Friday, October 17, 2008

Frugal Fridays - Vegetables are Cheap When They're Free

In honor of Frugal Fridays, I present to you this delicious meal for four, costing well under $10!

My parents recently gleaned enough onions and potatoes to last their family, our family, and my sister's family pretty much all winter. We came home with a bag full of onions about a week ago, and were eager to start using them. You see, both Jeff and I absolutely adore French Onion Soup, and now we had an excuse to make it! The recipe calls for 4 onions, but if you have onions like this... may only need a couple!

This soup only cost us a few bouillon cubes, some seasonings, a bit of bread, and some cheese. Majorly cheap, and delicious too. I was also really excited to do this soup because it gave me an excuse to use these gorgeous soup pots I just got at a thrift store.

French Onion Soup
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
4 medium onions, sliced
2 cans condensed beef broth and 1 1/2 cups water (I substituted 3 1/2 cups water with 4 bouillon cubes)
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
4 slices French bread, 3/4 to 1 inch thick, toasted
1 cup shredded Swiss or mozzarella cheese (we only had cheddar, so that's what we used)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in 4-quart nonstick Dutch oven (or just a large saucepan. Whatever.) over medium-high heat. Stir in onions to coat with butter. You'll have a big pan full of sliced onions!

Cook uncovered 10 minutes, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes. The onions will be starting to get brown and wilted by now.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 35 to 40 minutes longer, stirring well every 5 minutes, until onions are light golden brown. See - they're getting all caramelized. By now the house smells like onions and everyone is crying.

Stir in broth, water, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf.

Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf. At this point, I served out the kids' soup, sprinkled it with some cheese, and gave them their soup with a slice of bread. But as for Jeff and me, our soup wasn't quite done yet.

Set oven control to broil. Place bread in 4 ovenproof bowl or individual casseroles (in our case 2 bowls). Add onion soup. Top with cheeses.

Place bowls on cookie sheet or in pan with shallow sides. Broil with cheese about 5 inches from heat 1 to 2 minutes or just until cheese is melted and golden brown. Watch carefully so cheese does not burn. Serve with additional French bread if desired.

For dessert I utilized some more cheap-as-free vegetables in the form of green tomatoes. This cake only cost me the basic baking ingredients found in every kitchen.

Green Tomato Cake
4 cups green tomatoes, finely chopped (texture is best when you use the food processor to get those pieces really small)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place chopped tomatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Place in a colander, rinse with cold water and drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking pan.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until creamy.

Sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Dough will be very stiff. Mix well.

Add drained tomatoes and mix well. Pour into the prepared 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.

You can serve this as is, sprinkle it with powdered sugar, frost it with cream cheese frosting, or serve it warm with ice cream!

And there you have it, a meal made with free vegetables that ended up being so cheap I didn't even bother to add up the cost of the ingredients! :-)


Melanie said...

mmm... i really need to make french onion soup this winter! thanks for the recipe.


Barbara Bakes said...

If I had those soup pots, I'd make french onion soup too! They're perfect!

Michelle said...

I love bullion cubes! I bought a big one of beef and an even bigger one of chicken cubes at Sam's three years ago, when we first moved here. And I still have 1/2 the chicken and 1/2 the beef left! I'd say I have 6 moths worth of those, wouldn't you?

French onion soup is really yummy, and I love stuff that costs so little to make. Like my homemade jarred chicken stock. My friends give me the carcasses when they make/buy roast chicken! Hurray!

Jenny said...

Oh my goodness that looks good! I'm a nut for french onion soup and am loving those cute soup pots!

Meg said...

I love your bowls! Thanks for the recipe! My husband has been wanting some French onion soup!

Shelby said...

Your french onion soup looks so delicious!

Rebekah said...

I adore french onion soup!! Actually most things this looks perfect! I can't wait to try it! You have the greatest ideas! I LOVE IT!

Bridget said...

My parents used to have bowls just like that! :) Thanks for the recipe!

Southern Plate said...

Oh oh oh ! You are killing me!! I am hungry, I love french onion soup, and that LOOKS AMAZING!
be glad I don't live near you because I would sooooooooooo be on your doorstep right now!

priscilla joy said...

that french onion soup looks yummy, that cake looks delicious for afterwards!

Christie said...

I really love the french onion soup! I wanted to make it today but the husband won't eat french onion soup - even after I begged all day. Too bad, his loss!