Cooking Meals and Saving Money on Winter Comfort Foods
The cold weather months are excellent for hearty comfort foods that warm you up and keep you full. Delicious soups, stews, and hot casseroles abound, most so good, that you almost don’t miss the warmer weather. Even better, many wintertime comfort foods can be made without spending a lot and they go a long way. Often, you can feed a big family or make enough for a week’s worth of meals, and spend very little money on each serving.
Most people tend to slow down during the winter. Maybe it’s the cold, or maybe it’s the layer of ice or snow which is keeping everyone in the sloth mode, but people tend to move slower and take their time. All that extra time spent bundling up and thawing out means you don’t have a lot of extra time to cook a gourmet meal. Luckily, winter is the best time for some simple meal ideas.
Slow cookers, or “crock pots” as they are also called, are the perfect solution for family meals on the go. Simply put your ingredients in the cooker in the morning, turn it on, and then come home to a delicious hot meal waiting for you. Most recipes are so simple you just throw everything in and go, while others may require very little prep.
Fix It and Forget It
Winter cooking is a great time to make use of some super easy “fix it and forget it” type meals. For example, a pot roast with some chopped veggies can be thrown into the oven and a timer set, cooking to perfection while you relax or get some other tasks done.
To save money and keep your tummies full and satisfied, look to stocking winter staples. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes go well in just about any savory winter dish, keep for quite a while, and are almost always some of the cheapest produce your grocery store has to offer.
For simple, delicious, and hot meals of your favorite comfort foods, to warm you up when the weather gets cold, look no farther than a stocked pantry. Canned goods, rice, and pasta make for fast, easy, and cheap casserole ideas that cost even less than the time it takes to throw them together.
Keep it simple – The simplest meals are often the most delicious, especially during the winter when anything hot and savory really hits the spot. Very few ingredients can go a long way.
Prep ahead – A little extra prep in the morning, or even spending time to prep once a week, can make meal times easy in the wintertime. For example, chopping up veggies and putting them in bags in the freezer cuts down on time and makes it super simple for you to just grab them whenever you need to.
Coupons – Most coupons tend to be for canned and boxed goods, so winter is the best time to make use of these pantry staples and save a lot of money.
Cooking is easy when you utilize some of these simple solutions. Not only can you make hot, satisfying comfort foods, but you can also save money in the process.
Have you ever wondered how our grandmothers managed to keep food on the table without going to the grocery store every day? They knew the importance of keeping a few staples on hand in their pantry. Many great meals have been made using these ingredients.
Flour is the beginning or the end of many great meals. It can be used, not only for bread items but gravies, pies, or making a great batter for frying chicken. There are several kinds of flour. The most common one being enriched white, whole wheat, self rising and all purpose. Keep your family’s favorite in your pantry and see how often it comes in handy for your meal.
Rice, like the flour comes in many types. It’s very versatile pantry item and can be used from breakfast to dinner. Brown rice is better with meats, while white rice is what I call company rice. It likes keeping company with other food items, such as soups, salads or casseroles.
I love pasta of all kinds. Just when I think I have tried every kind, I find a new one. You can cook a pound of pasta and have several different meals just by what you top or mix it with. It turns a simple soup into something spectacular, a salad into a meal and a tomato sauce into something divine. Choose your favorite, then keep it in your pantry to save on your grocery budget through out the year.
Spices to keep on hand.
You should always have salt and pepper in the house but a few more to have on hand are: Basil, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Gloves, Ginger, Marjoram, Oregano, Sage and Thyme
These are my favorites but you should experiment with several spices and see what your family likes best. Buy them in small container as they will loose their strength as time goes on. Large containers can be a waste of your food budget.
There are many kinds of beans. All are a great source of protein and can stretch your food budget. They can be used alone of in salads, dips, soups or stews.
Pinto Beans are usually the most popular but I like the dark red Kidney Beans and the small Northern White Beans for most of my meals.
Sugar, Honey, Molasses
Keeping one of these sweets on hand in your pantry, will ensure you the best results in your cooking and baking. We all love something sweet in our meals. It can be the baked beans, or the chocolate cake but having that little bit of sweet taste makes the whole meal, seem better.
Vegetable Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Natural Butter
Very little cooking can be done without using one of these pantry stable. Adding a little oil or fats will enrich the flavors of meats or vegetables. They also allow us to make a more fulfilling meal with salad dressings, gravies, breads and deserts.
When you have these staples in your home pantry, there will always be a way to put a meal on your table.
Most of us are busy throughout the year but with the holidays coming we sometimes need a little extra help in keeping up with our duties. These are a few of my favorite quick and easy dinners to do, just that.
Chicken Pizza Casserole:
Line an oven safe casserole dish or pizza pan with frozen chicken nuggets, get them as close as possible. Then pour a can of tomato sauce over the nuggets. Layer in about ¾ cup of mozzarella cheese and your favorite veggie toppings*. Cover tightly, with foil.
