Sunday, October 2, 2011

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice



I was walking through the grocery store and got an overwhelming craving for something I haven't eaten in years--red beans and rice! I have been heavily using my slow cooker over the past couple weeks, so I definitely wanted to make it a slow cooker recipe, and given the cleaned plates and seconds at supper tonight and the fact that my oldest daughter asked to take the leftovers in her lunch tomorrow, it came out pretty good!

We don't do pork, so I used a smoked turkey sausage (ring-style), but you can use what you like of course. I wanted to use some all natural chicken sausages we buy often, but they were out of the flavor that would work in this recipe (wasn't sure the feta spinach or the apple maple would work very well here!). I love the brown rice in this recipe, it's so much heartier, not to mention more healthful too. It was an economical, delicious, filling and fairly healthful meal!


Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

1/2 14 oz package fully cooked lean smoked turkey/chicken sausage, sliced
1 cup dried red beans or kidney beans
3 cups homemade vegetable stock (or any low sodium vegetable or chicken stock)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1 bay leaf
Optional: cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup dried brown rice, cooked according to package directions

Directions: Soak beans in a large bowl of cold water overnight, drain and rinse. Add all ingredients except rice to slow cooker and cook on high for 6 hours. Remove bay leaf. Stir rice in when 10-15 minutes cooking time remains or serve bean mixture over rice.


Cost:
Turkey sausage: $2.7/pkg, used 1/2 = $1.38
Brown rice (organic): $3.29/pkg - 20% off sale ($2.63), used 1/5 = $.53
Red beans: $1.39/pkg, used 1/3 = $.46
Celery (organic): On sale $1.69/head, used 1/5 =  $.34
Bell pepper: $1.00
Vegetable stock: Homemade Freebie
Onion: Garden Freebie

Total Cost: $3.71
Six Servings: $.62 per serving

Monday, September 26, 2011

Slow Cooker Potato Soup



My oldest daughter went on a field trip to a farm last week and brought home a 5 pound bag of freshly dug potatoes.  Fall weather has really socked it to us this past week, so a big ol' pot of potato soup was my first thought when she mentioned she would be bringing the potatoes home (her class actually ended up making potato soup after their trip as well). Given my need for slow cooker recipes lately thanks to school and my Zumba class, I wanted something fairly easy too, and this really fit the bill and hit the spot!

This is not a super thick potato soup full of butter, flour and cream some of us might be used to. It is on the lighter side, yet I find it just as comforting and satisfying as the fat-laden stuff. It's also a very economical recipe. Even if you purchase potatoes and some of the other ingredients, you can do it cheaply.


Slow Cooker Potato Soup

5 cups homemade vegetable stock (or any vegetable or chicken stock)
1 cup milk
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
3 large carrots, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp fresh chives (or 1 tsp dried)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 8-9 hours, high for 4 - 4 1/2 hours. When half an hour of cooking time remains, add milk, check for seasoning (salt and pepper) and continue cooking.


Cost:

Potatoes (local): Farm Field Trip Freebie
Carrots (organic): $1.98/2 lb bag, used 1/4 = $.50
Celery (organic): On sale for $1.69/bunch, used 1/5 = $.34
Onion: Garden Freebie
Garlic: Garden Freebie
Parsley: Garden Freebie
Chives: Garden Freebie
Vegetable Stock: Homemade Freebie
Milk (organic unsweetened coconut): $3.99/half gallon, used 1/8 = $.50

Total Cost: $1.34
Eight Servings: $.17 per serving

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cincinnati Inspired Chili (Stove Top or Slow Cooker!)

Sorry for the mess on the plate--I got lazy when draining the pasta!


I had planned on making some sort of chili for supper tonight, and upon hearing that this morning, my youngest son asked, "can you make chocolate chili?" I thought for a bit and remembered my version of Cincinnati chili I had made several years ago, dug around in files on our old dinosaur of a desktop and started experimenting. 

If you've never had Cincinnati chili, you are missing out!  It's so flavorful and a nice change from the usual southwest style chili. It can be eaten straight out of a bowl, on burgers and wieners, etc., but we prefer ours served over pasta-- on top of spaghetti is a very traditional way to serve it. I've seen it topped with raw onion, oyster crackers, kidney beans and cheddar cheese, and I am sure there are many other options. We stick to raw onion and cheddar cheese--LOTS of raw onion!

I used extra lean ground chicken tonight, and with the cooking in water/smashing method of cooking it, nobody knew it wasn't ground beef. I served it over organic gluten free pasta (that I got on clearance!) alongside organic peas and carrots, and the meal was a big hit!

Cincinnati Inspired Chili

1 lb extra lean ground chicken/turkey/beef
1 cup + water
1 small onion, chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz tomato sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
optional: cayenne pepper to taste

Directions: Place ground meat and 1 cup of water in a large pot/pan. Bring water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, all the while mashing meat with a potato masher or fork--you want the meat to have a smooth, fine-grained texture. When meat is fully cooked and most of the water has evaporated, choose one of the following preparations:

Slow cooker preparation: Place all ingredients in slow cooker, cook on low for 6-8 hours and add water as necessary to get to desired consistency (we like ours thick and don't add any water). I prefer low and slow to really develop the flavors, but you can also cook it on high for 3-4 hours.

Stove top preparation: Add the rest of the ingredient to the meat, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for one hour. Add water as necessary as it simmers if you like a thinner consistency.


Cost:

Ground chicken (no antibiotics/veg fed): On sale for $3.99/lb plus 20% off = $3.19
Tomato sauce (organic): On sale for $.99 = $.99
Onion and Garlic: Garden Freebies

Total Cost: $4.18
Six servings: $.70 per serving

Don't forget--one week to enter Amazon.com gift code giveaway!

Details here!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bob's Red Mill Give Away Winner and Amazon Gift Card Giveaway Reminder!

Winner of the Bob's Red Mill Surprise Gift Box Giveaway is E @ Jet's Journey. An e-mail has been sent to the address provided.

Thanks so much to all who entered--don't forget to enter the $20 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

Easy Vegetarian Taco Pizza



For tonight's supper, I combined two of our favorites, Taco Night and Pizza Night, into Taco Pizza Night. Not only was in insanely cheap, but it was really delicious and will most definitely be making an appearance again soon!

When I make a taco pizza, I completely cook the crust before adding any toppings. I abhor melted cheese on my taco pizza, so that is always the very last ingredient I top the pizza with. Speaking of cheese, I prefer to buy organic cheese in chunks and then grate it myself. Once nice result of that is that even though I use the same dry measurement as I would with an already shredded cheese, I really end up using less cheese by weight since when I grate it myself, they are lighter, thinner shreds that tend to curl and aren't as tightly packed as the already shredded stuff.

I am really trying to move away from commercially-canned products as much as possible, so I rely on dried beans quite a bit. Yes, they can take awhile to cook compared to merely opening a can, so on days I have extra time, I cook up a large batch and freeze them in about 1 1/2 to 2 cup portions for those days I might not have as much time.



