Thursday, December 3, 2009

French Onion Soup Recipe

I try to keep it cheap by souping us half to death in the winters.
Expect more soup recipes.

How to make it extra thrifty style? When you get a chance to pick up broth on B1G1, do it. Stock the cupboard. I didn't say boullion. I said broth. I haven't seen boullion on B1G1 and it's just plain different than canned broth. Onions on crazy sale or B1G1? It's time for this soup!

My french onion soup takes 3 days. Don't freak out. I cook a sirloin tip and feed us the meat for two days, reserving the juice and using that in the soup on the third day. It's cheaper if you serve as meat-soup-meat, if you tend to have leftover onion in the soup pot after you're done. We feed 4 people, but when I make soup we all get greedy and I usually have an extra set or two of feets under the table, so the soup honestly serves about 10 moderate eaters. For us, it's 5 people with lots of "taste testing". If you find yourself in a hole, too many folks not enough soup - add 2 small cans of boullion and 2 medium onions.

First step - cook the tip.

3lbs Sirloin tip roast
2Tbs Worchestershire sauce
2Tbs Minced Garlic
2 cans Beef broth (plus one can of water)
3 beef boullion cubes
1 tsp Onion Powder
Black pepper
Optional: 2 cups red wine.

Toss roast in crock pot, add everything, put a lid on it and cook until the meat is fork tender. My big patience problem is waiting until the meat releases. You gotta wait until you're almost afraid that you can't get the meat out because it's falling apart. Pull the meat from the new broth and serve it however. You can bake some fresh veggies in a can or two of broth +1 beef boullion cube, turning that juice into gravy and make it a roast dinner or just make open faced sandwiches. (Our favorite!)

On Soup Day:
Think of how many people you're serving. My standard formula is: 10oz beef liquid + 1 medium onion per person. A large onion is about 1.5 people.

When you get the broth from the fridge, it should have yellow/white hard fat chunks floating on the top. That's ok, we keep it in the soup, it melts clear. If your broth is too chunky with little bits of stuff on the bottom, heat the broth and strain it before use.

Homemade broth from the tip
5 Medium Onions
Butter or Margarine
2 cans beef broth (do not stretch soup with water. Done it, killed the soup)
Red wine, or liquor - rum, whiskey, bourbon, whatever's in the cabinet.
Salt & pepper to taste
French bread (any bread, depending on what you have)
Butter spray grease
Adobo criollo (Spanish seasoned garlic salt)
Italian seasoning herb mix
Sliced cheese or shredded cheese - Not american cheese, but you can use just about anything else: cheddar, provologne, jack...use what you like or what you have.

Heat homemade broth, add broth and maybe a boullion cube. Get it to a slow boil.

Slice onions thinly. Pan fry onions with 2 tsp butter in the pan on medium heat stirring occasionally until they are clear, kind of carmelizing them, but making sure they're very tender. Do smaller batches rather than one giant batch, you get more control over the onions. When your onions are cooked, toss them into the broth and deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of alcohol (the wine or liquor). Pour your giggle juice into the hot pan and scrape out the sicky burnt onion goodness on the bottom of the pan. Don't let the liquid totally evaporate. Pour liquid into soup. Melt more butter in the pan and cook some more onions, repeating the whole drill until you're done with your onions.

Stir the soup and let simmer covered for about an hour. Just walk away and do something else. That's generally when I make the croutons. Taste the soup in 30 minutes and see if it needs anything. If it has a bitter tinge to it, add 1 tbsp of sugar or brown sugar. If it's not rich enough, take the lid off while it simmers - but watch the pot a little more closely.

Cut french bread into 1/2inch or 3/4 inch rounds. Lightly coat with spray grease (or olive oil) on both sides, sprinkle gently on both sides with Adobo and Italian Seasonings. Broil croutons on the rack on low, turning frequently until bread is dry and super crunchy, not burnt.

