Posts

Are the popular “reality” television shows anything close to what you consider reality? Take the venerable hit show Survivor, getting ready to launch its 39th season, for example. To me, that seems more like fantasy than reality.  And, honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had to survive on approximately 14 grains of rice per day or think of multi-legged creatures in terms of grams of protein. Still, I think that borrowing a few basic “survivor” attitudes and skills could help us to look at some of the items in our freezers, refrigerators, and pantries—like that lone can of tuna—a bit differently.

A familiar blue can of StarKist albacore tuna

Let’s say that 6-ounce can of tuna in your pantry is the only scrap of protein in the house. You’ve got four hungry people to feed. A trip to the store is completely out of the question (did I mention we’re marooned on a deserted island?… wink, wink). What will you do? What WILL you do?!

That’s exactly the question I once posed to three frugal food experts. Their responses, while varied, prompted me to make sure I have canned tuna on my shopping list as soon as I return to civilization.

Read more

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:

Read more

I have a special treat for you today. It’s a recipe. Normally I sell this recipe for $1,000 but it’s your lucky day.

OK, I’m just kidding about that, but honestly, it’s worth even more than that because in the world of cakes, this one is worth its weight in gold, which as I update this post is about $1,275 per ounce.

 

scrumptious-3-layer-carrot-cake-sitting-on-glass-cake-stand-creamy-frosting-and-sprinkling-of-walnuts

 

You may already be aware of this, but I’ll say it anyway: In this world there is carrot cake and then there is scrumptious absolutely to-die-for carrot cake—the kind of cake you’ve only experienced with a $200-per-person meal at a fancy hotel (you do that all the time, right?).


MORE: Dinner-in-a-Box is Not What I Thought!


It’s the kind of carrot cake that would surely be named the Grand Champion in a competition at a fine culinary school like Le Cordon Bleu Baking and Pastry Arts Program if I’d ever had such an opportunity to compete.

This is the cake that’s going to make your friends and family think you’re a genius! And don’t be surprised when it becomes your signature cake—the one they request for their birthdays. Imagine how beautiful this cake might look on your Easter Buffet this weekend!

As you peruse this recipe, you may be tempted to make a few adjustments. Please do not do that. You’ll think 1 1/2 cups oil is excessive. It’s not. And the pineapple. Seriously? Yes. Do not doubt me.

This is the perfect recipe both in ingredients and proportions, so please follow it exactly. It’s the recipe you’ll be tempted to keep secret and good luck with that! 😉

Read more

A popular restaurant  Hugo’s, in West Hollywood, Calif., has been critically acclaimed for one of its menu items, Pasta Mama.

The first time I heard about it, I thought it was a bit odd. Pasta with eggs? I couldn’t imagine what would prompt people to drive many miles to get Pasta Mama. But they do, insisting, it’s the best pasta they’ve ever eaten.

A plate of gourmet pasta from Hugo's Restaurant, West Hollywood, Calif.

 

I had to try it, and as you might imagine, I love it. I would describe it to you here, but it’s indescribable—indescribably delicious, that is.

But I don’t drive to Hugo’s to pay $14 (plus tax and tip) for this dish. Instead, I make it myself, from scratch, following my copycat recipe. What a wonderful, simply satisfying dinner—or breakfast—entree.

Pasta Mama takes all of about 10 minutes from start to finish and feeds two for a total cost of about $1.50.


RELATED: Simple Tips to Stretch the Food Budget 


At that price, you have little to lose if you try it and don’t like it, and chances are really good that you’ll love it.

In fact, I won’t be surprised to hear that you’ve added Pasta Mama to your family’s list of favorite meals. Serve it once a week and your grocery budget will love you.

 

A plate of gourmet-quality Pasta Mama from Hugo's Restaurant, West Hollywood, Calif.
Print Recipe
0 from 0 votes

Pasta Mama

People drive for many miles to enjoy Pasta Mama at Hugo's, the famed restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif. Here is a quick, easy and super cheap way you can save the trip and make it yourself in under 20 minutes.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 5 oz pasta dry or fresh, like fettuccini or spaghetti
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground oregano
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp seasoning salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • 1 tbsp hot water or pasta water
  • 1 tbsp grated Parmesan

Instructions

  • Prepare pasta according to package directions (or use any kind of leftover pasta).
  • While pasta is cooking, mix seasonings together in a small bowl and beat the eggs in another bowl. Set both aside.
  • Pour oil (or melt butter) in a 10-inch saute pan. Add minced garlic and the entire amount of seasoning mix (should be 1 teaspoon total).
  • Saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add parsley; add hot pasta right out of the cooking water along with one tablespoon of hot water. (If you are using leftover pasta, make sure it is hot!)
  • Add the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly, tossing it in the pan using tongs.
  • Add Parmesan. Toss and allow to cook for an additional 30 seconds. Serve immediately.