Easy Vegetarian Taco Pizza

1 14" pizza crust (try my 100% whole wheat pizza crust)
1 cup dried black beans, prepared according to pkg directions
1/3 cup water
2 cups spinach, kale or lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional for garnish: sour cream, taco sauce, crushed tortilla chips


Step 1: Bake pizza crust for complete recommended baking time with no toppings on it.

Step 2:  Heat beans and water in a saucepan over medium high heat. As water heats up, mash beans until smooth. Add chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and garlic, stir until well combined and remove from heat.

Step 3: Spread bean mixture over pizza crust and cut pizza into desired number of slices. Top with spinach/lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and  any other desired garnishes.

It might not look like much bean mixture in the saucepan , but it covers my 14" crust perfectly!

Cost:

Pizza crust (homemade): $1.04
Black beans: $1.99/1-lb bag, used 1/3 = $.66
Tomatoes: Garden Freebie
Onion: Garden Freebie
Garlic: Garden Freebie
Spinach and Kale: Garden Freebies
Cheese (organic): $3.49/8 oz pkg, used 1/6 = $.58

Total Cost: $2.28
Eight slices: $.29 per slice

Saving Money with Annie's Homegrown/Naturals and the Alice Marketplace

I stumbled upon another great online deal (for me anyway)! Some of you may be familiar with Annie's and their Annie's Homegrown and Annie's Naturals products. They make boxed pastas (organic, natural and gluten free varieties), organic salad dressings and other condiments, organic fruit snacks (with no high fructose corn syrup!), cookies, gluten free cookies and the infamous Cheddar Bunnies, cute little crackers made with organic wheat flour. My local stores carry only a very small handful of Annie's products, and I was thrilled to find I can purchase their products online directly from their website. If you visit the Our Coupons tab on Annie's Facebook page, you can see the current online coupons that are available--right now they have instant $1.00 off coupons for organic pasta with creamy cheddar sauce and five varieties of organic salad dressings! You can use as many of them as you like in one order.

When you check out, you have the option to purchase from other manufacturers in  the Alice Marketplace (Annie's is "powered by" Alice). They carry a wide array of household products--cleaning products, diapers, baby food and formula, laundry supplies, cosmetics, health and beauty aids, hygiene products, pet supplies and paper and plastic products--the list goes on. They also have many instant coupons available, and while I didn't need anything this time around, I most definitely saw some great deals on products we use.

They also have a fairly good deal on shipping. You only need to purchase six items OR $50 worth of products to receive free shipping. I purchased six Annie's items for a grand total of only $21.54 and received free shipping! The best part is that if you don't need six items from Annie's, you can purchase any item/s from the other manufacturers in the Alice Marketplace, and that will count toward your six item minimum as well.

I received notice that my order shipped less than 24 hours after I placed it and was provided with a tracking number. I received my order in three days, and it included a cute little free sample gift bag with samples of a natural laundry detergent and three all natural drink mixes. My glass bottles were properly wrapped and protected, and everything made it in one piece.

While I can get some Annie's products a little cheaper on Amazon and use my gift card balance if I've got it available, there are some products I just don't need a case of six of, such as organic versions of mustard, Worcestershire sauce and salad dressings, and the instant coupons available on select products from Annie's will make them cheaper than Amazon. I always have more than enough items saved in my Amazon cart to use any gift card balance on, so I most definitely won't be spending money needlessly if I get things elsewhere. I am going to be a repeat Annie's/Alice customer for sure!

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Favorite Amazon Grocery (and Non Grocery) Deals

I was asked in my Saving Money With Amazon.com and Giveaway post for some of the items I have found that are good deals. These are just some of my favorites, items that happen to be much cheaper via Amazon than locally or simply unavailable locally for me. Since this will really vary depending on the items you like to buy and where you are at, make a list of your own often-used items and look them up--there is everything from flour and sugar to cereals, rice, pasta, honey, granola bars, cookies--countless grocery items and almost anything else  under the sun you could need. I purchased a case of laundry detergent for a great deal, got a free Pack n Play for my youngest a little over a year ago thanks to the gift cards I earned from Swagbucks, get most of my textbooks from Amazon and have also recently paid nothing for cloth diapers, a grill basket for fish, canning supplies, a two-pound jar of honey, a flat iron (for hair), a replacement gasket for my blender, a protective floor mat for under the baby's chair, a closet doubling bar, a hanging closet organizer--I could go on and on...... :)

There are several grocery products that require the purchase of a case, which has typically been between four and six items per case for the products I have been purchasing. Don't get scared by the word "case"--most items I buy are in fairly small packages and really don't take up much room at all. If it's something you don't use much of and don't have the room in the cupboard, pantry or freezer for, then clearly paying the bit extra for one item at the grocery store is the more sensible option you. But if there is an item you are really interested in and can't get it locally, don't dismiss Amazon just yet--talk to local friends and family to see if some of them might want to split a case with you!

Note: make sure you are looking closely at package sizes so you are accurately comparing prices!

(Typed this part after finishing the whole post) There is a lot of info here already, so I will stop where I am at and maybe make this a regular feature as I come across deals on new items! And I apologize--until I can figure out if there is a way to do it so that it shows up correctly, I had to take off information I typed under each item regarding the lower Subscribe and Save price plus how many packages and what sizes come in a case if applicable. I had it all nicely laid out, and then when I previewed the post, it looked like a big mess! So the Subscribe and Save price is actually going to be lower than the price you see on the pictures--it will be clearly visible on the product's listing on Amazon.


Bob's Red Mill

You already know thanks to my Bob's Red Mill Giveaway post that I love their products and respect them as a company making an effort to give their customers healthful, natural and/or organic grains and other foods. My favorite grocery store has a growing number of BRM products, but there is still much I can't get there. Every BRM product I have checked on Amazon so far is cheaper than at my grocery store, but if it's not something I use much of, I am happy to pick up one package at the grocery store versus a case on Amazon. I love their Organic Oat Bran Hot Cereal. The organic version is not available in my grocery store, and the organic version on Amazon is actually cheaper than the regular version in my grocery store. We go through a lot of quinoa, and buying a case of four packages through Amazon with Subscribe & Save saves me $10 over the price in my grocery store! We haven't gone wrong with any of their pancake mixes, and I especially like the organic high fiber mix. I grind/chop my own flaxseed (necessary to be able to digest them for your body to use) and throw it in granola, pancakes, bread, any baked goods, on oatmeal/hot cereal, in yogurt, even many main dishes. They are a great source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignans and fiber.


 


Kashi

I never knew just how many Kashi products there really are until I went to a larger grocery store out of town! I was quite displeased to see I had been missing out on Cocoa Beach, an amazingly delicious chocolate coconut granola cereal! As soon as testing for gluten issues is done in our house, we'll be going back to gluten free and making my own chocolate coconut granola with gluten free oats, but I am enjoying this in the mean time. I picked up a box the first time I saw it (they are small boxes!) at that other grocery store, but it is much, much cheaper on Amazon than it was there (almost $5 a box!), especially with Subscribe & Save. GOLEAN Crunch Honey Almond Flax was another favorite, and that too is much cheaper with Amazon's regular price and more so with Subscribe & Save than the regular price at my store of $3.99 per box.


