Wednesday, December 29, 2010


    Making lasagna from scratch is definitely time consuming.  But one lasagna recipe makes three large meals for me and James.  That makes it worth the time and effort.   I assemble mine in three tall bread pans.  This time I used one glass pan and two aluminum pans.  


1 pkg Italian sweet sausage     4.38              
1 lb lean ground beef                 3.75
2 jars of pasta sauce                  1.80
1/2 onion                                      .15
2 medium carrots                       .20
1 celery stalk                               .10
1 C baby spinach                         .50
30 oz low fat ricotta cheese      2.26
2 eggs                                             .30
1/4 C skim milk                            .15
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 ground black pepper
1 box lasagna noodles                 1.58
8 oz sliced provolone                   2.36
8 oz part skim mozzarella            4.08


Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil over med-high heat.  Meanwhile cook the sausage and ground beef together in a large pot over medium heat.   As the meat browns you can chop the onions and celery.  Peel and grate the carrots.  Roughly chop the baby spinach leaves.
Once the meat is browned, remove the meat from the pot and drain.  Put the veggies into the pot to saute for about 5 minutes or just starting to get tender.  Check your water, if it's boiling then put the dry noodles into the water for 10 min.  Once the veggies are starting to soften then add back the drained meat and both jars of pasta sauce.  Once warmed through then turn off the heat and set aside.  If your sauce tastes sour, then add a Tbsp or two of sugar.  Then you get a nice sweet red sauce. 
In a mixing bowl combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, milk, pepper, oregano and nutmeg.  Stir well and set aside.
Once the noodles are ready drain them in a colander and run cold water over the pasta to cool it down.  Place three bread pans side by side on the counter.  Form an assembly line.  Pour a little bit of meat sauce into the bottom of the pans to prevent noodles from sticking.  Layer two noodles in each pan, cutting the extra with a kitchen scissors when necessary.  Next spread out two heaping spoonfuls of the ricotta cheese mixture.  Top with two large scoops of meat sauce.  Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.  Repeat the noodles, ricotta, meat sauce and mozzarella two more times.  Top with sliced provolone tearing to cover.
Cover with foil.  Label and freeze the two that will be for future dinners.  One will go into the oven tonight.  If you are making the lasagna right before dinner then bake at 375 degrees for 45 min.  If baking a frozen lasagna, please thaw the fridge for two days.  Then bake from the fridge at 375 degrees for 60-75 minutes. 

It take a little time to prepare a lasagna from scratch, but it is so worth it.  You can add mushrooms or canned tomatoes to the pasta sauce for extra vegetables.  If you're substituting chopped frozen spinach for the baby spinach then thaw and drain the spinach first and add it to the ricotta instead of the meat sauce.  It works well with this recipe.  I just happened to have fresh spinach in the fridge, so I used that instead.

I made three lasagnas for $7.20 each. 

Christie aka Keeza

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ham and Potato Chowder

    If you are wondering what to do with all that left over Christmas ham, I have a great idea for you.  This soup recipe came from my mother in law and it is so tasty. 


6 C water
3 large Yukon gold potatoes              1.26
1 tsp chicken base or bullion               .25
1/2 onion                                            .20
1 carrot                                              .10
1 celery stalk                                      .10
1 C frozen corn                                   .05
2 large slices of cooked ham              2.15
4 Tbsp margarine                                .20
1/4 C flour                                      
1 C skim milk                                      .25
1 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese   2.04
salt, pepper and all purpose seasoning to taste


In a large sauce pan pour in 6 C water and stir in the tsp of chicken base.  Slice or chop the potatoes.  I like to leave the skins on, but you can peel them off if you'd like.  Here I used the new mandolin my mom bought me for my birthday.  Thanks Mom!  I sliced the potatoes about 1/4 inch thin and then sliced them again in half. 
Chop the onion, celery and peel and slice the carrots.  Add these with the potatoes to the pot of water and heat over medium heat for 20-30 minutes.

 Meanwhile cut the edges off the ham and dice up the centers.  If you don't have any leftover cooked ham, then ask for two large slices of deli ham at your local grocery store.

 When the potatoes get soft and break apart when you poke them with a fork you can add the corn and diced ham.   In a separate small sauce pan melt the margarine over medium-low heat.  Add the flour and slowly whisk in the cup of milk.  Once it's all stirred together well slowly stir in the shredded cheddar to make a thick cheese sauce. 

