Stuffed Mushrooms with Wine . $2.35

A fantastic budget item for the buffet, these Stuffed Mushrooms are a bit different from some. A moderate amount of Sherry or Marsala adds a lot of flavor, but they’re dry roasted in the oven. The mushroom flavor intensifies, and these are every bit as good with a plain old button as they are with any of the fancier mushrooms – even better as they’re a bit more tender.

Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms
Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms

At a dinner party a few years ago, I set these out for the adults along with a few “kid friendly” appetizers while I finished up dinner in the kitchen. The kids positively inhaled these and asked for more! When I later commented what good eaters the children were, the parents confessed the kids all thought they were meatballs! The lights were a bit low.

Think about bringing a tray of these to the next party you’re invited to – just call ahead to make sure it works out ok for the hostess if you bake them off there. So much better (and so much more inexpensive) than bringing chips and dips!

While I sometimes add a bit of cheese to the top, Parmesan, Romano or perhaps Fontina, I most often serve them just as is. I do look for mushrooms relatively even in size, although I’ve found that the packaged ones always vary. Then I just make do.

The Marsala always seems to be quite a bit more intense in flavor than the Sherry, and if you’re worried these might be too “winey” (they are) either broth or water could be used for part of the wine.

Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms, 24 mushrooms

  • 24 mushrooms, 1 1/2″ in diameter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 cup dry sherry or Marsala
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/4 cup soft bread crumbs
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated hard cheese, optional. Fontina, Romano or Parmesan, optional

Remove stems from mushroom, finely chop and set aside. With a spoon or melon baller, carefully clean out the insides of the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms in a bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, drizzle with olive oil, making sure they are well coated.

Melt the butter in a small skillet, add the chopped mushroom stems, onion and thyme, cooking until tender and brown. Remove from heat and add sherry or Marsala, then return to heat and simmer until the liquid evaporates. Turn off heat and add parsley and garlic. Lightly mix in bread crumbs, season to taste with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the seasoning is going to flavor the mushrooms as well. Mixture should not be wet, but bread crumbs should look moist. Drizzle with a touch more wine if needed.

Spoon a scant teaspoon tablespoon of the stuffing into each mushroom, place on a rimmed baking sheet. May be made several hours ahead and refrigerated, covered.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle very lightly with a touch of olive oil, if desired. Top with a little cheese if desired. Bake until tender, about 25 minutes.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area isPocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

  • Mushrooms: They are often on sale at my grocery for about 1/2 price, especially around holidays. I pick them up when they run 89 to 99 cents a package. I’ve seen them at Aldi for about the same price. Turns out, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods, the simple button mushroom has as many good qualities as it’s more expensive siblings! Go underdog! Cost $2.00.
  • Onions: They keep well, so try to buy on sale. Aldi is a good place to find reasonably priced onions. Always less expensive in the fall/winter months, the pricing in my area runs from 33 to 66 cents a pound. Store them in a dark, cool place but not near potatoes. If you’ve bought too many onions, don’t let them go bad. Cost 5 cents.
  • Bread crumbs: I’ve brought bread crumbs once, when a friend asked me if I’d pick up a can of Progresso Crumbs on my way to a dinner at their house. I was horrified how expensive they were. I always make my own from the left over bread and toss them in the freezer for when I need them (see my post on bread crumbs.) Since they are made from a normally discarded ingredient, I don’t count any cost.
  • Wine: Neither Marsala or Sherry, has to be expensive – look for great sales, pay a modest price and keep it on hand for recipes. Avoid the “cooking” wines from the grocery. Cost about 30 cents.

 

Southwestern Lime Chicken with Black Beans, Rice & Tortillas . $5.08

There have been times I’ve thought of myself as the Queen of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Inexpensive and quick, they aren’t much as is. Doctor them up and it’s a whole ‘nuther story – they’ll take you all over the world. Today, as reigning Queen, I’m going to take you deep into the Colorado Rocky Mountains. And I’m gonna declare you make these Southwestern Lime Chicken Breasts.

Southwestern Lime Chicken
Southwestern Lime Chicken

I know what you’re thinking – Southwestern? Wasn’t that all over in the 90’s? And you’d be right – but as I always say, if it was good then, well, it’s good, now. My original inspiration was from Golden Annie’s in Frisco, Colorado, a recipe published in Bon Appetit, circa June ’98. Frisco was near my old stomping grounds, so of course, I had to make this, and of course I had to tinker.

