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Posts Tagged ‘cheap’

Pumpkin pie is a reminder of fall. It’s a delicious, traditional treat, and it would be hard to imagine Thanksgiving festivities without one or two pumpkin pies to finish off the meal. No matter how stuffed people are from a large holiday dinner, they always will find room for at least one slice. Pumpkin pie is a good choice for reasons other than its tradition and popularity. It’s a lower-cost dessert to bake, and uses healthy ingredients, making it one of the better dessert choices. Replace sugar with agave nectar for an even lower sugar dessert! Check out the following three reasons why making pumpkin pie is a healthier, low-cost option.

Making pumpkin pie from scratch is a frugal choice

Around the holidays there are always pre-made pies available in your grocery store’s bakery section. At other times of the year you can often find them amongst the frozen foods and desserts. This may make you wonder why you should bother making your own. The answer is that making your own allows you to control what goes into the pie. This is always beneficial to the healthfulness of the recipe and the frugality of the dessert. Purchasing your own ingredients means you can opt for the cheapest choices, and take advantage of deals at the grocery store. An added bonus is that once you have the basic ingredients on hand, you can continue making more pies without additional cost. In the long run, you’ll be amazed by the amount you can save if you avoid the pre-made pie. Next time you’re craving pumpkin pie, skip the bakery section and instead try this low-calorie pumpkin pie recipe, it only costs around one dollar to make!

Using less ingredients means spending less money, and saving on empty calories

There are many different types of pumpkin pies. These days you can find recipes that include layers of cream cheese, or caramel and pecan toppings. These will certainly add variety to your table; however, the traditional pumpkin pie uses fewer ingredients. BetterBudgeting.com suggests that the less-traditional recipes are much sweeter than the original. You’ll save some money, and some calories, if you stick to the tried-and-true version of the recipe.

Starting with fresh pumpkin is a healthy choice

Store-bought pumpkin pie filling usually has added sugar, and other things, like preservatives. If you start with the whole pumpkin, you’ll know that everything going into your pie is high-quality and fresh. When picking out your pumpkins you should choose smaller ones, as they pack a lot more flavor then the larger pumpkins.  Bonus points if you are growing your own pumpkins!

When it gets closer to the holiday season, you may find yourself thinking of pumpkin pie. And why not? It’s an excellent dessert option. Remember, to be frugal and healthy, stick to fresh and fewer ingredients, and make your own from scratch.

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Are you a college student or recently moved out on your own and find yourself in the fast food trap?  Making a meal for yourself and maybe a friend or two can be easy and tasty, and gosh darn it – good for you!  Cooking does not require fancy equipment, expensive ingredients, nor cook books.  You’ve been eating since you were born, silly, use the flavours you like so far and run with them.

I’ve always craved sweet over savoury.  When I moved away for school I started with sweet potatoes, chicken with pineapple or oranges, and grilled cheese sandwiches (Mom taught us how to make them when I was little so I could at least manage to work a stove and one pan).  Simple, yes.  Easy, of course.  Exciting?  Not so much.  Since breaking out on my own and away from the bland monotony of meals on the farm, I wanted to try something new every chance I got.  This strategy is good for expanding the palette but not so good for honing a recipe to its peak of culinary mastery.  Now I’m not trying to turn you into one of those chefs on TV, but everyone should have a stash of reliable and quick dishes in their noggin.  Or in a small coil bound notebook they’ve had since grade 9.

Maybe you’ve been around the kitchen a few times already.  And lately you have no inclination to cook?  Well get in your kitchen, or take over a friends’ for an evening and make something for yourselves!

Here are five easy ways to get cooking tonight.

1. Cheap Eats!

Ground Turkey with Gravy and Mashed Potatoes

Fry (on medium heat) a pound of ground turkey in a little oil in a large frying pan (at least 10″ in diameter) or use a wide bottomed pot.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper as it cooks.  Stir gently.

Peel 3 potatoes (Russet – the dark brown-skinned ones, be sure to buy firm potatoes).  Cut the potatoes into large chunks that are about the same size.  Put them into a pot of cold water and turn up the heat.  Lower the heat to medium-high when it begins to boil.  Do not put a lid on the pot or it will boil over.  Let the potatoes cook while you watch the turkey in the other pan.

Mix 1 packet of gravy mix (like McCormick’s Turkey Gravy) with half a coffee mug of water (about 2/3 cup if you want to measure it).  Have a can of cream of chicken or mushroom soup ready to deploy (open the can).

When the pink hue of the turkey meat is gone it’s time to add the sauce.  Pour the can of cream of whatever soup in the pan with the meat, follow with the gravy/water mixture from the coffee mug.  Stir to dissolve the soup into the water.  When this bubbles turn down the heat to low.  Now check your potatoes.

Potatoes are mashable when they can be stabbed with a fork and they fall off the tines easily.  Turn off the heat.  Pour off the water and add a splash of milk and some butter.  Add salt now if you forgot to salt the water for boiling the taters.  Mash using whatever you have available: fork, ricer, big spoon. Although the process goes faster if you have a masher.

Serve as pictured above.  (You are half way to a Sheppard’s Pie btw!)

