Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Review of Grainberry Bran Flakes...

Okay, I don't consider myself much of an organic shopper (although in my wildest financial dreams I often am!), but I tried a cereal from the organic section lately.  I have to say, a lot of the 'natural' cereals taste something like tree bark, but I was really impressed with this one.  It was the Grainberry Bran Flakes.

The cereal box is full of how much antioxidant power the flakes contain...supposedly much more than other bran flakes.  It was all really impressive, but that doesn't hold much water if it tastes terrible.  However, I'm pleased to say that the kids and I (my hubby is an anti-bran man!) really enjoyed it.  In fact, it was so good that we didn't feel the need to add any fruit to sweeten it up.  It just tasted really yummy!The flakes were crisp and tasted almost like they had molasses in them.  They were also light, which is kind of a rarity with the healthy bran flakes.

Here's the kicker...there was a $1.00 off coupon in the newspaper recently, so along with the sale Meijer was running, I got the box for $1.50.  That's a pretty great price for a healthy cereal.  It also has $4.00 worth of coupons inside the box for other miscellaneous Grainberry products, which I will definitely be trying.  I bought the Apple Cinnamon cereal last week at the store, so I'll keep you updated!

By the way...no one paid me for this endorsement!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Call...

This is the last call for any apple ideas or recipes!  If you have any, send them on to me at crazycreativemag@gmail.com.  I'm also interested in any other suggestions you have that you'd like me to cover on frugal living in general...send them all on!

This will be my last post here until after the holidays, but feel free to visit over at my writing blog where I'll still post occasionally through the new year.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cranberry-Apple Butter

A slow cooker is the perfect way to make your own apple butter, or in this case, cranberry-apple butter.  Personally, I'm a little too lazy to do any canning, so we just eat it in a marathon of bread and rolls, and give away any surplus to a friend or neighbor.  This actually cooks down quite a bit, so it's not as much as it seems!   Try it out!

Cranberry-Apple Butter

6 large cooking apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 large strip lemon zest
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.  Mix thoroughly.  Cover; cook on low 8-10 hours or on high 4-5 hours.  Stir every 2 hours.  Remove cover after 3 hours to allow fruit juices to cook down.  Spoon into sterilized jars and process with standard canning methods.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Other Apple Uses...

I know you all probably have your own stock of apple recipes...especially apple desserts, but here at my house, we have several non-recipe-requiring uses for apples.

Obviously, we do a lot of apple eating.  My 4- and 6- year old are pretty good at getting to the core.  We also love to chop peeled apple and add it into our morning oatmeal.  Simple baked apples with a cinnamon stick inside are wonderful, too, and it really warms up your house on a nippy day.

Once your apples are starting to get bruised up or grainy, we love to make applesauce or apple butter out of them.  I'm going to post a great cranberry apple butter recipe some time soon, too.

How about you?  Do you have any other uses for your apples that we haven't covered?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Double Apple Crumble

Here's one of my go-to recipes that I've had since I got married.  I love to pitch in a few plumped up raisins with the apples, and if I happen to have a few walnuts or pecans on hand, I love to chop them finely and add them into the topping.  This is a good flexible recipe...hope you like it!

Double Apple Crumble

3 medium Gala, Regent, or Braeburn apples, peeled and sliced
3 medium Rome or Granny Smith apples, peeled, and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger or nutmeg

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger or nutmeg
2 Tbs. margarine or butter

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray square baking dish with cooking spray, or grease with margarine.  In large bowl, combine fruit mix; toss to coat.  Spoon evenly into sprayed baking dish, pressing gently.  In medium bowl, combine all topping ingredients except margarine; mix well.  Cut in margarine.  Sprinkle topping over fruit.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Candy Apple Walnut Pie

Here's another of Mommy-in-law's specialties.  It's got the yummy flavor and color of a candy apple without the sticky, icky mess.  It's really easy to make...and polish off.  Try this out for your Christmas dessert!

Candy Apple Walnut Pie

6 cups thinly sliced cooking apples
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup cinnamon candies
1/3 cup and 2 Tbs. sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 deep dish frozen pie crusts (keep 1 frozen)

In large bowl, toss all but 2 Tbs. sugar and pour into pie crust.  Crumble second crust into small pieces (thawed one) and add 2 Tbs. sugar.  Toss together.  Sprinkle on top of apples.  Bake at 375 degrees 55-60 minutes.  Note:  Pie shell will be really full, but it cooks down, so don't worry!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gotta Favorite?

There are so many different varieties of apples to choose from, and it seems like there are getting to be more and more available all the time.  We all have our favorites, though.

Look at the lovely color on this Honeycrisp!

 We love the sweet, crispy apples with a bit of tang to use for eating and baking...call it a multi-purpose apple!  Our favorites are fuji, honeycrisp, and pink lady apples.  What are your favorites?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fresh Apple Cake

Here is the first recipe by a dear friend and brand new contributor, Claudia.  She probably has forgotten all about giving this recipe to me, but that didn't stop me from passing it along.  This cake is good on day one and great on day two and up.  I love to use it as a coffee cake, too.  For dessert, add a dab of Cinnamon Whipped Cream.  Welcome Claudia!

Fresh Apple Cake

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
4 cups chopped, peeled apples
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup raisins or dates
2 cups chopped nuts

Cream together sugar and shortening.  Add eggs, mix well.  Add finely chopped apples.  Mix.  Gradually stir in dry ingredients that have been mixed together.  Add nuts and fruit.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes in greased and floured 9 x 13" pan.  Serves 12-16.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Apple Enchilada Dessert

Here is an interesting apple variation from Susan.  She writes:

It's great to serve on a night that you fix Mexican food....and you can also serve peach or cherry pie filling.  I can my own apple pie filling, so I use my own instead of the canned pie filling from the store.

Here's a picture of turkey enchiladas on the left, then cherry enchiladas on the right!  Looks yummy, huh?

Apple Enchilada Dessert

1 (21 oz) can apple pie filling
6 (8 in) flour tortillas
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter (I prefer the real thing)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spoon fruit evenly onto all tortillas, sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll up tortillas and place seam side down in a lightly sprayed 8x8 baking dish. Bring butter, sugars, and water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly for 3 mins. Pour sauce evenly over tortillas; sprinkle with extra cinnamon on top if desired. Bake in preheated oven for 20 mins. You can also use larger tortillas which may be cut in half to make 12 servings. You also save money if you make your own tortillas.♥

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cranberry-Apple Pork Chops

Here's the first of our apple recipes!  If you have any you'd like to contribute, send them to me at crazycreativemag@gmail.com.

I was tinkering around the other night trying to add a little pizzazz to our dinner when I came up with this variation for the pork chops I had out on my counter.  It ended up being perfectly wonderful.

Just a note, I kind of like a little pop of cranberry tartness, but if you'd prefer yours a little sweeter, add more honey, or use dried cranberries, which are already sweetened.  This would be a great way to use up a little leftover cranberry relish or sauce from Thanksgiving!

Cranberry-Apple Pork Chops

6 boneless pork loin chops
salt and pepper
3 sweet apples, such as Gala or Fuji
1/2 cup fresh whole cranberries
1/2 cup, 1 Tbs. dark honey, divided
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
5 Tbs. butter or margarine, divided
1 Tbs. blackberry preserves
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
additional 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and slice apples and spread out in a baking dish.  Sprinkle cranberries over apples.  Drizzle 1 Tbs. honey over fruit, followed by 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.  Cut 2 Tbs. butter into small cubes, and add evenly over fruit.  Bake 40-50 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt together 1/2 cup honey, remaining 3 Tbs. butter, preserves, juice, and additional cinnamon.   Heat to boiling, then simmer without a lid until sauce begins to thicken slightly.

While sauce is simmering, salt and pepper pork chops and heat griddle to 325 degrees.  Cook pork chops, a few minutes per side, being careful not to overcook.  For more detailed instructions, see my recipe here.  Rest  pork chops, covered 5 minutes.

To serve, place pork chops on a platter.  Top with fruit and drizzle with some sauce.  Keep additional sauce handy for those with a sweet tooth!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pizza Tips

I've been making homemade pizza since the first year of my marriage 8 1/2 years ago.  I have to admit, it was just so-so until the last few years. (The pizza, that is, not my marriage.   That's been great from the start!).

Here are a few tips I've learned along the way to make your pizza easier and tastier.

  • Oil your pan generously...more oil improves the flavor and texture of the crust.
  • Oil your hands to spread the crust.  I spent years adding flour like you would for bread.  Oil your hands a bit and spread the crust by hand--it's incredibly easy and great for the taste of the crust.
  • Put veggies under the cheese, but always put pepperoni on top of the cheese.  It makes is crisp on the edges and adds some texture and yumminess.
  • Switch up the sauce.  My family can get tired of a regular tomato pizza.  Try barbecue sauce with leftover chicken or enchilada sauce and taco meat with a little crumbled tortilla chips on top.  Get creative.  It's really hard to mess up a pizza. 
  • When  you take the pizza out of the oven, grab some butter or margarine and go over the crust quickly...try it and you'll never go back.  It makes it shiny and awesome.

