Thursday, May 22, 2008

frugality be thy name!

When my husband and I were first married we were so poor we didn't have 2 nickles to rub together. I had basically started over with a new career after leaving the world of professional cooking and he was fresh out of seminary without a job. I always looked for inexpensive dinner options then and although we make a lot more money now than we did then, I find myself looking for inexpensive dinner options due to the high price of food.

I must admit that I grew up eating home cooked meals. My mother did not work outside of the home until I was 15. I never ate Hamburger Helper, frozen meals or even fish sticks as a kid. My mom prepared all of our meals from scratch, really. Another big craze I missed out on (tongue in cheek here, I wasn't really "missing" anything) was the popular use of a big name commercial soup brand used as a sauce to cook with. I tried it out when I was first married since many inexpensive meals seem to revolve around it and found it too salty and just plain embarrassing for a former chef to do. So, I make my own cream of mushroom soup and go from there. I find this much more tasty and completely lacking in embarrassment for me. Every one's happy, right?

homemade tuna noodle casserole - makes a whole lot (6-8 servings?)

3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of AP flour
2 cups of whole milk
10 ounces of fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 6-ounce cans of good quality tuna in water, drained well
12 ounces of egg noodles (my hubs loves kluski style noodles)
4 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon of salt
fresh black pepper

Cook the noodles according to package instructions in well salted water. Drain and rinse, set aside.

Heat the over to 350.

Melt one tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in a medium sauce pan. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until onions and mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining butter and melt. Stir in the flour and stir until the flour is dissolved. Add the milk 1/2 a cup at a time stirring well to help the flour mix in. Don't add the next 1/2 cup until the milk begins to really thicken. Once all the milk is added, reduce the heat to low to keep the sauce at a simmer and let simmer for 3-5 minutes.

To assemble - mix the noodles, sauce, tuna, salt and pepper together in a casserole dish gently so as not to break the tuna up too much. Cover the top with the cheese and place in the over until brown and bubbly - about 20 minutes. I like my cheese a little darker, so I turn the broiler on for the last 2 minutes. Sometimes I like to mix peas in there, also. Others may claim the title, but I really am the Queen of the Frozen Pea.

We had this with some homemade rolls from this book and a vegetable on the side. It was pretty tasty and super cheap. Whatever happened to that guy on Food TV that had the "Good Deal" show? Dave Lieberman? It would be nice to have some frugal recipes again. Remember the Frugal Gourmet on PBS. He was super cool, right?

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