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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Three Simple Budget Stretching Dishes

I've had a few emails requesting budget stretching meals. The past week has been extremely busy and my new fridge still has not arrived. I'm trying to keep the refrigerator contents to a minimum. All of the freezer contents have been moved to the larger freezers. This bit of disruption would be an ideal time to order out but I decided to use up some cheese, eggs, and milk in two dishes along with a couple of pre-prepared foods from the freezer. Spanish onions are inexpensive right now so they are also ideal as an inexpensive ingredient. Good food need not be expensive!

Mac & Cheese

Homemade Mac & Cheese is a true comfort food and taste so much better than the boxed kind! It is extremely easy to make and quite inexpensive depending on the amount and kinds of cheese you use. It can be a full meal in itself or served as a side dish and it does reheat well. I like using different cheeses especially extra sharp cheddar. Good quality cheese is essential but need not be expensive either. Experiment with the cheeses to get the combinations you like. You can freeze it homemade mac & cheese in trays for convenience if you choose. Here's how I make homemade mac & cheese. Please note, the measurements are only approximates as I don't really measure for this type of dish.

Method: The first prep was the cheese. For this particular mac & cheese I shredded extra sharp, colby, and mozzarella cheeses for a total amount of about three cups. Then I cooked elbow noodles until el dente and drained. A 13" x 9" glass baking dish was greased and enough noodles were poured in to form about an inch layer. Half of the shredded cheese was distrubuted evenly over the noodles. Another layer of noodles was added along with the remaining cheese. Then about three cups of bechemel (white sauce) was poured over the noodles. A bechemel sauce is simply milk thicken with flour. For this application, the sauce should be of a thinner consistency like a thin gravy. A light sprinkling of bread crumbs was the final layer. I baked the mac & cheese at 350 degrees farenheit until the top was lightly browned and the cheese was bubbling.

Liver & Onions

Liver and onions is a favourite dish here. It is very inexpensive! Serve the meal simply with the addition of potatoes and a vegetable. Bread and salad are optional. Many are turned off of liver because of they way they experienced, dry and like leather, but that is not the way it should be. The first trick is to use calf liver as it is more tender. The second trick is to never overcook liver. H

Method: You will need a sautee pan and fry pan for this method. Timing is important so be sure to use mis en place. Cut two large spanish onions in half then into slices against the layers. Melt about 2 tbsp butter in the sautee pan then add onions. Stir occasionally and if need be add a little extra butter. While the onions are sauteeing, dredge the liver in flour seasoned with a little salt and pepper or garlic salt if you prefer. Lightly brown on both sides in heated fry pan on medium heat. Remove from heat. When the onions begin carmelizing, transfer the liver to the sautee pan. Continue cooking until the onions are carmelized, stirring often.


Frittata is one of the easiest, inexpensive meals you can make. They are ideal for using up left-overs. Imagination is really the only limiting factor when making frittatas. Even though they are egg based, frittatas can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner. A frittata is basically an open faced omelet that is started on the stovetop then baked in the oven. Be warned, a slice of frittata is quite filling. While I have not tried freezing frittata, left-overs do reheat nicely

Frittata cut

Like an omelet, a frittata starts with eggs, about 8 to 10. To do your mis en place assemble the ingredients you are adding. Frozen hash browns can be used as they are but if using fresh potatoes, microwave until almost soft.

Method: Slice the potatoes. Assemble other ingredients like bacon pieces, mushrooms and shredded cheese. Wisk the eggs then stir in about 1/3 c of milk and seasonings. For a nice seasoning try adding tomatoe powder (previous entry). Now, pour a little olive oil into a cast iron fry pan and heat. Add a layer of potatoes followed by other ingredients. Allow to cooke on medium-high for about 5 to 7 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Pour egg mixture over the other ingredients, reduce heat to medium then cook just until the egg mixture around the sides starts to cook. minutes. Transfer the pan to the pre-heated oven. Bake until puffy and lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven. Cut into wedge shaped pieces.

I keep bits and pieces of left-overs in the freezers all vacuum sealed for just these types of meals. However, I always have sauteed mushrooms and homemade bacon pieces in the freezer in meal sized portions. This frittata was made this past Saturday for brunch when the kids were here and I simply didn't feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Our new grandbaby is due soon so I wanted to spend more family time with them instead of cooking. So I pulled a package of bacon bits and sauteed mushrooms from the freezer. After the potatoes were almost cooked, I defrosted the bacon and mushrooms and got my mis en place ready: chopped onion, shredded extra sharp cheddar and wisked eggs. From there is was basically dumping everything into the pan, cooking on the stovetop then transferring to the oven. Everything came together nicely, very quickly freeing up the time I wanted.


1 food lovers commented:

renren said...

I'm so glad to see someone recommending liver as edible! Yes, sounds silly but everyone I know that isn't Russian (like I am - I left when I was 10 and have been in the States for 16 years) thinks that liver is the worst thing in the world. Meanwhile, my grandmother still makes calves or chicken liver with onions, very similar to your recipe and I think it's delicious. Makes it difficult to have it at home since my fiance can't stand the smell even. I think with your post, you've just redeemed pretty much all north american population, north of Florida (full of old Jewish ex-new yorkers that know better). Awesome job on the blogs - all of them - and I love reading what you have to say on the Foodsaver group!