Essential Traditions/Real Food Real Frugal

The archives for the old Essential Traditions blog and the old Real Food Real Frugal Blog

Mexican Cauliflower Casserole

My family has really gotten into cauliflower lately!  Their favorites so far are the Mashed Cauliflower and the Cauliflower Mexican Rice.  So the other day, I was thinking about what to fix for dinner and the boys had been bugging me for some Cauliflower Mexican Rice.  We were all in the mood for Mexican food but didn’t feel like having tacos, our usual Mexican fare.  So I decided to create a Mexican casserole using the Cauliflower Mexican Rice as a base, an voila–Mexican Cauliflower Casserole was born.  This recipe got such rave reviews from my fellas that I’m sure it will be requested again and again.  It’s not hard to make and it’s really tasty!



Spicy Chicken Eggplant Stew

I have never in my life eaten eggplant.  There I said it!  Eggplant was just not something served to me growing up.  For years I continued on in ignorance of this funny little purple vegetable.  Until, my brother-in-law started raving about it.  THEN, my husband decided that it was time we gave eggplant a try.  I have to say, I’m happy we did, because everyone LOVED it.  Now the only problem with eggplant, is that most of the recipes were for Italian dishes…Houston we have a problem!  My husband is not a big fan of Italian food, so it’s not something that I serve very often.  So I decided to try for a more Mexican flavor.  If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you will see that a LOT of my recipes have a decidedly Mexican flavor.  Hey, we live in Texas where Tex-Mex is king!  That and my family just loves it!  So, the day before, I had just finished cooking up a whole chicken, half of it went into another recipe (sharing on the blog on Monday), so I decided to make a chicken dish.  Originally, it was going to be Chicken-Eggplant Enchiladas, but it came out too runny.  So instead, I named it Spicy Chicken Eggplant Stew.  While not what I originally planned on it being, it still turned out REALLY yummy and my fellas chowed down on it.  Makes this momma happy 🙂


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Cream Cheese Crockpot Chicken (grain & gluten free)

Cream Cheese Crockpot Chicken is absolutely one of the easiest recipes to get together and do. It’s yummy and quick, a great combination for busy moms! I love using my crockpot, it makes preparing dinner a snap. I can just dump in all the ingredients and let it cook until dinner. The crockpot, in my house, is an essential kitchen tool. I probably use it more often an any other small appliance in my home. This recipe came about because I had 3 pounds of frozen chicken breasts in my freezer. My husband is not a fan of baked chicken breasts, but he loves anything with a Mexican flavor. This was one of those kitchen experiments that went right 🙂 I was going to post today about a really special grain free dessert I’ve been working on…but that one went wrong! So I had to switch gears and figure out something else to post about. I made this chicken last Sunday for our church potluck so I already had pictures ready. It’s always nice to have backups! The recipe itself is grain and gluten free.  You can control what you serve it on by your choice of how to serve it.  You can serve these with flour, corn, whole wheat, or spouted tortillas. Whatever kind of tortillas your family usually uses. But if you are grain free like us, you can serve it on a leafy lettuce leaf. It’s yummy no matter how you serve it!


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Salmon Patties (Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Well, our grain free diet continues and it has been going really well.  The only time I’ve “cheated” is at our weekly church potluck, where I eat what is available.  Sometimes there’s lots of grain free options, sometimes there’s not.  But I figure that doing the best I can is better than nothing!  Besides, I eat well during the rest of the week and I try to take options we can eat to the potluck.  Last Sunday, I took lasagna made with zucchini “noodles”, mashed cauliflower, and berries with a vanilla yogurt “dressing”.

Today, I’m sharing with your my recipe for Salmon Patties.  These are grain free, gluten free, and dairy free.  I made these last night for dinner and they are always a hit with my fellas.  The picture shows them served with homemade mashed potatoes, which is our preferred accompaniment, but since we’re cutting out starchy foods as well, this isn’t how I fixed them last night…it’s an older picture 🙂  Last night we had them with an Asian Broccoli Slaw, which turned out yummy!  The kids and hubby also have to have them with ketchup, which means that I have to get on the ball and try my hand at making fermented ketchup—or at least making my own ketchup from scratch so I can control the ingredients.  So many things to do!

