Luxury on the Cheap
What are the three little words guaranteed to make a woman get squishy and happy?  

You know, that phrase we never get tired of hearing and always makes us feel good?

"I'll cook dinner."

Hhhooooooooooo, baby!

I don't care if we're having beans - if I don't have to cook 'em, it tastes like luxury to me.  Sadly, that doesn't happen nearly enough.  Not only are there plenty of single moms out here on the hustle, but even among couples, women still do the lion's share of meal production, housework, and child care.

We became SuperWomen, but most men didn't keep up. 

So!  If you like coming home to dinner already done, the crockpot* is your best friend!

Hell, forget luxury.  Getting home to an already-cooked-dinner after a long day of work and errands and being everything to everybody is a damn lifesaver!

If you can get it together just enough to throw some basic ingredients in the crockpot in the morning (and this is important, remember to turn it ON!  Shut up, don't judge me!) by the time you get home in the evening.... dinner is done!  That 15 minute investment in the morning pays off with 45 extra minutes in the evening NOT spent chopping, measuring, cooking, and cleaning.

Here are a couple of my go-to recipes -- thrifty, easy, nutritious, and yummy. 

Crockpot Vegetarian Chilli
You will need:  Beans - 2 cans, or about 3 cups pre-soaked (black, red, pinto, or whatever you like)
Tomatoes - 2 small cans, or 1 big can, or about 4-6 cups fresh cut up
Onion - 1 small chopped onion, or a teaspoon or so of onion powder
Chili Seasoning - 2 Tablespoons chili powder, 2 Tablespoons cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Optional - jalapeno peppers to taste (I always have the sliced, pickled peppers handy, and I like to throw in several slices along with a little of the juice.  Fresh peppers are MUCH HOTTER!)

Put all ingredients into the pot and give it a good stir.  Turn on LOW, put on the lid, and forget about it til you get home!  Eat over cornbread, rice, or tortilla chips with a handful of shredded cheese on top.  Yum!

Spicy Smothered Chicken - Thanks to Laurie Hardie at Coffee With the Coaches

- 2 or 3 chicken breasts, or 4 to 6 thighs
Cream of Mushroom Soup - 1 can
Water - 1 can
Taco Seasoning - 1 Tablespoon chili powder, 1 Tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, cayenne, onion
Garlic - 1 clove, or to taste
Give everything a good stir, making sure chicken pieces are covered by the soup and water mixture.  Turn on low, and go to work.  This is good over rice and with a salad.  Any leftovers (not likely!) make a great base for soup. 

*If you don't have a crockpot, don't sweat it.  These recipes will still work in the oven in a good heavy pan on very low heat.  Or, you can always post a request on Freecycle, check the year-end clearance sales, or try second-hand.  I usually always see crockpots at the Goodwill, often still in the box.  Put the word out that you're looking for one, and you may be surprised at what turns up!

The workday is over; the meal is done - now, make the kids wash dishes.  Bliss!
Question: Who doesn't love pie?  Answer: Dead people.  Every Body Loves Pie!  It's a universal truth!  Look it up!

So what does pie have to do with tightwaddery?  Well, if you make your own, it's way cheaper and tastier than the store-bought version.  It's not full of artificial ingredients and preservatives, and you're in control of the salt and fat and sugar.  In your hands, it becomes a healthy snack!  And what's more thrifty than being healthy?  See?

Growing up in rural East Texas, I had access to that food of the Gods, Fraahd Paah.  Or, Fried Pie, for non-Texans.  My grandmother has a tree in the back yard that grows pears the size of cheewawas, and every summer, when they get ripe, is Fried Pie Season!  It's better than Christmas and Halloween and Mardi Gras all rolled into one!

The point is, you can use whatever fruit you have available.  Use what you have; use what's in season.  Here in soggy Seattle, we have lots of blackberries (free to pick almost anywhere but beware of sprayed areas), cherries, and apples. 

What you do is make a basic crust.  Let that chill in the fridge until you're ready for it.  This is important, because it keeps the dough from falling apart when you fill it.  Then take about two cups of fruit, add half a cup of sugar, and put it on to simmer until the fruit gets soft-ish.  Roll out the dough and cut out a saucer-sized circle, and put a couple of spoonfuls of fruit on it.  Wet the outside edge with your finger and fold it over, taco-style.  Then crimp the edges with a fork all the way around to seal it shut.

After you've done this, slide that baby into some hot oil. (That sounds a little dirty.)  I prefer lard for this.  The Lard cooks in mysterious ways!

...... preachy aside following......

Lard has gotten a bad rap.  For milennia, it's been used safely to deliver a tender, flaky crust.  Flakiness may be bad for your relationships, but it's aweome on your pie.  Crisco, on the other hand, is some franken-food-type-product that some chemist invented in a lab in New Jersey.  If you can't spell it, why would you want to eat it?  Tightwad tip:  Eat Real Food.  Not chemicals posing as food.  Much healthier that way.

                                                                      .......aaaaaand, rant over........

When both sides are golden brown, it's done.  Say hello to heaven. 

These pies can be made in advance and frozen.  They make a perfect dessert, tightwad treat, after-school snack, or breakfast.  If you're willing to trade a little bit of convenience for time, you end up with something that's much healthier, much tastier, and you kids will worship you for it.

You'll never buy those cardboard abominations that pass for pie from McEvil's again.

Fried Pie!  A tasty tightwad treat!

Big love,

Nacho Mama!