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Cheapskate Gourmet: Salad Dressings

If you think eating well means eating out—home delivery, pick-up, or dining-in—you may be feeling the effects of restaurant dining in your wallet as the cost of restaurant meals is now soaring in ways we’ve not seen before.

Yesterday, I was shocked to read the new (disposable) menu at a small local hamburger joint in our town. The same classic hamburger that was $7.95 pre-virus, is now $11.95. Will prices decline as this thing settles down? I wouldn’t bet on it.

It’s time for us to change our thinking and start digging in to find every realistic way imaginable that we can save time and money every day.

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If I can make the leap from being a diner-in-debt to making irresistible meals at home that often taste even better than those from a restaurant—at a fraction of the cost of eating out—you can, too.

For many years ( before there was a Food Channel), I was uniquely privileged to sit under the personal tutelage of world-famous gourmet cooks the likes of Julia Child, Christopher Kimball, Martha Stewart, Martin Yan, and Jacques Pepin.

Every weekend I had standing appointments with one or more of them. They came right into my home and demonstrated unique techniques while I assumed a prone position, curled up in my favorite blanket, first-row-center in front of the television. They sparked confidence in me. From that start, my love for making great meals economically has grown.

Today, I want to share my basic recipes for what I consider to be gourmet salad dressings. So fresh and easy. Tasty, too.

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How to Clean Cookie Sheet Pans So They Look New!

They come in sizes big and small, rimmed or without sides. We use them to bake just about anything, but mostly cookies. And they can get super grungy with layers of baked- and burnt-on grease resulting in ugly stains and residue build-up.

 

Does anything here look familiar to you? If so, I have good news. Your cookie sheets can be cleaned and restored, even back to the way they looked when new.

What follows is a relatively quick and easy way to get rid of baked-on grease, stubborn food residue, and even rust on any type of cookie and baking sheets—aluminized steel, aluminum, and non-stick—and then to clean and maintain to keep them sparkling clean.

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Fabulous Slow Cooker Summer…Salads! Plus My Salsa Recipe

I have to admit it. Just the idea of a slow-cooked salad makes me queazy. Thankfully, that’s not exactly it.

It’s a little-known secret that your slow cooker has a hidden talent for making incredible salads. Let it slow-cook the main ingredients for a creative salad while you’re away. Then toss in a few fresh additions just before it’s time to serve. I know! What a great idea.

 

Orange Chicken Spinach Salad with Feta

Orange Chicken Spinach Salad with Feta

To make this you’ll need:

  • chicken breast
  • bone-in split chicken breasts
  • garlic
  • thyme, salt
  • orange juice
  • balsamic vinegar
  • baby spinach
  • cherry tomatoes
  • Kalamata olives
  • feta cheese
  • bottled vinaigrette salad dressing

Orange Chicken Spinach Salad with Feta

The tender, yummy, orange chicken is prepared in your slow cooker then assembled into an awesome summer salad (or any time of year!).
4.2 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Slow cooker: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 459kcal
Author: Mary
Cost: $8

Equipment

  • Slow cooker

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds bone-in split chicken breasts
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 10 ounces baby spinach, more or less
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives, halved
  • 3 tablespoons cumbled Feta cheese, more or less
  • ½ cup bottled vinaigrette salad dressing
  • 1 10.5 ounces mandarin orange segments, drained

Instructions

  • Remove and discard skin from chicken and sprinkle with garlic, thyme, and salt. Place chicken in 3.5- or 4-quart slow cooker. Add juice and vinegar. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or on high for 3 to 3.5 hours.
  • Remove chicken from cooker; cover and keep warm. Discard cooking juices.
  • In a large salad bowl toss together the greens, tomatoes, olives, orange segments, and Feta cheese. Slice chicken from bones; discard bones Arrange sliced chicken on salad. Drizzle with dressing. Servings: 6.