Now stir this cheese sauce into the soup pan with the potato and ham soup.  Once it is thoroughly combined then turn off the heat.  Add salt, pepper and all purpose seasoning to taste.   
If you'd like some great toppings you can add green onions, chives or parsley.  Yum!  If you'd like a lower calorie version, skip the cheese sauce and just serve the soup as a broth based soup.  Broccoli and roasted red peppers would also be great in this soup. 

I made three dinners from this pot of soup for $2.20.  It will warm you up on a cold day! 


Christie aka Keeza

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Spicy Orange Beef

    I love Chinese food and stir fry!  It's a whole meal in one bowl.  Starch, vegetables and a protein all balanced together.  This recipe is a great one for those who like sweet and spicy together.   Feel free to increase or decrease the red pepper flakes to make this dish kid friendly or super spicy! 


2lbs sizzler steak                          7.60
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp steak seasoning                     .10
1/2 onion sliced                             .20
18 oz jar orange marmalade         1.93
1 tsp ground ginger                         .10
1 tsp garlic powder                         .05
1 tsp red pepper flakes                   .05
1 C beef broth                                .25
1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce          .10
1 Tbsp corn starch
2 lbs frozen stir fry vegetables         3.66


Slice the steak into thin strips across the grain.  This will make a cheaper cut of meat very tender.  Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large pan on the stove over med-high heat.  Add the strips of steak and steak seasoning.  Cook until no longer pink and remove steak from the pan.  Cool on paper towels over a plate to drain any excess fat or oil from the beef.  Drain the pan and add the sliced onion.  Saute for 3 min or until slightly tender. 

Add the marmalade and red pepper flakes.  Cook for 5 min so the orange rind in the marmalade becomes soft.  This will cook out the bitterness in the rind.   Add the garlic powder, ground ginger, soy sauce, corn starch and beef broth.  Too keep the corn starch from becoming lumps, mix it with a few Tbsp of cold cold water in a separate bowl before adding it to the dish.  Once the mixture becomes thick and bubbly, stir in the beef strips and the two bags of veggies.

Stir to combine and heat through.  Divide into three 2 qt dishes.  One will be for dinner tonight and two will go into the freezer.

I ran out of my nice storage containers so I had to use some reused yogurt containers that I keep on hand.  These work out well if you want to drop some soup off at a friends house.  Then they wont have to wash out and bring back your container. 

When ready to eat, warm the spicy orange beef on the stove until heated through.  Serve over steamed rice.  Yum!  This meal is also great if you are a chicken lover!  Just skip the steak seasoning all together and substitute chicken for the steak and chicken broth for the beef broth.  I made 3 meals at $4.68 each.  That's a great way to stretch a couple of steaks!

I hope you enjoy this one!
Christie aka Keeza

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ultimate Nachos

      This is a recipe I designed especially for my husband.  Whenever I made tacos he would skip the tortilla and go strait for the chips.  I was wondering how I could make his addiction to nachos a little healthier so I made up the Ultimate Nachos.  Basically it's all your favorite taco flavors mixed with black beans and a ton of veggies.  James doesn't even like black beans, but they are so good for you I mix them in and he eats them up.   You could use this recipe as a filling for your tacos, or layer it with corn tortillas in a 8x8 pan and bake it to make Mexican Lasagna.  If you're having a group over to watch football you could put this meal in a crock pot on low and let your guests make their own nacho bowls. 


2lbs ground beef                                    7.50
2 cans black beans                                1.32
     (rinsed and drained)
30 oz diced tomatoes with green chilies  2.04
2 Small or 1 Large green pepper            1.20
2 stalks celery                                          .22
1 medium onion                                       .30
1 large carrot                                           .20
1 bunch cilantro                                       .74
1 1/2 C frozen corn                                  .25
2 envelopes taco seasoning                     1.00


sour cream                             1.00
shredded cheese                     4.08
Jalapenos                               2.78
Tortilla chips                           3.48


In a large pan brown and drain the ground beef--set aside.  Chop the onion, celery and green pepper.  Peel and grate the carrot.  Add about 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pan and add the onion, celery, green pepper, carrot and corn.  Cook for about 5-7 min until crisp tender.

 Add in the cooked ground beef, drained beans and drained diced tomatoes.   Stir in the two envelopes of taco seasoning.  Stir gently and heat through.  Because the veggies give off water you wont need to add any extra water with the seasoning mix.  Once mixed turn off heat and stir in a handful of chopped cilantro.

Colorful huh?  Now split into three containers.  One is for dinner and two are to freeze.  When ready to eat, heat up a container on the stove until warm.  Serve a scoop of the meat mixture in a bowl and top with sour cream, jalapenos and cheddar cheese.  Eat with tortilla chips or over rice. 