Frisco, Colorado, photo from the Random Fishbowl
Frisco, Colorado, photo from the Random Fishbowl

As is, the dish was long a family favorite, but I wanted more zesty lime, no soy or herbs to muddy the flavor and a touch of crisp, clean heat. A dash of Worcestershire sauce, a Cook’s Illustrated trick, deepens the flavor without being discernible. I often doctor, too, with a little cilantro, touch of cumin, oregano and/or a dash of tequila. We all know about Queen’s whims, right?

Golden Annie’s served their Southwestern Lime Chicken topped with Jack cheese, accompanied by an Ancho Chili Sauce. When I serve it as an entrée, I ditch the cheese and use my Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce – it’s easy and the flavor sets off the lime in the chicken so well. Just like Golden Annie’s, though, black beans (doctor a can of them with garlic & cumin, to taste), rice and tortillas complete meal. (My apologies – the photo above shows them with a pepper & onion medley.)

If you’d like to go a bit lighter, this makes the most marvelous Chicken Fajitas. Just grill up an assortment of bell peppers and a few onions and serve with the tortillas.

You will want to make extra Southwestern Lime Chicken – for one, it’s a great item to stash in the freezer and it’s no more difficult to make one batch than several. If you only cook up only enough for dinner, you’ll miss out on all the left over possibilities for this chicken.

  • A crispy salad of lettuce, bell pepper, avocado and a Creamy Lime Vinaigrette, all topped with a some of this Southwestern Lime Chicken? Marvelous! Perhaps a few tortilla strips for a little crunch to take it over the top.
  • Perhaps you’d like to pull out that pepper jack cheese after all, and serve the left over chicken, just warmed through so the pepper jack is a little melty, on a flatbread, slathered with either the Sweet Cayenne Mustard or the Creamy Lime Vinaigrette, maybe a little bacon…perhaps lettuce, tomato and avocado?

You’ll look like a genius, any way you go with this dish, and I guarantee your family will fall on it like wild wolves.

Southwestern Lime Chicken - in a Sandwich with Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce
Southwestern Lime Chicken – in a Sandwich with Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce

Southwestern Lime Chicken Breasts, serves 4

  • zest and juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (brown or white)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic, mashed with 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder or cayenne*
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut in 1/2 horizontally*
  • 8 slices Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
  • Sweet Cayenne Mustard Sauce

Combine first seven ingredients in Ziploc or medium bowl and mix together. Add chicken, massaging or turning to coat. Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes. (May be marinated overnight, and it is flavorful, but the heat will dissipate with the longer time period.)

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Remove chicken breasts from marinade, letting excess drip off. Grill chicken until just cooked through, turning occasionally, about three to five minutes, depending on thickness of breasts.

If using cheese, when nearly done, place 1 cheese slice atop each chicken breast half; cover barbecue and cook until cheese melts, one to two minutes. Transfer chicken breasts (two to a person) to plates. Serve with Ancho Chili Sauce.

*notes:

  • A regular chili powder is mixed with a number of ingredients which tend to add a “muddy” flavor to the chicken – stick with a pure powder like a Chipotle or Cayenne.
  • The breasts don’t have to be cut, but it speeds up cooking time and maximizes the flavor.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area isPocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my Strategies – You’ll see them all explained on the upper left tab of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

I mentioned canned beans as a quick side for this chicken, but note that cooking up dried beans and freezing portions is a quick way to have them dirt cheap.

