Category Archives: lunch

Debi’s Evolving Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Personally, I find a lunch consisting of a warm grilled cheese sandwich and a hot bowl of tomato soup to be one of the all-time great comfort foods that exists.  Brings back warm, fuzzy memories of both my mom and my grandma. Continue reading

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Mix-and-Match Skillet Meals


by Deborah Taylor-Hough


The following recipe is one I prepare regularly to use up leftovers or clear out the cupboards. I keep a copy of this taped to the inside of my pantry door at all times.

This recipe is adapted from my book, Mix-n-Match Recipes (now out-of-print). I’m always amazed at the meals I can create from these simple, basic formulas. I also save money by choosing ingredients I have on hand. Sometimes I even surprise myself with a delicious nearly-gourmet combination or two!

Also an excellent way to use up leftover turkey or ham from your holiday dinners.  🙂 Continue reading

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It’s National Frozen Foods Month! Come celebrate with me!

To celebrate National Frozen Foods Month, I’m going to be posting at least one freezer-related article, link, resource, or tip everyday throughout March on my Facebook Fan Page. Just “like” the page while you’re there so you’ll get the latest daily updates.

Click here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Simple-Mom/203857025823

Be sure to tell your freezer-cooking, convenience-loving, and money-saving friends!

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Top Ten Tips to Building a Better Burger

Summer’s almost here and if you’re anything like me, you’ve already made that annual trip to the store to refill the propane tank on your backyard grill.

One thing I often hear from guests is that my barbequed burgers actually taste good … rather than just being hard and dry as hockey pucks like so many of those traditional family reunion barbequed hamburgers we’ve all endured from time to time.

In honor of the hallowed summertime tradition of outdoor cooking, here are some of my favorite tips for finding your way to Hamburger Heaven in your own backyard.

1.) Don’t build your burger from low fat meat.  Get a package of ground beef with an 80/20 or even a 70/30 ratio of meat to fat.  The fat keeps it moist and flavorful and drains off during the cooking process so the calorie count ultimately isn’t much higher than the lower fat varieties … but the flavor is so much better.  Be aware, though, that the higher the fat content in your meat, the more the patty will shrink while cooking.  So plan accordingly.

2.) For additional flavor, try mixing ground beef with other ground meats like pork, sausage or lamb.  A good ratio is two parts beef to one part other meat.  Also, if you use ground turkey to save money, keep in mind that turkey is probably one of the least stable burger materials you can find, so mix it 50/50 with ground beef to keep those burgers in one piece on the grill.

3.) When forming burgers, mix the ingredients together gently, handle your burger patties as little as possible, and don’t fully compress the meat … remember, you’re not making meatloaf or meatballs.  If you form the raw beef into patties with wet hands, the grease won’t stick to your skin nearly as much.

4.) If you like adding extra things to your ground beef before making patties, make sure to keep the pieces small.  Large chunks of onion or garlic make the patty unstable and more apt to fall apart while cooking.  Be sure to finely chop or grate all added veggies.

5.) Some particularly tasty additions to the burger mix are: freshly ground pepper, minced garlic, finely chopped onion, Worcestershire sauce, grated carrot, crushed vinegar & salt potato chips, or soy sauce.  I’ve discovered that burger purists tend to insist on top-of-the-line ground beef (Sirloin) with nothing added but salt and pepper (after grilling).  Honestly, I love a good, pure burger … but sometimes it’s fun to add the extras for variety. Also, if you add steak sauce or applesauce to your burger patties, try mixing in some dry bread crumbs, quick-cooking oats, or beaten eggs to help stabilize the burgers.

6.) Cook over a medium flame rather than a high one.  You want to cook the patties just slow enough to cook all the way through.  You don’t want them charred on the outside and a raw mess on the inside.

7.) Don’t press down on the cooking burger patties with your spatula or flip the burger using tongs that squeeze the burger.  You’ll just be squeezing out all the delicious juiciness and leaving behind a much dryer and tougher finished product.  Make an indentation with your thumb in the center of each burger before cooking to help keep them flat without squishing them under the spatula.

8.) Never — I repeat, “Never!” — poke your cooking burger patties with a fork or other pointy object.  It’s a guaranteed trip to Hockey Puck Hamburger Land when all those delicious juices pour out through that hole.

