Archive for Cooking

Easter Appetizers – Deviled Egg Tulips

deviled egg tulips videoWhether for Easter or just for spring, these deviled eggs that look like tulips are sure to be a hit. Everyone loves deviled eggs, and they are particularly inexpensive to make (especially around Easter when eggs are on sale).

In the following video I show my technique for my spring-time deviled eggs. I developed it before there were internet videos. I’m sure I was inspired by a magazine or TV show, but I’m proud to have figured it out myself.

To start, you’ll need to hard-cook and peel your eggs. I recommend steaming. I tried it for the first time using these directions for steamed eggs on Fresh Eggs Daily. I don’t think I’ve ever had eggs peel so easily (especially not fresh ones!). I doubt I’ll ever go back to boiling.

Once you’ve cooked and cooled the eggs, you’ll want to soak them in a mixture of food coloring and water. You don’t need to add other ingredients, the whites will color just fine. You can adjust the amount of food color and the length of time you soak your eggs to get the color you want. (I was out of red food coloring so I used unsweetened Wild Cherry Koolaid mixed with water. Perhaps 1/16 of a tsp to 2 cups of water. The eggs have a hint of the wild cherry, which I’m not fond of, so stick to food coloring if you have it around.)

Once the eggs are colored, the video will take you the rest of the way…

Enjoy! And Happy Easter to you and yours!

My turkey is still frozen? What can I do?

Have you checked your turkey? Is it still frozen? Don’t fret, there is still time to defrost it and brine it at the same time.

frozen turkey? no problemMy 16lb frozen turkey was purchased and popped in the fridge last THURSDAY. According to the ‘experts’ one should allow 1 day per every 4 pounds to defrost in the fridge. I’ve been cooking turkeys for 30+ years and they simply don’t defrost that fast in the fridge.

So, here’s what you do:

Get a big bucket or even an ice chest. Whatever you use, it must be big enough to keep the turkey submerged. Scrub it out so it’s clean enough to eat off, and then scrub a little more. (ok, so I’m a germaphobe)

Now, get about 2 cups of plain old table salt and put it in the bucket. Add 2-4 cups of HOT water to dissolve the salt. Now add other seasonings. I personally add 1 tsp black pepper, 1 T sage and 4 or 5 cloves of fresh, crushed garlic. The hot water at this point will help release the flavor of the spices. Mix it up. Now add a gallon or 2 of COLD water. Mix again.

Take your frozen bird out of the wrapper. If you can get the neck and bag of innerds out do so, it’ll help speed the defrost time. If not, don’t worry about it. You’ll be able to work them out in a few hours.

Put the bird in the brine and add more cold water until the whole thing is covered. It’s gonna try to float, so you’ll have to weight it down. I use a 5 gallon bucket and stack a soup bowl followed by a couple of dinner plates and usually a gallon of water or other heavy item on top.

Now you want to put this somewhere cool. The frozen turkey is actually going to lower the temperature of the water, but we don’t want this sucker warming up. It needs to stay cold to prevent the growth of nasty bacteria. Fortunately it’s only 40° here where I am, so I can pop my covered bucket onto my porch or put it in my garage. If it’s warm where you are and you can’t fit the bucket with the bird in a fridge you’re probably going to have to add ice periodically (after draining some of the brine) to keep the temperature down. If you’re concerned you can periodically test the temperature with a thermometer, it needs to stay below 70 — and that’s a MAXIMUM, I personally shoot for somewhere in the 40s or 50s.

For safety’s sake keep it cold!

Since my bird is still almost frozen solid (even after 5 days!!!) I’m going to be checking it every few hours and my first goal is to get the neck and the bag of innerds out. We need to get more water into the bird to defrost from the inside out as well. When the joints are defrosted I’ll loosen them up from the side of the bird. The more water flowing around it the better.

Did I mention you need to keep it cold?

I’ve been defrosting my turkeys this way for a long time. Defrosting this way takes about an hour per pound. I just put my bird in the brine at 3:30. It’s 16 pounds, so it’ll be perfectly defrosted in time to pop it in the oven tomorrow morning.

Cutting a pineapple the easy way

How to cut a pineapple

I’m a gadget addict, I fully admit it. I rarely buy my gadgets new, though. Hubby and I find them at garage sales. Sometimes they are keepers, sometimes not. The below demo of a pineapple cutter, shows one of my favorites and shows how to cut a pineapple. I needed to make the video to show my friend Roni how to use it, since we got the new one (with 2 different sized cutters) and plan to give her the old one.

Pineapple Cutters on Amazon

Money-saving tips for Thanksgiving

Here are a couple of tips to save money this Thanksgiving.

When you’re chopping celery for your stuffing, save the celery stems and leaves, and use them when making stock with your turkey carcass. They have all the same flavor and are going to be strained out anyway.

Also, when you are peeling onions for your various dishes save the onion skins and use those in your stock as well. The onion skins add color to your stock.

Check out our previous post about poultry seasoning, (,) and our other post about food substitutions (

This last tip would have been more useful several months ago, what I do is save the bread crusts that my husband and boys don’t eat. I put them in a bag in the freezer and use them for the croutons for my stuffing. Thanksgiving morning, I dice them up, and toast them in the oven.