 

Gluten Free

If you eat gluten free, you know it can be very expensive. Right now we have had to bring gluten back so my husband can undergo testing, and as miserable as it is making everyone, especially my youngest two kiddos, I do have to say my grocery bill has been just a little lighter! I try to stay away from as much processed foods as possible anyway, but sometimes we want to enjoy sugar cookie s'mores around the campfire, a pizza crust that actually tastes familiar, a fresh baked loaf of whole grain bread or whip up some quick pancakes! There are some items I can actually find and get a little cheaper at my grocery store, but these items I have highlighted are priced well below what I can get them for locally. I use a lot of gluten free rolled oats in my homemade granola, in baking recipes and as breakfast for the kids, and buying a case of four packages from Amazon (I always need at least two packages on hand anyway) saves me $10 over my grocery store's price!




Baking Supplies

If you do a lot of baking, there are some really great deals to be had. You can get 25-lb bags of flour (I use organic 100% whole wheat flour in my non-gluten free baking) or four 5-lb bags. I haven't found large packages of yeast yet locally, so I already added a case to my Amazon cart. And I had no idea Bob's Red Mill produces baking powder and baking soda, so those are in my cart as well. I use a lot of organic unsweetened coconut--for granola, other baking and making my own coconut milk, and buying a case through Amazon saves me $19.48 over my grocery store's price!


 

Miscellaneous Non-Grocery Items I Can't Find Locally

I am all about shopping locally and do so whenever I can, but I live in a not-really-big town, so I don't have a lot of options for shopping when it comes to non-grocery natural/organic/"green" items. I pack lunches for my oldest two children to take to school, and I needed something in addition to our reusable sandwich and snack bags, something that could hold the "wet" items but that was not plastic. I finally decided on the LunchBots Duo stainless steel containers, and they are PERFECT! One side is plenty big enough for a main dish for them, and the other side can hold a couple different items. Or I can put two different finger foods on each side, whatever they feel like that day! I am also getting a couple small round stainless steel containers for the really wet/liquid items like applesauce, salsa, yogurt, really juicy fruits, etc. that I wouldn't want to get on anything in the larger container, just in case. Amazon's price was much cheaper than anywhere else I found online, and with my Amazon gift card balance thanks to the sites mentioned in my previous post, I got two of the LunchBots Duo containers FREE! I also just ordered a FREE Kleen Kanteen 12 oz stainless steel water bottle for my oldest son (you can even get them with sippy lids for younger children!), and while I haven't quite decided on the smaller food containers yet, there are a few in the running, and whichever set I choose, it too will be FREE! I am working on replacing all of our plastic food storage containers with glass and stainless steel, even tough my husband thinks I have finally gone off the deep end! ;)


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Happy Eating This Labor Day Weekend!

Hope you are all enjoying this traditional "last hurrah" of summer, though I for one am not letting go of summer just yet! There are so many things I still want to do before the weather gets cooler, so we'll try to squeeze it all in over the next few weeks!

When I think Labor Day weekend, naturally I think food. Tonight we are going to enjoy my Cheesy Tomato Basil Burgers on 100% Whole Wheat Buns along with a new recipe you will see tonight, Slow Cooker Baked Beans! Not sure what we will have tomorrow, but I am betting it will be grilled over charcoal!

I hope you all have a super fun and safe long weekend! Thanks so much for hanging around! :)

Nissa

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saving Money With Amazon.com and Giveaway!

I am admittedly an Amazon.com junkie. Not only have I earned well over $500 worth of gift cards from a few sites in the last year to spend on Amazon, but I can get so many food items I can't get locally or that are much more expensive locally. Some items do come in cases with 4-6 items per case, but it's worth it for me since they are items we use on a regular basis and have room for. There are many ways to save on Amazon, and I have compiled my strategies below.

Amazon did not ask me to write or compensate me in any way for this post, I really am just that much of a junkie! ;)


Subscribe & Save

There are many items on Amazon eligible for Subscribe & Save. If you choose the option, you receive a % discount (15% off grocery items, up to 30% on other types of items) and free shipping in exchange for setting up automatic delivery of that item every 1, 2, 3 or 6 months. You receive free shipping and the % off the listed price on all future shipments as long as your subscription is active, and you are not charged until each order ships. The great thing is that if you really do not want automatic delivery of that item, as soon as you are finished checking out, you can go into your account, choose "Manage Subscribe & Save Items" and cancel it. Or, you can keep it active and adjust the time in between shipments, skip a shipment or add a shipment at any time as well--it really is a handy feature for items you use regularly! Eligible items will clearly show the S& S price after the regular price in the listing.


Amazon Prime

Subscribing to Amazon Prime ($79 per year) gives you unlimited free two-day shipping without the usual $25 minimum for free standard shipping and $3.99 per item one-day shipping on eligible items. If you are an avid Amazon shopper (they have everything under the sun!) and are like me and sometimes don't need to break that $25 free shipping minimum, this is a great deal. I also find the free two-day shipping priceless for my textbooks and other emergency purchases that pop up on occasion! You also get free release date shipping on video games, movies and book, unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows and quick and easy 1-Click ordering. If you have not been a Prime member in the last 13 months, you can go the the Prime Free Trial Page and sign up for a free trial. It will ask you for a valid card, but if you are not interested in upgrading to the paid membership when your trial is over, click on "Manage Your Prime Membership" under your account and then click "do not upgrade" at any time before your trial is up. I have done two free trials and had no issues when it came to cancelling them--super easy.


Amazon Mom

If you are a primary caretaker of an infant through toddler-age child, check out Amazon Mom! You automatically get three free months of Prime Membership, and that is extended by 1 month every time you spend $25 or more in the Baby Store, and you can extend it that way up to one year. I use cloth diapers and wipes, so I can't comment on how great of a deal it is, but diapers and wipes are 30% with subscribe and save--a great way to get necessities, pay no shipping and extend your Prime Membership!

Amazon Student

If you are a college student with a valid .edu e-mail address, you can qualify for Amazon Student. Enjoy six free months of Amazon Prime Membership, and then each year after that for up to four years is half off, only $39 per year. My free Amazon Student period ended today, and I upgraded right away. Even the $79 per year for the Prime membership would be well worth my while, as I very often need textbooks as quickly as possible and have gladly paid $3.99 many times to get them here the next day ($17.98 without Prime) or especially enjoyed the free two-day shipping that automatically comes with Prime for that reason as well ($11.98 without Prime).


Sites I Use to Earn Amazon Gift Cards

These are the three sites I am actively using to accrue Amazon gift cards. If you are aware of any others, please feel free to mention them in the comments!

