Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chicken and Ranch Pinwheel Appetizers

I love pretty little appetizers - especially this time of year.  A favorite dinner here is a tapas or small plates night and I love mixing meatless and chicken/pork based appetizers for a great dinner with friends.  During Lent, any recipe I can convert to meatless becomes my new BFF and while this does feature chicken, it can be almost as tasty without it.

I love the look of a classic pinwheel but some of the ones I've had in the past are either too bland or they can taste like health food....which is never a good flavor.  Ever.  Here is a little twist on a classic pinwheel using a few of my favorite flavors: ranch, chicken, and roasted red bell pepper.

8 oz cream cheese, softened ($1.00)
1 T. each: parmesan and butter ($.25)
1/2 packet ranch or buttermilk ranch salad dressing mix ($.30)
1 clove garlic, minced ($.05)
1/2 roasted red bell pepper, minced ($.15)
3/4 C. shredded or finely chopped cooked chicken ($.50)
2 packages premade crescent rolls ($2.00)
Ranch dressing for dipping (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all ingredients except crescent rolls together until well blended.
Divide mixture in 2 equal parts.
Press seams together on crescent roll dough and spread evenly with mixture.
Roll each rectangle into a tight spiral, and brush the edges with water.  Press seam side to make a tight seal.
Cut into 8-12 slices - place spiral side up on ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 12-14 minutes or until crescent rolls are nicely browned. Serve with ranch dressing for dipping, if desired.

Yields: 16-24 appetizers
Cost: $4.25
Cost per pinwheel: $.26

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Quick and Easy Taquitos

I love making potato and/or ground turkey taquitos!  I first tried this at my MIL house and even though hubby is sort of ambivalent towards these, every now and then I just have to make them, if only for myself.

If you need an easy, go-to recipe for a crowd and you are on a budget, this recipe is easy to tailor to suit your favorite meat eaters, a group of vegetarians, picky teens and adults and everyone in between.

I've got 4 different filling ideas for these yummy taquitos, though you can always do combinations of each.  My two favorites are the potato and cheese and the ground turkey and refried bean mixture.

Taquito Basics:
24-36 corn tortillas ($1.39)
1 to 2 C. shredded cheese ($1.50)

Ground Turkey Filling:
12oz. ground turkey ($1.00)
1 small onion, minced ($.10)
3 cloves garlic, minced ($.05)
1 tsp. each: oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder ($.05)
1/2 tsp. each: paprika, chile powder, salt, and pepper ($.05)

Brown turkey in a nonstick skillet with all other ingredients.  Drain and cool 5 minutes.

Potato Filling:
2-3 medium sized russet potatoes ($.50)
pinch of salt
1 T. cream cheese ($.10)
1 T. butter ($.10)

Boil unpeeled potatoes until just fork tender.  Drain and cool.  Peel potatoes and lightly mash with all remaining ingredients.

Refried Bean Filling:
16 oz. can refried beans ($.75)
2 T. shredded cheese ($.10)
1/8 C. salsa ($.15)

Mix well all ingredients and microwave on high for 45-60 seconds, until mixture is warm through and stirs easily.

Chicken Filling:
2 C. cooked chicken, shredded or chopped well ($1.00)
3 cloves garlic, minced ($.05)
1 T. butter ($.10)
salt, pepper, and oregano to taste ($.05)
1-2 T. cheese, optional ($.10)

Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat with butter, once butter is melted, add garlic and saute 30-45 seconds.  Once garlic is fragrant, add all other ingredients, cook over medium low until chicken is heated through.

Warm tortillas until pliable (either in the microwave in batches of 6-8 until well steamed or on a griddle pan over mediu, high heat until soft).

Fill corn tortilla with 3-4 T. of filling and 1 T. shredded cheese.

Roll, place seam side down on a large baking sheet (ungreased), drizzle with olive oil (optional) and bake at 400 for 7-10 minutes, until tortilla is firm and lightly crispy.  Serve with salsa, sour cream, etc. for dipping.

Yields: 24-36 taquitos
Cost: $3.89 to $4.19
Cost per taquito: $.17-$.20 (depending on filling)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Red Raspberry and White Chocolate Crumb Bars

I was looking for a recipe that used raspberries for the holidays, aside from my favorite thumbprint cookies and I happened upon a gem from the Hershey's cookbook I picked up on the bargain table of Barnes and Noble a few years back.  I made a couple of tweaks to fit what ingredients I happened to have on hand and this turned out amazingly well!

2 2/3 C. flour ($.25)
1 C. sugar ($.10)
1/2 C. chopped hazelnuts ($.15)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg ($.05)
1 egg, slightly beaten ($.10)
2 stick butter, slightly chilled ($1)
1 1/8 C. raspberry jam or sauce ($.40)
1 C. white chocolate chips ($.50)

Heat oven to 350.
Grease a 13x9" baking dish.