If you are going to use within 48 hours, place it your fridge until needed, then bake covered at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake until the cheese has melted and slightly browns.
*Cut your veggies into bit sizes for even cooking. A Jar of pizza sauce can be used instead of the tomato sauce for extra flavor.
Cheesy Mac and Beans Casserole:
Cook one or two packages of macaroni and cheese, depending on the size of your family, following box instructions. When done, place in oven safe large bowl or casserole dish. Make a dimple or path in the macaroni and cheese then pour in a can of drained dark kidney beans. Chop a large onion and do a quick fry with 1 tablespoon of oil, in a medium skillet until the onion is almost cooked. Spread the partially cooked onions over the cheese and bean mixture. Cover mixture with about 1 ½ cups of chopped chicken, ham or grilled beef, spreading it evenly. Cover with foil.
Cover your casserole dish with foil, then place in fridge until needed or freeze for later use. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the cover and sprinkle about ½ cup of shredded Cheddar cheese over the top and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and turned a light brown.
Serve with a tossed green salad for a nourishing quick meal.
These two easy dinners, can be time savers for any night of the week. They are delicious enough for company or just for family night.
More tips for easy dinners can be found at http://hassieskitchentable.com/whats-dinner/
Over the years, I have found, these few tips improve my crock pot cooking joy.
Fall is coming, we can feel the coolness in the air and see the leaves beginning to turn in color. Today I am passing along one of my Mother’s favorite cool weather recipes for Fried Green Tomatoes. Growing up I was never a big fan of this recipe but as it was one of mother’s favorites, I taught myself to make it when she came to live with me.
While it calls for green tomatoes, I always thought they were too tart, even after frying, so I use tomatoes that are just on the verge of turning pink but are still firm to the touch.
For this recipe you will need:
About ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
About ½ cup all purpose white flour
Salt and black pepper
About 1 teaspoon sugar, optional
About ½ teaspoon crumbled dried Italian oregano or sweet marjoram
1 extra-large egg or 2 medium
¼ cup of milk
3 to 4 green tomatoes, sliced about 1/2-inch thick
Oil for frying (I use vegetable or olive oil)
In a shallow bowl, mix the flour and cornmeal with the seasonings; season generously with salt and pepper. Beat the egg and milk, in another small shallow bowl.
Pour oil in a large skillet to about 1/2-inch deep then heat over medium heat. While the oil is heating place paper towels on a baking sheet.
One at a time, dip the tomato slices into the egg, and then dredge them, on both sides in the flour/cornmeal mixture. I use a fork or my hands, which ever you like, to handle the tomato slices, taking them from egg to dry ingredients, to skillet. Carefully drop them into the hot oil until the pan is full. Saute them in one layer, you might need to make them in a few batches. Turn them in about 3 to 5 minutes, when they are golden brown on the underside. Saute for another 3 to 5 minutes until golden brown and remove them from the oil, [use tongs for this move], then to the pan with the paper towels to drain, while you cook the rest.
Fried green tomatoes can be eaten, alone, as an appetizer or with a garlic aioli or corn salsa. They are often served as a side dish with supper, or they can also be served on a bed of greens with goat cheese rounds on top, as part of a salad. How ever you like them remember to serve them hot.
Cooking Summer Corn
If you have never tried cooking your fresh summer corn on the cob in your microwave, well, it might be time to try it. Your corn will taste delicious and keep it’s beautiful coloring, too.
It’s simple and easy to do. Pull back the shucks, remove as many of the silks as you can, by gently rubbing a damp cloth over the corn. Pull the shucks back up over the corn and completely cover in plastic wrap. Cook 6-8 minutes on high for 2 pieces of corn, turning every couple of minutes, so all sides are in the up position at least once. If you have not done this before you may have to try a couple before you get the texture and taste that suits you.
Roasting Summer Corn On A Grill:
Cookouts are a family favorite all year round but especially in the summer time. Corn is one of the easiest veggies to make, to go along with all your grilled meats.
Shuck and remove the silk from 6 ears of summer corn. Lightly wash each ear. You will need six 12 inch pieces of foil to wrap your corn cobs. Lay each of them on one sheet of foil and spread your favorite topping around the cob, making sure all kernels have been coated. Cover the corn cob with the foil by rolling and twisting the ends to make a package. Lay the packages over the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill’s lid. Grill for about 15 minutes, turning every 3-4 minutes. Take care when opening the package and not burn yourself from the steam and hot liquid.
Toppings For Your Summer Corn
 Place an equal amount of butter and cream cheese into a bowl and mix until you have a soft spreadable mixture. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of Chili Powder while stirring. Spread on your hot corn. Leave at room temperature when serving. Refrigerate between uses.
