Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lemon Greek Chicken

This is one of our favorite ways of making chicken. This lone drumstick was the last to be eaten, which I did as soon as the picture was taken. This recipe is so easy and has lots of flavor. The first time I made it was when my daughters and I made a Greek-inspired dinner for our family and this dish got the best reviews, so I knew it was a keeper. I've made it several times since then and like to pair it with roasted potatoes.

Lemon Greek Chicken

3-4 lb cut-up chicken pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 lemons, squeezed

Rub chicken with lemon juice and marinade for one hour. Place chicken in a roasting pan and pour the olive oil and melted butter over the chicken. Season with the seasonings. Roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cooking On A Shoestring Budget: Create Your Own Muffin

Blueberry and Lemon Muffins-mmmm!

I don't like wasting any of the food in my fridge, so I'm always glad to find recipes that help me use up the little bits of this or that. And, now, with just my husband and me in the house, it's more important than ever that I use up what we have. This recipe helps me do just that.

I love muffins, just about any kind. It's probably my breakfast of choice on any given morning and they are so portable! So good with coffee. When I first started making muffins, I always went strictly by the recipe in the cookbook. Then I found Amy Dacyczyn's Creating a Muffin recipe and I found that muffins are pretty flexible just as long as you go by the guidelines she sets out in her book, The Complete Tightwad Gazette, one of my favorite frugal sources. I have used this recipe many times and they have come out good just about every time. And, it feels good not to throw out food!

Create Your Own Muffin

Grains: Use 2-2 1/2 cups of white flour. Or substitute oatmeal, cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, rye flour, or flake cereal for 1 cup of the white flour. Or substitute 1 cup of leftover cooked oatmeal, rice, or cornmeal for 1/2 cup of the white flour and decrease liquid to 1/2 cup.

Milk: Use 1 cup. Or substitute buttermilk or sour milk (add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup milk). Or substitute fruit juice for part or all of the milk.

Fat: Use 1/4 cup of vegetable oil or 4 tablespoons of melted butter. Or substitute crunchy or regular peanut butter for part or all of the fat. The fat can be reduced or omitted with fair results if using a "wet addition."

Egg: Use 1 egg. Or substitute 1 heaping tablespoon of soy flour and 1 tablespoon of water. If using a cooked grain, separate the egg, add the yolk to the batter, beat the white until stiff, and fold into the batter.

Sweetener: Use between 2 tablespoons and 1/2 cup of sugar. Or substitute up to 3/4 cups brown sugar. Or substitute up to 1/2 cup of honey or molasses, and decrease milk to 3/4 cup.

Baking powder: Use 2 teaspoons. If using whole or cooked grains or more than 1 cup of additions, increase to 3 teaspoons. If using buttermilk or sour milk, decrease to 1 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

Salt: Use 1/2 teaspoon or omit if you have a salt-restricted diet.

The following ingredients are optional. Additions can be used in any combination, up to 1 1/2 cups total. If using more than 1 cup of wet additions, decrease the milk to 1/2 cup.

Dry additions: Nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, coconut, etc.

Moist additions: Blueberries, chopped apple, freshly shredded zucchini, shredded carrot, etc.

Wet additions: Pumpkin puree, applesauce, mashed and cooked sweet potato, mashed banana, mashed and cooked carrot, and so on. If using 1/2 cup drained, canned fruit or thawed shredded zucchini, substitute the syrup or zucchini liquid for all or part of the milk.

Spices: Use spices that complement the additions, such as 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or cloves. Try 2 teaspoons grated orange or lemon peel.

Jellies or Jams: Fill cups half full with a plain batter. Add 1 teaspoon jam or jelly and top with 2 more tablespoons batter.

Topping: Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the batter in the tins.

Nonsweet Combinations: Use only 2 tablespoons sugar and no fruit. Add combinations of the following: 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 3 strips fried and crumbled bacon, 2 tablespoons grated onion, 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Spices could include a teaspoon of parsley and a pinch of marjoram.

Basic Recipe:

2-2 1/2 cups grain
1 cup milk
Up to 1/4 cup fat
1 egg
Up to 1/2 cup sweetener
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Up to 1 1/2 cups additions

To make the muffins, combine the dry ingredients, and then mix in wet ingredients until just combined; the batter should be lumpy. Grease muffin tin and fill cups two-thirds full. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (give or take 5 minutes).

