Thursday, January 29, 2009

About Cooking and It's Frugal Friday Already

I got so wrapped up in the giveaway carnival and swapping that it was a good thing I had a menu plan for this week. It really does help to have a plan when you wake up in the morning instead of putting that off to the last minute when everyone is starving.

Tonight was chicken Parmesan and it was a really quick and easy meal to put together. While I was making it I was thinking of some frugal and time saving tips too.

First, how to do the chicken Parmesan: otherwise known as a recipe but I am recipe free so we'll just wing it ; )

Defrost 6-8 chicken breast tenderloins. Mix 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup bread crumbs together and season heavily with your favorite house seasoning. I use Tone's Garlic Pepper Blend from Sam's. Season the chicken with a little salt and pepper too. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and brown lightly in a medium hot skillet in a little olive oil. Remember: turn down the heat if it is smoking and browning too quickly. Remove the chicken to a baking dish and place a spoonful of your favorite bottled spaghetti sauce over each portion. I used Bertolli's Olive Oil and Garlic. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the sauce and bake in a hot, 400 degree, oven for 10 minutes. Serve with pasta, bread and salad. This takes about 15 minutes to prepare and we beat Rachel Ray by 15 minutes, so how good are we?

Now a couple of frugal tips.

Salad dressing: salad dressing is expensive if you buy the bottled kind. You can tell that this is a hugely profitable market because the grocery stores have entire aisles dedicated to display the great variety of salad dressings. I quit buying it years ago because I can't stand the chemical taste in most of them, and if you read the ingredients... well you just wouldn't really want to go there.

You can make your own salad dressings very easily and it does not have to involve a lot of mixing and emulsifying. I often plate my salads and dress them with a quick drizzle of olive oil, a couple of splashes of red wine or balsamic vinegar. And here is the secret ingredient: sugar. I take a tiny pinch of sugar and sprinkle over the vinegar drizzle and then a fresh grind of pepper and VOILA, salad dressing. If you like you can add a sprinkle of garlic salt or Italian seasoning too. I do make the more traditional emulsified kinds sometimes, but for a quick dinner salad this works and saves lots of time and money.

Bread: Bread can be frozen and used as needed. So if you pick up a loaf of French or Italian bread to use for one meal, and you know that you are not going to use the whole thing for one meal, just freeze the unused portion for another time. You can even slice and butter it before freezing so that it is ready to go when you need it. Wrap tightly in foil and freeze, then take it out and pop it into the oven.

Pasta: Why not cook ahead when you are cooking pasta? Save a little bit of time and electricity by cooking double the amount. The extra portion can be stored in the freezer in a ziplock bag and defrosted in the microwave when you need it. Drizzle with a little olive oil before freezing to keep it from sticking together if you want.

Geez, I am sorry, no pics on this post cause I was just too busy today to remember to take any cooking pics. But scroll down and look at my green bloggy
giveaway bag if you missed it.

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