Create a Fabulous Summer Barbeque Without Roasting Your Wallet! Wednesday, Jun 15 2011

Yup, this first heat wave of the year makes it official – it’s Summertime! Bring on the barbeque! I’m hearing from a lot of people how the double whammy of tighter wallets combined with rising food prices is putting the potential squash on summer entertaining plans. But no fear – your food-loving-frugalista is here! Read on to throw a fabulous summer bash, without getting bashed at the bank.

The Food – If you’re like most summertime party-throwers, the neighborhood all-you-can-eat-steak cookout of years past might be well out of your budget comfort zone this July. No worries, easy solutions abound that will still satisfy your heartiest meat-loving friends. A fabulous alternative: take one of those gorgeous steaks, cube it, and skewer it with fabulous veggies like zucchini, grape tomatoes and peppers to create enough beef kebobs for four people! If one of your wonderful neighbors is just starting to get produce in their garden, encourage them to bring as much as they’d like, and add it to the mix! It cuts down the food costs significantly, and guests will adore your culinary touches.

To cut down the costs further, never forget your meat and potatoes purist buddies who come to a barbeque looking for nothing more than a fabulous burger, a hotdog or two, and a handful of chips. Keep the costs low by hitting your local discount gourmet grocery to get the best brand names of those summertime staples, for easily 50% off. And don’t forget to pick up fresh jars of condiments as well! This time, in addition to the usual ketchup, mustard and relish, keep an eye out for some of the more exotic fare. Burgers are great, but burgers put together with some salt, pepper and oregano, topped with jalapeno-studded-swiss and a touch of herbed mayo are going to be raved over. It’s the little touches that your guests will adore, and they’ll cost pennies to create.

The Side Dishes – Here is where a brilliant summertime host can really shine without breaking the bank. Potato salads, pasta salads, green salads, all easy to make (don’t you dare hit the supermarket and pay $25 for a container of potato salad you can easily make for $2!). The secret is in the ingredients. The simplest of herbs, the perfect blend of spices, the right vinaigrette will turn an average salad into a showstopper. Hit your local discount gourmet grocery for the ingredients, then head to a dependable recipe database like and go straight for the “Easy” recipes. There you’ll find thousands of recipes for every bite of your BBQ menu – fun, fabulous, and zero stress. You’ll have a table full of incredible side dishes faster than you can say “Paula Deen”.
The Alcohol – I’ve spoken to people (who clearly party far heartier than I do) who have regaled me with stories of parties of years past in which the alcohol budget inadvertently surpassed that month’s rent. Yowsa. It’s generally acknowledged that an alcohol budget can be one of the toughest things to keep under control when you want to pull off a great party. The fabulous fact here is that all of your guests are going to want to bring something to your get-together, and here is where their offerings can keep costs down considerably. Have your buddies with the more expensive beer tastes bring a pack of their favorites; let your designated driver friends bring a pack of their favorite organic carbonated cola. You supplement with the sodas and mixers. Always remember, the more the thermometer peaks at your party, the more you need to stay hydrated – above all else, keep the ice water flowing!

The Kids at Your Party – Throwing a bash that will ensure lots of little ones running around? How fabulous, the more the merrier! Keep in mind that your ingrained frugalista mindset is perfect for a munchkin menu. Kids have wonderfully simple tastes that couldn’t be easier to satisfy. Your fabulous orzo and zucchini medley delicately tossed with raspberry vinaigrette will get little more than a wary glance from these guys. However, hotdogs, chips, brightly colored soda and some fun desserts (unlimited cupcakes and popsicles, anyone?) will put you at hero status with the 12-and-younger crowd. Hey, you’re only young once.

Above all else, remember that these fabulous get-togethers are about celebrating another gorgeous, long-awaited summer and having a terrific time with family and friends. Bon Appetit!

Feeding 4 (fabulously!) for less than $300/month – Day 24 Update! Monday, Jan 24 2011 

Happy Monday guys! Know why? Cause the royal spanking from Mother Nature has (to my knowledge) been massively downgraded. Thank the LORD. It’s all good. Another reason it’s a great day? Because I cooked & baked my brains out yesterday and now my refrigerator is stuffed with easy heat & eat food. Viva leftovers! Katie is home just ONE more day, knocking out the remnants of Hurricane Pneumonia from whence it came. She’s being such a trooper, but she’s totally pooped.

