Friday, December 11, 2015

Blonde Brickle Brownies - Toffee Blonde Brownies

Call them Brickle Brownies or Blondies, these sweet treats will definitely answer!  I used to make these for my father every Christmas and it's a tradition that I must admit I miss.  So this year, I'm making the blonde brickle brownies as I always made them in my youth - with a little more brown sugar, a little less fanfare, and tons of yummy toffee goodness!  Dad, this one is for you.

4 eggs ($.40)
1 C. dark brown sugar ($.10)
2/3 C. granulated sugar ($.05)
2/3 C. butter, melted ($.75)
2 tsp. vanilla extract ($.25)
1/4 tsp. butter extract ($.25)
2 3/4 C. flour ($.25)
1 tsp. baking powder ($.05)
1/2 tsp. salt ($.05)
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, optional ($.05)
1 bag Heath Bits of Brickle or chopped toffee pieces ($1.50)
1/2 C. chopped pecans, if desired ($1.50)

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

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs well.  Stir in brown and granulated sugars, cream together.  Stir in melted butter and both extracts.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix well to combine.  Fold in toffee pieces and chopped pecans, if desired.

Spread into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting.
Serves well with vanilla ice cream.

Yields: 24 brownies/bars
Cost: $5.20
Cost per serving: $.24

Monday, October 19, 2015

Creamy Homemade Chicken Stew

The cooler autumn weather really puts me in the mind for soups and stews, hearty pastas, and savory roasted treats.  Lately, chicken has been what everybody's in the mood to eat, so I took some odds and ends out of the fridge and pantry and came up with a hearty and slightly creamy chicken stew that was a huge hit - and there are a few store-bought shortcuts to make this an easy weeknight menu option, too.

I made a chicken and vegetable stock from scratch, as I had lots of veggies that were getting a little too soft for snacking - but that's the beauty of soup!  You can make use of a lot of things you already have on hand and end up with an amazing meal for so little money.  Here's what I did:

Chicken and veggie stock:
1 T. olive oil ($.15)
3-4 small onions, skin on and thick sliced or chopped ($.10)
1/4lb. baby carrots, roughly chopped ($.15)
4-5 celery stalks, roughly chopped ($.25)
4 pieces bone-in chicken (I used drummies) $1.00
1 1/2 tsp. each: thyme, oregano, black pepper, and fennel seed ($.10)
2 T. basil ($.10)
2-3 tsp. salt (to taste) ($.05)

Heat olive oil in a 5-7 qt. stock pot over medium heat, add celery, onions, and carrots and cook at medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add all remaining ingredients except salt and top 4 quarts of water.  Raise heat to a medium-high and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Taste and add salt and additional seasonings as needed.

2 T. olive oil ($.30)
1/2 T. butter ($.10)
1/4 lb. baby carrots, finely chopped ($.15)
3 celery stocks, finely chopped ($.15)
2-3 small onions, minced ($.10)
4 cloves garlic, minced ($.10)
1 shallot, minced ($.05) (optional)
3-5 T. flour ($.05)
2-3 C. chicken, rough chopped ($1.25)
1/8 C. white wine, optional ($.25)
2 small or 1 large potato with skin on, sliced paper thin ($.10)
1 T. basil ($.10)
1 1/2 tsp. each black pepper and oregano ($.05)
1/4 C. heavy cream ($.25)
Chicken and veggie stock (see above or you can use storebought stock)

Heat butter and olive oil over a medium heat until oil starts to shimmer.  Then add onions, celery, carrots, shallots, and garlic to pan.  Sautee over medium heat until just tender, then add basil, oregano, black pepper, and salt to taste, stirring well.  Add in flour, a tablespoon at a time and stir constantly, add white wine.  Stir in stock by the ladleful, while stirring.  Once stock is incorporated, add potato and chicken and let simmer over a medium-low heat for 30-45 minutes.  Stir in heavy cream 5-8 minutes before serving, keep stew at a low simmer.  Top with fresh parsley, parmesan, chives, green onions, or cheddar cheese as desired.  I topped mine with 1-2 T. parmesan.

Serve with salad and warm yeast rolls.

Yields: 10-12 servings
Cost: $4.90
Cost per serving: $.49

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sweet Citrus Pork Tenderloin

A tender, succulent grilled pork tenderloin that was made for sandwiches...that is the life I aspire to.  And with this take on a tenderloin, I think I am one step closer to sandwich nirvana.  I love creating new flavors and have a considerable spice cabinet to pull from and here, I've used bold citrus flavors with sweet and a little tang to punch up a pretty piece of pork.

In the summer, when the whole pork tenderloins go on sale, I'm right there, grabbing a couple and thinking of all the ways I can use them.  I take them home and cut them into meal sized portions of about one pound to a pound and a half and vacuum seal them, after I've marinated them for 24 hours.  When I'm cutting up the pork tenderloin, the small scrappy pieces become stew meat (or in my house, stirfry or taco meat) so there is no waste from a beautiful tenderloin.  I even cut thick chops for stuffed pork chops and prep them on the spot, including stuffing them.  Whenever I can spare the time, I will freeze the pork for a couple of hours, just enough to make it easier to get a good slice and a neat edge when I'm portioning the pork out for our meals.  During the week, I just have to thaw a portion and roast it when I'm home from work.

