Healthy Apple Crisp

One of my favorite things to eat is an oatmeal-based apple crisp. My favorite flavor in the world is cinnamon, and there’s nothing better with cinnamon than oatmeal and apple, right?

I wanted a treat tonight, and we had some apples to use up before they went bad, so this is what I decided to do with it. It was a definite hit with the kids, too.

I did all the mixing in a zip-top bag, so the only things to wash are two measuring spoons, a measuring cup, and the pan. It took all of 10 minutes to throw together.

5 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
1/2  tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup quick or old-fashioned oats
4 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray an 8×8″ baking pan with nonstick spray.

Mix the 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and white sugar in a large ziplock bag. Add the apple slices and squish around to coat. Spread the apples in the pan.

In the same bag, mix the remaining ingredients and spread across the top of the apples.

Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes, or until apples are soft and topping is crispy.

Servings: 9

Nutrition (per serving): 176 calories, 54 calories from fat, 6.2g total fat, 13.6mg cholesterol, 68.1mg sodium, 152.9mg potassium, 29.1g carbohydrates, 3.5g fiber, 14.9g sugar, 2.8g protein.

This was tasty as-is, but I think it would be to die for (although a bit higher in calories) with vanilla ice cream!

(And here I am labeling something “healthy” when what I mean is that it’s homemade, low in calories, and has fruit and fiber in it. I really hate the designation of “healthy” being applied to things because they are low-calorie — it’s one of my pet peeves, and here I am doing it. I will work on a different title for this recipe when I’ve had some sleep.)

 

Ham and Lentils Slow-Cooker Stew Recipe

I love this stew – and I love that I can cook it in my crockpot and not heat up the house!

1 lb dried lentils
2 cups fat-free chicken broth
5 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup cooked ham, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/4 tsp pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaf
1 tsp salt

Put everything except the salt into a slow cooker. Cook for 3-4 hours on high. Salt before serving.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 258 calories, 16 calories from fat, 1.8g total fat, 9.6mg cholesterol, 686.1mg sodium, 790.1mg potassium, 40.9g carbohydrates, 19g fiber, 4.2g sugar, 19.9g protein.

It also is very low-calorie and frugal. It’s a win-win-win meal!

Super Tasty Salsa Recipe

This is almost the last of the recipes from Doodle’s birthday party.

The menu was:

Guacamole, salsa, and corn chips

Green chile pinwheels

Roast beef, horseradish, and basil pinwheels

Deviled Eggs

And, of course, birthday cake

We love my deviled eggs – I’ll post that one soon, too.

Making everything except the corn chips from scratch enabled me to give my daughter a lovely party with lots of food for a small outlay. And she’d prefer homemade to store-bought any day!

And now, on to the salsa. It’s really simple and quick, and wayyy less expensive than store-bought salsa. It also tastes a lot better than store-bought.

2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons lime juice

Put the shallot, jalapeno, and garlic into the food processor bowl and pulse a few times until they’re chopped very small.  Add the cilantro and give it a whirl or two to chop the cilantro. Add the tomatoes, lime juice, and spices and pulse again until only slightly chunky.

Servings: 14

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 25 calories, 2 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 86.2mg sodium, 212.3mg potassium, 5.7g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, <1g sugar, 1.2g protein.

This keeps for awhile in the fridge, but you can also use freezer jars or ice cube trays to freeze it.  I don’t can, but I’m sure it would be wonderful canned, too.

Guacamole Recipe

Yesterday, I told you how to keep guacamole from turning brown, so today I thought I’d share how I make guacamole.

2 avocados
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon  kosher salt
1/4 cup salsa
1 small tomato, seeded and finely diced (optional)

Peel and seed the avocados. Mash them in a bowl – use your potato masher, or a fork. Add the salt, lime juice, and salsa, and mash a little more. Don’t mash it until it’s uniform, though – you want some small chunks. Stir in the tomatoes, if you’re using them.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 77 calories, 56 calories from fat, 6.7g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 170.2mg sodium, 274.8mg potassium, 5g carbohydrates, 3.2g fiber, <1g sugar, 1.1g protein.