Nutrition

Calories: 459kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 41g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 123mg | Sodium: 341mg | Potassium: 723mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 4725IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 116mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Green Beans and Petite Reds with Albacore

To make this you’ll need:

  • fresh green beans
  • small red skin potaotes
  • onion
  • mayonnaise
  • sour cream
  • milk
  • Dijon-style mustard
  • lemon juice
  • tarragon
  • salt, pepper

Green Beans and Petite Reds with Albacore

This unusual "salad" is bursting with flavor and nutrition. Makes the perfect entree or side dish at the end of a hot summer day!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Slow cooking: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 176kcal
Author: Mary
Cost: $5

Equipment

  • Slow cooker

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed t
  • 1 lb. tiny new red skn potatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ tspn salt
  • ¼ tspn pepper
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 to 2 tblspn milk
  • 1 tblspn Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tblspn lemon juice
  • ½ tspn dried tarragon, crushed
  • ¼ tspn salt
  • 2 5 oz. cans solid white albacore, drained and flaked or any tuna
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach

Instructions

  • Lightly coat 3.5- or 4-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. 
  • Combine the beans, potatoes, onion, water, salt and pepper in cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or on high for 2 hours.
  • Meanwhile, for sauce, in a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, milk mustard lemon juice tarragon and salt. Cover and chill until needed.
  • To assemble, using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetable mixture to a large bowl. Pour sauce over vegetables. Add albacore and spinach. Toss gently to mix. Sprinkle with additional black pepper and serve immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 9mg | Sodium: 157mg | Potassium: 612mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1519IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Quinoa Salad with Beets, Oranges and Fennel

To make this salad you’ll need:

  • fresh beets
  • olive oil
  • orange
  • honey
  • quinoa
  • canned mandarin oranges
  • fennel
  • green onion (optional)
  • salad greens (optional)

 

Quinoa Salad with Beets, Oranges, and Fennel

This superfood salad is far from a boring bowl of leafy greens. Tender slow-cooked beets and quinoa served up with oranges and fennel are great any time of year, but especially nice on a hot summer day.
4.34 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
Prep Time: 20 minutes
slow cooking: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 202kcal
Author: Mary
Cost: $7

Equipment

  • Slow cooker

Ingredients

  • lb. medium-size fresh beets
  • 3 tblspn olive oil
  • 1 orange
  • 1 tblspn honey
  • ¼ tspn salt
  • tspn black pepper
  • cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 15 oz can mandarin orange sections, rinsed and drained
  • 1 fresh fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 3 green onion, sliced optional
  • salad greens optional

Instructions

  • Place each beet on a piece of foil. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over all of the beets. Wrap each beet tightly in the foil and place in a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or until beets are fork-tender.
  • Remove beets from the slow cooker. When cool enough to handle, peel or slip the skin off each beet. Cut beets into thin wedges and place in a medium bowl.
  • For the dressing, remove 1 teaspoon zest and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from the orange. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the orange zest, orange juice, honey salt, and pepper. Remove 1 tablespoon of the dressing and drizzle over beets; toss gently to coat.
  • In a bowl combine mandarin oranges and fennel, and drizzle with another 1 tablespoon of the dressing. Add quinoa to the remaining dressing; toss to coat.
  • To serve, top quinoa mixture with beets and mandarin orange-fennel mixture. If desired, sprinkle with green onions and (optional) serve on a bed of salad greens of your choice. Servings: 6.

Nutrition

Calories: 202kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 129mg | Potassium: 666mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 199IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

And now in follow-up to an earlier post, Compulsive Chopper. Many of you request my recipe for salsa that you see in the photos, made using my lovely Chop Wizard. Here you go …

 

Pico de gallo fresh made from the garden

Pico de Gallo

To make this you’ll need:

  • Roma tomatoes
  • red onion
  • garlic
  • cilantro
  • lime juice
  • fresh jalapeno
  • garlic powder (optional)
  • cumin powder (optional)
  • salt & pepper

Pico de Gallo

And now in follow-up to an earlier post, Compulsive Chopper. Many of you requested my recipe for salsa that you see in the photos, made using my lovely Chop Wizard. Here you go …
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 54kcal
Author: Mary
Cost: $5