Hey readers, got any other pizza tips?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Being Thankful

We had a lovely, restful Thanksgiving here in our house.  I was thinking of this blog through all the cooking of the meal, and now the leftovers, and I was overwhelmed by the bounty that we have.

I know that the focus of this blog is largely on economy and how to make due with less, and recipes that are cost-effective, but still yummy.  There's a great need for learning how to cook and live within a tight budget.  I know what it's like to come home from the store frustrated in the little amount we have to make due with.  I know what it's like to not want to go shopping because you can't afford much.  I understand what it feels like to put something back on the shelf because you can't afford it.  I get it...I understand.

With all that said, I was amazed at how much bounty my family, and probably every reader of this blog had for the holidays.  Much as we need to be careful of how we spend, we are still blessed with so much!  When I feel discouraged with our money issues, I'm going to look back to how good God has been and continues to be to us!  There's a difference between needing to economize and being in real need.  Most of us Americans, regardless of budget, rarely see hunger or need.  We really do live in the bounty of God's goodness...whether we can spend unlimited money at the store or not.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hello All...

I wanted you all to know that I'm taking the week off blogging to celebrate Thanksgiving with my wonderful family.  We'll finish up our pizza posts on Monday, then start up with the apple recipes.  I've got a new contributor to introduce, and lots of lovely apple ideas that are great for year round cooking.

If you have any apple recipes, ideas, or tips, send them on to me at crazycreativemag@gmail.com.  Enjoy your holiday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pizza Bites

Here is a recipe that's a regular thing in our house.  You've got to try this one out!  It's from a great website called Annie's Eats.

Just a note, whenever I make these, I make a double batch.  We usually eat just over one batch and the leftovers are great for lunches or for freezing for individual serving use.  They're also GREAT with tomato soup...just saying!

Here's the link...Pizza Bites.  Pop by and comment here if you try them out or if you have any variations!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza!

Here is a suggestion by a blogger friend, Lindy.  You can find her lovely blog here: Who Am I?.  She's a great resource for all you crocheters out there...I especially love her cute little flowers...so clever!

She suggested this recipe from Taste of Home, which I plan on trying sometime soon.  Perhaps next time I make Fettucine Alfredo, I'll keep a little sauce for this tasty treat.  You could probably use cubed chicken instead of the nuggets if you don't have any handy...in other words, for those of you without kids in the house.  Check it out here: Chicken Cordon Bleu Pizza.  Thanks for the input, Lindy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Breakfast Pizza

Here's another pizza idea from Susan!

Breakfast pizza

This is a true family favorite.

a package of English muffins
real butter
breakfast meat (either bacon, sausage or ham)
American sliced cheese

 Toast the English muffins. I usually make 2 per adult and 1 per child. Brush lightly with butter. Set aside. Cook the breakfast meat-drain the meat from the fat/grease. Chop the meat into small bite size pieces. Set aside. Scramble the eggs and season as desired with salt & pepper. Add breakfast meat in with the eggs, mixing well. Place muffin on plate, top with egg & cheese mixture, and top with a slice of cheese. Place loaded muffin in microwave for 10 seconds to melt cheese. (with my family, I do a plate load at a time). You can also add onions & peppers to the breakfast meat to give it a spicer taste. You can also add tomatoes to this. This is great to make espeically for when you have company.....you can line a cookie sheet fill of these and melt the cheese in a warm oven.♥

Monday, November 14, 2011

Creative Leftovers: Garlic Cheese Bread

My kids are eating this as we speak and I couldn't believe how great it turned out!  Here is what we had:

Leftovers: 1 small tub garlic butter from last night's pizza, tiny bit cheapie Parmesan, 3/4 cup colby jack cheese

Here's what we did:

Make a half batch of pizza crust (enough for 1/2 pizza).  Grease a round cake pan.  Smoosh pizza crust down and top with garlic butter.  Sprinkle with a small handful of Parmesan and 1/2-3/4 cup other cheese.  Sprinkle with a bit of dried basil and parsley.

Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 17-18 minutes.  Pop it out onto a cutting board and cut into wedges.  We had ours with Ranch dressing, but it'd be a great side for spaghetti or even as an appetizer with pizza sauce.

You could whip up your own garlic butter to produce the same results...butter, garlic powder, salt.  Let me know if you have any additional suggestions!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pizza Sauce

Now that we know how to make up our crust (or take a short cut and buy pre-made...more pricey than homemade, but still cheaper and healthier than carry-out), let's talk sauce.  There are a lot of options for pizza sauce.  You can buy pre-made sauce, which is not terribly expensive.  You can use spaghetti sauce.  It's a little thinner than pizza sauce, but tastes pretty much the same.  You have the added benefit of using leftovers, too!  If I have leftover sauce from something (meatless is a better bet, usually), I use that first.  If not, I make my own pizza sauce from tomato paste.

One can of tomato paste will sauce two large pizzas.  Here's what to do.  Scoop out half of the tomato paste and put it in a small bowl.  Add enough warm water to thin it out to just a little thicker than spaghetti sauce.  It's usually between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of water for us.  Then season to taste.  I add a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt, dried basil, parsley, garlic, and oregano.  If you have any fennel seed, it'd be a fantastic addition.  Make sure to taste as you season, and careful with the garlic.  Another thing to keep in mind...most meats and cheeses you add to your pizza will be pretty salty, so don't overdo it salting the sauce.  Slather it on, add toppings and cheese and bake as usual.  Save the other half can for next time, or make up another pizza to freeze!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pizza Dough by Susan

Okay, it's officially time to start in with our pizza recipes and ideas.

Here's Susan's take on pizza!

Pizza is a favorite treat for our family. We love pizza, but the cost alone can kill our food budget. Anytime I fix roasted lemon pepper chicken, sausage, or ham, I am able to set aside some meat to freeze for when I do make pizza.....I then have my meat toppings.

Having a good pizza dough recipe is important....and this is a great recipe.

Pizza Dough by Susan
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1/2 teasp salt
2 tsp olive oil
2 1/2-3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Directions-dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed bowl. Add salt, olive oil, and 2 1/2 cups flour. Mix until well blended. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough forms a ball and cleans sides of bowl. Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl, turning once to grease sides. Cover, let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Brush a 14 inch pizza pan with oil, sprinkle with cornmeal. Press dough across bottom of pan, forming a collar around edge to hold filling. Top with desired fillings. Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!!......I also like to use a large heart shape cake pan to make my pizzas....the family loves the shape of a heart pizza.♥.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Just a Head's Up...

I've decided to post Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on this blog...at least until school is done for the year.  So, this will be my last Tuesday post for a while.  I've been loving having the help of so many different ideas, so if you have something worthwhile, by all means send it on to me at crazycreativemag@gmail.com.

Tomorrow we'll start up with our ideas for pizza, one of the regular homemade meals here in my house.  I'm very excited to share new frugal tips, ideas, and recipes!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Cake

Did you ever want one of those delightful pumpkin rolls, but were just too busy (uh . . . lazy) to make one?  I often did.  Then my friend, Val, gave me this easy cake recipe that has the same taste, without all the work!

~  Christine from The Good, The Pure and The Lovely

Mix together:
1 box of Spice Cake Mix
15 oz canned pumpkin
1 cup Miracle Whip
3 Eggs

Pour batter in a 9x13 greased pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Now, cream together:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick butter, or margarine, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons. milk

Add in 4 cups of powdered sugar, and mix until smooth.

Spread icing on top of cake after the cake has cooled.  Store cake in refrigerator, if you have any leftovers!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I love salty and crunchy snacks.  One of my fall favorites is roasted pumpkin seeds.  Are you ready to try to make your own? 

Start by cleaning out a pumpkin and rinsing the seeds well.  Pat the seeds dry.  Spread the seeds in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Drizzle oil (I use canola) over the seeds.  Mix well, then sprinkle with salt and pepper (if desired).  Pop in a 325 degree oven for for 25 minutes.  Stir half way through baking time, and check frequently during the last ten minutes.  When they are lightly golden, they are ready.  Wait until cooled, to enjoy. 

Any old pumpkin will do.  If you have a leftover jack-o-lantern pumpkin, you can use it for this.  If you are baking a pie from scratch, that will work, too.  If you are really adventurous, try some different spices, like cayenne, with your salt.  Have fun roasting!

~ Christine from The Good, The Pure, and The Lovely

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hello again frugal cooks...

My family and I are officially back and are trying to get our household under control.  We'll resume the blogging tomorrow morning.  I'm looking forward to all your pizza recipes and ideas!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Little Break...

I just wanted to let you all know that I'll be out of town visiting my parents for a week or so.  They don't have internet at home...so I won't be posting until I return.  Look for another post a week from Thursday.