To serve - put bread in the bottom of the bowl, add soup, sprinkle with cheese. It's a pretty soup if you have soup crocks - put them into the oven and broil to brown the cheese. Around here, everyone has been smelling this stuff for the last 2 hours and will not wait for something like "pretty".

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cheap ass Pork Roast

Here's the story...
Ok, so I found Pork Butt on sale for less than $2 per lb. I hate dealing with Pork roasts because I have to separate it before serving. Fat, goo, bones and odd membrane things to the critters - Actual meat to the humans. This makes me do the math per pound in this way: Fatty or Bony meat = .5lb per person which cooks down to about 4oz of cooked meat. For 9 people we're talking about 4.5lbs and I round up for extra for lunches or dinner for Pop's. At two bucks a pound, that's like $10 just for meat for ONE meal. Looking at it another way though, that's $1 per person for meat in a meal, which doesn't sound as horrible as the other way. (Even though it really is...)
Crazy Good Pork Roast
5.5# Pork Butt
1 bottle Dollar Store Zesty Italian Dressing
2 C Water
2 Med Onions
Italian Seasonings
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Balsamic Vinegar
Spicy Mustard
Seasoning Salt
Put roast into bowl or bag and pour in whole bottle of Italian Dressing. Marinate for at least 2 hours... overnight if ya wanna.
Put roast into cookpot. Add 1c of marinade, throw the rest out. Coat roast with balsamic vinegar, drizzle molasses to cover, lay a good crust of italian seasonings, cover with enough spicy mustard to coat entire top of roast - use a spoon to smooth it over. Coat roast with onion powder, garlic powder and seasoning salt. Pour 2 cups of water into cookpot add 2 chunked med onions. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Drop temp to medium-low once it boils. Flip roast every hour, let cook covered for 4 hours. At the beginning of hour 3, drop the temp to low.
Dude, this came out amazing. It was spoon tender and savory like mad. I know the 4 hour cook time sounds crazy, but all you have to do is flip it once an hour and turn it down after 2 touch the stove, what, like 10 times? Dump, sprinkle, boil, simmer, flip, simmer, flip, turn down, flip, flip, done. And you don't even have to worry about watching it or stirring till your arm falls off...
Best of all... it's gluten free, so Steele can have what everyone else is having!
Add a side of rice or oven baked (bogo) potatoes and a veggie... Total cost is about $2 per person and very worth it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Not cheap Spinach salad

This is Snookie's favorite salad. It was her birthday, so it's the once a year I pull funds for this kinda stuff.

1 bag raw spinach
1 bag baby greens salad mix
1 lb bacon
1 jar Capers
Plum Tomatoes
8oz sliced mushrooms
Toasted sesame ginger salad dressing

Cook bacon, drain and cool. Crumble into a small bowl.

Mix salad bags in large bowl. Add sesame dressing and toss leaves gently to coat. This dressing is a very flavorful thing, too much will wreck your salad.

Dice tomatoes. How many? How much do you like tomatoes?

On plate, make a bed of greens. Cover with a layer of mushrooms (go heavy with them if you like raw mushies!), sprinkle a few capers and tomatoes on top. Drizzle gently with more salad dressing. Add bacon.


You can get the salad dressing on bogo sale at different times of the year. Grab one for stock for this salad later. Hit the salads when you can find them for sale and it's not a terribly expensive salad.

Totally not frugal splurge dinner

Tillapia & Shrimp with Artichoke hearts in a wine sauce.
Shown with a baked red potato and spinach ginger salad.

This is, for us, a really expensive treat. It was Snookie's birthday, so I tossed this together and got great family reviews. I cheated and used canned artichokes, they have a distinct flavor - I'd have preferred fresh, but you go with what you can get... 2 of 13 didn't really like it. 11 loved it.

2 lbs Tillapia Fillets
1 lb Med - Large shrimp
2 cans Artichoke hearts
1/2lb Asparagus (or one can)
1/2c chopped tomatoes (I wanted to use sun dried, but forgot to get them)
1 block cream cheese
1/2c butter (not margarine)
2c white wine (I used a white reisling, but whichever you use for cooking)
1 can evaporated milk
6 stalks scallions
Olive Oil -extra virgin
Lemon Pepper

Brush bottom of 9x13 dish with olive oil.