Stir together flour, sugar, nutmeg, and hazelnuts.  Stir in egg - mixture should be very crumbly.  Slowly work in the butter, mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.

Reserve 1 1/2 C. of the crumb mixture.  Spread the rest of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Spread evenly with raspberry jam or sauce.  Top with white chocolate chips and reserved crumb mixture.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top of the bars is lightly browned.  Cool completely and cut into small bars.

Yields: 36
Cost: $2.55
Cost per bar: $.07

Monday, December 30, 2013

Fresh Herb and Cheese Pinwheels

I have embraced the beauty and simplicity of keeping crescent roll dough on hand for emergency appetizers.  How else would I have been able to whip up these pinwheels in a few minutes on Christmas Day when the people were getting nibbly and the lasagna was taking longer than usual to cook through?  The genius in these is using whatever you have on hand.

I'll be doing quite a few variations on this recipe - I'm already planning to make a twist on these for our New Years Eve bash.  Super simple, 3 step recipes are amazing and if you want to make these for a party, you can whip up the filling mixture up to a week ahead of time and just let it soften enough to spread before using it.

1 package of crescent roll dough ($2.00)
2 oz. cream cheese ($.15)
1/2 C. shredded cheese, I used gouda, cheddar, provolone, and swiss ($.20)
1 T. parmesan ($.05)
1 tsp. fresh thyme ($.10)
1/2 tsp. dried basil ($.05)
1 T. each mayo and garlic butter ($.10)

Heat oven to 375.
Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Blend well all ingredients except crescent rolls.  Roll out crescent roll dough and pinch perforations to seal tightly.  Spread evenly the cheese mixture over the crescent roll dough and roll up tightly.  Slice dough into pinwheels, should yield 16 pinwheels.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until dough is lightly golden at the edges.

Yields: 16 pinwheels
Cost: $2.65
Cost per pinwheel: $.16

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jumbo Peanut Butter Cups

Found this awesome recipe on Pinterest and had to give it a try - I did make a few tweaks to this recipe to help match up with the ingredients I happened to have on hand.
Since I come from a family of chocolate lovers, this is the perfect time of year to give this tasty treat a try and this recipe does not disappoint.  The best peanut butter cups I've ever had!!
1 C. creamy peanut butter, divided ($.30)
1 T. butter, softened ($.10)
2/3 C. powdered sugar ($.20)
1/8 tsp. salt, optional ($.05)
2 1/4 C. milk chocolate chips ($1.25)
1/2 C. dark chocolate chips (optional) ($.30)
2 T. chopped peanuts or colored sprinkles (for garnish), optional ($.10)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract ($.10)
Fill muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar. and salt until smooth, set aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips with the 1/2 cup of remaining peanut butter, stir until smooth. Microwave in 30-45 second intervals, stirring well between each cycle.  (This usually takes about 2-3 minutes).  Stir in vanilla extract once chocolate mixture is melted.
Spoon 1 tablespoonful of chocolate mixture into cupcake liners.
Top with a 1/2 tablespoonful of peanut butter mixture.
Cover with chocolate mixture to completely top peanut butter.  Approximately 1/2 T. of chocolate per cup. 
Garnish with chopped peanuts or candy sprinkles if desired.
Refrigerate until set.  Keep chilled before serving.
Yields: 12 jumbo peanut butter cups
Cost: $1.40
Cost per cup: $.12
For a variation on this recipe, use a mini muffin tin filled with candy cup or mini muffin liners to get smaller peanut buttercups.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tangy Ginger and Lime Infused Chicken Strips

Lately, I have been on a wicked chicken kick - I cannot seem to have enough chicken.  Well, my craving has really centered around chicken strips, but I really needed to give the standard strip a new twist.  I surprised myself with the new take on chicken, combining my love of ginger pad thai with some limes I needed to use up and came up with this recipe.

I served it with fried rice and salad - though for kids, it could pair with a potato and would be awesome served in a tortilla with shredded cabbage or lettuce, chipotle-infused sour cream, and a little cilantro.  This  recipe is definitely a keeper and doesn't require a lot of money to make.


1/2 C. flour ($.05)
1 tsp. ginger ($.05)
salt and pepper ($.05)
1/4 C. bread crumbs ($.10)
zest of 2 limes (free)
1 T. parmesan ($.05)
1/2 tsp. each garlic and onion powder ($.05)
pinch of cayene or chile powder, optional

1/2 C. milk ($.10)
1 tsp. soy sauce ($.05)
juice of 2 limes ($.15)
1 T. sour cream ($.05)

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts ($2.80)
Frying oil - vegetable or canola work well ($1.50)

In a large, shallow dish, combine flour, parmesan, breadcrumbs, with ginger, lime zest, salt and pepper to taste, garlic and onion powder, and cayenne or chile powder.  Set aside.

