Sunday, October 27, 2013

How to Make Meals on a $20 Budget

The secret to making meals on a budget is just a little planning.  My pantry is pretty well stocked. I have canned veggies and had a generous neighbor who supplied me with fresh produce. Some of which I canned. I make my own soup (like french onion) and portion it out in one to two cup bags and freeze them to add to stews, pot roast. I made my own spaghetti sauce recently and canned a few jars. All of these tips will help you save on your weekly bill. I purchase rice in bulk along with lentils and couscous.

Must haves for me in my pantry are pasta, flour, beans, rice, sugar, veggies(or frozen)and potatoes. Fridge items I must have are cheese, eggs, milk, ketchup.

I only had $20.00 to spend this week. Our normal grocery store is a ways out but I came across a competitor ad that was closer. I scored some ground beef ($2.49/lb)  and chicken (.99/lb for a cut up chicken).  I took a look in my pantry and figured out what I could make for the week. I go to school two nights and all day Saturday and I need things I can throw in the crock pot. Today it's chicken pot pie. I purchased some biscuits. In the crock pot I took one thigh and a wing (doesn't sound like much but there is a lot of meat) I will let that cook until around 5 on high and then break the chicken up. With the juice in the crock pot, I will be making easy gravy on the stove and browning the biscuits in the oven. This will take me 10 minutes tops. And there is one meal down.

With the meat, I portioned it into one lb packs also. I can grab it out of the freezer when I need it. I have shells and homemade sauce so I may make stuffed shells this week or oven meatballs. Look at local bakeries for discounted bread. Check your stores clearance section or sign up for their weekly ad online. Instead of ordering pizza, make your own. This frozen dough we buy is only a buck. Toppings are a total of $2.00 more at the most. The chicken is also portioned out into Ziploc bags. I put the breasts together and the drums and thighs in another bag.

Search the word crock pot in the upper left hand of my blog and it will take you to all of my crock pot recipes.

Meals for the week so far are:
Sunday is special breakfast day: We had homemade pancakes and turkey bacon
crock pot chicken pot pie
stuffed shells
French Onion soup and crusty bread (from the freezer)
oven baked chicken and roasted potatoes

Friday, October 25, 2013

Amish Friendship Bread

My fantastic across the street neighbor Alesha (where all of my produce comes from) gave me a Amish bread starter and recipe. Today is day 10 and I am baking my own loaves after dividing the starter, printing off three copies of the recipe, and baking my own loaves. Periodically check on your starter bag each day to avoid explosions!
I am baking my bread right now and the house smells amazing! I recommend you use a large Ziploc bag. Just copy and paste the recipe to share with your friends.
starter in the bag

Here it is.

Amish Friendship Bread

Do not use any type of metal spoon for mixing
Do not refrigerate
If air gets in bag, let it out!
The batter will rise bubble and ferment (this is normal)

Day 1  Do nothing
Day 2 Mush the bag
Day 3 Mush the bag
Day 4 Mush the bag
batter mixed together
Day 5 Mush the bag
Day 6 Add to bag: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and then mush the bag
Day 7 Mush the bag
Day 8 Mush the bag
Day 9 Mush the bag
Day 10 Follow the directions below:

1) Pour the entire contents of the bag into a non-metal bowl
2) Add 1 1/2 c. flour,  1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 cup milk
3) Separate the batter into one cup portions and put in a Ziploc bag. Keep a starter for yourself and give the other three to friends along with a copy of this recipe.  Should this not be passed on to a friend on the first day, be sure to tell them which day the bag is on when it is given to them. It is helpful to mark the bag.
disposable loaf pans
4) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5) To the remaining batter add the following:
3 eggs
1/2 c, milk
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
l large box of instant vanilla pudding (optional)
1 cup oil or (1/2 c. oil and 1/2 cup applesauce)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. starter

Grease two large or three medium loaf pans and mix additional 1/2c. sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Dust the greased pans with half of the cinnamon sugar.
Pour the batter evenly into the pans and sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the top.
Bake one hour and cool until the bread loosens.

If you keep a starter for yourself you will bake every 10 days. The bread is very good and makes great gifts. Only the Amish know how to create the starter. So if you give them away, you will have to wait until someone gives one back to you. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Mom! You Have to Make Me Three Dozen Cupcakes by Tomorrow!"

Toy Story Cupcakes
Who hasn't had to make cupcakes on the spur of the moment? My daughters' birthday was on the 19th but today was her special day at school. I cheated a bit and used a box mix for the first 24 and then discovered I was 6 short. Out came the good ole cup cake recipe. This recipe makes yellow vanilla cupcakes and can also be make into a 9x13 cake. These are the second Disneyesque cupcakes I have attempted from The first were the Toy Story martian cupcakes last year.

This year I tried the Jack Skellington cupcakes which were more difficult than I would have thought. I think I did ok through the first dozen and then my hand got tired. Here is the cake recipe I used to get me through the rest of the cupcakes.

Vanilla Yellow Cake Mix (makes 24 cupcakes)

2 1/4 c. flour
Jack Skellington Cupcakes
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup veggie oil
1 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

Set oven to 350 degrees. Use cupcake liners in your tin or spray with PAM. Add all of the dry ingredients in the bowl and then the wet. Use a electric mixer and beat batter for 2-3 minutes scraping the sides. Fill each cupcake liner with a ladle 2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crown of the cupcake is a light brown. Cool on a wire rack and frost.
Note: applesauce can be substituted for the oil.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Dia de Los Puercos" with Times Square Pizza at MKE Brewery

We are tremendous fans of this little pizza place tucked away in a gas station in the Walker's Point area Times Square Pizza (605 S. 1st St.)  They have some of the most creative slices such as my favorite the baked potato pizza. A little while ago, Sean the chef and owner of Times Square Pizza started a donation drive for a smoker. 
sausage and mushroom pizza 

Sean came pretty close to the goal and was able to purchase the smoker. Donors were invited to the "Dia de Los Puercos" event at MKE Brewery. Diners gnoshed on dishes such as smoked pork, porchetta (my favorite,) pork al pastor, and a variety of other sides as well as some dia de los muertos bacon/sugar cookies. 