Day 24 Total: $4.00, total for the month is $214.71!

Today’s Menu:
Morning Coffee: (0.50). Back to “just” the double batch. Aren’t you proud of me?

Breakfast: ($0.0) — leftover French Toast for all! Even more appetite on little people today, I’m so happy!

Everybody’s Lunch: ($0.00). More leftover soup for little people, and leftover beef ravioli with organic marinara sauce (from two days ago) for the adults.

Afternoon Snack – ($1.50 ) Two pounds of fantastic apples – I love the super crunchy ones. Easy to slice up for little people, everyone’s happy.

Dinner: ($1.50) – Leftover pork loin roast and sweet potatoes from last night, plus another salad (.50), another can of corn for the kids (.50), and chocolate cake for dessert (.50)

Evening Snack: (.50) Popcorn. I think I know how to make this stuff in my sleep by now. Extra butter, light on the salt. LOVE it.

Total for today: $4.00, total for the month is $214.71!
Hang in there, everybody – one day closer to Springtime!

Can you really feed 4 people for just $300/month? Absolutely, if you know where to shop… Monday, Jan 17 2011 

Hey all – Hope Monday treated you well! With any luck, you had today off for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. If not, if your day was anything like mine, it FLEW. Had a fantastic time in Allentown this morning with two live spots on WFMZ’s “69 News at Sunrise”. Working with Morning Anchor Eve Tannery is always so much fun! And can I tell you guys, the kitchen set at that station is absolutely sweet. LOVE IT! Many thanks to everyone at the station for making things run so smoothly, as usual!

Okay, folks – we’re on Day 17, more than halfway thru, and today was phenomenal in that we received a record number of hits on the blog today, 10x more than usual – such fun!

Day 17 Total: $9.09, Total for Month: $157.68.
Today’s Menu:

Morning Coffee: (0.50). Going with double batches the last few days (hazelnut today), and generally blitzing thru it over the course of the day. Scary caffeine intake, but I’m getting lots done!. What was that joke Jeff Bezos once made about coffee? “In Seattle you haven’t had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it’s running!” That’s about where I’m at right now.

Breakfast: ($0.56) — Four HB eggs for the adults (two each), and the three remaining slices of leftover French toast for the kids. Super easy, everyone’s a winner.

Kids’ Lunch: ($0.99) Katie had off for the MLK holiday, so she’s at home. Went with Chef Boyardee’s no preservatives mini ravioli with meatballs (15 oz for .99)

Adults’ Lunch ($0.70): Victor brought two large apples (1# = .70) to work, along with leftover pork loin & pilaf from last night that he microwaved at work ($0.0). I had the same thing at home!

Afternoon Snack – ($1.00) Apples & bananas for little people, one pound of each.

Dinner: ($4.99) – Trying to wake up my brain a bit here – coffee will only take me so far – so I’m going with fabulous brain-friendly Santa Fe Salmon with Corn & Bean relish ($1.99). Green Beans (.50) and a salad (.50) to go with it. Kids aren’t into salmon so much yet, so I sautéed ½ pound of chicken breast ($1) and gave them corn (.50) as a side dish. Yellow cake with buttercream icing for dessert (.50). Salmon with all the trimmings for adults, chicken breast with the trimmings for the kids, and yellow cake for dessert, ALL under $5? THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!

Evening Snack: (.35) Loving the buttery popcorn every night. It’s a special treat that I and I alone can hog. No matter what you’re watching on tv, if you’re eating hot buttery popcorn at the same time, it’s a great show.

Total for today: $9.09, total for the month is $157.68!
Have a great night, everybody! K

Sneak Preview! Beef Stew Recipe for Monday’s WFMZ Channel 69 News Story! Sunday, Jan 16 2011 

Hey gang – here is the fabulous beef stew recipe that I adore making. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s inexpensive, and it’s healthy! How many things can you say THAT about!

Try it, you’ll love it, and at only $8 to serve 8, it keeps your hard earned money in your pocket, where it belongs!

