The sauce in this filling is from my great-grandmother, who I hear was an excellent cook. She lived in the ‘Mormon’ colonies in Mexico, left in 1912 to avoid Pancho Villa and other warring factions, returned after the Revolution, and earned money through millinery (making hats) and sewing.  Her last few years were in Arizona, where she cooked and sewed at the LDS Mesa temple.   This recipe was her enchilada sauce, only she used 3 cups of water and 3 Tbsp. chili powder when using it over enchiladas, since more liquid is needed for those.  

These are gluten-free if you use cornstarch and not flour in the filling.  Using shredded meat instead of burger makes these a little more authentic, but ground meat is awfully convenient.  Unless you happen to have some leftover roast available to shred.

Individual Tamale Pies 
Makes 12 muffin-sized ones, or can be made into a 9" pie pan

2 c. masa harina  (OR use 1 c. cornmeal and 1 c. flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. coconut oil or other fat (oil, butter, lard, etc)
about 3/4 to 1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all together to form a moderately thick dough.  Grease 12 muffin cups.  Shape a ball a little bigger than a ping pong ball (3 Tbsp. dough), then press dough in a muffin cup, making a layer about 1/4"- 3/8" thick.  Repeat until finished.  Set aside.  

2 cups cooked burger or shredded beef, pork, or chicken
8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. butter, optional
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. chili powder or to taste
1 Tbsp. cornstarch OR 2 Tbsp. flour

 Mix together the meat, tomato sauce, butter, salt, sugar, and chili powder, and bring to a boil.  Stir the cornstarch or flour into 1-2 Tbsp. water,  to form a slurry.  Gradually mix the slurry into the boiling mixture, cook and stir until thickened, about a minute.  Taste it and add a little more salt if you like.

Spoon 1/4 cup of filling into each of the lined muffin cups.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is set and the filling just starts to bubble around the edges.  Let sit for a couple minutes, then remove them by placing an upside-down cookie sheet on top, then flipping the whole thing upside down (see slideshow below).  

Serve with plain or with shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, or anything else that sounds good.

A quick way to have tender, barbecue pulled beef is to start by having a roast a day or two before.  

On Sunday, I cooked a nearly 4-pound roast.  Once it was done, and before my family could dive into it, I cut it in half.  The first half was carved into slices for dinner.  The second half went in the fridge for another day. I used some storebought BBQ sauce this time, but if you'd like to get a recipe for a simple from-scratch sauce, see Mom's Barbecue Sauce.

Today's version was served over fresh rosemary bread made with a little bit of orange marmalade mixed in.  That was a delicious combination- the bread, rosemary, orange, and barbecue!

Weeknight BBQ Beef

1 1/2- 2 lbs. cooked roast (you can use burger if you don't mind a different texture)
1 cup water
1 cup bottled barbecue sauce*

Combine in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid; simmer 30 minutes or until tender.  Shred meat using two forks.  The meat will absorb more of the liquid as it cools some; if it's too thick, add more water; if too thin, simmer a few minutes with the lid off to let water evaporate.

That's it!

*For a less sweet sauce, use 1/2 c. plain tomato sauce and 1/2 c. bottled BBQ sauce 

Why is it almost Taco Salad?  Because there's no tostada or chips with it.  If you want full-blown Taco Salad, just add some.  Pretend they're corn-chip croutons.  I didn't use those because of a sudden urge to make roasted potatoes and didn't want a lot more carbohydrates in the meal.  Besides, if I opened a bag of chips, the whole thing would disappear, and that's anywhere from $1- 2.50, depending on if we're using cheap tortilla chips or Fritos.  The potatoes, as our carb, cost about $ .50 instead.  Yum.

Almost-Taco Salad

 ½ lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp. tomato powder
2 Tbsp. chili powder
Salt to taste
1 head of lettuce (or a half head each Iceburg and red leaf lettuce)
½ green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ c. shredded cheese
1 tomato, cut in wedges
Optional: thin-sliced onion, sliced avocado, jicama cubes, cooked black beans, drained canned corn, canned green chilies....

