Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Egg and Cheese Biscuits

This is one of my hubby's favorites from childhood.  In fact, sometimes when we go visit his parents, my Mom-in-law still makes this for us as part of her buffet of fabulous eats.  Hers are magnificently amped up with bacon or sausage.  I rarely add that, because I'm a total cheapie, and I usually make this in a hurry.  It takes longer to brown up bacon, too, but if you're really nice like she is, you won't be lazy and you'll make yours glorious, too.

Egg and Cheese Biscuits

7-8 scrambled eggs
1 tube of biscuits or 1 batch of homemade biscuits
sliced cheese (or Velveeta if you're feeling particularly naughty)
bacon or sausage, cooked, optional

Bake up your biscuits and let them cool a minute.  Scramble your eggs, and prepare the other ingredients.  To assemble, split a biscuit in half, fill it with a spoonful of eggs, and top with cheese.  Add the bacon or sausage on top, and cover with the other half of the biscuit.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope you all have a lovely day with family and friends.  What are your holiday meal plans?  Gonna grill?  Here's what we're having...going classic today.

Grilled hamburgers with pickles, cheese, and lettuce
Watermelon
Barbecue Chips
Strawberries and Blackberries
and maybe some Baked Beans if I get around to it.

Did you stick to the classic grill day thing or branch out a little?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Egg Casserole

Yes, yes, I know, everyone has had some type of egg casserole.  I really like this one, though, because it is easy and a little different.  It's a nice way to feed a crowd for breakfast or brunch, and it actually reheats pretty well also.  Hmmm...I haven't made this in a long time.  I think I'll go for it this next week!

Egg Casserole

7 eggs
8 hashbrown squares
4 cups cheese, grated
1 lb. bacon, browned
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard or 1 small squirt of regular mustard

Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Put hashbrowns on the bottom.  Crumble the bacon over the potatoes.  Sprinkle with the cheese.  Mix the eggs, salt, milk, and mustard, and pour on top of the other layered ingredients.  Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A note on Oats

Oatmeal is a great way to start out your day.  It's easy to make and one of the most notorious cholesterol-lowering foods.  I know it's really tempting to purchase oatmeal by the individual packet for sake of convenience, but it ups the cost quite a lot.  Keep in mind if convenience is the only factor you're looking for, buying a large container of plain quick oats is a great idea.  We can buy one here for less than two dollars, and it lasts for quite a long time.  There are very simple microwave directions, just use a cup measure for scooping and follow the directions on the box.  You can add your own flavoring so easily!  By flavoring your own, you can tailor your oatmeal to your own taste.  How hard is it to pitch in your own raisins and cinnamon or your own mini marshmallows?  In less than five minutes you can have a cheaper, tastier meal.  The packets of oatmeal are also more processed, thus containing less healthy fiber, and often contain more sugar and/or sodium than you would add on your own.  Here are some ideas for fast mix-ins:

cinnamon, pinch of cloves, raisins, peanut butter, chocolate syrup, brown sugar, honey, diced apple, diced peach, diced strawberries, frozen or fresh blueberries, chocolate chips, craisins, nuts, dates...use your imagination!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

Here's a little variation of yesterday's post.  I will quite often have a little pumpkin left over from whatever baking I've been using it for in the fall.  Here's a great way to use it up.  If you should happen to have some nuts or especially cinnamon chips, they would make these muffins absolutely divine!

Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In another bowl, mix together pumpkin, egg, oil, and vanilla.  Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half full.  Bake at 375 degrees for 18-22 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Adapted from Taste of Home

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Basic Banana Muffins

Have you had muffins and yogurt or hard-boiled eggs for breakfast lately?  It's a good way to add in some variety.  If you're pressed for time, you can always make up a bunch of muffins at once and freeze what you don't use.  Simply microwave them in the morning until warm.  It's actually a great convenience food you can make yourself, and nothing beats the smell of warm muffins in the morning.

Here is my favorite banana muffin recipe.  It's moist and tasty and makes a lot.  I love to add in blueberries or walnuts.  It's a good way to use up those turning-brown/black bananas that are a little too funky to eat straight.  In fact, the browner and mushier they are, the better the muffins taste. 