Beef Stew
2 lbs stew beef cubed – (note, I’ve also used pork, it gets incredibly tender & my kids adore it) (1.99/# = $4)
3 Cups water
1 lb bag baby carrots (.68)
8 large potatoes, cubed (.50)
1 can of corn, peas, green beans (1.20), can also use one large can/bag of mixed vegetables
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (.80)
1 envelope beef gravy mix (.33)
1 envelope onion soup mix (.33)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp oregano
Total: $7.84 for 8 servings.

Cut the meat into large cubes, approximately 2” by 2”. Put the meat into your stew pot, then add three cups of water. Turn the heat on medium high.
When the pot comes to a boil, add the bag of baby carrots, cubed potatoes, corn, peas, green beans.
Add the can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, the beef gravy mix and onion soup mix.
Add the pepper and oregano.
Add water to the pot until the contents are just covered.
Bring the pot to a low, rolling boil. Put the heat on low, and simmer for 2.5 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
Note: At this point, taste your stew before adding salt. You may find that the gravy mix and onion soup mix will add all the salt you need for this recipe.

This recipe is excellent served over brown rice, or pasta. You can also add a side salad and rolls, if desired. If served with brown rice, side salad and rolls, the total cost for the meal will be approximately $9.00 for 8 servings.

I’ve noticed that this recipe freezes beautifully as well. If you have leftovers that you won’t consume within 2-3 days, feel free to freeze it!

Another fabulous time in Allentown! Tuesday, Sep 21 2010 

Thanks again to Eve & Jaciel (and wonder-camerawoman Darcelle) at Channel 69 in Allentown for another fantastic interview. The drive there and back was amazing, 90 minutes of beautiful mountain views with the leaves just starting to change. Really cool. And can I mention, I love the GPS in the car! Allentown has so many curvy roads, I could go there 100 times & still get directionally whacked. Not any more baby! WOO HOO!

Click here for today’s interviews!

Next “69 News at Sunrise” segment set for June 29! Wednesday, May 19 2010 

Hey fellow frugalites! Hope your week is going great!

Here in the deep frugalsphere, I just lucked out with another “Brilliant Frugal Living” gig on “69 News at Sunrise”! Looks like we’re going with Tuesday, June 29, for a “Fabulous, Frugal 4th of July Celebration!” I’m thinking of focusing on fantastic get-togethers with all the trimmings – saw lots of perfect decor at the dollar store. Then, for the second segment, I think I’ll incorporate some food ideas that won’t break the bank. ANYTHING to get my hands on that gorgeous studio kitchen again! 🙂

If you’ve got ideas that’ll fit into this theme, send them my way! Would LOVE to hear them!

Absolutely can not wait! Eve, Jaciel – thanks a million!

Fantastic time at WFMZ Channel 69! Thursday, May 6 2010 

I had a fantastic time on “69 News at Sunrise” yesterday, doing the “Julie & Julia” themed Mother’s Day! Today’s cooking segment I hereby rename “Bigfoot Contessa”, as I ADORED sashaying around on that GORGEOUS kitchen set in my size 10 heels!

Many thanks to news anchors Eve Tannery & Jaciel Cordoba, as well as the entire crew, who helped me tremendously polishing off the Boeuf Bouguignon & Reine de Saba! Special thanks to John for yet again helping me haul in all of my mountains of STUFF – yes, I know it was ridiculous. Again.

Looking forward to our next segment in about a month – can’t wait! Here’s the link to today’s segments!

A “Julie & Julia” themed Mother’s Day celebration! Tuesday, May 4 2010 

Hello all! Is this weather gorgeous lately or what? I could so get used to this!

Headed out to Channel 69 on Wednesday to do a really fun piece on “Themed” Mother’s Day events. We’re going with a “Julie & Julia” Mother’s Day this year, based upon the fantastic book & movie of the same name. Every, single mother I know adores (1) Meryl Streep, (2) Julia Child, (3) Amy Adams, (4) Julie Powell, the real-life cubicle worker who found blog superstardom by cooking her way thru JC’s “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” over one year’s time. With all of these themes in play, it seemed reasonable that no matter who the special “Mom” is in your life, they would adore a “Julie & Julia” themed day on Mother’s Day!

This was a BLAST to put together, here’s what we came up with!