Place fish in bottom of pan and coat with Lemon Pepper. Shove peeled shrimp around the edge of the pan. Make em fit. You want to remember where all this stuff is in your pan, because you won't be able to see it under the veggies & sauce!

Melt butter in a pan, add cubed cream cheese and stir until creamy. Add evaporated milk and stir more. Take off heat and add wine and 1 tbsp olive oil. Stir until blended - no lumps!

Preheat oven to 350

Chop scallions, add to cream sauce.
Dice tomatoes, add to cream sauce.
Chop asparagus, add to cream sauce. If using raw asparagus, steam until almost tender, then chop and add to sauce.
Dice Artichoke hearts and add to cream sauce and stir.

Spoon veggies & cream over each fillet, use all of the mixture - just throw the rest into the pan.

Cook for 25-30 minutes.

Remember how you laid out your fish before you try to remove them from the pan, they will be very tender and you can't see them from the top.

I steal the shrimp from the sides and place them on top of each serving to ensure even distribution of shrimp, so there's no pouting at the table.

Shepherd's Pie

Cheap, easy and lots of variations on stuff.

We have a child who is allergic to wheat. I used to put "cream of something" soup over my meat. I was even known to mix a packet of brown gravy mix in with the cream soup. I can't cook like that anymore. I'll put them in here as variants. So far Wal-Mart (the Evil Empire) has the cheapest gravy mix that I've been able to find. It's less than 50c per packet.

Shepherd's Pie

2# Ground Beef
Mashed Potato Flakes for 12 servings
Milk (or Evaporated Milk)
*Garlic Powder
*Can of Cream of XXXX Soup - Mushroom, Asparagus, Celery... the one you like
4 cans of Vegetables - Choose 1 each of 4 different ones from the list
Peas, Corn, Green beans, lima beans, great northern beans, carrots, squash, tomatoes...
Onion Powder
Seasoning Salt
*Cheese - Sliced american, shredded anything, velveeta...
* 1 or 2 packets of Brown or Mushroom Gravy mix

Cook 12 servings of Mashed potatoes according to the directions. Add garlic powder to the mashies if you'd like. Season to taste.

Brown and drain ground beef. Season to taste with onion powder, garlic powder and seasoning salt.

In 9x13 pan, add ground beef. Add meat wetter: cream soup, gravy mix packet + 1/4c water or cheese. The cream soup and/or the gravy mix get stirred into the meat until well combined and spread across the bottom of the pan. The cheese is placed on top of the meat layer.

Open and drain cans of veggies. If using raw onion, dice and add on top of meat. Layer veggies on top of meat. Sprinkle onion powder and a touch of seasoning salt after every other addition.

Cover with Mashed potatoes. Spread to seal the pan with your mashies.
You can add shredded cheese once it's out of the oven. It will melt as the dish cools enough to eat.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until the edges of the potatoes are starting to brown.

Cake mix cookies

I stole this recipe off the internet, but it's so easy I'm sure dozens of chefs think it's their own. Whatever, yummy and cheap! These are lemon cake mix with semi sweet chocolate chips. Bogo sales rock!
I like this version because the cookies are crisp and easy to handle.

Cake Mix Cookies

1 box cake mix

1/2 c margarine

1 egg
Chips or nuts or whatever you like in your cookies.

Mix all ingredients. This will make a thick batter. I squished mine into a long log and rolled it in wax paper to make one long tube. Put that in the freezer for 20 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 350

Unroll the wax paper log and slice cookies at about 1/2 inch thickness, maybe a little less. Place slices on greased cookie sheet. Press chocolate chips into cookies. I use 6-7 per cookie. You can press nuts into the dough if you're into it.

Bake cookies for 10 minutes. Let cookies rest for 2 minutes, then transfer to foil or rack to cool while you're slicing dough and pressing chips into new batch.

Makes about 2 dozen