Friday, February 29, 2008

Potato Soup and McGyver

I'll just say a few things so I can say I blogged something. Allison asked for some easy things for singles or pairs to help avoid frozen dinner overload. It's been such a long time since I only had to cook for the two of us but I remember a few things. Lasagna and manicotti freeze well. Make them as if you would make a large pan full except use several loaf pans instead of a big 9 x 13 and don't pre-boil the noodles. Also, add 1 cup water to the sauce. Bake one pan for dinner and wrap the others tightly with foil and freeze. To serve just thaw over night in the refrigerator and bake as usual. The reason you don't boil the noodles is because pasta continuously absorbs liquid and once you cover it in sauce it will continually absorb the extra water you added to it. By the time it's thawed and baked the noodles will be nice and soft. I haven't pre-boiled lasagna or manicotti noodles in years because this is such an easy step. Do a search on the internet for freezer meals and almost all of them you can make as directed but divide into smaller pans. This will also give you a months worth of meals in your freezer in about a week. I know this will be handy for you, Allison with a busy summer coming up.

Ron had his wisdom teeth out this week so we've been eating a lot of soup for the past couple days. We like soup, but not so much for every meal. It doesn't take long before he's complaining about wanting something solid. He's still too afraid of chewing much so far, but I've been trying to lean on the hearty side of the soup family. Here is the recipe for Emily's favorite Potato Soup. It can easily be halved if you don't want so much.

Potato Soup

4 potatoes, diced
Water to cover potatoes
1/4 cup diced onions (I use frozen.)
6 strips of pre-cooked bacon, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stick butter
2 cups milk
Salt to taste
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Place potatoes in medium sauce pan and just cover with water. Add onions, garlic, and bacon. Bring to a boil and boil gently at medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Mash potatoes with potato masher (do not drain). Add milk and salt, heat through. Serve with cheese and sour cream on the side.

It's easy, fairly fast, and even the kids love it.

While Ron is laid up looking like a chipmunk he's been checking out stuff on the internet to get caught up on some of his favorite shows. (Like CSI and Chuck.) On the CBS website he found McGyver, a childhood favorite. He's a happy boy!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Making Up Something New

Friends often call me to ask for some new recipe ideas because they are bored with the same old, same old. Well, that happens to me, too. Especially times when the budget is really tight. With gas at $2.90 a gallon and milk and egg prices doubling in the past few years, our budget is always tight. It just seems like we eat spaghetti at least twice a week sometimes. I watch the grocery ads carefully and always check the reduced meat prices. Lately we've gotten lucky and I've found hamburger for $.99 a pound and also pork roast, pork chops, sausage, and pork loins. When this happens I buy as much as possible and freeze most of it. The boys have suddenly turned into little Hoovers and we hardly ever have leftovers so I'm trying to stretch things as much as possible so Ron has something for lunches.

Sometimes being budget conscious creates the need to alter some recipes. I usually look at what I have and then go through my favorite cookbooks to see what I can alter to make work. This method works best with my older cookbooks, especially the ones that came from my grandmothers because their generation wrote the book on feeding a family with next to nothing. This is what we had tonight, with approximate prices in parentheses.

Cheesy Mac Skillet

1 lb. ground meat ($1.00)
2 cups dry macaroni ($.50, a half of a box)
1 can tomato soup ($.40, I got Campbell's soup on sale, but I often use store brand)
1 tsp. each garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. dried minced onion
1/3 brick Velveeta cheese ($1.50, it's what I had left over from making broccoli cheese soup)
1 cup shredded cheddar ($1.00)

Cook macaroni according to package directions. While it's boiling brown and drain hamburger. Mix tomato soup into the hamburger with about half a can of water. Add all the spices. Drain macaroni and add to hamburger mixture. Cut up the Velveeta and stir in until melted. Top with cheddar cheese and remove from heat. Cover with a lid for about 5 minutes, or until cheddar is melted.

If desired you can add some frozen corn, peas, or broccoli to add a veggie. I added some corn because it was in the freezer.

We had this with apple sauce and so the whole meal cost less than $5.00 for all five of us. Pretty good, huh? The recipe I altered called for 2 pounds of hamburger, more spices, and canned macaroni and cheese (ewww!). We had a little bit of leftovers but Emily has already claimed them. I'll try to post some more budget friendly recipes. If you have any shoestring cooking ideas, send them on and we will share with everyone!