Category Archives: Budget Low Carb

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Freezer Friday! Let’s Talk about Steak on a Budget! Plus a Steak Sauce Recipe

This week, we are going to talk about steak. I love a good steak, but we don’t have it often. My favorite is ribeye, Mr. Incredible likes a New York Strip. From a budget-conscious perspective, though, beef in general, let alone steak, isn’t always at the top of the list.

I’ve been around the LC crowd for a lot of years, and sometimes, it seems like everyone is eating foie gras, colossal shrimp, lobster, and prime rib. It’s easy to feel left out when you look down at your extremely-tasty-but-$1-cost omelet again. When it comes to mealtime, I have champagne tastes and a beer budget so, over time, I’ve learned certain tricks when it comes to satisfying my desire to eat a pricey cut of meat. This is one of those tricks.

There’s a small grocer here who occasionally does a great sale on T-bones. One day, while I was online, obsessing over food, I was reading about cuts of beef. It turns out that the T-bone (and its friend, the Porterhouse) is comprised of two different pieces of beef. One side is where they cut the NY Strip and the other side is where they cut the tenderloin. I had to read that twice. What?

I stayed fixated on that fact for months. It’s not uncommon to find T-bones on sale here for as low as $5/lb, but I wanted to wait for just the right deal. Then, they went on sale for $3.99/lb with a two pack limit. Now, keep in mind that this is not Wagyu beef, but it’s still good enough steak. I went in twice and bought two packs each time, which I brought home so I could play “Butcher Shop”.

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As you can see, there’s a decent amount of beef on each side of the bone. I looked through the available packages to find the bigger ones while the other shoppers seemed more interested in the smaller ones.

When I got these home, I set up my cutting board and sliced down the side of the strip steak, right along the bone. I did the same on the loin side, and made two separate stacks. I also set the bones aside. Once I had gone through the steaks, I bagged all of the bones and stuck them in the freezer. I will roast those later and make a few quarts of beef stock but right now, I’m full up on quarts of turkey stock, leftover from the holidays.

I didn’t take any more pics, but there were 16 steaks total from my four packs. It was payday week, so I invested $65 in them. I packed 8 two packs of strips, and four 4 packs of loins with my foodsaver, so they will not be in danger of becoming freezer burnt.
On sale, beef loin runs $10-13 per pound and strips run about $8, so I would estimate my savings on the meat alone at about $100, then I’ll probably get another 4 quarts of beef stock at around $1-2 per quart.

With this deal, we will have steak to last till sometime during grilling season, when I’ll catch a truckload sale and get more. Whether it’s my favorite or his favorite, who knows, and who cares as long as it’s a great steak!

While we are on the subject of steak, here is a steak sauce recipe I came up with several months back. I eat mine plain with S&P and butter, but the husband likes to slather his food in sauce. It doesn’t matter what food it is, or how great of a cook I am, the meat gets sauced. I don’t take it personally, when it comes to condiments, that man has serious issues.

20 minute low carb, sugar free steak sauce

One half cup of crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
T of chili powder
T of Worcestershire
T of vinegar
One squirt of yellow mustard
A packet of sweetener

Whisk it all together, bring it to a simmer on the stove, turn off the fire then let it cool.
This keeps well in the fridge in a jar.

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Frozen Crustless Pizza aka Low Carb Pizza

For a couple of years now, I’ve been making crustless pizza. We call them Pizza Bowls and everyone here gets excited about it when they are on the menu, except the eldest. According to him, pizza without crust is “Unnatural”.

Last month, when I wrote up my second $25 Dollar Tree menu, I called them Crustless Pizza, which makes more sense for many people. So here I am, going to put the recipe separately with a twist on cooking them as convenience food frozen pizza. I tried it out today and it works GREAT.

One reason I make these is because, while I really love LC pizza crusts, it’s not uncommon for nuts to be something that can stall weight loss, and that includes almond flour crusts. It’s also not uncommon for large quantities cheese to stall weight loss, and another main ingredient in many crusts is cheese. It’s easy to keep track of your cheese intake by doing it this way, and there are no nuts.

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If you’re going to cook these straight from fresh, preheat the oven to 425.

To make these to stick in the freezer, you need some freezer to oven type pans. I used some aluminum pans I found at the Dollar Tree that come with flimsy-but-acceptable cardboard lids. If you don’t have a Dollar Tree (or your store is out, like mine is), you can get them HERE in my Amazon Affiliate shop or just see what they look like.   I made three of these, two in regular round cake pans, and one in an aluminum pan with a lid (which I froze overnight). I ate that one, myself, because I am my own beta tester.

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You start with your sauce. Add 1/4 cup of sauce to your pan and spread it around. Then add your toppings. I used cooked Italian sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, bacon, olives, mushrooms, peppers, and onions.
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Glorious cheese! I added about half a cup per pizza.

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For frozen: You put the lid on next and put it in the freezer. If you use some other type of pan, just use foil. To cook from frozen, throw away the paper lid.

To cook them straight from fresh, put them in your preheated, 425 oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, till the cheese is gooey and melted. Eat it with a fork, straight from the pan.

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To cook from frozen, take them from the freezer and throw away the lid. Then put it into your preheated, 425 oven, but cook for closer to 20 minutes. You can take them out of the freezer and thaw them beforehand, but if you do, then use the directions for cooking from fresh.

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And that’s it! These stack up well in the pans and can be an easy item to pull out of the freezer on a busy night and cook in just a short amount of time so you’re just minutes away from hot, gooey deliciousness.

Don’t forget to find me on facebook , set a bookmark, or subscribe to my emails in the upper right corner. I’m really looking forward to making, testing, and sharing more of these menus, and extreme budget recipes really are one of my passions.

