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Archive for September, 2008

Cheap eats

With the economy the way it is, we’re all looking for ways to save money.  I’m going to post a few cheap recipes in case this helps someone else make it til next payday.

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Cheesy Ramen Noodles

We like the chicken flavor best – I don’t know how well it will work with another flavor.

1 pkg Ramen noodles with flavor packet
water – enough to cover noodles in a microwave safe bowl
2 oz Velveeta cheese

Crumble noodles in water, microwave for 5 minutes on high.  Pour off almost all of the water – I usually leave maybe 1/4 cup to make sort of a “sauce”.  Add the Velveeta in chunks along with some or all of the flavor packet.  Stir well until cheese melts.

Note: You could also add some chicken or even Spam to this to make it go farther.   Double the recipe for the whole family if you make this as a side dish.  We eat this for a quick lunch quite often.

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Beef Rice-A-Roni
I make this in a skillet instead of a saucepan.

1 package beef flavored Rice-A-Roni (and water according to pkg directions)
1/2 to 1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 can Rotel or diced tomatoes
4 slices American cheese

Mix the Rice-A-Roni with water according to package directions, then add cooked meat and rotel (tomatoes). Cook about 20 minutes – until rice is tender. Turn burner off. Lay sliced cheese on top and cover until cheese is melted. Serve with beans and you have a complete meal.

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Quesadillas
If you have leftover taco meat or chicken, this is a great way to use it up.

fajita size flour tortillas (or make your own – they are cheap and good!)
ground beef with taco seasoning OR leftover chicken (or turkey)
shredded cheese

Spray a skillet with non-stick spray with the burner on medium heat. Lay one tortilla in the pan, sprinkle with a SMALL amount of cheese, then meat, then another small layer of cheese (helps hold it all together!). Lay another tortilla on top and heat until cheese starts to melt. Flip the quesadilla over and lightly brown the other side. Use a pizza cutter to cut into wedges and serve with taco sauce, sour cream, etc.

NOTE: You can also make “pizza quesadillas” by using mozzarella and/or cheddar cheeses, pepperoni, and serve with pizza/spaghetti sauce.

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Mini-Pizzas
Kids and grownups alike LOVE these!  And they are much cheaper than take-out!

1 can refrigerated biscuits (I use the cheapest ones I can find – doesn’t matter if they are buttermilk or plain)
Spaghetti or pizza sauce
Mozzarella or cheddar cheese
Pepperoni or ground beef (optional)

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper OR spray cookie sheet with Pam. Flatten biscuits with fingertips, top with a small amount of sauce, cheese, and meat. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes (or less – depends on your oven). They are done when the bottoms of the biscuits are lightly browned and the cheese is melted.

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BREAKFAST

Don’t overlook breakfast for supper.  There have been many nights we’ve had biscuits, eggs, and sausage or bacon for our evening meal.  Pancakes work great too, and even cereal.

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SOS (“Stuff” on a Shingle)
If you’ve been making your own bread, this is even better!  Basically, this is just milk gravy with meat added and served over bread.

1/2 to 1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
2 or 3 tablespoons oil
2 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
salt & pepper
Bread to serve it on

Heat oil in a skillet, add flour and stir until combined. Add milk and stir with a whisk until all lumps are gone. Continue to stir over medium high heat until mixture thickens. Add ground beef and season with salt and pepper. (I go easy on seasoning and prefer to let everyone season their plates to their own tastes.) Serve over sliced bread and adjust seasoning if needed.

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Chicken and Yellow Rice
Mahatma Saffron Yellow Rice may be regional, but you should be able to find packages of saffron yellow rice in your local supermarket wherever rice is located.  If you boil your chicken, use the broth from it in the rice.

2 packages Mahatma Saffron Yellow Rice
2 tablespoons butter
3 1/2 to 4 cups water or chicken broth
chicken – cut into bite sized pieces
Cavender’s Greek Seasoning – to taste

In a large sauce pan, add broth (or water) and butter – bring to a boil.   Add rice, chicken, and a few dashes of Cavender’s.  Cover, reduce heat, and cook for 25 minutes or until rice is tender.   I normally check this several times to make sure there is adequate broth or water.  If it seems to be getting too thick, add a little more. Stir periodically.

NOTE: This is really good with green beans or salad and cornbread.  My mom made this all the time when we were growing up!

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Hummingbirds

We had 4 hummingbirds fighting over our feeder this morning.  It was a little foggy outside, and this was taken through the window.  I love watching the hummers though!  We’ve had as many as 14 at one time.  I mix our own nectar – 1/4 cup white sugar to 1 cup of warm water.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.

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Guess what was on sale recently?  🙂    I pressure canned several pints of baby carrots and also quarts of chicken breast (it was $1/lb at our local grocery store).  I froze some of the chicken breast after cooking/chopping and separating into ziploc freezer bags.  It makes quick meals so much easier if the chicken is ready to go.  This will be used for chicken spaghetti, chicken & dumplings, mexican chicken, and lots of other dishes!

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Hot Cocoa Mix

This makes a BUNCH, so use a large container for mixing and storage.

5 cups powdered milk
5 – 6 cups powdered sugar (or Splenda) – may use more or less to taste
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer

Mix all together and store in an air-tight container. Makes about 36 to 40 servings.

