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Thoughts On Cooking Gourmet Yet Being Frugal

Last Friday I went to a used book sale in our area. It is held every other month and it is to benefit a charity that helps families in need with food and medical help. I enjoy going to this sale. Sometimes I only find a book or two, other times I come away with quite a stack of books to read. They have everything from kids books, old books, cookbooks, and more. This time I found some really good deals.
This is one of the books I found:

This book was only $1. The cover price on it is $40. Would I ever have paid $40? NO! But for $1 I though it was worth getting. I love looking through cookbooks like this. It gives me ideas, and I always learn a few tips. I will admit though most of Julia Child’s recipes are not my style, at least I did not think they were. When I think of Julia Child, I think of fancy, gourmet meals that take hours to prepare.

As I have been looking through this cookbook, I have been very surprised at some of the recipes in it. They are quite plain and simple. Yes, 3/4 of the recipes are for things I would never cook. I won’t be roasting a duck anytime soon or making Seafood Bread. But, what I discovered mixed in with these gourmet recipes were some very simple and basic ones, like Julia’s Old Fashioned Hash-Browns. There was a basic chicken pot pie and a roast recipe. Julia had a recipe for frying hamburgers. Jacque had a recipe for Ragout of White Beans, which sounds quite gourmet but is really only a simple slow cooked bean recipe. There are recipes for simple vegetable dishes like green beans, peas, and cabbage.

After spending time reading this book, I began to realize that even Julia Child and Jacques Pepin realize that most people will be cooking simple recipes with simple ingredients. Yes, they use the freshest of ingredients, the best they can find. But, they are still simple and basic. If Julia Child can serve simple things like hash browns or chicken pot pie, why do I feel the need to make fancy dinners?

We can make simple basic things that taste good but do not have to break our budget. What this book has reminded me is that you do not have to spend a lot of money on expensive ingredients for recipes. If you take simple ingredients and take the time to learn the best way of cooking them, you will have gourmet results.

Instead of trying to make potatoes, meats, or vegetables more gourmet by adding all kinds of extra ingredients just learn how to cook them the best way. If you like gourmet cooking but can’t afford all kinds of ingredients try focusing on the techniques of gourmet cooking instead of all the “stuff” they use. I think if we step back and focus on that, we will realize that gourmet cooking is not just about fancy, expensive ingredients. It is also about learning to prepare food in a way to best bring out it’s own flavors. So, yes I do think you can be frugal and be gourmet.

 

A New Favorite Granola

I have been trying out different granola recipes over the last few months. I think we now have a new favorite. The original recipe came from allrecipes but I tweaked it a little. You can really change this recipe around to your tastes. Add raisins or other nuts, dates, or coconut. I even think some peanut butter would be good. I hope you enjoy

A Favorite Kitchen Tool

I decided to post this measuring cup for my favorite kitchen tool this week.

I have an old version of the measuring cup. It came from Pampered Chef. I keep my all purpose white flour in a large tupperware container. In my flour I keep, or I should say kept, this measuring cup. Mine recently broke. That is why the picture came off the pampered chef website. I could not show you a picture of mine. Well, I could have but mine is in two pieces that no longer stay together.

Now that mine is broken I realize how much I loved having it in my flour container. Since it is adjustable I never had to dirty another measuring cup when baking things. It has such a large range of measurements that I never needed anything else unless I just need 1 tablespoon. I really miss mine, can you tell. I did not know how much quicker this made measuring until it broke.

I do not want to pay shipping from the Pampered Chef website just for this small item. Shipping will probably cost me almost as much as the item. So, I guess I will just have to wait for someone I know to have a Pampered Chef party. And in the meantime I will be getting lots of measuring cups dirty. 🙂

For more great tools see Life As Mom.

Pasta With Easy Meat Sauce

This is a recipe for a quick and easy pasta dish. This takes 30 minutes or less to cook. It is a great recipe to use for dinner if you have had a busy day.

I prefer to use recipes like this to using a jar of spagetti sauce. I do occasionally use the jarred sauce in some things but when a recipe is this easy and this tasty, I don’t see why I should serve a jar of sauce over noodles to my family. But that is just me. If you like the jarred sauces go ahead and serve them.

I usually serve it with bread and a salad.

This makes quite a bit. It will last us two meals, so if you are cooking for a small family you may want to half the recipe.

Frittata

I really like making Frittatas. I think they are a pretty cheap dinner even with the price of eggs right now. It is not only frugal, but quick and easy.

I usually serve this with a vegetable and a bread. But the great thing about them is they are so versatile. You can add ham, bacon, or any vegetable. Onions or mushrooms are also good. If you add in vegetables the frittata all by itself is a great meal. It is one of those things that you always have the ingredients for.

When you need a quick dinner and do not want to spend the money on fast food make a meal like this. It is much cheaper and healthier.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe I found on the Whole Foods website. I added a little extra pasta and the milk. I think it made it better. The one pictured has bacon in it.

