Friday, January 30, 2009

Shrimp Quesadillas for the Super Bowl

I just love it when shrimp are on sale, don't you? They really are such a treat, and when I find them at two pounds for 15.95, you'd better believe I'm snappin' them up.

Today, both the CenSea Cleaned Cooked Shrimp and the Uncooked are on sale....hhm, what a dilemma! Which to choose? I went with the cooked, 'cause no fuss, no muss is my motto. One of them, anyway. I have many mottos these days.

Anyway, I also chose the cooked shrimp because I didn't want to waste any time in getting this great recipe into your hot little hands quickly, so you could serve these to your friends for the Super Bowl on Sunday!

The luscious, melty cheese inside is the fabulous 3-Year Cheddar that's on sale in the cheese department, but of course you could cut a corner and grab some shredded cheese if you're short on time. Alongside, you'll want to serve a generous dollop of Breakstone's Sour Cream, and don't forget to garnish your platter with a few slices of sale avocado. You'll have a fresh, slightly fancy, yet frugal appetizer that everyone will adore!
Shrimp Quesadillas
Serves 2; easily doubled
Recipe adapted from

1/2 lb. large shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined
the juice of one lime
2 scallions, minced
a hefty pinch of minced cilantro
1 jalapeno, minced (seeded and deveined if you can't take the heat)
1/4 t. chipotle chili powder (I added this, it's not on the original recipe)
1-2 c. grated cheddar cheese
2 or 3 flour tortillas

Sliced avocado or prepared guacamole
Sour cream & additional cilantro sprigs for garnish

Chop the shrimp into bite sized pieces. In a medium glass mixing bowl, combine the lime juice, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno, and chipotle chili powder. Toss shrimp in lime mixture and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to marinate for 20-30 minutes.

Drain off lime juice. Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium high heat. Spray one side of flour tortilla with cooking spray and set spray side down on a cutting board. Top one half with some shredded cheddar, then some of the shrimp mixture, the a bit more cheddar. Fold over and set aside. Repeat with another tortilla. Place both quesadillas in the grill pan and cover partially with a lid. Toast until golden and cheese is melting, then flip and repeat on the other side.

Remove to cutting board and allow to rest for a minute or two. Cut into wedges and place on serving platter. Garnish with sliced avocado, a spoonful of sour cream, and cilantro sprigs.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cheddar Scallion Scones

Homemade biscuits just scream 'comfort food', do they not? And who doesn't need little comforting on a bonechilling day like today.

Soup is on the menu at our house this evening, and these Cheddar Scallion "Scones" are the perfect go-with. Don't be afraid of the term 'scones'. Lean in close.....I'm going to tell you a secret.

(I'm whispering.) These "scones" are really just triangular shaped biscuits. Another secret: I am lazy and don't like to take the time to roll out dough and cut out biscuits with cookie cutters. Furthermore, I can't stand the mess created by rolling out dough on my counters! I'm picky like that. Messes really aggravate me.

Any hooo, I absolutely adore this recipe and I think the scone shape adds to their charm. They're light and savory and are purely HEAVEN when dunked in a big bowl of soup! Plus (and you knew this was coming), two of the key ingredients (the sharp Cheddar and the scallions) are on sale this week! Another bonus: if there are any leftover scones (small chance), bundle them up and stick 'em in the freezer for a rainy day. Pop them in a 375 degree oven straight from the freezer; they'll taste like you made them that same day.
Yield: 12
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. sugar
3/4 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
6 T. cold butter, cut into small cubes
6 oz. SALE CHEDDAR, coarsely grated ( 1 1/2 c.)
3 SALE SCALLIONS, finely chopped
1 c. well shaken buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, then blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in the Cheddar and the scallions. Add the buttermilk and stir until just combined.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board and divide into two equal balls. Form each ball into a round disc, about an inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut each disc into six wedges, and transfer them to the baking sheet. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden, about 18 minutes.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dessert Chic....Poached Pear Sundaes

When I picture a dessert that's company worthy, I don't usually think of a fruity dessert....unless of course, it's summertime and berries are abundant (and thereby economical of course).
It's not that I don't like fruity desserts, I just normally gravitate to the richer and luxurious treats -- y'know, cheesecakes, mousses, custards, and the like. But ingredients like best-quality chocolate, cream cheese, and fresh whipping cream can really drive up the price of these homemade confections, and since I'm a team player, I've agreed to keep costs down. So today the sale pears caught my eye, and I decided to give 'em a go.

