This is a great dish when you’re not certain how many are coming to dinner in advance, because it’s super easy to stretch both of the recipe’s protein sources without anyone being the wiser!
I know, this may sound a bit dodgy at first, but if you look at it another way, you’ll still be getting more protein (and fiber!) than you would by feeding your family Hamburger Helper, which loses a lot of meat bulk when it’s browned/drained.
(And there’s no disgusting fluorescent-orange-colored powdered cheese packet involved in MY recipe! Take that, stupid-white-glove-with-no-middle-finger! Ha!)
Begin by chopping about six green onions, one whole Vidalia onion and half of a green bell pepper into fine pieces. Next, dice about a cup of fresh tomatoes (I halved some leftover cherry tomatoes), or drain a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes.
Grease a large, deep skillet with about 2 tablespoons butter/margarine and set over MEDIUM HIGH burner heat. While skillet is warming, prepare your meat. You will need one long smoked sausage (about 7 ounces) and half a pound of thawed, cooked cocktail shrimp.
(If using raw shrimp instead, make sure heads/shells/tails are removed and add shrimp a few minutes earlier than described below.)
The original recipe serves about four, but you can double the other ingredients to stretch the protein by cutting the sausage into thinner pieces and slicing the shrimp in half lengthwise. (The shrimp will only look flat on one side until they start cooking–then the other side will “plump” a bit and no one but the cook will know your dirty little sercret!–Thanks to Dawn Welch over at the Rock Cafe/Dollars-2-Donuts for that great cookbook tip!)
♥ Chef’s Note: If you are feeding a herd, you can use the whole 14-oz package of sausage and a pound-bag of shrimp, tripling or quadrupling the other ingredients. You can also add a can of beans to the skillet without compromising any authenticity. Otherwise, freeze those “assets” for another whole meal!
Toss onions, green pepper, tomatoes and sausage in the buttered skillet. Sprinkle with garlic powder to taste. Add three boullion cubes (any flavor), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 tablespoon hot sauce (either Tobasco or Louisiana-style).
The brown sugar will help to marry the flavors of the Tobasco with the turmeric (see next stage). Avoid salting until sausage has had time to brown, as the boullion cubes will release a substantial amount of sodium as they cook down.
When sausage is slightly browned, reduce heat to MEDIUM and add 1 cup dry white rice to the skillet. Stir fry dry rice in the mixture until grains begin to darken, moving often with spoon to prevent sticking. If desired, you can add saffron or turmeric to taste. I used a scant teaspoon of ground turmeric (the much cheaper option).
♥ Chef’s Note:
If you like to cook with saffron and are looking for ways to reduce the cost of the pricey threads (anywhere from $12-19 a bottle at a regular grocery store!), either try stretching a saffron rice pouch (usually around 50 cents) or consider going halfsies on a bottle with a neighbor or coworker.
Clean baby food jars make excellent spice storage for splitting/sharing expensive spices because baby food is not spiced, and metal jar lids will not have soaked up other strong odors before storing your spices. Also, they are ubiquitously available and a perfect size.
Once rice is coated, add 2-1/2 cups water to the mixture and stir well. Cover immediately. Simmer about 25 minutes, stirring often, until rice is mostly tender and excess liquid is absorbed. I like to err on the side of “saucy”; you can reduce water a little if you want a drier skillet. If necessary, add additional water or margarine to rice during cook time to tenderize the rice. When rice is almost done, add the cooked shrimp. Stir until shrimp is uniformly heated; remove from burner.
Garnish with tarragon or fresh parsley if desired. Sweet iced tea makes a lovely companion.
So…in honor of the Saints winning their first Super Bowl, I’m proud to present a festive Louisana-style post today!
Normally, I don’t like any food labeled “Cajun” or “Creole” or in any other way associated with New Orleans–the spices don’t seem to blend well together (at least not in my mouth), and as far as I’m concerned, “blackened” is just another way of saying, “Wow, I really burned the hell out of this.”
(And pleeeease don’t get me started on crayfish. As my mother used to say, ‘Who do you think was the first person in history to look down at a crawdad climbing out of his mudhole castle and say, ‘You know, I think I’d like to put that in my mouth…?’” Good grief.)
However, I realized this weekend that despite having run a “cheap recipes” blog for six months now, I’ve never tried my hand at making Red Beans & Rice, the Supreme Mighty Potentate of nutrition on the cheaps.
