Spicy Pasta Elbows

Spicy Pasta Elbows

Dinner at our home doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be frugal and use up leftover ingredients. Here was a dinner that I prepared that used up the last bit of Progresso soup that we had in our refrigerator. I was pleasantly surprised at the tasty result of this latest improvisation. Click on the link above to find out more.


Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Soup

slowcookercheeseburgersoupIn my house, I try to make food that will satisfy a few criteria:

  • It must be frugal.
  • It must be filling.
  • It must be appetizing.

I would add “healthy” to that list, but that can be an iffy thing at times. When I saw the recipe for Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Soup, I thought I’d give it a try. It seemed to fit my family’s tastes but also required ingredients that we generally had on hand. I did, however, make a few adjustments to make it a bit more frugal and make up for those ingredients that we didn’t have in our pantry.

Here are the changes that I made:

  • 1/2 pound of breakfast sausage instead of the ground beef
  • Omitted potatoes
  • Added 1/2 box of small shell pasta
  • Added remainder of bag of frozen broccoli and cauliflower
  • Powdered beef base with water instead of canned chicken broth

This produced a rich soup that didn’t require spices added at the end. Too, it was readily eaten by even my husband’s daughter, who is an extremely picky eater. Unlike many soups that are not so good the next day, this soup actually retained its appeal, and so everyone enjoyed the leftovers with no complaints.

The changes that I made followed some rules of frugal cooking:

  • Use a small amount of expensive ingredients, such as the breakfast sausage.
  • Fill out the meal by using less expensive ingredients, such as the pasta.
  • Use up what you have on hand, making adjustments in a recipe if necessary.

All in all, this was a great soup, with just some changes to make it more frugal. Once you learn the basics of improvising in your cooking, it’s relatively easy. And with cool weather coming our way, who doesn’t like a nice, hot soup for dinner?


Family Revolts Against Leftovers

familyrevoltsagainstleftoversMy husband revolted today against the continued tyranny of the chicken and dumpling leftovers. In a small family, leftovers are always a potential problem and source of dissatisfaction. Even halving a recipe can result in leftovers that last too long, leaving family members dreaming of a hamburger. Yes, folks, my husband wanted a hamburger, and I was prepared to give it to him. Lacking bread or buns, I was ready to make some quick homemade hamburger buns, but we were out of eggs, with neither of us wanting to venture out during rush hour for one ingredient. Enter improvised cooking to save the dinner hour!

During my last trip to the grocery store, I picked up some Progresso Recipe Starters on a whim.  Although they are a bit more expensive than store brand soup or a homemade mix, I had an inkling that they might come in useful during the coming week. As my husband’s daughter hates any spices, I purchased the Creamy Three Cheese variety, along with a few others. Staring at the can, I thought of a few possibilities for meals, but I eventually decided to improvise based on a recipe on the can label. I cut the recipe in half and substituted small shells for the penne, marbled colby for the cheddar cheese, summer sausage for the bacon bits, and the remains of the French bread loaf for the bread crumbs. Doing this allowed us to have dinner and give new life to certain ingredients–particularly the French bread–that were possibly on their last legs.

parmesanmonkeybreadAs an added bonus and incentive not to revolt against me, I quickly made up some Parmesan monkey bread. Luckily, I had purchased too many cans of biscuits for the chicken and dumplings recipe, and so I was able to use those tonight. While I broke up the biscuits into pieces and coated them with Parmesan, I melted a stick of butter in the bottom of a Bundt pan. The biscuits pieces were then put in the pan on top of the melted butter. The bread cooked at the same time and temperature as the casserole: 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

When  a meal plan doesn’t quite work out, improvised cooking can preserve the peace in your house, just like it did in ours. Everyone ate up the dinner, with no complaints from anyone. It’s always nice to have a happy ending, even without a hamburger.