Ingredients

  • 12 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, only the juice and zest
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded, chopped to taste
  • 1 pinch garlic powder optional
  • 1 pinch ground cumin optional
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Put all of the ingredients in a bowl. Stir. 
  • Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  • Serve. Repeat often. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 54kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 108mg | Potassium: 498mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1587IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

First published: 7-15-16; Revised & Updated with Recipe Cars 5-27-20

Grow Your Own Food One Square Foot at a Time

For years I’d tried to grow a decent vegetable garden. It was the high cost of fresh basil—$3.50 for a few measly, wilted basil leaves, ditto for a pound of somewhat reddish tomatoes, and mostly pink strawberries—that prompted me to try.

I started with tomatoes, basil, and peppers (a salsa garden!). In no time, I added zucchini and cucumbers to my repertoire—even corn ane strawberries one year.

But I have to be honest. My harvests ranged from disappointing to mediocre. Only that one year did my garden produce so well, we had enough to share with others. I’m still trying to remember how I did that.

Uniquely talented

One thing I do quite well is weeds. I try not to take too much credit here, but I have to tell you I’ve never seen anyone else grow weeds quite as successfully as I do. And I can take them right through the season until they actually re-seed themselves for the next season!

Oh, the effort

While I love the concept of a garden that’s not only nice to look at but actually produces the food we enjoy eating. I’m not 100% in love with the anxiety, pressure, guilt, backaches, leg cramps, and fear of needing hip replacements.

There has to be a better way

While in the past my efforts to grow a garden have been more of a hobby than a serious endeavor, I feel that changing. The high cost of food—specifically, produce—tells me it’s time to get serious. We need to become more self-sufficient, but in a cost-effective way.

True cost? Yikes!

While I feel that I’ve mastered weeds, I’ve failed miserably in cost-effectiveness. I shudder to imagine the true cost of the pathetically tiny bounty I’ve garnered over the years. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on vegetable gardening, only that I’m ready for a new way to do it.

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Make It Better Yourself: Panera’s Mac n’ Cheese, Starbuck’s Lemon Loaf

According to a Reuters news story that ran long before we had to teach our kids the meaning of “quarantine,” one-third of U.S. adults are eating out less frequently than three months prior. The reason? Mostly the cost. No surprise there. Not even drive-thru fast food or curbside pick-up is inexpensive these days.

In the same survey cited by Reuters, two-thirds of the respondents said they consider eating at home to be very or somewhat cheap. And that’s because … it is!

empty restaurant with tables set and ready to serve

Now, somewhere in between not-eating-out because it’s too expensive and eating-at-home because it’s cheaper there has to be a solution that makes eating at home not only cheap, but satisfyingly delicious, too.

Copycat Panera Mac & Cheese

Everyone has their weakness—mine happens to be macaroni and cheese and in my opinion, it’s hard to beat Panera’s signature Mac & Cheese. But that $9 price tag is hard to swallow.

Everything in me has been determined to figure out how to make this myself at home, and for more like $.80 a serving. And now that’s exactly what I do—as often as I dare.

Copycat Panera mac n cheese in yellow bowl

This Copycat Panera’s Mac and Cheese Recipe is, in my opinion even better than Panera’s. It’s smooth and creamy thanks to a secret ingredient that may make some of my dear readers wince.

In a word: Velveeta.

I know what you’re thinking, but if an ingredient or technique makes a dish taste better and gives it a heavenly texture, I am all for it. The key lies in how much Velveeta you use—only a very small amount.

I promise you, people will go nuts for this Mac & Cheese. Just don’t mention the V-word. It’ll be our little secret.

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Where to Find Basic Essentials When the Shelves are Empty

The disruption to U.S. food supply chains is now playing out in grocery stores and supermarkets across the country. It seems like shoppers empty the shelves just as quickly as supermarkets can restock, especially on high-demand items like non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, and, of course, toilet paper.   empty grocery store shelves

Good news! Finding the essentials you need may not require you to stand in long lines or spend hours clicking through Amazon search results, only to be disappointed over and again.