Also...if anyone has any more pumpkin recipes, send them on in!  After pumpkin recipes, we'll take off with the pizza recipes and methods.  I'd love your input!  Send any recipes or tips to me at crazycreativemag@gmail.com.

Thanks and enjoy the end of your October!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Making your own pumpkin puree...

Have you ever tried to make your own pumpkin puree?  I have to admit, it's rather a new idea to me, but it's very easy.   I was going to write it all out for you, but found another great blog that did it all for me with pictures! She also uses this method for roasting and pureeing butternut squash as a substitute, as I mentioned in a previous post.  If you're interested, here's the link:

DIY Pumpkin Puree

Just a note for us novices...the big Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins DO NOT work well here!  Look for the small, cute pie pumpkins that are about the size of a cantaloupe.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin Sub-out...

A good pie pumpkin costs about $1.50-$2.00 around here, which makes it cheaper to just buy pumpkin canned and save yourself all the trouble.  Here is what my Grandma used to do, though...

Instead of roasting pumpkin for her pumpkin pie, she used winter squash from her garden.  The color is slightly less orange...more of a yellow.  Other than that, I would never guess that it wasn't really pumpkin pie...it tastes exactly the same, especially since pumpkin dishes are almost always pretty well spiced up.  Since winter squash runs much cheaper than pie pumpkins, I'm thinking of giving it a whirl.  Have any of you ever tried this before?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Good Morning Pumpkin Pancakes

Here's one that my mother-in-law makes to spoil us when we visit.  I think the last time she made them for us was when we were up for a visit on Christmas...which was a while ago now.  Hmmm....maybe I'll change it up and make them for her when she visits this week!

Good Morning Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups Bisquick
2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 cup solid pack pumpkin
1 1/2 cup (12 oz) evaporated milk
2 Tbs. oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

In large bowl, combine Bisquick, sugar, and spices.  Add milk, pumpkin, oil, eggs, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Bake on hot, lightly greased griddle.

***These would be extra yummy served with some toasted, chopped walnuts sprinkled over them!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Coffee

Hannah posted a bread recipe yesterday, http://todayathannahshouse.blogspot.com/2011/10/pumpkin-bread.html.  I can't wait to try it.  When I make it, I'm going to make a pumpkin spice coffee to go with it.  It's super easy and makes my mornings smell and taste like fall.  Are you ready?
~ Christine from The Good, The Pure and The Lovely

1. Prepare your coffee pot as usual.
2. Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice and mix with the coffee grains.
3. Brew your coffee.
4. Add milk, sugar and vanilla for a sweet treat.
5. Sit, smell, drink  . . . . Mmmmmm

That's it.  It's that simple.  Enjoy the smell and taste of fall in your morning cup of coffee!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Okay!  It's time to start off with the pumpkin recipes.  Don't forget, if you want to contribute a pumpkin recipe, email me at crazycreativemag@gmail.com.

Soups were certainly popular, but as you know, it's October which means it's time to start up the baking.  What better way than this quick pumpkin bread?  The friend who gave me this recipe originally likes to pitch in some chocolate chips.  Pumpkin/chocolate isn't necessarily my thing, but lots of people are into it.  If you're one of them, give it a whirl!

Pumpkin Bread

1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin (or 1 small can)
5/8 cup vegetable or canola oil

In large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda.  In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and oil.  Stir into dry ingredients until moistened.

Pour into greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Five Bean Soup

This is one of my favorite winter soups.
 ~  Christine from The Good, The Pure, and The Lovely

 Preparation for four batches:
One, 1 pound bag of each of these dried bean varieties: lima, great northern, kidney, pinto and split peas

Pour the five beans into a large bowl.  Mix well.  Divide into four separate containers or zip lock bags.

1 portion of beans
3 beef bouillon cubes
1 tsp. onion powder (or more to taste)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried savory
1 tsp. salt (optional)
1/2 or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 or 2 bay leaves
2 and 1/2 quarts water
1 can (14 and 1/2 oz.) stewed tomatoes (diced Italian work well, too)
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Wash beans.  Place in a large pot.  Cover with water.  bring to a boil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour.

Drain and rinse beans.  Add bouillon, spices and water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer 1 and 1/2 hours or until beans are tender (it's always taken my beans longer), stirring occasionally.  Remove bay leave(s).  Add tomatoes and heat through.  Serve and top with Parmesan cheese (a good cheese really makes this special).

I serve this with this cornbread.

~ Adapted from Taste of Home

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On to the Pumpkin Recipes!

Well, the soup run has been very popular and I can't wait to try some of these recipes!  I hope you all have enjoyed the recipes.  We'll have one more soup recipe on Friday, then starting Monday, we'll move on to the pumpkin category.

October is the perfect time to get moving on the fall baking!  I'm very excited to share a few recipes with you.

If you have any pumpkin recipes you'd like to share, email them to me at crazycreativemag@gmail.com.  I'd be happy to post your name, link (if applicable), and recipe.  Share away!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

(Another) Black Bean Soup

Hannah shared a fantastic vegetarian black bean soup in her post, http://todayathannahshouse.blogspot.com/2011/05/black-bean-soup.html.  I happen to love black beans, and the more ways I have to cook them, the happier I am.  I have another black bean soup that I love to cook.  You cook it with a leftover ham bone.  Then, the whole soup tastes like ham!  When I was making this soup yesterday, I realized that it follows Hannah's method for making any homemade soup (http://todayathannahshouse.blogspot.com/2011/10/how-to-make-homemade-soup-from-scratch.html).  Have a great time with this meal!

~Christine from The Good, The Pure, And The Lovely

You will need:

1 bag dried black beans
1 ham bone (a little meat hanging on is nice)
2-3 tbs. cooking oil
4-8 peeled carrots (depending on your love of carrots), roughly chopped
4 cleaned celery ribs, roughly chopped
1/2 to 1 whole onion, chopped
Water to cover
3 or 4 Chicken bouillon or the equivalent Chicken soup/stock base
2-3 bay leaves
1 to 2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoons garlic powder
salt to taste
1/2 - 1 tsp pepper
1 to 2 cups diced ham (optional)

Start the night before by cleaning and soaking the black beans overnight.  (I just soaked them in my slow cooker, since I planned on cooking the soup in it.)  The next morning, rinse the black beans and cover with clean water.  Place the ham bone in the center of the beans.  Saute the carrots, celery and onion, and then add it to the pot.  Cover it all with water mixed with a few chicken bouillon or chicken soup/stock base.  Throw in the bay leaves, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  (I didn't use much salt, because my soup base has a lot of sodium in it).  Turn on the slow cooker (or the pot on the stove) on low and cook for 8 to 10 hours or until the beans are soft. 

When the beans are soft, remove the ham bone and some of the beans beans.  Remove the ham from the bone and return it to the mixture.  Puree the leftover mixture in a blender, or if you are a really lucky girl, use an immersion blender.  Taste your soup.  Add more cumin, garlic, salt and pepper to suit your tastes.  (Add a little at a time - you can always add more, but you can't remove it.  Take it from me - I've had more than one dish turn out "too salty" from getting in a hurry with my salt!)  Add your black beans back in, and some extra diced ham, if desired.  Keep the soup warm until dinner in the slow cooker or on the stove.  Even my kids love this soup.  I serve it with homemade cornbread, biscuits, or french bread.  Enjoy!    

Monday, October 10, 2011

Turkey Dumpling Stew

One of my favorite soup dishes is made from leftover turkey.  We had it last night and I enjoyed every bite.
~ Christine from The Good, The Pure, And The Lovely

8 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 - inch chunks
4 celery ribs, cut into 1/2 - inch chunks
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 1/2 cups beef broth (I made mine from beef soup base)
4 and 2/3 cups water, divided
2 tsp salt, or more to taste
1/4 tsp pepper, or more to taste
3 cups cubed turkey (mine was more shredded than cubed)
2 to 4 cups frozen cut green beans (depending on how much you like green beans)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I was quite liberal with this)

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg

In large pot, saute carrots, celery and onion for 10 minutes.  Add beef broth, 4 cups water, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Add turkey and beans; cook for 5 minutes.  Combine flour, Worcestershire sauce and remaining water until smooth, stir into turkey mixture.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. 

For dumplings, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Combine milk and egg; stir into flour mixture just until moistened.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto simmering stew.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes; uncover and simmer 10 minutes longer.

~ Adapted from Taste of Home

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vegetarian Vegetable Soup with Barley

Here's a homemade recipe I made just last week...it was fantastic!  Just a head's up, my kids and I love our soups to be pretty strong on the tomato, so if you're not so into that, reduce some of the crushed tomatoes and replace it with extra broth.  If you're not vegetarian, feel free to use beef broth in place of the vegetable broth.   This yields a fairly good amount of soup, so feel free to freeze any leftovers, or have more tomorrow...soup only gets better as the days go by.