Whisk together milk, soy sauce, lime juice, and sour cream.  Set aside.

Cut chicken into strips or bite sized pieces, if you prefer.
Heat oil in a deep skillet (2-3" of oil in the bottom of skillet) to 350F.

In small batches, add chicken to the wet mixture and let set 1 minute.
Transfer chicken to the dry mixture and toss well to coat.  Shake of excess breading and add chicken to the hot oil.  Fry until golden on both sides, about 1-3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towel.

Repeat until you have fried all the chicken.

Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce.

Yields: 6-8 servings
Cost: $5.00
Cost per serving: $.63-.94

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Raspberry White Chocolate Pound Cake

1 1/2 C. flour ($.15)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder ($.05)
1/4 teaspoon salt ($.05)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened ($.20)
1 stick butter, softened ($.30)
1 1/2 cups sugar ($.15)
1/4 C. slivered almonds ($.15)
4 eggs ($.30)
1 tsp. vanilla ($.05)
1/3 C. white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries ($.30)

1/2 C. powdered sugar ($.10)
1 to 2 tsp. milk ($.05)

Heat oven to 325 F.
Light grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using a mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter on medium-low speed until well combined, about 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar to the mixer bowl and continue beating until fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs, on at a time, mixing well after each egg.  Mix in the vanilla extract. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until just combined, stir in the white chocolate chips.  The dough will be sticky.

Pour half of the batter to the prepared pan, drop in the raspberries evenly, then top with the remaining batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, top should be golden brown. Cool the cake, then transfer to a large plate.

Whisk together all ingredients and pour over cooled cake.
Serve while warm or room temperature.

Yields: 10-12 servings
Cost: $2.05
Cost per serving: $.21

Monday, August 5, 2013

Spanish Style Marinade

1/4 C. olive oil ($.10)
1 T. red wine vinegar ($.05)
1/4 C. red wine ($.25)
1 T. water (free)
1 T. lemon juice ($.05)
salt and pepper ($.05)
1/2 tsp. each: paprika, onion powder, and oregano ($.05)
2 tsp. minced garlic ($.05)
1/8 tsp. thyme, optional

In a medium sized bowl, combine all dry seasonings and add vinegar, wine, lemon juice, and water - stir well.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking while you drizzle to full incorporate.

Use marinade on:
beef (marinade 4 hours to overnight)
pork (marinade 2-4 hours, less time for thinner or boneless cuts of meat)
chicken (marinade 30 minutes for boneless, 1 hour for bone-in)
seafood (brush with marinade 15-20 before cooking or grilling)

Yields: 1-2 batches of marinade (2-4 pounds of meat for each batch)
Cost: $.60

Tasty Tapas Idea:
Try this marinade on boneless pork chops (cut 1" or thicker).
Marinade 1-2 hours and remove from marinade and fry lightly in a nonstick skillet on medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side.  Transfer to the oven (heat to 350F) for 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165F).  Cool 5-10 minutes, slice thin and serve on a crusty baugette slice or hard roll wedge with a few spinach leaves and a small piece of munster cheese.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Blueberry Almond Pound Cake

1 2/3 C. flour ($.15)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder ($.05)
1/4 teaspoon salt ($.05)
3 oz. cream cheese, softened ($.20)
1 stick butter, softened ($.30)
1 1/2 cups sugar ($.15)
1/4 C. slivered almonds ($.15)
4 eggs ($.30)
1 tsp. almond extract ($.15)
1/2 tsp. vanilla ($.05)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries ($.30)

1/2 C. powdered sugar ($.10)
1/8 tsp. amond extract ($.05)
1-2 tsp. milk ($.05)

Heat oven to 325 F.
Light grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using a mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter on medium-low speed until well combined, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the sugar to the mixer bowl and continue beating until fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the eggs, on at a time, mixing well after each egg.   Blend in the almond and the vanilla extracts.  Slowly beat in the flour mixture until just combined.  The dough will be sticky. 

Pour half of the batter to the prepared pan, drop in the blueberries evenly, then top with the remaining batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, top should be golden brown.   Cool the cake, then transfer to a large plate.
Whisk together all ingredients and pour over cooled cake.
Serve while warm or room temperature.

Yields: 10-12 servings
Cost: $2.05
Cost per serving: $.21

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Italian Style Chicken Drummies

2.5 lbs. chicken drummies, skin on (6-10 drummies) ($.1.75)
2/3 C. fat free Italian salad dressing (free after coupons)
2 T. Italian seasoning ($.20)
1 T. flour ($.05)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped ($.35)
2 medium onions, quartered ($.15)
8 cloves of garlic, crushed ($.30)
2 T. olive oil ($.20)

Marinade the chicken drummies in the salad dressing for 2-4 hours.

