Feeding a family for less

Published 1:58 am Wednesday, July 30, 2008

By Staff
If you're still looking for ways to stretch your food dollars, I'm doing my best to come up with some ideas to help out.
Summer is still in full swing so heating up the kitchen for a meal is still not something we want to think about.
Last week I shared some recipes for slow-cooker meals that are time savers and budget stretchers. I've included another slow-cooker recipe this week with an idea that may not have crossed your mind in recent weeks.
If you like barbecue, this first recipe will be a good one to try. By cooking your own meat, you can save a lot of money and stretch your dollars. You could also divide the meat into portions and freeze what you won't use in a day or two.
Southern Pulled Pork
1 (2 pound) pork tenderloin
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle root beer
1 (18 ounce) bottle your favorite barbecue sauce
8 hamburger buns, split and lightly toasted
Place the pork tenderloin in a slow cooker; pour the root beer over the meat. Cover and cook on low until well cooked and the pork shreds easily, 6 to 7 hours. Note: the actual length of time may vary according to individual slow cooker. Drain well. Stir in barbecue sauce. Serve over hamburger buns.
Another good way to stretch your dollar is to incorporate more vegetables into the meal. More expensive cuts of meat don't have to be eliminated from your grocery list, just use them more sparingly and efficiently.
One of my favorite meals is one of stir-fried meat with plenty of vegetables. I have been known to take what would normally have been enough meat or poultry for one or two people and stretch it into a meal for four of five people.
The one-dish meal is chock full of vegetables in my version and is ready in a flash. The thing that takes the longest with this meal is getting the fresh vegetables prepped for the wok.
If you don't have a wok, a large, high-sided skillet will work just as well. Until I got my electric wok, I used a chicken-fryer skillet for the purpose. For those of you who don't know what I mean by a chicken-fryer skillet, it is a large skillet with sides that are two inches or more deep. This will work nicely for stir fry dishes without a wok.
I have said many times that a recipe is just a guide for your family. In just about any case, you can eliminate seasonings or ingredients that your family doesn't like and include ones they do. Use your own judgment.
Basic Stir-Fry
2 heads broccoli
2 bunches green onions
1 cup matchstick carrots
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 can bamboo shoots
2 boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tbsp. cornstarch
soy sauce
Chinese noodles
Prepare all ingredients prior to heating skillet or wok. Clean broccoli by separating florets into bite size pieces. Chop green onions into 1-inch pieces. Cut chicken (or other meat) into 1-inch pieces. Dissolve bouillon in 2 cups hot water. In wok or large skillet, heat oil to 375 degrees. Add chicken (or other meat) and stir constantly until done. Chicken will turn white and be slightly spongy when done. This will take about four minutes depending on thickness of the meat. Remove chicken from skillet. Add vegetables to skill and begin tossing to cook. Cover skillet and allow vegetables to steam up to four minutes, stirring occasionally. Near end of cooking time, return chicken to skillet with vegetables and pour in bouillon and cover. Allow to cook and steam for an additional three or four minutes. While this is cooking, stir in 1 tbsp. cornstarch into 1/2 cup water. Uncover skillet and move vegetables and meat away from center forming a well in the middle of the skillet. Juices will run to the center in a wok, but may stay to the sides in a skillet. Gradually add cornstarch mixture until liquids in skillet turn to a gravy consistency. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for up to five minutes. Serve over Chinese noodles with a drizzle of soy sauce.
This recipe will feed four to six people and will only use the amount of meat necessary for two people. You'll be surprised at how far those vegetables will go to fill a hungry stomach and satisfy an exhausted grocery bill.
Finally, here's a recipe that is a cool and wonderful way to end any meal. It may not be a budget recipe, especially since it calls for five packages of cream cheese, but if you save some money on your main meal, you can make this decadent dessert without breaking the bank.
If you like cheesecake this is a winner. If you like peanut butter, then you are really in for a treat.
Peanut Butter Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups salted pretzel crumbs
1/3 cup butter, melted
5 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cream peanut butter
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. sour cream
3 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
Process whole pretzels in a food processor until crushed. Combine with melted butter and firmly press on bottom and up sides of a 10-inch spring form pan. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes and set aside. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixture until fluffy; gradually add 1 1/2 cups sugar, beating well. Add 1/2 cup peanut butter, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, turn oven off and partially open oven door. Leave cheesecake in oven for 30 minutes. Combine sour cream, 3 tbsp. peanut butter and 1/2 cup sugar stirring until sugar dissolves. Spread sour cream mixture over warm cheesecake. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill for 8 hours.
I hope that you get a chance to try some of these recipes and give your family a change they will appreciate.
Next week, I plan to share some recipes that will make any chicken a favorite at your home. If you have any recipes or budget ideas that you would like to share, please let me know. You can email anything to me at lisa.tindell@brewtonstandard.com or give me a call at 867-4876. I'd love to hear your ideas and recipes.
Until next week, happy cooking!

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