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Budget Low Carb $25 Seven Day 3 Meals Daily Low Carb Menu Aldi Style

This past week, I’ve been kind of busy, plus I’ve mentioned before that I think blogging is a little boring. I really love the cooking and eating, and I really enjoy working up a $25 low carb menu, but sitting still for the amount of time it takes to put up a menu post is a little difficult for me. It’s really satisfying, though, to spend that time in the kitchen and watch everything come together the way I thought it would.

For people who are unfamiliar with my $25 menus, they are designed to feed one person 3 low carb meals daily plus snacks for a week. Divide the meals in half and carry one for the next day’s lunch. They do not accommodate any addictions you may have, like diet soda, coffee, beer, etc. They presume a few things, like that you have salt and pepper in your pantry. Toilet paper costs extra.

Weigh your veggies for a good, solid carb count. I have a cheat sheet I use for quick reference.

This past week, I headed to Aldi and did some browsing. Aldi is a great store for a budget conscious shopper, and one would assume it would be pretty easy to work up a good menu for a week’s time and you can do it. The issue for me was that I like to make sure that the meals stay varied to ensure they don’t get boring, and when you eat LC, you need a certain amount of fat in your meals to keep yourself satiated and burning fat. You have to eat fat to burn fat. That’s why butter, mayo, cheese, and bacon fats are often seen in LC cooking.

Shopping at the Dollar Tree  provided tons of great variety. You can get 25 individual items there. Other stores are a little more problematic. You have to buy the big package of certain ingredients, for example, cheese. For your three bucks at Dollar Tree, you get three separate types of cheese while for the same three bucks at other stores, you get an 8 ounce block of one flavor. Thus, some creative thinking and unconventional use of certain things can be in order.

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Here is something to remember about Aldi shopping. You pay a per item price on produce, not per pound. See the two cabbages above? Those cost the same $1.29 each. If you are shopping there, look through the box for the biggest item when you are buying cabbages and cauliflower. Of course I bought the one on the left.

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Here is what I picked up this week. I want to say that I went over budget by ten cents! I was really conflicted about that dime, it’s a $25 menu, not a $25.10 menu but I went ahead and went with it.
Also, the package of chicken was $1 off. Full price was $5.33 (It was slightly over five pounds and had five thigh quarters) but I was there early in the morning and I didn’t know they did markdowns. If you really wanted to stick to the $25 theme, skip buying the lettuce. I didn’t use it. In fact, just skip the lettuce, anyway. Use that buck for something else, like chili powder if you don’t have any. You’ll need it.

One pound pack of bacon (get the cheap stuff, we are recycling the fat since we couldn’t afford butter)
One pound of ground turkey
One pound package of Fit N Active turkey hot dogs (these were $1.49 and only had one carb per dog. You could go with the .79/lb pack and have a few cents left but they’re kind of carby)
Five pound package of chicken leg/thigh quarters (or a package with five leg quarters)
Two dozen eggs
One can of black olives
One can of tomato paste
8 oz block of cheese
16 oz tub of sour cream
Bag of pork rinds
Head of cabbage
Head of cauliflower
.99 bag of onions (get the one with more small onions, rather than a few big onions)
Head of lettuce (again, I’d skip this one but it’s in the pic, so I included it in the list)

This menu is based on the presumption that you have certain things, like salt and pepper and some basic spices, like chili powder.

Let’s start with the week’s prep work.
Put 5 eggs on to boil for deviled eggs. If you don’t have mayo for the eggs, use some sour cream and maybe even a little bacon fat. I had mayo in the fridge, but I didn’t buy any because it wasn’t in the budget, so I made mine with sour cream since I am my own beta tester.
Put three of the leg quarters on and poach them. Put them in a pot and cover with water. Bring them to a boil, turn off the heat and put a lid on the pot. They will cook in the water for 15-25 minutes or so. Remove them with tongs, allow to cool, then take the meat off the bones and put it in a container in the fridge. Save that skin! Throw the bones back into the water, set the pot on the back burner, and simmer them all day because of course, we are going to make soup one day. After several hours, strain your soup broth and reserve it in the fridge. You’ll want about four cups of broth.

Take the chicken skin, salt and pepper it, and cook it in a skillet till it is crispy. Eat it.

As your leg quarters are poaching, heat your oven to 425 and lay your bacon out on a sheet pan covered in foil. Bake till crispy, and reserve the fat. My pack of bacon had 19 slices. It all cooked in two batches and made almost a cup of bacon fat.

While this is all happening, make a quart of tomato juice using this recipe.
I gave my husband a cup off the top to drink. He loves this stuff.
Here’s a thing, though. If you don’t have those seasoning ingredients, don’t sweat it. Use what you have. If you skipped the lettuce and bought the chili powder, then you’re doing well enough.

Your breakfast per day will be two slices of bacon and two eggs cooked however you prefer them. Cook the 14 eggs now or don’t. I prefer to cook them all at once and keep them in the fridge, because I hate washing dishes and I only have to wash my skillet once like this. There is a reason why I have very few dishes that won’t go in my dishwasher.

Snacks are black olives, pork rinds, and deviled eggs.

Sunday Night

Roast Chicken and vegetables

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Preheat your oven to 450.
Take  a small onion, 1/4 of the cabbage and 1/3 of the cauliflower, cut them up and put them in a 9×13 or so baking dish, drizzle with bacon fat, then put two of the chicken quarters on top and salt and pepper the whole thing. Roast this, uncovered, for 45 minutes or till the juices run clear and the internal temp is 165.
This is a combo recipe based on Sara Moulton’s Blasted Chicken and a technique I saw once where, in a market in France, they roast chickens on a spit with the veggies on pans underneath where the juices drip on them.

This is by far my favorite method of roasting chicken and it is so incredibly easy.

After you’ve dipped your food and set aside your lunch, pour the pan juices into the container with your soup stock. Also, set aside about 1/2 cup of the roast veggies for later in the week.