Today, I have alternatives for you to consider plus options for where to find the essentials you need that are—surprise!—in stock.

Meat, poultry

While we’re being told there’s no shortage of food in the US—for whatever reason, fresh meat and poultry have pretty much disappeared. And when found you’ll discover shockingly high prices, at least for now.

Reasonable alternatives for fresh meat and poultry are canned options that are just as nutritious like tuna, albacore, salmon; chicken, corned beef, and …  Spam!  And don’t forget the frozen food aisle where meat, seafood, and poultry seem to be more plentiful.

Pro tip

Consider this challenge the perfect opportunity to try out more meatless meals, built around eggs, cheese and other non-meat protein.

Meal Kits

Home Chef meal kits with contactless delivery right to your front door are looking better than ever, starting at  $6.95 per meal—with no delivery fees or gratuities. You can still use this link to get $35 off your first order, and that looks like free food to me! Seriously, that is a great deal for excellent quality fresh food that is super easy to prepare.

Home Chef continues to be the cheapest and most family-friendly meal kit service out there—available for delivery in 95% of the US. And of course, you can cancel at any time. Might be time to give Home Chef a try.

Flour

While supermarket baking shelves continue to be cleaned out, online sources like King Arthur Flour and Bob’s Red Mill are fairly well stocked; however, that changes day by day. Keep checking.

Webstaurant is another online resource for flour. Just know you’ll be dealing with professional baker quantities in 25-pound or even 50-pound bags. An easy solution there is for family and friends to go in together on those large quantities.

Another option for flour is to call a local bakery. One reader reports that she called a local bakery in her city to inquire if they might be willing to sell flour. The answer was a resounding Yes! She picked up 25 pounds for just $18 and got to support a local business at the same time. It just might be worth your time to make a call.

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16 Practical Ways to Stretch Your Food Budget

If soaring food prices are getting you down, help is on the way! Here are some basic saving strategies, practical solutions, and novel ideas to stretch your food budget—and make your life easier.

Granted, one of these strategies on its own is not likely to make a huge difference. But lots of small strategies working together—that’s the way to see huge results.

Grate savings

You pay a lot to have someone else grate your cheese for you—at least twice the price of buying cheese by the block. Currently, at my supermarket, cheese in blocks runs from about $2 to $2.50 a pound for the store brand to about $5.00 a pound and more for name brands. The very same cheeses, pre-grated, run almost exactly double across the board, $4 to $10 a pound. Here’s the tip: Grate it yourself. It will stay fresher and you’ll save money, too.

Pro tip: Commercially grated or shredded cheese comes with an added ingredient like potato starch or modified cornstarch to prevent “caking” or “clumping.” Well, guess what? Those anti-caking ingredients inhibit melting, too. Now you know why pre-grated or shredded cheese doesn’t seem to always melt as readily, often leaving an odd thickened texture.

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Super Summer Slow Cooker Recipes—Dessert, Entrees, Sandwiches, Too!

Slow cookers, what’s not to love? There was a time that I was smugly confident I had a very good handle on the slow cooker appliance—brands, sizes, prices, and the best inexpensive options out there. And now we have another option—a casserole slow cooker.

slow cooker casserole manual appliance

This is genius. The stone insert in this casserole slow cooker is a 9 x 13 stoneware casserole baking dish. It goes from the slow cooker base to the table for serving and it’s oven-safe, too.

And you can leave the insert in the base set on warm to serve on a buffet table. The casserole slow cooker is perfect for making lasagna, breakfast casseroles, desserts, and other casserole-type dishes that work best in that size and shape baking dish.

The Casserole Crock Pot comes in two versions—Manual with Low, High and Warm Settings and a beautiful stainless steel Programmable Digital model. I have the manual version (half the price of the fancy model) and love it.  Read more