To serve, use 1/3 cup of mix with 3/4 cup hot water. Stir well to dissolve.

NOTE: You could also use flavored non-dairy creamer if you’d like, or add some vanilla to the cup when you serve.  Enjoy!

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My father-in-law was a sage old coot – an ex-military man with a brash demeanor and a heart of gold.  I miss him dearly.  He passed away almost 9 years ago, but he left us a legacy of common sense and wisdom that still echoes in my mind today.

One thing he always told us –  “Always be able to pay all of your bills with one paycheck.  If you have more bills than that, you’re already in trouble.”  He told us this before we bought our first home.  Because we had foolishly based our income on my husband’s overtime, when the OT was cut, we almost lost the house and wound up selling it to save our hides.  That was in 1995.  It was a painful learning experience – one we have never forgotten.

The economy is bad – there is no sugar coating it.  Even people who have a low mortgage (or no mortgage) are still dealing with the high cost of gasoline and groceries.  Utilities are supposed to go up even higher this winter.  At the core of all of this national chaos, the scripture that keeps coming to mind is “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows..”  (1 Timothy 6:10)

We as a nation have lived beyond our means for far too long.  I don’t just blame the banks, and I don’t just blame the people – it was “where two fools met” (as my FIL would say).  Banks have loaned credit to families knowing the cost was beyond what they would be able to pay, and families have purchased cars, houses, boats, etc. knowing it was more than they could feasibly afford.  The result is a burden we will all have to bear – the economy as a whole on a downhill rollercoaster with no breaks.

There is no shame in downsizing to a more realistic and affordable home.  There is no shame in selling what we don’t need in order to survive.  What is shameful is not calling the root of the economic mess what it really is – greed.  Pure and simple.   When exiting CEOs of some of these failing companies take an            $8 million dollar severance package, I don’t think we’ve learned very much – do you?

It breaks my heart that it has come to this.  Take some time to make sure your financial, physical, and spiritual house is in order.  Pray for guidance, and think about what it takes for you and your family to survive – not what you’d like to have, but what basic needs you have to take care of for yourself and family.  All of us need food, water, clothing, and shelter.  All the other “stuff” we’ve crowded our lives with is optional.

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I’m going to post the small batch recipe which will work for one meal, and also the large batch that I normally make.  I figure it takes just as much time to make the large batch as it does the small one, and it saves time later.   😛

The sauce cans and freezes beautifully, and I use it for spaghetti or any other pasta dish, as pizza sauce, a dipping sauce for breadsticks, etc.  I don’t add hamburger meat until I’m ready to serve.  If you decide to go ahead and add the meat and you’re making the large batch, just be sure to pressure can unless you freeze it.

This is so good, you won’t ever go back to Ragu.  😀

SMALL BATCH:

2 – 15oz cans tomato sauce
1 – 6oz can tomato paste
1 tablespoon parsley
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
1/8 cup olive oil (I don’t measure – just use enough to saute the onions)
1/2 cup chopped onion (or more)
1 teaspoon salt (more or less – cook for a while and then adjust to your taste)
1 1/2 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 to 1 cup water (more or less – depends on the thickness you prefer)

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS:
2 – 16oz cans whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
mushrooms
2 pounds ground hamburger, cooked and drained

Simmer onions in olive oil until translucent, add other ingredients and let simmer until you’re ready to serve. (Simmer at least 2 to 4 hours – crockpot works great for this!)

Now – if you love pasta as much as I do, this next batch is for you:

LARGE BATCH:

You’ll need a BIG pot – I use my 6 quart stainless.

1 – large #10 can (105 oz) tomato sauce
4 – 6oz cans tomato paste
4 tablespoons parsley
4 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil (I don’t measure – just use enough to saute the onions)
2 cups chopped onion (or more)
1/2 to 1 tablespoon salt (more or less – cook for a while and then adjust to your taste)
4 1/2 teaspoons basil
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground oregano
3 cups water

3 to 6 tablespoons sugar – some cans of tomato sauce are a little sweeter and require less sugar – every batch is different (you can even leave the sugar out completely if you want – we like just a touch of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomato)

Simmer onions in olive oil until translucent, add other ingredients and let simmer until you’re ready to serve. (Simmer at least 2 to 4 hours.  If your crockpot is big enough, you might get all of this in there!)

Kiddo doesn’t like pieces of onion in anything, but loves the flavor, so I puree the onions after sauteing.

I also normally add a few dashes of Cavender’s Greek Seasoning and some garlic powder to this as well (we love garlic!).   It’s cheaper to make a big batch, and it tastes so much better than the commercial stuff!

Enjoy!  😀

Note: To feed 100 people, we multiply the large batch by 5 and use 15-20 pounds or so of spaghetti.  Course, that takes into consideration they’ll eat a salad and garlic bread along with it.  🙂

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These freeze very well too.

1 1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat skillet. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Mix in liquid ingredients until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into skillet. Cook until bubbles form on top and begin to pop, then flip. Serve immediately. (These don’t even need syrup!)

NOTE: These make very thick pancakes – the batter is stiffer than most pancakes mixes, but they are beautiful and fluffy. We love ’em! :o)

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