Food and Recipes

 

My grandmother always used to say, “If we didn’t need food, we’d all be rich!” This may be true. But then life would be a little less pleasurable. Still, there are ample ways to make great food cheap, make perishable food last and make the grocery budget stretch like nobody’s business.

Plus the tips in these articles are filled with practiced wisdom for practical solutions, novel ideas, and inspiring concepts like The Ultimate Restaurant Cheat Sheet to and awesome recipes like Muffins So Amazing They’re Insane and how to make homemade coffee cream better yourself to save a bundle, that make cooking fun and rewarding for you and your family. Bon appetit!

 

 

A Dozen Ways to Make Dump Chicken

It’s called Dump Chicken and it’s genius. Here’s why: You dump chicken pieces and your choice of sauce ingredients into a 1-gallon freezer bag, seal it and stick it in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, dump it into a pan (or slow cooker) and bake it. That’s it!

 

Full chicken dinner

 

The following recipes can be made with any four to eight pieces of chicken; bone-in or boneless, skin-on or skinless, even whole. Experiment to see what you prefer. Simply mix the sauce ingredients and toss that into the ziplock freezer bag along with the chicken; seal and freeze.

Note: If you are adding a lot more or a lot less chicken, you may need to adjust the recipes accordingly.

To cook the chicken, thaw the bag overnight in the refrigerator. Pour the contents of the bag into a 9 x 12-inch pan and bake at 350 F until internal temperature reaches 165F. Or prepare these meals in a slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours. In the oven, chicken breasts take about 25 to 45 minutes depending on their thickness. Dark meat pieces may take a bit longer.

Basic BBQ Chicken

  • chicken
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dry onion soup mix

 

Caribbean Chicken

  • chicken
  • 1 (8-ounce) can pineapple chunks with juice
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup raisins

 

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Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue

If you are time-starved but too stubborn to give up home-cooked meals just because life can be chaotic—I invite you to embrace these two words: Rotisserie chickens.

 

Supermarket rotisserie chicken on serving plate

 

Not exactly take-out, not completely home-cooked, think of a well seasoned, perfectly cooked rotisserie chicken as your ace in the hole; a kitchen assistant with an extra pair of hands to help you get delicious, home-cooked meals on the table in a flash.

These days, nearly every grocery store or supermarket—even warehouse clubs—offer fully roasted, hot, and ready-to-go rotisserie chickens for around $5. In fact, rotisserie chickens are so readily available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued safety guidelines for selecting and storing* them.

Today, I want to give you basic guidelines for what to do with a rotisserie chicken as soon as you get home. 

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Outdoor Grilling on a Budget

Getting our outdoor grill cleaned, polished, and ready for summer got me thinking about how much fun it would be to celebrate. After all, the first day of summer comes but once a year, so why not do things up right with an amazing menu and a few good friends to kick off the season even if that means grilling on a budget.

Outdoor grill covered with cheap flavorful cuts of meat and poultry

 

What happened next I can only attribute to a momentary lapse of good judgment.

I visited the website of Lobel’s of New York, “the best source for the finest and freshest USDA prime dry-aged steaks, roasts, specialty meats, and gourmet products that money can buy.”

Unveiling the mother of all outdoor grills seemed like an event worthy of a few high-quality American Wagyu steaks delivered overnight on a bed of dry ice. I checked the price. Gulp! One 20-oz Porterhouse steak: $159.95—plus overnight shipping.

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How to Make Taco Seasoning Mix and What to Do With It

Seasoning packets from the supermarket may be convenient, but they have drawbacks—not the least of which is they’re relatively expensive! I just checked Lawry’s Taco Spices and Seasonings Mix—! I just hate to pay that much for so little. And I don’t have to because I’ve got a great recipe to make taco seasoning mix myself, using ordinary spices I have already. As a bonus know exactly what’s in it, and how old the ingredients are.

 

Plate of two soft shell beef tacos

 

The recipes that follow call for the amount of seasoning you would find in the typical supermarket seasoning packet—about 4 1/2 tablespoons of mix.

While you could make the amount you need as you need it, a better idea is to make a bunch while you’re at it, then keep it tightly sealed in your spice rack. It’ll come in handy more times than you can imagine. The recipe multiplies well.