Vegetarian Vegetable Soup with Barley

1 Tbs. canola oil
1 small orange pepper, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3 cups crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
4 cups vegetable broth (or beef broth)
2 cups water
1/8 head cabbage, chopped small
1 cup corn
1/2 cup frozed green beans, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 Tbs. parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup barley
3/4 cup cooked beans, optional

In large stock pot over medium high heat, saute pepper, onion, carrots, and celery in oil until vegetables are soft and cooked through.  Salt and pepper the vegetables lightly to begin developing their flavor.  Add in garlic and saute an additional minute.  When garlic is cooked, add in tomato sauce, broth and water.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Add in cabbage, corn, green beans, bay leaves, and parsley.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer at least 30 minutes.  If you're only simmering 30 minutes, add in barley now, otherwise add in barley 30 minutes before serving.  Remember--barley may not look like much now, but it'll multiply beyond your wildest dreams, so don't overdo it!  Add in the cooked beans five minutes before serving, if using.  Remove barley leaves, taste soup, and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper as necessary.  If it's tasting kind of good, but not quite right, you probably need more salt.  Add in more broth or water if it's too thick...my family likes soup on the stewy side.  Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to Make Homemade Soup from Scratch...

I have to say, most of my soups are made without a recipe.  In fact, they are usually a concoction of miscellaneous leftovers and a few staples, which makes it one of the cheapest meals I make.  This time of year, I try to whip up some type of soup or other early in the week for the kids and me to eat on for lunches (my hubby is generally not into soups).  If you really want to make your own soup and make it very, very cheap, all you need to know is the basics of soup making and how to alter it to your own taste.

Here are some general steps for soup making:

1. Saute diced onion, carrot, and celery in a little oil in the bottom of a stock pan until tender. (Also peppers and garlic, if using).
2. Add in the liquids.  This is usually some type of combination of broth and water, or tomato sauce if making a tomato-based soup.
3. Add in additional vegetables and meat.
4. Bring soup to a boil.
5. Cover and simmer 1/2 hour or longer.
6. Add in starches, if using toward the end of the simmer time.
7. Add in cream or cheese, if using.
8.Taste and season with appropriate amount of salt and pepper.
9. Garnish and serve.

Now I know this sounds a little complicated, but the method works for almost all homemade soups and stews.  I'll follow up with a homemade soup recipe using this method.  Experiment a little and see what you can do from scratch!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Best Ever Potato Soup

Here is a soup recipe that I snitched from my Mom-in-law's stash.  You know, with as many of her recipes as I post, I should declare her an official contributor.

"Mom, you're an official contributor!"

There, I feel better.  Anyway, here is her recipe for potato soup.  Just a head's up...it's actually not the most frugal of soups, but oh my, is it good.  My next couple of posts will highlight how to make soups on the major cheap, so stay tuned!

Best Ever Potato Soup

6 bacon strips, diced
2 cups cubed, peeled potatoes
1 can (14 1/2 oz) chicken broth
1 small carrot, grated
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 Tbs. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. each celery seed, salt, pepper
3 Tbs. flour
3 cups milk
8 oz cubed Velveeta
2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)

In large pan, cook bacon until crisp; drain.  Add potatoes, broth, carrots, chopped onion, parsley, celery seed, salt, and pepper.  Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes).  Combine flour and milk until smooth; add to soup.  Bring to a boil; boil and stir 2 minutes.  Add cheese; stir until cheese is melted and soup is heated through.  Garnish with green onions, if desired.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me...

As you may have guessed, yesterday was my birthday.  I am now officially ******-***!  Now normally, my birthday would have nothing whatsoever to do with cooking or frugality or soups or anything I'd usually be covering.  I have to tell you what my very smart hubby (via my very smart Mom-in-law) gave me for my birthday...an immersion blender!

Hot dog.  I am beyond excited!  What a perfect time of year to receive such a fantastic gift...just imagine how easy it will be for me to smooth out soups and sauces and gravies.  If I were a very popular blogger, I would take this opportunity to offer a free immersion blender to a lucky reader, but since I am instead a poor, modestly-followed blogger, I'll suffice with just telling you all about it.  You should get one...anything a blender can do, an immersion blender can do with less to wash.  Thanks, Andy!  You made my day!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Carol's Minestrone Soup

Posted by Susan:

This soup is so good and besides having to fry up the hamburger, the crockpot does all the work.  If it's too warm in your home, plug the crockpot in at your garage or on your porch. Yet, on a cool day, I love the smells and the warmth that a crockpot offers. It makes your family aware that love is brewing in the crockpot.

Carol's Minestrone Soup

1 1/2 pound ground beef (I use ground vension)
onion to taste (I use a whole onion, chopped)
2 cans Ranch Style Beans-undrained
2 cans Rotel (chopped tomatoes and chilies)
2 cans minestrone soup
1 can beef broth (I use the beef cubes and make my own-I make one cup but I prefer my beef broth to be strong so I added extra to it)
salt and pepper to taste

Brown beef with onion. Add everything else. Put in your crockpot on low for 4 to 6 hours. I prefer this recipe with homemade crescent rolls.♥

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Here's a submission from a reader and friend.  This one's posted by Cindy from dressesnmesses.com, who has great tips on the running of your household, as well as keeping the right spirit of loving service in your family.  Check out her blog when you're done reading the recipe!

Hey there!

This isn't my own recipe--but it is my absolute favorite soup I've ever made! It is a Rachael Ray recipe. It has alot of ingredients, and looks intimidating at first, but if you make a couple of adjustments it really is a great tasting, healthy soup. Just use a box of frozen corn instead of grilling your own, and chop up the bell peppers (calls for red, but I've used every color with the same results) raw instead of grilling those. Since I've never grilled them, then I don't know if it affects the taste--we like it the easy way. Also, I didn't have zucchini the first few times I made this so I just shredded a carrot or two. Having tried it now both ways, we don't tell much of a difference. To me, the can chipotle peppers are the key ingredient--and just a little goes a long way! I buy the little can and use only 2 or 3 peppers out of it. I divide up the leftovers in small baby food jars and freeze for the next time I make the soup. (They cost about $1.80, but I get enough out of one can for about 4 pots of soup.)

Usually I put the veggies, chicken and spices in a skillet on Saturday night, cook them through. Add the tomatoes and sauce just to heat them up, then pour it all into the crock pot with the chicken stock. The house smells amazing on Sunday morning, and we're excited to get home from church for lunch that afternoon! Feeds our family of 6 once, then I always leftovers for lunches during the week.

Anyway, enough about me...here's the recipe!

:) Cindy

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Posted by Susan:

This is the most requested soup at our church. When we have a church fellowship, one crockpot of this soup will not do...it's another crockpot soup that does the work for you!

Broccoli Cheese Soup

2 cans cream of potato soup (I make my own)
2 cans cream of celery soup
2 cans cream of broccoli soup
1 large jar cheeze whiz
1 pkg frozen broccoli
1 stick real butter
1 quart milk

Put all ingredients into a large crockpot. Cook over low heat all day.♥

Monday, September 26, 2011

Taco Beef Soup

Here is the first of our soup recipes.  There's still time to send me yours if you want to post.  Just type out your recipe and send it to me at crazycreativemag@gmail.com.

Posted by Susan:

This is an inexpensive soup to make, yet it is so filling! I love the garnishes for this soup and think it really makes it special. You can also use your choice of ground beef, venison, or turkey.  Give it a try!

Taco Beef Soup
1 pound ground beef (I use venison)
1/2 cup chopped onion (I prefer a whole onion)
1 1/2 cups water
1 can (16 oz) tomatoes (I use my canned tomatoes)
1 can (16 oz) can kidney beans (I use my canned kidney beans)
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 envelope taco seasoning mix or 1 recipe Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
shredded cheddar cheese
corn chips
sour cream

In a large saucepan, cook beef and onion until meat is browned; drain. Add water, un-drained tomatoes, un-drained beans, tomato sauce and taco mix. Simmer, covered for 15-20 mins. Put chips in bottom of bowl, ladle soup over chips and top with cheese and sour cream.♥

Friday, September 23, 2011

Okay, everyone...

I'd just like to officially let you know that we're starting a soup stretch on Monday.  I've received several yummy soups from our contributor Susan and I've got a few of my own, but I'd love to include some others.  If you have a soup you'd like to have included, feel free to email me the recipe at crazycreativemag@gmail.com.  I'll post it with your name and link, if applicable.  Thanks for your input and readership!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Baked Brown Rice


Here's an easy way to make brown rice to go along with your dinner.  It comes out of the oven with perfect individual grains instead of all mushed together.  Now that it's practically fall, you should try this out to warm up your house...or stick it in the oven along with that roast you're planning. 

Just so you know, brown rice is practically the same price as the regular, not-so-great-for-you rice, so this time eating healthier is not more expensive!