I thought of creating a gorgeous tart, but I dislike futzing with pastry dough. A crumble or crisp? That would have been great, but I really wanted to attempt a dish I've never done before (plus, I was running low on butter). I found this recipe for Poached Pear Sundaes, which sounded simple but upscale, and (bonus!) also incorporated the Breyer's Ice Cream that's on sale this week.
This recipe could not be easier; I think there are a grand total of oh, six ingredients?! If you decide you'd like to try it, make sure you have about five hours to spare....not because it's gonna take you five hours slaving in the kitchen, silly. You'll need a good four hours for these to chill in the fridge.

Serves: 4
Actual Cost Per Serving: Roughly 1.00

2 c. water
1/4 c. honey
2 long strips of orange zest, orange part only
4 pears, peeled and cut in half top to bottom

Vanilla Ice Cream & Hot Fudge Sauce for serving

Bring the water, honey, and orange zest to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add the pears and return to a simmer. Cover pan and continue to poach the pears for 12 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork (but not falling apart). Remove the pan from the heat and allow the pears to cool in their poaching liquid for at least three hours.

To serve: Place a pool of fudge sauce on a serving plate. Top with a pear ** and a scoop of ice cream; garnish with orange zest if desired.

**If you'd like to fan the pears as shown, place them cut side down on a cutting surface. Using a sharp knife, make five or six long cuts down the length of the pear. Gently fan the pear as shown. Pretty, no?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Decadence on a Dime! WRITING SAMPLE ONLY


I cannot begin to tell you how much I love Tuna Tartare.

A couple of years ago, the husband and I enjoyed an amazing Valentine's Day dinner at the wonderful Bacchus in downtown Milwaukee. For our appetizer, we split the most amazing Tuna Tartare I have ever was salty, spicy, and served on top of crispy wonton chips.... so heavenly, I was still dreaming of it long after dinner ended!
Do you think it's normal to dream of tuna tartare?

So fantastic was this dish, that I even went so far as to write to the R.S.V.P column at Bon Appetit magazine to see if they could persuade the Chef to share the recipe. Would you believe he actually did? A couple of months later I received a letter from Bon Appetit and a copy of the recipe. I've been making it for cocktail parties ever since.

Now, you wouldn't necessarily think that Tuna Tartare would be at the top of a frugal gal's grocery list, but Ahi Tuna is .... you guessed it.... on special this week at Sendiks for $7.99 a pound! The finished dish is quite rich, so you don't need to buy much tuna - only half a pound or so.

Other ingredients for the dish are also on sale: the scallions, soy sauce, and the rice crackers that I serve alongside the tuna. If you're the over-achieving type who likes to go the extra mile, you can skip the rice crackers and fry up your own wonton chips like they do at Bacchus.

I've never been accused of being an overachiever. Also, I find frying to be a putzy chore that smells up my kitchen, so I leave deep fried foods to the professionals.

Over achiever or not, pair this decadent appetizer with the crisp Toasted Head Chardonnay (on sale!), or an icy-cold Sapporo.

Here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

C'mon, get happy!

Our neighborhood is a social bunch -- always looking for an excuse to sit down and chat over a glass (or ten) of wine. Everyone seemed to be in the mood to celebrate the end of the first week back to school after the Holiday break, so I decided to invite my homegirls over for a little happy hour this afternoon.