The sky's the limit on this formula. No longer am I limited by what is in a recipe, I can use up whatever is in my cupboard or refrigerator.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Own Seasoning Mixes

I love putting together my own seasoning mixes. There's no MSG, no mysterious "spices" or "seasoning" added like in the packets or spice jars bought at the store, and, if I keep them ready-to-go in little jars, they are very convenient. I save little jars or containers from jellies or relishes or whatever else I buy at the store, or you could buy some little spice jars. I then attach the recipe for the spice mix right on the jar. That way, if I use the last of the seasoning mix, I don't have to go rummaging through my recipe book to find the recipe to make more. I can also make up the seasoning mix when it's convenient for me. Doubling and tripling the recipes also makes these really, really convenient.
Here are a couple of my favorites.
Grill Seasoning
I use this on chicken, pork, and beef. It's especially good on a nice steak.
3 tablespoons pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Taco Seasoning
I got this one from Sandra at Keeping It Simple. It tastes just like the taco seasoning packets from the grocery store.
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup water
You use this just like you would use the packets of taco seasoning. Cook your meat, add the seasonings and the water, and let cook for another few minutes. You can make this seasoning with 1 1/2 pounds raw hamburger or about 1 pound of cooked shredded beef, chicken, or pork.
I would also like to find a chili mix substitute. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oatmeal Drop Cookies

I've made these cookies many times and they are so good-not your typical oatmeal cookie-they're better! I originally posted this recipe on my other blog but I would like to get all my recipes and food tip type of posts over here with all the other food. I got this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, my 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, which was republished in 1998. I've tweaked this recipe a little and they are just so good.

Oatmeal Drop Cookies

Mix together thoroughly:

1/2 cup soft shortening (I used 1/4 cup shortening, 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce)
1 1/4 cups sugar (I used only 1 cup)
2 eggs
6 tablespoons molasses ( used 4 tablespoons)

Sift together and stir in:
1 3/4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Stir in:
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup cut-up nuts
1 cup cut-up raisins

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned.
Temperature: 400 degrees
Time: Bake 8 to 10 minutes
I'm linking up with Tempt My Tummy Tuesday and Tasty Tuesday

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Peppery Cheddar Biscuits

I love how these biscuits turn golden brown from the egg wash and are square instead of round, but you can make them round, too. You can also see the flecks of cheddar cheese throughout each piece and come out beautifully every time.

Peppery Cheddar Biscuits

4 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup finely crumbled or shredded sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
2 to 3 teaspoons pepper (I usually use 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease a large baking sheet; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening and butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cheese and pepper; mix well. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Add milk all at once; stir until just moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough 10 to 12 strokes until almost smooth.

Divide the dough in half. Roll or pat each half of dough into a 6-inch square, about 1 inch thick. Using a ruler or sharp knife, cut both squares of dough into 2-inch squares (or, cut squares of dough using a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter).

Combine egg and water. Brush the tops of biscuits with egg mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the biscuits are golden on top. Serve warm.

Makes eighteen 2-inch square or twently 2-inch round biscuits.

*Make ahead tip: To reheat biscuits baked earlier in the day, wrap them in foil and reheat in a 325 degree oven about 10 minutes or until warm.

Wild for Pumpkins!

This is a post that I wrote last November on my other blog and since I'm really looking forward to some fall cooking, I thought I'd repost these great pumpkin recipes here. I'm hoping to find some nice sugar pumpkins at my farmer's market again this year.

Last week I roasted a large pumpkin and 2 small sugar or pie pumpkins. Last year was the first time I had even attempted such a feat but it was easy once I got the huge think cut up. I have been told that sugar pumpkins are different from the kind of pumpkins jack-o-lanterns are carved from in looks and texture and now I believe it. There isn't as much pulp to the pie pumpkins and they are a slightly darker color after being cooked. If you would like to roast your own pumpkin in the future, you can to All Recipes for 3 different ways to cook your pumpkin. It really is easy to do. The result was that I had all this cooked pumpkin! What was I going to do with it?