 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh basil, 2 teaspoons of grated fresh garlic and 3 Tablespoons of Virgin Olive Oil. Place all ingredients in a lidded jar [mine is an old jelly jar] and shake to incorporate the flavors. Brush the mixture over your hot freshly cooked summer corn for an unusual favorable taste.
Corn is the vegetable that is served most often, all over the world, with our meals but there is no match for the flavor of fresh summer corn, straight from the farmer or you and your home garden.
How An Organized Food Pantry Can Make Life Easier.
The key to a well-stocked and useful food pantry is knowing where everything is and being able to find it when you need it. How many times a day do you reach for something only to find that it is expired or it’s left open and lost what ever quality you needed for your cooking? This is a waste of your food, time and money.
Here are 4 Tips for organizing your food pantry and never wasting your food again.
- First Clean it out:
Pull it all out and examine every box, bag or can of what ever you have in it, carefully. Check for old dates and broken sealed packages. Keep in mind that most can goods are still good for up to a year after their sale date. You will want to place them up front when you rotate your stock supply, so you will be sure to use them first. Then place the rest of the food behind those items, by their expiration date, with the newest dates at the back. Then all you have to do is place new buys behind to keep your pantry up to date.
- Make a list:
While you have your food items out, make a list of how many you have of each item. Post it on the door facing inside. Then when it comes time to make your shopping list you can easily tell what you have on hand. This will stop the over buying of items, such as having 6 cans of corn and not one can of peas.
- Invest in Plastic storage containers
Dry ingredients don’t usually come in resealable packages (i.e., sugar, flour). Store them in plastic containers to save on space as well as keep them fresh. Include a scoop [my scoop is a measuring cup] for easy dispensing. This method works well for dry cereals, pastas and beans as well.**
- Label and organize your shelves:
It doesn’t help much if you do not label the containers with, the name of the product and it’s expiration date. It will save you a lot of bother and headaches later on. Designate a place for each type of food. Such as cereal, cans, jars and other items. Keep your baking items, [flour, sugar, cornmeal, etc] on one shelf. Your snacks, should be, where the younger children can reach them easily so no accidents involving glass containers could happen. Keep your small appliances on the higher shelves or items you rarely use, such as holiday cake pans, or Popsicle making supplies. For foods that you use often, make sure they are within reach and not stuck behind something else.
Each time you take out a can mark it off the list on your door, or when you see an empty spot add that item to your shopping list. This way will be easier to tell when you are running low and need to restock.
An organized pantry serves a lot of different purposes for you and your family plus makes it easier to maintain an organized kitchen.
**My plastic containers came from my local sub shop. I noticed that their supplies was delivered in 1 gallon containers, so I asked, “What do you do with those when they are empty?” I was told they just threw them out so I ask if they would keep me a few and I would pick them up two days later. When I came back, they had 10 waiting for me. I had to clean off labels and soak them in baking soda, it rid them of the pickling smell but I have been using these free products for over 6 years now and they have worked out great. Before you buy, you might want to ask at your local sub shop or restaurants.
Summer time is here, which means, it is time to bring out the grill and get busy grilling.
The easiest grill to use, by far, is the gas grill but if you are wanting more flavor in your food, choose a charcoal grill for your grilling needs.
Smokers are especially nice because you can also control the flavor by changing the type of wood or wood chips you use. They are good if you want to slow cook your meat.
If you want to cook something a little quicker, you may just want to stick with the charcoal grill.
Charcoal grills can offer you the best in grilling, whether it be a large juicy steak or a pot of beans. The offer direct and indirect heat sources, which means, if your grill is large enough you can cook the whole meal at one time.
Two of my favorite easy grilling recipes are:
- Mrs Dash Chicken
6 Boneless Chicken Thighs
1 Teaspoon Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons of Mrs Dash, original
Using a large plastic bag, add all ingredients and shake until the chicken pieces are coated in the spices and garlic. Place on a well greased medium hot grill, skin side down and cook for about 4 minutes, depending on the size of your thighs. Turn over once, the meat will let you know when, by the way if releases from the grill. Do not force it, if it sticks, let it be for another minute then try turning it again.
Cook on the second side for about 3 minutes, then remove. Allow it to rest about 5 minutes before eating, so all the natural juices can soak back into the meat. Always use tongs when turning your meat to keep the natural moisture inside your meat pieces.
- Grilled Corn On The Cob
6 Fresh Corn on the Cob, washed and cleaned
6 Tablespoons of soft Butter, infused with fresh basil and cilantro. [Add about one teaspoon of each, chopped fine to the butter]
Cover each corn cob with 1 tablespoon of the infused butter, then wrap in foil.
When all 6 have been wrapped, lay them on the indirect heat side of the grill, then close the lid. Depending on the size of your corn, it will take between 15 and 20 minutes for them to cook. Turn them every 5 minutes to give all the corn a chance to bathe in the melted butter.
Unwrap and eat with your chicken for a delightful meal. Grilling with friends and family is always a great way to fellowship and grow that lovin feeling.