* A copy of the book “Julie & Julia” which I found at Goodwill in outstanding condition for $1.97
* A copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking, which, fabulously, is an exact match of one in the movie, purchased at yard sale for $1.
* You can’t do anything “Julia Child”ish without the pearls! A real strand costs hundreds, if not thousands, and then you’re terrified to leave the house with them… However, a lovely, luminescent strand of “Julia” pearls found for $2 at Goodwill is perfect.
* A special repeat screening of our tribute movie! Julie & Julia movie night, courtesy of the local library – $1.50
TOTAL: Approx $8

And BEST of all, a Julia Child dinner, straight from the pages of “Mastering The Art of French Cooking!”
Boeuf Bourguignon ingredients (serves 6)
6 ounces bacon
3 pounds lean stewing beef
One sliced carrot
18-24 baby onions (canned is fine)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 tbsp flour
3 cups red wine – (can also use stock, if preferred)
2-3 cups brown beef stock (we used 6 cups beef stock)
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic / minced
1 tsp thyme
One bay leaf
18-24 small white onions, canned
1 lb quartered mushrooms, sautéed in 2 tbsp butter & 1 tbsp oil

Cut the bacon into ¼” to ½” pieces.
Saute the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2-3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with slotted spoon. Reheat the oil until fat is almost smoking before you saute the beef.

Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Lightly sprinkle it with flour, and saute it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon in the stew pot.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables, and add to the stew pot, along with (drained) canned onions and sauteed mushrooms.

Stir in the beef stock (or combination of beef stock & red wine, if preferred) so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

FOR IMMEDIATE SERVING: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

FOR LATER SERVING: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15-20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

TOTAL COST: $12.16 for Boeuf Bourguignon for 6 people

Reine De Saba – Chocolate and Almond Cake
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate melted with 2 TB rum or coffee (we use coffee) — $1.00
1 stick softened butter — .50
2/3 cup granulated sugar .25
3 egg yolks – .15
3 egg whites – .15
Pinch of salt .01
1 tbsp granulated sugar .03
1/3 cup pulverized almonds .25
¼ tsp almond extract .05
¾ sifted cake flour .10
TOTAL FOR CAKE AND ICING/ALMONDS (BELOW) = $3.19 (KLH NOTE: If you’d care to dazzle Mom with the actual Julia Child recipe, be our guest! However, boxed cake mixes have come an extraordinarily long way in the 50 years since “MAFC” came out, and can easily be substituted for FAR greater ease

Butter & flour an 8” cake pan (one that’s at least 1 ½ inches deep)
Melt the chocolate over almost simmering water (KLH note: you can also carefully do this in the microwave in a microwave-safe dish)

Cream the butter & 2/3 cup granulated sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.
Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed: sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almonds, and almond extract. Immediately stir in one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.

Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2 ½ to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a needle plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a needle comes out oily.

Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.

Glacage Au Chocolat – Chocolate Butter Icing
2 ounce (2 squares) semi sweet baking chocolate .25
2 TBSP rum or coffee (we use coffee) .01
6 TB unsalted butter – .19
Surrounded with crushed almonds = .25

Stir the chocolate and run or coffee in the saucepan over the hot water until chocolate has melted into a very smooth cream. Remove saucepan from hot water, and beat the butter into the chocolate, a tablespoon at a time. Then beat over cold water until chocolate mixture is cool and of spreading consistency. At once spread it over your cake with the spatula or knife.

Using the above as a guide, you can show the wonderful Moms in your life (your Mom, Mother in Law, Grandmother, Godmother, etc), just how fabulous and appreciated she is with this terrific, themed Mother’s Day. And hey, when it comes to a gift that keeps on giving, there’s nothing like a Julia Child-inspired celebration to inspire some serious bragging rights for Mom for weeks to come!

Best of all, you’ve spent no more than $25 for gifts AND dinner for six! THAT’S SOME BRILLIANT FRUGAL LIVING!

Brilliant Frugal Living segments scheduled for Channel 69 Allentown! Monday, Mar 29 2010 

So excited! Got a call back from Eve Tannery with “69 News at Sunrise”! They want to do regular “Brilliant Frugal Living” segments! Woo hoo! Next BFL spot will be a Mother’s Day Extravanganza in May, with fantastic gift ideas & (get this!) a cooking segment! Scheduled for May 5 – stay tuned & send your ideas!