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Monday Night

Chili dogs and slaw

Brown the pound of ground turkey. Divide it in half and put the second half in the fridge for later. Cut half of the hot dogs into penny slices and put them in the skillet with the turkey, add a cup of the tomato juice and a TBSP or so of chili powder. You can add a little onion here if you want, or garlic, just whatever you have. Heat this on low till it’s hot.
Take 1/4 of the cabbage, shred it, mix it with enough sour cream (about 1/4 cup) to make it into slaw. Always salt and pepper, and I add a packet of sweetener to mine because we like sweet slaw.

Grate your cheese. Go ahead and grate the whole thing, so you only have to wash the cheese grater once LOL
Put half the cheese in the fridge for later and divide the rest between your two meals. There was actually enough here for three meals, so you have a little wiggle room with this one.
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Tuesday Night

Unstuffed cabbage rolls

This is a simplified version of the recipe that floats around the web regularly. You want to take half of the reserved poached chicken, 1/4 of the cabbage, and one onion. Give the cabbage and onion a rough chop and put it all in a pot together with a cup of the tomato juice, S&P, and the chicken. Season with some garlic and shake in some Worcestershire if you have it. If not? Don’t sweat it. Simmer this with a lid on till the cabbage is tender.

Here is a pic of mine with a blob of some butter I found in the fridge on top, I think a little bacon fat would have been better, though. I got three meals out of this one, too.

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Wednesday Night

Hot Dog Hash

Take 1/3 of the cauliflower and a small onion (or 3 oz or so) and give them a chop. Slice the remaining 5 hot dogs and add them to a skillet (I used my mom’s cast iron) with some hot bacon fat. Salt and pepper then cook these, stirring, till the veggies are tender and starting to brown. This is really good.

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Thursday Night
Cabbage stir fry

This is commonly called “Crack Slaw” but I don’t like that name. You want to take the remaining 1/4 of the cabbage and the reserved ground turkey plus 3 oz or so of onion, cook them in a skillet (I used my wok) in hot bacon fat till the veggies are tender, add S&P plus any spices you have (I used some ground ginger and garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon each) and if you have some soy sauce, add this at the end, even if it’s fast food Chinese packets.

I stirred in the scrambled, reserved egg white here from my experiment with making bacon fat mayo, but you can just scramble and egg and add it in.
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Friday Night

Loaded Cauli Soup

Take the quart of chicken stock you made, plus the remaining third of cauliflower, 3 oz or so of onion, whatever bacon you have left after 14 slices (I had five), S&P, your sour cream, and the rest of your cheese. Cook the cauli and the onion in the stock till they become soft, then slowly add the cheese, stirring to melt it. This is tricky, you want the soup to be hot but not boiling and you want to add the cheese just a little at a time, melt, then add more. Put about 1/4 cup of sour cream in a separate bowl with a little of the soup juice and whisk it till the sour cream in fully blended, then add it back in and stir in the crumbled bacon. Serve it with a dollop of sour cream. I sprinkled some chopped wild onion to the top of mine.

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I also took some to work in my handy dandy soup thermos that my guys gave me for Christmas.

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Saturday Night

Chicken in Tomato Cream Sauce plus a mini Fritatta

Preheat your oven to 375. Whisk together the last cup of tomato juice and 1/2 cup or so of sour cream with some S&P and a teaspoon of chili powder, put this in a small baking dish with the rest of the poached chicken and bake for 30 mins till bubbly and hot.

While this is baking, get out that bit of leftover veggie from Day 1, plus the four eggs you have remaining. Put a Tablespoon or so of sour cream in a bowl and whisk the daylights out of it with a drizzle of water till it is the consistency of cream (you only want about 2 tablespoons of this liquid). Add the eggs and whisk again. Heat an ovenproof skillet (I used cast iron) on the stove, add some bacon fat, then heat up the leftover veggies from the fridge. Pour in the egg mixture and let it cook over low heat for a minute or so till the eggs start to set around the edges. Once this happens, put it in the oven alongside your chicken dish and bake it for about ten minutes. Don’t overcook it.

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The frittata was really the star of this meal. The chicken was ok. It was good, but nothing special. I forgot to take a pic of it (but it’s not very pretty), till I was sitting at work with it in my lunch container. This meal doesn’t really make any sense, but when you’re broke, your meals don’t always make sense.

So there you have it. I know this all came from Aldi, but these items can be sourced anywhere else, and for relatively cheaply, so this menu could easily be recreated from another store.

Don’t forget to find me on facebook , set a bookmark, or subscribe to my emails in the upper right corner. I’m really looking forward to making, testing, and sharing more of these menus, and extreme budget recipes really are one of my passions.

Copycat Sugar Free V8 Juice recipe

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Mr. Incredible loves V8 juice. The thing is, it’s expensive and made with ingredients that can spike some people’s blood sugar. You can make a copycat for pennies on the dollar and for fewer carbs than ten plus per one cup serving.

When buying tomato paste, always, ALWAYS check the ingredients label.  Some brands have stuff in them, like added sugar. One can of Aldi tomato paste has 30 total carbs, and that was what I used for this.

Make Your Own Sugar Free V8 Juice Copycat

One can no sodium tomato paste
4 cans water (I add a bit more water to make it an even 4 cups)
Mix well then add:
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
pinch pepper
3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon horseradish

Several shakes of hot sauce (Optional)
A packet of sweetener (Optional)

Take all of the ingredients and mix them up (a whisk works best!), pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator.

Per one cup serving, there will be roughly 8 carbs, depending on your ingredients. This really works well in recipes like chili and soup, to give it a nice tomato flavor without adding a lot of carb.

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Freezer Friday! Saving Money on Ham

This will be the first  ever installment of what I’m going to call “Freezer Friday”. It’s going to be a day of the week where we talk about things we put in our freezers in order to save substantial amounts of money or took out of our freezers from our previous adventures and what we cooked.

