Search This Blog


How about a substitute for sour cream?

One of my favorite cookbook authors is Joanna Lund. She was the creator of the Healthy Exchange Diet. Her premise was simple, all recipes had to be made of easily obtainable items at her local Kroger in Iowa, had to be taste tested and approved by her husband and fit within her diabetic diet.

Another blogger was discussing yogurt this week, when it tweaked my memory to actually share a recipe of hers that I make without even thinking about it. A yogurt substitute for Sour Cream. There are a couple of ways to do it so here you go, give it a try!

3/4 cup of plain fat-free yogurt (I have also used plain, regular yogurt)
1/3 cup non-fat dry milk.

The dry milk stabilizes the yogurt to the consistancy of sour cream.

Slower Method!
Line a sieve with a coffee filter, place sieve and coffee filter over a bowl add 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt and refrigerate for 6 hours. The end result in the filter will be a near consistancy to sour cream.

To stabilize the yogurt when cooking (either recipe) add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch when cooking or baking with it.

Need a dip or potato topper? Add Ranch Dressing Mix, French Onion Mix, or your favorite mix to the yogurt as you would sour cream and you have a great alternative. Another option is to add 1 cup of your favorite salsa to the yogurt turned sour cream for a great topping for tacos, burritos, and baked potatoes!


When To Expect Coupons

I have been asked how I know when there will be coupons in the newspaper. Generally, I don't. However, I do know that Proctor & Gamble almost always has an insert in the first Sunday paper of the month and generally speaking, there isn't much to get excited about in the inserts on holiday Sundays. I have found a couple of sites that are pretty accurate on what will be in the Sunday papers tho. The overall coupon schedule can be found here. (July 4 was a surprise, P&G had an insert that wasn't even on the guru's schedule.)

A couple of my favorite sites are The Frugal Girls and Money Saving Mom. Both sites usually have info on what to expect in the Sunday ads on Fridays or Saturdays. These sites also have Couponing 101 if your interested in their tips and abbreviations. I usually give it a peek to see if there are any exciting (to me) coupons coming on Sunday.

Our local newspaper doesn't have a Sunday edition, but they put the coupon inserts in the Saturday edition. I subscribed to a regional newspaper through their website and got a bargain subscription for the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday paper (Sunday being the most important to a couponer) for well less ($20) than the amount I save every quarter in the coupons. Works for me. Frugal Girl and Money Saving Mom also have info on when to use coupons to get items for free when on sale and a coupon is available. I am a fan of both on Facebook or you can subscribe to their daily email on their home page or even narrow it down by stores in your area only (Free of course) to get the info.

Don't think just food and cleaning supplies either for money saving, recently as part of their 50th anniversary, Menard's was (and might still be) running a ceiling paint (free after rebate) as well as rebates on other paints and supplies. Frugal Girls and Money Saving Mom also has a lot of free scenarios for personal care and baby products. So keep your eyes open.

Any extra coupons I give to family and friends to pick through. My mom lets me pick through her inserts (she subscribes to 2 regional newspapers--East and West--and the local) and shares with family and friends too. So that is 5 newspapers worth of coupons right off the bat.

I also utilize internet coupons. I subscribe to and Penny Pincher's Gazette (both free) to be able to print coupons off of the web. Kroger (and affiliates like Owen's and Scott's) allow you to download coupons to your "Plus" card and they will automatically be on your orders when you check out and are buying the merchandise. Don't remember what all is loaded on your card? They keep track of it and you can see the list of coupons on your card through their website when you register it. Easy peasy. Don't get me wrong, I still print coupons too...sometimes a bargain can be had at Meijer or Martin's and you can't use a Kroger customer card for that!

Another regional favorite store of mine is Meijer. Meijer have their own additional store coupons on their website (look in the MealBox section, shopping list) that you can print, use in conjunction with their sales AND manufacturer's coupons. If all of your coupons add up to more than the sale price, they will not make them into Money Makers, but you can get the products for Free! I am good with that. For those naysayers among you that say it costs to much to print coupons, I usually watch the Staples ads for free after rebate, $1 after rebate, or starting Sunday as part of their back-to-school specials 1 cent after rebate reams of paper for my coupons. I do wish that they would have the same sales for ink cartridges tho...oh, well, I guess I can't complain since the savings of matching coupons with sales usually saves me at least $200 a month.

Meijer is the best in my area in that they accept all internet coupons, and I've never had a problem and they have a lot of catalinas. (If under 50 cents they usually even double.) Marsh and Kroger/Owen's are usually fine. Our local Kroger (shopping card plus purchases will save you 10 cents a gallon on gas occasionally) and Meijer doubles coupons up to 50 cents so generally that is where I do most of my shopping. Last week Daisy Cottage Cheese was on sale at Meijer for 99 cents, I had a 45 cent coupon (well 4 of them) so I got 4 containers for 9 cents each. I like cottage cheese! The Kid believes Ranch Salad Dressing is a substitute for ketchup, so when Kraft had their $1 off coupon recently, getting bottles of Ranch salad dressing for 59 cents or less was an amazing deal, and stocking up for his return to school this fall was a must do!

Recently, Marsh got a new clerk/assistant manager combo that questioned every coupon I solution? I generally no longer shop at Marsh because Kroger, Meijer and WalMart will price match and I have never had a coupon issue at any one of them. My theory is to choose your battles. We will soon be getting a Martin's in our area. I have shopped in out-of-town Martin's for loss leaders in the past (10 pounds of apples for 99 cents last fall is tough to beat!), so I am looking forward to seeing what my savings might be on a regular basis. In the meantime, I am monitoring their website sale fliers for a rough idea of their sales cycle.

That in a nutshell is Couponing 101 Stoney Style.

Donating over $1200 to local charities on a budget of $1 a day
As a interesting read, I have been following a guy that is blogging about his adventures of eating on a dollar a day budget (currently on day 60 something) but his goal is 100. So far he has been able to donate over $1200 in food and supplies to his local food pantry without going over his $1/day goal. It is really an amazing read; at first he was a little hesitant, so he was eating oatmeal and rice, a lot, but he has really branched out to include fruit smoothies every morning, a beer for a backyard holiday cookout, and his new favorite sandwich. (Granted his local stores allow money makers, but still, I find it totally interesting and amazing.) You can begin reading his blog by clicking here. His description of manning up to purchase feminine products because the products were a money maker is pretty funny.