You can spread this on your chicken or burgers, or put it in tacos or burritos, or (my favorite) just eat it with corn chips. It will make you a very popular person if you bring it to potlucks, too!

While not really low-calorie, it’s not that high either (but those chips usually are!) – and most of those calories come from good fats. This time of year, avocados are plentiful and really inexpensive, so I try to have guacamole often.

Sage and Thyme Marinated Chicken Breasts Recipe

We love chicken! I don’t think there’s a way I ever cook chicken that my kids don’t clamor for more. This is one of the easiest ways to add lots of flavor and make chicken into something a little different from the everyday (not that regular ol’ chicken isn’t wonderful).

I am really looking forward to trying them on the grill, once we get one. Soon!

 

4 chicken breasts
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons chives, snipped
1 1/2 teaspoon parsley chopped
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspooon salt
1  teaspoon sugar
(Optional) 3/4 cup white wine or chicken broth

Either slice the chicken breasts in half, making two thin pieces out of each, or pound them thin.

2. In a large zip-top bag, mix the 1½  tablespoons olive oil, thyme, chives, parsley, sage, cayenne, salt, pepper, and sugar.  Add the chicken and mush around with your hands to cover all the pieces.  Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

3. Dry the chicken off with paper towels. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Spray with nonstick spray and put the chicken in. Do this in batches if you have a smaller frying pan. After the chicken browns on one side, turn it and let it brown on the other. Don’t overcook – the chicken should be thin enough to cook through by the time it’s brown on both sides.

4. (Optional) Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.  Add the white wine or chicken broth to the pan and use a spatula to pick up all the brown bits. Let the sauce simmer until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Spoon over the chicken.

Servings: 4

Nutrition Facts (without the pan sauce)
Nutrition (per serving): 311 calories, 72 calories from fat, 8.1g total fat, 136.9mg cholesterol, 1026.1mg sodium, 617mg potassium, 1.5g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 1.1g sugar, 54.6g protein.

If you’re curious about those side dishes in the picture, they are Cucumber, Onion and Dill Salad (we call it Primordial Ooze Salad, after a sauce I make for salmon), and Low-Calorie Smashed Potatoes. I’ll be putting those recipes up soon.

 

Goulash Recipe

This is a family staple – my mom used to make it (a little differently) when I was a kid, I make it for my kids, and my grown daughter makes it for herself and her boyfriend. I think we each put our own touch to it.

This is absolutely an Americanized version of goulash – it’s nothing like the Hungarian kind. I’m not even sure why we call it goulash, except for the paprika.  It does make a great budget-stretcher, though – I’ve made with as little as a quarter pound of meat and no one complained.

This also freezes well and makes terrific leftovers.

1 lb extra lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped fine
2 Tbs paprika
1 tsp oregano
15 oz can crushed tomatoes
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 lb bite-sized pasta (I usually use shells or macaroni)

Brown the ground beef over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon while it cooks. Remove any grease with a spoon and blot the meat with a paper towel, or rinse the meat under hot water in a fine mesh strainer.  Return the meat to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic,  onion, paprika and oregano, and cook and stir until the vegetables are translucent.  Add both cans of tomatoes, stir, and reduce to a simmer.

While the sauce simmers, boil the pasta until done. Drain and mix with the sauce.

Servings: 8

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 225 calories, 95 calories from fat, 10.4g total fat, 39.1mg cholesterol, 179.6mg sodium, 559.2mg potassium, 19.6g carbohydrates, 3.3g fiber, <1g sugar, 14.5g protein.

Oh, and for a laugh: After dinner, the kids asked if they could have dessert, and I told them they could each have 3 small chocolates. And then I said, facetiously, “There’s more broccoli, if anyone wants that for dessert instead.”Both of my boys started to put their chocolate back! I let them have both.