Opinion Outpost: This is the site I earn the most Amazon gift cards through, and it is also the quickest to accrue for me. You can qualify for surveys, with each survey giving you a predetermined amount of reward points that you can redeem for not only Amazon gift cards, but a check, Red Cross Donation, Citi gift card, etc. I have earned $75 in just over a month, and I could most definitely be putting in more effort.

Swagbucks: Earn virtual bucks (Swagbucks) for activities such as using their search engine, taking a daily poll, printing and redeeming coupons, surveys, etc. I don't put in as much effort as I used to, but I still get at least three $5 Amazon gift cards per month, sometimes four or five. You are not limited to Amazon gift cards, there are many, many other prizes to redeem your Swagbucks on such as other gift cards (Target, Starbucks, etc.), $ in your PayPal account and apparel, games, music and much more.

Crowdtap: I am fairly new to this one but really like it so far. It does not require much effort, so far I have been answering some "quick hits," which are super short polls and taking part in some longer discussions. There is also opportunity for sampling products (at no cost to you) and sharing your thoughts, the two I have seen so far being Old Navy flip-flops and Old Navy Jeans. I believe with both of those, they also gave you two free product coupons to share with friends too. When you get to $9.99 in rewards, you can cash out at any time, and 5% will go to the charity you choose from their really great list when you sign up (Crowdtap also matches that 5%), and you can either choose to donate the rest to that charity or have an Amazon gift code e-mailed to you.


GIVEAWAY!!!!!

Did you think I'd ever get to it?! ;) The winner of this giveaway will receive a $20 gift card to Amazon.com. Like the Bob's Red Mill giveaway (don't forget to enter before the deadline of 8:59 pm central Thursday September 8th), all you have to do to enter is answer a simple question on the quick and easy form below to be entered, and there is opportunity to earn extra entries as well. Deadline for this one will be 8:59 pm central on Monday, September 26th. Winner will be drawn at 9:00 pm.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Slow Cooker Wild and Brown Rice Soup

Yep, we like ours so thick it looks like oatmeal!


I have been back in school since January, but this semester is the first time I have had a class actually on campus as opposed to online. Even with that class meeting only twice a week (for 2 1/2 hours a pop), it zaps my ambition, and even though I am a firm believer in not using time as an excuse for not serving my family healthful meals, I am having a hard time feeling like getting in the kitchen after class some days. I got a great new slow cooker several months ago and had been using it quite a bit (check out the Slow Cooker Recipes link over on the right hand side of the page), but it's time to get it out again. Now I swear I am in no hurry for winter, but I do enjoy fall very much, and I love breaking out the stews, soups and chili recipes when the weather turns cooler, and I especially love using my slow cooker for them.

Here is my reasoning behind leaving the brown rice uncooked but using cooked wild rice in the recipe: wild rice is not really a rice, it is the grain of an aquatic plant/grass. When it's cooking, it most definitely smells like grass, and I would not want that flavor in my soup. I did find a quick cooking variety at my grocery store that has already had some of that rawness cooked out of it, and you can also buy it canned (yes, really!). I love wild rice in soups and side dishes, so I often cook up a large batch and freeze some in 1 or 2 cup portions, saving me time when I need it another day. I leave the brown rice uncooked in this recipe so that as it cooks, the starch it releases helps thicken the soup and gives it a creamy texture. I like to keep this fairly light (I have a traditional chicken and wild rice soup recipe that calls for a stick of butter, 3/4 cup flour and 2 cups of half and half--my arteries clogged just typing that out!), and since it gets a nice, creamy consistency during the cooking process, I just use milk, though half and half or even fat free half and half could be used too. Today I used unsweetened almond milk.

There are opportunities for variation in this recipe. It's really easy to divide or multiply amounts if you need more or less. I love mine really thick, but if it's too thick for you, add more stock as needed. You'll find that if you keep it in the slow cooker for awhile, such as during a gathering, you might have to periodically add a bit more liquid. If you aren't a wild rice fan or can't find it, skip it and add a bit more brown rice. We don't eat pork, but you could substitute cooked ham for the chicken (a popular addition to many wild rice soup recipes), and if you are not a meat-eater, the soup is still wonderfully filling without either!


Slow Cooker Wild and Brown Rice Soup

2 cups cooked chicken, chopped/shredded
2 cups wild rice, cooked and rinsed
2/3 cup brown rice, uncooked
3 carrots, sliced (abut 1 1/2 cups)
2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
6 + cups homemade vegetable stock (or any vegetable or chicken stock)
1 cup milk or half and half
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped (or 1 tsp dried) 
1/2 tsp dry mustard (if you don't have dry, just skip it--do not use prepared mustard!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: sliced/slivered almonds for garnishing

Directions: Place all ingredients except milk/half and half in slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Ten minutes before turning slow cooker off, add milk/half and half and stir well, replace lid and heat for remaining ten minutes. Check for seasoning and serve, garnishing each bowl with sliced/slivered almonds if desired.


Cost:

Brown rice (organic): $3.29/2 lb package, used 1/6 = $.55
Wild rice: $3.99/12 oz package uncooked, used 1/4 =$1.00
Chicken (no antibiotics, veg-fed): On sale for $4.99/lb boneless/skinless thighs, used 1/2 = $2.50
Celery (organic): $.99 after sale and coupon, used 1/4 = $.25
Carrots (organic): $1.98/2 lb pkg, used 1/5 = $.40
Onion (farmers market): $.50 each large onion, used 1/2 = $.25
Almonds: $3.99/10 oz bag, used 1/6 of bag = $.67
Almond milk: $3.29/half gallon, used 1/8 = $.41
Vegetable stock: Homemade Freebie

Total Cost: $6.03
Six Servings: $1.00 per serving

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spinach and Tomato Alfredo Pizza

I used red grape tomatoes and little yellow tomatoes shaped like pears--I love all of the bright pops of color against the white alfredo sauce!


Once in awhile I like a pizza that is a little less traditional, as in a red tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and this one fits the bill perfectly. Instead of a tomato sauce, I make a homemade alfredo sauce, and instead of gooping the top with mozzarella, I use the alfredo sauce as sort of a thin layer of cement for the spinach and tomatoes and just garnish with a bit of grated parmesan after it comes out of the oven. I like keeping this vegetarian, but it tastes great with shredded/diced chicken added as well.


Spinach and Tomato Alfredo Pizza

1 12-14" prepared pizza crust (try my 100% whole wheat pizza crust)
4 oz neufchatel or cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (or larger tomato/es, diced)
1 cup baby spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces if necessary
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup homemade vegetable stock, milk or any vegetable/chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Place stock/milk and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat. Heat for 5 minutes, being careful not to let it boil or even simmer. Stir in neufchatel/cream cheese, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until cheeses are melted smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Step 2: Spread cheese mixture on crust. Top with tomatoes and then spinach, pressing them down into the cheese mixture. If using my crust, after the crust is pre-baked, bake at 450 degrees for 7-10 minutes. If using another crust, bake according to package directions. When pizza is removed from oven, sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.


