Slow Cooker Beef and Cabbage

I have seen recipes for unstuffed pepper soup or unstuffed cabbage roll stew and came up with this by ditching the things we hated and keeping the things we liked. This has only a pound of beef in it, but is still very filling. You can increase the salt if you want, but we don’t go crazy with the salt in this house.

This is low-carb and gluten free.

Cost estimate:

Beef or bison: $3 for conventional and $6 for grass-fed organic

Cabbage: $0.50-1

Onion: $0.25-50

Celery:$0.10

Tomatoes: $1.50

Tomato Paste: $0.39

Flour/sugar/seasoning: $0.20

Total: $5.94-9.69

$0.99-$1.62 per serving

Slow Cooker Beef and Cabbage

Serves 6

1 lb. ground beef or bison (don’t go too lean, as this is your only source of fat). I get 85% lean.

1 small green cabbage, roughly cut into shreds

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

3 15-oz cans stewed tomatoes (or 2 cans stewed and 1 can fire roasted)

1 6 oz can tomato paste

1 TB flour (Use wheat flour or GF flour to make GF. Can also use oats.This is to just help thicken it.)

1 TB sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Dump everything in a slow cooker and cook on low 8-10 hours or on high for 5-6 hours. Boom! You’re done!

 

Slow Cooker Sloppy Joe

I like to use the slow cooker when I have picked up a shift or have a busy day planned, but I try to avoid using packages of prepared sauces or soup mixes, because they are loaded with sodium and other ingredients that make me go “blech”.

If I make a meat dish, I prefer to make it stretch farther and add to its nutrition by adding a lot of veggies to it. I think the pureed veggies add flavor to my Veggie Infused Meatloaf recipe, and when I fiddled around with this Homemade Slow Cooker Sloppy Joe, I think it does the same thing.

You can see there is some good green stuff in there. For our veggie averse toddler, it helps to make sure she gets a little in her diet, even if I have to trick her for now.

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Veggie Infused Slow Cooker Sloppy Joe (serves 8)

2 lb 85-90% lean ground beef(don’t go too lean or you lose flavor) or ground turkey

1 green bell pepper, finely diced

1 small to medium onion, finely diced

1-2 small zucchinis (either finely dice or run it through a food processor)

1 cup ketchup

2 TB yellow mustard

1 TB worcestershire sauce

1 small 6 oz can tomato paste

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt or Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup water

1 TB oats or cornstarch to thicken

pepper to taste

Add everything in slow cooker except oats or cornstarch and cook on high for 7 hours. Add oats or cornstarch to thicken in last 30 minutes and allow to simmer. For the strongly veggie averse, run all veggies through the food processor before adding to slow cooker, and they should blend in.

 

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I’m a weirdo and I rarely eat a bun with my meat, but I found these sesame buns on clearance for $0.69. It was fantastic! Our 5 year old daughter ate multiple sandwiches.

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Seriously, doesn’t that look good?

Chocolate Bread Crumb Cookies

Chocolate

Fifteen years ago, I learned how to keep a bag of breadcrumbs when I worked a second job as a caregiver for a 96 year old lady who had raised her children during the Great Depression. She never threw anything away. Toothpicks and straws were run through the dishwasher and carefully put away to be reused. Only cloth rags and napkins were in her home. She took her hearing aid batteries out when no one was home because she didn’t want to waste them. All bread was cut on a plate and the crumbs were brushed into a bag that was kept in the freezer.

At the time, I was living on $10 per week in groceries and I was baking my own bread every other day. I started cutting my bread on a plate and brushing those crumbs into a freezer bag myself. Nowadays, I also cut the crusts off my son’s sandwiches and put them in the freezer bag, otherwise he brings a half-eaten sandwich home with a hole carved into the middle to avoid the crusts. If we have bread that is stale or close to turning, it also goes into the freezer, to be ground into breadcrumbs or toasted into croutons later. When I get a full bag, I take a few minutes to put the frozen bread through my Ninja and toss the breadcrumbs into the same freezer bag.

You may be wondering why anyone would consider making cookies with breadcrumbs.

I had several bags of hamburger and hot dog buns that were leftover from my in-law’s anniversary, and as we are not really bun-eaters, I processed them into breadcrumbs. If I have an overflowing abundance of breadcrumbs, I will whip up a batch of cookies to use some up.