Enjoy this simple mix and the two family-friendly recipes that follow for both beef and chicken tacos. Yum!  Read more

How to Make Perfect Iced Tea

The only thing more comforting than a big, tall glass of iced tea on a hot summer day is knowing how to make that perfect iced tea yourself. With confidence and for just pennies per serving.

 

Two jars of perfect, refreshing ice tea sitting on a wood table

Proper Iced Tea

My dear mother-in-law, a very proper Canadian, taught me the difference between proper iced tea and the “swill” most restaurants pour, which in her opinion was, at best, a very poor facsimile. And trust me, she knew her stuff—including the six rules for proper iced tea:

Rule 1

Use plenty of tea. The flavor of tea served cold is not as intense as when served hot. That means it must be brewed stronger, so use more tea bags. Use two tea bags for every 3 cups of water.

Rule 2

Do not oversteep. Allowing tea to oversteep releases the tannins in the tea, which can make it bitter. If you want it weaker, reduce the steeping time, not the number of tea bags.

Rule 3

Cool first. Once you remove the tea bags, allow to cool before you pour it over ice but do not put it in the refrigerator to cool. Doing so will make your tea cloudy.

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Make Sure You Have These 9 Essential Pantry Items

Have you been paying attention to what’s going on with the cost of food? I just read that the average cost of ground beef in the U.S. has once again hit an all-time high. I believe it, and not only beef. It is shocking how grocery prices are going up, which underscores the need for a well-stocked pantry.

 

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The way to fight back is two-fold:

  1. Buy groceries when they’re on sale
  2. Eat at home

Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Well, it can be if you make sure your kitchen pantry is well-stocked. It’s annoying and expensive to not have basic items on hand. You don’t have what you need and don’t have time to go get it, which means, of course, you’ll just have to go out for dinner. Again. 

Taking the time and effort to make sure you always have the following 9 essential pantry items will save a lot of money, provided you pick these items up as they go on sale. Think of this as a project. 


MORE: 5 Fabulous Ways to Hack a Boxed Cake Mix 


Evaporated milk

I basically detest the stuff because I had to drink it as a kid. But used in cooking and baking, evaporated milk is fabulous! Keeping a few cans in your pantry ensures you’ll always have milk on hand when the recipe calls for it. Read more

6 Ways to Stop Throwing Rotten Produce in the Garbage

I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around this documented fact: Half of all produce grown in the U.S. is thrown out, while at the same time there is growing hunger and poverty right here in America.

 

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As I read the first paragraph of this news story, I assumed naively that all U.S.-grown produce makes it to market. Then consumers like you and me get it home, let it go bad before we can consume it and into the garbage it goes. That is a factor, but not the whole story.

The truth is that vast quantities of fresh produce are left in the field to rot. It then becomes livestock feed or gets hauled directly to the landfill because of (get ready) cosmetic standards.

Not every potato, watermelon, strawberry or grape cluster turns out photo-perfect. Some are ugly. And, unfortunately, that means they do not meet retailer and consumer demands for blemish-free, perfect produce.

Just imagine how the retail cost of produce might plummet if all that is produced—even the still-nutritious but ugly produce—were available for sale. More on that in a bit.

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How To Make Family-Friendly Finger Foods Your Kids Will Love

Are trips through the closest fast-food joint driving a hole through your food budget? It’s no wonder. Prices on all foods are sky-rocketing, but fast food takes that prize. Yikes!

 

Homemade Chicken Fingers in a Basket Better than Fast-Food Drive-Thru

 

Unlike supermarkets where every week you can find fabulous sales, you’ll never find sales at Wendy’s, McDonald’s or Burger King. Or any other fast-food restaurant for that matter. I don’t consider an occasional coupon to be a Sale.

I know what you’re thinking: Chicken. Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Fingers, Chicken Sandwiches—they’re all so tasty from these places, so convenient and so kid-friendly.

Consider this: In less time than it takes you to get into the car and drive to the closest drive-thru, you can make your own fast-food chicken fare—for half the price, or less. In fact, you can make a fabulous coating mix to mimic the best-coated chicken you’ve ever eaten, in five minutes flat.

And if that’s not enough, you’ll get three bonuses for your effort:

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