Book Review: $5 Dinner Mom, Erin Chase, Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook Review

The $5 Dinner Mom Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook by Erin Chase
Reviewed by Tara Norman
Genre: Cooking
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Dates: 2010

I follow Erin Chase, the $5 Dinner Mom, on Twitter. When I read she had a new cookbook coming out, I got very excited. I don’t own any of her other cookbooks but I have tried a recipe or two of hers floating around in the food blogging world. I am all about saving money and making the most of our meals so this cookbook was right up my alley. When the cookbook arrived, I snapped a picture of the cover and posted it on Facebook. A friend of mine, Krystal Manges, went out and purchased a copy and together we experimented with the recipes and traded thoughts.

Krystal tried 9 recipes. I am going to post the thoughts she shared with me beside the recipes she tried.

Breakfast:

Overnight Spiced Granola This recipe was extremely quick and easy to make. It tasted very good as well. Several people tried it and loved it.

Spiced Pumpkin Waffles This was an easy recipe to make. I had trouble finding a small can of Pumpkin so I had a lot of that left over. The whole family loves this one and were begging for more.

Overnight Honey Granola I liked this one better than the Overnight Spiced Granola

Lunch:

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-fry Easy to make. Was a good recipe tasted good. Everyone in the family liked it.

Baked Parmesan Chicken Fingers Tasted good. Easy to make. My daughter loved this one.

Taco Macaroni & Cheese The recipe was not a favorite. There was way too much macaroni noodles and not enough sauce. It wa a little too spicy for my taste.

Chili-Cornbread Cups Recipe Tasted really good. The only problem was I ran out of the cornbread topping and had to make a second batch. I did not have enough muffin pans so I put in a pie dish and topped with the cornbread topping. It worked really well. I thought with the muffin tins there was not very much mixture in the bottom and it was mostly cornbread.

Shrimp Scampi It tasted ok. Again there was too much Spaghetti and not enough sauce. I even doubled the sauce and still did not feel there was enough.

Lasagna Roll Ups The recipe tasted really good. I followed it on the amount of sauce to put in each noodle and ran out. So the last few were short on the sauce. I took the left over sauce from the jar and poured over the top of the roll ups before putting in the oven. This was probably our favorite of what we tried.

Other thoughts from Krystal:

The problem that I found was that the sauces were never enough. I could not keep in the $ amount stated, but as you said it was because she always bought her items on sale.

I really liked that the recipes called for things that I normally have around the house or use so I was not having to buy a lot of things that I would only use once or twice.

I tried 14 recipes and will enclose my thoughts about each recipe.

Breakfast:

Raspberry French Toast Loved it. Fresh. The kids weren’t fans of the fresh berries on top so it was my secret that there was some hidden in the toast.

Overnight Honey Granola A favorite for us. EASY! The smell of the granola was amazing the night I made it, my daughter actually woke up and came to ask me what I was cooking that smelled so good! The recipe made so much I spread it out for breakfast, snacks and lunch.

Blackberry Muffins Healthy and loved that I made it from scratch. Thing 3 fell in love with these. He ate four in one day. I kept them in a zip lock bag on the counter and anytime he was in his high chair snacking I would find him opening the bag and trying to scarf one more down before I could stop him. I still have no idea how he reached over and grabbed them.

Lunch:

Twice Baked Potato Soup I wasn’t a fan of this one. The directions for the crock pot versions should have really been tweaked. I am wondering if anyone actually made it the exact way it is written or if they did what they normally would have done when making potato soup. More of an explanation to follow.

Macaroni Salad One of my absolute favorites! Fresh and light. I whipped this together in no time!

Baked Lime Talipia Not a fan. The fish just lacked flavor. It needed more spice.

Cheesy Drop Biscuits I loved that they were easy to make but honestly, no one liked them but the baby. They just lacked flavor even with the cheese and I added some butter when they came out.

Cucumber Dill Sandwiches Awesome recipe. I have made this two or three times now.

Chicken Pesto Sandwich I fell in love with her Pesto recipe. So easy and so good! I was happy that she included how long it would keep in the fridge because I truly would not have known any different.

