Category Archives: Frugal Eating

low cost, high flavor meals

Baked Mac N Cheese with Ham

After the holidays, be it Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, New Year’s Day, I always try to stock up on the foods that were overstocked in the grocery stores. Many times you will spend three dollars a pound for a turkey but after the holidays you might see them for $ .89 a pound! So keep your eye on the ham after Easter and Christmas, the pork after New Year’s, and the beef and chicken after Fourth of July. Also, check the produce after the 4th too. Often those watermelons and cobs of corn are on the ‘not the best but still a good buy’ rack. AND the corn on the cob is usually husked for you when it’s on the day old rack! Woo hoo!

Anyway, my father-in-law came to our house for Thanksgiving. I made a turkey. But he brought a ham that he got for free through his local grocery store and I put it in the freezer. I recently got it out and thawed that bad boy and threw it in a roasting pan with a splash of pinot grigio, honey drizzled over the ham and some dijon mustard brushed on it. (Tightly sealed with foil and baked 15 mins per pound). We ate it hot that night for dinner. We ate it cold for quesadillas the next day. We ate it for breakfast piled high with an over easy egg on an English Muffin. The best part is, I pulled a bunch of the slices off for Josie’s lunches. I make her a real life “lunchamajig”. You know. Those prepackaged plastic trays with crackers and cheese and a cookie and that meat that’s perfectly round but not really identifiable. What is this? Ham? Turkey? One is the same color as the other and it almost looks like sliced hot dogs. Gross. Yeah, momma’s making Josie her own “lunchamajig”. That’s what I’m calling it.

I had a ton of ham left so I picked it all off the bone and chopped up one cup of the salty sweet goodness for the following recipe and put the rest in the freezer for many many more meals to come. Thanks father-in-law for the free ham! Maybe I’ll bring a casserole the next time we visit which includes some of your generous Thanksgiving donation!

Baked mac and cheese with ham

finished mac n cheese w ham

This recipe calls for 1 lb cooked pasta – your choice. I used mini shells. Cook until just under al dente. It will bake for awhile too so don’t over cook it at this time. A pointer: add some chicken bullion to your water before adding the pasta. Or just a tablespoon of salt. It adds so much to the flavor of the pasta if you flavor the water.

drain the pasta and put back in the pot (or in a big bowl) and add:

1 Cup sharp cheddar cheese and 1 Cup of the diced ham and toss to distribute the ham and cheese evenly.

Place the mixture into a greased 9×13 casserole dish.

Top with 1/3 Cup of dried Italian Style breadcrumbs and 1/2 Cup of sharp cheddar cheese

Top that with a couple pats of butter. Slivers of butter distributed over the breadcrumbs helps to brown the topping.

mac and cheese w ham before baking

Top with slivers of butter and drizzle with milk.

Now, pour one cup of milk (I used 2%) gently over the top of the pasta and breadcrumbs. It also helps to make the top moist and helps it crisp up in the oven.

Bake uncovered at 350F about 45 – 60 minutes until top is golden. Allow to rest for ten minutes before serving.

The creamy soft noodles and the salty ham is so yummy together. And if you chop the ham up in small enough pieces you often get a crunchy piece from the top that is a lot like BACON! Yum.




Baked Rice Pudding with Cinnamon

Baked Rice Pudding

Not the prettiest picture. But pretty tasty.

This recipe was adapted from a cookbook I have called: Cheap Fast Good by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks because it has a lot to read and not just hoity toity recipes that require you to make a special trip to the store.

The other day I made pesto fish. Tilapia marinated with pesto and baked in the oven and then served over white rice. Served with pineapple wedges. Pretty looking dinner. Very easy on a busy night. Anyway, when I make rice I make way more than I have to so I can make leftovers with it. Namely RICE PUDDING. It’s one of my favorites.

So this recipe was adapted because I never have whole milk. I often have skim milk and I always have sweetened vanilla almond milk. So I adjusted the sugar, vanilla, and  rice because of the almond milk substitution.