Cook the beef until browned.  Meanwhile, wash and chop lettuce and veggies.  Put the lettuce in, then add the vegetables and most of the cheese; mix slightly.  When the burger is done, drain off grease, then add tomato powder and chili powder.  Stir to coat, taste and add salt if needed.  Spread out the meat on a plate to cool more quickly.    When it’s cool, top the salad with it and the remaining cheese.

My family thought it was good without salad dressing, but if you want something to drizzle on top, Ranch is a good choice- especially if you mix a little chili powder into it-, OR this:

Creamy Garlic Dressing:

¼ c. plain yogurt or sour cream
1 Tbsp. water or milk
½ tsp. garlic powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. dried parsley, optional, if you want it to look prettier

Whisk until smooth.
Serve with oregano-roasted potato wedges and vegetable sticks.

Swiss Steak was made, in the beginning, to be a budget-friendly main course.  You take a cheap steak, pound flour and seasonings into it, and braise with tomatoes and onions until the tougher cut becomes tender.

Cheap steak is still pretty expensive in my book.

Hamburger is cheaper, and results in something that tastes just as delicious, even if the texture is different than having a solid piece of meat.  That's OK with me.  I was a little doubtful about the 'tomato gravy' when I first saw the recipe, but it is superb!  
The original recipe came from America's Test Kitchen, but I've modified it a few ways...

Swiss Steak with Tomato Gravy
Serves 8

2 lbs. ground beef or 8 (4 oz) patties
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced thin
1 Tbsp. cornstarch or flour
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes OR one quart home-canned tomatoes (OR one can diced tomatoes and one can of chicken broth)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme OR 1 1/2 tsp. fresh OR 1 tiny drop thyme essential oil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh or dried parsley
Cooked rice or noodles

Set an oven rack to the highest position and turn on the broiler.  Shape burger into 8 patties (if they're not shaped already); set them on a rimmed baking sheet or in a 9x13 pan.  Set onions on the baking sheet too.  Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper.  Broil patties and onions for 2-4 minutes or until they have a good browned crust at least around the edges.  Turn off broiler and heat oven to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, put the cornstarch in a medium saucepan and stir in about 2 Tbsp of the juice from the canned tomatoes.  Stir until smooth, then gradually stir in the remaining tomatoes, plus broth if using it.  Add garlic and thyme.  Stir over high heat until it comes to a boil.  

After the meat has come out of the oven, add the parsley and pour the tomato gravy over top.  Return it all to the oven and bake 20 minutes or until done and tender. 
Serve over rice or noodles, spooning sauce over.
This roast was was tender, juicy, and bursting with savory flavor.
You can use the same ingredients with a beef roast, or even with a whole chicken.

 It was great for our Sunday evening dinner- it happily cooked itself while we were at church. I used a 6-quart slow cooker. This made enough for all 8 of us, plus some leftovers to pack in lunches.

So... I've listed the ingredients I used- but I rarely make this kind of food exactly the same way twice.  Use whatever vegetables you have- potatoes would be really good, but we had mashed potatoes on the side  this time.  With this roast, the mushrooms add to the savory flavor, and the small bit of tomato adds a boost- but you can leave them out anyway if you like.  Adding a tablespoon or two of tomato paste or tomato powder would have the same result. And if you leave out the mushrooms, consider adding a couple splashes of soy sauce or Worchestershire sauce to keep that meaty flavor high.  

Rosemary Pork Roast with Vegetables
2 onions, quartered
3 lb. pork roast
4 tsp. salt, divided
6" sprig fresh rosemary OR 1 1/2- 2 Tbsp. dried rosemary
1/4 c. minced garlic chives OR use 2-4 minced garlic cloves
2 lbs. carrots
1 lb. mushrooms, quartered
1 tomato, cut in 8 wedges

Add the carrots, mushrooms, and tomato and sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tsp. salt. Put the onions in the bottom of a slow cooker, then add the roast (mine was frozen SOLID).  Top the roast with garlic chives, rosemary, and 2 tsp. salt.  Add the carrots, mushrooms, and tomato and sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tsp. salt.  Put the lid on, then cook on high 6 hours or until everything is tender.  If your roast wasn't frozen, it may only need 4-5 hours on high, or 6-8 on low.