Time to get back in the saddle again!

Have you missed me during my unexpected hiatus? (Please be nice, like your mom taught you!) I have been researching a few things and I hope to have some fun things for you to read in the next few days. So stick with me just a while longer and we will chat again soon...I PINKIE PROMISE!


Stoney's Crew: Back Door Guests Are Always Best!

Welcome to the Stoney's Crew Lab to all of our Back Door Guests and Ultimate Blog Party Adventurers! Won't you stay a moment and enjoy a cup of coffee and a Banana Nut Muffin with me?

How Stoney's Crew came to be is purely an accidental thing really. You see, I have children (The Princess now out on her own and The Kid now in college) that now that they really need to know how, they have asked to learn recipes and/or how to do things in order to survive on their own. I have picked up a friend here and there over the years that would ask for a helpful hint or two along the way, so rather than repeating myself, I opted for a blog and Stoney's Crew was born. Why the name Stoney's Crew? Because I am married to Stoney of course! That makes me The Crew! Careful there, I prefer "The Crew" to "The Shrew"!

In February of this year, Stoney's Crew began as a record to document how many meals could be made from a single chicken roasted in the crock pot. By the time February was over, Stoney was nearly clucking full time! Meander on over to the sidebar there, expand February and have a peek at all of the fabulous things I did with that bird (and yes, there was a documented FLOP! as well!) A cost analysis of the meals is captured in the recap. Occasionally I will post other recipes requiring chicken as we travel this road together.

March was a time of re-engineering to make my cooking style and Stoney's newly desired eating style mesh together in a re-engineering process and in April a new outlook and the spring cleaning and remodeling bug has bit--big time! So we are working on that and, of course, there are the Stoney's Crew Once-A-Month (OAMC) or Freezer Cooking hints and tips along the way. Some tried and true OAMC and Freezer Cooking enthusiasts will probably shake their head in amazement at the Stoney's Crew style. Not too many of them do things like package Microwave Popcorn or hard-boil 2 dozen eggs, but here at The Lab we do things to fit our lifestyle and if that is a little wacky to you, we don't mind because we think so too and that is what makes it fun!

If after you have a look around, you enjoy the visit, by all means, become a fan on Facebook here. That way you will always know what is happening at The Lab and you can visit often!

Oh, you like that creamer in your coffee? I made it and you can too! Here is the recipe!

Stoney's Crew French Vanilla Coffee Creamer

2 cups milk (what ever kind you like, I usually use Skim)
1 cup sugar
Bring to a boil in a heavy saucepan (about 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer)
Let this mixture cool slightly.
Add at least 1 tablespoon of Vanilla (I use about 2, we like vanilla!) and 3-1/2 cups of cold milk (again I use Skim) and pour into a pitcher or caraf and store in the refrigerator.

Making this will cost approximately half what buying it would and you know what is in it! Oh yeah, if you detect a hint of chocolate in the flavor...there is! I love Chocolate Truffle Coffee (purchased on sale with a coupon--doubled of course!) and mixing caffiene with chocolate, yes, that is bliss!

As a bit of added response to Mrs. E's question...this will keep in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks...If I am feeling particularly ambitious and milk is on sale I will make a couple of batches and freeze one. Just make sure to leave enough "head space" in your container (like a 1/4-1/2") for expansion. Added bonus: Use 1/2 to 1 cup of this "creamer" as part of the milk required in a box of instant pudding. I like the chocolate with that vanilla background flavor OR the new Cheesecake flavor by Jell-o...with some strawberries on the side...oh yeah, now we are really talkin'!

This post is also linked to Balancing Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday for April 13, 2010.

I enjoyed your visit, come again soon, and remember "Back Door Guests are Always Best!"


Stoney's Crew: Chicken Strips to Make Ahead

I am not much of a Once-A-Month Cooking (OAMC) type...with just Stoney and me here at the lab, it would end up being Once-A-QUARTER Cooking! Especially since Stoney no longer takes leftovers for lunch! So I pretty much stick with Stoney Style OAMC...things like Microwave Popcorn, muffins, granola bars, and such!

That said, while floating around in the blog-o-sphere, I happened across the blog "Cooking During Stolen Moments." After reading a couple of entries and recipes I became a subscriber! This recipe is adapted from Kate's recipe.

Stoney's Crew Chicken Strips
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup just add water pancake mix
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce (you decide how much for your family, we like "warm")
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut chicken breasts into strips (or chunks or cubes). Mix the remainder of the ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk.
Heat oil in fryer or fry pan to about 350 degrees F. When the oil is ready, dip and cover the chicken strips in the batter and place in hot oil, turning after 3 minutes. After side 2 has cooked an additional 3 minutes remove to papertowel lined platter or cookie sheet.

Serve with Ranch or Blue Cheese Salad Dressing (or your family favorite sauce) for dipping. This batch made more than enough for 2 meals for Stoney & I; so to keep it simple let's say it serves 4.

If you would like to freeze and store the strips for future use, flash freeze in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then store in airtight ZipLoc in freezer. To reheat, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for about 15 minutes.

These strips do freeze well, and when I make again, I will double or triple the recipe and freeze. Not because it was difficult to make or because I have a burning desire to OAMC!...more because I am anti-mess in the kitchen and even after all of these years, finding a way to NOT make a mess while deep-frying has eluded me so a big batch and one time mess it is! This batter would also be great for fish!

If you have any tips on how to fry and not make a mess, drop a comment below! I would love to have help on this! Hmmmm...I wonder if I could use the burner on the grill and make these outside...I feel a lab experiment coming on!

Stoney's Crew: I've been a bit occupied!

Just thought I would give you a peek at what has been keeping me busy on Monday's and Friday's for the last month...pretty cute reason isn't it? Now that that particular project is completed, I guess that I had better get busy experimenting again here in the Stoney's Crew Lab!