Menu Plan for March 28 – April 3 and Roasted Potatoes Recipe

Menu Plan

Dinners

Sunday: Roast chicken with oven roasted potatoes (see below)
Monday: Spaghetti with Italian sausage
Tuesday: Tuscan soup with breadsticks (recipe to come)
Wednesday: Chicken and dumplings
Thursday: FFY
Friday: Kids at their dad’s; I’ll have some fish and asparagus
Saturday: Kids at their dad’s; I’ll have something from the freezer

Lunches: Quesadillas, sandwiches, beans and weinies, Madras lentils and rice, smoothies

Breakfasts: Cinnamon streusel crumb-top muffins, oatmeal and fruit, smoothies, cold cereal

Oven-roasted Rosemary Potatoes

By mixing this in a plastic bag instead of a bowl, you can get every surface of the potatoes covered with oil and seasonings without having to use very much oil. This is more frugal (olive oil is pricey), and lighter.

2 potatoes
1  teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
2 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Scrub potatoes and cut them into one inch chunks. (If your potatoes are a little green, you can go ahead and peel them, like I had to do with last night’s potatoes.)  Put them in a plastic bag and add the other ingredients. Mush it around until all of the ingredients are well dispersed, and all the potatoes are covered with the other ingredients.

 

3. Spread the potato chunks out in one layer on a cookie sheet. Put in oven and roast for 30 minutes or until a fork inserts easily and the edges are golden brown.

Servings: 4

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 130 calories, 46 calories from fat, 5.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 476.9mg sodium, 457.7mg potassium, 19.3g carbohydrates, 2.4g fiber, <1g sugar, 2.3g protein.

 

Freezing Banana Slices

I use bananas in a lot of recipes — banana muffins, smoothies, banana bread, empanadas, more muffins, fruit salsa, and more. It can be a problem having bananas of the right ripeness around, though. It seems like there are a whole bunch of almost-ripe bananas, and then, as if by magic, there are one or two overripe bananas. The minute they get ripe, the boys want to eat them, but the second they start to turn brown (which is when they start gettingreally good, in my opinion), none of the kids want them anymore. And one or two bananas isn’t enough for a lot of recipes.

For years, I’ve thrown them in the freezer when they get too brown for the kids to eat them.  I’ve found, though, that it can be very difficult to peel a frozen banana. I’ve tried thawing them and then peeling them, but the banana is so mushy after freezing that it’s also really hard to peel (although the mushy texture is perfect for banana bread).

So for awhile, I’ve peeled the bananas before freezing them, and that works pretty well, but sometimes I just needed half a banana for a smoothie or one of the other snacks I like to make with bananas.

Finally, I figured out to cut the bananas into coins and lay them out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and freeze them for a couple hours. Then I throw them into a zip-top bag, and I can get as much or as little banana as I want.

I can even just grab one little banana “coin” for a snack when I’m hankering for something sweet and cool.

 

Grocery Shopping

This is an article I wrote back in 2000. It’s kind of interesting to read it and see what has changed, but most hasn’t.  We were a family of six in 2000, with my youngest son being less than a year old. Now there are only four of us, and he’s 10½!  Smaller changes are the we don’t eat the same thing for breakfast or lunch every day anymore, and I avoid buying pre-made anything (if I can’t pronounce an ingredient, I don’t want to serve it to my family).

A lot of it still holds true, though, so I thought I’d post it.

Grocery shopping on a budget

Mar 08 ’00

I can usually buy two weeks of groceries for my family for $80-90 a week. A friend asked me how I do it.

Making a Menu Plan
First off, I sit down and make a list. I start with a menu for the next two weeks. It’s very key to me to try to go shopping as infrequently as possible, since I’m very susceptible to impulse buying. So I do two weeks at a time (shop once per payday). I make my menu plan by thinking about what sounds good, asking the kids what they want to eat (Doodle *always* says “Chicken nuggets!”), and looking over a list I keep of simple/quick/cheap meals. I also look at the store sale flyer if I have one, so I can take advantage of store specials. I could buy stuff to make everything from scratch and in theory save more money, but I’ll end up not cooking and buying fast food, which with a family of 6 is NOT cheap at all. I usually only do this for dinners, as we have basically the same thing for breakfast and lunch each day (cereal and milk for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit and chips for lunch).