This week, the sales are a little slow around here, so I think next week, I’m going to do what I call “Eating straight from the freezer” which means unless I stumble across a rock bottom price on markdowns, my meat budget should be zero. I might do this for a few weeks, because grilling season is rapidly approaching and there are going to be a ton of great meat sales I might want to partake in (last year for my birthday in April, I bought two whole, uncut ribeyes for a song and had the butcher slice them for me). Eating from the freezer is also something I do every year around the holidays, not because I want to fill it up, but because it makes my meat budget zero.

I have a 22 Cubic foot, upright freezer that I purchased at the Salvation Army in Conway, Arkansas about 12 years ago. It cost $125. It does not self defrost, so every few months, I unpack everything, check dates, defrost, wipe it down, and repack, putting what needs used first in the front. I’m sure it uses more energy than a new one, but it is labeled Energy Star, so I don’t worry too much.

I really like to eat well. I like to have a lot of variety, as a family, we enjoy lots of different things, and most of my cooking is done from scratch. The thing is, though, that I run a pretty tight budget, so I’m constantly watching for sales and markdowns because I don’t like to pay full price. So I grab items when I find a great sale, and pack them for freezing. Then, regardless of what’s on sale that week, we have plenty of variety in our meals.

Now, I’m going to talk about convenience foods. Do you ever buy these little packs of diced ham?

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Great for casseroles, omelettes, and salads, right? But at $2.79 for 8 ounces, that translates to $5.58 per pound! You can get a whole ham for .99/lb if you just keep an eye on your sales and here’s a thing: The cheaper ones always go on sale around Easter and the holidays for a rock bottom price and you can catch the really expensive ones as markdowns around the first few weeks of February. If you have freezer space, pick up a couple and put them away. Then you have ham when you want it without having to pay full price.

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A few weeks back, I picked up a cute little boneless sandwich ham for  .99/lb. we ate sliced ham and veggies for a couple of meals, ham and eggs for breakfast, then I cubed the remainder in small bits, just like those pricey packs.

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I spread it out on a cookie sheet and stuck it in the freezer. After about half an hour, I took it out, stirred the pieces around with my hands, and put it back in till they were frozen. Then, I bagged them up and now I have about three or four pounds of ham for recipes readily available and it only cost me effort and .99/lb. this is something that is still doable even if your freezer is small. That bag doesn’t take up much space in the door. It’s a gallon sized, by the way.

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Whenever I run out of ham bits, I plan a day where I cook another and do the same thing over again. I should run out of these close to Easter, so already have that plan in place.

Just by doing this simple step yourself, you can save over $4.00 per pound on convenience ham.

What about you guys? What do you do to save money on convenience foods? I love hearing other people’s tips and tricks, because that’s how we learn!

Don’t forget to find me on facebook , set a bookmark, or subscribe to my emails in the upper right corner.

Sick Day Soup

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I think I have a cold. At first, I thought it was allergies, but now I’m second guessing that.

i have a lot of precooked food in the fridge, because Sunday, I worked up another $25 menu, but even though everything tastes great, I want soup. So, Mr. Incredible is doing the menu test run this week while I lounge about, coughing up my lungs, sipping herbal teas, napping, and eating soup. In fact, I’m writing this entry on my phone, while snuggled down in the only recliner we own, heavily medicated, completely covered in fluffy blankets, with a cat on my lap.

Yesterday, I scrounged about in the fridge and found a quart of nice, thick turkey stock, four turkey tails which were used to make the stock, and half an onion.  If you’re unfamiliar with turkey tails, they are, IMO, the best part of the turkey. I have only found them commercially available in pre-smoked multi-packs, and in the area where the store keeps things like packaged, smoked turkey legs and wings. They have about a 50% fatty, gelatinous goodness to meat ratio and they make a great, really thick, soup stock. If you ever find them, you should give them a try.

The other day, I brought a pack home and tossed them in a soup pot, covered them with water, and simmered them for a while (2hours, maybe) then I ate a couple and refrigerated the rest. I’m glad now, because I didn’t feel like doing any actual cooking yesterday.

I heated up the stock with the tails in it, chopped the half onion and threw it in, then I added stuff that I thought I read somewhere once were good things to have when sick.

To one quart of stock, I added:

1 tsp each of ground ginger and minced garlic

1/2 tsp each of red pepper flakes and garlic powder

1 heaping teaspoon of turmeric (thus the yellow color)

1 tsp of parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

i simmered this on the stove till the tails were heated through and the onions were limp and wouldn’t require any real effort to eat. Some people think they’re gross like that, and that’s ok, they could replace the fresh onion with dried, minced onion and maybe a little onion powder.

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I ate on that all day and there is still some broth left. I’m heating it up right now and think I’ll poach some eggs in it and finish it off.

I hope you guys are all doing well! This weather is crazy! Stay safe, stay well, and take good care of yourselves.

Don’t forget to look me up on Facebook and register for email updates.

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$25 One Week, Low Carb Dollar Tree Menu for One Episode 2

Last weekend, I was so inspired by all of the traffic to my page, that I decided to test out another $25 menu with Dollar Tree foods. After reviewing some feedback from readers, though, it seems not everyone has a Dollar Tree, so I’ve been thinking about other stores as well. Here in Birmingham area, we have Publix, Winn-Dixie (Which is owned by BiLo, which would probably have similar deals), Aldi, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Wal-Mart, Target, Earth Fare, and a slew of small, locally-owned places which I LOVE. We also have Dollar General and Fred’s, and I may be missing a few. I’m going to do a Kroger menu the next time I go over into Georgia for a lottery ticket and I hit up Kroger while I’m there. So, as time goes by, I’m planning assorted $25 menus and some stores may present more of a challenge than others.