Stoney's Crew: Once A Month Cooking?

Although I am not what is considered a true Once A Month Cooking participant, the first of this month brought an opportunity to participate in Money Saving Mom's Once A Month Cooking Challenge (OAMC) Stoney Crew Style. Since it is only Stoney and I here at the ranch these days, OAMC in the tried and true way would be once a QUARTER cooking if I were to go full out on a real cooking binge. As it is, I would rather batch cook. For example when I thaw out ground beef (2 pound packages usually) I will brown all 2 pounds. Use 1/2 pound for the current recipe and divide and freeze the remaining browned ground beef in 3 separate packages. One mess, multiple meals. The ground beef is then ready for multiple uses...depending on my menu for the week. Want tacos or enchiladas, thaw the cooked beef and add the appropriate seasoning. If I want speghetti, lasagne, or similar "Italian" dish, just add the appropriate ingredients and you are halfway home to dinner on the table. Likewise, when I make Meatloaf, I use a 2 pound package of ground beef and make 3 each 1 pound size Meatloafs. One for dinner that day, and 2 for the freezer for another day.

I make Granola Bars and Banana Nut Muffins in a similar fashion. My recipe for Granola makes 28 bars, cut up, wrapped, and frozen individually. Banana Nut Muffins? 12 at a time so on the first I made 2 dozen, wrapped, and froze them individually. That way Stoney can alternate between Granola Bars and Muffins in his lunch and I had extra to pass out to a couple of folks this week as a treat.

I was looking for an interesting change-up this month while the muffins were baking (I only have muffin tins to bake a dozen at a time, so I had some time to multi-task between batches.) I opted to make Microwave Popcorn.

Stoney likes to have a bag of popcorn in the evenings while watching his favorite TV shows and/or movies. This part of an ongoing effort to wean him off of the more prepackaged, "flavor-enhanced" convenience foods. Side bonus? It was cheaper than buying Orville's! How did I do it? I will say, that I was reading another blog, when this came to my attention...unfortunately, I can't find my notes to give the appropriate credit...but I do remember doing this when we were in high school for after school snacks or as we called it "brain food" for homework time. We also made Carmel Corn in the microwave, I am going to look for that recipe and post in the future...I remember it was made in a brown paper grocery sack!

Microwave Popcorn
13 brown paper lunch bags
1 package (2 pounds) Popcorn
Scotch Tape
1 gallon ZipLoc bag to master pack
Open 13 brown paper lunch bags to create assembly line.
Add 1/3 cup popcorn to each bag
Lay bag flat
Fold open edge over 1/2 inch 3 times and tape with approximately 1 inch tape
Follow folds of bag to fold into thirds and place in "master" Ziploc and store in the freezer. You don't have to store in the freezer, but I do. When I was a kid growing up we grew popcorn in the fields for make sure that what we gleaned from the field for our own personal use stayed "pop-r-riffic" until the next harvest, we kept in the freezer. This stops the kernels from continuing their natural drying and makes for a better "pop puff."

When ready to pop, depending on your microwave, place and cook in microwave seam side up for approximately 2-3 minutes. Just like the prepared stuff, you will hear when it is mostly popped.

Admittedly, in order to convert Stoney, I did have to promise to provide a bottle of Squeeze Parkay (or similar) in the refrigerator so that he could squirt some in the bag, add a dash of salt, shake in the bag to cover and eat...but price-wise I still come out ahead on the deal doing this as the cost per package to make is 21 cents per bag compared to 37 cents of the purchased variety. Unless he uses about 3 times the recommended "serving" size of the Parkay!


Stoney's Crew: Low Fat, Low Sugar Banana Nut Muffins

Recently I found a recipe for Bananas in Pyjamas at Pursuit of Scrappyness that caught my eye (yep, a recipe name will do that) and I decided to adapt and give it a try (click on links above to see original recipe). This adaptation has received the Stoney Seal of Approval. I individually wrapped and froze the muffins after they cooled for an alternate to Stoney's Granola Bars in his lunch...

Here is what I did:
Stoney's Banana PJ's
1-1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 overripe bananas mashed
2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mash bananas and mix in other ingredients. Bake for 30 minutes in 350 degree oven. Cool, wrap individually and freeze. Makes up to 12 muffins.

A nice little old lady in the grocery store recently told me that the discounted for quick sale bananas could be frozen peel and all until ready to make muffins and/or bread. No mixing, mashing, or lemon juice required. When ready to use, thaw, peel and use...and yep, it works! Who woulda' thought!

Wondering about the background on this crocheting wonder indeed! Just completed a a new dish cloth...I had just pitched one and needed to make a replacement! An hour of television watching and this is the result. If you want to crochet (or knit) one, just be sure to use 100% cotton yarn. They dry out much better than the "store bought" variety and wash up in the washer and dryer like a dream. For crochet, I used a tighter gauge single crochet stitch and, no, I did not follow a pattern, I crocheted to fit my personal size preference of about 8" square.


Stoney's Crew: Mud Room Make Over

During the cold, harsh, weather-beaten, snow-shoveling months of winter our Mud Room (garage entrance) of our home is shut off from the world to keep the cold at bay and the snowy, muddy, yuck of the season contained. With the spring season comes the opening of the door to the kitchen. Yes, folks, that is when the winter's "pitch and run" bounty becomes an unsightly eyesore. On Saturday Stoney went to Menards for some watch-a-ma-call-its and do-dads that he needed for his current desk rebuild and refinish project, so I asked him to pick up another wire shelf and brackets for the Mud Room (we had been 1 shelf short since the shelves were hung a couple of years ago) and he came home with a shelf for the Mud Room and a second one for the Laundry too! Bonus!

