Friday, September 23, 2016

Quick Italian Sausage & Black Olive Pizza

All ingredients come from my local Dollar Tree store for my Quick Sausage & Black Olive Pizza recipe.

It came together quickly as I found what I needed cruising the frozen deli case and store aisles. So read on to see my easy-to-make pizza recipe with tasty cheap$kate ingredients.

Click on any photo to see larger.

The first Dollar Tree item that caught my attention was pre-baked Camillo's Pizza Crusts. You get two 7 inch rounds for a buck! But sometimes you get what you pay for. While they are tasty,  (because they are already baked) when you build the pizza and bake it, the crust dries out until it has the texture of a large cracker.

Now that is fine if you like a crunchy crust. I like the outer crust hard, but prefer the rest of the crust to droop under the weight of the toppings. So, while the pizza crust is fine tasting, the texture is too hard. I even reduced the temperature, that the package recommended. I baked the assembled pizzas for 10 minutes as 400 degrees.

But the crust held up well with the added ingredients of pizza sauce, cooked sausage, cheese and sliced olives.

Further down the aisle with pizza crusts, I found plenty of canned tomato sauce, but lucked out and picked up a 14 ounce jar of Pizza Sauce by Francesco Rinaldi. It is quite tasty.

Mainly a tomato sauce, the extra spice and herbs are a subtle addition. It is very much like a typical canned pasta sauce.

The jar holds enough to sauce half a dozen of the 7 inch pizza rounds, so this is a deal I can get behind. I also found jars of Alfredo sauce as well, so I'll make a White Sauce Pizza next time.

I made my way to the Dollar Tree cold deli case against the back wall. It held all the toppings I needed for a sausage pizza.

They carried small packages of sliced pepperoni and a couple types of breakfast sausage, both made by Farmer John's. On type was just plain, while the other were links with maple syrup flavorings. I went for the plain Farmer John's Sausage, in a 12 ounce package. A darn good deal.

I figured I would fry up the sausage with a sprinkle of dried Italian herbs like oregano and basil. Also I added a little salt and pepper to the frying sausage.

I broke up the larger pieces of sausage into bite sizes to fit as a pizza topping. Farmer John's sausage is much fattier than regular link sausages, so be sure to drain off the grease after sauteing.

 And once you add some herbs, it gets close enough in flavor to a link of Italian sausage. I cooked the sausage all the way through.

When building the pizza with pre-cooked pizza dough, all you need to do is heat it up until the cheese melts and the sausage is hot again.

There was a nice selection of dried herbs across from the canned items. The main missing ingredient are fennel seeds. (But if you have some fennel seed in the cupboard then add it, too.)

I guess I could have fried up the Maple Syrup flavored sausage, adding Italian herbs, and called it Sweet Italian Sausage. Dollar Tree also carried an individual uncooked Jennie-O Turkey Burger patty. So it would have been easy to make low-fat Italian-style turkey sausage, too.

There were also small 3 ounce packages of shredded mozzerella. That's enough to take care of two small individual pizzas.

The deli case also held packages of fresh frozen vegges like asparagus and different veggie combos. I could have added a couple of asparagus spears, or just made a veggie pizza.

And one aisle over they had cans of black olives and jars of roasted red peppers. I got the olives, but next time I would try the marinated peppers. I like to thinly slice black olives as a pizza topping.

So for about 6 bucks I got enough Dollar Tree ingredients to make 4 individual pizzas (adding dried herbs I have at home,) with leftover pizza sauce, sausage, and plenty of olives.

What's nice is being able to add as much sauce, olives and sausage as I wanted on each pizza. I had just enough mozzarella though, so could not go overboard with that.

I find that may budget premade individual pizzas lacking, mainly they are skimpy with the meat and cheese. Using fresh pork sausage is so much tastier and I can crumble it into any size I like.

So on my Cheap$kate Dining Scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best, I give my Quick Italian Sausage and Olive Pizza made with Dollar Tree ingredients a strong 7!

This pizza would could have been a perfect 9 if the pizza crust was better. So while the ingredients were satisfactory, I'm still searching for a better pizza crust...for around a dollar.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Macaroni & Krab Salad with Avocado& Tomato

This recipe is Wife Approved and she actually makes it herself. I just kicked back and took a few photos so you can see how she does it.

I like Macaroni Salad anytime and this one couldn't be easier to do. Once you cook the macaroni, just cool it down then get to chopping a few veggies.

Juicy tomato and creamy avocado always go well together, and with the addition of fake krab you have a filling and winning Macaroni Salad - it's a standalone meal.

I can find tomatoes for less than a dollar per pound, especially smaller Roma and cherry tomatoes. Often tomatoes are semi-ripe and slightly hard. They improve in taste if you let them ripen on a counter for another day or two. Refrigerate when ripe.

Avocados are frequently on sale at my local Latin market.You want to plan ahead if avocados are hard and green, they may take a few days to soften for peak ripeness. And a trick I use is to keep ripe avocados in the refrigerator until read to use.

Fake crab, or krab, is carried by my local 99c only Stores, but since you only need half a pound for this recipe even regular markets often sell it for $2 to $3 dollars per pound - so it's still a cheap$kate seafood deal.

And pasta is a deal at any grocery store.

I use mayo a lot, so I always stock up when it's on sale. My local 99c only Store carries all kinds.

Click on any photo to see larger.

So there is no excuse not to make my latest recipe, Macaroni & Krab Salad with Avocado& Tomato, especially when it's Wife Approved! It travels well, so make plenty to bring to your next pot luck or party.

