying recipes on whether MY kids liked the recipe or not. There are many others that they are "learning" to like, but the classification is for ones that mean not likely of a discussion about eating it at the dinner table.

So, see if your kids like them too. Who knows, maybe it's a picky husband (not that I would know what that is like ;) that you are are trying to please... it just make work for him too.

It can be a great meal, but if your family doesn't like it, then you are saving money. Got a favorite kids recipe that you'd like to share? I'd love to give you a spot on FRUGAL FAMILY FEASTS to share it. Send me the recipe and a picture if you've got it.

Quick "Almost Peanut Butter" Treat

My oldest son has a peanut butter allergy. I've been able to give up most peanut butter treats, but everyone in a while I still crave a chocolate/peanut butter slurge.

I've found Trader Joe's sunbutter is remarkably good quality and the best of the peanut butter substitutes I've tried.

Take your vanilla wafer, top with a teaspoon of sunbutter (or peanut/almond/cashew/etc butter) and a piece of chocolate and wa-la... it's a quick and tasty fix.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Loaded Tomato Sauce

I got drawn into the whole "Deceptively Delicious" cooking method when the cookbook came out from Mrs. Seinfield. I have to admit that I haven't cared for too many of the recipes I've found in the book, but the method has changed my thought process as to what I use to sweeten, thicken, and add to a recipe. The best application of this is a basic tomato sauce that I use for everything (spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, etc).

One could start with fresh tomatoes and I'm sure that it would taste wonderful. I don't have that kind of time, and it could be cost prohibitive in the lands of long winters. So I opt for the industrial size cans of tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes. This really is a texture preference. I like the mix of the two. The crushed gives it a fresh taste more like a marinara and a homemade touch. If you prefer a smoother finished sauce like a canned spaghetti sauce, I'd suggest sticking with just the tomato sauce.

In a REALLY large stock pot I pour in the tomatoes. In the spring/summer/fall I'll add fresh herbs from my herb gardens (oregano, rosemary, parsley, & thyme). Winter batches get dried herbs simply as a cost measure.

What I load the sauce with really depends on what I have on hand. Usually I have purees* of carrot, peppers, sweet potatoes, and spinach to add to the tomato. The carrot and sweet potato adds a sweetness. The sweet potatoes add a thickness to the sauce. The spinach is excellent for you and I never make it without it. The peppers are personal preference. I like the flavor of red peppers the best, but will use whatever I have. A bit of ground sausage or turkey works nicely with this.

The balance of the sauce is completely personal preference. I like my sauce a bit on the sweeter side. Therefore I'll add more of the sweet potato and carrot purees. To balance out the sweetness with acid, I add a bit of vinegar. A bit of sugar or honey can be added if you get a bit too much vinegar in there (which never happens to me ;)

Let it simmer for about 1/2 hour to let the flavors meld together. It's a big batch so use some, can/freeze some, or give some away.

Best Estimate on Recipe (really depends on flavor of purees and preferences)
1 lg can (105 oz) Crushed Tomato
1 lg can (105 oz) Tomato Sauce
1 - 1 1/2 c Carrots Puree
1 1/2 c Sweet Potato Puree
3/4 c Spinach Puree
3/4 c Pepper Puree
1/2 c Fresh Parsley, diced
1/4 c Fresh Rosemary, chopped small
1/3 c Fresh Oregano, diced
1 T Fresh Thyme
2 T Garlic, minced
1 sm onion, diced small
2 t Sea Salt
2-3 T White Wine Vinegar
1 t Black Pepper
Sugar or Honey to taste

* To Make a Puree
Steam the veggies until they are soft. Puree in blender or food processor. Add small amount of steaming water to puree until smooth consistency is reached. I measure my purees into usable amounts into snack size ziploc bags or freezer containers to freeze until needed. For spinach, buy a box of frozen diced spinach, thaw and drain water off before blending (much cheaper and easier than fresh without a taste difference).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Direction for Frugal Feasts

I'm sad to report that there isn't an Aldi's in North Dakota. I've settled in an area where groceries are a bit more expensive than my previous home in Michigan in addition to losing my cost savings grocery store. I'll have to work harder with sales and coupons to keep our feasts as frugal as before.

That said, it is still possible to eat well without breaking the bank. My new location will simply become a test of this premise. I still may refer to Aldi pricing, and that has to do with the products that moved with me. When those are gone, I'll keep the pricing at just what I am paying currently.

I'm also going to start some cooking adventures in freezer meals. One day a month I'll devote to cooking multiple meals ahead of time, freezing them for later. I use to be in a meal swap group that did this. My friend talks about her monthly meal cooking club. Until I get established and meet people with similar taste and food and frugality, I'll be going it on my own.

Finally, I've been researching, learning, and finding out more about natural, organic, and preservative free foods. As a family we are going to be moving to more of a whole foods diet (cutting out premixed items, packaged/process foods) with a focus on health and wellness. I want to eat foods that are good for me as well as good tasting.

For us that will mean buying sides of beef and pork again (once we get settled) so we can control content, source, prices and most importantly taste. The taste blows away what you can buy at the supermarket, particularly in ground beef.

So that's it. I'm excited to delve into all of these projects, one bite at a time of course.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Caramel Shortbread Squares

These are oh-my goodness good from and go perfectly with a cup of coffee (or tea if you prefer). Make them to share because a little bit goes a long way, but they are addictive. Made these as teacher gifts before to have them tell me after the holidays that their family had fought over them!

2/3 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cups milk chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together 2/3 cup butter, white sugar, and flour until evenly crumbly. Press into a 9 inch square baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
  3. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes (Be careful not to burn). Remove from heat and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes. Pour over baked crust (warm or cool). Cool until it is firm. (hard to spread chocolate if it isn't completely cool)
  4. Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute, then stir and continue to heat and stir at 20 second intervals until chocolate is melted and smooth. Pour chocolate over the caramel layer and spread evenly to cover completely. Chill. Cut into 1 inch squares. These need to be small because they are so rich.
Flour $.25 (Aldi)
Sugar $.10 (Aldi)
Butter $1.20 (Aldi or Meijer)
Brown Sugar $.25 (Aldi)
Sweetened Milk $.75 (Aldi)
Chocolate $1.25 (Aldi)
Corn Syrup - from stock

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Settling In

We made out trip to North Dakota safely and as soon as I can find my pots and pans (and the rest of the kitchen stuff) I'll be whipping up some fun new recipes to try. Hope you are having a great day.