[gmc_recipe 1030]


Chicken and Rice Soup

Normally, today, I would be posting my Thinner Me Monday post about how my diet is going. But instead, I am sick with some sort of stomach thing and just plain ol’ didn’t feel like it. I’ll continue the posts next week, but for now, I’m taking it easy. So instead, I decided to share one of my family’s favorite gotta-eat-when-sick soup,–Chicken and Rice soup. This is an really easy recipe and it’s one of those comfort foods we enjoy when we’re not feeling well. This is much more nutritious than the stuff you get in the can and it tastes better too!  My boys just love this soup on cold winter days. It’s nice and filling and served with sandwiches, makes a favorite lunch.

I use my nourishing chicken bone stock in this recipe, along with fresh vegetables and the meat from a pastured chicken that we get from my friend, Summer, over at Mesquite Hill Farm over in China Spring Texas. I love their chicken and eggs because not only are they pastured but they are soy free as well!  Later I think one of the most important things you can do for your health and diet is to KNOW WHERE your food comes from.  I know that is not always possible, but getting to know the people who produce your food can lead to some really wonderful friendships and can save you money as well.  Shopping directly from the farm allows you to get the best prices on fresh produce and even special prices when they have an abundance of an item.   This week, I will also be sharing my recipe for the nourishing chicken stock, as I’ll be making a batch.

Anyway, on to the Chicken & Rice Soup recipe!
[gmc_recipe 990]


Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese

My boys love macaroni and cheese so I have been on a quest for yummy, homemade, gluten-free Mac & Cheese. I grew up on those boxed mac & cheese mixes with the powdered cheese and later on the ones with the pouch of Velveeta cheese. My Mom has a special homemade bake macaroni and cheese recipe, but it was usually only served at holidays (It’s yummy though!). I think most kids love mac & cheese, I know my boys do…even my pickiest eater, Riley. I created this recipe because I wanted something healthier for my kids, yet wasn’t too complicated. It does take more time than the box, but the cheese sauce is so much healthier than the powdered stuff that I’m more than happy to spend an extra few minutes at the stove.

I have yet to find a source for grain-free macaroni.  I’ve found some grain-free pasta, but it was all stuff like spaghetti and other long thin pastas–no macaroni.  So, the best I could figure out to do was to go with a gluten-free pasta, such as rice, quinoa, or gluten-free.  At least I could go wheat/gluten-free.  Seriously…someone needs to create some grain-free macaroni—there is a market for it!  Everyone loves mac & cheese and many families no longer eat it due to the lack of options for the pasta.  Gluten-free pasta in any form (rice, quinoa or gluten free) is not cheap, you’re looking at at least $4.00 for 14-16 ounces.  Then when you add in the cost of the other ingredients, well healthy, gluten-free Mac & Cheese could no longer be considered a “cheap” lunch.  But kids (and adults) all over the U.S. crave this yummy comfort food, so sometimes you just have to spurge and even considering the cost, it’s still much cheaper than many other real food based meals.

Over the years, we’ve played around with this recipe a lot. So, we’ve created several variations which change it up and can also make it more like a full meal. Mac & cheese makes a great start for a meal, just add your choice of meat and veggies and you can make it go from a side dish to a full fledged main dish casserole. I’ve added so many different things to this recipe and nearly every one was a big hit with the family.

Some additions to make this a full meal or change it up a bit.

Add ¼ cup salsa
Add 1 cup tuna and ½ cup green peas
Add 1 cup shredded chicken and ¼ cup salsa
Add 1 cup chopped broccoli
Add 1 cup diced ham and 1 cup chopped broccoli
Add 1 cup left over taco meat and 1/4 cup salsa

[gmc_recipe 953]


Lentil Chili

I am always looking for inexpensive ways to feed my family. Lentil Chili is one of the easiest and also one of my family’s favorite. It’s a simple meal that leaves enough leftovers for a second meal, which makes it extra economical. This is my recipe, along with the price breakdown.

1 lb. dry brown lentils ($0.99)
8 tbsp. apple cider vinegar ($0.12)
1 lb. ground beef ($7.00) (Grass-fed Beef)
2 (8-oz.) cans organic tomato sauce ($2.00)
1 can organic Rotel style tomatoes ($1.00)
2 tbsp. chili powder ($0.17)
1 organic onion powder ($0.75)
1 tbsp. Redmond’s or himalyan salt ($0.01)

Now, of course, the price goes up if you change the ingredients around. When I can, I do use organic. Also, what you serve with the chili will raise the price of the meal. We often serve it with a salad out of the garden, which is free, except for the salad dressings. Almost always, my husband requests flour tortillas and cheese. Another favorite way to eat this is with corn bread. So, all of these things will vary the cost per serving. However you serve it, Lentil Chili is a cost effective meal that’s cheap, filling and healthy for you!