So, I gave it the old college try–picking and choosing from Cajun spices I thought I could handle rather than buying one of those icky pre-mixed shaker blends. I also threw in some cheap sausage (I went couponing last weekend and scored some Johnsonville Andouille Brats at an unbelieveable $1 per pound!) and added some homemade canned tomatoes to round out the flavors a little bit.
The result? Surprisingly, it was actually good! Toss me some Mardi Gras beads and save me a slice of King Cake–I’m cooking it up New Orleans-style in the old kitchen tonight!
Begin by rinsing 1/2 cup dry small red beans and placing them in the bottom of a medium-to-large saucepan. Cover them with 4 cups water and bring to rapid boil.
Sprinkle the following spices over your beans: 1 to 2 tablespoons minced onions, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Add cayenne or black pepper to taste.
Once boiling, reduce heat to medium setting and place lid slightly ajar over pan to prevent any boiling over but prevent liquid from all steaming away. Simmer mostly covered for about 90 minutes.
After an hour-and-a-half, remove lid from spiced beans and add 3 cans chicken or vegetable broth. Stir in 1 cup uncooked white rice and replace lid slightly ajar.
While water/broth mixture returns to simmer, chop 1/2 pound (about 3 regular brats) smoked sausage and add to stovetop mixture. Drain a 15-ounce can of tomatoes and add to pot.
Add 1/4 cup (or 1/2 stick) butter or margarine to boiling rice mixture and replace lid, stirring often to prevent sticking and checking rice periodically for doneness.
Allow rice to cook 30-45 minutes, or until soft. It’s okay if there’s a little liquid left that hasn’t soaked into the rice and beans; because of the added butter, the liquid will thicken a little when you remove the pot from heat and serve as a rich broth.
Serve garnished with fresh parsley or chives.
These big beauties are the product of leftover cornbread stuffing from chicken night and a little ingenuity. And, MAN, are they tasty (and filling)!!
Every time we have chicken for dinner, we wind up with enough leftover meat for a whole second recipe later in the week, so I scrape the carcass clean and freeze the meat. However, we wind up with only enough stuffing left from the box mix to sit in our fridge looking dried-out until someone finally gives up and chucks it in the garbage.
These fancy little mushrooms give new life to that “not-enough-left-to-do-anything-with” stuffing. But don’t be fooled by the memories of stuffed mushrooms you might’ve encountered in the past on finger-food tables–these bad boys are a satisfying little meal in themselves! (And you’re probably going to want a fork and knife!)
Begin with a large (24-ounce) package of jumbo white mushrooms. (Other varieties and sizes work, too–I just like these ones and they go on sale pretty often at my local grocery store.)
Wash the mushrooms well (remember, they grow in poop!) and pat them dry. With a sharp knife, remove the stems from the caps, hollowing out as much of the cap as possible without accidentally ripping the mushroom in half–which
is easy to do when the mushrooms are raw and spongey. It’s okay if you bust a couple of them–just throw the broken caps back in the fridge to dress up a spinach salad later in the week!
You can save the stems if you’re feeling frugal, cut off the hard tips and chop them to use in the filling, but I don’t. They make good compost and the time it takes to prepare them is sometimes more valuable to me than the savings on a few usable molecules of mushroom stem I might’ve scrounged…but it’s a matter of personal choice. 🙂
In a large skillet, heat about 3 tablespoons of oil (any kind) over medium burner heat.
Add the mushroom caps, hollow-side-down and move them around with a wooden spoon until they begin to turn golden underneath. Flip the
caps onto their tops and continue to cook until entire mushrooms look partially sauteed. Remove from heat one-by-one and place on a paper towel to soak up excess oil.
While mushroom caps are cooling (there should be little to no oil left in the skillet by now), chop a celery rib or a couple of green onions into very fine pieces. Actually, pretty much any small piece(s) of vegetable will do for this recipe–you want some texture in your filling, and there may be a little pinch of something in
your crisper that’s about to go bad anyway. It doesn’t take much for this stuffing, and may prevent a little bit of waste in your kitchen. 🙂
Add 1/2 lb. bulk pork sausage to skillet and use your wooden spoon to break up meat into very small tidbits. You can also substitute texturized vegetable protein (TVP) for the meat, or use leftovers like breakfast sausage, ground beef, crumbled bacon, etc. instead of the bulk pork sausage.
Allow the sausage to cook about 2/3 of the way done before adding your leftover poultry stuffing. We usually have about 1-1/2 cups of leftover prepared stuffing mix (think Stovetop) after a chicken dinner. This is PLENTY for filling out the sausage mixture!