  • 12 to 16 ounces of elbow macaroni - small or large elbow.
  • 1 cup chopped tomtoes - about 2 to 4 tomatoes, depending on size. You can use any type of tomato even smaller and cheaper Roma or cherry tomatoes. Okay to add more to taste.
  • 1 cup chopped avocado - about 2 avocados, depending on size. Okay to add more or less according to your budget.
  • 8 ounces fake crab - okay to use more or less to your taste.
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of mayo - I used light, but okay to use regular or any type you like. Add as much mayo as you like. May need to add more mayo for larger 16 ounce package of macaroni.
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar - use white or rice vinegar.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • Extra flavor - half a teaspoon of dill (dry or fresh,) celery seed and dried mustard.
  • Water - enough to cover and boil macaroni. 

Add water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Add dried elbow macaroni and cook until desired tenderness, about 7 to 10 minutes. Okay to follow macaroni package directions.

After macaroni is tender, drain it and cool macaroni down with cold water -- so the cooking stops before macaroni becomes to mushy.

Add macaroni to a large bowl. Add a teaspoon of vinegar to macaroni.

Add mayo. Mix and taste to see if it's creamy enough for you. Add more mayo if necessary.

Chop tomatoes and avocado.

My wife likes to "brighten up" chopped tomato with a dash of vinegar, salt and pepper.

Shred or slice krab. See below under Hindsight to reconstitute krab if it's mealy and dried out from freezing. 

Add chopped tomatoes, krab and avocados. Lightly mix all ingredients. Be careful when mixing, if avocado is very soft. Okay to add avocado last, so you don't smash it up.

Serve right away, or refrigerate for a few hours to chill. Avocado will start to brown the next day, so best to try and finish Macaroni & Krab Salad with Avocado& Tomato in a couple of days; or just set aside the unpeeled avocado and add fresh chunks before serving.

You can make this Macaroni Salad without krab. To keep it vegetarian use a vegan mayo.

If you prepare Macaroni & Krab Salad with Avocado& Tomato far ahead of time make sure to check for desired creaminess to see if mayo holds up. You may need to add a tablespoon or so more.

Sometime kab can be tough or mealy, especially when frozen and defrosted. To bring krab back to life, add it to a bowl and just drizzle on half a teaspoon of water over defrosted krab. Cover it with a paper towel or napkin and microwave in 10 second increments. Stir krab and repeat if necessary. You just want a slightly warm and soften krab. Be careful not to overcook krab or it becomes mushy.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Strawberry Pancakes - Video Recipe

However you slice it, strawberries are a great way to start your day. You can be sure I keep my refrigerator stocked come strawberry season. Here in California, the harvest is most abundant in the Spring, but with all the greenhouses I can get them almost year-round. If you like them too, then you've come to the right place for a delish video recipe: Strawberry Pancakes.

If you can get them from a farmers market, or roadside fruit stand, you are indeed fortunate. But even from regular grocery store fruit bins, they are sweet and flavorful enough. I get mine from my local Latin market and 99c only Stores, usually in clear plastic 1 pound containers.

I use store-bought dry pancake batter mix that I find at 99c only Stores. You can use any favorite pancake batter.

Strawberries are very delicate. Be sure to turn the containers all around to inspect strawberries for ripeness and uniform red color. Sometimes they are not fully ripe or even too ripe.

And the fruity pancakes are so simple to make, just trim off the leafy green strawberry caps and slice the juicy fruit; mix up a store-bought pancake batter, and fire up the stovetop griddle (frying pan).

I like to add the strawberries to the frying pan first then pour on the batter. That way the berries come in direct contact with the hottest part of the pan. The strawberries soften and slightly caramelize to extra sweetness. If you like your strawberries less cooked then just mix them into the pancake batter.

I enjoy fresh strawberries in my morning cereal, mixed into yogurt, and now sliced in pancakes.

Strawberry Pancakes - Video

Play it here. The video runs 1 minute, 7 seconds.

To view or embed from Youtube, click here.

Ingredients (2 servings, using a pancake mix)
  • 1 cup pancake mix - following store-bought pancake mix directions. Okay to use vegan pancake mix too.
  • 3/4 cup water - following store-bought pancake mix directions. Okay to use milk for a richer pancake batter.
  • 1 cup strawberries - roughly sliced or chopped. Use any strawberry amount that suits your taste. Okay to substitute with any fresh seasonal fruit like cherry, blueberry, peach, apricot, strawberry, and even sliced banana (watch when cooking as bananas burn easily), or canned fruit like pineapple and peaches.
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil - to grease skillet. Add more when needed, depending on how many pancakes you make.
  • Butter and favorite pancake syrup - add as much as you like. Okay to use a butter substitute.

Prepare pancake batter according to package directions. My pancake mix calls for 1 cup of flour and 3/4 cup of water.

Mix pancake ingredients in a bowl. When mixed it will be like thick country gravy.

Start to heat the pan over medium heat. Slice or roughly chop strawberries.

Add oil to the pancake pan. I like to add strawberries first so they caramelize when cooking, but okay to just mix strawberries into pancake batter.

Pour on the pancake batter. Brown each side of the pancake. Mine took about 2-3 minutes for each side. It really depends on how hot your pan gets. The box directions above mention cooking time to brown each side as 1.5 minutes each....hmmmm, they must be using a super hot pan!

If you want a dark brown pancake presentation, then just cook one side to get the right amount of brown, then cook the other side for a minute, to finish. Serve browned side up, on the plate.

Serve hot with melted butter and your favorite pancake syrup or topping.

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