Category Archives: Penny Pincher

>Spicy Beef with Sesame Ginger "Faux Mein"


Couldn’t be easier, and yet SO tasty!

-Prepare two portions of spaghetti of your choice (I like to mix half regular, half whole wheat – this time around I used the Ronzoni Smart Taste since I had a coupon that made it super cheap on sale a while back)
-Drain the pasta and reserve while you prepare the veggies and beef
– Cut your choice of veggies (I used carrots and green onions in mine, and omitted the onion in The Hub’s) in to matchsticks – I aim for 1 cup veggies total
-Allow a skillet (or wok if you have one) to heat over high heat before adding a spritz of cooking spray (I use canola) and 1/2 lb beef for stir-fry or thinly sliced beef of your choice – cook fast over the high heat until meat is just cooked through.
-Remove beef from heat and add 1 teaspoon reduced sodium Soy Sauce and 1/2 teaspoon (more or less to taste) Red Pepper Flakes – stir well to coat all the meat
-Return noodles to heat and add veggies and 1/4 cup Sesame Ginger dressing (I like Newman’s Own Lighten Up Sesame Ginger) to the noodles stirring to coat and allowing to heat through (but not so long that the veggies get limp – they are good crisp but warm.
-Pile noodles on plate, top with beef and serve

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Filed under Beef, Penny Pincher

>Egg topped noodles -Penny Pincher redo


So when I promised a Penny Pincher version of this fabulous and yummy-sounding recipe from Bon Appetit magazine this week, it was without consulting the magic 8 ball that would have no doubt told me “not likely” or “try again later” or (if it was a REALLY fancy magic 8 ball) “you will be too busy barfing and sipping flat coke this week, Keri.”
I have tummy trouble. 😦
Eating actually sounds like an awful idea to Keri right now – take a picture, this is maybe the 5th moment in my entire 33 years that this has happened.
But the blog must go on, right? So I did it anyway. (Who loves you? Keri does, that’s who!)
What did I do different than the original recipe above? It was all about ingredient substitutions, actually, I followed the same basic steps, but I worked with what I had.
In a pot of boiling water seasoned well with salt, I placed two servings’ worth of Ronzoni Smart Taste spaghetti (actually, I would have loved to use whole wheat pasta in the place of the buckwheat noodles called for in the original recipe, but I got a great deal on the Smart Taste a couple weeks ago, so it is what we had.)
While the pasta cooked, I heated up a swirl of olive oil in a skillet and added 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic to the oil over medium high heat. Within a minute I also added 4 slices of extra lean turkey bacon (salty and crispy and yummy, but less expensive than prosciutto and ALWAYS on hand in my fridge). The bacon crisped and got some nice color, and then I removed it to a plate.
To the pasta pot I added 1 cup of sliced broccoli stems (I usually save them for soup since The Hub only really likes “the tree part” of broccoli, but their bright green color and firm crunch seemed the perfect substitution for Asparagus, which I will buy if the price is right, but didn’t have in the house.) I let that cook with the pasta for about 2 minutes before draining the pasta and returning to the pan, along with some grated Parmesan cheese. I covered the pot to let the cheese get melty and keep everything warm.
Meanwhile, I cracked two eggs into the pan that I had cooked the bacon and garlic in earlier and let the eggs cook over medium low heat, covered, until the whites were set.
I added the bacon to the pasta mixture and gave everything a good stir before nesting the pasta on to two plates and topping with the eggs.
I snuck a bite. It was worth feeling sick afterwards – the salty tang of the cheese and the bacon, the crisp crunch of the broccoli, and the comforting bite of pasta coated with the rich egg yolk all together? It was the perfect bite.
Simple, economical, and super quick – this one is getting made again when I can dig into a whole plate!

