Thursday, October 30, 2008

Make Ahead Recipe for Italian Lasagna

Classic Italian Lasagna is one of those recipes that is a great crowd pleaser. Whether you want a make-ahead recipe that you can feed your family on week nights, or something that you can make ahead for holiday entertaining so that you can enjoy the party too, lasagne is one of those casseroles that you can trust. And, you won't break the bank either. Lasagna can be made to look very elegant, but is a good way to stretch your food dollars.

Italian lasagna can be made with meat, or vegetables or both. Although we love this classic meat lasagna, I also have a spinich lasagne recipe that is delicious. Vegetarian lasagna and other pasta casseroles are a smart way to give your family more veggies.

Here's one of our favorites, and I hope you'll like it too:

Classic Italian Meat Lasagna

1 pound ground beef (feel free to substitute lean ground chicken or turkey)
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove crushed garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 (1 pound) can diced or crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 cups water
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
8 ounce lasagna
1 pound ricotta cheese
8 ounce mozzarella cheese, shredded
or thinly sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In large heavy pan, lightly brown beef ,onion and garlic in olive oil. Add tomatoes , tomato paste, water, parsley, salt, pepper and oregano; simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile cook lasagna noodles as directed on package; drain.

In 13 x 9-inch baking pan, spread about 1 cup sauce. Then alternate layers of lasagna, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, ending with sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes until lightly browned and bubbling.

Allow to stand for 15 minutes; cut in squares to serve.

Makes 8 servings.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Freezer Meals Recipes

I was sick all weekend, so I was glad to have some meals in the freezer. With many recipes, it's easy to make extra to freeze for another day. And, believe me, it is often a big help. If you are a soccer mom, or just a busy person, it helps to have some freezer meals recipes in your repetoire.

You can freeze your left over pasta meat sauce or casseroles with little or no change in flavor or food quality. Pasta casseroles freeze really well. Try this Chicken Noodle Casserole. It's easy and tasty.

Chicken Noodle Casserole

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
6 ounces egg noodles
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 cup crumbled buttery round crackers (or bread crumbs)
1/2 cup butter

Poach chicken in a large pot of simmering water. Cook , about 12 minutes, or until no longer pink in center. Remove chicken from pot and set aside. Bring chicken cooking water to a boil and cook egg noodles in it. Drain. Cut chicken into small pieces, and mix with noodles.

In a separate bowl, mix together mushroom soup, chicken soup, and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Gently stir together cream soup mixture with the chicken mixture. Place in a 2 quart baking dish.

Melt butter in a small saucepan, and remove from heat. Stir in crumbled crackers. Top casserole with the buttery cracker crumbs. (at this point you may freeze the casserole)

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 30 minutes, until heated through and browned on top.

Serves 6

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Recipe - Crockpot Chicken Breasts

Since many of you have been after me to provide more crockpot recipes, especially for chicken, here's one that your family will love that uses low fat skinless, boneless chicken breast meat.

If your family prefers darker meat, or if you want to save money, you may substitute skinless, boneless thighs. I have also used turkey thighs for this recipe with good results, and turkey parts are a great way to get high quality protein for less!

Title: Fiesta Chicken
Category: Crock Pot


2 tablespoons oil
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14 1/2 ounce) Mexican style diced tomatoes with chiles
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Heat oil in skillet. Cook chicken pieces until browned. Remove and drain. Place onion, green bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno pepper in skillet and saute until slightly cooked. Add all ingredients to crockpot and stir to combine. Cover; cook on LOW 8 hours (HIGH 4 hours).
Serve on flour tortillas.

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Recipe for Chicken Jambalaya Crockpot

If you want to save both money and time, get a crock pot. You can make delicious, cost saving meals to feed your busy family even if you are pressed for time. The thing I love about the crock pot is that I can assemble my ingredients in the slow cooker the night before or in the morning before I go to work, and then just forget about it until dinner time. Slow cookers, also known as crockpots, are great time savers

Many recipes for the crockpot will also help you save money. You can make stews, soups, and other meals that will stretch your food dollars. To save money, use more vegetables, rice and pastas and less expensive meats. The slow cooker is a wonderful way to cook the less expensive, tougher cuts of meat since you will braise them slowly, usually with a bit of liquid.

One of our favorite crockpot recipes, is this recipe for Chicken Jambalaya in the Crockpot. It's easy to prepare, and delicious. It is something you could also serve for a party or other special family event. Let me know if you like this recipe reprinted with permission from

Chicken Jambalaya Crockpot


1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast uncooked, cubed
3 cups fat free chicken broth
3/4 cups water
1 -1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
4 oz. reduced fat smoked turkey sausage diced
1/2 cup celery thinly sliced
1/2 cup onion chopped
1/2 cup green pepper chopped
2 tsp Cajun seasoning
2 garlic cloves minced
1/8 tsp hot pepper sauce (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) no-salt diced tomatoes, undrained

In a large nonstick skillet, sauté chicken 2-3 minutes.

