Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beans and Rice

Not much to this staple food, but it's tasty, low in fat, vegetarian and super frugal.

  • 2 cups red beans (dry)
  • 1 cup rice (uncooked)
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 32 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 diced onions
  • 2 tbs oil (corn or peanut)

  1. Cook beans until very soft (I use a slow cooker)
  2. Cook rice (I use a rice cooker)
  3. Place 12" skillet or Dutch oven on medium hear, add oil
  4. Saute onions in skillet, add taco seasoning
  5. Add tomatoes and deglaze pan
  6. Add everything else
  7. Cook until heated through and reduced to desired consistency
  8. Taste and add extra seasoning if desired

Frugal Factor:
I buy my beans and rice bulk, so not sure how much, probably under $2. The tomatoes can be found for $1.50. Let's say $0.50 for the onions and ketchup. That's $4/6 servings, or $0.67/serving.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Savory Bread Pudding w/ Ham, Spinach and Cheese

So I baked some whole wheat oatmeal bread from a '70s cookbook that called for far too much yeast. What to do? Savory bread pudding, one of the original frugal foods back before mass-market bread. This is potentially a pantry dish too and substitutions abound.


  • 1 loaf stale bread, cut into 3/4" cubes (no, don't measure)
  • 6-8 eggs (start with 6)
  • 2 120z cans evaporated milk (have some reg. milk in the fridge just in case)
  • 10oz shredded cheese (I used Havarti, because it was on special at Aldi, plus a leftover hunk of Gruyere)
  • 1 lbs ham, diced 1/4" or so (you could also use cooked bacon, sausage, or no meat at all)
  • 2 boxes chopped frozen spinach
  • 3 leeks, white parts only, chopped and cleaned thoroughly (substitute yellow onions to save $)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper


  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Saute leeks in olive oil until golden, add garlic and cook 1 more minute
  • Cook spinach and drain of all water (I nuked it and then squeezed it in a clean kitchen towel)
  • In large bowl, combine the milk, eggs and seasoning and whisk thoroughly to combine
  • Add all the other ingredients except the bread and combine
  • Toss the bread in until all liquid is absorbed. Test a couple bread pieces. If not soaked through, whisk together some more eggs and milk from the fridge and add (sorry, bread varies too much to be exact)
  • Place in a large, oiled casserole dish. I used a 9x13 plus two individual-sized ones to take over to Sharon's place. The mixture should fill to about the 2" mark in whatever dish you use.
  • Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes. It should rise a little and brown in spots on the top, but careful not to burn the bottom.

Frugal Factor: Bread, aprox. $2 worth of ingredients. Ham, $3.50 at Aldi, spinach $2, leeks, $3, cheese, $3.50 at Aldi, milk and eggs, $2 (est.). That's $16. I made 8 generous portions, so that's $2/portion. Still frugal. As much as I love them, the leeks really do some damage. And of course, truly leftover bread has already been bought or left at your house by party guests or something.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pork Roast Marsala

This recipe is so easy it's barely a recipe at all. Tasty though.


  • 3 lbs pork roast
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 onions, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground pepper


  • Put everything in a slow cooker
  • Cook on medium ("auto shift" on mine)
  • When pork falls apart with a fork, stop cooking
  • Pour through a sieve, collecting liquid in bowl
  • Reduce liquid in a saucepan over high heat, whisking in 1 tbsp. flour until thickened
  • Cut meat into bite-sized pieces
  • Mix everything back together and serve.

Frugal Factor: Sorry, I lost my receipt so this is a guestimate. The pork was about $3.50, the mushrooms were too. Add $1 for all the other stuff. That's $8. I got 6 portions out of this. That's $1.33/portion. Serve it over rice for a more filling meal if you want.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mexican Bean Bake with Cheesy Corn Souffle (Vegetarian)

This recipe has a lot of steps, but it’s a tasty, vegetarian, protein-packed meal that costs almost nothing to make.


For the beans:

  • 1 lbs dry pinto beans (or some such bean) or 4 cans
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cups (16oz) of tomato salsa (whatever’s on sale)
  • 3 tbs cumin
  • 2 tbs cayenne pepper (I used chipotle powder though)
  • 1 tbs. oregano (Mexican if you have it)
  • 2 tbs. garlic powder
  • Salt and additional seasoning to taste.
  • Some sliced green olives if you want them. I did, but they work better with meat.


  • 1 cup frozen corn, pulverized in food processor
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 4 tbsp flour (Wondra works best)
  • 8 oz shredded cheese (colby, muenster or jack)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. If you are using dried beans, cook them. I just put them right in the slow cooker, cover with water (plus 1”-2”and heat on high for several hours.
  2. Cook the rice
  3. Add all the bean ingredients together. You could sauté the onions first, or don’t. See if care.
  4. Put it all in 2 9x13 baking dishes (or one really big one like I did).
  5. Melt butter in saucepan
  6. Stir in flour to make a paste
  7. Whisk in milk and keep under medium heat until thickened.
  8. Add cheese, corn and egg yolks and turn off heat
  9. Whip egg yolks until soft peaks form
  10. Fold yolks into cheese sauce slowly and carefully
  11. Pour over beans and bake at 400 for 1 hour or so (until topping is set)

Frugal Factor: $2.50 for the cheese, $1.50 for the beans, $1.50 for the beans, $2 for the salsa, $2 for everything else. Serves 12. That’s $0.75/serving.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Vegetarian Lima Bean and Cabbage Cassoulet

I love the French dish cassoulet, but it requires finding just the right sausages, cooking a duck or goose (and reserving the rendered fat) and roasting some lamb. I made mine vegetarian out of laziness, especially because there we got two feet of snow and I didn’t feel like going out for any food not already in my house. Cooking the beans is probably a weekend thing unless you have a timer on your slow cooker and have tested it before. However, you can make the rest any time.