Baked Brown Rice
1 cup brown rice
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups water

Toast the rice in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Rice will brown and maybe even puff up and pop slightly like popcorn.

Pour rice into a 1 qt. casserole dish with a good lid.  Stir in the water and salt.

Bake covered at 325 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

***You can subsititute tomato sauce for all or part of the water to get a spanish rice type of dish for Mexican, if you wish.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Note on Rice...

Here's something I've learned over my years of cooking...read the package directions!  Now there's some rocket science for you!  There are some things that this matters with more than others.  One of these things is rice.

Did you know that there are many different types of rice?  There's the cheapie enriched white rice that most of us are used to using, but there's also jasmine, basmati, brown rice, short grain rice, medium grain rice, wild rice...the list is almost endless.  Here's something to keep in mind: the type of rice you have should determine the cooking method.  Short grain rice, for instance, is less than ideal for stir fry, because of the gluey texture when it's steamed like jasmine rice.  Put in a risotto, however, it's absolutely divine. 

Reserve short and medium grain rices for risottos and creamier rice dishes.  Long grain rices are best if you're eating it plain or as a side, such as burritos or stir frys.  Then there are the brown and wild rices.  They come in short and long grain as well, but the cooking times are much longer.  Instead of steaming for 18-20 minutes, they require 45-55 minutes...even longer for wild rices. Make sure you're planning for that extra time when you're cooking.

The moral of this post is know what type of rice you have, and learn to cook it properly so you can enjoy it to its fullest, then feel free to branch out and experiment with some others.  Keep in mind that nutritionally, the brown and wild rices are considered a whole grain, something we should always get more of!  Experiment and let me know how it goes!  I'll post a baked brown rice recipe tomorrow!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chocolate Pecan Pie

For those of you who don't yet know, I have a real weakness for pecans.  It's one of the reasons I love Thanksgiving, actually.  Most people look forward to the pumpkin pie, but for me it's pecan pie that makes my heart beat a little faster.  Combined with some chocolate, it's the stuff of dreams!  <<sigh>>

Here is another recipe from Susan that sounds absolutely amazing.  Minus the crust, it almost sounds like a Derby Pie, for those of you who are from this neck of the woods.  Hope you enjoy!

Chocolate Pecan Pie

 1/2 (15 oz) pkg refrigerated piecrusts
4 eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
6 TBSP butter or margarine (melted)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 TBSP vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup (6oz) semisweet chocolate chips
hot fudge topping (warmed)
frozen whipped topping
chopped chocolate

Fit pie crust into a 9 in deep pie plate according to pkg directions. Fold edges under and crimp. Whisk together egss and next 5 ingredients until mixture is smooth; stir in pecans and chocolate chips. Pour into piecrust. Bake on lowest oven rack at 350 degrees for one hour or until set. Drizzle each serving with hot fudge topping, dollop with whipped topping and sprinkle with chopped chocoalte. Serves 8.......♥

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cheese Fries

Here is the first of the recipes I grabbed from Susan.  I'm going to try these soon...my hubby and I adore stuff like this!  They never seem as fresh as they should when you order them from a restaurant, though...I bet these will really hit the spot!  Just a head's up...Aldi's sells frozen fries for $1.89 around here, so this doesn't have to be a $10 splurge thing!

Cheese Fries (reminds me of Tucson)

32 oz pkg frozen french fries
1 TBSP chili powder
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup crispy cooked and crumbled bacon (about 7 slices)
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese 
ranch dressing

Bake fries according to pkg directions for crisper fries. Place baked fries in a broiler pan and sprinkle with chili powder, green onions, bacon, and shredded cheese. Broil for about 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with Ranch dressing. Serves 8.♥

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Welcome to Susan!

I'd like to say a big welcome to our new contributor, Susan!

I've known her for many years, and she's a pro at cooking delicious, nutritious food for a budget.  In fact, she says she feeds her family of seven for $250 per month.  Wow!  That's pretty amazing...

Some things she does to economize?  They eat a lot of deer meat, she grows and cans her own vegetables, and makes use of their three apple trees.  I know not everyone has the space or ability to save in this way, but she's got great recipes and tips that just about anyone could learn to save with.  In fact, right now she is already putting aside $5-$10 worth of food a week for the upcoming holiday season, so it's not such a big hit all at once.  I never would have planned that far ahead, but what a great idea!

I'll be posting some of her recipes and tips for her via email and facebook, since she does all her typing via phone.  The first will be on Friday, so tune in again!

Some other features that we've got coming up in the next few weeks...

Apple recipes
Pumpkin recipes

These are all great money savers that just scream fall!  Get your recipes ready, and if you think you've got a keeper for the upcoming categories, email them to me at  crazycreativemag@gmail.com.  I'd love to have some more reader input!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Products I Love

Here is a random list of things that I personally consider worth the money.  We're generally very un-picky when it comes to products, but there are a few things that are just the best...

Honey Maid Graham Crackers
GM Cheerios
Ritz crackers

What are your favorites?  Get out your list and let us know!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Fudge

I want to start this post out by saying, "I'm so sorry, Christine, but I'm going to swipe the recipe you gave me and post it before you have a chance to do so yourself."  There...I feel a little better.

Our church had a bake sale recently to raise money for devotional books for the children.  It was really way too hot to turn the oven on, so I whipped up a batch of this amazing fudge, cut it into squares, wrapped them in wax paper packages, and decorated it with a pretty little ribbon.  They were sold out before I even had a chance to make it to the church door (that always makes you feel good!).

Here is my slightly adapted recipe, which I got from our contributor Christine, who got it from Alton Brown.  Try it out...it's amazingly easy and super delicious.

Peanut Butter Fudge

1 cup butter or regular stick margarine
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 to 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Microwave butter and peanut butter 2 minutes.  Stir and microwave 2 minutes more.  Add vanilla and sugar.  Stir to combine.  Pour into a buttered 8 x 8" pan lined with waxed paper.  Place a second piece over top and smooth it out.  Refrigerate until firm.  Store up to 1 week.

slightly adapted from Alton Brown

Friday, September 9, 2011

Homemade Lunchables

I have thought about posting something like this before, but never quite got around to it.  To my surprise, I'm not the only clever Mom who thought of this!  My friend, Cindy, had this post on her new blog (which, by the way, is full of great tips and Mommy motivators), and her post included neat-o pictures, which we all know I'm too lazy to include at this point in my blogging career.

Try this link out if you want to try out your own: Cindy's Homemade Lunchables.

Let me know if you have any other clever variations...the options are limitless!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Another Cheap Protein...But Will It Work For Us?

I was browsing around Trader Joe's the other day when I saw something that shocked me.  I found a cheap protein I had never thought about before.  They had all manner of Tofu for $1.50 per package, which is supposed to be the equivalent of 5 servings of protein.  The price at Meijer was a little higher at $2.00.  I had always assumed that those kinds of  'healthy' foods would be completely out of my budget so I have never even thought about using them, but $2 or less for a full meal's worth of protein? Hmmm...

So, I've been trying to decide if I'm daring enough to attempt using some.  First of all, I know nothing about actually cooking tofu. I do know that it's used a lot in Asian cuisine (a field I'm still trying to get the hang of).  I've seem some chefs use it marinated in teriyaki, then grilling it like a piece of fish or something, but I don't think that will work for us...I'll have to find a way to hide it somehow or a certain vegetable-suspicious member of my family won't touch it.  I'm thinking of dicing some firm tofu up and pitching it into a stir-fry instead of some meat.

Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas?  It's so good for you and it's actually very affordable...I think I'll give it a whirl.  If I figure out a good use for it, I will by all means post a follow-up.  Here's to being daring!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Build Your Burrito Recipe Links...

I've realized that it would be helpful to have ready access to all the parts and recipes for burrito night.  Here is a list of what we love to have on hand for a really good deluxe burrito.  Don't be intimidated by the many parts...feel free to use what you want and leave out what doesn't work for you.

Burrito Night!

Heated Tortillas
Cilantro Rice or Easy Spanish Rice
Seasoned Pinto Beans or Black Beans
Chicken or steak seasoned with Grilled Mexican Chicken Rub
Jar salsa or Pico de Gallo
Sour Cream
Sauteed onions and green or red peppers (this is worth the effort...it really makes it special)
Shredded lettuce
Cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Monday, September 5, 2011

Grilled Mexican Chicken Rub

Okay, this recipe is what I use when I'm looking to make a more special burrito.  I used to do this pasty, dried ancho chile recipe to marinade the chicken until I improvised one day with some of my typical pantry spices.  In a burrito, no one could tell the difference!  I vowed then and there to forgo the more expensive dried chiles and their night-before preparation in favor of easy and cheap.  This would also work great on steak for burritos. 

