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Gooey Butter Cake is a summer indulgence

One of the best things about my family's annual return to St. Louis, my hometown, is the food. In between family visits and trips to the pool, I consume as many of my childhood favorites as I possibly can.

In honor of my annual Midwestern overindulgence, I share a favorite treat -- Gooey Butter Cake. The dessert is so rich, buttery and gooey, I usually make it only for picnics or church suppers.

Although Gooey Butter Cake has been a St. Louis favorite since the 1930s, I recently found the same recipe from Paula Deen. There must be a Midwestern connection.

For the recipe click here.

Frugal Feasts: Quick Roast Chicken

I can't seem to break away from these split chicken breasts recipe. Harris Teeter has the breasts on sale for 99 cents a pound, as well a five-pound bag of white potatoes for sale for $3.49. Today's recipe for Quick Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables comes from "Eating Well on a Budget," by Jessie Price and the Eating Well Test Kitchen. (I'm giving away a copy of this cookbook. If you would like to enter, click HERE for details. You have until noon Friday to enter.) This recipe costs $2.17 per serving.

To see all previous Frugal Feasts recipes, click on the Frugal Feasts tag above.

Remember to check out N&O retail reporter Sue Stock's Wednesday Deals to see what coupons pair with what's on sale at the grocery store.

One note on this recipe: I would likely replace the turnips with carrots, not being much of a turnip fan. You can do the same or omit them entirely.

Click READ MORE for the whole recipe.

Frugal Feasts: Chicken Orzo Salad

Each Wednesday, I offer a recipe based on what's on sale at the grocery store. Recently I've been sharing reader recipes after a continuing discussion on this blog about what to do with split chicken breasts, which are often on sale at the grocery store for less than $1 a pound. Food Lion has them on sale for 86 cents a pound. This recipe for Chicken Orzo Salad came from reader Hope Stewart. My husband loves orzo so I'll have to try this one soon.

(Hope, look for my e-mail so I can get a cookbook out to you for publishing your recipe on the Mouthful blog.)

Some of these ingredients are on sale at local grocery stores. Kroger has grapes on sale for $1.49 a pound. Harris Teeter has orange juice on sale for $2.79. I spotted cantaloupes at the farmers market for $2-$3 recently.

If you would like to see previous Frugal Feasts recipes, go to this LINK. And don't forget to check out N&O retail reporter Sue Stock's Taking Stock blog for her list of Wednesday Deals where she pairs what's on sale at the grocery store with coupons.

I also want to remind folks that I'm giving away a copy of "Eating Well on a Budget," by Jessie Price and the Eating Well Test Kitchen. Click HERE for details.

Click READ MORE for the full recipe.

Summer vegetable recipes from The Pit, Mecca

While reporting today's story on summer vegetable plates, I collected more recipes than I could possibly put in the paper's print edition. Chef Lauren Smaxwell of The Pit shared her recipe for their tomato and cucumber salad, and Paul Dombalis at the Mecca sketched out his recipe for creamed corn. Click HERE to read my story.

The Pit's Tomato and Cucumber Salad

3 cucumbers, peeled and about 1-2 inch diced  (with or without seeds, personal preference is with)
2 vine-ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 medium sized red onion, sliced (about 2/3 cup)
2 green onions, diced, small green and white parts
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
3 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 cup olive oil
Take the cucumbers after they've been diced and put them in a bowl separate from the other veggies.  Toss them lightly with the salt and set aside for about 15 min.  Mix all other veggies in another bowl.  With a whisk and bowl combine dry mustard, oregano, ketchup, thyme, both vinegars, and sugar.  Whisk in the olive oil.  Take the cucumbers that are set aside and strain them- do not rinse.  Add them to tomato mixture, toss with dressing, and enjoy.  You do not need to use all the dressing.  This salad dressing is great on any green salad so you can reserve some for another occasion.  The salad tastes better if made at least one hour before serving.  Even better the next day.

Paul Dombalis, the third generation to own the 80-year-old restaurant, sketched out his recipe for creamed corn. I didn't have a chance to test the recipe but the recipe seems easy enough. (Click HERE to read my colleague Josh Shaffer's profile of the restaurant on its 80th birthday.)

Dombalis says to cut the corn off the cob. Place corn in a saucepan. Pour enough water into the pot to come halfway up on the corn. Add a tablespoon of bacon grease. (I would probably substitute butter.) Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste. When it starts bubbling, the corn is done. Turn off heat. Create a slurry of cornstarch and water. (I'd use about 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water.) Add to the creamed corn. Stir to combine.