Notes

Pasta Mama has as many variations as you can imagine. To make it Pasta Papa, add any vegetables you would put in an omelet—other cheeses, sausage, bacon, chicken; adjust seasonings to taste. Enjoy!

 

MORE: Soups to Soothe the Soul and The Budget


Question: Is there a dish you make at home that’s a dead ringer for a popular, pricey restaurant dish? Oh, please share!

PREVIOUSLY: This is the Best Car Trash Can Ever


Original 2-13-2015; Updated 3-29-2019

I may be the only person in the world for whom this happens, but I doubt it. On a whim, I invite a bunch of friends over for Sunday Dinner. Or the phone rings and just like that I need to get a meal on the table in a big hurry because guests are on their way.

091214Image

Those are the occasions that I run to an amazing recipe that is easy to prepare, delicious to eat and quite impressive, too. Think: Italian restaurant in a pan. While it’s in the oven I make a big salad and we’re good to go.

This is a recipe that kids love as well as adults. It’s just amazing and I bless the day that the folks at Pillsbury came up with the idea. I, of course, have tweaked the recipe bit, but I give credit where credit is due.

Because life is uncertain, you will always find a bag of Italian meatballs from Costco and several loaves of Italian bread in my freezer, a big jar of marinara sauce in my grocery stockpile and cheese in the fridge.

Read more

I love to bake, however, baking has not always been fond of me. We’ve had our moments. It wasn’t until I surrendered to following recipes exactly that our relationship made the turn.

I had to come to the point that I was willing to measure the ingredients, follow directions and believe that little things like “folding in” does not mean “beating it to death,” “one-cup of flour” doesn’t mean, “that looks about right,” and “butter softened,” does not mean “boiling like a witch’s cauldron.”

Ordinary blueberry muffins

One day, I was reminded about how far I’ve come as a home baker when one of my staff could be heard throughout the office, “These blueberry muffins are insane!” I just smiled, choosing not to confess to how easy they are to make—cheap too, at about 25 cents each. Compare that to my local Panera Bread drive-thru where Blueberry Muffins are $2.79 each—$33.48 a dozen. That’s what I call insane!

Back to the office muffins. Sure, Max called them blueberry muffins, but I call them Einstein Muffins. That’s because every time I make them, I feel like a genius. You can feel like a genius, too—provided you follow these recipes exactly.  Read more

I have loved my Instant Pot since the day it arrived back in 2016. I’ll admit to being slightly intimidated in the first few days but that was short-lived. Thanks to a few tips, tricks, and these ridiculously simple recipes, in no time I was making dinners in 30 minutes or less—start to finish.

Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker

Meals from my Instant Pot are as good (often better) than slow-cooked meals that I have to think about early in the day—and only one pot to clean at the end.

While there are plenty of recipes out there for electric pressure cookers, I find myself going back to my tried and true, no-brainer recipes that are as simple and the gadget itself.

All you need to pull this off in your kitchen is an Instant Pot, a few awesome, albeit it simple, recipes plus a general knowledge for how it works. Here are the basic terms:

Read more

For months I’ve been harboring some amazing salad recipes, anxious to share them with you but waiting for the snow to melt. To me, summer and salad just go together. I’m not talking about side salads here, but fabulous, cool, crisp hearty salads that are worthy of being the entree at the end of a long, hot summer day.

photo credit: Joselu Blanco

photo credit: Joselu Blanco

Salad is often a side dish. However, by adding protein, you can turn just about any salad into the main event. Then, you have a nutritionally-balanced meal that will keep you from feeling hungry an hour after dinner. A salad is the perfect way to use up chicken or steak left from last night’s barbecue, or even that piece of grilled salmon orseafood. Step away from the hot stove to enjoy these salads any night of the week! Read more