Saturday, January 2, 2010

Stretching food budget dollars.....Recipes.....

Hello everyone.  Happy New Year!

I don't know about you, but after all that holiday spending  my wallet could use a break!  The best way to save money on your food budget is to plan ahead.  Here are some ideas for saving some green:

1)  Plan your menu for the week around the sale paper.  Most stores have their ads on line.  Actually write down your menu on the left of your notebook, and write your shopping list down the right side.  Be sure to check your pantry for items you already have.   If you are making something that can be frozen, make enough for two meals to enjoy at another hectic time.  I will be sharing a favorite breaded chicken recipe in the next couple of days, great to freeze! 

2)  Do you ever get over zealous when buying vegetables and when you finally get to them they're a science project in your vegetable crisper?  Include frozen vegetables in your menu, they are readily available when you are.  They are very nutritous as they are frozen at the peek of freshness, a very good alternative to fresh, especially in the winter.  You can usually buy a 1 lb. bag for around $1.29, it's a great value.    The best vegetables to have on hand are:   mixed vegetables, petite peas, white corn, green beans, & lima beans (if you like them, I love them!) loose leaf spinach.

3)  Waste nothing.  I freeze left over rice & noodles, they're great in soups.  Bread crust ends, rolls, hamburger buns, any type of leftover bread makes for fantastic home made bread crumbs.  You can process them in your food processor to go right into meatballs or meat loaf.  When using fresh bread crumbs you double the amount your recipe calls for.  For breading, you want to dry them; spread them out over a cookie sheet & bake at 250' for 15-20 minutes.  You'll want to give them a stir a couple of times while baking for even toasting.  Cool completely and store in an air tight container or zip lock bag.  Remember to date them, they will stay good for at least 3 months.

4)  It's also a good time & money saving idea to "over cook" for a meal and use what's left for another meal.   We are all busy and don't have the time to cook big & time consuming meals every night of the week.     Here is an example:

Meal #1

Oven roasted whole chicken or chicken pieces (make extra!)  (recipe on blog under December post:  One of my favorite comfort foods)
Brown rice- double or triple recipe, 1 part rice to 2 parts water- takes about 40-45 minutes to cook
Petite frozen peas-in saute pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and add 1/2 small diced onion, cook until translucent.  Add peas and saute until they're hot, about 5 minutes.  Salt & pepper to taste.

Remove chicken from bone and shred into bite size pieces-date & refrigerate or freeze.
Don't forget to save the carcass, date & freeze as well.
Brown rice-same as above.

Meal #2

Chicken & Vegetable Fried Rice

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken
3-4 cups cooked leftover cold brown rice (you can thaw it in microwave if you need to, just until it comes apart into individual grains, it can be very cold)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 lb. frozen mixed vegetables, thaw in microwave
1 cup fresh bean sprouts, rinsed & drained
1 thumb size piece of fresh ginger (you can break off any size you need at the store) Peeled & minced
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled & minced
2 tablespoons canola oil
2-4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 bunch fresh green onions, sliced thinly

1)  Over high heat, place a large non stick skillet or cast iron skillet.
2)  Allow the pan to get very hot and add canola oil.  Add the chicken, garlic & ginger; heat through stirring often, move to the side of the pan and add beaten eggs and cook until done. 
3)  Add frozen vegetables, bean sprouts, & rice, stirring often. 
4)  Drizzle soy sauce and sesame oil over cooking rice.  Cook until rice is piping hot, add green onions. 
5)  Taste.  Do then what your taste buds tell you.  You may need more soy sauce or sesame oil.   

Chicken Vegetable Rice Soup

1 chicken carcass
1 large carrot, rinsed and cut into thirds
1 large celery stalk, rinsed and cut into thirds
1/2 small onion, peeled
3-4 springs fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

1)  Place all ingredients into soup pot, add enough water to cover carcass.  Simmer over low heat for a couple of hours, if water evaporates, add more water to the pot. (bonus, your house will smell wonderful!)
2)  Remove solid pieces with a slotted spoon and discard.  If you want a more clear stock, strain through a fine, large sieve into a large bowl.  If you pan has a bit of residue, clean and rinse before adding stock back to pot.
3)  Add stock back to pot.  Now you have a beautiful base for soup.  Add chicken, rice, frozen mixed vegetables, frozen spinach, any bits of frozen leftovers in your freezer would be great!
4)  Taste. Taste.  Taste.  You will now add salt & pepper, tasting after each addition until you get it just right.  Remember that there is alot of soup in that pot, you may need to add a bit of salt.  For added flavor, top each serving with a little parmesan cheese.

Pretty easy, right?  There is plenty more where that came from.  Take special care.

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