[gmc_recipe 706]


Venison Pot Pie

Venison Pot Pie - RealFoodRealFrugal.comVenison Pot Pie is a recipe that I came up a few winters back after my Dad gave us a BUNCH of venison.  It turned out SO good, the gravy was so yummy! My fellas really liked it as well and it was really easy to make. I often make up the pie crusts ahead of time and keep in the freezer for quick use in recipes like this. Much healthier than the pie crusts you buy at the store in the refrigerator section…but you can use one of them if you’d rather. This is a great recipe for using what you have on hand. The meat can be whatever you like…ground, cubed, beef, pork, chicken, turkey or even tuna/fish. You can also use a variety of stocks and vegetables. Pretty much follow the measurements/poundage for the meats and veggies and substitute what you have on hand. My fellas gave this recipe a 5 our of 5 stars, so I think they liked it a little bit. They ate the entire thing…Colt had 4 servings and even my picky eater, Riley, cleaned his plate and I found him picking out the few stray veggies left in the casserole dish and eating them.

Venison Pot Pie

[gmc_recipe 480]

Linking With: Simple Lives Thursday, Natural Living Link-Up, Ultimate Recipe Swap, Cooking Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Friday Homemaking Link-Up, Finer Things Friday


Frugal Beans, Rice and Chicken Crock-Pot Dinner

Frugal Beans :: Finding Beauty

Graphic by Grace Felt

We eat a lot of bean meals around out house.  Not just because they are frugal, but also because my family really loves them.  You should see how excited Riley gets when he knows beans and cornbread are on the menu.  Beans are so nutritious and frugal and they can really help lower your grocery bill, yet ensuring your family still has healthy meals.  Richy or poor, we’ll probably always be bean eaters, it’s just a meal that my family really loves.

Frugal Beans, Rice and Chicken Crock-Pot Dinner

2 cups dried beans (I use a combo of small red beans and pinto beans)
1 cup Uncooked brown rice
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (usually left overs from a baked whole chicken)
2 tbsp. taco seasoning (I use homemade)

I usually start this around 12 p.m. and it’s ready to serve at 6 p.m. In a crock pot, place the beans, rice, onion and garlic. Cover with water. Turn crock-pot on high and let cook. About 1 hour before dinner time, add the stewed tomatoes, shredded chicken and taco seasoning. We usually eat this with cornbread.

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Lasagna for the Summer Time

Lasagna is one of my all time favorite dishes but not usually in the summer time. It is too hot to get the oven going for that length of time. Enter the slow cooker, or crock pot if that’s what you’re used to.

Today I’d like to share with you a rather simple recipe to make lasagna in the summer time  without the oven heat!

Summer Time Lasagna

You will need:
3+ quart slow cooker (this recipe was for a 7 quart cooker)
Medium/large pan (to brown the meat and sauce)
Medium bowl (to mix the cheeses)
9 ounces lasagna noodles, broken to fit the slow cooker (or 12 ounces other type noodle)
1 pound ground meat of your choice
30 ounces of spaghetti sauce (depending on the noodles you use, you may need to add up to 1 cup of water as well)
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
15 ounces small curd cottage cheese (or Ricotta)

Cheese, cheese, more cheese. And some herbs.

I used farfalle (bow tie) noodles instead of traditional lasagna noodles.

What you do:

Brown the ground meat and drain. Add the sauce (and water) to the meat and allow to simmer as you prepare the next step.

I used pork sausage and actually repurposed some sauce that I’d used for chicken cacciatore. And some Manwich sauce. We didn’t have any spaghetti sauce.

Mix 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella cheese, the Parmesan cheese, and the cottage cheese together. You may add spices if you like.

This is what it looked like after mixed and almost all gone. I added basil and oregano.

Add a thin layer of meat sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker.

Layer noodles, cheese mix, meat sauce, noodles, cheese mix, etc., until there is no more. It really does not matter if you end with the meat sauce or cheese but not a good idea to end with noodles. They would not be adequately cooked.

Layering. I have a 7-quart slow cooker. You may need to use less than I listed in the ingredients.

Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours. It will depend on how your slow cooker works.

A few minutes before serving –up to 10– cover with cheese and allow to melt.

My lasagna isn’t done yet or I’d include an after photo as well. But it sure does smell yummy! I did get the idea for this from –this recipe and this one. Rarely do I follow a recipe as it’s written.

It’s been cooking for almost 2 hours- looking good!

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