Stir together remaining ingredients in slow cooker. Add sautéed chicken. Cover. Cook on high 6 hours.

Find other great crock pot chicken recipes at

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Best Way to Cook Brisket

Beef brisket is one of those money saving cuts of beef that is quite delicious if it is well prepared. The best way to cook brisket is to braise it in a small amount of liquid, cooking it slowly for several hours.

Here is one of my family's favorite beef brisket recipes, it is so easy to prepare in a crock pot or slow cooker, and the results are amazing. It is good for a party or a crowd, too.

Try this one and let me know if you like it:

Barbecue Beef Brisket Sandwiches

Slices of beef brisket steeped in a sweet and savory sauce create a melt-in-your-mouth sandwich

Servings: 8

1 (3 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion (about 1 1/2 cup), coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup dark beer (such as porter or stout)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon paprika
8 Kaiser or other sandwich rolls

Cook the brisket: Season the brisket with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the brisket, brown on all sides and transfer to a crockpot. Add the remaining ingredients to the crockpot and stir well. Cook, covered, on LOW until the meat is very tender - 8 hours.

Remove the meat, place it on a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Reserve the sauce. Carve brisket into thin slices and divide it among rolls topped with reserved sauce. Serve warm.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

8 More Money Saving Ideas

You don't have to break the bank to make a delicious and satisfying meal, and you can even entertain on a budget and still enjoy the food. Here are a few tips to help you save money at the grocery, but still put excellent meals on the table:

  1. Shop where the bargains are. You may need to drive a bit farther, but it will be worth it. Consider grocery stores such as Aldi Supermarket or your local Wal-Mart Superstore. They usually have much better prices than you will find in the big name supermarkets, although at a store such as Aldi you'll find the selection may not be as extensive. Shoppers can save as much as 30% on staples at these stores.
  2. Clip Coupons! You can even find coupons online, and just print off the ones that work for you. Save on Groceries - Download the CouponBar and never miss another offer!
  3. Invest in a crockpot. You can use less costly cuts of meat, and make great tasting meals. You just put everything in the crockpot the night before, or in the morning before you go to work, and then let it cook all day. Click here for a free crockpot cookbook from my friends over at
  4. Use frozen vegetables when possible. They tend to be more cost effective than fresh, but still have the nutrients. I think frozen veggies have better texture and taste than canned vegetables, and they usually have less sodium.
  5. Shop at the big wholesale clubs. If you don't have a big family and you think you can't use such large packages of food or staples, consider shopping with a friend or relative and split the items between the families. I often shop with a friend and neighbor at our local Costco. We buy large packages of paper supplies, household cleaning products, and, meat and other food items. Once we get home, we split it up between us, and trust me we save a bundle.
  6. Now that the holidays are getting closer, and you may want to entertain more, don't hesitate to allow friends and family to pitch in. Potluck meals are fun, and save everyone. Or you can just let someone bring a salad, drinks or dessert, while you round out the rest of the meal.
  7. Casseroles are a great way to stretch the budget either for a large family or for a gathering of friends. Here's a time saving idea - make two, and freeze one for another meal later in the month. Freezer casserole recipes are wonderful time savers.
  8. Cook with more pasta and rice - both will stretch your protein and veggies to the max! And, who doesn't like pasta or rice?

These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you have any good money saving tips, post them here in our comments.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ramen Noodle Salad Recipe

This Ramen noodle salad recipe is perfect to take for you lunch, or for a light dinner. It's simple and easy, and is a great make-ahead meal for those really busy days. It's also a welcome pot-luck dish to take to your next pitch-in event.

You can do many different variations too, using those ingredients and flavors that are your family's favorites, and for larger events don't hesitate to double, triple or even quadruple the recipe. Here's the recipe, and some of our favorite variations (let me know if you like it too!):

Ramen Noodle Salad Recipe

1 medium head cabbage
2 packages chicken flavored Ramen noodles
2 cans white meat chicken
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/2 c. oil
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. seasoning salt
3 tbsp. vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Shred cabbage. Break up Ramen noodles into the shredded cabbage. Add chicken. Toast the almonds and sesame seeds in 325 degree oven until lightly browned. Add to cabbage mixture. Combine oil, sugar, seasoning salt, vinegar, salt and pepper with seasoning packets from Ramen noodles. Mix with cabbage mixture and refrigerate.


  1. Substitute shrimp, crabmeat, canned tuna or canned salmon for the chicken. Use a complimentary flavor of noodles, and leave out the almonds.
  2. For a more Asian flavor, substitute Asian style cabbage, and add a touch of sesame oil for more flavor.

What are your favorites?

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