This week, I went and bought these items, and I’m going to talk about a few of them, but I’m not going into depth about each. Seriously, DT has one block of Pepper Jack cheese, and it is six ounces, so if I say “Pepper Jack cheese”, then I bought the only one they had.
Yes, I know with certain items, there are better LC choices, but remember, we are on an extremely tight budget and buying the $1 package for a reason. Here is the list:

John Morrell smoked sausage (this is a little carby, but it’s divided up between two meals), I bought the larger package. They have two varieties, one with tiny wieners and one with big sausages. Go for the bigger sausage.
Two packages of country ham bits: There are two types of country ham there, a 3 oz pack of slices, but the ends and pieces package has 5+ oz for the same price.
Two cans of Libby’s green beans: The green beans are actually .79 each, so if you want to buy 3, you will be slightly over $25. There are also regular coupons for these and DT does take coupons.
2 dozen eggs: YMMV here. Occasionally, they have dozen egg sizes. I’ve seen 8 packs and 6 packs before, even just last week with last week’s menu.
A 6oz tub of cream cheese: I needed sour cream, but after looking at the ingredients list on the sour cream, it is “sour creme” and I opted for the smaller tub of cream cheese. More on this later.
Bag of frozen peppers and onions
Bag of frozen cauliflower/broccoli “Winter Mix”
1 jar of jalapenos
1 jar of green olives
Small jar of salsa
A jar of minced garlic
Can of Ro-tel
2 pouches of shredded mozzarella
A pouch of crumbled feta
One block of pepper jack cheese
One frozen sausage chub (12 oz btw)
A package of frozen salad shrimp
2 packages of frozen chicken thighs
A package of pepperoni (they have a couple of brands, get the biggest one)
One can of chopped clams (These have sugar on the ingredients list, but so did 80% of the ones I looked at in other stores, so if this bothers you, get a pack of frozen fish, instead or two packs of salad shrimp.)

From last week, you may have some leftover pickles, black olives, rinaldi sauce, and mayo.
Remember, each meal is designed on the premise that you take half for lunch the next day. Do your own nutritional counts. And hopefully you have some saved bacon fat and/or butter.

I cooked most of this on Sunday and finished up before I left for work on Monday, so I’m going by that in steps. I’ll try to put it in a good order for those of you who are afraid of leftovers, but we had a really intense schedule this week, and I was thankful for all of the dishes to choose from that were simple, heat and eat things.

Sunday A.M.: Put the chicken thighs in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a simmer for about an hour. Take them out, pick the meat off and refrigerate it, and toss the bones back in the water. Be VERY careful when you pull off the skin and set it aside in big pieces. Let the bones simmer all day with a lid on and it will make a nice stock for our seafood chowder. Refrigerate the stock after straining it if you don’t make your soup right away.

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Take the cream cheese and put it in a microwavable bowl. I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t know if this would work, but it did. I wanted sour cream for 3 recipes, but I didn’t like the looks of their sour cream. I nuked the cream cheese till it was stirrable, then I whisked in about 3-4 tablespoons of water until it was the consistency of a combo of sour cream/thick yogurt. It really turned out well, and was enough for what I needed.

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Put 7 eggs on to boil. Snacks this week will be deviled eggs, pickles, and olives. To make your deviled eggs, use 3-4 T of mayo, S&P, and a little diced pickle if you want.

Add a little bacon fat to a skillet and heat it up. Carefully place the flat pieces of chicken skin in the fat, salt and pepper them, and fry them in the fat till they are crispy, turning occasionally. You will never waste perfectly good chicken skin again.

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Breakfast for the week:

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Slice the sausage chub into 8 patties and cook them. Set one aside and put the other 7 in a container for breakfast. I used the sausage fat to scramble 7 eggs and put them in the same container. You can add half a cup of thawed, frozen pepper mix if you want. Breakfast for the week is done. I add mayo to my eggs every day. I like it. The squirt bottle of Calders brand mayo from the Dollar Tree is small, but has no added sugar.

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Sunday:
Southern style ham and green beans

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Put both cans of the green beans in a decent sized pot, open the two packs of ham and break the pieces up, add some pepper (The ham is pretty salty, so I skipped the salt). You can take the pepper mix here and pick out some of the onions if you want and add them, but that was a PITA, so I gave up and just went outside and foraged a few onions, chopped them, and tossed them in. I’d say it was about 1/2 a cup. Simmer this on the stove until the liquid has practically all cooked out and the green beans have no nutrition left. Pick out most of the ham, then divide the green beans in half. You need one half for a different meal (I probably would have bought that third can of green beans, because these are so good). Add the ham back in and split the whole thing between two dishes, or just put half the ham on your plate and the other half in a dish for the next lunch. Set aside a couple of good sized pieces of ham to put on your pizza (along with that one sausage patty) later this week. This one looks kind of gross but it tastes good, so, whatever.

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Monday:
Crustless pizza

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Get two round cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Add 1/4 cup of the leftover Rinaldi sauce to each pan and spread it around.

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Top each with 1/4 cup of thawed pepper mixture, sliced olives, chop the ham and the sausage patty you saved earlier and add them, and chop up the pepperoni, dividing it between the pans. Put a pouch of mozzarella on each one and bake at 425 for about 10 minutes, till the cheese has melted and it looks like this:

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Tuesday:
Mexican chicken

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Take half of the chicken you picked off the thighs (half should be able 2 cups), give it a rough chop, and put it into a bowl. Drain the liquid from the rotel, set aside half a cup, and add the rest to the bowl. Put in about half of the cream cheese mix that we discussed above, a teaspoon or so of minced garlic, chop a few of the jalapenos, and add 1/4 cup of thawed, frozen pepper mix. Stir this all together and put it in a baking dish, then shred about 2/3 of the pepper jack cheese and put it on top. Bake at 350 for 20 mins or till hot and the cheese is bubbly. While your cheese grater is out, grate the other 1/3 of the cheese, but set it aside with the Ro-tel. That way, you only have to wash your cheese grater once. Divide the cooked dish in half, and top with salsa and jalapenos if you want. If you feel like you need a veggie side, heat up 1/2 cup or so of the broccoli from the frozen mix and top with butter. Leave the cauliflower in the bag. You will need it later.

