Below, you will find recipe ideas and honest reviews, based on what I realistically made for my family within the last week. These are taken from my Pinterest boards, around the internet, cookbooks, and hand-me-down recipe cards. Usually, you will also find one ethnic family recipe each week, as well as a grocery-saving tip or two. In ethnic recipes, I look for a dish that would typically be found in a home other than America; one that other mamas readily make their families, instead of an over-the-top delicacy we often see in restaurants and magazines. It’s also a fun walk through what are likely their staple ingredients, which widely vary! If you have an ethnic family recipe you would like me to try, let me know!
This week, we had to really pinch pennies, as there was a mix-up with one of our bill collectors triple charging a payment and we had to wait for a cashier’s check. I still managed actual meals though, using frozen meats I had previously purchased on sale. Take a look at the dishes, snack, and a Cornish favorite we discovered this week.
Rustic Chicken with Garlic Gravy – I have made this recipe from Seasons & Suppers before, and it is packed with flavor. Although you can definitely tell there is garlic in the dish, it’s not overwhelming, which I appreciate. I served it over mashed red potatoes, with a side of roasted asparagus and green bean combo.
Pork Carnita Nachos – I used the spices found in this recipe from South Your Mouth to flavor pork chops I had in the freezer, and I let them bubble on low in their own fat in the crockpot for about six hours. I then shredded the pork and used it to top blue corn chips with guacamole and salsa. I also roasted green beans and kohlrabi in the oven as a side (tossed with olive oil, salt + pepper, oregano, shredded parmesan cheese in a 400 degree oven, turning over with a spatula occasionally to ensure even browning). Apparently I wanted a lot of vegetables that night.
Homemade Cheese Crackers – I dusted off a cookbook my mom had given me years ago entitled Classic Snacks Made From Scratch by Casey Barber. I get so caught up in online recipes and Pinterest, that I often overlook the tried-and-true recipes found in the published and tangible paper variety. These turned out pretty fantastic, and are toddler-approved! I would maybe sprinkle a little salt over the tops before baking, since the varieties found in commercial packaging usually have it that way. My Little usually gets Annie’s cheese crackers, because they’re organic and priced so a normal family doesn’t feel a monetary sacrifice at the checkout counter, and I found that these were pretty comparable. Super simple to make and having a very rich cheesy flavor, I will definitely make these many more times. They literally have just a handful of ingredients, instead of the barely pronounceable paragraph found on those commercial packages. As a side note, I actually used rendered bacon fat I keep in the fridge, instead of vegetable shortening…when you make things yourself, you can do cool things like that. So, these cheese crackers had the slightest hint of bacon…bacon and cheese, yes please! Why throw something perfectly useful out, when it comes especially handy when actual bacon isn’t in the budget. 😉
Classic Snacks Made From Scratch by Casey Barber
- 1 (8oz block) coarsely shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, 1oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (about ¼ cup), 2 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter cut into ½ inch cubes, 2 Tbsp vegetable shortening cut into ½ inch cubes, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, 2 Tbsp ice water
- Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (could use a hand mixer), blend the cheeses, butter, shortening, and salt on medium-low speed, or pulse in a food processor until soft and homogenous. Ad the flour and pulse/mix low to combine, the dough will be dry and pebbly. Slowly add the water and continue to pulse/mix as the dough coalesces into a mass. Depending on the brand of cheese and humidity level, you might only need a dribble of water, or the full 2 Tbsp. Pat the dough into a disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners. Divide the dough into 2 pieces on a floured surface and roll each into a very thin (⅛ inch or less) 10 by 12 inch rectangle. Using a fluted pastry cutter (I used a pizza cutter), cut the rectangles into 1 inch squares, then transfer to the baking sheets. Use a toothpick or chopstick tip to punch a hole in the center of each square. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until puffed and barely browning at the edges, watch carefully. Makes about 13 dozen crackers.
Beef Pasty – Ok, so I cheated a little with this one. I was looking for a solid Midwestern recipe for something else, and came upon the Pasty in the book Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland by Beth Dooley + Lucia Watson. The Pasty was brought to the Michigan U.P., as well as northern Wisconsin and Minnesota by the Cornish miners of the region. It actually has Protected Geographical Indication status in England, is regarded as the national dish, and while it once was enjoyed by the wealthy, by the 18th Century it became a staple of the working class. It contains an entire meal and could be easily warmed on a shovel over a simple candle flame. Today, Michigan is still very familiar with the Pasty, although I had heard of it when I grew up in Northwest Wisconsin. Find the recipe below, but know that this little meat pocket doesn’t disappoint, and is very filling. I made it with rutabaga, since they are very reasonably priced and typical in both Cornish and Michigan varieties, it seemed like the right thing to do. It really is an all-in-one meal, and the filling ingredient quantities listed actually made enough for a couple more pasties (at least for my “dinner plate” sizing), so I will freeze it for later! The crust is delicious and flaky, and if you’re not looking to be a purist, you could easily add other ingredients, such as cheese or broccoli. The Cornish pasty really is a nice “little” meat pocket. It reheats in the oven great as well, we just put the second pasty back on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for a few minutes the next day, and it worked great.
Recipe from: Savoring the Seasons of the Northern Heartland
by Beth Dooley and Lucia Watson
- Pastry Crust: 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, 2 sticks (16 Tbsp) butter, 2 egg yolks, 6-7 Tbsp ice water.
- In a large bowl, cut butter into flour to make a soft, small crumb. Stir in the egg yolks and the water, one tablespoon at a time, to make a soft dough. Gather dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least one hour.
- 1 cup, finely diced of: potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabaga or turnips, meat (like round steak), 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp (or more to taste) ground pepper. Optional: 2 garlic cloves (peeled and minced), 1 Tbsp dried thyme, ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg. 2 Tbsp butter to lock pasties shut before baking.
- Roll out the two (divide recipe result from above into two) crusts to the size of dinner plates. Toss together the vegetables, meat, and seasonings. Divide the mixture, mound it onto the pie crusts, and then dot with butter. Fold each crust in half and put the pasties into a large, lightly greased, round cake tin or on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes (mine was about 45), or until the crust is nicely browned.
Grocery-saving tip: Find the discount area in your grocery store! Here, they put packaged foods that got dented or expire soon. Last week, I scored two boxes of my Little’s organic mac ‘n cheese for about 40% off, and an organic chocolate chip cookie mix for $1.09. It’s definitely worth a quick look while you’re shopping, just in case!
Have a great week, friends!
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