Category Archives: The Frugal Musician cooks…

Food Prices Rise 29% in 2010

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I wasn’t really surprised when NBC Nightly News reported food prices climbed 29% in 2010 and were expected to rise through 2011. As a weekly marketer, I’ve seen the climb first hand. I’ve stopped purchasing some items simply because it seems ridiculous to pay such a ghastly price for things like olives and certain cheeses. 

With the news report still fresh on my mind, I was more grateful than ever for my habit of perimeter shopping.  Perimeter shopping refers to shopping the perimeter of stores where the freshest items are displayed. Produce, deli, bakery, fresh fish and meats, cheese, yogurt and dairy items like eggs and sour cream are on the perimeter of a market. Not only are these foods the freshest in the store, but they’re healthier than items on store shelves. And they’re also perishable and are quickly marked down.

During today’s shopping trip I purchased fresh pizza dough in the deli for 59 cents and a container of fresh gorgonzola cheese for $1.99. Both items were originally marked $6.00 and are still in date until next week. I bought dented cans of tomatoes and corn from a discount cartfor 45 cents and found a box of premium cereal with a dent on the side for a buck seventy and I had a dollar coupon!

 I also purchased veal tenderloins for 64 cents and fresh pork strips for a buck.

Recently I discussed marked down meat with the butcher at one of my stores. He explained the lights in stores cause meat to discolor and that discourages most people from purchasing it.  Marked down items from the meat department are available early mornings at the small market I shop. Oddly, produce is rarely marked down and when it is  …well…rotten!

I’m grateful in this era of rising food prices to be a smart and mindful shopper.  Dollars simply don’t stretch as far as they once did and as the economy continues to be uncooperative to so many, savvy food shopping becomes an enviable skill! The perimeter of a market is a gold mine of fresh finds and healthful choices.

The Frugal Musician Hams it Up

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Christmas Day, Boyfriend and I went to his mom’s house for a traditional holiday dinner. Boyfriend’s mom is an excellent country cook and Christmas at her house always involves a scrumptious meal with lots of leftovers.

The leftover conversation goes something like this:

Boyfriend’s  Mom- “Please take this home (she points to a giant spread of food) We will not eat it!

Tammy- “OF course yall will eat it. It is a massive amount of food. It will last for days….”

Boyfriend’s Mom (threateningly) “I’m THROWING IT OUT!”

Tammy (calculating the amount of waste in her head) “OH NO. OK. We’ll take it!”

This year’s haul included a half a turkey breast, sweet potatoes, potato salad, cauliflower salad, deviled eggs, gravy, a broccoli casserole and a WHOLE SPIRAL HAM. Yes, a whole spiral ham. Boyfriend’s mom was not keen on the smokey flavoring of the spiral ham and wrapped it up for us to bring home.

Over the past week we’ve had ham sandwiches and ham omlets. I froze slices and chuncks for future use. By the time New Year’s Day rolled around all I had left was the hambone or hamhock, as some call it.

Basically, I had a bone with meat on it. I gleaned the rest of the trimmings from the hambone and froze them in containers that said HAM SEASONING. Ham seasoning is wonderful for greens or beans. Then I made condensed Split Pea and Ham Soup.

Basically, I put the hambone in a pot with five cups of water, and brought it to a boil. I cleaned and rinsed a pound of dried green split peas (we call this “lookin the beans” here in the south- beans are poured into the hand, shuffled around and checked for pebbles, stones and dirt , then put into a bowl to be rinsed with water), poured the water off and added those to the pot as well. I lowered the temp to simmering and allowed the soup to cook about an hour or until the shape of the peas is still discernable. If you cook this too long the peas turn to nothing and your soup is mushy.

I purposely made a condensed version of this soup so I could freeze it in small containers and rehydrate with extra water for future use. If you’re serving a pot of Split Pea and Ham soup to a crowd immediately, use eight cups of water and add extra water as needed.

The soup was wonderful and the best part is I have three containers in the freezer for the remainder of this cold, cold Richmond winter.

What’s your favorite use for holiday leftovers? I’d love to hear about your recipes!

The Frugal Musician picks a grand supper

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I thinned my turnips yesterday and was delighted to discover succulent tiny fruits underneath the ground. I have great hope my turnips will indeed survive my insecticide-less garden. I did have to spray hot sauce and water on the turnip leaves about a week ago to discourage some little bug that was having a holey field day.

I brought my thinnings in and gave them a good dunk in some soapy water and toss them into an iron skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil to cook. I snipped the tiny turnips into the mix as well.  I gave them a nice dose of water occasionally and a nice splatter of apple cider vinegar at the end of cooking. Because the greens were young, I only cooked for 15 minutes.

Cornbread. I love it. I cannot make it. My mama makes the BEST cornbread in the world. It is a FLAT cake, crisp on the outside and perfect on the inside. She kept telling me she makes it with just water and cornmeal, a fact I have always had trouble believing. Mama wasn’t available to chat me through the cornbread process, so I went online and found recipes for Hot Water Cornbread.

The following recipe makes a small skillet of cornbread. Keep the corncake as thin as possible. If this is over a half-inch thick, the middle will not cook in the skillet.