Basic Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 medium ripe bananas
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In another bowl, mash the bananas; add egg, oil, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened.  Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half full.  Bake at 375 degrees for 18-22 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to cool completely.

Makes 12-18 muffins

Adapted from Taste of Home

Monday, May 23, 2011

Simple Breakfast Burritos

Here's a fast, yummy meal for breakfast or dinner.  It's a great meal for Sunday night after church in our family when we want something warm in a hurry.  It's lighter, too, and doesn't leave you feeling stuffed, always good for summer meals.  Feel free to adjust it to your liking...add some veggies or drop out the sausage.  It's great either way.  I usually buy one pound of sausage and use half for this meal and half for biscuits and gravy at another time.  It's a great way to stretch the meat.

Simple Breakfast Burritos

8 flour tortillas
8 eggs
3 Tbs. milk
1/2 lb. breakfast sausage
salsa
grated cheese

Wrap the tortillas in a kitchen towel and microwave until warm through.  Whisk eggs and milk together.  Crumble breakfast sausage into frying pan and cook over medium high heat until browned.  Add a little butter or margarine here if your sausage isn't very fatty.  If there is melted fat in the pan, don't worry about it.  Add in the eggs and scramble until done.

To assemble, first spoon in the egg/sausage mixture.  Add salsa and grated cheese to taste.  Roll up and enjoy!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

One of the cheapest things you can do to lower your grocery bill is to do breakfast for dinner.  We try to on a weekly basis.  If you have something yummy that takes too long to make in the morning, try it at night.  Many of the traditional breakfast proteins are very inexpensive, and you can really cut some major dinner calories with the right choices.  Here's one of my favorites.  It's easy and very flexible...feel free to swap out and experiment with different fruits and stir-ins.  One of our favorites is subbing frozen blueberries for the raisins.

Baked Oatmeal


1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil (not olive)
2 cups quick oats
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 to 1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Beat egg; add brown sugar and oil.  Mix well.  Add everything else; mix well.  Put in an 8 x 8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Bit on Cleaners

Since my $60 per week grocery budget also includes cleaning supplies and paper products, I'll pass along my two cents worth on cleaners.  Ha ha.  Many cleaning products are a virtual black hole of cash.  There are a few, however, that I really find work great and are very cost effective.  Also, since I like things to SMELL good, I opt out of the "use vinegar to clean everything you own" crowd.

There are some great cleaner concentrates out there.  They are all-purpose disinfectants.  Right now, we're using a lovely citrusy something or other by Lysol, that I got for 65 cents with a coupon.  There are several brands that work really well.  Follow the usage directions on the back of the container to dilute and put it in your own spray bottle.  It is multi-purpose and works great on just about everything in the bathroom and kitchen.  I usually only have to buy 3 or 4 per year to clean almost everything.

Keep in mind that most mirrors can be cleaned with a microfiber cloth and nothing but water or "elbow grease".  But, like I said, I love cleaners that smell good, so I admit to buying floral scented Windex with a coupon.  Most people (me included, usually, ahem) use way more than is necessary for cleaning mirrors, so try cutting back a little to optimize savings.

Last of all, I've found that micro fiber cleaning cloths are definitely worth the buy.  They are washable, durable, and great for just about everything.  Check out your local Dollar Tree.  They often sell them by the truckload.  Have fun spiffing up !

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Black Bean Salad

As promised, here is the recipe I came up with for a black blean salad.  It's cool and refreshing, and would be fantastic as a side with a honey lime grilled chicken breast.  With a little extra tomato, it'd be a great black bean salsa.  You could add it to salads to jazz them up and add some protein...the possibilities are endless! Try it out.  It's cheap, filling, and yummy.