Making a Grocery List
After making a menu plan, I make my grocery list. I group everything according to location in the store. I go through the menu and list everything I need to make the meals. I do this relatively quickly and not too neatly, as it’s really a rough draft of my grocery list. Then I go through the cupboards and cross out anything on my grocery list that I already have, and add staples that I need, as well as breakfast and lunch items. Once I’ve done this, I make my “final copy” grocery list. I again keep things grouped according to store location, and include a copy of the menu on the list, so that if the store is out of an item I can remove all the associated foods from my cart, too.

Shopping!
I make sure I don’t go to the store hungry, and I make sure I’m not rushed. I don’t bring the kids. I do bring my list and a pen of a different color to mark off items as I put them in my cart. I have to do this, because if I forget, say, tomato sauce, when I go back later in the week to buy tomato sauce, I’ll also buy a magazine, a bag of cookies, a baby toy and a hair brush. I said I was susceptible to impulse buying! <g>

While at the store, if I see a great buy on something I use a lot, I’ll stock up if the money’s there. Part of this is being aware what really is and what isn’t a good deal. I have an extra fridge on my enclosed porch, so now I can stock up on cold and frozen food, too, which helps a lot.

Estimating
I used to estimate each item’s cost and get a total estimate before leaving for the store. I still do this sometimes when I’m really on a tight budget. Then while shopping, I’ll keep two boxes on the list, one for “less than estimated” and one for “more than estimated” – so I can keep track of how close to estimated I am. If I get way over, I’ll cut back further. If I’m way under, I can allow myself a treat or buy a little more of some staple.

Buying Generic
I do buy store brand for some items, but not for others. You just basically have to experiment and see what works for you. I hate generic dish detergent, but I buy a store brand laundry detergent that is $2.50 for a big bottle, and it gets our clothes clean with no fragrances (which is very important to me – laundry fragrances make me ill). I buy store brand medicines a lot, after comparing ingredients. I won’t buy store brand toilet paper. I’ll buy store brand canned veggies for a casserole, and use name brand for serving as a side dish.

Shopping Around
I’ll stop at Walmart and Sam’s Club to see what they’ve got before going to the grocery store. A lot of times Walmart’s little food area has a lot of the canned food I want for about half the price of what they have at the grocery store. The bulk sizes at Sam’s Club are fine for my family, so I don’t have a problem buying there, but if your family is smaller, you might end up wasting more than you use. Walmart usually has much better prices on non-food items such as dish soap, toilet paper, etc. than the grocery stores.

I have friends who shop at several different grocery stores to hit all the sales, and that seems to work for them, but for me it doesn’t pay for my time. When I’ve tried that, I’ve usually spent an extra couple of hours to save a couple of bucks.

Conclusion
If I’m careful and don’t impulse-buy, I can grocery shop for my family of 6 for $80-90 a paycheck (2 weeks). We eat well, and don’t feel deprived, and I’d rather spend the money I save on other fun stuff.

Black Bean Burritos Recipe

Black bean burritos are a favorite standby here. The kids like them, and I love them because they are made with stuff I always have around – so if I forget to take something out of the freezer,  I’ve still got dinner.

They are also great for those times when I’m really trying to stretch the grocery budget.

Black Bean Burritos

Black Bean Burritos

8 flour tortillas

2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup water or broth

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shredded cheese

Put all ingredients except tortillas and cheese in a sauce pan and heat until it just starts to boil. Turn down the heat to simmer and simmer the beans until most of the liquid is gone (5-10 minutes).

Heat two tortillas at a time in the microwave for 15 seconds, or heat them individually in a hot, ungreased frying pan, flipping once.

Put 1/4 cup beans down the center of a tortilla. Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of cheese on top of the beans. Fold the ends in and then fold the bottom up to cover the filling, and roll into a burrito. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

These are amazing with sour cream, and/or with shredded lettuce and tomato.

Linked to:

Frugal Fridays

Foodie Friday

Food on Fridays

Grocery Cart Challenge