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Filed under Beyond Easy, Penny Pincher, Picture, Time Crunch Tested

>Inside-out Shepherd’s Pie


I have a confession. I can be a little lazy after a long day of work. But even when I am feeling a bit, um, “undermotivated” shall we say, I still love cooking a yummy dinner for the fam when I get home. Not only does cooking soothe my stressed-out soul, all of the “yummy noises” The Hub makes when consuming my creations do wonders for an ego bruised by slaying office dragons all day.
That being said – it never hurts to keep things as easy as possible, right? And so I give you the Inside-out Shepherd’s Pie. All of the delicious flavor of the comfort food classic, with none of the extra assembly required!
Shepherd’s pie is very forgiving, and I probably never do the exact same thing twice, but it is usually something like this:
-Make mashed potatoes (or use flakes, or use leftovers – this is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes!) I dice potatoes small and boil them on the stove until tender before draining and adding a few splashes of milk and whipping them with my trusty hand mixer. Don’t forget to taste and season with S&P.
-brown 1/2 lb of stew meat, cubed beef, or ground beef
-to the pan add 1 can of veggie beef soup and 1 can of water, stirring and scraping the pan bottom to deglaze the pan
-add 1 shake off the bottle of Worcestershire Sauce
-bring mixture to a boil
-mix two teaspoons of corn starch with two tablespoons of cold water and stir well
-add the corn starch slurry (yep that stuff you just made is a “slurry”) to the boiling beef mixture and stir rapidly until mixture thickens.
Spoon mounds of mashed potatoes on to serving plates, making a well or indentation in the top of each mound.
Ladle beef mixture into potato well and allow to spill out over the sides of the mound.
Sprinkle with paprika and cheese if desired.
*Added bonus, not having to worry that when you attempt to serve your Shepherd’s pie, it is going to fall apart in a messy heap. “Messy Heap” is what you are aiming for. 🙂

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Filed under Ground Beef, New Twist, Penny Pincher, Picture

>Beefy Mac with Creamy Tomato Sauce


I know it looks a little um, unimpressive, shall we say – but people, this is tasty as heck!! The secret here really is in the sauce.
While you are boiling your elbow macaroni:
Brown 1/2 lb ground beef and drain
Then add to the beef:
1/4 – 1/2 brick of cream cheese
1 palmful of Basil
12-16 oz of tomato sauce (I buy the 8 oz cans of the cheapy store brand sauce by the tomato paste and doctor it up myself.)
Stir it all together over medium heat, allowing the cream cheese to melt into the sauce. mmmmmm.
Then drain and add your pasta, sprinkle some Mozzarella cheese if desired, and serve in a delicious mound. I repeat: mmmmmm.

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Filed under Penny Pincher, Picture, Time Crunch Tested

>Breakfast For Dinner – Sweet Potato Casualty


Having “Breakfast for Dinner” night is a great way to shake things up a bit AND pinch pennies. Our latest BFD night included one of my favorite breakfasts with a new twist.

I have talked before about the recipes that I have been cooking since my girl scout days, and Casualty was a staple camp breakfast for good old troop 1062. Loved it then, love it now.

The traditional recipe (amounts vary according to number of hungry BFD eaters) that we cooked as scouts involved using a big dutch oven over a camp fire to cook chopped up bacon, rendering the fat, then cooking thin-sliced or small diced potatoes in the bacon drippings, adding some diced onion, and then pouring scrambled eggs over everything and letting it all cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggs set. Then topping the whole thing with plenty of shredded cheese and serving in a big heaping pile. It looks like a mess, which must be why we called it “casualty”. It is SO good.

I decided to mix it up (and make it a little healthier) this time. I started out with some leftover sweet potatoes and yams which had accompanied adobo chicken last week, and some extra lean turkey bacon all into a hot pan coated with canola spray:

All of that cooked together for a bit to crisp up, and then I added 2 whole eggs and 4 egg whites, all of which had been scrambled with a splash of milk and a pinch of dry mustard powder. Last week King Soopers had some grade B eggs in the manager’s special section, so I snatched some up – I assure you they are just as good as grade A, and so much less expensive:

For some added kick, a few generous splashes of Louisiana hot sauce:

Then some chopped up American cheese (use what ya have, I always say):

And then the lid went on until the cheese got all melty. mmmmmm, melty.

I served it in a nice messy pile next to a thick slice of fresh-from-the-broiler sourdough toast and left the hot sauce close by in case we wanted things EXTRA spicy.
I think my troop leader would be proud.