Here’s MY recipe. The original follows below. By all means, if you have whole milk, follow the original.


Butter or cooking spray for preparing the pan

1 1/2 cups already cooked rice

3 large eggs

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups vanilla almond milk (sweetened)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly butter or spray an 8×8 square pan

2. combine rice in saucepan with 1 cup of water and heat over medium heat until the rice is rehydrated; about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

3. Whisk eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and cinnamon and salt in medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Add the drained plumped rice and stir well. Pour into prepared pan.

4. Bake the pudding, uncovered, until the center is just jiggly and a knife inserted about an inch from the edge comes out clean. (About 45 minutes) Serve warm, room temp, or chilled.

I ate mine with Adrian standing at the stove with the steam billowing off the spoonful of rice pudding thinking, “I’m sure this is going to burn my mouth.” So right before we ate it I told Adrian I had to put something in it. He pointed his finger up at me and said, “I know! ICE!” I said, “Oooh, that might not be the right choice. Let’s try some milk.” So after adding a touch of milk it was just the right temperature. He ate two helpings. I had two helpings. And then scraped some more right out of the pan with a big wooden spoon.

Here is the exact recipe from the cookbook.


Butter or cooking spray for preparing the pan

1 cup already cooked rice

3 large eggs

1/2 cup raisins (if desired)

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups whole or 2% milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly butter or spray an 8×8 square pan

2. combine rice and raisins in saucepan with 1 cup of water and heat over medium heat until the rice and raisins are rehydrated; about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

3. Whisk eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and cinnamon in medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Add the drained plumped rice and raisins and stir well. Pour into prepared pan.

4. Bake the pudding, uncovered, until the center is just jiggly and a knife inserted about an inch from the edge comes out clean. (About 45 minutes) Serve warm, room temp, or chilled.

ENJOY either way.

Mexican Lasagna

The tortillas in this dish take on many different textures. The one on the bottom gets soft from all the broth and turns into a sort of giant lasagna noodle while the top tortilla gets crunchy and sort of turns into a cheese cracker. Also, this dish is fairly inexpensive to make. It has the lasagna-esque layers but doesn’t require expensive ground beef, expensive cheeses, and cooking lasagna noodles. Again, I can’t decide which layer I liked best in this Mexican Lasagna; the soft, flavor-filled bottom layer or the crunchy, cheesy top layer? Either way, it was so yummy I wished I had taken pictures throughout so I could do this justice. Alas, all I have is the picture I took with my phone.

Update: I made this recipe again but used ground chicken instead of chicken breast. Delicious. Also, I made it in my Pampered Chef Rock Croc instead of a spring-form pan. I cooked all the ‘filling’ in the Rock Croc and then removed it to a mixing bowl. Then sprayed the pan with non-stick cooking spray and started making my layers. It worked perfectly! (While you may not have a special pan like this from Pampered Chef, you just need to know – any round casserole dish will do.)

Mexican Lasagna


1 tsp cooking oil

2 small chicken breasts or 1 large, salt and pepper, garlic powder

1 15 ounce can black beans, drained

1 10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies, DO NOT DRAIN

1 T Worcestershire sauce

2-3 T smoky Chipotle pepper sauce (I recommend using 1 Tablespoon and allowing it to simmer for a while and then add more if you like more heat.)

1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed in your palms before added

1 1/2 C sharp cheddar cheese

4 8 inch flour tortillas

1/4 C sour cream


Place teaspoon of cooking oil in sautee pan and bring to medium high heat. Add chicken breast that have been sprinkled with salt and pepper and garlic powder. Brown lightly and then add drained beans and un-drained tomatoes. Put a lid on the dish and allow the chicken to simmer on low for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and shred or chop the chicken and place it back in with the beans and tomatoes. Now add Worcestershire and chipotle pepper sauce. Add the thyme and allow to simmer another couple minutes. Taste the sauce now and see if it needs anything. Salt? Pepper? More hot pepper sauce?