While this recipe could work well with most citrus flavors, I just went with what I had on hand at the moment.

1/4 C. each: white wine, orange juice ($.25)
1/8 C. each brown sugar, olive oil ($.25)
2 T. molasses or honey ($.10)
1 small red or orange bell pepper, minced ($.35)
1/2 tsp. each: black pepper, garlic powder ($.05)
1 tsp. each: salt, paprika, onion powder ($.10)

1.5 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed ($3.40)
Whisk together all ingredients.  Marinate pork in mixture overnight.

Roast in oven at 400F for 1 hour 20 minutes or until meat is golden and internal temperature reads 180F.  Cool 10-15 minutes, slice thin for sandwiches or thicker for an entrée.

Yields: 3-4 servings
Cost: $4.50
Cost per serving: $1.12-$1.50

Serve with tortillas and salad, sliced thin and piled on sub rolls with cheddar, lettuce, and onion, or with white or fried rice and sautéed peppers and onions.  Can also be served as an appetizer on small rolls with coleslaw on top.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Peppery Smokehouse Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is one of my signature dishes and I've been having a blast this summer finding new ways to season it, though my Italian garlic seasoned tenderloin is a classic, I have been so inspired by all the amazing flavors and recipes I've been reading so it was time to update this classic.  And what screams summer more than a smoky, peppery flavor that is super savory and a little tangy.  This pairs well with a fruity lemonade or a crisp white wine based cocktail.  Peach and lime sangria, anyone?  Next time I'm going to try a sweet citrus pork tenderloin.

Another thing I love about pork tenderloin - it makes fabulous, decadent, over-the-top gourmet sandwiches with the addition of crusty bread, some good cheese (I love Havarti, gouda, sharp cheddar, or even some smoked provolone), caramelized onions/charred peppers/sautéed mushrooms.  Pair with a classic side or spinach salad and dinner is done.  And it looks beautiful enough for a casual dinner with friends, too.  Just put out a few cheese and bread options, let people serve themselves.

1/4 C. each worchestershire sauce, steakhouse marinade, and red wine ($.50)
2-4 T. brown sugar ($.05)
a few dashes of liquid smoke ($.05)

Season blend:
1 tsp. each: cumin, paprika, garlic powder, ancho chile powder ($.20)
2 tsp. smokehouse black pepper (free after coupons)
1 tsp. California black pepper seasoning and hickory smoked salt (from the Spice House) ($.20)
1/2 tsp. each: oregano, onion powder, mesquite seasoning ($.15)

1.5 pounds pork tenderloin ($3.25)

Mix marinade ingredients together and marinade the pork overnight.
Heat oven to 400F, line a 2 qt. baking dish with aluminum.  Season the pork tenderloin with pepper blend and place in the prepared baking dish.

Bake at 400F. for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in center reads 180F.  Cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cost: $4.40
Yields: 2-4 servings
Cost per serving: $1.10-$2.20

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lemon Mesquite Roasted Chicken

We've been eating tons of chicken lately, maybe because I'm finding huge deals on chicken or just because we are poultry kind of people.  I rarely cook with beef, the prices being as high as they have been lately, but chicken is my go-to protein choice.  This recipe works as well on the grill as it does in the oven, and the ingredients are wonderfully versatile.

4-5 lbs. bone-in chicken, I used leg quarters ($1.95)
juice of 2 lemons or 4 limes ($.50)
1 stick, 1/4 C. butter or 4 T. butter and 4 T, olive oil($.50)
6-8 cloves garlic ($.20)
1 small shallot ($.20)
3 T. dry white wine, optional ($.10)
1/2 tsp. worchestershire sauce ($.05)
2-3 T. mesquite season blend ($.75)

Melt butter over medium heat in a small saute pan, add shallot and garlic, cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.  Stir in all remaining ingredients except chicken, remove from heat, and cool 5 minutes.  Toss chicken with half of the herbed butter mixture.  Set aside remaining butter blend.

Bake chicken in an uncovered dish at 400F for 35-45 minutes, basting every 10 minutes until chicken is a deep golden hue and cooked through.  Drizzle with remaining butter blend upon serving.

Yields: 4-6 servings
Cost: $4.25
Cost per serving: $.71-$1.06 per serving

Serves well with:
1.  Garden salad, Italian or French bread
2.  Spinach salad, potatoes au gratin
3.  Baked beans, corn on the cob, side salad
4.  Spanish rice, refried beans, tortillas
5.  Potato salad, fresh watermelon
6.  Angel hair pasta in a scampi sauce, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms

Mesquite Seasoning Blend

I generally make my own season blends so I can control the salt content and as much as I love some of the store bought combinations, they never pack the flavor punch that I can create.  Here is my newest favorite, a mesquite and herb blend that has tons of flavor and is 100% salt free:

1 T. mesquite flavoring ($.35)
2 tsp. each: oregano, onion powder, granulated garlic, black pepper ($.25)
2 T. California sweet paprika ($.20)
1 tsp. each: basil and fennel seed ($.05)
3 tsp. cumin ($.05)
1/2 tsp. cayenne, optional ($.05)

Mix together, store in a sealed, airtight container.
Yields: 1-2 batches, enough to season 3-6 pounds of meat, poultry, or veggies.
Cost: $.95

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