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How useful are breadcrumbs?

Breadcrumbs can help you in a pinch if you are running out of flour and you are making a batch of cookies or brownies.

I use them in my Veggie Infused Meatloaf or when I make a broccoli-cheese side dish my kids love (broccoli, cheddar cheese, a tiny bit of mayo and breadcrumbs to bind, dried onion, pepper, and salt).

You can use them to make fried chicken or your own Shake ‘n Bake.

You can use them to make meatballs. (Meatballs are easy to freeze too!)

You can saute them in butter and top your mac ‘n cheese with them.

You can use them to coat Eggplant Parm.

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Chocolate Breadcrumb Cookies

(These cookies have a similar texture to cake-like brownies.)

3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup of milk

1 cup flour

2 cups breadcrumbs (can use straight from the freezer)

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together sugars, egg, vanilla, milk, and softened butter. Once  well mixed, add dry ingredients until combined. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or smear with oil or butter. Use a teaspoon to drop spoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake for 11-13 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing, as they tend to be very soft.

You can use all white sugar if you like, but my kids like the flavor the brown sugar provides. You can also substitute all shortening or part shortening for the butter if you like a cookie that is more crispy.

This post contains affiliate links.

 

Homemade Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

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We were given a bread machine for our wedding 10 years ago. I don’t care for the shape or crust of the bread it makes, so I have only really used it for making dough all of this time. I use it weekly, if not more, especially for pizza dough or focaccia, but lately I have been using it more for homemade cinnamon rolls.

I have tried many recipes I found online, but most of them had too much dairy, which is a no-no for my husband, are too sweet, which my son and I don’t care for, or have too much filling or a glaze, making them sticky to hold. Two of our kids are extremely fussy about messy or sticky feelings on their hands, so that is a no-no for us too.

Yeast doughs are really made from just a few of the same ingredients: flour, salt, water, oil or butter, yeast, and something to feed the yeast, like sugar or honey. My cinnamon roll dough is the same, with just the inner cinnamon roll filling tweaked.

I think mine are just sweet enough and not too high in calories. Using my bulk Sam’s club flour, yeast, salt, and brown sugar, I estimate it costs me $0.50 per batch.

Homemade Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls

Dough

1 cup water, warmed to 110 degrees

1 TB olive oil

2 TB honey (I usually add to the warmed water to help dissolve)

3 cups bread flour (bread flour has a higher gluten content and I think gives a better rise, but all purpose will do), plus small handful to use during rolling

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp yeast

Filling

2 TB unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2- 3/4 tsp cinnamon, to taste

Set over to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients into bread machine in the order given and place on the dough cycle. When dough cycle is complete, place melted butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well, making sure there are no brown sugar lumps.

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Place a small handful of flour on a clean counter and remove dough from machine, placing it in the flour. Turn dough over a few times to coat each side with flour and make sure it doesn’t stick to the counter. Start rolling the dough with a rolling pin into a long rectangle about 14-15 inches long and 6 inches wide. Use your hands to stretch the dough. Make sure it is not too thin or it will create holes and the filling will leak.

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When the dough is long enough, empty the contents of the bowl onto the dough and spread from edge to edge. Make sure you reach each end, or your end-pieces will not have any filling. This filling can be runny, especially if you decide you want more butter. Once filling is spread, start with the top end and roll the dough like a jelly roll, pinching the raw edge into the body of the dough when fully rolled. Cut the log into 14 one inch pieces and place on their side onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. It will be a little messy and you will have to keep the rolls pinched together as you place them on the cookie sheet, but once baked they hold together well.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350, being careful not to burn. If the filling gets even a little overcooked and starts burning, they just won’t taste right! I once had to pitch a batch that started to burn.

According to a My Fitness Pal calculator, each roll is about 156 calories.

These freeze very well, just put on a cookie sheet in the freezer for a couple hours. They will be hard as a rock and can be transferred to a freezer bag. I can usually fit two batches in one gallon-sized freezer bag. I thaw inside the bag in the fridge overnight and bake the next morning as usual. It will taste fresh!

 


Reducing Food Waste: Turning A Half-Eaten Apple Into Something Your Kids Will Eat

Reducing

This post contains affiliate links.

