Budget-Friendly, Teacher-Friendly, Fast and Fabulous Sunday Dinner

Posted: October 22, 2012 in From Student to Teacher
Tags: , , , , ,

**This post is dedicated to Ms. Nine, whose blog I enjoy, and who was kind enough to check on me recently.  Thank you!

I usually spend late afternoon/cooking time alternating between the stove and the laptop, reading blogs about food and family.  Ree Drummond, a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman, has a tremendously successful blog, and out of this world recipes that are simple to understand and simpler to make.

So I thought I would begin the week with a recipe for the budget-conscious teachers (or anyone else) who want to cook a savory meal and get it done QUICKLY!

To all the professional bloggers out there with delicious cameras that have all kinds of attachments, forgive me.  These pictures came from my iPhone.  Mea culpa…

This was a hit for everyone in my family last night…let’s say I’ll call it:

Tortellini Surprise

We’ll do it flashback style.  So here’s the finished product:

This looks hearty and delicious.  The sauce takes me back to my travel abroad to Italy a long time ago.  Seriously, that sauce looks like something made from scratch; certainly not a jar of .99 cent pasta sauce.  I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me lay out the ingredients so you can make this just as quickly as I did last night:

Tortellini Surprise

One pound of lean ground beef

diced red onions

minced garlic

fresh cilantro (I just used this because I had it.  I would put it in my Corn Flakes if I could!)

green bell pepper, chopped (I bought a frozen bag for $1.00 at Kroger. It’s cheaper than one bell pepper.)

 — I only used a little bell pepper because, well…I have little children and we all know how picky they are.

One jar of pasta sauce (Again, I bought the jar of .99 cent Kroger pasta. It tastes just like Prego.)

One or two bags of cheese tortellini (Kroger brand.  Cheaper than fancy Italian sounding brands)

Seasonings like garlic powder, italian seasoning, pepper,


Organic flax seed

Organic coconut oil

*I don’t think my family reads my blog so I feel it is safe to note that these are those special Hallmark moments when I slip in healthy things for my family without them knowing.  I used the organic coconut oil, which has great health properties, into the ground beef, and when I was seasoning the beef, I added a tablespoon of the flax seed.  My husband doesn’t like seeds at all, and he DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE.  Give it a try.

For the cooking novices (and just because I took all these photos), here’s some step by step pictures:

Step 1:  Brown the beef in a large skillet, with a bit of olive oil or the coconut oil I used.

When the meat is almost all brown, with little to no pink showing, I add a generous teaspoon of minced garlic, about two or three slices of red onion diced, and I grab a handful of cilantro and chop it up as small as possible and add it as well.  Then I remembered the green bell pepper that was in the freezer.  When the fresh produce is too expensive, I look in the frozen food aisle.  Lo and behold, I found a bag of chopped green bell pepper for $1.00!  I tossed in a little. Remember, I have little finicky ones running around the house.  And I still have tons more for another meal.

Step 2: Once the meat is smelling good, it’s time to add the pasta sauce. I add the entire jar and then half a jar of water.  It will not be runny.  The .99 cent jar from Kroger is thick, just like Prego sauce.  Add garlic powder, pepper, and anything else you like at this point.  Here’s a tip:  add a  good size pinch of sugar to the sauce.  It helps neutralize the acidity of the sauce.

Looking good, eh?

Now, I have not been able to find this heavenly brand of garlic powder here in North Carolina, but in California, my sister buys this from her dollar store.  It’s unbelievable!  She’ll usually send us four jars at a time.  People from all over love this amazing garlic powder.  I even sprinkled some on my slices of garlic bread.  Divine! I add a good amount of Santa Paula Garlic Powder to the sauce.

Step 4:  By now, the sauce is working quite nicely, so I put on a pot of water to boil.  For tortellini, there’s no need to put any olive oil into the water, but I added a pinch of salt.  Of course, if you like your food greasy, by all means, pour some in.  I love olive oil.  Tortellini cooks for only a couple of minutes so it will be done rather quickly.  The package says two minutes.  I cooked it for six or seven.  I wanted to make sure it was hot all the way through.

To all the teachers out there who have been making a lousy salary for years (like me) then this is the kind of meal that is easy on the wallet, and on the tired hands of teachers who do so much every day caring for other peoples’ children.  I have learned over the last year or two that the store brand for many items is just as good as name brands.  This Kroger tortellini was truly lovely and delicious and I got a thumbs up from the man!  Yeahh!

While the water is boiling and the meat is cooking up to a delectable dish, I prepared a salad and the garlic bread!!  Whew!!  I love bread.  If you ever go to Puerto Rico on vacation, you have to ask someone local to take you to a bread bakery.  The bread is so amazing and you can smell it for blocks and blocks.  Slap some butter on that warm, fresh out of the oven bread and have it with a hot cup of espresso.  This is life.

I digress.  Another great place to get good food cheaply is Walmart.  Their bakery Italian bread is fabulous!  And, as you can see, only $1.68.  It’s also huge.  We had about five slices for garlic bread last night, and the rest of the loaf will be used for lunch sandwiches throughout the week.  In our house it may last until Thursday, which isn’t bad for $1.68.

Did I mention it is only $1.68???

Here were the results overall:

This meal took approximately 35 minutes to prepare from start to finish.

The total cost for the meal was approximately $8.85.  This fed my family of five, with some leftovers for lunch the next day.

Here’s another picture of the finished product:

Bon Apetito!!


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