$10 buck dinners!

Well balanced meals for a family of 4. $10 or less!

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Oreo Cookies Rock!

There are so many versions of the so called “homemade” Oreo cookie. Everything from semi homemade, which begin their cookie base from a boxed devils food cake mix to one of the original adaptions by Wayne Brachman. His book, Retro Desserts seems to be the catalyst to many of the various versions and attempts to recreate that amazing, dark, chocolatey cookie with the creamy middle.

Anyway, after perusing 100 recipes, I decided my pinwheel cookie recipe was pretty dang close to nearly everything I was reading. With a few of my own modifications and a little experimentation on the filling, I am here to share with you, version 101. I don’t know if it’s the best, or the easiest, or the most healthy. All I know is that I made these yesterday and assembled today and so far, I’m just glad I had enough left to actually take a picture. (PS. You all know I hate shortening, right? But this is one time that it’s a must. Trust me on that one.)

Oreo Cookies:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour – .40
1/2 cup bakers Dutch cocoa powder (3/4 cup regular cocoa powder works as well, but dutch is darker and deeper in flavor) – 1.00
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened – 1.00
1 cup sugar  – .50
1 large egg – .15
1 tsp vanilla – pantry
1/2 tsp baking soda – pantry
1/2 tsp baking powder – pantry
1/2 tsp salt – pantry

COST: $2.55

Whisk or sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat softened butter and sugar with a mixer at medium-high speed. Make sure sugar is well incorporated and mixture is nice and fluffy. If using a handheld mixer, this may take 5 minutes or more.

Once butter mixture is fluffy, beat in egg and vanilla, reducing speed to low. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. I prefer to do this by hand if using a handheld mixer. A spatula works just fine.

Once dough is combined, roll out with hands in a snake like fashion to the size (circumference) you want your cookies. Wrap in plastic wrap, chill until firm, at least 1-2 hours. (Note: if you’re in a hurry, you can toss in freezer for 15 mins and then in fridge for 15 to 30 more minutes. I know this works because I’m always in a hurry!)

When dough is ready and firm, preheat oven to 375°F. Cut 1/4 inch thick slices from chilled cookie log with a heavy knife and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Using your fingers, flatten each slice to desired thickness, about 1/8 inch. Bake cookies 8 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness. Cool for 1 hour before assembling.

Creamy Filling:

1/2 cup vegetable shortening – .50
2 cups powdered sugar (sifted) – .75
1/2 tsp vanilla extract – pantry
*Milk (you can add a tiny bit of milk if filling feels to stiff or tight)

COST: $1.25

Mix shortening, vanilla and sugar on low, just until combined. Turn blender or mixer to high speed and beat till light and fluffy. 2-3 minutes or so.

To assemble, you can use a piping bag or just spoon a tablespoon of filling onto one cookie and press the other to form an oreo sandwich. Nothing to it!

Now all you need is a big glass of milk, a cookie or 4 and start dunking! Delicious!


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Red Chili with Hamburger, Asparagus, beans and torts!

Another meal that will leave you completely satisfied, yet wanting more! In fact, you’ll probably get a second plate. Which, of course, you know you shouldn’t, but you know what? Comfort meals are ok, in moderation.

Oh goodness! I sound like the food police. All I can tell you is this….for something so very simple (not necessarily fast, so don’t get the terms confused) and so affordable, this is a meal that not only sticks to the ribs, it becomes a tradition. A lot of things have changed in my life, but not this meal. Sometimes, simple is best!

Hamburger Red Chile (Chile Colorado style):

1 lb Hamburger – $3.02
3-4 Tbsp New Mexico Red Chili Powder (add more for heat & to your taste) – $.45
2 Tbsp Lard or Shortening – pantry
1 to 2 Tbsp flour – pantry
1/2 tsp salt (may need a little more) – pantry
1/2 tsp garlic powder – pantry

COST: $3.47

Cook hamburger till done, leave grease in pan. Depending on grade of meat, you may need to add 1 or 2 Tbps of lard or shortening and cook till melted.