When freezing the left over cheese make sure to grate all the cheese and split into three sandwich baggies.  If you freeze the whole block of cheese it will be very crumbly when you thaw it.  If you pre-shred or buy shredded cheese it will freeze and thaw much better. 

I made three meals for $8.70 each including chips and toppings. 


Christie aka Keeza

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

    This is one of my favorite soups.  It started as a weight watcher soup, but I have adapted it to suit my taste.  It is very low calorie and is full of veggies.   As long as you go easy on the toppings it is a healthy dinner option with a lot of flavor. 


1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts           5.48
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes with chilies               1.88
1 10 oz can mild red enchilada sauce                    1.14
1 medium onion-chopped                                       .40
1 bell pepper--chopped                                         .88
4 oz can diced green chillies or jalapenos                .78
1 summer squash or zucchini peeled and shredded  .39
3 carrots--peeled ans shredded                              .30
14 oz fat free chicken broth                                   1.78
1 C corn                                                                .25
1 bunch cilantro                                                     .74
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf

Toppings: sour cream   .98, pickled jalapenos 1.00, and tostitos scoops 3.48


In a large crock pot combine raw chicken breasts, diced tomatoes, diced chilies, onion, green pepper, carrot, squash/zucchini, broth, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper and bay leaf.  (all ingredients except corn and cilantro)

Cook on low for 4-6 hours.  When chicken breasts are fully cooked, pull them out and cut them up into bite sized pieces on the cutting board and return the chicken to the soup.  Add corn.
 Just before serving add lots of chopped cilantro.  We like about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro.  Now comes the toppings.  We like pickled jalapenos, sour cream and tortilla chips.  The original recipe calls for tortillas that you brush lightly with oil, cut into strips and bake until crispy.  This sounds like way too much work, so we buy a big bag of scoops tostitos and use a handful of them to help us enjoy our soup. 

This soup would also be great with celery, black beans, hominy, okra, or a little Parmesan on top.  Feel free to use any great veggies that you find in the fridge.  I was able to make 4 dinners at $3.51 each!  The toppings were $1.37 each. 

Christie aka Keeza

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

Well, it's cold and snowy today and I'm out of money.  I blew all my personal money on clothes the day after Thanksgiving.  So here I am at the house after two very stressful days at work and I'd love to make some comfort food.  I looked around my cupboards and freezer and I have all the things I need to make Chicken Noodle Soup.  So here goes!  The prices may be a little off because these are left over things and I don't have the receipts handy.


2 Large bone in chicken breasts         4.00
1 large onion                                       .30
4 celery ribs                                        .40
3 large carrots or 1 C baby carrots      .40
12 C homemade chicken broth           free!
1 bay leaf                                            .10
2/3 bag of wide egg noodles                .75
3 tsp chicken base                               .30
    (or 3 chicken bullion cubes if you prefer)
salt, pepper and all purpose seasoning to taste


Fill a large pot with the uncooked chicken breasts and water.  Roughly chop 1/2 the onion, two celery ribs and 1/2 your carrots and add to the pot.  Add bay leaf.  Cook the chicken slowly over low heat for 30 min.  If your chicken is frozen (like mine was) then it will take 1 hour 15 min to poach. 

While the chicken is cooking, slice the remaining onion, celery and carrot into bite size pieces.  The first set of veggies will be thrown away, this set will go in the final soup.  Once the chicken has cooked through, remove the breasts and let them cool on the cutting board.   Strain the cooking liquid to remove the veggies and chicken bone but reserve the fluid for your soup.  This is your homemade chicken broth!  Woo hoo. Return the broth to the pan and add enough water to make 12 cups.  Stir in the 3 tsp of chicken base or bullion to add extra flavor.  Add the raw sliced onion, carrot and celery to the broth. 

In a separate pot heat water for the pasta.  When it reaches a boil add the egg noodles and cook for 5 min.  then strain and add to chicken broth.   Once chicken has cooled then remove from the bone and chop or shred the meat into bite size pieces.  Add to the broth and vegetables.  Taste your soup and add salt, pepper and all purpose seasoning to your liking.  If it's a little bland add another teaspoon or two of chicken base.

I was able to make 4 dinners for $1.57 a meal.  This is a great dinner on a cold night with a hot roll fresh from the oven.  It's also a great meal to have in your freezer for those days when you don't feel well.   Make sure you bring one to a friend when they catch a cold! 

This is what we'll be having for dinner. I hope you give it a try.  If you are very brave you can make your own noodles.  I have not been very successful at this...I am much better with yeast breads.   But if you are adapt at noodle making let me know your tips and tricks.

Christie aka Keeza