Black Bean Salad

1 1/2 to 2 cups black beans, cooked and drained
1/2 bag frozen corn
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, sliced into rings
1/4 green pepper, minced
1/4 red onion, minced, or 2 scallions, sliced
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbs. canola oil
chopped cilantro
salt and pepper
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

In medium bowl, mix together beans, corn, tomatoes, green pepper, and onion.  In separate small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.  Fold wet ingredients into bean mixture.  Refrigerate fifteen minutes to let flavors meld.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Freezing cookies

There's nothing quite like the smell of hot cookies out of the oven.  If you want to prolong your enjoyment of that one batch, try this.  Simply make your batch of dough up as normal.  Scoop out what you want to make (We do about two cookie sheets worth the first time).   Whatever cookie dough is left, pop into a freezer container or bag.  When you get that creeping "I want cookies" urge again, simply plop it onto the counter until it is defrosted and use as normal.  I'll generally pull it out sometime in the morning and leave it in the refrigerator until after dinner, then bake as usual.  Who needs to buy premade cookie mix when yours are cheaper and tastier?  Try it out.  Besides...it'll keep your family from wolfing down a whole batch in a two or three day marathon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cookie Recipes, Anyone?

All right, I know you all have a fantastic cookie recipe that you're just dying to pass along.  Let me and the other readers benefit from your wealth of knowledge.  Post your family favorite in the comments section of this post so we can all try it out.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A note on cookie making

Now, yes, I know butter makes everything better.  I agree.  It's fantastic and makes things that taste good taste GREAT.  Real butter is, however, a little pricey.  If you're in a financial bind, but still want your cookie fix, try subbing either stick margarine or shortening for the butter.  The texture is great and it still tastes fantastic.    It is imperative to use a stick margarine that is not reduced fat.  They contain too much water to make a great cookie.  I usually opt for the shortening route.  It's really easy to work with and I usually have some on hand for pie crusts and biscuits.  Make sure you don't over-cream shortening or it'll toughen up.

Try it out...it'll save a bundle...of cash, not calories!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

This is one of the greats.  It can be oatmeal raisin or craisin.  It can be made with apples and nuts.  You can throw in some coconut.  You can frost it...the possibilities are endless!  Experiment a little, and just keep telling yourself, "It's full of whole grains...raisins have iron.  It's good for me, really...".

Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

1 cup butter or shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups oats
1 cup raisins or craisins, soaked in water until plump and juicy

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat together butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.  Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well.  Stir in oats.  Fold in drained raisins.  Drop by rounded teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Cool 1 minute before removing from the pan.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

Okay, just to prove that not all desserts have to be chocolate (although I wouldn't mind much if they were), here is the best peanut butter cookie recipe I've ever found.  You can use the cheap, bad for you PB or a well-mixed natural PB.  I usually put a little whole wheat flour in with the all-purpose, just to ease my conscience a little, but you can keep it all white if you like.

Peanut Butter Cookies
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 Tbs. milk
1 Tbs. vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Combine peanut butter, shortening, sugar, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Beat until well blended.  Add egg.  Combine flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add to the creamed mixture and mix until just blended.  Drop by teaspoon two inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.  Flatten with a fork.  Bake 7-8 minutes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

No-Bake Cookies

Mmmmm.  I have a real fixation with all things chocolate.  Can you tell?  Here's an oldie, but goodie.  This cookie never gets old, and has the added bonus of being oven-free.  The next time the weather spikes, but you still have a feel for a cookie, pull this one out.

No-Bake Cookies

3 cups sugar
4 to 5 Tbs. cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
3 cups oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together sugar, cocoa, milk, and butter in large saucepan.  Heat until boiling.  Remove from heat and add in oats, peanut butter, and vanilla, stirring well.  Drop by teaspoon onto wax paper.  Let it cool...get your hands out of there!  Okay...now enjoy.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let's take a break from the proteins for a bit and add something a little less healthy.  Here's to the start of cookie week!  Here's my hubby's all-time favorite.  He may dabble with other desserts for a while, but his heart belongs to these chocolate chip cookies.  Be sure to keep them just a trifle gooey in the middle!  They're also great for breakfast the next morning, or so some friends have told me...