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Filed under New Twist, Penny Pincher, Picture

>Hamburger Stew really sounds boring…

>Sunflower Market has killer prices on ground meat right now. So I loaded up on ground chicken and extra lean ground beef and stocked the freezer. ( I get excited about the strangest things.)

In addition, King Soopers has Campbell’s Condensed Soups on sale this week, and I had a coupon for them as well – so I snapped up some cans of various types that I can use for bases and sauces.

Last night I browned 3/4 lb of the extra lean ground beef in my big stock pot, and then added in 1/4 cup of red wine to deglaze the pan (add it and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.)
Then I used a can of Campbell’s Beef Consomme made according to the directions on the can, adding that to the pot along with 1/2 of a can of mixed veggies. All of that came to a simmer together and I also shook in a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce. Meanwhile I cooked two handfuls of Egg Noodles (I use No Yolks because of The Hub’s Cholesterol issues) in a separate pan of boiling water and sliced some fabulous crusty sourdough bread (shhhh, don’t tell – from the day old rack.)

Using two teaspoons of corn starch and two teaspoons cold water, I made a slurry and added to the boiling stew, mixing rapidly to thicken. Then I added the egg noodles and ladled it into bowls.
SO MUCH FLAVOR! The Hub gave it a bit of the stink-eye because of the simplicity, I think, but he really dug it. Hooray for simple, hearty,delicious, stretch-a-buck meals!!

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Filed under Ground Beef, Penny Pincher, Time Crunch Tested

>Teachin’ ya Tuesday – How to make "cheap meat" delicious.

>In this humble blogger’s opinion, there is no such thing as a bad cut of meat. (And when I say meat here, I mean any animal protein – beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and anything else you might come across. I ain’t skeered of whatever you might have to offer.)
It is all about preparation, not price – I promise.

One of the house favorites around here is steak night – we love a good hunk of red meat in this family, no doubt, and it is one of my favorite meals to prepare for birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations. That being said, I have given up on splurging for “good” steaks, even for those celebratory dinners. Not. Worth. It.
The best tasting steaks I have ever made at home are simple, inexpensive (and nice and lean, BTW) Top Sirloin steaks prepared using this salting method. Doubt if you will – but try it anyway. You’ll see. Try it on just about any cut – whatever is on sale for rock bottom prices. My mouth waters just thinking of it.

I am a big fan of stew meat as well – for price and portion control it is tops in my book. Not just beef, but lamb and pork stew meat are frequent ingredients in our kitchen. The trick with these, and with all “tougher” cuts of meat is to either marinate for a long time using a nice acid-y marinade (think balsamic vinegar and herbs and overnight at least) if you want to do a quick-cooking preparation; or cooking low and slow for an extended period of time (crock pot, low temp, from early morning until dinner) accompanied by flavors your family enjoys. (Herbs, or sauces, or mustard… anything that will impart flavor as the meat cooks.)

As for poultry – dark meat gets a bad rap for being less nutritionally desirable than the expensive breast meat. This is not necessarily true. Thighs are slightly higher in fat than breast meat – but they also have a rich, meaty flavor that can mean more satisfaction for less actual consumption (but that is just my opinion.) The Hub is not a huge fan of dark meat but the price is right, so I use it in stews, soups, pot pies, enchiladas, casseroles, and other ways that mask the rich flavor of the darker cuts.

I am always looking for new ways to use inexpensive cuts of meat in delicious ways – what tricks/tips do you have for me?

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Filed under Penny Pincher, Smart Shopping, Teachin' Ya Tuesdays

Laughing Cow Pork Chops


The Hub loves good old “meat and potatoes” type dishes.
Ya know what, actually, I do too. A LOT.
So this whole “high cholesterol” situation for him, coupled with my desire to maintain a reasonable weight and and diet that is at least “more-healthy-than-not” means that I have to get a little creative to keep us happy AND healthy at dinnertime.
Behold, the lighter stuffed pork chop.

I start with fairly thin (and regularly on sale for a great price) boneless pork loin chops:

Using a sharp, thin knife, I create a pocket in the center of the chop. Holding it flat with your hand and carefully slicing deeper and deeper into the chop, working slowly out to (but not breaking through) the edges of the chop:

Pretty, eh?