Chicken Math – Is buying a whole chicken a better deal?

I admit it, I’m a sucker for short-cuts. I, even as frugal as I am, frequently buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts… but only on sale, usually under $1.80 lb.

A couple months back one of the local stores had whole fryers on sale for 59¢ a pound (gone are the days of those 39¢ birds, at least in my part of the country).

The chicken I bought was 4.99 lbs., total cost was $2.94

The cavity had been stuffed with extras, which really annoyed me, so I counted and weighed them. This ploy is fairly common and IMO is cheating on behalf of the stores. In my experience, all of the grocery stores in my area sell chickens like this.

There was a full pound of ‘junk’ in the cavity, including the tail, neck, and extra fat.

My chicken must have been some sort of a mutant, it had:

  • 4 hearts
  • 2 livers
  • 2 gizzard sets

That came to 5.5 ounces in organ meats (which is included in the 1 pound referenced above). I figured I should weigh it separately, since it is actually edible (I generally cook it and give it to my dog). The other 10.5 oz was garbage. I suppose the TWO necks could be used in making stock…

The carcass itself, once I cut all the meat off was 12 oz. Carcasses, while not edible themselves are useful for making stock.

All in all, I got 3 pounds of meat from my whole chicken (this is not including the skin, wings, carcass or innards), so my final price for meat was $0.98 per pound, plus I had the carcass for soup and the organ meats for the dog.

Once you’ve cut up a few chickens, it’s not particularly challenging. If you’re not de-boning it it’s even faster. I can probably cut up a whole chicken in 10 minutes or less, and I don’t do it all that often. (I prefer to roast my birds whole and strip the meat off after their cooked.)

So I save 80¢ a pound, for 3 pounds, $2.40 for less than 10 minutes. That doesn’t seem like a very big return on investment, but when you extrapolate it out, it’s over $14 hour.

Use What You Have Cooking

I know that most readers of this blog are couponers. And as couponers, we tend to stockpile food.
The question then becomes:

How do I find recipes that use the ingredients I have on hand?

I’ve have a few different approaches to solving this dilemma.

  1. A list of recipes stuck to the side of my fridge that pretty much call for the ingredients I generally have in my pantry and freezer.
  2. Use It Up Cookbook: Creative Recipes for the Frugal Cook
    by Catherine Kitcho that I got from Amazon a few years ago (an okay book, but not exactly what I was hoping for)
  3. Search recipe sites that let you use the ingredients as search items

I just read about Google’s foray into this… I’ve never seen it before, but I’m not sure if it’s new or not.

In the regular Google screen, search on a few ingredients you have on hand. Google recognizes these as food and a new option shows on the left side: Recipes. Click on it and you’ll see more options to further narrow down the results by selecting other ingredients. You can even choose to show only recipes that match your desired cooking time or calories per serving.

Nifty! Don’t you think?

(I’m in the process of working through 3 freezers worth of food — mostly meat & veggies, which *should* do wonders for my grocery bill in the next month or so.)

Ready Set… Save – recipes that match local sale prices to the ingredients!

Simple and Delicious has changed to ReadySetEat, and I love what I’m seeing!

I clicked on the recipe in the newsletter and saw a nifty little ‘Sale’ tag on one of the ingredients. Clicked on it and… voilà! (we’ll see how that accent transfers to the web…) It showed me where, LOCALLY the item was on sale.

Go to the Dinner Made Smarter page where you can enter your zip code and select your stores.

Oh, and there are coupons on this site two: right now there’s a Hunts Pasta Sauce coupon for 40¢ off one can, and a LaChoy coupon as well.

Homemade Sausage & How to Make It

Homemade Sausage?

Have you ever tried homemade sausage? Making homemade sausage can save you money. The meat used is typically pork shoulder (Boston Butt) and it can be found on sale for less than $1 per pound. The other supplies and ingredients you will need are seasoning and casings (casings are optional if you want loose sausage to make patties or crumbles with). You will also need a meat grinder or a meat grinding attachment for your mixer.

photo of freshly made bratwurstI took advantage of a sale on Boston Butt (pork shoulder) a few weeks ago… it was under $1 a pound, so I figured I’d grab a couple and use one for BBQ pork and the other for Bratwurst.

In all honesty, my results were just so-so. I’ve got the technique down, but I’m not happy with the seasoning. My last batch (a year or so ago) I mixed up my own seasoning and it just wasn’t quite right, so I decided to buy packaged seasoning this time. On the last batch I also made the mistake of trimming my pork, which actually makes the sausage too dry. In fact several of the recipes I’ve read have you ADD fat to get the right texture and flavor. There aren’t exactly a lot of choices when it comes to bratwurst seasoning. I went to Central Meats on Kempsville Rd. and got my casings and a package of Legg’s Old Fashioned Seasoning. (both come with enough to make 25 pounds of sausage, I was only making 10, so I measured out the pro-rated amount) The casings and seasoning came to just over $9. You can order both casings and seasoning on Amazon.

