Sunday, March 15, 2015

How to Beat the Rising Cost of Food




10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill

1.  Convenience Foods vs. Home Made
Convenience costs money. The closer you stay to basic, from scratch ingredients, the better.

2. Shop Less - Spend Less
If you normally grocery shop once a week and spend $100 each time, shop every 10 days to 2 weeks instead.

You won't spend $200.  More likely, you'll spend $150-175. The reason is you'll buy less impulse and snack foods. Plus you'll save on gas and the drudgery of grocery shopping.

3. Shop on Tuesdays
Tuesday is the day that grocery stores are the least likely to be crowded. You'll have the whole place to yourself and the check out lines will be short.

When you're not stressed, there's less pressure and you'll make better choices.

4. Shop the top and bottom of the shelves
Eye and thigh level is premium space in grocery stores.
Eye level tempts you. Thigh level tempts the kids.

Manufacturers pay grocery stores to display their products at eye and thigh levels.

In general, above eye level (on the higher shelves) you'll usually find smaller and local start up company products. Below thigh level, you'll find bulk and store brands.

5. Buy what's on sale
Be flexible. Don't plan to serve salmon when chicken is on sale. Take advantage of price reductions.

6. Make high profit foods from scratch
"High profit" foods means the cost of the ingredients is a fraction of what can be charged for the finished product. Nothing wrong with making a profit but when you're trying to save money,  these are the items you should be making yourself.

How can you tell what's a "high profit" food?  It's easy -  just look around the grocery store!

Items that are ridiculously abundant are generally "high profit" items. Canned soups, salad dressings, cake mixes, bread, packaged cookies, chips and snacks are all high profit foods.
Paying $5.00 for a loaf of bread - especially when you family eats 2, 3 or more loaves of bread a week is a real budget buster!

Start off with one or two items. Making a jar full of salad dressing, for example, is incredibly easy and a good place to start.  With a little practice and a good cook book, you can make high profit foods better, cheaper and healthier than store bought.

7. Never waste food
Limp veggies go into soup. Left over stew goes into the freezer for a day when there's no time to cook. The bones from Sunday's roast chicken become stock.  Dried bread becomes crumbs. You get the idea.  Put unusable kitchen scraps (except meat) into the compost pile.  You can feed your plants for lots less money, too!

8. Don't buy soda
Or bottled ice tea or lemonade or fruit punch for that matter! It's horribly expensive when compared to scratch made....  plus you have to lug those heavy containers!!

Iced tea from scratch is just water and tea bags and lemonade is water, sugar and lemon juice.  As for fruit punch, ditch the ersatz stuff for real fruit juice. 

9. Concentrate on good health.
Buy good quality, fresh foods and, whenever possible, get them from local sources.  Your food will taste better and feed your body better.  With better health, you'll spend less on medical care.

10. Ease up on the junk.
Junk foods may be fun to eat but they're horribly expensive when you consider how little food value they contain. Plus they are full of preservatives, nitrates, added sugar and fillers.  Read labels carefully. Compare products. Choose better. 


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Saturday, January 17, 2015

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Everyone has a favorite nacho recipe and here's mine.

It's extra easy and you can mix or match the ingredients however you like. 

Start by putting a layer of restaurant style tortilla chips in the bottom of your pan then the sky's the limit!

Loaded Nachos

All ingredients are approximate.  Use more or less as you like.

Don't like a particular ingredient?  Leave it out.
Make sure you have plates and forks for these nachos.

Makes 1 (9 X 13 inch) pan


1/2 (13.5 oz) bag restaurant style tortilla chips

1/2 pound ground beef (or vegetarian ground beef - cooked, drained and crumbled) or sausage

1 (16 oz) jar marinated artichokes (drained, reserving juice)

2 (15 to 16 oz) can light red kidney beans (drained, rinsed and drained again)

1 cup corn (fresh and cut from the cob, frozen and thawed or canned and drained)

1 (28 oz) can petite diced tomatoes (drained)

1/4 cup pickled jalapeno pepper rings and 2 tablespoons juice (to taste - optional)

8 oz sour cream (reduced fat or fat free not recommended)

3 to 4 oz easy melting cheese (like Velveeta - cut into 3/8 inch cubes)


2 ripe avocados

1/4 cup lemon juice (bottled is OK)

2 cups shredded ice berg lettuce

1/2 cup ranch dressing (or to taste)

1 (2 .25 oz) can sliced black olives (drained)

Position oven rack so nachos will bake in center.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat pan with cooking spray.
Place a layer of tortilla chips into the pan. Top with ground beef.