That could only mean one thing...I could no longer put off the inevitable clean and purge of the Mud Room. So about 2:00 I began the challenging process of unloading the room. How could such a small room hold so much crap, uh, I mean stuff? At 6:00 the room was fully unloaded, and the kitchen island, the kitchen table, and 2 card tables were loaded with treasures. I stopped and warmed up some leftover Sloppy Joe for a sandwich supper and fed Stoney. While we were eating I mentioned that now would be the time to paint that room since it was empty and it was, well, NASTY. I asked how late Menards was open and said I would go pick up paint. It was at this point that Stoney became a hapless (victim?) participant in my project. He had the misfortune of saying, "Before you do that let me check the garage, I think there is paint left over from painting the kitchen."

After he checked the garage, we did indeed have a full, unopened gallon of ceiling paint, AND a full unopened gallon of wall paint. I merely asked if I should take down the shelves or paint around them...his response...a very heavy sigh...and then wait for it... "give me a little bit to clean up the desk for the day I'll help you." The man may as well have whispered some sweet nothings in my ear!

We took down the shelves, brackets, and wall mounts and while he painted and then mopped the floor, I washed the dishes, pans, and do-dads that had been in the Mud Room and planned the best way to reload the room. I also had to decide what was really worthy of remaining in the room and what needed to find it's way into a garage sale this summer.

Well, now is the time to unveil our handiwork. It is also the time that I am very thankful that my mom doesn't have a computer to see this mess...a crash cart would need to be nearby to resuscitate her. Brace yourself, it is an ugly scene!

The "pitch and run" room! That empty shelf is the one that Stoney put up that morning and got this makeover rolling!

Ah, what a difference! The stainless roaster is only used a few times a year, so it doubles as the Britta water filter storage unit! I covered the boxes holding the Ball canning jars with a burgundy and white gingham contact paper...(Note to self: next time don't choose a pronounced stripe or check for future "contacting!") The box on the table is currently home to gloves and hats...the bucket will be for Stoney's shoes...until he builds or I can find a reasonably-priced small cabinet to fit in that space. The blue bag contains Stoney's bowling balls and it has to reside somewhere! The Dawg's food is stored in the large pickle jar that is currently in the sink...once again lookin' for a cabinet. The little washtub above the sink holds the berry picking boxes that hopefully we will need soon and the two large canners hold several pieces of canning "stuff" that is used during food processing.

The shelves above the freezer and the freezer top kinda gives you the "twitches" doesn't it?

Much better...and yes that is a folded paper towel on top of the freezer. There is always a large pitcher of iced tea there in the fridge next door...if there is a paper towel there perhaps the dribbles will be wiped up when they happen?

Above the refrigerator was a huge catch all. Twitching again aren't you?

The basket tower on top of the fridge contains medicines and leashes/collars and such for The Dawg. Behind the party bowls is the big torch flashlight for when the lights go out. I am going to look for a flat back basket to put either on the wall between the fridge and the door or on the fridge to hold Campbell's Soup and Box Tops for Education tags at garage sales and flea markets this summer.

The doorway to the attic, (another scary project in the works post-Mud Room Makeover recovery.)

The old picnic basket holds potatoes, the old Easter basket holds onions. The mirror and the picture used to decorate my cubicle when I worked outside the home. The plates once hung in the kitchen. Once a cabinet for the North wall is obtained, I will switch the little table to this location to hold the baskets at a more convenient height.

Well, that is the end of my true confessions of a person guilty of helping to create a pitch and run room. Now that I am home full time, I couldn't stand closing my eyes on the way through any longer! My total Mud Room Makeover cost was $5.47 for the contact paper. (Stoney purchased the shelf and brackets, so I don't know what they may have cost.) The rest was sweat and items we already had on hand. And that concludes what has been keeping me busy the last few days instead of blogging!

For more organizing tips and ideas visit: to see entries into the recent 28 Day Challenge or visit Money Saving Mom for the Clear out the Clutter Challenge.


Stoney's Crew: A Plan Comes Together!

Yep, sometimes it is just amazing what happens when the clicking and whirring starts between my ears...sometimes it might even be considered "scary!" I had been looking for ways to organize my coupons so that I could get to them faster. I researched how other bloggers that coupon do it; tried to take into consideration my limited attention span; my quest for portability; my penchant for a visual organizing system (photographic memory?); and my desire to not need to pull a hay wagon to the grocery store in order to use my coupons.

Today was the maiden voyage of what I think works for me! On other blogs I found baskets with pretty file folders (too big, hence the need for a hay wagon) and binders with baseball card slip sheets (way more $$ than I wanted to spend to save money couponing); a little "coupon folder" for a buck at Michael's; and then bahzzinga there in the Wal-Mart electronic/photo center it was. The answer to my heart's couponing desire: a $3 photo album. Yes, a photo album!

See here it is not a scrap booking wonder, not anything fancy schmancy, just a good old-fashioned photo album with pockets sealed on 3 sides that will hold up to 100 photos. A little guy that is about 4x5 in size.

See my coupons can be organized and seen with ease!

It fits into my Vera Bradley shopping bag and I am off to the store! Today I was even delighted to discover that it lays perfectly on the shopping cart between the cart's handle and my purse. I think I have fallen in love with this latest brainstorm of mine. I should probably patent the idea, but I am a nice person, so I am sharing it with all of you!

Stoney's Crew French Toast

Today's supper menu was French Toast and Sausage patties. The extra pieces of French Toast are separated by wax paper and in the freezer waiting for a trip to my toaster for breakfasts or lunches over the next couple of months! No, I don't do any special recipes. I used 6 eggs, enough ground nutmeg to "track a rabbit" and beat them well with a whisk. I dunked the cinnamon swirl bread in the egg and then fried on a buttered griddle. I did the whole loaf of bread because I knew that all of the extra will toast like a dream in the toaster. (It is what we did when I was a kid...a millennium ago before microwaves were the norm!)

Creativity must be bubbling here at Stoney's Crew! I say this because of the coupon book, the French Toast marathon, and this evening I decided that I did not want to fry the sausage patties and make a mess on my clean stove top, so I put them on a cookie sheet and baked them in the oven and they turned out perfectly. I gotta say it, "I love it when a plan comes together!"


Stoney's Crew: What's for Supper?