Then, I use one wedge of Laughing Cow Light spreadable cheese for each chop, and spread it around, covering the entire pocket:

Mies en Place Moment, I mix one egg white with two tablespoons of skim milk and a generous dash of Tabasco (ok, for us, a few generous dashes… you choose for yourself.)
Also, 1-1 and 1/2 cups of bread crumbs (I made these using the ends of whole grain loaves we have had over the past weeks – I stored the ends in the freezer until I built up a nice stash and then dried them in the oven and pulsed them in my beloved Food Processor,) with 1 teaspoon of Beau Monde seasoning, 1 teaspoon of Thyme, and 3/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper:
Then each chop gets dipped in the wet mixture, and the excess shaken off:

Then Coated in the dry mixture, patting the crumbs in to ensure a nice coating. First one side:

Then the other side:

Then both chops hunker down on a cooking-spray coated flat roasting rack, which lets the air flow all the way around each chop to create a crispy crust, and they cook for 25-30 minutes in a 400 degree oven:

Let them rest a few minutes on the rack when they come out of the oven and then plate them up! The center will be all ooooeygoooey, the outside crispy, and the meat nice and moist. Yum!

We enjoyed ours with some mashed potatoes with extra lean turkey bacon and 2% cheddar mixed in. The crunchy coating and cheesy centers mean that The Hub pays no mind to me using the thin chops (portion control, anyone?) Laughing Cow Light has only 35 calories a wedge, and is so creamy to begin with that you don’t have to worry about it melting funky like some low cal cheese products. Finally, using the flat roasting rack allows the chops to get crispy, almost like a fried chop, but without all the grease – if the chops aren’t getting the brown color you would like while baking, a LIGHT spray with cooking spray can help.
Now THAT is meat and potatoes done right!


Filed under Penny Pincher

>Pasta with pesto, chicken, and carrots

>First of all, I got the BIGGEST b/s chicken breasts I have ever seen at Sunflower this past weekend:

BTW – these are on sale for $1.67lb through tomorrow, October 14th – so stock up! (Especially since one of these goes a LONG way)

For example, I cut one up into chunks, which I tossed in flour seasoned generously with Beau Monde seasoning:

Then I just tossed the pieces into a hot skillet coated with a little canola spray, browned on all sides and added a touch of vermouth to the pan before covering to let the chicken cook through:

While that was cooking I added some thin whole wheat spaghetti to a pot of salted boiling water and let it cook according to package instructions – the last 4 minutes or so I also added a large chopped carrot to the water, so it could get a little tender (but not mushy -YUCK!).

It all got mixed with 3/4 of the pesto I whipped up in my new baby for an easy, inexpensive, (and pretty darn healthy, I might add) dinner.

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Filed under Chicken, Penny Pincher, Picture, Time Crunch Tested

>With appologies to Carbonara..

> I love pasta Carbonara, but I don’t make it at home because I am not great at it.. But I was craving something like that last night, so I dug around in the fridge and cabinets and came up with this:

-I tossed some spaghetti in a pot of WELL salted boiling water and then,
-I cooked 4 pieces of turkey bacon in a deep skillet, and then removed the bacon and deglazed the pan with a cup of vermouth (Why vermouth? because Julie Powell used it a lot during the Julie/Julia Project and I just read that book, so when I saw the bottle, I just went for it.)
-I added a cup of chicken stock and let it reduce and concentrate a bit while I chopped up the bacon and then thickened it a bit with a quick roux (that’s right, I said a QUICK roux.. how times have changed).
After it thickened a bit (It was the consistency of a thick syrup almost, not too thick, but not watery) I added an extra tablespoon of butter for flavor, removed it from the heat and added a couple handfuls of frozen peas.
-The drained pasta got mixed in with the sauce, along with the bacon, and when I plated it everything got a grating of Parmesan Cheese.

It was good.. that sauce was GOOD!! Crazy good – sweet and velvety, mixed with the salt from the bacon and parm, and the fresh little POP from a pea every little while.
Oh yeah.

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Filed under Beyond Easy, Penny Pincher, Picture