Tuesday, August 4, 2009

cheap dinner ideas

since moving back in with my parents i have been the chief meal planner/preparer. at first i was making meal plans that were great menus, but after a while i just felt like i was trying to out-do myself and it was a lot of effort just to get dinner done. after reading a post on the nourishing gourmet about keeping weekday meals simple and having a sunday meal be special, i was a changed woman :) one of the comments on the post was that a woman felt like she had to make a 'rachel ray' dinner every night and that it was a lot of pressure, the thought of doing it once a week was very freeing. i totally agree. this post along with the thought of heating up the kitchen in hot weather (and the hot weather making me not want to go full on grocery shopping) has lead me to make some very creative, cheap, delicious and easy meals the past week. drawing on ideas from the happy housewife and menu plan monday, i have been able to organize my meals better and make the most of my time and resources.
most of the ingredients are things i already had on hand and were not purchased specifically for the meal they turned into :) i posted the other day about the sloppy joes, and today i will share a few more recipes with you:

open-faced salmon melts

1 large can of canned alaska salmon (i used bumble bee in the tall can, there were a lot of bones since it is from the center of the fish, but it didn't take long to remove them)
1/2 cup sour cream
1T dijon mustard
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions chopped (green and white parts)
mix it all together and spread over bread, buns or in our case beer bread (recipe for that coming soon!)
i also topped mine with tomato slice, tillamook cheddar cheese and alfalfa sprouts.
cost: about $3 for 4 servings

pantry pasta

i'm going to tell you what i put in my pantry pasta today, but use this as a guideline. the idea and goal here is to use up random leftovers and small remnants of things you have in your fridge or pantry. i throw almost everything in, and it always turns out great. be creative and courageous as you make up your ever changing meal of pantry pasta! :)
remnant leftover pastas (i had about 1/4 box of penne, and 1/2 box of mostaccioli)
left over sloppy joe sauce
1/2 medium green bell pepper (the left over from making sloppy joes the other day)
artichoke hearts
roasted red bell peppers
butternut squash soup (i needed a little more 'sauciness' so i added the soup. it added great flavor and of course more vegetables!)
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste
cook the pasta till al dente,drain. in the same pot as you cooked the pasta in, add the rest of the ingredients. top with your choice of cheeses ( i had a little bit of swiss, mozzarella and cheddar)pour into a 9x13 and cook at 400 for about 20 minutes.

cost: basically free since i didn't plan on this meal, and everything was 'leftovers'! this makes a good 9x13 sized casserole so you can figure on 6-8 helpings. i have also found that this type of casserole freezes well and is great the next day for even more leftovers :)
this was the side dish to my pantry pasta today. TOTALLY FREE! one of my dad's customers gave him some walla walla sweet onions and a coworker of mine gave me the squash. i fried them up in the cast iron skillet with some bacon grease and it was delicious!

fancy chicken cordon bleu

sunday dinner this week!

raise your hand if you have ever tried to make chicken cordon bleu and gave up because you couldn't roll it!!! i love regular chicken cordon bleu, but i do not appreciate the rolling...also, i like to add my own spice to things :) the way i make the dish now is to do it casserole style and layer all of the ingredients. it makes for a much more enjoyable experience and tastes just the same.
4 butterflied and flattened chicken breasts
1 lb sliced ham
10 (or so) slices of swiss cheese
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs ( i use oregano, salt and pepper, garlic, paprika, onion powder and sage as my seasoning)
place two chicken breasts on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. sprinkle 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs over chicken. top with ham (use as much or little as you like) and cheese.
**this is where i added some left over asparagus and sun dried tomatoes. if you want to add a little something special to yours, look for something with a distinct flavor but that is not overpowering. traditional chicken cordon bleu is supposed to be more mild in flavor, but you can do whatever you feel like :)
repeat the layers. bake at 425 for about 30-45 minutes. after removing it from the oven i also drizzled some pesto over the top for added 'oomph'. it worked!
cost: about $10, serves 4-6

'pulled' turkey sandwiches
earlier this month my mom bought a roasted turkey from the deli section of the grocery store (same place you get rotisserie chickens) and we had it in the freezer for a while just waiting for an occasion to use it. with the weather this last week, we took it out so that it could thaw and we would have cooked meat without having to cook (read: heat up the house). i pulled some of the turkey apart and made delicious sandwiches!
shredded turkey
spices: chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic, pepper, cumin
shredded pepper jack cheese
dressing: 1/2 cup sour cream, minced: onion, roasted red pepper, dijon mustard, pepper
mix the spices with the turkey, then heat in your microwave or on the stove. spread the dressing on the bun, top with turkey, avocado and cheese. you can put this under the broiler or heat in the microwave to melt the cheese.
cost: about $6 and served 4
i hope that you are 'inspired' by the recipes i have listed above. not because i think i'm a great inspiring chef but because i rarely follow a recipe although i am always looking for new ones. i use the recipes i see on other blogs, magazines and tv shows as the basis for making my own creations. my suggestion when you are in a rut is to look in your freezer, fridge and pantry to see what you have 'laying around'. be creative and have fun! if it doesn't turn out, then it's not the end of the world.
do you have any creative, cheap dinner ideas? is there anything that gets your creative juices flowing in the kitchen?


Anneliese said...

Pulled turkey sandwiches sound like a great idea!

Anonymous said...

Wow Katie! You are amazing! I love all of your ideas, I really think you need your own TV show. I would watch it!

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