The sugar pumpkin pulp I am saving for 2 pumpkin pies for our Thanksgiving dinner. This is the recipe I usually use for one pumpkin pie, which is adapted from Libby's Brand Famous Pumpkin Pie:

Pumpkin Pie
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
(Instead of the individual spices, you can also use 1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice)
2 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin (15 ounce can of pumpkin can be used here)
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Mix sugar, salt, and spices in a small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.
Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees, bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving, if desired.

From the big pumpkin I have already made some yummy treats for us.
The first thing I made was 4 loaves of pumpkin bread, one of my family's favorites. This is pretty much the same recipe I've always used for the last 25 years, although I have tweaked it a little to make it more healthy. It's from my 1980's Pillsbury cookbook.

Pumpkin Bread

15 or 16-oz. can (2 cups) pumpkin
2 cups
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (not oil) and flour bottoms only of two loaf pans. In large bowl, blend first 5 ingredients. Beat 1 minute at medium speed. Add remaining ingredients; blend at low speed until moistened. Beat 1 minute at medium speed. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely. Makes 2 loaves.

This next pumpkin recipe is a new one for me and my family went crazy over it, even the ones that aren't crazy for pumpkin anything! I got it from in the Southern Food section. I will be making this one again. It was so moist and cream cheese-y.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups pumpkin puree or cooked mashed pumpkin
cream cheese frosting, below
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs in a large mixing bowl; mix well. Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl; stir into oil mixture, beating well. Stir in pumpkin puree.

Pour batter into two greased floured 9-inch round layer cake pans or a 13-x9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If using round cake pans, turn out cake onto racks to cool. Frost pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup butter
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound confectioners' (powdered) sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl; beat well until smooth. Makes enough for 2-layer pumpkin cake or 13-x-9-inch cake.

The last recipe I tried was the Crockpot Lady's CrockPot Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe, although I made mine over the stove. I couldn't wait 2 hours to try it! It was very good!

I still have lots of pumpkin in the freezer and I'm always looking for new recipes, so what do you use your pumpkin in? Please, share your favorites!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cooking On A Shoestring Budget: Beans

Oh, you knew there would be a post about beans for saving money at the grocery store, didn't you? Beans are a great way to stretch the grocery budget and very nutritious to boot! I'll add some links to some of our favorite bean recipes at the end of the post.

I want to show you how very easy it is to have some beans in your freezer. I cannot remember the last time I bought beans in a can because I find it to be just about as convenient, once I get them made, not to mention much cheaper, to buy them dried. For every 1 pound of dried beans you get in a bag, you get the equivalent of 4 (15-oz) cans! For example, I buy lots of black beans because they are our favorite for about a dollar per pound. A 15-oz can of black beans would cost about 75 cents each. For me, that's a savings of $2 that I can spend on something else that I really want to buy at the grocery store. There are 4 steps to taking dried beans from the bag to the freezer:

Empty the 1 pound bag of dried beans into a large bowl and cover with water. Make sure you have at least 2 inches of water above the beans. Leave overnight or at least 8 hours. In the morning they will be plumped up.

Drain them into a colander and rinse.

Put the beans in a slow-cooker and cover with water. Turn on low and leave all day until the beans are firm but tender. Let cool. Alternatively, you could put them in a large pot on the stove, bring to a boil, and let simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or so.

When the beans have cooled put them in some kind of container like glass jars or in baggies. I save jars from pickles, salsa, and jellies that I buy at the store and use those to freeze some of my beans. I do measure out how much I put in each jar and label them with the date so I don't have to try to remember how much I put in there later. Just remember to leave about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of jar space between the beans and the lid because they will expand as they freeze.

If you want to use baggies for storing, measure out about 2 cups of beans with their juice into a small sandwich bag, which is about 15 ounces. Lay it flat in the freezer so that it will freeze flat, which will save on storage space in the freezer. You can double up the baggies if you want OR you can put all the little baggies after they have frozen into a larger freezer bag.

Some dried beans are even more convenient because they don't have to be soaked, like split peas and lentils!

Here are some of our favorite recipes for using beans to give you some inspiration:

Black Bean and Salsa Soup-the easiest soup I've ever made!

I'm linking up with Frugal Friday.