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, 2 tbsp flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, enough boiling water to make the mixture like thick soup. Mix everything together and pour into a small iron skillet coated in hot oil. I used a tsp of oil and wiped it around the skillet and this was just enough. When you’re cooking this think PANCAKE and you’ll know when to turn and cook the other side. I let my cornbread cook on med low heat for about 15 minutes. You really have to watch it.

My meal was scrumptious. I LOVE eating from my backyard. How about you?

The Frugal Musician’s Kitchen Stadium Series: Fabulous Fruit Cobbler

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My favorite go to dessert when the snow is flying is fruit cobbler.

I usually have cake in the freezer and a can of frosting on hand but I’m out of frosting and Miss Betsy Jeep is still stuck in the drive.

This is the best cobbler and so simple

One cup of self rising flour (If you don’t have self rising, use one cup flour , 2 tsp of baking powder and a half tsp of salt)

One cup of sugar ( I only use half a cup and that is plenty sweet)

One cup of milk

One can of fruit or a two cup equivalent

Put one half stick of margarine into a glass baking pan. I use an 8x 1o corning ware dish. Turn oven to 350 degrees to melt butter and also heat the oven. Mix flour, sugar and milk together. When margarine is melted in dish, pour in cobbler mix. Top with canned peaches (with syrup) canned strawberries (I get these from the dollar store) blueberries, blackberries or apples.  Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350. Serve with icecream, or snowcream or cool whip.

The Frugal Musician’s Kitchen Stadium: Iron Chef Series

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Welcome to my real life snow globe.

Last week, I was able to visit the store ONCE and that was a task because I had to get out of the drive first. Monumental endeavor and when I finally did make it to the store, the shelves were nearly bare because we had a snowstorm LAST weekend and delivery trucks weren’t able to make it through.

The sparsity of the shelves aligned perfectly with the poverty of my pocket as I only had $20 to buy groceries for a week. I exited the store with a whole chicken, several cans of veggies, cheese, eggs, milk, sugar,bread and flour. I also purchased veal at nearly nothing along with Oscar Meyer hotdogs that were drastically reduced. All in all, I did ok and was happy to have gotten groceries for the coming week. I didn’t have to worry about food over the weekend.

Boyfriend was supposed to work all weekend. The place he runs sound also has one of the best restaurants in the city, so I only prepare breakfast and lunch on days he works. He was scheduled for a four day work week which all turned to mush when the snow started piling up. He’s out of work til next week.

This morning, I felt like my humble little cookery was Kitchen Stadium minus the sumptuous choices of meat, cheese, and all manner of extra ingrediants. I realized the neccessity of some seriously frugal thinking where food was concerned. I’d need to make use of whatever I had in the cupboard and freezer to make our food last for the next few days.

Last night I took pasta from the freezer and made a sauce of tomato soup, basil, oregano and cream cheese and milk. I’d bought two nice veal chops for $1.79 and cooked those up and served the whole dinner with cheese toast. It was excellent and I had enough left for lunch today.

But how do I make Superbowl snacks? What can I do about the rest of our meals? We will not starve, of course, but to stretch everything I will need to think like an Iron Chef.

Watch out Emeril.Beware Cat Cora. Get out of the way Guy! The Frugal Musician is in Kitchen Stadium and ready for some creative cooking!

Superbowl Sunday in the slushy south

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I love how these nandina berries stand out in the snow! They look like natural Christmas lights.

Today is Superbowl Sunday. We have no real vested interest in the game since our beloved Steelers are out of the competition.

Normally, I make superbowl snacks, but given our current economic state and environmental predicament (snowed in), I’ll have to get very creative this year. I didn’t buy our usual array of goodies, but think I can come up with something pleasing and snack like by using what I have on hand.

Our Superbowl Snack menu will be

Bite size bean burritos (I snagged a package of frozen pintos from the freezer and we have sour cream and cheese) I’m going to put these together and then slice into rounds.

Pigs in a blanket of snow ….er ah…wait a minute! I’ll make biscuit dough and roll out and fill with hotdogs and cheese and cook in the oven

Homemade potato chips and sour cream and spinach dip (I slice potatoes very thinly and fry quickly in hot oil-much healthier than a sack of processed chips)

And for a sweet treat, I have a few slices of vanilla and chocolate cake in the freezer that I’ll serve with cool whip and frozen blackberries.

Will your Superbowl snacking be frugal ? I’d love to know what you’re cooking!

The Frugal Musicians Sad Muffin Story

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I posted a couple of recipes for muffins and strudel, both using self-rising flour.

I even explained how to make self-rising flour if you didn’t have any on hand.

And I used regular flour when I made muffins last night. I was excited because I added a mixture of pumpkin pie spice and sugar to the regular mix. So I forgot to add the baking powder and salt into the regular flour to make my muffins puff.

**Sigh** What to do with the flat little muffins? How could they be saved? I simply couldn’t throw them away….

So I sliced them and made cookies. I baked the slices at 400 degress for 15 minutes and they were OUTSTANDING.

Do you ever make a baking error? Are you brave enough to try and fix it? I’d love to hear your stories!