Well, I'm almost "back in the saddle" again with menus. This re-engineering of my cooking into fewer servings may get the best of me yet! No really, it is working out pretty well right now because of a little project I work on on Monday's and Friday's for a few hours! Those days are when I pull something already made out of the freezer to finish baking or warm up. I'm getting closer to being a full-fledged once-a-month chef doing this! Now I am starting to mark the "extras" on my master planner calendar for another day of the month as I make them ahead so that I don't forget what is in the freezer and have to dig through the contents!

Last week I had a hankerin' for Chicken Subgum, a dish from one of our local Cantonese eateries. My version was simple and delish, however, the next time I make it I think I will add a little more pepper or red pepper flakes to kick it up a notch

Here's how I made:
2 chicken breasts cubed
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon Sesame Oil
2 cups celery stalks, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 large green pepper diced (I used 1/2 orange and 1/2 yellow pepper this time)
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock/broth (I used homemade)
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts
Soy sauce to taste

Brown chicken breasts in butter and/or olive oil. Season with sage, salt, and pepper to taste. Remove from pan when cooked and set aside. Put onion, peppers, Sesame Oil, and celery in pan and saute on low until onions are almost transparent. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the broth to the pan and bring to a gentle boil. Mix flour and remaining stock with broth and add to pan to thicken the stock to a light "gravy". Add chicken back to pan with water chestnuts, and soy sauce to taste. 2 minutes before serving add the cashews to the mixture. Serve over plain rice or Fried Rice. An additional "side" might be one of my Egg Rolls! Garnish with "Chinese Noodles".

On the menu for this week!

Monday, March 15: Meatloaf, Baked Potatoes, Green Beans, Rolls (Last week when I made meatloaf, due to this re-engineering thing, instead of make 1 freeze 1, I made 4, froze 3 with 2 pounds of ground beef!) [Bake 4 potatoes, use 2 on Friday.]

Tuesday, March 16: French Toast (made with cinnamon raisin bread), Sausage Patties, Fruit

Wednesday, March 17: Green Salad with Cajun Turkey (I bet you thought, being Irish, I would be serving something else...but Stoney won't eat Corned Beef & Cabbage, so I have to settle for "green" lettuce! I guess I could have opted for Lucky Charms!)

Thursday, March 18: Sloppy Joe Sandwiches, Salad

Friday, March 19: Pork Chops, Twice Baked Potatoes, Corn, Salad

Saturday, March 20: Mystery Meals!

Sunday, March 21: Chicken Subgum, Fried Rice, Egg Rolls

Don't forget to check out Menu Plan Monday at Org Junkie for more menu ideas!


Stoney's Crew: English Muffins!

OK, I like English Muffins...I like them toasted with peanut butter (with and without honey or homemade jam); butter and cinnamon sugar; just plain honey; an egg fried (omelet style) with a spoonful of diced peppers, onions and crumbled bacon with a slice of cheese; and I especially like them with a plain fried egg and slice of cheese (ala McMuffin w/o the Canadian Bacon) for a quick lunch. So when I found this recipe over at Happy Housewife I had to give it a try, cause I am a thrifty-type that cringes when even buying on sale because the cost/quantity ratio is high compared to a loaf of bread, especially when any stale bread turns into croutons for salads and breadcrumbs for meatloaf/meatballs or cassarole toppings here at Stoney's Crew. I can make that $1.29 loaf of bread work hard and earn my money!

English Muffins:

1 cup hot water (approx. 110 degrees F)
1/2 cup milk (I used skim--it is what we drink)
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour (divided 2+2)
2 teaspoons instant yeast (I had a jar of Meijer brand All Natural Active Dry Yeast)
3 tablespoons softened butter (I used organic, it was cheaper than the regular with a coupon last week :) )

Mix water, milk, honey, and salt. Add 2 cups of flour and yeast. Mix to loose batter. Cover and let rise 1 hour. Add butter and remaining scant 2 cups of flour. Roll out 1/2 thick on lightly floured (I used a sprinkle from the original 2 cups) and cut in circles. Let rise until double. Cook on hot (350 degrees F) buttered griddle. Turn once. Cool. You can either cut in half (I did) or divide with a fork.

Griddlin' away...yep, that is a pan of croutons I baked this morning while the muffins were doublin!

The loot!

I waited until barely cool and toasted one, slathered with butter and cinnamon/sugar and OH MY! Pure heavenly bliss! Yep, this one will be repeated! I'm thinkin' especially in the summer when it is too hot to bake!

Notes on my adjustments to the original recipe:

  • I did not roll out on corn meal/flour, here at the Stoney's Crew we avoid corn products due to allergies.
  • I used all regular all-purpose flour.
  • I rolled out thinner than 1/2 inch (about 3/8")...what can I say, I guess I was overly energetic since I made them in the morning!
  • I was tempted to just cut squares rather than traditional circles, but I used a glass to get the circles for a standard muffin look.
  • My glass was only 3" in diameter and after rolling thinner, my result was 24 muffins. Into the freezer they go!
  • I am thinking that 3-1/2" would have been a nicer size for egg sandwiches.
  • Adding dried raspberries, strawberry pieces, blueberries, or raisins to the dough stage and toasted (after cooking), topped with cream cheese might just melt me into a puddle!
  • A summer BLT with one of these...oh yeah, now we are talking!


Stoney's Crew: Granola and Re-Engineering!

Well I have been re-engineering my plans for the last week. Stoney announced that due to the soon to be warmer swimsuit weather (he is an optimistic guy) that he would like to change up his lunch plans. He would like yogurt, veggies, granola bar, trail mix, orange juice and fruit in his lunch and that is it.

This is what his lunch was: yogurt, granola bar and OJ for breakfast; trail mix for morning break; leftover day (or a couple of day's) previous supper, radishes or carrot sticks, a fruit such as a banana or similar; with a fruit left for an afternoon snack. His new regimen is granola bar and OJ for breakfast; trail mix for morning snack; yogurt, radishes or carrot sticks, a fruit for lunch; and a fruit for afternoon snack. So you see my less outlet for leftovers! It seems most of my recipes make 4-6 servings so I have been busy re-engineering them and/or (gasp) freezing to make ahead for a future meal. That is where I have to be really careful. All of my research leads me to believe that you shouldn't freeze prepped meals for more than a couple of months (sources: various once a month cooking blogs on That puts me on a tighter meal plan rotation. One thing is for sure tho...Granola Bars need to be made! Here is how I make them (and freeze) for 28 individually wrapped bars. (If you have a more physical job than "desk jockey" you may want to up the size of the bars for a net output of 20 bars.)