Prepare a pan that can hold 8 inch tortillas with a little space around the edge. Spray it with non-stick cooking spray. (I used a spring form pan lined with foil. Which was convenient because I just popped the spring form pan open and removed the lasagna via the foil.)

Place a tortilla in the bottom. Place one ladle (with juice) atop the tortilla. Sprinkle some cheese over the chicken mixture. Top with another tortilla, another ladle of chicken mixture with juice, cheese and continue until you’ve layered four tortillas. Top the last tortilla with cheese and any remaining broth (not chicken and beans – just the broth – that’s left in the pot).

Place pan in preheated 325º F oven uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Using a sharp knife cut into wedges and serve with a dollop of sour cream. Using a pie server is helpful in removing it from the pan. I have this recipe written as 4 large wedges but it could easily be sliced into 6 wedges to feed 6 adults with a nice salad to complete the meal. ENJOY!



Ham & bean soup

ham and bean soup with rivels

ham and bean soup with rivels

This recipe is great for that leftover chunk of ham you are tired of picking at. Boiling the broth for hours makes the meat fall apart.


1 good size chunk 3-4 pounds of baked ham (it’s okay to use leftover glazed ham from a dinner. The sweet glaze flavor just helps develop the broth)

2 unpeeled potatoes cut into cubes (I used a baked one from Easter dinner and then added a raw one. The baked one falls apart and adds a starchiness to the broth that helps thicken it. The raw one cooks in the broth and is perfect alongside the beans and ham.)

8 Cups broth and water (I had 3 cups chicken broth leftover from another recipe so I used that and used water to make up the difference.) – obviously, if you have ham broth or beef broth, that would work too. Or all water would work too. You just have to add bullion or tons of herbs. Taste and adjust as you go.

2 cans white beans drained and rinsed. I used Cannellini and navy beans. You could also use dry beans and follow the directions to cook them. (Any beans would work. Well, not baked beans. That would be weird.)

You can add a carrot and a celery stalk diced, too. I forgot both. ;-)

one hard boiled egg diced

flour, salt, water for rivels

thyme, salt, pepper, ground mustard powder, rosemary, bay leaves, garlic powder, parsley, white wine, sherry vinegar, etc. whatever herbs and spices you like. Again, sprinkle, stir, taste, repeat.


Throw the broth/water, beans, and ham into a pot. Turn it on low and put a lid on it. Cut up the potatoes, carrots and celery (if desired) and add next. Add herbs and spices and a little salt. (if you are using dried beans, and not canned beans, you should put about a teaspoon of salt in now.) Cook for about an hour on low. Stirring every once in awhile to keep it from sticking. Potatoes and beans are very starchy and will stick… Go take a nap and let it simmer for another hour or so. I usually cook my ham and bean soup for about 3 hours on low. Then at the end bring to a boil and add the rivels.

REMOVE BAY LEAVES if you used them at this point.

Pull the ham out by tongs and place in a big bowl so you can pick through it. Using two forks pull the ham apart from all the icky parts and put the ham back in the pot. Throw the rest out for a neighborhood animal to eat.

Now, if you want the soup thicker, you can use an immersion blender to break up some of the beans and potatoes. It will thicken the soup naturally. Or, you can take a scoop of beans out and place on a plate and smash the crap out of them with a fork and put them back in the soup. Either way. ;-)

Bring the soup to a boil.

Meanwhile put about 1/2 Cup of flour into a bowl, an 1/8 tsp of salt, and about a 1/4 cup of water and mix with a fork. It should be thick and sticky. If it’s too runny, add more flour. Too thick add more water. Using clean fingers or a fork grab little blobs of the flour mixture and carefully drop into the boiling broth. Don’t worry about having consistent sizes. I had one that was about 3 inches long tonight in my soup and another one that looked like a little bird with a beak and a wing. Rivels are fun. ;-)

Now add the chopped hard boiled egg.  Stir for awhile. Cook maybe 3-4 minutes at a steady boil. This cooks the flour in the rivels and breaks up the egg so the yolk is sprinkled throughout the soup.