If you have eggs, pasta and cheese, then you have dinner. This pasta frittata can be varied so much. You can use leftover pasta, whatever cheese you have on hand, cooked broccoli or spinach or diced ham.

Martha’s Chocolate Pudding Cake

Martha’s Chocolate Pudding Cake is an old fashioned dessert that your family is sure to love!

Chocolate Pudding Cake

This recipe has many names. No matter what you call it, it is delicious!

I have heard this called chocolate pudding cake, chocolate cobbler, fudge cake, brownie pudding cake, and many other things. They all produce a delicious cake with a pudding layer that is rich and delicious.

I love this recipe because it makes a dessert that is part cake and part pudding. It is pretty easy to put together and contains ingredients that I usually have in my pantry.

This recipe came from Martha Stewart years ago. I saw it on her TV show, back in the early days of it. Probably 2003 or 2004. I have been making it ever since.

I have used the recipe so much that I laminated it so that nothing would happen to it. Well, I recently lost it. I tore my kitchen, recipe box, and stack of recipes apart. It was no where to be found. I went to the Martha Stewart website to print off the recipe again. I could not find it on her site either. They no longer have it posted.

I was so disappointed. But I finally found the recipe. I had put it in a pile where it did not belong. I should know better than to do that. I am so glad that I can now make it again. I wanted to post it so that I would not lose it again.

Be sure to read this recipe all the way through before you start it. It is easy but it has a few steps.

If you are gluten free be sure to check out my gluten free chocolate pudding cake recipe. It is based on this recipe, but is gluten free. It is so good no one will know it is gluten free!

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Books

We love books in our house. Several months ago Crystal posted about Paperbackswap on her site Moneysavingmom.com. I was immediately interested. We had quite a few books on our shelves that we had read but were not ones we really wanted to keep long term. I thought paperbackswap would be a good way to pass them on to others.

When I signed up I listed 15 books. I have since added a few. I have had requests for all but 2 of the books that I had listed. I put a lot of books on my wish list hoping some would come available. I have had a couple of books a month from my wish list become available. Not to mention, others I have found and requested.

When I was putting books on my wish list, I decided to add some cookbooks. I did not really ever expect to receive any because I figured that not many people would ever list cookbooks. Well, this week I was nicely surprised because I received these three cookbooks.

I received Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts, Martha Stewart Living Annual Recipes 2002, and Christmas With Southern Living. None of these are books ones I would have paid full price for, but I was very thankful to be able to get them from Paperbackswap. So my frugal tip today is if you really like used books, including cookbooks, give Paperbackswap a try. Paperbackswap is a great way to get the books you want without spending a lot of money. For more frugal ideas see biblicalwomanhood.

Once you have an account you can receive 2 credits for each person who signs up under your name. To sign up you need to list 10 books which most people probably have just sitting on their shelves collecting dust. Before I listed my books I checked to see if they were on anyone’s wish list. So before I even signed up, I knew that I had several books that I would immediately have requests for. If you decide to sign up, please use the link that is in my sidebar. I highly recommend Paperbackswap.com.

Does anyone else like Paperbackswap?

Oil Sprayer

I love this Oil Sprayer. I have had several brands of them, but it is the overall idea that I love. They are so easy and so much healthier than this:

I do keep Pam spray on hand for a few jobs. But it is full of a lot of chemicals. I have asthama and so do two of my kids. Using a tool like this helps keep the smells out of the air in our house. In fact the few times I do use Pam I take it outside to spray it so that I do not have a coughing attack. So this tool is great to use in our house.

My one complaint with these sprayers are that they do get clogged after a few years. I think I have had three over the last 8 or more years. But when you figure a bottle of Pam costs several dollars I think that it is still a good deal to use these.
Does anyone else use one of these oil sprayers?

For more great kitchen tools see Life as Mom.

Grilling Pizza

We really enjoy using our grill. We use it a lot during the warmer months so that we do not have to heat up the oven.

A couple of years ago my sister told me that she had grilled pizza and that it was really good. I knew it was something I wanted to try. The recipe she use was out of a Weber Grilling Cookbook. I used the recipe she told me about, and we have loved grilled pizza ever since. It is a nice change from oven pizza, and your oven does not heat up your house.

Making pizza this way gives you a thin, crisp crust. It is more of a flat bread style pizza. I would recommend you use this recipe or one that is made for grilling. The texture of this dough is a little different than normal pizza dough.

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

In my quest to cook healthier my main goal it to use more whole wheat. Some things may not be very healthier, but I am still trying to include whole wheat in the recipe.

These Peanut Butter Cookies are a good example of that. They are not necessarily healthy in fact they have 1 cup of shortening in them, but they turned out very good. My kids had no trouble eating these up.

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