Cost:

Cream cheese (organic): $1.99 per 8 oz pkg, used 1/2 =$1.00
Parmesan cheese: $2.99/5 oz, used 2/5 = $1.20
Vegetable stock: Homemade Freebie
Crust (homemade): $1.04
Tomatoes: Garden Freebie
Baby spinach (organic): $1.50/pkg after sale and coupon, used 1/4 = $.38

Total Cost: $3.62
Eight Slices: $.45 per slice

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

I wish I had taken a picture that didn't look so greasy! I swear I only used 3 oz of organic mozzarella on a 14" pizza, but there was turkey pepperoni too!


Like many other things in life, pizza crust is something many people seem to really be passionate about as far as the type they prefer. I'm not a huge fan of the thick, bread-like pizza crusts--I like a thinner, crispier crust, but still chewy on the inside. It's probably no surprise I also like to make my crust with 100% whole wheat flour. I use only the basic ingredients you will find in most traditional Italian brick oven-style crusts--flour, water, yeast and salt. No sugar, no oil. You might find the flavor a bit basic as well if you are used to crusts made with white flour, sugar/honey and oil/lard, so rely on high quality, flavorful toppings to really make it pop. If you do make this with a non-whole wheat flour, use the same proportions of flour, yeast and salt, but you may need to cut back on the water a bit.

I wrote this recipe with convenience in mind--it makes more than one crust (the exact number depending on the size you want them), one to use the day I make it and one or two to freeze for a quick meal another day. And like my 100% whole wheat buns recipe, you can choose to let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight or even up to two or three days and work with it when you need it (I actually found the crust a bit tastier when I used dough that had risen in the fridge for a couple days). If you want to get even more convenience-minded and have the room in your freezer, make a couple batches up through the point of pre-baking, wrap well and freeze.

For me, this will make two 12"-15" crusts or three 9"-12" crusts, depending on how thick/thin I make them. If I feel like a cracker-thin super crispy crust, I will divide it into three parts and make them about 10", if I am doing our usual 14" crust that's crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, somewhere between cracker-thin and original/hand-tossed, I will divide it into two parts. You could also make three or four personal-sized pizzas with a bit thicker crusts or even more with thinner crusts. You are probably tiring of me telling you to experiment/play around with recipes, but this is another basic recipe that has many options for you depending on your needs/likes.


100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp active dry yeast (about 1/2 of a .25 oz pkg)
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt

Step 1: In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt and make a well in the middle. Add water, sprinkle in yeast and mix until dough is smooth and comes together in a ball. It's okay if it's a little tacky, you want a well-hydrated dough.

Step 2A: Cover bowl and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

OR

Step 2B: Cover bowl and let dough rise in refrigerator overnight or up to 2 or 3 days.

Step 3: Punch dough down well and form into 2-3 smooth, tight balls. If you are going to freeze some, wrap it well (I use plastic wrap and then place it in a heavy duty freezer bag) and freeze at this point. Dust remaining ball/s very lightly with flour on the outside, cover with damp towel, plastic wrap, etc. and let rest for one hour. If it's going to be longer than an hour before you will cook the crust/pizza, let it rest in the fridge and then let it come to room temp before rolling it out.

Step 4: Punch dough down well and roll, press or pull ball/s into desired shape, using flour where necessary to prevent sticking. Poke holes in crust with a fork. Depending on how thin you get it and what you cook it on, you may wish to bake it before adding sauce and toppings. A preheated pizza stone will probably not require pre-baking, but I always do if I am using a baking sheet or pizza pan. I pre-bake it at 450 degrees for about 5-7 minutes. I also bake my topped crust at the same temperature.

To use frozen dough: Remove dough from plastic wrap and cover lightly with flour. Let thaw and rest under plastic wrap, a damp towel, etc. for about two to three hours. You can also thaw it slower in the fridge, letting it come to room temp before rolling out whichever thawing method you use.

This was after pre-baking. It's about 14", and I made the outer rim a bit thicker than the inside.


Cost:

Whole wheat flour (organic): $2.84/2 lb bag, used 4/7 = $1.62
Yeast: $1.39/3 pk, used one = $.46

Total Cost: $2.08
Two Crusts: $1.04 per crust 
Three Crusts: $.69 per crust
Four Crusts: $.52 per crust

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Coupon Alerts!

Van's Natural Foods: Visit their Facebook page and click on the Breakfast with Benefits tab to print a $1 off coupon for one of their frozen breakfast products--waffles, pancakes, french toast sticks and muffin crowns. Hurry, this is a rare one!  Note: secure browsing must be turned off in order for coupon to print.

MamboSprouts.com: They still have some coupons I have alerted you to before such as $.75 off Organic Valley original or vanilla soy creamer and a few brands of of teas. New are $1 off one Arrowhead Mills breakfast product and $1 off one Country Choice Organic product.

Kashi: Swagbucks and coupons.com have three different Kashi coupons available to print: $1 off any TLC crackers, $1 off any 3 GOLEAN bars (singles or multipacks) and $1.50 off any two boxes of TLC bars. If you do Swagbucks, remember to print your limit from there first so you get your Swagbucks after redeeming the coupon.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cooked Salsa



I am more of a fresh salsa girl because I love the crunch of fresh veggies, but my husband likes both fresh and cooked. I got a great deal on some roma tomatoes at the farmers market this morning, and since there were some in there that were really, really ripe and not great for a fresh salsa, I am also doing a cooked one today. I also got some long green chilies, strong onion and a jalapeno at the market since I only had one from my garden to use and used it on the fresh salsa I made earlier.

Note: this is NOT formulated for canning safely!

As with the fresh salsa, you can use any variety of tomato you like. I prefer roma, as they are firmer and create a less watery salsa, decreasing the cooking time a bit. Since the tomatoes will cook down, you'll need to start with more tomatoes than you think you'll need, so don't worry if it looks like a lot. You will want to peel your tomatoes for a cooked salsa, and you will find instructions for that at the end of this post. Whether or not you seed your tomatoes is totally up to you. I usually don't seed mine beyond what falls out on its own, but some prefer their salsa without the random tomato seeds.

The tomato paste really is an important part of the recipe, in case you were wondering if you could get by without. When you cook the salsa, you draw out a lot of water and deplete a lot of that fresh, ripe flavor--the tomato paste tightens the salsa up a bit and adds necessary flavor.


Cooked Salsa

3 cups tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (I used about 12 roma tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
2 large long green chilis (mild) or two medium bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup tomato paste (about 1/2 6 oz can)
Salt to taste
Optional: chopped jalapeno or other hot chili to taste
Optional: juice of 1/2 a lime, or to taste

Directions: Place tomatoes, onion, chilis/peppers, garlic and salt in a saucepan over medium high heat. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add tomato paste, parsley/cilantro and lime juice if using, simmer for another 5 minutes and remove from heat. When cooled, serve or chill in fridge.