Next, add flour to cooked hamburger and stir until well blended, basically making a roux. After roux has cooked for 1 to 2 mins or so, add powdered chile and mix well. Cook another minute, then stir or whisk in 1 1/2 cups water and bring to boil. Once to boil, reduce to simmer and if too thick, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time. You want a consistency of creamy soup and a nice deep red color. While cooking chile, add garlic and salt to taste. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot with fresh tortillas and beans and, in this case, super delicious sauteed asparagus.

NOTE: Varied amounts of water and chile will determine consistency and hotness. If you prefer more mild, try using California red powdered chili. If you like spicy, add more chili powder and make sure you use New Mexico.

Pinto Beans (yes, I make my own. Cheap, healthy and SUPER easy):

1 1/4 lb. dried pinto beans (rinsed) I made a little extra to use for burritos the next night – $1.39
1 Tbsp salt (or more, to taste) – pantry
1 Tbsp pepper – pantry
Garnish with: Sour cream or shredded cheese
Optional additions: Other spices or add some ham hock or neck bone. I like bacon too, but since I was going to use my leftovers for burritos the following night, I made them simple.

COST: $1.39

Start with a large pot and fill with 3 quarts water. Bring to boil, add salt, pepper and dried beans. Cover, bring back up to boil, then reduce to rapid simmer. Keep covered and cook for 3 hours, checking regularly to make sure you don’t need to add more water. Beans should never show on top of water. Add water as necessary. At the end of 3 hours, reseason and uncover to cook down for last hour. Continuing on rapid simmer. If you don’t have time to watch the beans cook, you can do this same recipe in a crockpot and cook all day on low, but use 2 qrts water. Perfect and healthy too! To serve, top with just a sprinkling of whatever cheese you have or sour cream, chives, onion or butter (my favorite).

Fresh TortillasTortillas:

OK, before we start. Let me tell you, tortilla making is a learned art.  Don’t worry about getting them round, just worry about taste.

Believe me, tortillas get easier and better the more you make them. Your first, second and even third batch may not be perfect, but they will be tasty.

Please, please, please, don’t give up! Because nothing! And I mean, nothing, is as tasty as a fresh tortilla.

3 cups unbleached flour – $.50
1 1/2 tsp baking powder – pantry
1 1/2 to 2 tsp salt (adjust to your taste) – pantry
4-6 Tbsp. vegetable shortening (I prefer lard, but reduce to 3-4 Tbsp) – $.30
about 1 1/4 cups very warm water, almost hot

COST: $.80

Mix dry ingredients in a large plastic or metal bowl. Add shortening or lard.  Using your fingers, squeeze or cut in lard. You want the mixture well incorporated.

Next add very warm water, a little at a time, mixing with one hand, until your dough is soft and not sticky. You don’t need steaming hot water, but pretty warm. Not cold or luke warm.

Knead the dough/masa for a few minutes. Do NOT over mix! Masa should be soft and not sticky.Tortilla Ball

Once you have your dough, let set while your tapa or comal heat. Temp should be medium high.

Once comal (cast iron griddle) is ready, pull off pieces of dough to form small balls. You can pinch them down with your hands a bit to make them flat, then roll out the dough with your rolling pin. You will roll from the center of the ball and up, center and down.

I will make a video soon, I promise. But for now, this is the best description I can give. With practice, this gets easier and easier.

Lift the tortilla and turn it over. Roll again, from the center and out. Continue till tortilla is thin and even.

Now, lay your tortilla on the very hot comal. It takes just a few seconds to cook on the first side. During this time, I’m usually prepping the next ball of dough to flat, but not yet rolling. Flip that first side after cooking for no more than 20 seconds or so.

Second side can cook about 1 – 1 1/2 mins. Flip. Cook 1st side again for maybe 15-20 seconds, just to make sure tortilla is thoroughly cooked and has a nice golden color with lots of nice brown specks on tortilla.

Place in a thin kitchen towel and cover or use a tortilla warmer. I never believed in these till I got one. They are awesome! Especially if you’re new to making tortillas. They really help keep torts warm while you finish cooking the whole batch.

And what veggie could be better with this meal than butter sauteed asparagus? Of course asparagus is perfect with darn near everything! It was on sale again for $.88 cents a pound! Just saute with some butter, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Cook till desired doneness. Or, if you’re watching the fat calories, add salted water to pan, no butter and blanche/steam till soft. Asparagus goes wonderful with beans, trust me! $1.90


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