Grilled Mexican Chicken Rub

1 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
pinch of black pepper

Mix the spices together and rub onto boneless skinless chicken breast (or steak).  Refrigerate a few hours if you can.  Immediately before grilling, add a sprinkle of salt to the meat.  Grill, then let rest a few minutes before cubing the meat for your burritos.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Seasoned Pinto Beans

I've had a few requests for this recipe to be posted in particular, because it's a great substitute for refried beans.  You could go to the work of actually frying the cooked beans to make them more like what you get for regular refried beans, but I've found that my family loves the taste and texture of the beans more if I just cook them down a little bit longer and mash the beans up with a little of the cooking liquid.  These can be used in burritos, nachos, taco salads, or just as pintos and rice.  Sometimes I use leftover beans in Monterey Bean Skillet or in Turkey Chili.  Get creative...if there are too many leftovers for your smaller family, freeze the beans and a little liquid in freezer bags to make up some quickie burritos another time.  That's about as complex as my own freezer cooking goes!

Seasoned Pinto Beans

1 lb. pinto beans, soaked according to package directions
7 cups water
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed, OR 1/2 - 1 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbs. chili powder
1 Tbs. each salt, cumin, oregano

Simmer all ingredients in a large pot 5 hours.  Uncover and cook 1/2 hour to desired thickness... OR put it in your crockpot high for 5-6 hours, low 8-9 hours.  (Don't forget, each slow cooker cooks differently, so adjust if necessary.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cilantro Rice

Okay, for those of you who are in favor of that loveable restaurant, Chipotle, this will seem a little familiar.  It is my knock-off of their rice.  Adding in the lime really brightens up a burrito.  You might actually notice that the rice has a flavor, instead of ignoring it as plain filler.  Here we go.  Of course, adjust the amounts to be practical for your family, and if you can afford a nicer rice, like basmati, that would be fabulous.  You could also sub in the healthier brown rice here if you increase the cook time to 45 minutes or so.

Cilantro Rice

1 cup long-grain rice
2 cups water
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste

Over high heat, add to a pan the rice and half of the lime juice.  Saute lightly for a minute or two.  Add in the water and bring to a boil.  Put a lid on and reduce the heat to low.  Steam for 18-20 minutes.  Remove from heat for about 5 minutes, keeping the lid on.  Fluff the rice with a fork.  Add salt to taste, cilantro, and additional lime juice to taste. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Feasting, 'Mexican' style

I've had a few requests for this meal that I sometimes make.  It's easy, but has lots of parts.  Here is the total synopsis, and I'll be posting the recipes over the next few days.  These are basically burritos with whatever you'd like to put in them.  Here is what we put in ours:

large tortillas
cilantro rice (recipe to follow later this week)
seasoned pinto beans (recipe to follow later this week)
seasoned grilled chicken (recipe to follow)
Pico de gallo
cheddar or Mexican mix cheese
additional store-bought salsa

Sometimes instead of the cilantro rice, we'll make up some of this Easy Spanish Rice.  It sounds like a lot, I know, but is a very cheap, but very tasty feast.  Keep tuned in for the follow up recipes!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cheapskate Review...liquid fabric softener

I found myself in a bit of a predicament yesterday morning.  I ran out of liquid fabric softener, and had no car to hop up and get more.  Now, as a general rule, I dispense with the liquid softener and just go for a sheet in the dryer, but this time of year is clothes line time for us.  You can save a good bit of cash by hang-drying your clothes instead of using your dryer, especially when you're already running the AC.  One year (when I only had two children's worth of laundry), I tracked the savings.  Depending on the weather...we saved anywhere between $35-$50 per month on energy alone.  That, for us, is a budgetable savings.  However, when you hang dry your clothes, it is a good idea to use a liquid fabric softener so your towels don't stiffen like boards.

I googled some recipes for homemade liquid fabric softeners just out of curiosity, and discovered that I had what it takes to make up a partial batch.  I made 1/4 of the recipe, and it was enough for 1/2 of the empty Gain bottle.

Now, here's what we thought about the fabric softener.  It was easy to make.  Easier, in fact than homemade laundry detergent.  I had everything here, so there was really no initial expense...also a plus.  It worked somewhat well, suprisingly.  It isn't as good as Downy or Snuggle or Gain, my preferred clothesline brands, and really had no scent at all.  But, it definitely worked as well as one of the generics.  I will definitely try this again when I can't find a good deal on the good stuff...it certainly worked well enough for us to get by on.  There is another online recipe that uses only vinegar and baking soda which I may try out, and if I do, I'll review it for you.  Here's the recipe that I got from eHow.com:

Liquid Fabric Softener

2 cups hair conditioner, any brand
3 cups vinegar
6 cups water

Mix together thoroughly and store in an airtight container.  Use the same amount you would use with your normal fabric softener.

****Note: My 1/4 recipe was 1/2 cup conditioner, 3/4 cup vinegar, and 1 1/2 cup water.  According to the usage from my previous bottle it is enough for 33 loads of laundry.  Also, the mixture will separate over time, so it was really nice to have the old bottle to shake it around in before using.

Let me know if anyone else tries it out!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Note for Dishwashers

Did you know that most dishwashers are made to run using a rinse aid?  Well, you probably did, but I just figured this out within the last year.  So when my glasses started majorly clouding up, I was shocked into the reality of rinse aid costs.  Do you know how much money you fork over for that stuff?  Eeek!

An inexpensive way to get the same results of a rinse aid is to use vinegar instead.  Yes, yes, I know, I've already disavowed using vinegar as a cleaning product, but here it's really helpful.  It really won't make your dishes smell, I promise, and it also has the added benefit of de-scumming your dishwasher during the rinse.  Try it out before you buy more jet dry.

And for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, go to your dishwasher.  Open the door and look for another place to put liquid other than your soap dispenser, labeled 'rinse aid'.  How did they get this by me for so many years?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Homemade Meat Sauce

If you ever have the time, it doesn't take much expense to make a lovely homemade meat sauce from scratch.  Note:  This recipe is a bulk recipe!    I often will make a really big batch like this, then freeze what we don't use that night in ziploc bags for the next spaghetti night.  This bulk recipe makes enough sauce for about 3 lb. of spaghetti or other pasta.  We buy the huge can of crushed tomatoes from Sam's Club, but I've seen them at regular grocery stores in the bulk canned aisle.

 This sauce is very hearty, and really makes spaghetti seem special.  Who doesn't love a sauce that's not from a can?

Homemade Meat Sauce

1 lb. Italian Sausage, casings removed if you buy the actual sausages
3/4 large red or orange pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 bulk can crushed tomatoes (6 lb. 6 oz...we buy Angela Mia brand)
1/8 cup sugar
1 Tbs. salt
3/4 T. garlic powder
Pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried parsley, or 2 Tbs. fresh parsley
1 tsp. basil or 2 Tbs. fresh basil

Over medium high heat, in a stock pot or other large pot, cook the sausage with the pepper and onion.  When the meat is browned through and the vegetables are tender, add in the crushed tomatoes.  Add in the seasonings and mix thoroughly.  Careful with the salt...when it reduces some, it will taste saltier than it does at first.  Boil briefly for a minute or two, then cover and reduce heat.  Simmer until the sauce thickens and the flavors mellow together...at least an hour, more if you can.  Serve over pasta with fresh grated Parmesan.  Freeze leftover sauce.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pork Loin: A Healthy Eat

I don't know if you know, but there is a lean healthy meat that's practical for cooking every day other than boneless, skinless chicken breast.  It's Pork Loin.  You can buy it in a roast or cut up as pork chops, thick or thin, which cook up really fast.  In fact, we just had some last night.  It's seriously a ten minute meal start to finish.

photo via www. public-domain-photos.com

Here in Cincinnati, aka 'Porkopolis', we have ready access to pork loin.  I know it's not that way everywhere, but it's definitely worth looking into.  One pork loin chop has more than half an adult male's daily requirement for protein, while still maintaining low fat.  In fact, nutritionist Ellie Krieger regularly subs pork loin chops in for chicken breast to mix things up a little.  They are also very high in zinc (good for immunity) and the B vitamins (good for metabolism and nervous system function, among other things).  All around, considering its normally reasonable price, it's well worth learning to cook it well!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Church Windows

I don't know about you, but this recipe brings back memories from childhood.  My Mom used to make these every now and then, and I remember being in awe at how beautiful they were.  They're also easy and cheap...my Mom is smart!

Try these out if you need a fast chocolate fix.  They also freeze well, so stash one in the freezer for unexpected entertaining, or, like I said, a fast chocolate fix.

Church Windows

1/2 cup butter or margarine
12 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 large bag colored marshmallows
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped, optional

Melt butter and chocolate chips tegether, stirring constantly.  When melted, add marshmallows and nuts.  Shape into logs and wrap in wax paper to chill or freeze.  Slice to serve.  If desired, you can keep it as one large roll.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Baked Garden Rotini

Okay, I know that's a pretty lame title, and it doesn't sound very exciting, but trust me...this pasta bake is really yummy.  Just a head's up, it's also really hearty, so make it when your family is super hungry.  The cheapie green-can Parmesan is best in this, so feel free to pinch the pennies here.

