When I was first dating my fireman and getting to know his family, I heard all about what a great cook his mom was when he was growing up. From Mrs. W’s great meatloaf to her delicious casseroles, my fireman had a lot of favorites as a kid. Also, I’m sure he or his brother didn’t taste store bought bread until they were in their teens, she did it all by herself. Since then I’ve had the pleasure tasting her meals on more than a few occasions and they definitely live up to the hype of a favorite childhood memory.
While lots of people are amazing cooks, (especially moms!) what makes Mrs. W so special is that she did it all spending only $20 a week on groceries for her family of four. When I learned that I was floored, that’s half of what my budget is per person! It wasn’t all fun and games for her, there were some years when my fireman was young that were harder than others and the tight budget was a necessity. Throughout it all, she was always able to come up with fun and delicious food to fill up a hard-working husband and two growing boys on just $20 per week. One of my favorite thing about her Mama-Bear cooking skills is the great names she gives her dishes. For example, one of my fireman’s favorites is her ‘Roasty Toasty Rhino Ribs’ and tonight’s recipe is called ‘Mexican Delight.’
In the first few months of dating my fireman, while we were still in college, I tried so hard to be as good of a ‘from scratch’ cook as his Mama is. I did have a few good dishes of my own back then, but there were quite a few failures along the road too. Most notably, there were a few loaves of bread which could have masqueraded as bricks, but culinary school and a few years of practicing have taught me how to make quite a few more yummy things completely from scratch. Whenever I’m struggling to keep my budget, or wondering what sort of voodoo magic I’ll have to work to turn half a cabbage and some potatoes into dinner, I always keep Mrs. W in mind as a source of constant inspiration.
To this day, my fireman is ever the diplomat. When pressed about whose recipe is better, he always says that my meatloaf and his mom’s are both great, just different. That’s the truth of it, while I might never be the legend that my unofficial mother-in-law is in his eyes, that doesn’t mean that we both can’t be kitchen goddesses in our own separate ways. Who knows, maybe one day we will collaborate on the “101 Ways to Make Rice and Beans” cookbook that we’ve joked about. 🙂
Mexican Delight – with focaccia bread
Serves 4 – costs approx $1.15 per serving.
Mrs. W serves Mexican Delight with garlic bread, I decided to make my focaccia bread with garlic salt, which only costs about $1 per loaf, making the total $1.40 per person.
- 1 lb. ground beef ($2)
- salt – to taste
- 1 medium onion, diced ($.19)
- 1 garlic clove, diced
- 1 can kidney beans, drained ($.75)
- 1 can cream corn ($.61)
- 1 small (6oz) can of tomato paste ($.50)
- 6 oz red wine ($.30)
- 1 Tbs chili powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried marjoram – I left this out, I hate marjoram, but I’m funny that way
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
Brown the ground beef in a dutch oven over medium heat, breaking it into bite size chunks. When the meat is browned, add in the onion and garlic, seasoning to taste. After the onion is sauteed and translucent, add the kidney beans, cream corn, tomato paste and wine. (Notice how there’s the same amount of wine as tomato paste? Not by chance, measuring the wine in the tomato paste can helps to get the last bits of tomato paste out. That’s a great budget cooking technique!) Lastly, add all the spices and herbs and simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
This awesome dish is ready to serve at this point, but it gets even better if you let the flavors meld for a few hours. This is a great one to make earlier in the day and reheat for dinner.