Use the juices to make gravy, or just ladle them over the meat and vegetable as they're served.
My husband loves roast.  Tender, flavorful roast, cooked along with tender, sweet quartered onions and  carrots.  He remembers having this every week for Sunday dinner. 

He doesn't get it so often now, with the budget cuts of meat costing $3/lb!

Sometimes what I do make doesn't quite measure up to his fond memories, but this one did.  He raved about it for days.

This makes enough spice mixture  for a 2 ½ -3 lb. roast.  You can make a much bigger batch and save the extra it for future meals. You can vary the spices according to what you have and what sounds good.  This one is good on not only beef, but also chicken, fish, and pork.

Meat Rub- using essential oils
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 drop (or 4 tiny drops) garlic oil 
1 drop (4-5 tiny drops) oregano oil
1 drop (3-4 tiny drops) rosemary oil
2 tiny drops fennel oil (OK without but fantastic with)

I rubbed this on the top, then seared the roast only on the bottom.  To sear, put 1-2 Tbsp. oil in the bottom of a large pan, heat to almost smoking, and then add the roast.  Cook 2-4 minutes, until the bottom is well browned.  Add potatoes, peeled and quartered onions and carrots and sprinkle them generously with salt, 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt per pound of vegetables.  Add about 1 cup of water.

Cover and simmer (or bake at 350 F) for 3-4 hours, or until roast is tender, checking periodically to make sure the water hasn't all boiled away.

Meat Rub- using dried herbs
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder 
1 tsp. powdered oregano OR 2 tsp. dried oregano leaves 

Put the rosemary and fennel in a small non-plastic bowl and grind them using the bottom of a glass spice jar or similar. (If you have a mortar and pestle, use them!)  Add the salt, paprika, garlic powder, and oregano.  Stir to combine, then rub the whole mixture over the roast.

photo courtesy of

Hi everyone,

Does it always seem like too much of your budget goes to food?  Do you wonder what amount of money is 'normal'?  If so, go to the Official USDA Food Plans pdf.

This page will give you the 2010 averages, based on nutritionally balanced diets cooked at home.  Now that you see how frugal you really are, here are some tips to help even more; pick just one or two to try so it's not overwhelming. Then all that's left is deciding how that new-found money is going to better use!

Ways to eat well on less money:

*Buy on sale and get extras so you never pay full price.

*Buy the fresh fruits/veggies that are $1/lb or less.

*Find ways to throw away less- only serve up what you will eat, save wilted veggies in the freezer for soup later, re-purpose leftovers.

*Use meat mostly as a flavoring (mixed in with other ingredients), not as its own dish.

*Buy meats that you can get for $2/lb or less, or whatever is bargain-price for your area.

*When you buy meat, get a bunch on sale, then cook it all at once.  Package and freeze most of it for future, faster, meals.

*Buy flour, sugar in bulk, make more things from scratch.

*Keep your kitchen clean so you like being there!  (You don't need to do it all yourself!  Doing dishes 'all the time' causes depression for me- once I added that to my kids' job charts, I felt much better!)

*Grow a garden where you used to have some lawn- you get the same water bill, more food.  Packets of seeds can last 4-5 years if kept cool and dark.   Or split packets with a friend.  

*Make your own bread instead of buying it.

How much can you save on bread?  Cost varies by recipe, but mine comes out to less than $ .50 per loaf ($. 42), including the electricity for baking, for top-quality whole-wheat bread.  (Well, frankly, the quality varies by week....)   If you eat two loaves a week, that saves you $200/year when compared to $2.50/loaf of bread.   We go through 6 loaves a week, so we’re saving over $600 per year.  Yes, a stand mixer and grain mill  definitely pay for themselves!  For the recipe I use, see Basic Bread on my website.
Yesterday the Teachers' Quorum (14-15 yr. old boys) came to my house for their weekly activity.  They've been learning about nutrition and safe food handling, so they all pitched in and cooked a meal.    Their handout included budget-friendly, adaptable, and fairly fast recipes; the kind that would be especially valuable when in college or on missions.  For these recipes, click on Quick & Cheap Meals.  The boys did great with them, I think you'll like them, too.   

Happy cooking and budgeting!