Granola Bars

5 cups oatmeal (I don't use quick cooking, I use the "real" stuff)
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup flax seed* (or ground flax seed)
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup roasted unsalted almond pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
scant 2 cups water
1 cup dried raspberries**
1 cup dried strawberry pieces**

Mix all together adding water slowly (you may not need as much) you want enough to just hold together. Press into a oversize jelly roll pan (sprayed with butter flavor spray) evenly distributing the mix. Bake at 350 degrees for at least 1 hour. (1 hour will make for a softer bar, if you want you can bake longer, but keep an eye on it!)

Cool and cut into 28 pieces.
*After I started using flax seed straight, I read that ground flax seed will provided the desired nutrients better than the seed unground! This batch was the last of my flax seed stock, so when I stock back up, I will opt for ground flax seed, but it will need to be kept in the freezer like the nuts.

**I purchase all of my ingredients in bulk for this at E&S Grocery in Shipshewana. The prices are much cheaper (at least half) and the choices of dried fruit are much more varied than in the grocery. Look for opportunities to purchase the ingredients in bulk in your area. Any favorite dried fruit will work...raisins, dates, apples, apricots, cherries, figs, etc.

This is one thing that I have always done "once a month" style and frozen. The consistency is just right even right out of the freezer for an on the way to work breakfast with the OJ in a "sippy cup" (travel mug).

Since I am still menu again this week; but I can tell you tonight was Chicken Subs made from a roasted chicken and Tuesday will be Meatloaf!

If you get a chance, check out Money Saving Mom, The Frugal Girls, and OrgJunkie for more menu ideas, coupon tips and generally interesting stuff!


Stoney's Crew: Monday's Menu & Meatloaf

Well it is that day of the week once again when I put pen to paper and write down the menu for the week. It is also Monday and Stoney likes Meatloaf on Mondays...yep, he says it makes him bowl better. I don't know about that, but I am going to give you a recipe for a tasty rendition of meatloaf that includes veggies in its mixture. It is a great way to have your kids get extra servings of vegetables and the carrots flavor the meatloaf just the right amount. I have also used this recipe for meatballs.

Stoney's Crew Meatloaf
1 pound Ground Beef
2 carrots ground
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 eggs

I use homemade croutons and grind them in the food processor for the breadcrumbs. Enough to get about a cup of crumbs. I then grind the carrots and onion in the food processor using the same blade. Add to ground beef. Add 2 eggs and mix thoroughly. Salt & Pepper to taste. Sometimes if I have other veggies that need to be used (green peppers, celery, eggplant, etc.) I will throw that in the food processor and add to the mix. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

This makes 1 family size meatloaf. Because it is just Stoney & me here at the lab these days, I divide the meatloaf in 2 and wrap and freeze the other half for another meal in a week or two.

Tonight I also baked potatoes with the meatloaf. Two potatoes for our meal plus 3 more for use in recipes later in the week. While the oven is on, making more than just a couple of potatoes is an easy way to prep for future meals. Baking extra potatoes to make Potato Salad are fabulous! Hey, if the oven is on and not full, you might as well take advantage of the open space!

I will be making a Fritata on Wednesday using the extra baked potatoes for a meatless meal option. I'll report the results on Thursday.

Here is the game plan for the week

Monday, February 22: Meatloaf, Baked Potatoes, Green Beans
Tuesday, February 23: Buffet de Lefto-Vairs, Salad
Wednesday, February 24: Fritata, Salad
Thursday, February 25: Scalped Taters w/Ham (didn't make Saturday), Salad
Friday, February 26: ??? Mystery night--in case The Kid comes home
Saturday, February 27: Vancouver Olympics Surprise, Salad
Sunday, February 28: Chicken & Noodles, Mashed Potatoes, Corn

More menu ideas can be found at Have you checked out "The Frugal Girls" yet. I have also become a fan on Facebook. It is a fun way to keep up with free offers, coupons, and bargain pricing.

Is anyone else beginning to get addicted to the Curling competition in the Olympics? I firmly believe that I may actually fully understand the premise of the game by the 2012 games...I can imagine it now...a Curling Channel on TV!


Stoney's Crew: Oriental Chicken Salad

Have you been watching the Olympics? I certainly hope so, they have been fantastic. Lots of medals and lots of spell-binding moments. Doesn't that half pipe look like fun? or should I say "EPIC" to quote on of the boarders!

As promised, the Stoney's Lab attempted the Oriental Chicken Salad, a favorite from Applebee's. The recipe I used was from (#19253). I did, of course, make some edits on the chicken prep.

The Salad
Lettuce, shredded
Red Cabbage, shredded
Roasted Almond Pieces (from bulk food store)
Chow Mein Noodles
Chopped Green Onion
Diced Yellow Pepper (I happened to score 3 for 50 cents in the produce clearance section)
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (Feta would have been good too.)
Grilled Diced Chicken

Rather than frying breaded chicken breasts, I opted for grilling them. I did create my own marinade that worked well. For 2 (half size) chicken breasts, I used 1-1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of dried minced onion, 1/8 teaspoon of sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar. I put in a ZipLock with the chicken and marinated in the fridge about 2-1/2 hours. I then grilled (it is winter, so it was in a skillet this time.) It was tasty!

The Salad Dressing Recipe:
3 tablespoons Honey
1-1/2 tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard
1/8 teaspoon Sesame Oil

Overall Stoney's Crew Rating
Stoney and I both tasted the salad dressing on a piece of lettuce before putting on our salads. Yep, we are cautious. We did this because the dressing did not look as white as the salad dressing in the restaurant and when I was going through the lists of ingredients, the mustard was not anticipated by me, because it is not a flavor I taste in the restaurant.