Wednesday:
Smoked sausage and green beans

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Slice the JM sausages and  cook them in your skillet till they are hot and heat half the leftover green beans to go with them. Put half the sausages in a dish with the rest of the beans to have later.

Thursday:
Seafood chowder

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Take that chicken broth you made (There should be about two cups) and heat it back up on med-low. Before it gets really hot, put a cup in a bowl and carefully whisk in most of the cream cheese mix. Leave about 1-2 Tablespoons in the container, but this is going to make your soup nice and creamy. To this, even more carefully, whisk in two raw egg yolks till you can’t see pieces of yolk in it. You can save the whites for tomorrow if you want. While the broth is heating up, pick out 2 cups of cauliflower from the frozen mix, thaw it out a little, and give it a few chops. Add this to your broth. I added some chopped, wild onions, too. Once the cauliflower is hot, add the clams, juice and all. (If you bought fish, skip this step and instead, cook the fist in a skillet, chop it up and add it at the end). Now, add the creamy liquid and whisk it until it thickens a bit. The egg yolks are what will thicken this up. Don’t forget S&P.
Once this is hot, stir in the thawed, cooked salad shrimp.

This is really great as leftovers, but soup usually is.

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Friday:
Three egg juevos rancheros omelets

You will have six eggs left. Make your omelets and fill them with the Ro-tel you set aside, about 1/4 cup each of the frozen pepper mix, and half each of the leftover pepper jack cheese. Top with salsa and peppers. There really is a method to my madness.

If you don’t know how to make omelets, check youtube. Mine are never extremely pretty, but always tasty. This one has the two egg whites added to it from when I used the yolks for soup.

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Saturday:
Mediterranean chicken with olives and feta

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Take the rest of the chicken, give it a rough chop, add some sliced olives (both black and green if you still have any black), add the last bit of the cream cheese mix you made (It’s sort of yogurty) a teaspoon of minced garlic, and the feta cheese. Always remember to salt and pepper.

I think this tastes really good, but I LOVE feta cheese. However, it smells horrible. Like, really horrible, like sweaty socks. If you’re sensitive to smells, you should make a double batch of Mexican chicken or something. I took some to work with a side of frozen winter mix.

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If you cook most of this on Sunday, you can mix and match throughout the week so you’re not eating the same thing twice in a row. That’s what I did with this menu. The only time consuming bit was making the chicken stock, and that was just a pot simmering on the back of the stove all day.

There are less expensive things you can do, but it involves certain strategies like having available freezer space, watching sales, sometimes shopping different stores, eating eggs until you’re sick of them, and maybe having less of a variety in your meals. We are going to cover those things as time goes by. Low carb should always be affordable and easy, esp if you have limited funds and limited time, but your good health should never have to be sacrificed in the name of cost.

n’t forget to fFind me on Facebook  set a bookmark, or subscribe to my emails in the upper right corner. I’m really looking forward to making, testing, and sharing more of these menus, and extreme budget recipes really are one of my passions.

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Budget Low Carb $25 Seven Day, Three Meals Daily Dollar Tree Menu for One

Pretend you’re broke, or maybe you are. Maybe you paid all your bills this week and you’re left with $50. All you have in your fridge is some butter or a saved jar of bacon fat, a few packets of leftover soy sauce from the Chinese restaurant, and some salt and pepper. Do you run out and grab a few pounds of rice and beans and some Ramen or do you do your best to make yourself up a menu that fits your low carb lifestyle? My hope for you is that you pick the latter choice. I also hope this blog entry helps inspire you to see that low cost low carbing is possible.

That being said, this is a menu for one. It will make three meals a day for a week, based on the idea that you eat half for dinner and save the other half for lunch the next day. The recipes could be doubled, or they could be shared as just dinners with a second person. Personally, I found, as I cooked and ate the food, that it was more than I needed to satisfy my hunger. In fact, I bought and set aside particular items to have as snacks, and didn’t eat them. You also need access to a dollar tree that sells cooler/frozen foods, the bigger the selection, the  better. These are items that are sold in the Dollar Tree stores around Birmingham, and they sell similar items in other places.

Before I start, I want to say a couple of things.

I picked Dollar Tree for a few reasons. Out of curiosity, because there are some cool, LC items you can get there, and because sometimes when you’re broke, you don’t have the gas money for going to three or four stores to buy the sale items there. That’s how broke I’ve been.

This is not a Paleo menu, it is not an organic menu, and it is not a gourmet menu. There may even be some gluten in there somewhere. There are processed meats. Nothing is fresh. It’s a menu designed to get someone through a week on a $25 budget. If you need certain things, like coffee, creamer, and sweetener, you can find those at the Dollar Tree, but the creamer won’t be sugar free. They do sell half n half, which isn’t ideal because of the milk, but doesn’t have sugar. So, if you have to have those things, throw in three extra bucks.

The recipes are simple, easy to cook, and taste good.
Snacks are pork rinds, sunflower seeds, olives, pickles, and string cheese.
You could make all of these on Sunday if you wanted, and then package them for the week.

Some of them will make leftovers, not a huge amount, but I actually ate this exact food for a week and I didn’t go hungry. I didn’t even need snacks most days. It all depends on your appetite. There will also be some items that you have left in your pantry to roll over into your next week’s menu.

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I don’t mind foraging some, so just for funsies, I went outside and cut a handful of those wild onions that grow everywhere to add to some of the recipes for bulk and for some mild, onion flavor. I like them, and they were free. However! Unless you know for certain that you have onions, don’t try this at home.

Please do your own nutritional counts.