Cost:

Tomatoes (farmers market): $3/large crate, used about 1/5 = $.60
Long green chilies (farmers market): $.25 each, used 2 = $.50
Onion (farmers market): $.50/each large onion, used 3/4 = $.38
Jalapeno (farmers market): $.25 each = $.25
Tomato paste (organic): $4.99/6 oz can, used 1/2 = $.50
Lime: On sale for $.69, used 1/2 = $.35
Parsley/Garlic = Garden Freebies

Total Cost: $2.58



Peeling Your Tomatoes

Step 1: Bring a pot of water to boiling and fill a large bowl with cold water.

Step 2: Score the bottom of the tomato with an X using a paring knife. Some varieties will peel without being dipped in water if they are ripe/soft enough. If you are pulling of small pieces or pulling too much flesh off with the skin, they will need to be dipped in the boiling water.


Step 3: Place the tomatoes in  the boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute. Remove and place in bowl of cold water. Most of the skins will split, but don't fret if some don't.


Step 4: When cool enough to handle, peel the skins off.


Step 5: I find coring much easier and handling the tomato much easier as well when I cut the peeled tomato in half and then cut a notch/wedge to remove the core.

Step 6: Seed the tomatoes if you wish and chop.

Fresh Salsa



I love fresh salsa, and it's even better when I use fresh-picked ingredients from my own garden or from local growers at the farmers market. I picked tomatoes from my garden this morning, but since my onions are so small still, I picked up some nice strong white ones at the market along with some big ol' long green chilies. The long green chilies are mild, but thy do have a bit more "zip" than a bell pepper, according to the lady I bought them from.

This is really less of a recipe and more of a guide. If there are certain flavors you like, add more, if there's something you don't care for, add less or omit it. We like our salsa really onion-y, so the recipe as written may be a little onion-heavy for some people. My husband reminded me to add a lot of onion before I started in on this recipe, as we are always fighting to fish out the few and very elusive onions in the salsa at our favorite Mexican restaurant! If you aren't a lime fan, leave it out or add just a little. It's not rocket science--you can mix it up however you like!

As far as the "heat" of the salsa, it's written as mild with the optional addition of hot chilies if desired. If the kids are eating the salsa, I stick to one jalapeno. If it's just me and/or my husband, I would probably add two jalapenos, one cayenne or even a bit of a habanero (as I did to some salsa I canned a couple days ago).


Fresh Salsa

2 cups tomato, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 large long green chili (mild) or medium bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Optional: Chopped jalapeno or any hot chili to taste
Salt to taste

Directions: Place all ingredients in a bowl and gently stir until combined. Serve immediately or chill before serving.


Cost:

Tomatoes/Garlic/Parsley/Jalapeno: Garden Freebies
Onion (farmers market): $.50 each for large onions, used 1/2 =$.25
Green chili: $.25 each large chili = $.25
Lime: On sale $.69 each, used 1/2 = $.35

Total Cost: $.85

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"You Can Do It Better Yourself" Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo



This is the first recipe in my "You Can Do It Better Yourself" series (check out the linked post for information on the series as well as a couple tips to make them even quicker). Not only is this made with real, simple ingredients and fresh vegetables (as opposed to the three dehydrated  flecks of vegetables you find in the prepackaged meals), but it is a great substitute for a traditional alfredo pasta, which although delicious, is a little too heavy on the cream, cheese and butter for me! Omit the chicken, and you have an easy and economical vegetarian dish as well.

Served with a kale and tomato salad from the garden and five of my 100% whole wheat buns (at $.16 each), we had quite a filling meal that's not too terribly bad on the "healthfulness scale" for only $5.89, and it took me no longer than 20 minutes to prepare!


Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

6 oz dry pasta or 3 cups cooked
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken, diced
2 cups broccoli florets (be generous if you like broccoli)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup homemade vegetable stock (or any vegetable or chicken stock)
4 oz neufchatel cheese/light cream cheese, cut into cubes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
Reserved pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: If pasta is uncooked, begin preparing according to package directions, stopping cooking a few minutes before the recommended time so it doesn't overcook later. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add garlic, chicken, salt and pepper and cook just until chicken is no longer pink on the outside, 5-7 minutes.

Add stock, broccoli and cooked pasta, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes. Slowly stir in neufchatel/cream cheese and parmesan until melted smooth and all other ingredients are evenly coated. If you need a little more liquid to help cheese melt smooth, add pasta water a tablespoon or two at a time. It will thicken after it's removed from heat, but if there is too much liquid, let simmer for a few more minutes, until it reaches desired thickness. Add additional salt and pepper if desired.

Note: If you are using precooked chicken, add it to the pan with the broccoli, stock, pasta and garlic and follow directions from that point.

Cost:

Chicken (veg-fed/no antibiotics): On sale $4/lb, 1/2 lb = $2.00
Broccoli (organic): $1.88/bunch after sale (Hy-vee) and coupon (Recyclebank), used 1/2 bunch = $.94
Pasta (whole wheat): $1.22/13.25 oz box, used just under half = $.55
Cream cheese (organic): $1.99 per 8 oz pkg, used 1/2 =$1.00
Parmesan cheese: $2.99/5 oz, used 1/5 = $.60
Vegetable stock: Homemade Freebie

Total Cost: $5.09
Four Servings: $1.27 per serving
Six Servings: $.85 per serving

Monday, August 22, 2011

You Can Do It Better Yourself!

I am working on a series of "You Can Do It Better Yourself..." recipes in response to those boxed meals that......offer assistance in preparing dinner--you know, the ones with the little packets of "cheese", and seasonings in powder form and tiny pouches of pasta or rice to which you add browned meat. I'm not going to preach to you regarding what I believe are the evils of such meals, which believe me, are many in my opinion, I will however try to sell you on making similar dishes with simple, fresh ingredients (that you can pronounce) that are just as quick and easy. They may not be the most healthful recipes in my repertoire, but I do my best to make them as healthful as possible, and they are nice to enjoy every once in awhile when I need something for supper I don't have to think too much about. It also keeps my family happily eating my healthful meals when they feel like they get a taste of familiar dishes. Served with fresh veggies and fruit, they really are meals I still feel good about eating and serving to my family!

One thing that baffles me about those boxed meals is the large amount of meat they call for in comparison to the small pouches of pasta/rice. I prefer mine with equal parts of meat and pasta, and it's a bonus that cutting down on the meat happens to keep the cost a bit lower as well. Whole wheat pasta and brown rice are good sources of protein on their own, and any of the recipes in this series could easily be made with no meat at all. And if you have gluten/wheat issues, you can of course substitute the gluten free pasta of your choice in the pasta dishes.

I prepare the pasta/rice, brown the meat and prepare the rest of the ingredients for these recipes all at the same time, and that is a huge time saver. When you really need to prepare dinner in record time, here are a couple time saving tips that can make these meals even quicker:

-Cook a large amount of pasta and/or rice to within a few minutes of the recommended cooking time, cool, place in zip-top freezer bags and freeze in stacks. To thaw, either throw a bag in the fridge, remove pasta/rice from bag and defrost in a glass bowl in the microwave for a minute or two or place the bag in a bowl of hot water.

