Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easy Spanish Rice

Here is a super simple Spanish Rice recipe.  It, of course isn't truly Spanish rice, because of the cooking method.  It does save a step, though, and who doesn't want a little extra time in their day?

We use this with black beans for a meal, in burritos, or sometimes just by itself with a little cheese for lunch.

Simple Spanish Rice
1 Tbs. oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, diced (or 1/2 cup frozen diced green pepper)
1 cup white rice (could use brown, but you'll have to cook it longer)
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. each oregano, cumin, garlic powder
1 cup tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes (8 oz)
2 cups water

Heat the oil.  Saute onion and pepper 1 minute.  Add rice and saute until slightly opaque.  Add in seasonings, sauce, and water.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cover.  Simmer 20 minutes.  Take off heat and leave it alone for 2-3 minutes.  Stir and serve.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Black Beans

I'd like to feature a few recipes on one of those super cheap, super healthy ingredients, black beans.  I always buy my black beans dried, by the one or two pound bag.  You can soak and cook these with very little effort, and it will make a ton of usable protein.  Use some, then freeze the rest into meal size portions.

A few meal ideas for black beans?  Black beans and rice, burritos, black bean salad, black bean dip, nachos, soup, enchiladas...the possibilities are endless!  I also routinely replace black beans for the ground beef in any type of Mexican-ish casserole.  Think through your favorites, and try to sub in these nutritional super-heroes.  You'll save $ and calories.

Seasoned Black Beans
1 lb. dried black beans
2-3 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. crushed bay leaf or 2 bay leaves
2 tsp. garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tsp. cumin

Wash and sort your black beans in the evening.  Look for any stones or dirt chunks disguising themselves as beans.  Throw the beans in your crockpot and cover with water.  The water should come 2-3" above the beans.  Let it soak overnight without turning the crockpot on.  In the morning, turn the crockpot on to low.  I always prefer to season the beans at this point, adding all other ingredients.  You can also cook them up plainly and season them to taste after they are cooked.  Cook on low 10-12 hours, or high 4 hours, low 4 hours.   These can also be cooked on the stove to package directions. 

One bag makes plenty of beans for multiple meals.  First one to beans and rice.  Cook up some white rice, brown rice, or Spanish rice to serve the beans on.  Add cheddar or Mexican cheese, a little salsa or homemade pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole.  Served with a salad this is a fresh, low salt, low calorie, healthy, cheap meal.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cocoa Crinkles

Part of my plan for blogging is actually remembering to give out recipes.  I figure it's easier to post it and make my friends do most of the work!  This one's for you, Nicole!

Cocoa Crinkles
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
3/4 cup cocoa powder
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I always use unbleached)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar

Stir together sugar and oil in a large bowl; add cocoa, blending well.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; add to cocoa mixture, blending well.  Cover; refrigerate at least 6 hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 2 large cookie sheets.

Shape dough into 1" balls; roll in powdered sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.  Bake 12-14 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched.  Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.  Cool completely.

Adapted from Hershey's Classic Recipes

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On Buying Bulk

Here are a few thoughts I've had on buying things in bulk.  I know a lot of "cheapies" are really into buying things in bulk, and that can save quite a bit.  However, I've found that not everything comes cheaper in bulk, particularly if you are a couponer.  With some things, you actually are better off buying three separate packages...or, if you have a son who eats like ours, seven or eight packages.

Here is a list of food items that are worth buying in bulk in our area:

Cheese (we buy it 5# at a time at Sam's Club or GFS)
Tomato Sauce/ Crushed Tomatoes (great for all things pasta sauce, pizza sauce, Mexican)
Dried Beans (great prices at Aldi)
Brown Sugar
Powdered Sugar
Vanilla Extract
Meats (every grocery store has a cheaper family pack price, use a little, freeze the rest)
Citrus Fruits, especially oranges and grapefruit
Canned long as you don't mind eating it steadily for a week or so, the huge cans are a great deal
Heavy Cream...if you've a mind to really amp up your calories!
Block Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese
Yogurt...flavors are more limited, but you really save when you don't buy individual cups

Many of these items are staples for us that we try to keep around all the time.  We plan many meals around them, to optimize our savings.  I'll try to highlight some of these ingredients in the upcoming recipes I post.  Stay with me, Followers!  I'll eventually get a lot of information on the blog!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Corned Beef

Yes, yes, I know.  This isn't for everyone.  Corned beef is extremely polarizing, unless of course, you happen to be Irish, then it's your duty to like it.  It is, however, at the heart of that loveable sandwich, the Reuben, which I've been known to go for when my husband isn't around to smell my sauerkraut breath.