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My grocery purchases were these:

One bag of pork rinds
Two bags of frozen veggie mix
One bag of frozen peppers and onions
One bag of frozen spinach
One package of frozen tilapia filets
One chub of frozen breakfast sausage
One two pack of frozen chicken legs
Two 3 oz packages of shredded mozzarella (Make sure it’s real cheese, not the fake stuff)
One 3 oz package of shredded cheddar (again, real)
One three pack of string cheese
3 half dozen cartons of eggs

A bottle of real mayonnaise
A package of walnuts
A jar of pickles
A can of mackerel
A can of tuna
A bag of shelled sunflower seeds
A jar of Rinaldi pizza sauce (read your labels! Rinaldi does not have added sugar.)
A shaker of parmesan (get the smaller one, the big can is “cheese product”)
A can of black olives
A package of pepperoni slices

Sunday:

Breakfast first.
You want your breakfast sausage, a six pack of eggs, and a cup of the frozen pepper mix.
Brown the sausage and scramble the eggs with the peppers, the stir it all together and keep it in a bowl. Dip some out each morning and heat it up for breakfast. Easy.

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Next up: Tuna salad

Take your tuna, add 3 Tablespoons of mayo, add some cut up pickles, the package of walnuts, and salt and pepper. Boil two eggs.

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Cook about two cups of the veggie mix you picked (these are variable, depending on your selection) I used the California blend because it was the only broccoli/cauli combo they had, then I picked out the carrots. Put half the tuna, one egg, and half the veggies for dinner, and pack the other half for tomorrow.

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Monday:
Spinach Florentine

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Preheat oven to 400.
Thaw the whole package of spinach, put it in a mixing bowl with about 1/4 cup of mayo and 1/4 cup of parmesan, plus some salt and pepper. Put it in a small baking dish and crack four eggs on top. Salt and pepper the eggs, put in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. You could shorten the baking time to 10-12 minutes if you wished for a runny yolk, but I like my eggs yolks firm. Serve half per meal for two separate meals. I had some sunflower seeds for a snack.

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Tuesday
Stir Fry

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There will probably be two small tilapia fillets in the package of fish. Cook them in a skillet and set them aside. If you have some bacon fat or a little butter, add that and some salt and pepper and dump half the bag of stir fry mix, minus about a half cup, into the pan and cook it till the veggies are soft and no longer frozen. Split it between two dishes, add a string cheese for a little extra protein and fat, and enjoy.

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Wednesday
Pizza cups
This was, by far, my favorite, and it made three meals worth of food.

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Preheat oven to 350
Take the pepperoni (notice that I bought the large, sandwich sized, slices. This is important.) and put one in each well of a twelve cup muffin tin. Add a Tablespoon or so of the Rinaldi pizza sauce to the top of each one. If there were extra pepperonis, chop them up and add a few to each up. Slice a few olives and add to each cup, I added some wild onions, you could get that bag of frozen pepper mix and add a few bits of chopped pepper and onion from it here. Put a little parmesan on them and top with the shredded mozzarella and bake for 15 or so minutes till they look right. And by right, I mean like this. Make a cup of your frozen veggies to eat with them.

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Thursday
Fish croquettes

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Open the fish and drain the liquid. I don’t bother with picking out the bones.
Empty the fish into a big bowl. Add the bag of shredded cheddar (the dollar tree bags are 3-4 ounce sized), add two eggs, about 1/3 cup of mayo, crush enough pork rinds finely to equal half a cup of crumbs, salt and pepper to taste, and I included about half a cup of wild onions. Mix it all together and shape the mix into three or four patties and cook them in a skillet till they have a nice crust on one side, then flip and do the same on the other side. I used a little bacon grease with these.

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When these were finished, I tossed a cup of frozen veggies into the skillet and cooked them in the leftover fat. Remember to divide your meal into two dishes.

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Friday
Peppers and eggs

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This recipe is as simple as it sounds. You heat and cook the peppers in your skillet, then break the eggs in and scramble them together. I learned this from a youtube show about depression era cooking.

Saturday
Chicken soup

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Take the two pack of chicken legs and put them in a medium pot first thing in the morning. Cover them with water and boil for maybe an hour, take them out, take the meat off the bones and refrigerate it, beak the bones in half and put them back in the water and simmer them all day on low with the lid on. It won’t be an extremely rich chicken broth, but it will make a nice enough soup broth. After 3-4 hours, strain it to get any bone pieces out, add the chicken back in, add about 1/3 cup of that pizza sauce for some flavor, then add about 2-3 cups of whatever vegetables you have left from the frozen veggies you’ve been eating on all week. Season with salt and pepper, and you have enough soup to last a couple more meals.

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By now, you may still have a few leftovers, like olives, pickles, mayo, frozen peppers, parmesan, pizza sauce, and sunflower seeds. You can roll these over into a few other items for the next week, and then you can buy a few other things, like garlic powder, a little bottle of cooking oil, etc. As you work these menus, you will find that you have more you can use per week, and as a result, have more variety.

Budget Low Carb…Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill and Still Eat Healthy

I’ve been in LC circles for several years now and one question comes up all the time…”How do I keep doing this when the food is so expensive

This question is always met with a variety of answers, from helpful suggestions to the tough love type…or, because I try to always think the best, what I want to think is the tough love type. These answers include things like “Processed foods are more expensive than basic meats and veggies. ” to “The toll that eating that CRAP takes on your health makes the cost of REAL FOOD worth it!” to people who insist that you should only buy organic.

The thing is, if you’re used to just going to the grocery store and filling up a basket of food and buying it, then the addition of more perishables may well cause some budgeting issues.

If you’re used to spending very, very little because you don’t have a lot of money in your grocery budget and you and your family eat a ton of PB&J sandwiches, cheap mac and cheese, rice, and beans, then it probably is going to cost more.

If you read a bunch of blogs where they make these amazing baked items with recipes that call for a lot of things you’ve never heard of or remind you of your high school science lab, and you feel like you need to do that, too, then it is going to cost more. Keep reading those blogs because you will learn from them, but not because you are going to start baking with almond flour and coconut flour and using these things that you can only find on Amazon at fifteen bucks a pop, but don’t be afraid to get familiar with prices and pick one up every once in a while.