9.) The less you move the burgers around on the grill, the better looking the grill marks.  Ideally, you only want to turn the burger once, but be sure to focus on safety and full cooking more than making the prettiest burgers on the block.  You’ll hear mixed messages from burger aficionados about what temperature to cook the burgers and how often to flip them, but I tend to not worry about the perfect grill marks and have found that frequent flipping tends to keep the juices in the burger a bit better.

10.) Let the burgers rest for a minute or two before serving to give a chance for the juices to settle.  Serving too soon may cause the burgers to dry out.  Rather than melting cheese onto the burgers during the grilling process, I like to set the cheese slices on top of the finished burgers while they’re “resting.”  The cheese melts without dripping off the burger onto the grill.  When the cheese is done melting, the burgers are done resting and ready to serve.

Add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
–Deborah Taylor-Hough (free-lance writer and mother of three) is the author of several popular books including Frugal Living For Dummies(R) and Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month. To subscribe to her free email newsletter, Simple Times, send an email to: subscribe-simple-times@hub.thedollarstretcher.com

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Here’s my family’s favorite old-fashioned baked macaroni-and-cheese recipe. It’s so much better than those boxes with dry “cheese” powder from the store, believe me!

 
Baked Macaroni and Cheese (makes 6 servings)
 

  • 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni

  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine

  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

  • dash pepper

  • 2 cups milk

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion

  • 8-ounces American or Cheddar cheese, cubed

 
Cook macaroni in boiling water until just tender; drain. In saucepan, melt butter; blend in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk; cook and stir till thick and bubbly. Add onion and cheese cubes; stir until melted. Mix cheese sauce with macaroni. Turn into 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until heated through. (This is really good with a thinly sliced, lightly salted tomato added to the top of the macaroni before baking.)
 
 If I’m making this ahead of time for freezing, I always freeze before baking. I either pour the noodle/cheese mixture into a freezer bag or place it into the casserole dish and freeze like that. Thaw completely. Bake as usual.

 
 
 

  

 

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“Use-It-Up” Quiche Recipe

Basic “Use-It-Up” Quiche Recipe
(Serves 6)

You can use almost any leftover vegetable or meat in this recipe. If you have eggs, milk, rice and cheese, you can practically clean out your fridge right into your quiche pan. I always add the cheese last when making this quiche. The cheese makes a beautiful mellow-brown crust on the top. I usually add a bit of chopped onion to my quiches for flavor, and broccoli makes an especially nice vegetable quiche.

Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice, cooked (white or brown)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp soy sauce

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb any leftover vegetable, chopped (single vegetable or a mix)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, or light cream
  • 1 cup cheese, grated (your choice: Swiss, Cheddar, Jack, etc.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Dash nutmeg, or ground mace

Crust Directions:

  1. Mix together cooked rice, egg and soy sauce.
  2. Spread evenly to cover well- buttered quiche pan or pie plate.
  3. Bake rice crust at 350 F for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven.

Filling Directions:

  1. Place chopped vegetable in bottom of crust.
  2. Mix together: eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour over broccoli.
  3. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, or until set.
  4. Remove from oven, and let sit ten minutes before slicing, if serving fresh; or wrap pie pan, label and freeze.
  5. Quiche can be served cold after thawing for a yummy hot weather treat; or heat the thawed quiche at 350 F for 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

~Debi

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Tortilla Roll-Ups

“Tortilla Roll-Ups”

Just spread cream cheese and a couple slices of inexpensive sandwich meat onto a flour tortilla, roll up, and enjoy! I also add sprouts, olives, or lettuce if we have those around.

A friend of mine slices the Roll-Ups into Pinwheels for variety — the Tortilla Pinwheels make a nice snack item for parties, too.

~Debi

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Super Simple Fruit Salad

Fill a salad bowl with large cubes of fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, melons, etc.), and then pour a carton of VANILLA-flavored yogurt (NOT plain yogurt) over the fruit for a sauce.

This is so simple, but very tasty.

It’s my old stand-by recipe to prepare whenever we go to a potluck … and people always ask for the recipe!  They seem to think there’s some magic ingredient hiding in it.  🙂

Enjoy!

~Debi

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