Mash beans and mix with juice from the marinated artichokes until it makes a consistency similar to refried beans.  Dollop mixture over beef.

Top with artichokes (and any remaining juice), corn, drained tomatoes, and if desired, optional pickled jalapeno rings with juice.

Dollop sour cream over all. Sprinkle cheese over top. 

Bake in a preheated oven about 20 minutes or until toppings are hot and cheese has melted. (Chips will not feel hot.)

While nachos are heating, cut avocado.  Remove pit and scoop out pulp.  Mash pulp with a fork and mix with lemon juice.  Dollop over hot nachos and sprinkle with lettuce.  Drizzle ranch dressing over all and sprinkle with olives.  Serve hot.  YUM!!!


Think nachos are fattening?

They are but minimize the damage by using baked tortilla chips instead of regular. With all the toppings, you'll never know the difference. 

Other tricks to curb the blimp monster:
1.  Skip the refried beans (they're loaded with fat) and use plain, mashed beans instead.

2.  Use fresh, ripe, mashed avocados mixed with lemon juice instead of prepared guacamole. You'll save a ton of fat and calories.  Add lemon juice till you get the consistency you like.

3.  Use real sour cream - not fat free or reduced fat.  OK, real sour cream has a lot of fat but a little goes a long way in adding good taste and creamy-ness that the fat free or reduced fat can't match.   Also, fat free or reduced fat sour cream are higher in carbs.

4.  Pump up the volume of your nachos by adding a low cal veggies to the mix - like lightly steamed broccoli, zucchini, carrots, corn or yellow squash.  Shredded lettuce works well, too, to lighten the caloric load.

5.  Use an easy melting cheese like Velveeta.  It melts better so it goes farther and tastes cheesy-ier than cheddar.  You'll actually need less for the same taste effect.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Super Bowl Snacks - Easy, Home Made New York Style Pizza

 In less time than you think.... and for a lot less money  (and with so much good taste) you can whip up real, yummy, olive oil drippy pizza at home.... can there be anything better? 

Treat your Super Bowl crowd to home made pizza.

Pizza Primer

Know you pizzas........

New York Style
Thin crust ....  but not too thin.  
Just enough crust to perfectly balance the equal amounts of sauce and cheese.  

California Style
Very thin, cracker crisp.
Usually has non traditional toppings like avocado, blue cheese or goat cheese.  
Often has no tomato sauce but may have fresh, raw tomatoes.   

Chicago Style
Traditional pizza only with a very thick crust.... usually an inch or more.
It's more crust than sauce or toppings.

Easy, Home Made New York Style Pizza

Makes 1 (14-16 inch) pizza

Pan size - a 14 to 16 inch pizza pan is ideal but any similar round or square pan will work.
Large pizza pans (disposable or reusable) are available in most grocery stores. 


3 tablespoons old fashioned (coarse) grits (not quick cooking or instant)
1 batch dough (recipe follows)
2 cups thick pasta sauce (your favorite - about 20 oz.)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups shredded, whole milk mozzarella cheese (or to taste - skim milk or part skim milk cheese not recommended - see Karla's Tip #1 below)
Optional pizza toppings (as desired - see Karla's Tip #2 below )

Grease pan or coat with cooking spray.  Sprinkle grits evenly over bottom. 

Using your fingers, press dough over grits to fill pan bottom. (Dampen hands with cool water to prevent sticking.  Do not use flour. It's OK if dough shrinks back from edges of the pan.) 

Using your finger tips, lightly rub dough with 1 tablespoon of oil.  Be sure to oil the edges of he dough next to the rim of the pan.

Spread sauce to within 1/2 inch of edges.  This is important.  Leaving the 1/2 inch edge will give you the traditional looking crust once the dough has risen.  

Sprinkle with oregano.  Top with cheese.

Toss toppings in remaining oil and distribute over cheese.  Use a plastic scraper to get all the oil out of the bowl and onto the pizza.  (If you're not adding any toppings, just drizzle the remaining oil over the cheese.)