Remember this…KISS
Keep It Simple, Sweetheart
Most of our meals are meats and veggies and that’s it, though I did invest a little of our tax refund on some things I don’t normally buy.

You can eat very well on low carb on a tight budget. One thing I’ve found that works for me is to avoid America’s largest retailer. There are still a few things that I buy at Walmart, but only very few. Every week, you should get a set of ads for your local grocery stores. They will normally have some deals included that are called “Loss Leaders”. Loss leaders are designed to get you in the store and they will normally be prominently displayed on the front page. I buy what is on sale, then I plan my menu around that. If cabbage is 3 pounds for a dollar, I buy a couple of cabbages. They last a long time in the crisper and can be used for many things, from unstuffed cabbage rolls to coleslaw. If ten pound bags of chicken thigh quarters are on sale for .59 a pound, I buy one of those. I might buy two, and seal a bunch up with my Foodsaver and put them in the deep freeze. Thigh quarters are my favorite cut of chicken. I buy bone-in breasts, the bone adds flavor and I like that crispy skin!

If you don’t have a deep freeze, you might consider investing in one. I bought mine about 10 years ago at the Salvation Army for $125. My freezer has enough meat in it that it doesn’t matter what is on sale, we will have a nice variety, even if I buy something at a rock bottom price and stock up.

It seems pricey, but a half ham is a good buy. Only buy them when they are on sale. You might spend ten bucks, but you will get a good meal off it, plus leftover ham to have with your breakfasts and package up a few things for the freezer. These are good for casseroles, stir fry, egg scrambles, salads, and soup.

A whole turkey is equally good. Off season, they run about .99/lb here in Alabama, but closer to Thanksgiving, they will be about .70/lb. You can roast the turkey, again, have a great meal, some leftovers, packs for the freezer, then make soup broth.

Frozen vegetables can be an option if they’re on sale, and often have coupons available.
Cheeses often have coupons available, and again, something is always on sale. It doesn’t have to be donkey cheese, plain old blocks from the cheese aisle work fine. Butter and cream? It’s ok to use the store brand. Oil? I buy olive oil on sale with a coupon. The important thing is that you pay attention to your labels and make sure you’re not ingesting things like sugar.

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So, buy what’s on sale, don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing, and keep your meals simple.

I guess the point I am wanting to make, and budgeting is going to be a regular topic of mine, is to do the best you can with what you have. If you see people making these crazy expensive dishes, remember that you don’t have to do that, and you don’t owe anyone any explanation about why you aren’t and there is no need to feel bad about it.

That’s because we are all on the same path, and that is towards good health.

The Best Deviled Egg Recipe You’ve Ever Had except for Maybe Your Mom’s…

Deviled eggs, who loves them? I do, and so does my youngest. I make a batch maybe once a week or so, because eggs are cheap and nutritious. Here is a recipe I’ve been working on for a bit, mostly because I eyeball measure when I cook, so I had to take my time and get it right.

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This low carb deviled egg recipe is the best one I’ve made. I can sort of remember eating them growing up, but holidays at my house always had a big crowd and things like the deviled eggs never lasted and Mom didn’t make them when it wasn’t a holiday. I think, too, that they were more work than she wanted to put into one dish. Boiling and peeling eggs, then cleaning them, etc when you have a crowd of twenty or so to cook for, that’s a lot of work.

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This recipe makes twelve, it can easily be doubled or tripled, or even halved. The reason you see seven eggs in the pic is because I always cook seven, even though I only use six for the recipe. Why? Because sometimes one turns out to leak or something, it never fails. I put the eggs into boiling water with a spoon and set the timer for 15 minutes, then put them in ice water for a couple of minutes. This usually helps them peel pretty easily but if the egg has an invisible crack, it will leak out and come out looking like this:

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See that one on the left? It’s still edible, so I just salt it and eat it.

You can skip this step and buy eggs that are pre-cooked. They sell them in most stores now under the brand name “NeverUgly”
Ok, not really, they do sell them, and they are Never Ugly, but I don’t know the brand.

After the eggs are boiled, you want to cut them in half and use a spoon to scoop the yolk into a bowl. Put the egg halves on a dish. Now, I like salt on my eggs, so I always throw a sprinkling of salt on the white halves. You can skip this step if you want.

Now, take a fork and mash up the yolks in the bowl. When they are mashy, add a dollop of mayo to them. A dollop is a unit of measurement my mom used. I think it’s about 1/3 cup.
Add your mayo, add salt and pepper to taste, and add a tablespoon of dried, minced onion. Lastly, you will add your secret ingredient but if I put that here, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore so I can’t tell ya. Just kidding! See the pic, it’s that love upon love of foods, butter! I add one tablespoon of softened butter per two whole eggs. What goes better with eggs than good, old fashioned butter?

Mix all that up, really, really well and fill your eggs. I’ve seen people use piping bags, sometimes a spoon, I put all of mine in a baggie, snipped the end off, and squirted it in. I did it just for the blog pics, they usually turn out pretty messy, though.

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Let them set for 30 minutes or so before eating, or even overnight! The reason is because the minced onion needs to get soft so you don’t have crunchy bits in your eggs.
I don’t garnish mine with paprika, but sometimes with a bit of pepper, because S&P are my favorite seasonings. Sometimes, I cut up tiny bits of green onion to put on them, it makes them prettier. I use a lot of green onion, I have some walking onions I got from my grandmom’s garden when she died, and it’s something I always have on hand.

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Deviled eggs

6 cooked, hardboiled eggs, cut in half to make twelve halves
1/3 cup of mayo
3 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon dried, minced onion
S&P to taste

Scoop the yolks from the eggs and mash them in a bowl
Add the mayo, onion, butter and S&P

Fill the wells on the eggs till they are heaped up

Garnish with paprika, a little pepper, some green onion, or nothing

Let sit for at least half an hour before serving

Enjoy!