UPDATE: My counterpart in Charlotte, Kathleen Purvis, offers this advice on creamed corn: If the corn is good and fresh, you don't need the cornstarch slurry. Know why? That milk from the corn is liquid cornstarch.  When my mother pointed that out, it was one of those "ah-ha" moments.

I also use a corn stripper, an old-time trough-shaped board with a cutting blade and a raised metal edge. It slices off the tops of the corn kernels and "milks" the ear at the same time. That's another trick -- you want to cut open the kernels so you get the most milk. Of course, you can do the same thing with the blunt side of a knife blade, but a corn stripper is faster.

Frugal Feasts: More Reader Recipes

Split chicken breasts are again on sale this week. Lowes Foods has them for 89 cents a pound. Food Lion has them 97 cents a pound. That's a definite stock up price. So I wanted to share recipes from Mouthful readers who answered my call for easy leftover chicken recipes. If you missed that earlier post, these split chicken breasts are easily roasted or poached on a Sunday and turned into dinners all week.

The recipes I chose to share are Felice Bogus' Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas and Eblanchard's BBQ Chicken Pizza.

Click READ MORE to see the recipes.

Frugal Feasts: Lee brothers' Creamed Corn

When trying to keep grocery costs down, folks always say: Eat in season. It's Economics 101. What's plentiful at the farm will cost less at the grocery store. This week, corn is a really good deal. It's 17 cents an ear at Kroger, 25 cents an ear at Harris Teeter.

I've also been thinking a lot about summer vegetable plates (expect to read more in next Wednesday's food section.) Small corn on the cobs and creamed corn are a staple of those plates served up at fried chicken, bbq and country cookin' restaurants.

So think cool this summer. Serve up slices of tomatoes, some creamed corn and maybe a nice hunk of bread. Corn bread seems fitting but I can't bear the thought of turning on the oven. But maybe you won't mind it So I offer two recipes, Creamed Corn and Crispy Corn Bread, from "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook," by Matt and Ted Lee.

Frugal Feasts: What to do with all that zucchini?

I wrote a few weeks ago about seeking summer squash and zucchini recipes from readers. (Click HERE to read their comments.) This is a scenario where going to the farmers market is a better bargain. Grocery stores are charging $1.79-$1.99 a pound for zucchini but you can get it at the farmers market for 75 cents a pound. Or if you have a garden or have neighbors who garden, you may be inundated with squash right now.

My mother sent me a recipe last year for Curried Zucchini Soup, which you can serve either hot or cold. It is a nice easy meal on a summer day. If you have more squash or zucchini recipes, please share them below. It only costs 93 cents per serving.

Click READ MORE for the full recipe.

Frugal Feasts: Chicken a la King

For the next couple weeks, I thought I'd post some chicken recipes from readers. (A few weeks back, I asked readers for suggestions on what to do with split chicken breasts, which are routinely on sale at the grocery stores. I had never really thought about using those to make salads, tacos or whatnot throughout the week.)

Here's a recipe from reader Joleen Williams of Moncure for Chicken a la King. On the day, I asked readers for their suggestions, Williams was planning to buy split chicken breasts to be able to make this dish for her daughter's birthday. It's a summer version of chicken pot pie. She offers instructions for freezing and reheating but of course, this dish can be served that night as well. I like this recipe because it includes what most of us have in the house: chicken, frozen peas, milk and chicken bouillon. I know I'd only have to buy the mushrooms and the biscuits to put dinner on the table.

REMEMBER: Check out Sue Stocks' Wednesday Deals post on her blog to make your shopping list. It's how I consistently save 40 percent off my groceries.

Celebrate with chocolate cake

Chocolate cupcakes were a perfect way to celebrate the last day of school and my children's various academic achievements.

But no ordinary cupcakes would do. I had to please two dark chocolate- loving adults and a cake-hating 8-year-old.

In her 2009 cookbook Bakewise, Shirley Corriher promised rich, moist chocolate flavor in her Deep Dark Chocolate Cake. Although it was a little tricky to make, the cake lived up to its billing.

After I had polished off my cupcake, I was looking forward to snagging a few bites off my daughter's plate. Not this time. The cake-hater had left only crumbs.

Frugal Feasts: Readers' chicken recipes

Last week, I asked readers for suggestions on how to use leftover pre-cooked chicken. I had noted that split chicken breasts are often on sale. In fact, Kroger has them on sale this week for 97 cents a pound. The response to my call was so good that I think I'll turn over this space for a few weeks to readers' recipes. 

The first recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup is from user, dstarr, and that person will win a copy of the cookbook, "Poor Girl Gourmet," by Amy McCoy. But I will send cookbooks out to other readers whose recipe I profile in the coming weeks as well. 

So here is dstarr's recipe and even hints on how to buy the ingredients on sale.

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