Diva Rambling: Hacks for the pantry….

Hacks for dining on a budget.  Found this foraging for me.  Good suggestions: 
It is possible to eat well without breaking the bank. Here’s how.
Eating healthy is not just about organic foods and expensive grains with peculiar names. It’s also not artisanal handmade foods that could sink your budget or fish from far-off places that promise healthy fats and a steep bill.
Indeed, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat healthy. Actually, some of the most inexpensive and most ordinary foods are the healthiest. If you’re willing to sharpen your shopping strategy, do a little kitchen prep, and get creative with cooking, you can save a bundle. These tips and recipes will get you started.
1. Prep your own.
Peeling and chopping vegetables, cutting meat into cubes for skewers or stews, and washing your own salad greens do take some time. But, to save on dough, these are no-brainers. Cut down on prep time by keeping things simple, making only one or two dishes for a meal. As you get more experience in the kitchen, you’ll gain speed and efficiency and wonder why you ever actually paid extra for pre-chopped onions.
2. Shop smart.
Skipping between multiple stores may seem like a good way to shop sales, but you could end up spending more on gas and losing valuable time. Instead, take your entire list to a store that offers a large variety of seasonal produce, lean proteins, and must-have pantry staples at low prices, such as Walmart Grocery. Check your local store often, as seasonal offerings change regularly.
3. Be flexible when you shop.
If you’re planning to make ground beef chili, but you get to the grocery store and ground turkey is on sale, switch up the recipe, and save some cash. Likewise, it won’t matter too much if your salads this week are made with spinach or romaine, if you snack on oranges or pears, or if your veggie side dish is broccoli or green beans. Look for what’s on sale at your preferred store, and as long as you’re making a healthy choice, you may as well make a cheaper choice, too.
4. Canned is OK.
Fresh seafood is one of the healthiest foods you can eat — and also one of the most expensive. There’s nothing wrong with canned salmon and tuna. You get the same nutrients as you do from fresh, along with the convenience that it’s already cooked. Plus, you can keep it in your pantry for months. Other excellent healthy canned food choices include beans (rinse them before using to remove about 40 percent of the sodium), tomatoes, reduced-sodium broths, and fruits packed in water. This recipe for Yummy Lemon Salmon Burgers proves how inventive you can be with a simple can of fish.
Related: 16 Best Shrimp Recipes Ready in Under 30 Minutes
5. Frozen is good, too!
In many cases, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy than fresh ones. Sometimes, they’re actually even better. That’s because many of the healthful nutrients in fresh produce can be lost in transportation from farm to grocery shelf. Frozen foods, on the other hand, are typically frozen within hours of coming in from the fields. That locks in nutrients at their peak.
Choose wisely, and buy plain vegetables without sauces and fruits without added sugar. Toss frozen vegetables into soups, stews, or stir-fries, or season them with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil for a simple side dish. Turn frozen fruits into smoothies, or serve them thawed over plain low-fat Greek yogurt for a protein-packed breakfast or snack.
Start using your frozen stockpile with this super healthy recipe for Garlic Chicken Fried Brown Rice that uses frozen peas, leftover brown rice, and chicken breast. And to start the day, this Strawberry Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie, which uses frozen strawberries, is a complete meal in a glass.
6. Brown rice and beans.
These foods may sound boring and flavorless, but they’re far from it. As creative and frugal cooks from Mexico to India to Italy know, these staples are amazingly versatile and incredibly delicious. Canned beans are a great deal and they’re recipe ready, but to save even more money, you can cook your own dried beans. Brown rice, unlike white rice, is a whole grain with its naturally occurring fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants intact, so it’s always the better choice. To get started, try Easy Texas Chili with pinto beans or Escarole and Bean Soup with navy beans.
7. Brown bag it.
Eating out for lunch, especially if you’re trying to stick to healthier options, can be pricey, but packing a healthy lunch takes only a few minutes in the morning. Don’t fall for single portion packs of cut-up fruits and veggies, applesauce, dried fruits, and nuts. They’re convenient, but you can portion your own and save a lot of money. Get yourself a trendy insulated tote and a few sizes of partitioned containers, and you’re ready to pack a budget-friendly (and delicious) lunch in style.
Related: Our Top 10 Healthy Lunch Ideas
8. Lean on pricey ingredients when their flavors go the furthest.
If you’re eating healthy, you’ll welcome a big punch of flavor from foods that may cost a little more, but a tiny amount of them can make a recipe more satisfying. Feta cheese, goat cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh rosemary (which lasts at least a week or more and can be used in all kinds of dishes), capers, olives, maple syrup, fresh ginger, nuts, and dark roasted sesame oil are just a few of the foods where a very small amount can transform the taste of a dish. This Asian Ginger Dressing which tastes great on (cheap!) cabbage salad uses just a bit of fresh grated ginger.
9. Your freezer is your friend.
Meats and poultry are probably the most expensive items in your food budget, so it pays to stock up when they’re on sale. But what if your family is small? No worries. Break down large packages of chicken pieces, pork chops, steaks, or ground beef or turkey into the number of servings you need for your family for one meal and then freeze them. Use heavy-duty freezer bags to ensure the foods stay fresh. Chicken and turkey can be frozen up to 9 months, steaks and chops for 12 months, and ground beef lasts for 4 months.
10. Build a plentiful pantry.
Some foods last for years in your pantry, so there’s no reason not to stock up when you find a deal on whole-wheat pasta; whole grains like brown rice, oats, barley, and bulgur; fruits canned in water; canned beans; tomatoes; and broths, to name a few. Be sure to rotate foods, putting what you just bought in the back of the cupboard. And check your stash before you shop so you’re not buying too much of any one item, even if it is on sale. With pantry basics on hand, you’re always prepared to cook up a meal on the fly, which saves the cost of ordering unhealthy pizza or going out for fast food. That’s an even greater savings in the long run.