Remove the chicken drummies from the marinade (do not discard the marinade) and lightly pat dry.  Combine the Italian seasoning with the flour.  Toss the chicken with the seasoning to coat well.

Heat oven to 375F.  Drizzle 1 T. olive oil in the bottom of a 13x9" baking pan (with 2" sides or higher).

Add tomatoes, garlic, and onion to the bottom of the pan and place the chicken on top.  Drizzle chicken with final tablespoon of olive oil.

Place uncovered in oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until meat temperature reaches 180F.

Serve with rice or potato of choice and a spinach salad topped with orange wedges and parmesan.

Yields: 3-5 servings
Cost: $3.00
Cost per serving: $.60-$1.00

Leftover Makeover Ideas:
1.  Top a mixed green salad with shredded chicken
2.  Remove skin and de-bone 2-3 chicken drummies, chop chicken and stir in 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning, 1/4 C. light mayo, 1 T. sundried tomatoes, and 1 tsp. parsley for a chicken salad filling for sandwiches.
3.  Serve in a warmed corn tortilla with shredded cabbage and cheddar cheese and 1 T. salsa.
4.  Stir into an alfredo sauce.
5.  Serve in a hard roll with havarti cheese, spinach, and 1 T. mayo with a pinch of basil.
6.  Stir into your favorite rice dish.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spanish Style Slow Cooker Pork Roast with Root Vegetables

This is a great recipe to use an inexpensive cut of pork (a pork butt roast works great and can usually be found for $1.49 lb. or less).  With a few ingredients out of the spice rack and some hearty veggies, you'll have an easy to make meal with only 15 minutes of prep time needed.

The leftover meat for this recipe freezes very well and at the bottom of this recipe, I've included a few ideas to help you make over this leftover.

3-4 dry bay leaves ($.05)
1/4 tsp. each: paprika, oregano, salt, and thyme ($.05)
1 tsp. each: garlic powder and onion powder ($.05)
1/2 tsp. black pepper ($.05)
5.2 lb. pork roast, fat trimmed ($5.15)
3-4 medium onions, sliced thick ($.40)
2-3 carrots, cut into thick slices ($.30)
2-3 medium russet or red potatoes, quartered ($.50)
3 T. worchestshire sauce ($.10)
1/4 C. white wine ($.30)
1/2 C. water (free)

Mix together all seasonings, except bay leaves.  Rub seasoning blend into the pork roast.

In a 4.5 qt. or larger crockpot, place seasoned pork.  Add in onions.  In the bottom of the crockpot, add the water, wine, and worchestersauce sauce.

Cook on the low setting for 5-6 hours.  Add potatoes and carrots and cook for 1 to 2 more hours, or until veggies are fork tender.

Yields: 6-10 servings
Cost: $6.95
Cost per serving: $1.16

Leftover Pork Roast Ideas:
1.  Serve in a sandwich with toasted whole wheat bread, top with brick cheese, tomato, and lettuce.
2.  Serve in a tortilla with refried beans and thin sliced onions
3.  Serve over mashed potatoes with gravy (use liquid from the crockpot, whisked with mixture of 2 T. cornstarch with 1/4 C. water or milk).

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ham and Cheddar Frittata

I'm trying to pull together a lighter menu with 10 ingredients or less per recipe.

For me, this is a real challenge, since I love to cook with lots of bold flavors, which really can make an ingredient list add up.  Most of the recipes I'm now working on are done in 30-45 minutes or less and cost $5 or less to make.  These recipes are all tested before I post them and I hope to average 1 new lighter menu meal a week until I have at least 25-30 new recipes posted.

Here is a twist on one of my favorites - the classic frittata.  This classic Italian dish isn't just a go-to breakfast or brunch menu staple, it's great for dinner, and can make an amazing breakfast sandwich.  Paired with sourdough or whole wheat toast or English muffins and a side of fruit or a mixed green salad, this is a fun recipe to whip up any day of the week and is fantastic at room temperature and reheats well.

4 whole eggs, 2 egg whites ($.75)
2 T. water (free)
salt and pepper ($.05)
1/4 C. cubed ham ($.25)
1/4 C. shredded cheddar ($.25)
1/2 tsp. vegetable oil ($.05)

Whisk together eggs, egg whites, water, salt, and pepper.
In a 9" pie plate, add oil and coat well.  Sprinkle ham and cheddar on the bottom of the pan and pour egg mixture over the top.

Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until top is lightly golden.
Cool 5 minutes, then cut into 8 wedges and serve with chilled fruit or mixed green salad.
Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Yields: 3-4 servings
Cost: $1.35
Cost per serving: $.45