The catch (and I'm sure you know what's coming) -- the wine and the appetizers had to be on sale. I'm happy to say that I mostly stuck to this rule! The wine was on sale, and so were the ingredients for the Roasted Eggplant Dip. Since I had kind of a Mediterranean theme workin' with the dip, I also served hummus and stuffed green olives (alas, not on sale....but they didn't exactly break the bank, and they are sooooooo delicious). For dippers I served the salty, crunchy, and addictive Stacey's Pita Chips, and pita bread from the deli that I toasted under the broiler.

Talk about happy hour; the grocery bill for the munchies (ingredients and all) were only 13.74!

Confession: I could have skimped a bit more on the cost of the wine....there were less expensive options available. If I was being true to my pennypinching self, I would have bought the Crane wine, on sale 3 for $9.00. But, I decided to splurge a little on my neighborhood friends, and I went for the Toasted Head Chardonnay (one of my fav's) and it was also on sale for 9.99 a bottle.

All in all, I hosted a two hour gathering for four people for roughly $33.75 -- not too bad. Just think: if I had gone for the Crane, it would have been under 20.00!

Here's the recipe for the low cost and low calorie dip!
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, p.41
Serves: 6-8

1 medium eggplant, peeled
1 red bell pepper, seeded
1 red onion, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 T. good quality olive oil
1 1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1 T. tomato paste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing once during cooking. Cool slightly.

Place the vegetables in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the tomato paste, and pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Adjust seasonings and serve with pita bread.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Ratatouille Frittata....Breakfast for Pennies!

I know I promised to share a recipe for an open faced BLT on sourdough today, and we'll get to that a little bit later. But everyone knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so first things first!

I was so happy to find a portion of the Roasted Ratatouille Salad waiting for me in the fridge this morning! I was equally happy that I also had picked up a carton of the Sparboe Grade A Eggs yesterday (on special this week, natch'). A Ratatouille Frittata, hashbrowns, and fresh fruit were on the table in about 15 minutes!

This frittata could not be any easier. Check out the recipe:

Serves: 2
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. leftover Roasted Ratatouille Salad with Feta
large pinch of Parmesan, optional
1 - 2 t. butter
1 or 2 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (there's that word again! say it to yourself, just for fun.)

Preheat your broiler. In a medium bowl, mix the eggs with the ratatouille salad and the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Place a small nonstick omelet pan over medium heat. Melt the butter and swirl it around to coat. Add in the egg mixture and cook over medium until bottom and sides of eggs are set. Slide the frittata under your broiler and watch it like a hawk, until the top is cooked and fully set.

Slide the frittata onto a cutting board and slice it into wedges. Garnish with your pretty sliced basil and serve, then congratulate yourself on creating such an inexpensive, yet pretty breakfast!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's all Greek to me......or, Ratatouille Salad on a Shoestring

If you happened to peruse the sale ad that came out yesterday, you would have noticed the abundance of Mediterranean-style ingredients on special this week: red peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, ground lamb, feta.....all of these items scream "Greek Food!"

I decided to make a Roasted Ratatouille Salad to serve alongside Strauss Ground Lamb Patties . I picked up a round loaf of Sour Dough Bread (sale price, $2.99) to serve alongside, and whipped up a simple orzo and rice pilaf with ingredients I found in my pantry.

My tab at Sendiks was under $20.00 for dinner this evening -- four bucks for the lamb patties, and $16.00 for the rest of the ingredients -- bringing my dinner cost for five people to around $3.60 per person!

You'll have leftover fresh basil and feta - maybe even some leftover sourdough too. That's all right -- wait 'til yah see what's on deck for tomorrow! We'll be using up those leftovers with a delicious open face BLT, using the Nitrate Free Bacon that's on sale.

Now, here are the recipes; sale ingredients are in GREEN. Have fun making and eating this delicious Greek-inspired dinner on a dime!

Roasted Ratatouille Salad with Feta and Fresh Basil
Serves: 4-6

1 eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1" dice
1 zucchini, trimmed and cut in half from top to bottom, then sliced into 3/4" pieces
1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, and cut into 3/4" pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 3/4" pieces
Good Quality olive oil (please, in the name of all that is good in the world, use a nice olive oil for this recipe!)
2 roma tomatoes, core trimmed, seeded, and cut into 3/4" pieces
Good Quality balsamic vinegar (I use a nice white balsamic by Alessi)
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
2 T. fresh basil, cut into chiffonade *** See tip below for how to execute a perfect chiffonade.

