Sunday, March 17, 2013

What to do with those St Patty's leftovers?

If you were like us, you enjoyed one of the culinary pleasures given to us by our Irish brothers and sisters- corned beef. My darling wife, being of Irish descent, requires this to be on the menu every St. Patrick's Day. Not that this is any great hardship on our family's part, as we usually fight over who gets the last piece (like a good Irish family). So what do you do if there are any leftovers?

Other than the usual repeat of the meal, (which is a fine option) what else can you do with it? Here are some tips I have come up with that I hope you can use.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Home-made Hot Cocoa Mix from a Handful of Ingredients

If your kids like chocolate, (okay what kid or adult doesn't?) then I am sure they like hot cocoa. It can be a bit pricey at about $2.50 for an 8 count box. That's over 40 cents a serving. Since my kids would go through that 8 count box in one sitting, I needed to find a way to make it for a more reasonable price.

Monday, February 18, 2013

QUICK TIP-What's for dinner?

How often do reach the end of your day and realize you have no idea what to make for dinner? All the kids start popping in, one by one, asking that dreading question, " What's for dinner?" If you're like me, it happens more often than you would like to admit. Here is a quick tip to help remedy that situation in a hurry.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Leftovers- where do they come from and how do we use them?

I love leftovers. How can you not enjoy having a great meal for a second time the next day? A tasty bowl of soup, a plate of jambalaya or cold, fried chicken are all great treats to eat for lunch to break out of the sandwich routine. Sometimes there are some leftovers that are just a little hard to enjoy on their own or you are really not in the mood for, so what do you do with it? Having a small army to feed, I usually wind up with a little something that wasn't consumed and winds up sitting in the fridge. Sometimes I will come across a bowl of "something" and have no idea when I made it and why it has hair on it. That one gets tossed.

Then there are other items, such as pasta, baked potatoes, other veggies, baked chicken, steak or pork chops. These can all easily be assimilated into other dishes. Meats can be chopped or sliced and added to soup, made into shepherd's pie, pot pie, fajitas, or chicken salad. Pasta can be made into pasta salad or baked pasta, spaghetti into sesame noodles. Leftover veggies can be added to soups, toppings for baked potatoes, added to pasta salads, served cold over tossed salad or used for stew. Baked potatoes can be cut in half, guts scooped out and stuffed with cheese, bacon and broccoli for potato skins.

These are only a small sample of what you can do with those leftovers besides just reheating them. It is certainly not all inclusive and limited only by your imagination. The point to remember is that as long as the food has not gone bad, why throw it away? If you can rework it into a dish, you should. No matter how much saving you had when you bought the ingredients, the cost goes up if you have to throw portions away. Find recipes that call for veggie portions to be added, diced meat as the main part, cold pasta or whatever it is you have that can be disguised from the original. Don't be afraid of the leftover. If you saved it, it has to be good or your too cheap to see it thrown away, unless forced to because you think it may save your life.

Friday, February 15, 2013

When life gives you lemons...

QUICK TIP- How often do you have a recipe that calls for lemon zest and realize that there is not a lemon to be found in your house? Here is a way to be sure you always have some. Whenever you have a recipe that calls for lemon juice, before you cut the lemon, wash and then zest it. Take that zest, put it on a sheet of wax paper, fold it into an flat envelope and then put it into a zipper bag. Put the bag in the freezer and then whenever you need some for a recipe, simply pull out an envelope. Each envelope is the zest of one lemon, so it is already measured out. After you zest, go ahead and juice the lemon. By doing this, you are getting the full use out of your produce and you'll never find yourself short of a needed ingredient.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Chicken fingers

Quick Tip- This one comes from tonight's dinner. You want to serve your kids a healthy, nutritious meal, but want to avoid all of the unhealthy stuff in their favorite- chicken fingers. You feel really motivated today and decide to make homemade ones. You can start with chicken tenderloins and you notice the price. That's a whole lot more expensive than the premade ones. How do you save a few dollars on this one? Take a look a little further down the meat case and see if they have boneless chicken breast on sale. If they do and it is less expensive than tenderloins, buy the breast and cut the breast into strips resembling a tenderloin. Most people won't tell the difference and the tenderloin is part of the breast anyway so the meat is the same. I saved $2 a pound today by using this tip, since the breasts were on sale. Always use this tip for you meat purchases, especially when looking for stir fry meat, stew meat, etc. Buy the larger cut and do you own cutting down to size. A few minutes extra work is well worth the additional savings.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stale, soggy chips and crackers? No longer!!