Baked Garden Rotini

1 lb. garden rotini, cooked
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup heavy cream or 1 can evaporated milk
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
15 oz.  Spaghetti sauce (I use half one of those big Hunts cans, and save the rest for pizza sauce)
6 to 8 oz. mozzarella cheese

Cook and drain the pasta.  Melt margarine with the cream over medium heat.  Add the garlic powder and heat until just boiling.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add in the pepper to taste, Parmesan, and Spaghetti sauce.  Mix with the pasta and spread into a 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Top with the mozzarella.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

At Last!

The happy day has finally arrived for me to slice into the first of my Beefsteak tomatoes.  There is nothing like the feeling of harvesting your own home-grown juicy tomato!  The only problem I have now is how to use it.  Beefsteaks are notoriously large, so there are a lot of possibilities.

Should I make some fresh pico de gallo?  A tomato-basil salad with fresh ricotta?  Chop it in a salad?  No...for this first one, I think we'll just slice it and eat it as is...home grown is yummy enough without any adornments!

photo courtesy USDA images

Monday, August 15, 2011

Donut Muffins

This is a great muffin to make when you don't have anything special in your pantry.  It has a similar taste to a white cake donut only not oily...very yummy.  I've reposted this recipe from here: Hillbilly Housewife.  Just an FYI, it's a great resource if you really have to cheapify your budget, but the recipes can be very time-consuming.  If you ever want a good starting place on how to start making things from scratch, though, it's a great site to visit.  On to the recipe...

Donut Muffins

1/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup. melted butter or margarine

Mash together the shortening and sugar.  Add the egg and whisk until smooth.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Pour in milk and whisk until smooth.  Fill 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups 1/2 to 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

For the topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon.  When the muffins have cooled some, dip in the melted margarine, then the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Repurposing...salad dressing

I had the most amazing sandwich for lunch yesterday.  I had heated, leftover corned beef, sliced with smoked provolone on rye bread.  I added German mustard and a small slathering of Hidden Valley Ranch Hickory Bacon and onion salad dressing.  Salad dressing?  Yes! And it was the perfect touch.

To be perfectly honest, I bought that salad dressing pretty cheaply (I think for 50 or 75 cents).  I was excited by the brand name and the deal, then I tried it.  On salad and veggies, it was way too potent...it almost brought tears to my eyes!  Not even the kids liked it, and they're pretty flexible. 

Sometimes a product will just not work out the way you hope.  When that happens, it's time to get creative, so you don't completely waste the money.  Try using it for something else.  The Hickory bacon salad dressing is fantastic in a savory sandwich or wrap.  I've  also had some Asian Ginger salad dressing that had way too much kick for salad, but it makes a fantastic marinade for chicken or seasoning in fried rice.  Mix it up a little and try to repurpose!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Whipping cream is one of those lovely items to happen upon in your refrigerator.  You can use it in almost any way, but here's one that's really handy for dressing up desserts.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

If you think ahead enough, it pays to put your beaters or mixing bowl in the freezer for a little bit before beginning.  If not, it'll just take a little longer.  Pour cream into mixing bowl.  Begin beating with electric beaters or, if you're lucky like me, your KitchenAid.  Gradually add in sugar and cinnamon.  Beat until soft peaks form.  It'll take a few minutes at top speed, but be sure to watch carefully.  If you overbeat, you'll have cinnamon-sugar flavored butter!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blueberry Peach Crisp

As you can tell, there is still a supply of frozen peaches in my freezer.  I had thought about making peach pie, but wimped out when I thought of all the work of the crust.  Here was the happy alternative.  It was very yummy and summery, and most of all, easy.  Make sure you partially defrost and drain any frozen fruit you use.

Blueberry Peach Crisp

2 1/2 cups sliced peaches
2 cups blueberries
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking or old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup butter or stick margarine, softened
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Cinnamon whipped cream (recipe to follow tomorrow!)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease the bottom and sides of a square pan with shortening.  Spread peaches and blueberries in the bottom of the pan and stir together to mix.  Mix remaining ingredients except cream; sprinkle over fruit.

Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and fruit is tender.  Serve with whipped cream.

adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pasta Pointers

I was browsing through a magazine my wonderful Mom-in-law gave me this morning, and found something really helpful.  Here are a few tips on dealing with pasta.  Pasta, homemade or boxed, is one of the all-time great cheap eats, of course, but I've found that how you cook it makes an enormous difference.  Here's the snippet I pulled out of Every Day With Rachel Ray.

"Pasta Myths--Debunked!

Breaking long pasta into shorter pieces makes it easier to eat. 
     If spaghetti were better short, it would have been made that way!  Plus, broken strands are hard to  eat  since they're not long enough to twirl onto a fork.

Add olive oil to the cooking water to keep the pasta from sticking.
     Pasta shouldn't stick when properly cooked.  If it's cooked with olive oil, it will actually coat the noodles and prevent sauce from sticking.

Throw the pasta against the wall--if it sticks, it's done.
     The only way to know if it's done is to taste it!  It should be al dente, or firm to the bite.  The more pasta cooks, the gummier it gets, so if it sticks to the wall it's probably overdone.

Rinse pasta after cooking and draining.
     This will make the pasta cold and rinse away the starch that helps bind the sauce to it.

It's all about the sauce.
     Italians will tell you it's pasta with sauce--not sauce with pasta!  Too much sauce buries the flavor of the pasta and overwhelms it."

taken from Every Day with Rachel Ray, October 2009, page 92.

Hope that's helpful!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Sweet potatoes are not really one of my favorite foods, but they are so so so good for you, I've been trying to find ways to use them.  Then I went to the store and found a 3 pound bag of sweet potatoes for a dollar.  It was all the extra motivation I needed to give it a shot.  At my wonderful in-law's house we had sweet potato fries, which I really liked, so here is my cheapie version that is actually really wonderful!

Sweet Potato Oven Fries

sweet potatoes (about one per serving needed)
canola oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into french fry shape.  (We cut in half horizontally, then half  each piece horizontally again, then cut into strips...it's about the size of regular fries.)  Put fries in a bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Drizzle enough oil to just coat and toss the fries thoroughly.

Put a metal cooling rack on a cookie sheet.  Spread the fries on the cooling rack in a single layer.  Bake for around 20 minutes.  Oven temperatures vary, so check after fifteen minutes, then every five minutes until you get the desired crispness.  You could add a little nutmeg or cinnamon with the seasoning, if desired.  We kind of like them a little better with more of a savory take.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rosemary Pork Chops

Pork chops are one of those things that can be sublime or completely tasteless and leathery.  The trick to making them wonderful is less with the seasoning than the cooking method.  We had these pork chops along with the veggie kabobs posted yesterday.  They were the perfect match!

Rosemary Pork Chops

pork loin chops, thick cut (If you get the thin cut, reduce the cooking time and watch them carefully)
rosemary, dried or fresh, roughly chopped
Vidalia onions, optional
butter or margarine, optional

Rub the pork chops with rosemary, salt, and pepper, and leave them on the counter while you begin the other steps.  It's a good thing for the meat to not be ice cold when you slap it on the grill.  If you're into the carmelized onion thing, start this up.  Slice your onion into strips.  Melt about 1/4 cup butter in a non-stick pan.  Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Season them with salt and pepper, and if they aren't tasting sweet by the time they are getting tender and golden, add a pinch of sugar to help with the carmelization process.  Cook until the onion are browning around the edges and tender through. 

Meanwhile, preheat your grill to 325 degrees.  You can also use a griddle, if desired.   When the grill is up to temperature, rub a little oil on to prevent sticking.  Begin the pork chops by holding the fat on the side directly on the heat for a moment, until it begins to brown a little, then cook the pork chops three minutes per side.   You may need to brown along the edges if your chops are very thick, but be careful not to over cook them.  Also, don't turn them until the three minutes are up.  Remove the chops to a plate, cover with foil, and let them rest for 5 minutes before cutting into them.

Serve them with carmelized onions on top and some additional rosemary sprinkled on top, if desired.  Enjoy the juicy wonderfulness!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Veggie Kabobs

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law have been to visit this week!  It was awfully fun to see the kids play together and to hold their new sweet little one, Elise.  While they were here, I made Kathi cook some veggies, and she had a great way to cook some of my plentiful zucchini and summer squash.  Here's what she did...

Cut these into rough cubes:

summer squash
red onion

Put them on skewers and season them with:

garlic powder

Drizzle with oil.