Diva Tasting: Brazilian Cheese Puffs…

This is one of my favorite recipes from one of the delightful Brazilian restaurants near me.  AND its gluten free.  

Brazilian Cheese Puffs (Pao de Queijo)
1/4 Cup Canola Oil
1/4 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Tapioca Starch
1 Egg
1/3 Cup Plain Yogurt
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Cup Grated Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 Cup Gruyere
  1. Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Combine the canola oil, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Place the tapioca starch in a metal bowl; pour the oil and water mixture over the tapioca; mix thoroughly. Beat in the egg. Stir in the yogurt, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Pour the mixture into mini-muffin tins.
  3. Place on middle rack of the preheated oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake until slightly golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

Diva Tasting: Low Country Stew….

Low Country Stew
3 Quarts Water
1 Lemon, Halved
2 Medium Onions, Quartered
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Pinch Coarse Sea Salt
1 (3 Ounce) Package Dry Crab Boil
1 Pound Red Fingerling Potatoes, Scrubbed/ Halved
4 Ears Corn, Husk And Silk Removed
2 Pounds Unpeeled, Large Fresh Shrimp
1 Pound Smoked Beef Sausage, Cut Into Chunks
1/2 Cup Butter, Melted
1 Dash Hot Pepper Sauce/Tabasco Or To Taste
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the water, and throw in the halves. Add onion, garlic, salt and crab boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes and sausage, and return to a boil. Simmer covered for 20 minutes. Break the ears of corn in half, and add them to the pot; cover, and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the shrimp, and cover for 5 minutes. Drain off liquid before serving. It may be reserved for other uses such as soup stock.
  3. Stir together the melted butter and hot sauce. Serve with the seafood and vegetables for dipping.

Diva Tasting: Nonni’s Limoncello…

I’m not a big alcohol drinker.  I like this little flavor burst because it’s refreshing. Many recipes out there. This is one closest to my grandmothers I could find. Great little icies, to flavor ice tea, or marinade on some fish.
Nonni’s Limoncello
10 Lemons
1 Liter Vodka
3 Cups White Sugar
4 Cups Water
  1. Zest the lemons, and place zest into a large glass bottle or jar. Pour in vodka. Cover loosely and let infuse for one week at room temperature in a dark place (No light).
  2. After one week, combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Do not stir. Boil for 15 minutes. Allow syrup to cool to room temperature.
  3. Stir vodka mixture into syrup. Strain into glass bottles, and seal each bottle with a cork. Let mixture age for 2 weeks at room temperature.
  4. Place bottled liqueur into the freezer. When icy cold, serve in chilled vodka glasses or shot glasses.

Diva Tasting: Cornbread..

Here in the South cornbread is a staple.  I love it with all broth based soups and stews.  Sometimes we even put butter and good maple syrup on it and have it for dessert.  Enjoy.
Grandma’s Buttermilk Cornbread side bread
1/2 Cup Butter
3 Eggs
2 Cups Buttermilk
1 Cup Sour Cream
3 Teaspoons Baking Soda
2 Cup White Cornmeal
2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan or large 10 Inch Cast Iron Skillet (My Preference)
  2. Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat. Quickly add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into mixture in pan. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Variation: Jalapeno Cornbread…Add 1 small jar of diced pickled jalapenos including juice (more to taste), and 3 cups of sharp cheddar to batter and fold in. Bake as directed above.

Diva Tasting: Italian Beef Vegetable Soup..

Italian Beef Vegetable Soup
2 Pounds Lean Ground Beef
1 Cup Chopped Onion
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
8 Cups Beef Broth
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Red Cooking Wine
2 Large Cans Diced Tomatoes Undrained
2 Cups Thinly Sliced Carrots
1 Tablespoon Packed Fresh Basil Leaves
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 (8 Ounce) Can Tomato Sauce
2 Cups Sliced Zucchini
8 Ounces Fresh Cheese Tortellini Pasta
3 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
Parmesan Cheese for Garnish
  1. In a 5 quart Dutch oven, brown sausage. Remove sausage and drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of the drippings.
  2. Saute onions and garlic in drippings. Stir in beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  3. Skim fat from the soup. Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top of each serving. Serve with cornbread or cheese polenta.

Diva Tasting: Zuppa/Soup Italiano…

Zuppa/Soup Italiano
1 Pound Bulk Mild Italian Sausage
1 1/4 Teaspoons Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
4 Slices Bacon, Cut Into 1/2 Inch Pieces
1 Large Onion, Diced
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
5 (13.75 Ounce) Cans Chicken Broth
6 Potatoes, Thinly Sliced
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Bunch Fresh Spinach, Tough Stems Removed
  1. Cook the Italian sausage and red pepper flakes in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crumbly, browned, and no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Cook the bacon in the same Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain, leaving a few tablespoons of drippings with the bacon in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Stir in the onions and garlic; cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the chicken broth into the Dutch oven with the bacon and onion mixture; bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, and boil until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the heavy cream and the cooked sausage; heat through. Mix the spinach into the soup just before serving.