This quote was recently brought to my attention; it’s from some training that our General Relief Society President recently gave.  It is motivating and assuring at the same time.  I am grateful for wise and loving leaders, as well as the Spirit, to guide us.  I know they teach truth.

Below it  is a very adaptable recipe for meatballs/meatloaf.      



“I have a sense and a feeling as we have watched some of these disasters in the world, that this is a time for us to learn and prepare from these experiences.   The preparation happens in our own homes. There are not enough tents in the world to furnish every person with a tent unless the members of the church have a tent in their own homes...a simple thing like that. And then the storehouse is pressed down, heaped over and running over in our own homes. Some of you have student apartments, how prepared are you? If an earthquake or an economic disaster happened, would you have enough water to drink for 24 hours? Would you be able to get by until help could come to you? Those are the kind of the things we need to be thinking about in our day and time, the Lord expects us to do our little part and then He can bring on the miracles and then we don't need to fear.  I bear you my testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and that these principles will strengthen us individually, and as a family, and as a people, and as a church.  As we listen to prophets of God we will be okay.  We don’t need to worry about being alive in this scary time.  The world has had scary times before and the Lord has always taken care of His people who have been faithful.

 –  Julie B. Beck  

see herefor her whole video clip, then click on Training Video: Self-Reliance

Meatballs and meatloaf are essentially the same food; only the size differs.  Burgers or patties can be the same recipe, too.  In the simplest version, you simply salt and season meat, then form and cook it.  To end up with tender, juicy results, you either use higher-fat meat, or use something to help hold the moisture in.  Many recipes call for crushed crackers or dry breadcrumbs, but the most tender results come from making a panade, which is a bread-and-milk paste.  You can also use, in the same amount as the panade,  mashed or grated potato, cooked rice, leftover cooked oatmeal (unsweetened!) or other hot cereal for this. This would make the meatballs be gluten-free.  Dry crumbs soak up more moisture, leaving you with a drier result.  Egg is usually used as a binder, to hold the meat together. And try to not squeeze the meat very much when you’re mixing it; compressed meat is tough.  Other than that, use whatever flavor additions you prefer –

Onion, garlic, ground pepper, Worchestershire sauce, soy sauce, raw pork sausage, Parmesan or other cheese, parsley, rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, Liquid Smoke, bacon pieces, diced chili peppers, shredded zucchini or carrot, chopped mushrooms, bits of sundried tomatoes, chopped spinach.  

 For quick, simple meals later on, make a BIG batch of meatloaf, and shape it into

* a couple meatloaves

*rolled meatloaf- pat into a rectangle on some waxed paper, spread on some filling (cheese and spinach, or whatever sounds good), roll it up with the help of the waxed paper.  (Don’t leave the paper inside it!)

*some meatballs

*mini meat loaves (portions to bake in muffin tins or custard cups)

 Freeze on cookie sheets so they won’t stick together, either before or after cooking them, then pop into freezer bags, squeeze the air out, label and freeze.

For several flavor variations, click on   Tender and Moist Meatloaf and Meatballs .

Tender and Moist Meatballs or Meatloaf

2 slices good-quality white bread, cut in ¼” cubes (1 ½ c.)
3 Tbsp. buttermilk, thinned yogurt or sour cream- milk works but is less creamy
1 egg
1 ½ lbs. lean burger (may use pork sausage as part of this)
¾ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
¼- ½ c. Parmesan cheese
¼ c. minced fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine the bread, buttermilk, and egg, or use 1/2 c. other wet starch (i.e. cooked rice, oatmeal, mashed potato), with the egg, omitting buttermilk.  Mash together until it forms a paste. Add everything else and mix gently.  Form into meatballs, 1- 2” in diameter.  If you’re cooking them right away, they’ll hold together better if you first refrigerate them for an hour. To cook, pan-fry over medium heat in 1-2 Tbsp. oil, shaking the pan often to turn the meatballs.  1 ½” meatballs should be done in about 10 minutes.  Add to sauce, or cool and freeze.

Another way to cook them is:

Put meatballs on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 450 degrees F for 12-15 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet back-to-front halfway through.  Partially cool, then freeze.