(Be sure to drain meat first if there is a surplus of grease, but a little grease is good for absorbing into the stuffing, which may have dried out a little in your fridge since the original meal it was cooked for!)
Incorporate the stuffing into the sausage in the skillet, sprinkle with garlic powder, and allow sausage to continue cooking until no longer pink anywhere. Remove skillet mixture from heat and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, spray a glass 9″x13″ baking dish with nonstick cooking oil and place mushroom caps upside-down in baking dish. Don’t crowd them
too much, since you’re topping them with cheese. You want each mushroom to be able to be removed by itself without dragging cheese off of the others around it.
Spoon stuffing mixture into mounds inside the hollow caps. Once all caps are filled, sprinkle about 1 cup mozzarella cheese over the mushrooms.
Bake uncovered at 375 for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until cheese is uniformly melted. Serve immediately or refrigerate leftovers.
Be sure to separate each mushroom from its “neighbors” cleanly before refrigerating–it will be much harder to do that after they’ve camped out in the fridge or been reheated!
This yummy stew gets a lovely flavor and texture from the delicious root vegetables that simmer in broth all day while your slow-cooker does the work for you.
I wanted to invent a lentil stew, rather than a soup, full of hearty good things to eat that wouldn’t leave us wanting for a second course.
Rather than succumb to the good old standbys of ground beef or stew meat that fade into obscurity, I decided to think outside of the box and experiment with some smoked turkey sausage in my Crock Pot. The result was both tasty and economical, satisfying both of my requirements for recipes on this blog!
Begin by chopping about 3 or 4 cups of root vegetables of any variety. I used carrots, parsnips and potatoes, but you can also use sweet potatoes, turnips or anything else that
strikes your fancy or is cheap and in season in your local produce department. Be sure to include at least one onion in the mix, and play around with different sized pieces to add interest to your meal.
Throw the vegetables into your slow cooker and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon seasoning salt.
Next, slice up a package (11- to 14-ounces) of regular or turkey smoked sausage and add the meat to the slow cooker. Dump a 1-lb. bag of dry lentils into the mixture and add 2 cans of chicken broth (about
3-1/2 cups) and 4 to 5 cups water, or enough to fill your slow cooker.
Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the top of the stew and stir well. Cover with lid and heat on LOW setting for 8 hours, or HIGH setting for 4-5 hours.
Cheap brown-and-serve rolls or corn muffins make fast and yummy companions to this meal. Leftovers refrigerate well for quick lunches! (Be sure to add extra liquid to leftovers if necessary.)
For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.
This is a great vehicle for cooking with Gouda cheese, which I’ve seen seasonally at ALDI for as little as 99 cents. It’s not always available there, but when it is (like around SuperBowl time, for instance), this is a great dish to try out. The smoky flavor of Gouda cheese lends itself nicely to the smoked sausage flavor.
I’ve had this old Pillsbury recipe for over ten years but I’ve tweaked ingredient amounts on it many times to compensate for differences in sizes of available ingredients. There’s nothing I hate more than using only “most” of something I’ve bought specifically for a recipe.
So, my updated version of this classic should be easy to shop for and eliminate wasted ingredient portions. And it’s just downright tasty, too.
always use 10 or 12 slices of American cheese in its place to keep things on the cheaps.)
In a large pasta pot, bring water to a boil and add half the contents of a 12- or 16-ounce bag of penne (or other variety) pasta. Use an oversized pot because you’ll be adding stuff to the cooked pasta in the same pot. When pasta is a minute or two away from being done, add 1 (16-oz.) bag of frozen California veggie blend (broccoli, carrots & cauliflower) to boiling water. Drain once pasta is tender and veggies are hot.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Once butter is melted, add 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (optional). Heat for a minute or so, or until smooth and bubbly.
Slowly incorporate 2 cups milk into butter mixture, stirring
often. Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Once mixture returns to a slow simmer, remove from heat. Gradually stir in all of the diced cheese and set aside.
Chop 1 (14-oz.) package of smoked sausage (two long links) into bite-sized rounds. Toss sausage pieces into drained pasta/veggie blend.
Pour cheese mixture over pasta and stir until evenly coated. Transfer mixture to a greased or sprayed 9″ x 12″ glass casserole pan.
Spray nonstick coating on inside of sheet of aluminum foil and cover casserole tightly.
Bake approximately 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.