-Brown batches of meats such as ground beef/chicken/turkey or diced chicken breast and follow directions for freezing and thawing pasta above.

Look for tomorrow's recipe, "You Can Do It Better Yourself" Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Super Chunky Guacamole (Revisited)



Since I can now get everything but the avocado and lime from my garden, I have been making super chunky guacamole up a storm, and I am reposting the recipe from back in May! My favorite meal to eat it for is still breakfast, though I certainly don't have to be convinced to eat it an time of day! ;) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I love guacamole. LOVE IT! I love it so much that when I was doing Weight Watchers, I ate homemade guacamole and organic tortilla chips for breakfast every day for several months. I also love my food CHUNKY, and guacamole is no exception. This recipe ends up working well for really stretching out the avocado, which can really be expensive at times, with some less expensive veggies. I don't know about where you are at, but the price of avocados (Haas) really fluctuates around here. I passed them over for a couple of weeks when they were a whopping $2.50 each, but I snatched a bunch up a few days ago, when to my utter amazement, they were only $1 a piece! Thanks to that deal, I am splurging and using two avocados in this recipe, but it can be easily adjusted to make with just one avocado or 70, if you are so inclined. If  I use one avocado in the recipe, I get four servings out of it, if I use two avocados, I stretch it to six servings. I can't stretch it past six servings since I am the only one in the house that eats it--and if you are mindlessly dipping tortilla chips in it, you're not going to get more than six servings anyway! ;) You already know I like it with my organic tortilla chips, but I also use it to top salads and chili, spread it on sandwiches and of course put it on tacos and the like. I may or may not be known to eat it by the spoonful on occasion.

I normally use and much prefer red bell peppers but only had a green one left today. They happened to be on sale for $.59 at the grocery store, and since the organic ones were way too insanely priced to even consider, I snatched some up, brought them home and washed them really well. I cannot wait until bell peppers start popping up at our farmers market or in my garden, whichever comes first!

So money talk is out of the way, let's talk nutrition. Avocados are packed with good stuff! Yes, they do have a fair amount of fat, but much of it is the good monounsaturated stuff. They also have pretty close to a little of everything when it comes to vitamins and minerals. A perfect food?! The monounsaturated fatty acids they contain are supposed to be good for busting belly fat...I will let you know how that works out for me.


Super Chunky Guacamole

2 Haas avocados
1 Roma tomato
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
optional: diced jalapeno or red pepper flakes to taste

Directions: Prepare your avocados using your preferred method (see bellow for my suggestion). I like to leave mine cubed/diced, but you can mash yours if you so desire. Add all other ingredients and stir well.



COST:
Haas avocado: $1 each x 2 = $2
Green bell pepper: $.59 each, used half = $.30
Lime: $.35 each, used 1/2 = $.18
Garlic: One head was $.25, used two cloves, which is 1/6 of the head = $.04
Onion: One small red onion (8 oz) was $.75/lb ($.38 total), used 1/2 = $.19
Roma Tomato: One small one (4 oz) was $1.18/lb = $.30
Total Cost: $3.01
Four servings: $.75 per serving
Six Servings: $.50 per serving 


Handling Your Avocado

I call this the "score and scoop" method. It's easy to do and works really well.

Slice the avocados in half lengthwise, working carefully around the pit. I forgo the traditional knife removal method and remove the pit by softly squeezing the half in which it's embedded--it pops right out.


I then score each half of the avocado in a criss-cross pattern with a paring knife. Work carefully and do not go through the skin. Now it's ready to scoop out with a spoon!

Super Stalker Sunday!

Trying something new today, Super Stalker Sunday!








Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spinach Pasta Salad and Organic Greens Sale/Coupon Alert!



I love pasta salads and green salads as main dishes in the summer--they are light but filling and easy too. I got a great deal on two packages of organic spinach today, so I am frantically coming up with some new ways to use it, especially since I still have another coupon to use for two more before next Wednesday when the sale is up. If you have a Hy-Vee near you, select varieties of their Earthbound Farm Organic salad greens in the 5-7 oz clamshell are on sale two for $5. If you redeem your Recyclebank points for a $2 off two Earthbound Farm Organic products, which is what I did, that makes them only two for $3! Or you can take Earthbound Farm Organic's organic farming quiz and earn a coupon for $1 off, making them two for $4, still a great deal. I didn't want to cook the spinach, as my family enjoys it raw, and I didn't want a plain spinach salad, so I decided to combine a green salad and pasta salad, and here you have it.

I have written the recipe so that it is easy to tailor the flavor to what you and your family like. Use whatever vegetables and herbs you prefer. I used a few organic baby carrots since they were on sale, and then I used what was available in the garden tonight, which was green beans and tomatoes. I forgot I had wanted to add some scallion, that would have been a nice flavor in there. Even just some slivered baby carrots would be great--no need to get fancy, use what you like, what you find in the garden, at the farmers market or on sale at the grocery store. My parsley is about done, so I picked some chives and basil tonight. We ate this as a meatless main dish, though we plan to enjoy it with sliced grilled chicken breast added as well. It's great for either a side or main dish, and you can easily adjust it if you need more or less. This recipe is not heavy on the dressing, as I can't stand soggy spinach, but if you need more, add another tablespoon or two of oil and/or vinegar or even a little vegetable or chicken stock.

This salad with no meat or cheese (I actually intended to add cheese and forgot), combined with a $2 (on sale) pineapple and four of my 100% whole wheat buns with a little honey (the baby and I did not partake) brings the grand total for tonight's supper to $4.62! I will also show the cost for me to add chicken and/or cheese to the recipe just for reference, though depending on what you buy, you could certainly add chicken or any other meat for much cheaper (Hy-Vee has split chicken breasts on sale for $.88/lb this week too).


Spinach Pasta Salad

6 oz dry pasta
2 cups baby spinach, torn if necessary
2 cups chopped fresh vegetables
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp onion, finely minced
2 Tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (about 2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
Optional: 2 cups diced/shredded chicken, turkey beef or pork
Optional: 2 oz shredded Parmesan or crumbled Feta cheese  (about 1/2 cup)

Directions: Before preparing pasta according to package directions, combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, onion, herbs and salt and pepper in a small bowl and let sit. When pasta is finished, place it in a large bowl and add dressing, stirring until the pasta is well coated. Add vegetables, spinach, cheese and meat if using and stir. Check  for any additional salt/pepper needed. Serve slightly warm or chill in fridge before serving.