  • Chicken:  I never buy full price chicken – it goes on sale too often. Some sales are better than others, but usually every few weeks it will drop to $1.69 a pound, and I stock up then. I prefer bone in breasts over boneless (see Bone-In Chicken Breasts, How to Deal with in a Frugal Manner) but I’ll buy either bone in or boneless at this price. I portion the chicken in Ziploc bags, a breast per person for meals and freeze. If breasts are super large, I’ll trim them down to about six ounces and make tenders for the kids or use the bits for stir fry. $2.11.
  • Lime: In season in the winter months, here – limes are often on sale through out the year 4 to 5 for a dollar. The rind holds as much or more flavor than the juice, so I often grate it off before using and store in a Ziploc in my freezer – the little bit dries up but still holds more flavor than the store-bought. If I’m in a pinch and don’t have lime, I’ll use it instead. Microwave your lime for a bit if it’s hard and/or roll it on the counter before you juice it and it will break down easier. Cost 25 cents. Cut lengthwise, then slice the other half for serving.
  • Olive Oil: I have a little strategy for buying olive oil – using coupons and sales to lower the price, so click on the link. I also look for new brands and stock up – heavy competition means that when a new brand comes to the store, it is often at a fantastic price for a few weeks, then settles in at around the same price as the others. I think it’s important to use olive oil as opposed to many others – the health benefits outweigh a bit more extra cost, and it can be had at a very reasonable price. I also like the fact that Olive oil contains no hidden trans fats like Canola or Vegetable oil. Cost for this recipe: 8 cents.
  • Garlic:  I look for a price of about $2.99 a pound, or about 54 cents a head. Check the pricing of the bulk per pound as opposed to the packaged. I never really find it on sale, but I use so much, I pay attention and buy a bit more when I see the price is lower.  Cost for 3 cloves, around 5 cents.
  • Other ingredients: Minimal
  • Tortillas:  Always look for great deals around Cinco de Mayo – I picked up a package of 36 for $1.19, divided in to portions and froze the remainder, well wrapped in plastic and foil. They’ll keep for a month or two with no discernible difference, but after that, they’ll lose quality.  I always look for the local brands. If I can’t find a rock bottom deal like above, look for packages of 12 – 18 for a buck. Cost for this recipe, 12 tortillas, $1.09.
  • Rice: I used a recipe for Arroz Blanco Mexican Rice, cost about 30 cents.
  • Black Beans: I simply doctored a can with a little cumin and some garlic powder – just like I do when I make my Chipotle Chicken Burritos. With a coupon on sale, the cost was about 70 cents.
  • Sweet Cayenne Dipping Sauce: A new favorite, I like this Sweet Cayenne Dipping Sauce so much better than the Ancho Dipping Sauce in the original recipe from Golden Annies. Cost about 50 cents.
Make extra for your freezer - a no brainer meal stashed away for a busy night.
Make extra for your freezer – a no brainer meal stashed away for a busy night.

Put Your own Spin on It:

  • This marinade works well on a number of other items: turkey, pork, shrimp or salmon. If using on shrimp or salmon, a much shorter time period would be appropriate.
  • Although not very spicy, spiciness is easily altered. Cumin, oregano or cilantro may be added.
  • A shot of tequila is great in this or a splash of beer adds interesting notes.

You Could Have This or You Could Have That!

Buffalo Wild Wings Chicken Sandwich from Yelp...it looks like a Gourmet experience compared to what I was served.
Buffalo Wild Wings Chicken Sandwich from Yelp…it looks like a Gourmet experience compared to what I was served.

This photo, above, from Buffalo Wild Wings looks like a Gourmet experience compared to my venture there a couple of weeks ago…and cost nearly 10 bucks! More with tax, tip and a beverage. I should have had beer – I might have liked the sandwich better!

 

Creamy Lime Vinaigrette

I tend to be more of a sharp, mixed Vinaigrette person, but not everyone is – when company was coming over for my Southwestern Lime Chicken, I remembered last minute they were “creamy dressing” people. Thank goodness for the internet, right?

Creamy Lime Vinaigrette
Creamy Lime Vinaigrette

A last ditch search led me to a number of dressings – and I decided a lime one from Epicurious would be just the thing. It was super creamy – but all that creaminess dulled the flavors. A quick “amping” up of the ingredients saved the day. Admittedly, I was just a bit doubtful when I first tasted it…into the fridge it went.

When I pulled it out a little while later, it was like magic. Perfect. A bit kicky but not overwhelming, it was fantastic on the salad. Even better, the next day I slathered it over a little left over Southwestern Lime Chicken in a sandwich…it was like lime on lime. Sweet Potato Fries dipped in it? Especially if they’re spicy ones? Fantastic.

The best thing about this dressing, though? While it whips up super thick & creamy in the blender, if it is simply shaken together in a jar it still makes a lovely dressing. Feel free to adjust garlic, mustard and lime to your taste. I often omit the mayo, which gives a vinaigrette that still has creaminess when blended, but is not nearly as thick.

 Creamy Lime Dressing, makes about 3/4 cup

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 2 tablespoons (about 1/2 lime) fresh lime juice, or to taste
  • Lime zest to taste
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water, if desired

In a blender or small food processor blend the garlic paste, the mustard, the lime juice, the mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste until the mixture is smooth. With the motor running add the oil in a stream. Blend the mixture until it emulsified. Add enough of the water to thin the vinaigrette to the desired consistency, and blend the vinaigrette until it is combined well.

Fabulously Frugal Cooking & Shopping

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