Cost: about $6  ($1.50 per serving)

2. Soup

Beef Soup

Soups are very forgiving.  They can have just a handful of ingredients or a wide variety when you are trying to use up veggies hanging out in the fridge.  My thought on soup is this: all you need is a good base.

I make my chicken stock from bones and scraps of veggies that I collect in the freezer until there is enough to fill a stock pot to boil up at stock.  But you could buy a box, can or powder to create the soup base.  Try looking in the international foods isle at your grocery store, you can find some interesting stuff to use as your base.  Even a pack of Ramen Noodles can get you started on a tight budget buy adding some meat and/or veggies to the water for the noodles.

Try any of these recipes:

Texas Beef Soup

Dill Pickle Soup

MrsWheelBarrow’s Mushroom Soup

Cream of Poblano and Turkey Stew

Caldo de Res

3. Baked Salmon with Garlic

Salmon Baked with Garlic

If you like fish and you can afford to buy a pound or two at the market, go for this recipe.

Cover a baking sheet with foil.  Place a salmon fillet on the foil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and freshly smashed garlic.  Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes.  Serve with rice or pasta and a salad.

4. Roast Chicken Breasts with Root Vegetables

Chicken Breasts and Root Vegetables

Cut some potatoes (white or red) into wedges and layer them into a casserole dish or some sort of oven-proof pan with sides.  Season with salt, pepper, and maybe an Italian herb blend?  Add baby carrots or peeled adult carrots.  Lay chicken breasts that still have the bone attached on the potatoes and carrots.  Rub the skin with oil or butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Ready, Set, Roast!

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 425ºF. Cover with foil and return to a 375ºF oven for another 20 – 30 minutes.  (Always check the temperature of your chicken at the thickest part, it should read at least 180ºF)

Full recipe is here.

5. Something Sweet to End the Meal

What about dessert?

I can hear your thoughts: I can’t bake!  Nonsense!  Try a crisp.

Take some sliced fruit (apple, apricot, peaches, blueberries, or rhubarb if you are luck enough to live where it grows like weeds) or buy a can of pie filling then top it with a crumbly lumpy mixture from my recipe here.

It’s perfect with its imperfections.

Rhubarb Cookie Crisp

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Tuxedo Chili

Cooler days are starting to fade, ever so slowly into the memory of winter.  Spring will find its way here one way or another.  But in the south, spring is a short season, and we are immersed in 100 degree heat far sooner than I care to be.

I saw the white and black beans in my colander and thought they resembled a tuxedo!  Maybe it was because the Globes were the last thing on my mind while I was cooking dinner.  Either way, they became the backdrop for my chili and namesake of the dish.

Brown a pound of lean beef in a large pot seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder and chili powder.  Add diced carrot, onion, corn, 1/2 cup of tomatillo sauce, the rinsed beans and a 15oz can of diced tomatoes.

Cover and simmer, the longer the better, as the spices will marry and infuse everybody further.  This is even better the next day for lunch!

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Since finding cassoulet in my copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking I’ve been trying to devise similar recipes which would lessen the time and cost of preparing such a cozy dish.

This rendition was the result of less than 10$ of ingredients and a couple of hours of stewing in the oven. Us working folk normally don’t have an abundance of time to devote to cooking, but stretching what you have in the pantry at this time of the month (and year) is inevitable and necessary. Weekends are the typical days where my craft can be let loose in the afternoon to bring a leisurely made meal to the family table by supper time. This dish could equally be made in a crock pot, on low while you’re away at work or running errands. I trusted a slow oven for this hearty and thrifty meal.

The measurements are not exact, for you can use more or less depending on what you have.  Go easy with the herbes de Provence, or it will taste like you mistakenly added your flower bed to the stew.

  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin and visible fat removed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 can white beans (Northern Beans or Navy Beans), rinsed
  • pinch or two of herbes de Provence (see note above)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (you can omit if gluten is a problem!)
  • 2 – 3 cups chicken stock, homemade preferably, or low sodium purchased
  • salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF.

In a Dutch oven or equivalent roasting pan, render the bacon.  Slowly fry the bacon to release the fat and remove any crisp pieces as you go.  Use the bacon fat to brown the chicken thighs on each side, you don’t have to worry about cooking the chicken at this point, that will happen in the oven.  What you want is a bit of color on the chicken to add flavour!

Remove the chicken as it browns, split the chicken in two batches if the pan will be too crowded.  Crowds make for sweaty birds, not browned caramelized ones.

Once the chicken is out, check the pan for fat levels, add a few dots of olive oil if the pan looks dry.  Immediately toss in the onion and carrot, tossing them around to coat with the oil or bacon fat.   Sauté until the onions start to look tanned, as if they just came back from a sandy beach off the coast of nobodycares. 

Add salt and pepper, the herbs, (flour) and the garlic.  Stir until the garlic and herbs become fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Then add the stock and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add the beans and crispy bacon pieces.  Nestle the chicken thighs into the pot, the liquid should come half way up the meat.

Cover the pot and place in the oven.  Turn down the oven to 300ºF and leave it alone.  After 2 hours you will enjoy a rich broth with dark chicken meat falling off the bones! 

Serve alone, with cooked pearled barley (yum, this was what I made), with rice, or a slice of fresh bread (also what I had with the stew!).

This stew disappeared before I had a chance to do my photo shoot.  You’ll have to imagine this one 🙂

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