Recipe: Mexican Crab Cakes

The other evening I didn’t know what to make for dinner. Christine mentioned that a friend of hers was having Mexican crab cakes (she didn’t mention til later that the friend was eating at a restaurant!)   I was intrigued and googled a recipe.   Last evening I adapted the recipe to be more affordable  (imitation crab works WONDERFULLY, thankyouverymuch!) and to use vegetables I had on hand.  Here is what I came up with.  My family agreed it was the best thing I’ve cooked in quite awhile.

Mexican Crab Cakes

Makes: 12- 15 patties
Preparation Time: 30 minutes


1 pound imitation crabmeat
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 carrots, grated
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup oil, for frying
1 tablespoon butter, for frying

Sour cream and salsa (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Add the sour cream, chili, grated carrot, chopped spinach, salt, and pepper. Toss together until well mixed. Add bread crumbs.  Add the crab, shredding it into approximately 3/4 inch chunks. Mix until well combined — mixture will start to stick together.  Divide the mixture into 12-15 cakes, shaping them into patties about 3/4 inch thick and 2-3 inches in diameter.

In a large heavy skillet, heat butter and oil over medium high heat, until a drop of water added to the oil sizzles and pops.  Saute 5-6 crab cakes at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown on both sides.  Turn carefully so that they don’t fall apart.   Remove to a paper towel to drain after cooking.  You may need to turn down the heat a notch after the first batch if cakes start cooking too fast.

Serve with sour cream and salsa.   Good side dishes include rice, baked potatoes, or polenta.

What’s your favorite cheap homemade meal?

I’m riffing off this post at Cheap Eats this busy morning. One of my favorite affordable meals has got to be potato soup, topped with a dab of crumbled bacon and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.  Yum.  What’s your favorite cheap meal at home?

Recipe: Thai Beef Chard Wraps

You’ll be amazed at how much greenery your kids — and you! — will eat when you serve up this yummy ‘wrap-it-yourself’ meal.  Feel free to tweak the ingredients to your own taste. You can add any veggie you like.  If you happen to have a leftover baked potatos or rice from last night’s dinner, that’s a great way to extend the meat.  I often add a fresh chopped tomato right before serving, so that the color stays bright and the tomato is still firm.


Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves:6 or more




  • a big bunch of chard, spinach, or lettuce – probably a pound or so
  • 2 carrots, grated or minced
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lb lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • Slosh of fish sauce (or soy sauce is OK if you don’t have fish sauce)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Wash chard or lettuce leaves, shake off extra water, and set aside in a bowl. Shred carrot, onion, garlic, and any other veggie that you desire using a food processor. Cook ground meat in a large skillet with a little slosh of sesame oil, if you have it. If you are using ground turkey, you will probably need a tablespoon or two of oil as you cook it.

Once meat is cooked, remove from pan and cook chopped veggies in the remaining oil until soft. Return hamburger to pan and mix with veggies and a good slosh of fish sauce or soy sauce (probably around 1/4 cup). Add a cup or two of cooked rice, if desired. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for a few more minutes, til ingredients are well mixed and heated.

Serve by wrapping leaves of chard or lettuce around several tablespoons of meat. Let people take their own lettuce and their own serving of meat/veggies and wrap right on their plate.

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3 ways to save money on food

I’m still trying to get over the whole CNN interview thing. It was surreal to be sitting there in the van at a soccer game clutching my cell phone to my hot cheek answering questions live on CNN. I was prepared for the time to be brief– I think it was all over in 4 or 5 minutes. But when the anchor lady wrapped it up and said goodbye, I still was left with my mouth open, clutching a page containing some key points that I had REALLY labored over. I thought I might as well put them up here. Many people are sure to already know this stuff. But when I was early on my journey towards frugal living, I appreciated hints from more experienced folks. So, for those of you who are new to frugal shopping, I offer:

3 First Steps Towards Saving Money on Food

1.) Clarify your own ‘big picture’. What are your goals? If you had $100 or $200 or $400 more each month, what would you do with it?
–Pay down the credit card?
–Sign your daughter up for music lessons?
–Save for a family vacation?
–Buy a new minivan?
–Save money towards becoming a one-income family?
If you have your goals clearly in mind, it is so much easier to avoid the ‘poor me’ feeling when it is time to skip pizza delivery and instead crank up your oven and pull out your own flour, yeast, and pepperoni. It’s about much more than an easy meal– it’s about giving yourself the ability to reach long term goals that are more important.

2.) Tally your actual food expenses. Most people have a general idea, but the exact figures may surprise you. Don’t forget to add in your restaurant meals. Even if you can look at your previous month’s records, I’d encourage you to save your receipts for the coming month as well. It will make step 3 easier.

3.) Chop at your top 10 list. Obviously it would be ideal if you could buy everything at the lowest possible price. But when you are just beginning to try to save money, keeping track of a million prices can be overwhelming. It is much more doable to begin by picking the 10 categories on which you personally spend the most money. Common ‘big’ categories include meals out, convenience food, snacks, meat, milk, cheese, fruit, and diapers. Whatever your Top 10’s happen to be, add up those totals for a month or two. (Look at last month’s receipts if you can.) Then focus on those ten areas. There are two ways that you can save money. Either you can buy less of the item, or you can spend less per piece ON the item.

Use Less
For example, in the restaurant category you could decide to go out to eat once a week instead of three times. In the snack category you could limit your family to a bag of chips a week and cut your cola consumption in half. If disposable diapers are draining your budget, you may decide it is worthwhile to invest in cloth diapers, which will pay for themselves in just a few months.

Spend Less
Obviously there are some categories that you don’t want to cut back on, such as the food your family needs to stay healthy. To save money on fruit, good options include limiting your purchases only to in-season fruit, which is more affordable. You can also aim to buy fruit where it is cheapest.

Currently we are eating lots of oranges, because one store in town is selling them for $0.48/lb. Yesterday I found Braeburn apples for $0.98/lb and bought a bunch. On the other hand, most likely we won’t buy watermelon til June, and it has been awhile since I’ve seen grapes at a low enough price that I’ll buy them.

In some cases you can use both these strategies. To save money on meat, serve smaller portions and incorporate a vegetarian meal into your rotation each week. Also make sure to buy the meat for as low a price as possible. Currently I have about 15 lbs of hamburger and 25 lbs of chicken in my freezer, all bought on sale for less than $1/lb.

Once you have gotten your personal top-10’s chopped down to size, pick another 10, check prices, and start chopping away on those.

Chances are, doing only these first three steps will allow you to save some money, which will give you the momentum and encouragement you’ll need to gradually make even more changes in your budget.

Click here for the Frugal Cookin’ Carnival.