Serve warm with crackers.

French Onion & Sauteed Mushroom Lasagna – Vegetarian


vegetarian lasagna

vegetarian lasagna

I love lasagna. I love the tart tomato flavor. I love the creamy ricotta. I love the stretchy Mozzarella and the chunks of ground beef. But every once in awhile I like to make a different version of lasagna. This one was one I dreamed up because I had onions and mushrooms to use. It’s completely vegetarian as I have it written. AND, meat lasagna is very expensive to make. If you find onions and mushrooms on sale or on the ‘must sell produce rack’ even better!!


French Onion & Sautéed Mushroom Lasagna


Ingredients and Directions:


1 T oil

1 T butter

2 large Vidalia Onions sliced


½ C Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc (or veggie stock, or water)

1 T chopped garlic


In a large nonstick pan place oil and butter. Once melted, add the sliced onions. S&P

Sautee until soft. Place lid over onions to help soften. Stir occasionally. Turn off heat (if you have a gas stove) and add ½ C wine/stock/water. And garlic. Place lid over onions and turn on the heat again to medium low. Cook until as soft as you like. Remove from pan into bowl.



1 T oil

5-6 cups sliced button mushrooms (can use any mushroom you like, button is cheapest, portobello has the most flavor and can be found on sale often.)


½ C Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc (or veggie stock, or water)


Add oil to same nonstick pan. Place mushrooms, S&P and sautée until browned. Turn off heat, add wine/stock/water, place back over heat and put lid on. Steam/sauté mushrooms until soft as you like. Add onions to the mushrooms and stir to combine over low heat.


At this point preheat oven to 350º F



15 oz ricotta

2 C shredded Mozzarella

1 tsp salt

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use more if you like spicy bits throughout)

2 eggs


In a mixing bowl place all these ingredients and stir to combine.



1 ½ C milk (skim is fine)

1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg (not required but adds a little something.)

3 T butter

3 T flour


Remove onions and mushrooms to bowl. In same pan place butter, melt it. Add flour. Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes. (be careful to scrape bits of onions and mushrooms from the sides/bottom of the pan — = flavor!!!) Once it’s sizzling and tan in color, slowly whisk in milk. You can add grated nutmeg to milk, as I have, or wait and add it to the sauce in the pan. Cook until slightly thickened. It will continue to thicken so be sure to turn off your heat when it is slightly thick. If your pan is too large you may need to pour this mixture into a small saucepan in order to whisk smoothly. I did.



one box no cook lasagna noodles


½ cup Mozzarella

9×13 casserole dish

Cooking spray



Prepare baking dish with nonstick spray. Place some of the white sauce in the bottom. Top with lasagna noodles. Spread ricotta cheese filling over noodles. Place onions/mushrooms over cheese. Top with a heavy drizzle of white sauce. (If your white sauce has thickened during assembly, use some of the juice in your bowl of mushroom and onions to loosen it up.) Top with noodles, cheese, mushrooms/onions, white sauce and continue until you use all your ingredients. (I had 2 noodles left in the box that didn’t get used in my casserole pan. Your dish may be big enough to use all of them.) At the final layer, make sure you have some sauce on top of the noodles and place parmesan and mozzarella on top and cover with foil. If you don’t cover the last layer of noodles with sauce they will dry out and be unappetizing.


Bake for one hour, remove foil, bake until golden and bubbly (approx. 15 mins). Wait 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.


if you have enough to make two trays you can freeze one. It freezes well. Or take leftover portions and freeze those for quick lunches.

If you have enough to double the recipe and make two trays you can freeze one. It freezes well. Or take leftover portions and freeze those for quick lunches.