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Monday, April 22, 2019

Holiday Dinners Using Just (or Almost) What I Have On Hand

Easter dinner went well. I do have to admit, though, that making everything with minimal convenience products is time-consuming. I cooked all Saturday afternoon, and then a good chunk of Sunday to put everything together. Despite this, in my current circumstances, cooking from scratch was the way to go. I was able to put together a nice meal for my family without adding extra expenses. I've included links to the various recipes that I used for yesterday's feast, as they may be of use to your frugal cooking, as well.

The Ham
I bought a spiral sliced ham on sale for $1.27/lb. Safeway also had the unsliced hams, which were selling for 99 cents per pound. In my experience, so far, the unsliced hams have a lot more fat and rind than the spiral sliced hams. It's true, the ham fat can be rendered for cooking. However, this time around, I went for more meat and greater convenience. My budget for Easter this year was much smaller than last year, so I prioritized buying a ham with the money. The ham is the only item that I bought just for Easter this year. By the way, if you have large chunks of fat from your ham, this post tells how I render the fat to use in cooking later.

Green Bean Casserole
The traditional green bean casserole calls for commercial fried onions. I make my own substitute using bread crumbs, butter, and onions. This post explains how I do this. For Easter, I used 1 can of green beans (bought on sale last fall), 1 dented can of waxed beans (paid 26 cents because the can was dented), a handful of frozen green beans (because it seemed like there was to much sauce), 1 can of cream of mushroom soup (bought on sale last fall), soy sauce, pepper, and milk, along with my homemade version of the French's fried onion topping.

Sweet Potato Casserole
I had a can of yams that were bought on sale last fall. I pureed the drained yams with eggs, spices, and some of the light syrup in which the yams were packed. I set aside the remainder of the yam's light syrup, to use in baking later. My family's favorite topping for sweet potato casserole is a praline one. However, I was out of pecans for this holiday and opted for marshmallows instead (which I had in the freezer).

Curried Pea and Peanut Slaw
The idea for this recipe came from the comments on a post back in 2014. I amended the idea slightly and created a salad which my family loves. Here's my version in this post. For the dressing, as I was out of mayonnaise, I used plain homemade yogurt as a substitute for both the mayo and vinegar, and added a pinch of salt to taste. I had chives in the garden, so used those in place of green onions. For the peanuts, I opened a can of mixed nuts and picked out a handful of peanuts. The rest of the can has been tucked away to use in a batch of caramel nutty bars on Father's Day.

French Bread
I've discussed our butter and oil situation, here. In a effort to conserve both, I opted for homemade French bread in place of the traditional dinner rolls. French bread uses hardly any oil and is more open to spreads or dipping oils other than butter. (In my family, butter is the favored spread for dinner rolls.) The post in this link has the recipe that I use for an all-purpose French bread, pizza, and calzone dough. It's a really great recipe and very easy for me to remember. For Easter dinner, I made the recipe into 3 long and skinny baguettes. For a spread for the French bread, I combined strained homemade plain yogurt (to the consistency of soft cream cheese) with very soft butter (in a 2 to 1 ratio of yogurt to butter) and chopped rosemary, garlic powder, and salt. The resulting spread was very tasty, and my crowd agreed that it was better than butter. So, there you go. Just when I think my substitutes are inferior, my family votes them superior, at least some of the time.

Watermelon Pickles
We're out of almost all pickles and olives, now, so I brought out a jar of homemade watermelon rind pickles, from a couple of years ago. the recipe that I've been using for watermelon pickles for the past 30 years is in this post.

"Bottled" Water
I used one of my salvaged sparkling cider bottles to "bottle" some tap water, which I chilled for several hours before dinner. My son and his wife also brought some sparkling beverages. I also made a large pot of tea, using tea that I had on hand. So, we were good with the drinks.

Jayne's Rhubarb Custard Pie
Since it's now rhubarb season where I live, we had a rhubarb custard pie for dessert. In fact, I made two pies, so I would have 1 to give as an Easter gift to my son and his wife. Making 2 pies isn't a whole lot of extra work for me but is a nice thing for them, as neither of them bake pies to my knowledge. If you grow rhubarb and don't have a recipe that you enjoy, the recipe for this pie comes from a good friend, and you'll find it in this post. We love the custard filling so much that I was thinking this could make a delicious rhubarb dessert, without the pie crust or crumb topping, in place of our usual rhubarb sauce. I'll let you know how it goes when I try baking the filling by itself. I use a scratch pie pastry recipe for the crust. It's reliable, easy, and freezes well. Here's a link to that recipe. The batch makes 5 crusts-worth of pastry at a time, which sounds like a lot. However, you can freeze it in single-crust portions to use later. It's good for both savory and sweet fillings, so I use this for chicken pot pie as much as for fruit pies.

In addition to the food, I used what I had for the table and buffet decor. You all saw the egg shell and violet table setting pieces. I also cut enough tulips from our garden for a pretty little bouquet for the buffet. The bonus is that we now have a nice bouquet to admire, indoors and out of the rain for the next couple of days.

I hope that you had an enjoyable weekend!


  1. Such a delicious meal! I can't wait for our rhubarb to be ready to eat. Your pie sounds delish.

    Did I somehow miss hearing about your son's wedding?? I remember you hosting a party with her parents and my memory fails me after that.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Your memory is just fine. My son and his wife eloped, so no wedding to speak about. And they prefer to keep their lives private, except for very nominal mentions. So I'm respecting their wishes.

      Our Easter dinner was tasty. How was your Easter lunch?

    2. Congrats to the couple. I'm big on privacy, myself, so I certainly understand their wishes!

      We had a nice Easter lunch. Our church has a sweet bread/juice/coffee "brunch" after the morning service, so I skipped a dessert. Hubby made the meal--ham, mashed potatoes, applesauce, squash--and that was plenty. I did pull out the china, which I think my mom appreciated.

    3. That sounds nice, Kris. I'm glad that you and your family had such a lovely Easter.

  2. Wow! For being on such a tight budget you really had a wonderful Easter dinner!

    We had my parents over and I kept my meal very simple. We had sliced ham that they gave me earlier in the week. And I served it only slightly warm. It was a fully cooked boneless ham and it tasted much better than a hot ham. We also had boneless skinless chicken thighs skillet fried with a good homemade seasoning and I sliced those into strips for easy serving. Then I added a crock pot hash brown potato casserole and simple green beans. Water for a beverage. I didn't even use my oven that day. I made a cheesecake in my instant pot for dessert topped with crushed strawberries. All of this was from goodies in my freezer that I had purchased some time ago. Green beans and ham from the parents.

    We had a delightful dinner with them and I noticed they both ate heartily--even had seconds. It was a beautiful day!


    1. Hi Alice,
      your Easter dinner sounds delicious! How do you make a cheesecake in an instant pot?
      I'm glad that you and your family had that time with your parents.

  3. My mother-in-law used to buy the cheapest ham possible and I never thought it was very good. However, the rest of her family of carnivores didn't seem to mind, so I guess it was a good buy for her. Anyway, I think you were smart upgrade a bit on the ham. The rest of the things you had more control over and they all sound delicious.

    1. This made me laugh, live and learn -- the part about "family of carnivores." My husband is a bit like that. He'll eat any kind or part of meat, whereas I'm a bit fussy about meat. Yes, I'm glad I opted for the better ham. I think we ended up with more meat per pound this way.


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