Let rise in a warm place until edges have doubled in size - about 1 hour. (Don't worry about the whole pizza doubling in size.... it's only the edges that need to rise.)

After dough has risen, position the oven rack so the pizza will bake in the center of the oven. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   

Bake 40 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cheese has melted.
You know how to serve it........


Karla's Tip #1  - Mozzarella Cheese
Get whole milk mozzarella cheese - not skim milk or part skim cheese.  Whole milk melts better and gives you that traditional stringy texture with every bite.  Skim milk or part skin cheese is more common - especially in the pre-shredded packages - but whole milk is readily available - just read the labels.

Also - avoid pre-shredded cheeses.  They are usually coated with an invisible film of cellulose or starch to keep the shreds from sticking together.  You don't need that extra starch and the quality (and taste) of coated cheese is not as good.

Karla's Tip #2  - Optional Toppings
Anything/everything....the sky's the limit!
(But you can also just leave the pizza plain.....)

Raw veggies (broccoli, onions, mushrooms, green/red/yellow peppers, egg plant, ....etc.)
Cooked meat or seafood (sausage, ground beef, meatballs, chicken, shrimp, Canadian bacon)
Fresh basil leaves 


Pizza Dough
Using a bread machine makes this a snap!
You will never buy one of those expensive pre-baked (and often taste-less) crusts again!

1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons regular salt)
4 1/4 cups bread flour (not all purpose flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast (1 envelope)

Using the Bread Machine
Put ingredients in order into a bread machine.  Set on "pizza dough."  (No pizza dough setting?  Use the regular "dough" setting.)  

Continue with recipe after dough cycle is complete.

By Hand
Mix all dry ingredients together.  Stir in water.  Knead 10 minutes or until elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double - about 45 minutes then continue with recipe.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

How to Be Healthier in 2015

You already know the basics: eat right, exercise, get enough rest.
Your mother taught you that.

That should be enough but sometimes it isn't.

An apple a day keeps the
doctor away.
You know it's true because
 your mother told you so!

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you get sick.

Health information we receive is constantly changing (eat this, don't eat that... do this, don't do that) and ALWAYS seems to contradict itself.

It's hard to know what to do!

Simply put, being healthy means having your body, mind and soul in balance.  That's a tall order but that's all it really takes!

By our very nature, we are continually in flux. 
We are NEVER in perfect balance.

The ebb and flow of our external and internal tides effects our health moment by moment.

When you are in balance, your health is optimal.
When you are out of balance, you get sick.

Can you ever have continually perfect health?
Probably not.

Can you have better health?

Strive for a balance between body, mind and soul by first following your mother's advice then expanding your knowledge. 

Put into practice those things that will add value and blessings to your life.  In your heart, you know what they are....  just listen to your inner voice.

Feed your body, mind and soul with the very best then hunger for more.  That's all it takes to be healthier! 

Now go have an apple, think good thoughts and enrich your soul.
Your mother will be happy and you'll feel great!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Home for the Holidays - Foods to Eat at New Years to Guarantee Good Health, Good Luck and Prosperity in the Coming Year !

Good Luck Foods for New Years

Everyone has a good luck food to eat at the stroke of midnight.

They vary from culture to culture, region to region but they all have the same thing in common..... they promise good health, good luck and prosperity in the coming New Year.

Here's  the rundown:


For guaranteed wealth and prosperity in the coming year, just set a dish of cooked lentils on the table.  It symbolizes a bowl of coins.  Who doesn't need a bowl-full of money on the table? 

Cabbage, kale and collards all count no matter how you serve them.  Green symbolizes money but these vegetables also symbolize good health which many believe is the only real wealth.
Sauerkraut counts as a green, too, even though it looks white, because it's made from cabbage which is green .... well, light green anyway.


Black Eyed Peas
Eating Hop'n John (black eyed peas) is the traditional Southern way to insure wealth and prosperity. 

Pork and Ham
Pigs dig forward with their snouts.  Moving forward is good.  Pork and ham symbolize a prosperous New Year.

Fish swim forward and never look back plus their scales are said to resemble coins.  What's better than a fish swimming out to meet you covered in money?