We both like Honey Mustard Dressing but we were disappointed in this recipe of it. I gave it a pass I went with Stoney's Crew Simply The Best Salad Dressing and Stoney opted out of the program to Ranch Dressing.

The Salad basics and the Chicken prepped this way were both great. Cabbage is an interesting foil for the normal lettuce and I would make that combo again, especially with the chicken...I cannot wait until this spring when the grill will no longer be covered by snow! It will be a great evening salad meal.

This does mean tho, I am still on the hunt for the salad dressing recipe!


Stoney's Crew: Tortellini Al Forno

The Stoney's Crew Italian sauce I make for Tortellini can also be used for other pastas such as shells (like Casa's Con Quatro Formaggi) or vermicelli (wide spaghetti noodles.) We just happen to like Tortellini for a special treat and it reminds us of a fabulous dish at Papa Vino's. You can buy premade Tortellini in the dairy section of the grocery, but I have discovered that in our local Wal-Mart frozen food section (look for the sign PASTA) bags frozen for about 1/2 the you know where I pick it up. A bag of the frozen, says it serves 5. Since the sauce is so rich, we can usually get at least 6. I see no reason why you couldn't use the frozen cheese ravioli for this as well.
In a lot of ways, this is a "when you see the whites of their eyes" recipe. Organization is key. Have the side salads all made up and in the fridge ready to go. Before beginning the first step in the sauce pan set a pot of water on another burner and begin heating. (I cover and turn to high.)

In your skillet, pour a trip (or 2) around the pan of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add 2 tablespoons butter, 3 (at least) cloves of minced garlic and lightly begin a saute.

Add 8 oz of sliced fresh mushrooms to the pot. Let saute lightly. When the mushrooms are cooked you can add a sprinkle of pepper. Don't add salt, it will dry out the mushrooms.

Make a roux...I do this by tipping my skillet up on the burner cover behind the burner I am working on and pushing all of the mushrooms and garlic to the top. In this instance I used 3 tablespoons of butter and about 3 tablespoons of flour over the heat. Using a whisk, work the flour and butter together to cook the flour (it will be very lightly golden brown in color.)

Now add 2 cups cream, half and half, or milk. You could mix half cream and half skim milk too, that works. On low heat, mix together the roux, cream, and mushrooms.

Simmer until reduced to the consistency that it will coat the back of a spoon. Sprinkle in about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (Just enough to "track a rabbit".)

Add about 2 cups your favorite shredded cheese. For this, I have used Mozzarella, "Italian Blend" and even cheddar. Whatever I have that was on sale that week, but to keep it a "white cheese sauce" use Mozzarella or "Italian Blend". Stirring with your whisk, add about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and for a bit of tang I add about 2 tablespoons of crumbled Feta (Feta is optional, I always have because we like it on our salads.)

Your sauce is now basically ready, turn to low and keep an eye on it. When you "see the whites of their eyes" (actually it is when I hear the garage door opening signaling that Stoney is home) put the pasta of your choice (in this case Tortellini) into the boiling water and cook no longer than 5 minutes. (5 minutes is usually "al dente," cooking pasta longer doubles the glycemic index--making it the same as eating sugar to your body)

If your sauce starts to get too "stiff" you can ladle in some of the hot water from your pasta pot to thin it back down. This can be repeated as needed. When the pasta is ready drain and add to the sauce.

You have just created a magnifique pasta dish that is ready to serve.

Instead of mushrooms, you could brown ground sausage (whatever flavor you like); chicken (cubed), or green, red, and/or yellow peppers, garden veggies such as broccoli, zucchini and squash would work too.

The salad?
In true Papa Vino form, use the Simply the Best Salad Dressing, 1/8 a head of lettuce per serving, along with other fresh vegetables of your choice, such as tomatoes, onion, peppers, olives, and 2 teaspoons of Feta cheese and homemade croutons. The croutons are nothing more than stale bread that I have cubed and baked in the oven until toasted. (Added benefit to using stale bread to make croutons? it warms up the kitchen!) I don't bother seasoning the croutons...I zing them through the food processor to make meatloaf, meatballs, or other recipes. The toasted flavor adds a nice nutty background and it is cheaper than buying breadcrumbs. I store them in a ZipLock bag.

Special Occasion? Don't forget to have warm rolls, bread sticks or garlic bread!


Stoney's Crew: The Week of To Do's and To Don'ts!

This week is a solid week of busy, and I am feelin' the need for spring weather...this morning I felt someone staring at me and when I looked out the window a cardinal was looking in at me...I could have sworn he said he was tired of the snow too, but he was more likely telling me that the bird feeder was empty!

On Tuesday, I will be providing a recipe and instructions on making Tortellini Al Forno. Since Lent starts this week, I thought perhaps some of you would be interested in a meatless recipe for the season, and please don't chide me, I know it is not the lowest fat option out there, but it tastes soooo much like Casa's Con Quatro Formagi or Papa Vino's Tri-Color Tortellini that it is hard to say no. Thursday in the lab I will be making Oriental Chicken Salad that is supposed to taste just like Applebee's I will report back results on Friday.

On to the tasks at's that time of the week...drum roll please! Menu Plan Monday.

Here at Stoney's Crew we will be dining on:
Monday, 2/15: Buffet du Lefto Vair! (This happens when you make a big pan of Lasagna for your sweetheart and yes, I said that outloud with a cheezy faux French accent.)
Fat Tuesday, 2/16: Beef Enchiladas, Salad
Ash Wednesday, 2/17: Mac & Cheese, Green Beans, Salad
Thursday, 2/18: Oriental Chicken Salad (I am trying for something like Applebee's)
Friday, 2/19: Tortellini Al Forno (I am going to post this recipe on Tuesday, since it is a meatless dish.) and Salad
Saturday, 2/20: Scalloped Potatoes (Scalped Taters) w/Ham or Smoked Sausage TBD, Salad
Sunday, 2/21: Homemade Pizza, unless I get a better offer?