I have three children under eight, and they usually snack on fresh fruit. It’s not uncommon for me to find a half-eaten apple laying around the house or tucked away in the fridge. I estimate I find 4-5 of these half-eaten apples every month. 

We try to discourage being wasteful with food in this house and to be mindful of what we are using. While I try to encourage my kids to finish up or share with a sibling, I also don’t want them to eat past the point of hungry, and I wanted a solution other than sending a decent apple to the compost bin.

Yesterday I found a half-eaten apple in the fridge left by my 5 year old Miss E. I remembered reading about a solution in the Complete Tightwad Gazette years ago, and decided to give it a try.

Ingredients:

One half-eaten apple

1/2 tsp butter

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp water

First, I trimmed off the eaten part, and I peeled the skin off the usable part of the apple.

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I diced up the apple and put it in a microwavable bowl. I added the other ingredients and didn’t do anything to mix them up. Just dump them in!

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Microwave for one minute and stir.

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The verdict from Miss E: delicious!

Frugal and Easy Cheese Grits with Mushrooms

Cheese Grits

This week, I had a package of mushrooms languishing in the fridge and on the verge of turning. I wanted something simple to make while satisfying my savory tooth. I decided sauteed mushrooms would be perfect with the salty cheesy taste of some cheese grits.

I loved it, and my 2 year old and 7 year old gave this a thumbs-up. The 5 year old was not impressed. You can’t win them all!

Frugal and Easy Cheese Grits with Mushrooms- $1.83

serves 4

3/4 cup grits (about $0.17 per serving for store brand, or $0.68 for 4 servings)

3 cups water

2 TB butter, divided ($0.12)

2 oz grated cheddar cheese (hand-grated from bulk- $0.32)

8 oz sliced mushrooms ($0.69 at Aldi)

1/8 tsp Lawry’s seasoned salt ($0.02)

Pepper, to taste

Add grits and water to a saucepan and place on medium-low heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring to avoid lumps. Meanwhile, place 1 TB butter in a separate skillet and melt over medium heat. Add mushrooms and Lawry’s to melted butter and saute until browned. Remove from heat.

Once grits are done, remove from heat and add cheese and remaining 1 TB of butter. Add pepper, if desired. Spoon mushrooms over cheese grits and serve.

A serving for 4 costs $1.83, or $0.46 per serving.

Frugal Food Adventures: Bean and Zucchini Cutlets

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I know there are a lot of bean haters out there. I was once one of you. Not to call my mom out, but the only edible bean dish she could make was baked beans, and I never got the chance to enjoy really well made bean and lentil dishes until I was a vegetarian living on my own in college.

One of my goals is to get you to try some bean dishes. Beans and legumes are a cheap source of protein and in general good for you (though I do know some of you can’t have them for medical reasons, because of needing a low residue diet. You can just enjoy the pretty pictures and ignore).

For those of you who have been scarred for life after poorly made childhood bean meals, or just find them icky, I suggest trying this recipe for Bean and Zucchini Cutlets. It comes from the site Sandra Vungi Vegan. She is an Estonian blogger, and I have been making quite a few of her recipes lately, as I am a huge lentil lover and she has a fair number of lentil recipes on her blog. She does have a book out in English called Vegan Dinner Party as well.

These cutlets are vegan and only have a few ingredients. Don’t be put off by the word vegan either. Just think of them as a fresh veggie and bean dish with fresh herbs and seasonings, made with whole foods.

We are not curry fans, so I switched it up and used a 1/4 tsp Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (everything tastes good with that stuff!), a teaspoon minced garlic, only one onion, and a handful each of fresh cilantro and fresh parsley.

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Yes, there was a lot of green stuff in them. My kids love green stuff, so they were cool with it. They held together well despite having no egg.

I served them with pan-roasted Brussels sprouts and a quick mustard-caper sauce from the book The Veganomicon. I highly recommend the book for easy vegetarian recipes. We’ve tried many of the recipes and haven’t gotten a bad one yet.

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Yes, my husband and kids LOVED this. All my children are used to lots of veggies, and they ask me to make Brussels sprouts. My 5 year old daughter kept asking for more mustard-caper sauce.

So, who is going to try a bean dish this week? What are you making?