Sean Henninger Chef Times Square Pizza Bistro
For me the star of the show was the porchetta. It had delicious crispy skin and a nice layer of pork fat beneath that. In the middle was a delicious herb stuffing of sorts. 
The el pastor pork was also very tender and mouth watering with the roasted jalapenos and salsa on the top. 

The philosophy of the bistro carries on here, using quality ingredients while also making it affordable. The dining setting was also communal with some long tables which I liked.

I am hoping now they have the smoker, they will add more pork dishes to the menu. Times Square Pizza offers a delicious pork belly pizza and made one of my favorite slices, the baked potato a part of the regular menu. 

The MKE brewery location was perfect. It's a huge space and has its' own creatively named home crafted beers. The bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable  The beer offering change with the seasons. I sampled the Anodyne coffee brew which was a darker stout and settled on the "Love Rock" brew.  The brewery offers tasting tours throughout the week. . All in all this was fun foodie experience and hope they make this an annual event. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

World War 3 Canning Spaghetti Sauce Day

Let me tell you that my house looks like a tornado went through it!  Our local grocery store throws veggies on clearance along with meat usually early in the morning and especially on Monday. I scored a few pounds of on the vine tomatoes. Only a few bad ones in the bunch for .79. Here's a few things to think about beforehand. How much sauce do you want? How many tomatoes will you need, are your jars the size you want?  Realistically I could have used about 5-6 pounds of tomatoes. With the small batch of tomatoes, I only got two quarts and some extra for a spaghetti dinner.

I knew I only had one size quart jars. Ball makes Mason jars in a variety of sizes.  I washed the lids and jars out with soapy water. They along with all the utensils I was going to use to process the jars were also placed in boiling water for about 5 minutes or so. Even the tongs.  The next step was to score the tomatoes with an x and place them in boiling water for a minute or so. Then off to a refreshing ice bath. Scoring the tomatoes makes the skin come off much easier. I had my daughter help peel all the skins off the tomatoes and I used a small paring knife to remove the spines and seeds. I also made a v incision to remove the stem. Save the juice and run it through a siv to add to the sauce.

Note: this is for sauce without meat. I use a large pot (actually a tamale steamer) and have enough water boiling so I can cover the jars. I can process 4-5 jars at a time. I also prefer to use dry herbs in this sauce. Also please keep kids away from the boiling sauce. I still have a scar from my Grandmas's sauce when I was 5 and it splattered in my face.

Spaghetti Sauce for Canning

5-6 lbs processed tomatoes
1 TBSP dried oregano
1/4 cup lemon juice (you need acidity for preserving)
3 cloves garlic
3 Bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 can tomato paste
1 TBSP sugar
4 Tbsp of a sweet red wine

If adding more veggies be sure to sautee' them first.

Keep the Mason jars warm in the boiling water. For bacterial  purposes, you need the jars to be hot and sanitized. This sauce is good to go within a half hour. No long hours of preparing. Add the tomatoes to a large pot and use a mashed potato masher to puree' them. Add all the seasonings and tomato paste, and lemon juice and let simmer on low. I had to go back several times and keep mashing the tomatoes. You may have to add a bit of water as the sauce boils down. Taste for seasoning and when you are happy with the sauce, grab the Mason jar out of the boiling water and make sure all of the water is out.
I used a sanitised ladle to pour the sauce into the jars. Next the sterilized lids and rings were placed on the jars. The jars need to be processed for 20-25 minutes. Use the tongs to lower the sealed jars back into the boiling water. Make sure the water covers the lids and place a lid on your pot. Boil or process. Once time is up, use the tongs to remove the processed jars. The sauce needs to cool overnight and then will be good in the pantry for over 6 months? No Mason jars? Then freeze the sauce in 1-2 cup portions in zip locs and pull out of the freezer when you need them.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Mother-in-laws "Beer Soup"

Wisconsinites and beer go hand and hand. My Mother-in-law used to make this for my hubby growing up. I made it from memory and he says I got it pretty close. This soup is like a variation of  Italian wedding soup but with beer and root veggies. I also made it in the crock pot. This soup is nice and hardy and will get you through those winter days to come.  Yes it's 80 degrees out on October 1st, but reality check, this is Wisconsin!

The meatballs I browned a little before I added them to the crock pot in some Canola oil. Then I added the beer to this recipe and cooked it down for 3 minutes. I added that to the crock pot with the rest of the ingredients and cooked on high for 6 hours. Since the meatballs are going in the soup, there is no need to cook them all the way through. You just want to get them brown. No filler is needed also. Just the pure meat and some salt.

Beer Soup

1 lb ground beef made into tiny meatballs
1 container of beef stock
1 rutabaga diced
1 can diced tomatoes with juice 8-16oz can
1 can kidney beans drained
8 oz. of Miller Lite beer (Milwaukee represent!)
2 TBSP beef bullion

The instructions are easy! Dump everything in the crock pot. If there is not enough liquid, add water until the lid line in your crock pot. Set on low for 8 hours or high for 4-6 hours. Give a mix and taste for salt or add additional bullion if necessary. Enjoy!