I usually hold off on the cabbage and cook it separately.  It gets pretty soggy in with the meat.  I'll post my cabbage cooking method at another time when I'm feeling especially Polish.  Here's how to make corned beef and potatoes, in honor of my Dad, who just showed up with a cooler of it last month...he lives where it goes on sale for $1.49/lb all the time!

Corned Beef
1 corned beef brisket, 3 1/2 pounds, trimmed and rinsed
6-8 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 large carrots, peeled and halved
1 onion, sliced thickly

Put the corned beef in a slow cooker, fat side up.  Top with the vegetables, and add just enough water to cover everything.  Sprinkle with the included seasoning packet.

Cover and cook until fork tender.  For me it's about 4 hours on high, then 4 hours on low.  If you'll be out, go for about 12 hours on low.  Slice thinly against the grain.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Baked Shells and Cheese

Here is the first of what I hope is many recipes.  This is a family favorite that my daughter, Cara requested as her birthday meal for her fifth birthday.  <<Sigh, they grow up too fast!>> 

Now, I know most people use mac and cheese as a side dish, but this is strong enough to stand on its own.  In fact, it's almost too rich to want with meat.  Add this to your meatless meal stash...its fantastic.

Baked Shells and Cheese
1 lb. medium shells pasta
2 cups milk
4 to 8 oz. cream cheese
3 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 cup cubed Velveeta

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook the pasta and strain, rinsing with cold water.  Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.  In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream cheese, butter, pepper, and salt.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted.

Toss the cheddar and Velveeta with the pasta.  Add the hot milk mixture and stir until well combined.  Transfer to a 3 quart bakind dish and bake uncovered until the top is golden, about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Blogging Goals

Hello...I'm Hannah, a wife and mother of three children.  My husband works hard outside the home every day, and I work hard at home every day.  He brings home the paycheck, and I do my best to stretch it and tug it so it will last us through these tough financial times.  We've worked together as a team to  make ends meet for several years now, and have learned a few things along the way.  Our family is happy and healthy and loves being together.  We watch what we spend bit by bit so we are free to worry about the important things in life...serving God, raising our family, and enjoying our time together.

I know that feeding a family of five on a tight budget can add a lot of stress, but it can also be very rewarding.  I've found that with a little planning and cooking knowledge, I can keep my family grocery budget in the neighborhood of $60 per week.  This does include eating fresh produce, and touching bases with all food groups.  Yes, it can be done!  The key is knowing what things cost and planning your meals according to what you can afford.  I've found that the cheapest of ingredients are often healthier options than their pricey counterparts.  A bag of dried black beans (one of the healthiest proteins you can buy) can produce multiple meals for around $1.  However, you could easily pay $15 for one meal worth of nice steak.  My main cooking and shopping challenge hangs on being willing to think through how to cook using the cheapest of healthy ingredients.

Here are some things that we don't use a lot of...prepared foods such as frozen meals, frozen pizzas, canned meals and the like.  We rarely buy premade desserts and limit our stash of chips and crackers to a few very cheap deals with coupons.  I have found that most prepared foods can be "copied" at home in a much more healthy and cost-efficient way.

Eating this way can seem restrictive at first.  I never go to the grocery store and pick up whatever seems good at the time I see it.  I always have a meal plan based on the sales in the area.  I have found that the longer I cook this way, the more unacceptable I do find the occasional splurge.  After you get used to making your own foods, you one day realize that yours tastes much better!

I've waded through many cheap eating websites and magazines.  I've copied recipes by the truckload.  I've learned cooking methods for anything I think will be helpful.  I've experimented with successes and failures, and this blog will share what I've learned. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Getting Started

Well, so here we are.  I've been thinking of starting a blog for quite some time now, so here goes.  What a great activity for a very rainy day.  Two of my three children (and my half child via babysitting) are tearing through the house, only pausing when they hear thunder rattling the walls.  My baby is snoozing away in her boudoir...hopefully she won't be waking up or this will be a very short adventure into technology world!