Guess what? The packaged seasoning wasn’t any better than my own! The thing is, while it’s not bad, I’m looking for something that tastes more like Johnsonville Brats, and these ain’t it!

How to make sausage (homemade)

Making homemade sausage isn’t complicated, but you do need a meat grinder. Mine is the food grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. If you’re gonna stuff the sausage in casings you need an attachment for that as well. I use the Kitchen Aid Sausage Stuffer Attachment.

  • Cut the meat into 1″ chunks, including the FAT
  • Grind the meat using a coarse grinding plate
  • Mix in the seasoning
  • Re-grind the meat using a fine grinding plate (if you’re not stuffing it, you’re done!)
  • Attach a correctly-sized sausage-stuffing tube
  • Grab an assistant and while one person stuffs globs of ground, seasoned meat into the meat grinder shoot, the other one catches the sausages and twists the segments. This can get a little wonky, best if the person with bigger hands and/or better coordination handles this part.

I like to let the sausage flavorings mull a bit before cooking. Usually a day in the fridge is fine. For the sausages I’m going to freeze, I pile them up on wax paper so they aren’t touching and ‘flash freeze’ so I can bag them later and still be able to only get out the number of links we’re gonna use for any particular meal.

I’m not going to post my bratwurst seasoning recipe, since I don’t think it’s that great. My Italian sausage and my breakfast sausage recipes are simple and excellent. Leave a comment or send me a message if you’re interested in those recipes. If someone has a Johnsonville-tasting brat seasoning recipe, I’d love to have it!

For more information about making homemade sausage visit Homemade Sausage Recipes and Tips at

Have you ever wondered what the dates on your food mean?

“Sell by July 31” or “Use by October 19, 2010”?

I’ve seen articles on this before, and appreciated the info, so I’m going to pass some of this along…

Dating on non-perishable food

According to the USDA, most of the dates on food sold at stores in the USA are not related to safety. They are used to help the stores determine how long to display the product, and for consumers they are used to indicate the ‘best quality’ deadline.

The USDA’s recommendation for products marked with a “use-by” date, is to follow that as a guideline. (I’ve also read that the use-by date is a safety date, but the USDA specifically says its not.)

Dating products is only required on infant formula and some baby products, it’s not required on normal pantry items. That said, Kraft, Pillsbury and the like don’t want you to buy or use one of their products and be disappointed, so the ‘best if used by’ dates make sense from a quality control standpoint. It’s sort of shocking in this day and age that there isn’t a requirement for a safety date on pantry items. Some states do mandate expiration dates on eggs.

If, however, you’re pinching pennies, most of those products are perfectly safe to use. I will say, from my own experience, you don’t want to eat peanut butter that’s too far past it’s “best by” date… EW! Won’t hurt you, but it doesn’t taste good either. Ditto for mayonnaise.

When it comes to baking mixes, the biggest issue when using one past it’s “best by” date, is that the leavening is likely to be kaput. For most cake mixes, muffin mixes, etc., you can safely add a teaspoon of baking powder without altering the flavor and you’re good to go.

Older foods, particular those with oils in them can develop an ‘off’ odor or flavor when kept too long.

If the packaging (can, box, etc.) has been compromised, and especially if a can is bulging or seeping. Throw it out! Don’t ever risk your health on such in inexpensive item. (Most canned goods cost less than a buck or two.)

For more information about shelf-life and product dating, please visit:

White House Chef

white house cook bookOn seeing the news about the upcoming iron chef challenge with White House Chef Cristeta Comerford, I had to wonder: Does she use any of the recipes left behind from previous chefs?

I was fortunate to pick up a copy of The Original White House Cookbook 1887 Edition (reprint) at a yard sale in Ohio over the summer. In addition to being very interesting reading and learning a bit about the challenges of the day, there are plenty of obscure hints, such as:

To preserve Brooms: Dip them for a minute or two in a kettle of boiling suds once a week and they will last much longer, making them tough and pliable. A carpet wears much longer swept wtih a broom cared for in this manner.

I’m not so worried about carpet wear… don’t think I’ve swept my carpets in recent memory. I’d be more likely to bash a lightbulb trying to finagle the broom into a pot!

Then there are the interesting recipes for a variety of meats such as squirrel and snipe. Most of the “recipes” are really just brief instructions:

Page 89: Squirrel

They are cooked similar to rabbits, are excellent when broiled or made into a stew, and, in fact, are very good inall the different styles of cooking similar to rabbit.

There are many species common to this country; among them the black, red, gray and fox. Gophers and chipmunks may also be classified as another but smaller variety.

Now for a real recipe. From page 219

Virginia Corn Bread

Three cups of white corn-meal, one cup of flour, on tablespoon of sugar, one teaspoonful of salt, two heaping teaspoonfuls of baking-powder, one tablespoonful of lard, three cups of milk and three eggs. Sift together the flour, corn meal, sugar, salt and baking-powder; rub in the lard cold, add the eggs well-beaten and then the milk. Mix into a moderately stiff batter; pour it into well-greased, shallow baking-pans, (pie-tins are suitable). Bake from thirty to forty minutes.