Fire up your oven to 425. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil, for easier clean up. Place all vegetables (except the tomatoes) into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil (a few good glugs around the bowl should do it). Season with coarse sea salt and fresh pepper to taste, toss around with a big spoon to coat evenly. Now, dump all of these lovelies onto your cookie sheet, and spread them around. Don't worry if they seem a bit crowded, after a few minutes in the oven you'll see some shrinkage. Nothing to be embarrassed about! A little shrinkage is natural in this instance. HA!

Pop them in the oven for 15 minutes. Take them out, add the tomatoes, and scoot everything around with a big spatula. Put them back in the oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to brown a bit. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool for a half an hour or so. Turn your broiler on at this point so you can toast your sourdough bread (see below).

Put the vegetables back in to your original mixing bowl. Drizzle with the vinegar to taste, add in your crumbled feta, and your super fancy basil chiffonade. Toss, and transfer to a pretty serving dish if you are so inclined. Or, leave it where it is and save on dishes to wash.

*** To Chiffonade your basil: (First, say it with me....."SHIFF-oh-nahd"'s French, and fun to say. Drop it into conversation at a cocktail party sometime!)

Wash and dry five or six large basil leaves. Stack them on your cutting board, and roll up tightly. Using a sharp knife, cut the basil roll into thin slices, which will fall into beautiful ribbons when you toss them with your fingers. Whoopee! You just learned a fancy French technique!


I used 5 patties. First, heat up a skillet over a medium flame. Add a bit of oil to coat your pan. Add in the patties and cover loosely (this helps speed up the cooking process as well as saves you from all that yucky splattering). Set your timer for five minutes, during which time you must promise not to scoot them around or disturb them in any manner. Let them do their thing in peace for goodness sakes. After five minutes, gently turn over your patties and repeat the saute process for an additional 5-7 minutes for medium. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

1/2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. orzo (a rice shaped pasta)
1/2 c. basmati rice
2 1/2 c. chicken broth (if you don't have broth on hand, just use water and a chicken or veggie bouillion cube instead)
salt and pepper to taste
a sprinkle of Parmesan (optional; if you have it on hand and want to be fancy. I am cheap, but I always love a little bit of fancy!)

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and olive oil. When the foaming subsides, add in your orzo and rice and stir to coat well -- stir it for a minute or so, or until it gets just the slightest bit toasty. Now add your broth (or water/bouillion mixture) and bring this to a boil. Cover tightly and lower heat to medium low. Cook for 15 minutes WITHOUT PEEKING! Peeking at your rice while it's doing its thing is a definite no-no.

After 15 minutes, check on your rice. Give it a taste, if it's still soupy and/or on the crunchy side, give it a few more minutes. Remove it from heat, adjust your seasonings to taste, and sprinkle with your optional Parmesan.


Cut your bread into however many slices you wish. Put a little bit of olive oil in a small dish, and brush your bread with the oil on both sides. Slide them under your broiler until they are a lovely golden, toasty color. Remove and slice into triangles.

Dinner's done! Plate it up and let's EAT!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

July in January.....or, Dessert on the Cheap!

Lawd have mercy, I wish I had the occasion to serve these to company tonight. It would go down in history as by far the least expensive dessert I would have ever served to anyone!

This week strawberries (yes, strawberries) are on special at 2 quarts for $5.00. Unbelieveable, especially since we're smack in the middle of the winter doldrums in Wisconsin. But, because I don't like to argue or quibble, I snapped up 2 quarts and brought them home, where I challenged myself to come up with a dessert using the super cheap strawberries and ingredients from the pantry only. Well, the fridge too.