Then pop them on the grill until they're done!  They were absolutely delicious.   We were using an indoor grill and the temperature wasn't quite high enough, so she finished them in the broiler.  I suppose you could pop them in the broiler to begin with if you don't mind the heat.  Using the kebabs sure amps up the visual appeal, too.  I think some grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes on, too would have been divine!  I'll try it again soon.  Thanks, Kathi!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Confessions of a blogging Coffee-holic

It's Christine here from thegoodthepureandthelovely.blogspot.com and I have a confession for you.  I am a coffee-holic.  I started my love affair with coffee in late high school.  We were in an on-and-off again relationship for over a decade.  The great dedication of true love did not come until my third pregnancy.  Yes, I started drinking coffee on a regular basis while I was pregnant.  Something changed.  Some might call it exhaustion.  With my first two babies, I swore off all caffeine, except for the "occasional" chocolate treat.  This time around was different.  I needed backup.  It came in the form of one cup of coffee a day.

One cup led to two, which led to three . . . you know how it goes with addiction.  I have since (the exhaustion has subsided now that "the baby" is one) cut back to two small cups of 1/2 calf coffee a day.  The thing that prevails through my coffee drinking is that I like it sweet.  I also like it tan.  By tan, I mean that I drink a little coffee with my milk. 

I do think that I would really like those fancy coffee drinks sold all over town.  The thing is, I can't fathom paying for them.  I also know that if I started with them, I'd have a really tough time stopping.  Instead, I make my own "specialty" coffee.  If you are interested in cutting back on expensive coffee specialty drinks, you can try this at home.

Brew coffee at home at your own favorite strength.  Meanwhile, put sugar or other sweetener (I use liquid stevia), one flavoring (imitation vanilla and almond extract are my favorites) and milk in the bottom of your mug.  Then pour your steaming coffee over them.  Mix.  Smell.  Savor.  Enjoy.

I know these may not stack up to the expensive offerings of shops all over town, but I'm too cheap to find out.  If you crave an iced coffee, mix it, store it in the fridge and pour over ice later.  The options are endless.  I even mixed in some hot cocoa mix once for an extra special treat.  Try it, and see if it will satisfy your coffee craving, too.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Breakfast Ideas!

I had posted some general grocery planning tips earlier with the promise of a follow up.  I suddenly realized that I never did follow up, so here goes...

When planning out my week's worth of grocery items, I usually go whole-hog with the dinner planning.  I plan the entree, any sides, and any dessert for the whole week.  Lunch and breakfast are a little more nebulous.  For this post I'll cover some of the normal breakfast items I always have on hand.  There are so many options to choose from, so don't feel like you have to have the same thing every day.  Shop the sales, eat what you have, and switch it up according to your tastes.

We generally keep the more extravagant breakfasts to eat as a dinner...we love breakfasts for dinner.  Here are some of our normal breakfasts that we actually eat at breafast time.

cereal (I never pay more than $1.50 per box)
pop tarts (only for hubby who has to eat on the go)
yogurt and bananas
apples and peanut butter
cream of wheat
scrambled eggs and fruit
fried eggs and fruit
cheese omelet and tomato slices
breakfast burritos
muffins...all kinds
french toast
english muffins with melted cheese or peanut butter
hard boiled eggs, toast, fruit
cold pizza! (this one's just for me! no one else in my family is weird enough for that)

I always try to add in a serving of fruit in the mornings, as well as some milk or other dairy.  Most of these options take little to no time to whip up, but alter any combinations to fit your family.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Barbecue Pork Shoulder Roast

As I've been looking through the recipes I've posted, I've realized that there aren't many meats on yet.  Granted, it's a pretty rare thing for us to have a really meat-heavy meal, but I do try to do a 'meat and potatoes' type of dinner at least once a week.  Here's what we're having tonight.  It's a crockpot recipe of my own, so it's a nice pick for these steamy summer days.

Barbecue Pork Shoulder Roast

2 to 4 lb. pork shoulder roast
1 can tomato soup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. parsley
1 Tbs. chili powder
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp. celery salt
1 tsp. garlic powder

Place roast in the crockpot on high.  Mix the remaining ingredients together.  Pour over the roast.  Cook on high 1 hour, then low 8 hours.  I like to flip the roast halfway through, but it's not necessary.  Shred any leftovers in the sauce for a pretty yummy pulled pork sandwich.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cucmber Snacks

Hey, it's Christine again from thegoodthepureandthelovley.blogspot.com.  I have a burning question for you . . . Do you long for salty snacks?  At the same time, do you wish that you ate healthier?   I have the perfect solution for you , and it won't cost you much either.

You Need

Yep, that's it.  Peel and slice your cucumbers.  Place in a bowl and cover with cold water.  Salt generously.  I don't have a measurement.  I just threw in a few teaspoons until the water tasted salty.  Refrigerate until the craving for salty strikes.  Pull out those bad boys, and eat up. 

I love these, and they are a fantastic snack.  I grew up with my mom making these for snack and lunch often.   If you like the vinegar taste, you can exchange it for the salt.  These are a healthy substitute for chips and way more refreshing.  They are in season now, so they are quite reasonably priced.  If you happen to grow them in your garden, or have a gardening girl or guy for a friend, they are free for the picking!  Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Zucchini Bread

Here is another of my Mom-in-law's awesome recipes.  It is really tasty, and it's a great way to use up zucchini and summer squash if you happen to have productive plants going crazy.  This makes two loaves, so give one away or freeze it for later. 

I'm posting this today for my friend Cindy, who is also a great cook.  A recipe request from her is a great compliment!

Zucchini Bread

2 cups zucchini, shredded
1 cup oil
3 eggs
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup nuts, optional
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla

Mix together well.  Grease 2 loaf pans.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Frugal French Toast

Hey, it's Christine from thegoodthepureandthelovley.blogspot.com here.  I'm sitting here contemplating one of my favorite breakfasts.  I'm a sucker for a sweet breakfast, and this one has won it's way into my heart in part because it is dirt cheap.  The fact that it tastes great helps, too! 

The reason that it is dirt cheap is because I make it on Wednesday.  Why Wednesday?  Because I shop for the bread on Tuesday, of course.   You're still wondering?  Well, last week's bread is marked down on managers' special on Tuesday at my local store.  I just stop by, pick up a few cheap loaves and make Frugal French Toast the next day.  Here's how to go about it.

You Need
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
a sprinkle of cinnamon
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
margarine, or cooking oil to coat pan
Nonstick skillet or griddle
5 or 6 slices (old) bread

Butter, Powdered Sugar, and Syrup (optional, but really, why the fuss if you're not going all out?)

Beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and granulated sugar.  Dip bread into egg mixture, coating both sides.  Place in a hot skillet or on a heated griddle.  (I set my griddle to about 325 degrees.)  Heat for 2 or 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. 

Serve with a pat of butter or margarine, a spinkle of powdered sugar and a drizzle of syrup.  My kids go crazy for this breakfast.  The pretty show of sugar and syrup lets me trick their cute little minds (and mine) into thinking there is more sugar and syrup than there actually is on those slices.

If you love fast freezer meals like I do, cook more than you'll use.  I cook a whole loaf at a time.  Then I place enough pieces for a meal in a one plastic bag.  When the kids want French toast, I pull out the bag and microwave for 15-30 seconds to loosen the pieces.  Then I put the individual pieces in the toaster and toast until they are hot and crispy.  They taste just as good as the first time around!

Have a lovely day!
~ Christine

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coconut Lemon Layer Bars

We just returned from my mother-in-law's house, where there are always all sorts of delectable treats.  Here's one that we made together to try out her new microplane grater, which is, by the way a really cool gadget.  This is a light and yummy summer treat...perfect for the sweltering heat here in the middle US.

Coconut Lemon Layer Bars

2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
6 Tbs. butter, melted
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 Tbs. grated lemon peel, can add a little more if using fresh
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1 egg
6 oz. white chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened flake coconut
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place vanilla wafer crumbs and butter in a medium bowl.  stir until combined.  Press mixture into a 9 x 13 pan.

Beat cream cheese, lemon peel, lemon juice, and egg until smooth.  Spread evenly over the crumb mixture.

Layer with chips, coconut, and nuts.  Press down firmly.

Bake 25-30 minutes until lightly brown.

Refrigerate and serve cool.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Note for Allergy Victims...

I got some new contact lenses at Sam's Club the other day and needed to wait a few minutes before I made the traffic world face my post-exam driving.  So, I did what every other normal cheapskate would do...walk around randomly pricing things.  I meandered into the cold/allergy medication aisle, and was astonished to find a fantastic deal on Adult 24 hour Zyrtec.  This was for the Member's Mark generic, which works great in children's syrup at least.  (I happen to know, because I just bought 8 oz of children's 24 hour allergy syrup there for around $5 the previous week for my two sneezy princesses.)  There were 350 full strength 24 hour tablets for under $18.  That's nearly a year's supply at the cost of about a month's supply of name brand Zyrtec at a regular store!  It really pays to shop around.  Any comments on the effectiveness of this med?

Oh, also...sometimes Sam's Club will have great deals like that for a while, then they will mysteriously disappear for eternity.  Check your club out and hopefully it'll hold true for you.