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat shortening, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until creamy.  Add eggs; beat well.  Stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to shortening mixture, beating well.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop dough by rounded Tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool slightly before removing to cooling racks.

adapted from Hershey's Classic Recipes

Friday, May 6, 2011

Taco Seasoning Mix

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, here is a recipe for Taco Seasoning.  We use it in lots of things...tacos, bean dips, and the random recipe here and there.  I have been known to pitch it in boxed mac and cheese to add a little flair along with some leftover beans for lunches.  (Yes, this is what you were actually asking for the other day, CR!)Why pay 65 cents if you can make your own?   It can also be helpful if you are on a low sodium diet.  Pre-made mixes are packed with salt.

We're not too daring with spice, but it you like it hot, up the chili powder a little or add in a little cayenne or hot sauce.  Feel free to tweek according to your taste!

Taco Seasoning Mix

1 Tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. onion powder (or fry up a bit of fresh minced onion with the meat)
1 tsp. each cumin, garlic powder, paprika
pinch each oregano, sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix together well.  Use as you would one packet of taco seasoning.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Bit on Chiles

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  Plan something Mexican for this week, because most grocery stores have great sales on Mexican foods and ingredients this week.  I've run by several recipes using chiles, most of them calling for canned green chiles.  I have actually found it much cheaper to use fresh!  Chiles are sold by the pound in the stores around here (around $3/lb.), but since they weigh next to nothing, they are actually really cheap.  Since we are completely wimpy when it comes to hot stuff, I never use more than one.  It usually ends up being about 12 cents per large jalapeno.

One note...for you sensitive-skinned beauties...wear plastic gloves while you're chopping them.  And by all means, don't rub your eyes for several hours afterward.  Don't ask me how I know...

So, check out your local supply of chiles.  They're great in chili, guacamole, fresh pico de gallo, fresh salsa, soups, enchiladas, and all things Mexican. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Black Bean recipes...Anyone got another?

If you have a recipe using any form of black beans, send them on to me in the comments.  I'd love to have some other input.

I'm planning on trying out a few others this week...including homemade black bean dip and a cold black bean salad.  I'll post the results soon!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Monterey Bean Skillet

Okay, before we get to the recipe, I just have to say this is one of the ugliest meals you could ever make.  Ugly enough for our family to have a pet name for it...Dino Poop  Er, Excrement. (The kids are now forbidden from talking about po**, so we've revised to Dino Excrement, a name that sounds even odder coming from a four year old.)  So anyway, it really looks weird, but it is very very yummy...and cheap...and easy to make.

Try it out, you'll love it...just eat by candle light.

Monterey Bean Skillet
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup white rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped onion
3-4 oz. cream cheese (I use the leftover cream cheese after making Baked shells and cheese)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp. chili powder

Saute onion in a little oil for 1 minute.  Stir in rice, water, and salt.  Cover and simmer 25 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Stir in cheese, sauce, and chili powder.  Heat until hot, stirring occasionally.  Serve with a little shredded cheese sprinkled on top.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Black Bean Soup

Try this one out, soup lovers.  It's lean, it's filling, and it's oh, so, yummy.  We like to serve it topped with some tortilla chip crumbles and a sprinkle of cheese.

Black Bean Soup
2 cups cooked black beans
1 tsp. olive or canola oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced or 1 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups water or reserved liquid from cooking beans
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4-1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 14 oz. can vegetable or chicken broth, or bouillon/soup base and additional water
1 4 oz can chopped green chiles, drained, or 1/2 jalapeno, minced (add in with onions)
1/4 cup tomato paste or crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add onion, garlic, and jalapeno if you're using a fresh one.  Saute until tender.  Add beans, water, oregano, cayenne, cumin, broth, and canned chiles, if using.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1-1 1/2 hours.

Place half of the bean mixture in a blender.  Remove center piece of blender lid to let steam escape, cover with a clean towel, and blend until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and repeat with remaining soup.  (OR If you're lucky enough to own an immersion blender, stick it in and let 'er rip.)   Return to pan and stir in tomato paste and salt; cook 3 minutes until thoroughly heated.  Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro to serve (and if you're like me, cheese and tortilla chips).

Adapted from Cooking Light