So how often do you reach into the pantry and find the kids have left a package of cracker opened up and they have now become stale and soggy instead of the nice crispness you love? Here is a quick tip on how to save those crackers and even potato and corn chips. Spread them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer and put them into a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes. The heat will dry them out and crisp them up. The oil in the corn chips and potato chips will actually start to refry them slightly, like taco shells when you heat them up before eating. Keep an eye on them to be sure they don't burn.

Soup thickener

So you are making a nice beef stew for dinner and want to thicken up the gravy/broth. How do you do this? Perhaps you or a guest has a gluten allergy. How do you get the correct consistency? This is where your pantry comes into play. you could use the old reliable roux to thicken, but if you already have diced potatoes in the stew, they could get all crushed up when stirring in the roux. Pull out a box or jar of mashed potato flakes and add them to the stew. Allow to rehydrate and slowly stir them into the stew.  When the flakes rehydrate they are absorbing the water, expanding and thickening the stew, just like a roux does. I would not do this until the last 10 minutes before you serve the stew, cooking for the 10 minutes to fully rehydrate and cook down the flavor. Remember to adjust your seasoning after adding the potatoes as the stew will usually require additional salt.

Take note that there are a lot of instant mashed potato products out there that have a bunch of garbage in the ingredient list. Please read the list and find one that has the least amount of added ingredients. I have found some that have only dehydrated potatoes and perhaps vitamin c as a preservative.

Read more about roux for those times where the stirring won't mess up your stew. Click here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Salsa- Cheap, Easy, Fresh and (oh-so) Good

My family LOVES salsa. My kids eat it as a snack with some chips. They'll eat it with quesadillas, tacos, nachos, fajitas and anything else they can imagine. Have you ever priced it? Usually a 12 oz. jar of a popular brand runs for around $2.50. That 12 ounce jar would last about a day in my house so keeping the kids in salsa could be a pretty expensive proposition. Once you get it figured out, it is actually quite easy to make, which is what I did. Now I make it by the gallon, yes literally, the gallon. Usually, if we are lucky, this gallon will keep the horde at bay for about a week. I figure the cost for a gallon of homemade salsa is about $4. That's a pretty good savings for me.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Quick Tip- Buttermilk


QUICK TIP- What do you do if you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk and you do not have any in the fridge? In a pinch you can stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup whole milk and let stand for a few minutes. Make sure you stir well into the milk. The vinegar will clod the milk and add the characteristic twang and acidity that buttermilk has. Although you will be without the effects of the bacteria culture that is used to make buttermilk, you will still have that flavor and acidity that is needed for baking items with buttermilk.

Monday, January 21, 2013


QUICK TIP- So what do you do with the mustard and ketchup that is left in the bottle when you get to the end of it? I usually turn the bottle over and let it drain into the next bottle I just opened so what remains in the old bottle simply pours out. With mustard this is a bit more difficult than ketchup. The mustard is a lot thicker than ketchup and you will just not get the last of it out no matter how hard you shake the bottle. Here is my method for getting out the very last of that mustard and stretching those pennies a bit farther. Take a tablespoon or two of white vinegar and pour into the old mustard bottle. Recap and shake vigorously. Put a funnel into the new bottle and pour the vinegar/mustard mix from the old bottle into the new one. Recap the new bottle and shake vigorously again to mix the vinegar mix into the fresh mustard. That's how to get every last bit out of that bottle.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Save those greens!!

I recently was reading through a food magazine and one of the hot items for this winter was greens. The author went into depth about several common ones and not so common ones. One that was left out of the article that got me thinking, was my lowly radishes that I have growing in my garden. I planted an heirloom variety of radish that produces a long tubular radish with very large leafy greens. Being the cheapo I am, I decided to give them a try. I chopped them up and put them in our salad and they were palatable, although a bit tough and hairy, but I got used to them. Now sauteed with some butter and garlic like you would spinach, THAT is where they shined. Wash them well, chop them up a bit and quickly saute them in a hot pan and you will likely not tell the difference between them and spinach. If you have a garden, the best part is they are free and be a lot more nutritious than the store bought spinach.
Additional types of greens to consider for this type of treatment would be beet greens, swiss chard greens and if you are very adventurous you may try broccoli and cauliflower, although I haven't yet.