Minding The Details: Pioneer Day Cornbread for $0.90

MInding Details

My son is in second grade, and is in public school. We go through the same holiday activities and special class events that you have in any school. My mother always had to work when I was a kid and usually couldn’t volunteer as a room mother, so it’s important to me, now that I am home, to volunteer for school activities whenever I can.

For Halloween, I volunteered to bring the food for the class party, and that meant juice boxes, treat bags (I chose small goldfish packs, candy corn, and Halloween Oreos), and clementine oranges with celery stems to look like pumpkins. I was able to divide one pack of Oreos, half a bag of candy corn, and a large bag of goldfish among 22 kids. Everyone got goldfish, and some bags had cookies and other candy corn, so kids could choose the treat.

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I was able to get the treat bags, plates, and napkins that morning for 70% off at Jo-Ann Fabrics, and juice boxes were buy two get one free at Target. I also spent $5  on green tape and googly eyes to make some Frankenstein juice boxes. I have a ton of tape and eyes left over, so I think it will last another 3 or 4 Halloweens.

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I probably spent about $30 on feeding the class that day.  I am happy the kids loved it, but I do not want to drop a wad of cash like that this month, especially since in the past two days, we’ve paid $700 in medical bills.

We got a notice in the home folder this week that the kids will be having Pioneer Days right before Thanksgiving.  The kids are encouraged to dress up, but I shouldn’t need to spend anything on dressing up: we will send the boy in jeans, dad’s suspenders, a flannel, and boots.

The kids will also have a “Pioneer Feast”, and the class needs parent volunteers to provide the feast. They are asking for apple juice boxes, corn bread, apples, beef jerky, beef stew (Dinty Moore Beef Stew- ew!), plus pie tins and forks as tableware. They need enough for 25.

I emailed as soon as I got the letter and volunteered to make corn bread. I will need to make three 9 x 9 pans to serve 25 pieces, and if I use this recipe from Fake-It Frugal, it will only cost me $0.90 of ingredients in my pantry to make it!

If you want to try another one of her recipes, I have used her dairy-free scratch brownie mix for years (a 9 x 9 pan is $0.30), and have always gotten compliments.

Frugal Food Adventures: Veggie Infused Meatloaf

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We don’t eat a lot of meat in our house, but occasionally the natives get restless. We don’t eat seafood because of allergies (I only buy tuna for the food pantry sometimes), and some kind of switch was flipped during my last pregnancy, making the smell and taste of most poultry squick me out and make me gag.  (For some reason, Chick-Fil-A is the only way I can consume chicken without wanting to hurl).

I usually keep ground beef in the freezer, and like to try and sneak extra veggies into my kids whenever possible. I won’t post many recipes of my own, as I’m more likely to try someone else’s creation than make my own, but I will share this one for Veggie Infused Meatloaf. We probably have it once per month, and my kids love it.

Serves 6

1 pound ground beef or bison

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 medium onion

2 cups fresh spinach

1 medium carrot

1 stalk of celery

1 whole egg or 2 egg whites

3 TB ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

Pepper

Mix the beef in a bowl with bread crumbs and season to taste with Lawry’s and pepper. Dump the vegetables into a food processor and process until chopped fine. Add to the beef mixture with the egg, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup and blend until combined.

I often squirt ketchup on top before baking. The meat mixture will look green from the spinach, but this mostly disappears with cooking. My kids think it’s kind of funny.

Place mixture in a loaf pan and bake at 350 for an hour.

The cost will depend on your meat costs, but I try to get grass-fed beef only. This is usually $5-8/lb in my area, and I buy when it is $5 most times.

Beef: $5

Breadcrumbs: $0.10 (homemade, or 2 slices of bread processed)

Egg: $0.22

Carrot: $0.08

Onion: $0.50

Spinach: $0.40

Celery: $0.08

Ketchup: $0.12

Total for recipe: $6.50, or $1.08 per serving.

Minding The Details: Our Daily Bread

MInding Details

I have nothing against store-bought bread. I have been baking my own for so long, however, that my family and I are used to the taste of the real deal. My kids call store-bought bread “square bread”, and think it’s a little strange.

I started out baking my own bread, because all of my children were living with a dairy allergy. Nearly every brand of bread at the store has some kind of milk in it. The ones that didn’t, I did not consider healthy enough to feed my family, or were just plain expensive. My kids have now all outgrown the allergy (woot!), but I continue to bake our bread.