Cost:

Pasta (whole wheat rotini): $1.22/13.6 oz box, used 1/2 = $.61
Baby spinach (organic): $1.50/pkg after sale and coupon, used 1/2 = $.75
Baby carrots (organic): On sale $1.50/1-lb bag, used 1/5 =$.30

Total Cost: $1.66
Six Servings: $.28 per serving


Add meat and/or cheese:

Chicken breast (veg-fed/no antibiotics): On sale $5.49/lb, use 3/4 lb = $4.12
Feta cheese: $3.29/pkg, use BOGO free coupon ($1.65 each), use 1/2 of one pkg = $.83

Friday, August 19, 2011

100% Whole Wheat Rolls/Buns



Confession: I really do not like to bake. I don't know why either, and it actually baffles me since I love to cook so much. So I am spreading my wings and am trying my hand at coming up with my own recipe for whole wheat rolls/buns since I can't find a recipe I like or any store-bought that meet my strict criteria! ;)  You may recall me talking in previous posts about nixing wheat/gluten around here, but my husband is undergoing testing next month for gluten-related issues, so I actually have to make sure he is getting gluten in his diet until then, thus sending me on what is turning out to be a baking frenzy.

All the recipes I have found call themselves "whole wheat", but then I am disappointed to see that they use mostly an all-purpose or bread flour with just a small amount of whole wheat flour. Admittedly, I grew up on 100% whole wheat bread, so I am used to the taste and texture and much prefer it, but if you find you need to ease yourself or your family into it, by all means substitute all purpose flour for some of the whole wheat flour. Give this a chance as is though--my husband raved about how light and moist these are and what a nice texture they have, he said the weren't at all heavy or grainy like he thought they would be! I also didn't want to use milk, butter, shortening or sugar, and while I did use an egg, I am playing around with substitutes (such as milled flaxseed mixed with water, a common egg substitute these days). You could also substitute all or some of the water for milk--water happens to be super easy, and since we limit our milk intake, I don't always have it on hand. Sugar can be substituted for the honey, but if it's not already, you need honey in your life. ;)

You can really get creative here, shaping the dough into dinner rolls, hamburger buns, sub rolls, etc. I yield approximately 16 generously-sized hamburger buns and approximately 24 dinner/cocktail rolls that are also great for sandwiches. You could bake the rolls close together in a baking dish and make pull-apart rolls. I am going to play around with making it into a loaf of bread as well. To make it even more convenient, I freeze the shaped dough I don't need right away and take it out when I need it--you will see instructions below in the recipe. You will also see sort of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" (remember those books?!) section in the instructions. You can either finish the entire recipe in one day, or you can mix up the dough in the evening (I do it after the kids are in bed) and then let it slowly rise in the refrigerator over night and finish them the next day when you get time.

Except for the honey (which is local, from the farmers market) and the yeast, I used all organic ingredients. At only $3.89 for 16 generous burger-sized buns or 24 smaller rolls for sandwiches or just on the side, that is a steal for me. My grocery store's bakery charges $2.69 for 12 cocktail rolls (think what you serve deli meats on at parties), which are not 100% whole wheat and most definitely not made with organic ingredients or the types of ingredients I like to use. They do sell big brand organic breads and buns, but they are always frozen, and they are pushing $6 per package--eeks! Depending on the types of ingredients you use, substitutions and other variables, your cost could be quite low compared to mine even.


100% Whole Wheat Rolls/Buns

5 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup honey
3 Tbsp canola/vegetable/light olive oil (any light, mild oil)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt

Step 1: In a small bowl, add water and honey, stir and sprinkle in yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Step 2: Add flour and salt to large mixing bowl, make a well in the middle and pour in egg, oil and water mixture. Mix until dough forms a ball. If it is too dry, add warm water just a little bit at a time. If it is sticky/wet, you can correct that in the next step.

Step 3: Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until elastic and smooth, 8 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary to correct wet/sticky dough.

Step 4: Place dough in a large bowl that you've oiled, making sure to coat entire ball of dough with oil as well. Cover bowl and follow one of the following two options, 5A/6A OR 5B/6B:

Step 5A: Place bowl in a warm place and let dough rise until it doubles in size, approximately one hour. Punch dough down and form into rolls of desired size and shape, keeping in mind you will be letting them double in size.

Step 6A: Place rolls on oiled baking sheet 2-3 inches apart, cover and let rise in a warm place for approximately one hour, until doubled in size.

Step 5B: Place bowl in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, punch dough down and form into rolls of desired size, keeping in mind you will be letting them double in size.

Step 6B: Place rolls on oiled baking sheet 2-3 inches apart, cover and let rise in a warm place for approximately 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

Step 7: Bake at 350 degrees for 10-13 minutes, until light golden brown on top. If desired, cover with a towel as they cool to keep them soft.

To freeze dough for ready-to-rise-and-bake rolls: Whichever method you use, letting the dough immediately rise or letting it rise in the fridge overnight, after you divide it into rolls, put them on a baking sheet and into the freezer. When the rolls are frozen, place them in a zip top bag or container. When you want to use them, place them 2-3 inches apart on an oiled baking sheet, cover and let thaw and rise in a warm place until doubled in size, approximately 2 1/2 hours. Bake as directed above.


Cost:

Whole wheat flour (organic): $2.84/2 lb bag, used 5/7 = $2.03
Egg (organic): On sale $3.09/dz, used one = $.26
Canola oil (organic): On sale $5.09/16 oz bottle, used around 1/11 = $.48
Honey (farmers market/local): $4/16 oz bottle, used 1/8 = $.50
Yeast: $1.86/3 pk, used one = $.62

Total Cost: $3.89 
16 Servings: $.24 per serving
24 Servings: $.16 per serving

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bob's Red Mill Surprise Gift Box Give Away!

Just an example of some of the  Bob's Red Mill products I use!

I have yet to try a Bob's Red Mill product I haven't loved! They are a huge part of ensuring my family eats healthfully, and I have two cupboards full of them, just a few of which include gluten free rolled oats, organic quinoa, flax seeds, brown rice flour, and bread mix (regular and gluten free). One of my favorite breakfasts is Bob's Red Mill Organic High Fiber Oat Bran Hot Cereal (say that five times fast!) with a sliced banana and two tablespoons of sliced almonds stirred in. Warm, comforting, delicious, healthful, and it keeps me full all morning!

I admire Bob's Red Mill and their dedication to producing natural food using natural means as well as their commitment to provide "Whole Grain Foods for Every Meal of the Day.®" There are cereals, whole grains, stone ground flours, baking mixes, beans, seeds and more, including many certified organic and certified gluten free products. So much to choose from!

Give Away Details:

One lucky reader of The Little Red Plate will receive a surprise gift box of four full-size Bob's Red Mill products, chosen by me and specifically tailored to the likes, dislikes, allergies and cooking/baking habits of the winner! This give away has no affiliation with Bob's Red Mill, I simply want to share some of my favorites with you. Give away will be open for entry until 8:59 pm central on Thursday, September 8th, and a winner will be chosen at random at 9:00 pm. Please only one entry per person--if you need a reminder as to whether or not you have entered, feel free to leave a comment here. ;)

**I can't figure out how to edit the form, but if you would rather not leave your email address, please leave your first name and last initial. :)**