Mix, form into a loaf, and bake for 1 hour @ 350 F. Before the last 15 minutes, brush with
Meatloaf glaze:

1/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. cider vinegar
This is the panade mixed with the seasonings; eggs are mixed in before adding the meat.  There are so many eggs because this is for a ten-pound batch of meatballs/loaf.

Fully mixed.  A small icecream scoop (this is a #10) makes quick work of meatballs.   Another way to make evenly-sized ones is to pat the meat in a square or rectangle, then cut them into evenly-sized small squares.  Roll each one.  One pound of meatball mixture will give you about 30 1-inch balls.

Put the meatballs on a lightly greased or sprayed cookie sheet.  For the roundest meatballs, roll them between your hands.  You can bake them now, and freeze them already cooked, or freeze them raw.  Put the whole tray in the freezer.  When they're solid, remove and put the meatballs in a freezer-safe bag or container.  Squeeze out the extra air, label, and put back in the freezer. 

The individually-frozen meatballs packaged and ready to go in the freezer. They're best if used within a few months, but they'll be safe to eat for much longer.  (I've used 2-year-old meatballs before.)


Barbecue Sauce on beef

(originally from 5/27/10)
Here’s a great idea from Meridian Magazine: 

 the “Emergency Preparedness Moment

What emergency preparedness activity would you like to do this week for your family? Make this a matter of prayer and you will be surprised at the promptings you can receive. These few minutes every seven days during Family Home Evening can help your children be ready for a variety of emergencies. Problem solving skills, first aid skills, putting together backpack 72-hour kits, or any other kind of creative endeavor shows your family you love them and teaches them how to take care of themselves in tough scenarios. What will you choose this week?” 

You could also find a minute or two while you're driving kids to school or activities. A little bit of time each week can help you cover a LOT of ground. If you need resources, some great ones online are    If you prefer a booklet you can HOLD, both of these are available, free of charge, at the city office building, from the city emergency planner.  Here in South Jordan that’s Dustin Lewis.  He’s happy to pass them out!

Maybe expand the “Emergency Preparedness Moment” into a “Self-Reliant Living Moment”?    See where the Spirit leads you in your quest… 


 * * * * * * *
Mom's Barbeque Sauce       Makes about 3 cups

2   8-oz cans  tomato sauce (or 2/3 c. tomato powder and 1 1/3 c. water)   1   can/cup water (fill up one of the now-empty tomato sauce cans)   1 chopped onion (size is totally up to you)  or use a handful of dried
A couple sprinkles  of garlic   
pepper to taste   
3-4   shakes   of Worcestershire sauce   
1 Tbsp. vinegar, optional
Sugar, honey, or molasses to taste, anywhere from none to ½ cup

Simmer everything together until flavors combine, at least 10 minutes, or an hour if you have it, to let it thicken and become rich.  This will be even better the next day or later in the week.  Leftovers freeze well.  If using this with hamburger, you can cook the hamburger with the onion and then add the rest and simmer.

If you want to change the flavor a bit, add a spice or two. Some good ones for this are cloves (try 1/8-1/4 tsp.), oregano (about 1 tsp.), chili powder (1-3 tsp.), or Liquid Smoke (1/2-1 tsp.), mustard (1 tsp. dry, or up to ¼ c. of the stuff in a squeeze bottle), a dash of cayenne, a little Tabasco sauce. Basically any spice that you like!  Another idea is to use pineapple juice in place of the water.  With that one, try just a tablespoon or two of brown sugar.  Or use orange juice and honey with ½ tsp. ginger.

To make BBQ Beef, brown a roast in a couple tablespoons of hot oil.  Pork or chicken are also good.

Add all the Barbecue Sauce ingredients.  If you have a tight-fitting lid, or are using a crockpot, don't add the cup of water.   A little vinegar in the sauce will help tenderize the meat.  In this batch, I used 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, and 1/4 c. honey. 

When the meat is cooked and tender, remove the lid and boil until the sauce thickens enough to coat. 

Shred or slice the meat, then stir together with the sauce.  Delicious!  Just the right amount of sweetness for me.  Store-bought sauce is always too sweet, in my opinion.  I still buy it when it's cheap, but mix it with some plain tomato sauce.