Although it seems like a light week in the Stoney's Crew Lab, I will be busy making and freezing another chicken and stock and have planned an adventure or two if the weather cooperates.


Stoney's Crew: The Price of a Chicken in Every Pot!

Well, I have run the numbers every which way I can think of and still cannot figure out how to come up with the costs of the stock made from that I'll call it FREE as a by-product of my original quest of chicken.

Yield and Cost:
This is what I have come up with as the yield and the costs of that bird:
13 cups of Chicken meat
4 quarts of stock

Broken down, that is 50 cents per cup of chicken or $1.00 for most recipes. The cost of a 10-12 oz can of chicken meat is about $2.50, so I believe I saved $1.50 for each recipe.

The cost per servings:

$6.50 divided by 34 (including noodles without meat meal) 19 cents a serving.

Exclude the Noodles meatless meal and it is 22 cents per serving.

And, no, that does not include the ingredients to make the meals or the meals themselves. But I have to say...that bird was cheaper per recipe than a can of tuna would have been!

This is the best per total meal cost (includes ingredients, side salad at 25 cents and a veggie or starch in most cases) that I could come up with. I am not an accountant folks, so bear with me!

Plain Chicken with salad, vegetable & potato (round 1) 90 cents per serving
Enchiladas with salad and rice $1.07 per serving
Subs with salad and green beans $1.25 per serving
Chicken Pizza (The FLOP!) was a jaw dropping $2.88 waste per serving (saw that one coming a mile away!)
Chicken Noodle Casserole served with a side salad was $1.88 per serving
Egg Rolls with Fried Rice was 90 cents per serving
White Chicken Chili with side salad was $1.15 per serving
The healing Chicken and Noodles (used stock only was) less than 40 cents to make the Noodles from scratch if you call the stock free.

There you have it. My number crunching efforts...I snagged another chicken this week for 98 cents a pound, slightly higher initial investment, but if I get the minimum 13 cups of meat then I am still ahead with a cost per cup of 55 cents a cup! Don't worry, this week's chicken is being divided like normal in 2 cup portions and put in the freezer for retreval as needed...although I am trying to convince myself to make a huge batch of egg rolls and stash soooo, we will have to see what I decide in the morning of the bone pickin'!

BTW, I used the last of the Cream of Mushroom Soup (1 pint) last night for Swiss Steak Recipe...oh, and yeah it was good!


Stoney's Crew: Egg Rolls & Fried Rice!

I have used the last little bit of chicken from last week's adventure (approximately 2 cups) I still have a quart (+ or -) and a pint of Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup yet, but I have now used the last of the meat! How you ask? Egg Rolls! Sometimes I would have used the chicken in the Fried Rice, but this way you get a 2 fer!

Stoney's Crew Egg Rolls
2 cups cooked chicken (shredded or diced)
2 stalks of celery diced
1 small onion finely diced
1/2 can water chestnut (drained) chopped
Egg Roll Wrappers (usually found in the produce section, I used the large size)
3 eggs
Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix the chicken, celery, onion, water chestnut and 2-1/2 eggs in a bowl...Reserve the 1/2 egg for the seal on the wrap.

Place mixture on egg roll wrapper and...

Wrap! Yes, I used the same wrapping style for the Enchiladas I made last week.

Nine Egg Rolls all in a row! (I could have gotten 10, if I had planned ahead!)

Bring small amount of vegetable oil (enough to be 1/2 up the egg rolls while cooking) in a pan up to high heat. You could use a Fry Daddy or similar fryer if you have one.

Fry until just golden brown. Place on clean cookie sheet and finish cooking and keep warm in warm oven. I have baked in warm oven; but the color isn't as pretty!

Some folks will add other veggies (shredded carrots, shredded cabbage and such), but this seems to be the way that we like them best here at Stoney's Crew.

I have made these ahead and frozen by using a full chicken's(s') meat--one of the fastest ways to do this for a party is to buy plain Rotissere Chickens from your local deli. It will cut down on your prep time if you are in a hurry. Extra Egg Roll Wrappers? Fill them with Taco Meat & shredded cheese and fry as above. You can also make a Crab Ragoon with the wrappers. YUM!

Stoney's Crew Fried Rice
2-3 cups of cooked rice
5 eggs beaten
1 cup diced ham (use leftovers when you can!)
Chopped green onion
Soy Sauce to taste

Scramble eggs in lightly oiled skillet (with pepper if desired--the ham and soy sauce will have a lot of salt, so I don't add any here). Use a whisk to make them fluffy while cooking. Add ham, green onion. Move to one side of skillet. In the other half of skillet add just a bit of oil and spoon plain rice into corner, stir to heat it through.

Once the rice is "fried" mix with the ingredients on the other side of the skillet. Add soy sauce to taste. Fried Rice is ready!

If you want you could add a cup of frozen peas and/or carrots to the ham, egg, onion mixture and warm through. Some also like to add a can of thoroughly rinsed Chinese vegetables. Stoney's Crew likes it best as above. This can easily be doubled or tripled and frozen for future use.

Stoney's Crew Perfect Rice Every Time
1-1/3 cup White Unconverted Rice
Rinse rice in a strainer with cold water thoroughly
Place rice in a 2 quart sauce pan add 2-1/3 cup COLD water
Bring to BOIL; lower heat to simmer and cover for 20 minutes.
Let the rice stand without heat for an additional 20 minutes and when you lift the lid you will have perfect rice every time! Rice can be refrigerated or used immediately.

I now have a microwave rice cooker that I use; but the premise is the same. Rinse, (ratio for mine is 2 cups rice, 4 cups cold water) cook 20 minutes, let sit 20 minutes.

Chicken Meal Count: +5 (2 each) bringing the total to 34 meals! The remainder stock will be used shortly; but I am not sure that it will make a full meal to add to this count. The Cream of Mushroom Soup I am thinking of using in Friday's meal, so stay tuned. Tomorrow, I will provide the cost breakdowns for each meal from this bird and you will be surprised!

Visit Balancing Beauty & Bedlam for Tasty Tuesday's Recipes!