Here's what I ended up with:
Crepes with Strawberry Sauce
Crepes Recipe Source: The Joy of Cooking
Strawberry Sauce Source: I have no earthly idea; I've been making it for years!
Serves: 6

1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. lukewarm water
2 large eggs
2 T. butter, melted
1 1/2 T. sugar
pinch salt

Combine the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour the batter in to a Pyrex container (or some other container with an easy-to-pour lip). Cover and let stand for 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 2 days.

Place a nonstick pan over medium heat. Coat the pan with a little bit of butter. Stir the batter and pour about 2 tablespoons into the pan, lifting and tilting the pan so that the batter is evenly distributed, forming a nice, thin layer. Cook until the top is set and the underside is golden. Turn the crepe over (trust me, your fingers will work better than any fancy gadget here) and cook until the second side is browned. Remove the crepe to a piece of wax paper. Continue to cook the rest of the crepes in the same manner, buttering the pan before each new crepe. Stack the finished crepes between sheets of wax paper. Use immediately or let cool. Wrap airtight, and freeze up to one month.

3 c. strawberries (I used one whole pint)
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1 T. cornstarch
dash salt
1 t. butter

Clean and stem all of your strawberries. Remove one cup of berries and slice them evenly. Set aside. Place the remaining berries in a smallish saucepan and crush them -- I use my pastry blender here with a pretty good result. Add the sugar to the berries. Dissolve the cornstarch and salt with the water in a small bowl, add to the berries in the saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When mixture comes to a boil, continue to boil and stir for a full minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and the sliced berries. Serve with the crepes or on top of ice cream sundaes.

I think the approximate cost of this dessert is around .50 per person -- I added an additional .10 per person for the pantry ingredients I had to use. Now, if you choose to purchase whipped cream, that 's a horse of a different color. You'll have to adjust accordingly for whipping cream!

Because I'm nice, I'm not going to eat all of these myself; instead, I'll serve them to my kiddos tomorrow morning. I plan on filling them (the crepes, not my kids) with a little bit of vanilla yogurt, top them with the strawberry sauce, and change my name to International House of Overachieving Moms. Ha!

Holiday bills rolling in? ....or, What to do with $1.59 ground turkey!

MONEY is flying outta' our house faster than you can say 'paper or plastic'!

December, as always, was a pricey month in our household (and I'm sure at your house too). On top of the very merry holiday spending spree, our furnace went out, our water heater crashed, and the water softener went on the blink.......ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.....and now it's time to pay the piper.

How happy was I to find that GROUND TURKEY is on sale this week to the tune of $1.59 a pound!? Just so happens, one of our family's favorite meals is ASIAN TURKEY LETTUCE WRAPS, made with the super cheap, yet very tasty, ground turkey.
Which to you want first: the good news, or the not so good news? Let's get the not so good news over with first: none of the other ingredients for this dish are on sale this week. But, on the bright side (and I'm a bright side kinda shopper) if you can make a really fun and delicious dinner outta $3.25 worth of ground turkey, you can use the money you saved to pay full price for the rest of the ingredients. It won't be expensive. I promise!

I love to serve these wraps with a side of steamed jasmine or basmati rice. Don't be intimidated by the seemingly long list of ingredients, and feel free to leave out anything you don't care for, you really can't mess this up -- it's not rocket surgery! HA!
Adapted from
Serves: 6

1 T. vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, grated
1 very big handful fresh bean sprouts
2 lbs. ground turkey
3/4 c. (or more to taste) Asian peanut sauce
1 T. hoisin sauce
1 T. soy
fresh mint, minced
fresh cilantro, minced

1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
18 large butter lettuce leaves

Chopped peanuts and canned crunchy rice noodles
Sriracha HOT Chili Sauce if you like a little extra kick

Heat oil in a very large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and carrot and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add in the ground turkey and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until fully cooked. Drain off any grease that has accumulated in the pan.

Add in the bean sprouts, all of your sauces, and the fresh herbs; stir to combine well. Taste turkey mixture and correct seasonings if necessary.

Line edges of a large serving platter with the lettuce leaves. Mound turkey mixture in the center of the platter. Have diners assemble their own wraps, and top with the diced cucumber and the optional garnishes.
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