Our local specialty store has a wonderful bakery,and makes all kinds of artisan breads. A loaf of 10 grain bread, made only with grains, yeast, honey, salt, and water, ran us $5 per loaf. We typically would go through 2 loaves a week. It seemed insane for bread made with so few ingredients to take up 10% of my weekly grocery budget. Surely it was not that hard to make it?

We received a bread-maker for a wedding gift, but it bakes a weird, squat little loaf, and the paddle at the bottom gets stuck in the loaf, making the last few slices unusable for sandwiches. It always overcooks the bread, making the crust too hard. We only really use it on the dough setting, for pizza and focaccia doughs.

At one point, I stumbled upon the Prudent Homemaker‘s blog, and saw her bulk grain storage system, and her homemade french bread, that only costs her 25 cents per loaf.  I was able to make her french bread recipe, it was a hit with my family, and I have been baking my own ever since.

After a lot of practice, I wouldn’t call myself a bread making expert, but I am more than a novice. It’s really not as difficult as it looks, and I heartily recommend giving it a try. I now make a version of this Sandwich Bread most often, and I spend between $0.25-0.75 per loaf, depending on the recipe and price of milk.

I thought I would share my process to help demystify it a bit.

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Bread at its most basic is made from flour, yeast, salt, and water. The French Bread I linked above is made from those ingredients.

I myself now prefer to make my bread with milk. It really makes the dough easier to knead (important for folks like me who have arthritis), and the crumb tends to be softer.

I use bread flour (higher gluten content, so it rises better), honey (to feed the yeast), salt, olive oil (I’m Sicilian, so I replace the melted butter in the recipe with olive oil), yeast (bought in bulk from Sam’s), and milk.

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I throw my salt and all but 1/2 a cup of my flour in my giant stainless steel bowl, and then proof my yeast.

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This basically means I dump the yeast, honey, and oil into a cup with the warmed water, give it a quick whirl, and then let it sit there until the yeast looks bubbly and foamy. This tells me my yeast are live, and my bread probably won’t fail to rise. Hint: Do not throw the salt in there too or you will have dead yeast.

Once that happens, I give everything a mix in the bowl with a wooden spoon. It will be pretty sticky still, but shouldn’t be wet.

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I then toss everything onto my counter, where I have dumped the last half cup of my flour. I start kneading the dough on the flour, and it will change from a disheveled pile to a cohesive ball.

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You should be easily able to stretch and fold this ball. If it’s sticky, add a wee bit of flour, but not too much. Too much flour will make a stiff dough, and a stiff dough will have a hard time rising. The rise comes from the air bubbles made by the yeast, so imagine those air bubbles trying to lift something heavy and awkward. Not going to happen!

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Eventually (5ish minutes for me), I am done kneading, and I stretch the dough into a ball and put back in the bowl. Cover with a damp (but not soaking wet!) cloth, and set aside to rise. You don’t want to get it cold, so put it away from drafts. I put mine in my unheated oven and set the timer for 40 minutes. Feel free to run around working on other things- no need to watch it!

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When your timer goes off, it’s time for your second rise. I shape mine into a loaf, stretch the sides down and pinch them together at the bottom. This will help stretch the gluten, and therefore help the rise. I put my loaf pan into the microwave to let it stay away from drafts. Technically, you should cover it, but I never really do. After about 50 minutes, I peek and see if it’s puffed up beyond the edge of the pan. If it has (and it usually has), I bake it in the oven with a pan of water on the lower rack. That will help steam your loaf.

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Once out of the oven, I cool in the pan until it is touchable, and then plop it out on a towel upside down, to let the moisture dissipate from the bottom. When it’s cool enough to slice, I slice on a plate, so I can scrape the breadcrumbs into my bread crumb freezer bag (don’t waste anything!). Wrap it in plastic and use within a couple days, because homemade bread has no preservatives, and will get stale and mold a lot quicker than store bought bread.

You can always keep a loaf in the freezer and thaw later, or even slice and thaw a couple slices at a time. Frozen bread will taste fresh when thawed.

If your kids are like mine, and refuse to eat end pieces, I grind in the Ninja to make breadcrumbs, and add them to my bread crumb bag in the freezer.