Anything fried or heavy on butter is the key to health, good luck and prosperity - or so traditions go.  Fritters, doughnuts, cakes and sweet breads (with or without coins or rings inside).  Funny, the rest of the year fried and buttered goodies are taboo.  Oh well, guess you shouldn't mess with tradition.
Stay Away From Chicken & Lobster!!
Eating chicken and lobster at New Years bring poverty, disaster and poor health .... or so tradition warns us.


When chickens scratch their claws on the ground, the dirt they scratch moves backwards.  Backwards is bad.  Lobsters, trying to walk on land, shuffle in a backwards motion.  Backwards is, again, bad.
So, even if chicken and lobster are your favorites (never mind that chicken breasts and lobster tails can cost a fortune!), steer clear of them at New Years.  You just can't take any chances..... especially if you had a rough year!

No matter what the tradition, there's plenty of good luck, good health and prosperity foods to eat at the stoke of midnight at New Year's Eve.

But which one to choose?
Better not take any chances… have some of everything!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Social Graces - Invitations to Holiday Parties

Southern Style

These days, people often respond to a party invitation with "Great! What can I bring?"

While it may be a lovely mid-western custom to bring a dish when invited somewhere, here in the south, it's annoying.

We southerners pride ourselves in gracious hospitality.  We go to great lengths to plan the perfect party. 

If you bring a dish, albeit splendid, our lovely southern manners obligate us to graciously thank you and put it out for the guests..... even though you've spoiled our so carefully made plans.   This may seem trivial to non southerners but to us it's a big deal!

This is entirely different from a pot luck or covered dish supper which the host or hostess will tell you about up front when extending the invitation.

But what you must always bring (and without asking, I feel the need to add) is a "hostess"gift.

Good manners here in the south dictate that you MUST bring your host or hostess a modest, tasteful gift in appreciation for the invitation. Any time. Every time. 

A bottle of wine. Some nice flowers.  A box of candy.  A loaf of tea bread, plate of holiday cookies, a jar of fancy jam.  An extravagant bar of hand made soap.  If you've made it yourself or if it's from your garden, so much the better. 

The price or size of the "hostess" gift is not important.  What is important is good taste and thoughtfulness.

Conversely,  when you invite a southerner, he or she won't ask if they can bring a dish. They'll know it's their time to be the guest and your time to shine.

Here in the south, simply say "thank you" when you receive an invitation.  And never ask, "What can I bring?"

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gluten Free - Rice Flour Cranberry Walnut Muffin Cake

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Here's another gluten free recipe that guests at our Bed & breakfast frequently ask for.
They like it because it tastes good.

As I've said before, gluten free eating is NOT about giving up something and using a lesser quality substitute.  It's about making different choices from a whole world of yummy things to eat.  

Some foods contain have gluten.  Some don't.
When you learn which do and which don't, you can make easily make the best choices for you.

By the way, you can serve gluten free foods to those who eat gluten with out even mentioning that it's gluten free.  
All anyone really cares about is how food tastes anyway. 

Gluten Free - Rice Flour Cranberry Walnut Muffin Cake

Makes 1 (6 inch) cake 
Serves 6 to 8
Uses a 6 inch spring form pan lined with baking parchment


1/2 cup rice flour (or Gluten Free Baking Mix like Bisquick)
1/4 c sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup whole fresh cranberries
1 small fresh apple (Cored and cut into random 3/8 inch chunks - peeling is optional)
1/4 cup walnuts
1 egg
1 T orange juice
2 T vegetable oil

Assemble the spring form pan and mist with baking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of baking parchment.  Lightly mist the parchment (in the pan) with baking spray. Set aside.

Position oven rack so cake will bake in center.  Preheat to 350 degrees. 

In a small bowl, mix together flour, sugar and baking powder.  Add cranberries, apple chunks and walnuts. Toss to coat with flour mixture. Stir in egg, juice and oil.  Pour into pan and smooth out batter.

Bake in preheated oven until cake is set, very lightly browned on top and pull away a little from the sides of the pan - about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes of cooling, cut around the cake with a knife to release it from the pan. Open the latch and remove pan sides.  Invert onto a tray or flat dish.  Remove the parchment paper.  Immediately re-invert cake onto serving dish.  Cool or serve warm.