Looks-wise, this rather monochromatic dish, especially because I was out of carrots. You could probably use kale instead of cabbage and get a nicer color, but cabbage is what I had, so that's what I used. (I also overcooked the beans because I was out at the pub drinking beer.) No matter how it looks, it's a super-frugal winter meal.


  • 1 lbs (aprox. 2 cups) dried lima beans (or any other white bean)
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 tbsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. rosemary
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 2 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Salt to taste


  1. Rinse dried beans and place in slow cooker with 4 cups water and the dried herbs and one diced onion
  2. Cook on high for about six hours (really depends on your make, model, age of beans, etc), until beans are soft but still firm to the tooth (al dente). Add water if needed. Drain and reserve cooking liquid
  3. Dice up a head of cabbage and carrots; steam until al dente, set aside
  4. Dice remaining onion into half-inch pieces, toss with some herbs and olive oil, and roast at 400 for 20 minutes or so
  5. Melt butter in saucepan and add bread crumbs, garlic powder and salt to taste. Mix until all crumbs are coated
  6. Toss cabbage, roasted onions and beans. Add cooking liquid until mixture is very loose (like a thick stew)
  7. Salt/pepper/season to taste
  8. Coat a 9x13 baking dish with half the bread crumbs.
  9. Add the bean mixture
  10. Top with remaining bread crumbs, spreading evenly and as flat as possible
  11. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

Frugal factor: Off the charts. Dry beans and cabbage are two of the cheapest forms of nutrition. This made eight portions. Figure $1.50 for the beans, $2 for the cabbage, $1 for the bread crumbs, $0.50 for the butter, and $1.50 for everything else. That's about $0.82/portion.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Carmelized Pot Roast w/ Gorgonzola Cauliflower

It’s not every day I discover a better way to cook meat, but that’s exactly what happened this weekend. I set out to make a slow-cooker pot roast. In the past, the meat ended up swimming in its juices, so I propped it up on top of potatoes. In this manner, the potatoes cooked long before the meat was fork-tender, so I drained the juices for gravy, removed the vegetables, and placed the meat in the dry crock and set the temp to high. Hours later, an amazing thing happened. As the fat and connective tissue cooked away, the beef was now slow-frying in its own fat. The entire outside of the roast browned like Carnitas, yet as I broke apart the roast with two forks, the meat was hardly dry at all. Once I tossed the chunks of meat in the gravy, I had a perfect freezer entrée.

Served here with a baked cauliflower casserole consisting of a steamed and mashed cauliflower mashed with 1 cup of béchamel w/ 1/4 lbs gorgonzola and baked at 450 until browned. Yum.

Frugal Factor: 2 lbs. bottom round roast, $4, cauliflower, $2, potatoes, $1, mushrooms $2, milk and butter, $1. $10 for 5 portions is $2/portion.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chicken Marsala w/ Escarole and Potatoes

Chicken Marsala may be a staple of catering hall buffets, but it’s one of my favorites. Marsala is a sweet fortified wine with a long shelf life, so I always have it in the pantry. On the side, I chopped and sautéed one head of escarole in garlic with a dash of chicken stock.I also nuked a couple russet potatoes, removed the skin, chopped into chuncks and sauteed in olive oil and herbs. Easy.


  • 8 Chicken Thighs, skinned, de-boned and pounded flatFlour seasoned with salt, pepper and dried herbs – Wondra works best.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 8 oz chopped mushrooms1 finely diced onion

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 1 cup marsala wine

  • 1-2 cups chicken stock

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  1. Dredge the chicken in the flour.

  2. Pour olive oil in 12” skillet and add whole garlic cloves and chicken, then turn on medium heat (trust me)

  3. Brown chicken on both sides and set aside.

  4. Stir about two tablespoons of the dredging flour into the olive oil to create a loose paste (roux).

  5. Add mushrooms and onion and stir until cooked through.

  6. Add marsala and scrape and fond off pan.

  7. Crush up those garlic cloves.

  8. Add chicken and enough stock to half cover the other ingredients.

  9. Continue cooking until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through, adding more stock or flour to get the desired gravy consistency.

  10. After turning off heat, stir in a few tablespoons of butter to enrich the sauce.

Frugal Factor: 2lbs chicken at $1.89/lbs, $3.78. Mushrooms, $2, onion, garlic, wine, stock, oil, butter: $1.50 (est.). I made four servings, so that’s $1.82/serving not counting the sides, which would probably add $0.75/serving, for a total of $2.47/serving.