Guacamole Veggie Pita Too light for us so we added ham to this and it was perfect. The saltiness of the ham gave this sandwich the added pop that it needed to make it just right for us.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir fry LOVED this recipe. We omitted the red pepper flakes for the kids portion and added it to ours. Loved the salty spicy kick.

Baked Parmesan Chicken Fingers This was another slow cooker fail. I ended up taking them out of the slow cooker and baking them but they smelled divine and tasted really good.

Oven Chili Fries I like them but the kids did not.

Peanut Butter Surprise I threw some of the Overnight Honey Granola on a peanut butter and honey sandwich. The kids loved it!

At first, I was very confused about how she came up with the $5 per meal. It took me a while to realize how she kept coming up with her prices for vegetables and meals. She never pays the full price for anything. She matches her coupons with her sales price. Awesome! Also, she is giving you a price based on the amount the recipe calls for. For instance, 4 bacon slices ($.50). A package of Hormel bacon at regular price will cost about $2.39 or about $.16 per slice. or $.64 for 4 slices. So if you used a coupon or got the cheaper bacon her price makes sense.

Early in my adventure with Erin’s cookbook I realized she doesn’t use a lot of spice and her slow cooker directions just didn’t work out. The lack of spice I understand because it helps shave the cost off of her meal and makes the recipes easy to shop for and pantry friendly. The slow cooker recipes should have been better written. When I was cooking the Twice Baked Potato Soup, it has the option to use the slow cooker version of the recipe. Y’all know me, I am a slow cooker junkie so I opted for that route. At the bottom of the recipe it said to turn to a different page for the slow cooker version. The slow cooker version reads, “Twice-Baked, Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup (page 202)- Place all ingredients in the slow cooker with an extra cup of liquid and cook on low for 8-10 hours.” I thought when I read this, that can’t be right. I re-read the instructions on page 202 and there was no mention of slicing or dicing the potatoes in the ingredients section. So she wanted me to literally throw everything (6-8 whole potatoes not peeled or diced and some milk) together in the slow cooker. My common sense told me, “You are going to waste those potatoes and all that milk because this is not going to turn out,” the reviewer/blogger side said, “You need to do just as it says so you will know for sure.” So I did and the night ended with a frozen pizza. Even when making them the other way she steamed the potatoes for an hour in the oven before dicing them for the soup. Why do I tell you this story? Because that happened twice with her slow cooker versions of a recipe. Her recipes are basic bare bones recipes. They require you adding your flavors and zest and common sense when it comes to putting it together in the slow cooker.

Other than the slow cooker mishaps the rest was great. Her lunch recipes are absolutely fabulous! I looked forward to lunchtime. It was hard, but I have it narrowed down to one or two favorites. Her Macaroni salad and her Chicken Pesto Sandwich knocked my socks off. I make my husbands lunch for him in the mornings while I down a few cups of coffee before the Things wake up and each morning when I was making his lunch I would go ahead and make one for me too. So we both tried all of her lunch meals. I did add to her recipes. I mostly added the things we liked: spice, cheese and more meat and veggies. I was ok with that because in any recipe you are going to add or take away. It’s just part of the cooking process and making a meal fit your family’s palate.

Erin touches on all the things that I would touch on if I was writing a cookbook. She sets the tone of the cookbook by centering it around planning ahead. Menu planning, organization and freezing take up the first 20 pages of her book. Brilliant of her to stress the importance of this because most people wouldn’t normally buy a Breakfast/Lunch Cookbook. Most want to invest in dinners because when they think of entertaining or planning a dinner, they actually plan a menu. It’s not common practice to menu plan for lunch or breakfast which means most of us are spending extra money eating out for these two meals. Her book suggests that you not only menu plan for your dinner but for your breakfast and lunch to avoid these costs (and calories). She makes it easy by offering overnight breakfast recipes. Her overnight granola was awesome. I was able to use a whole batch of granola in our breakfast (added in yogurt), as a quick snack, and part of a sandwich for lunch (Peanut butter surprise). She clearly explains how make things in bulk (such as waffles) and freeze some for another time. I am a meal planner myself and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE make one freeze one recipes so I found this part of her cook book very insightful. All in all, her recipes are easy to follow, healthy and fit our budget. I was happy with the cookbook and now have a few favorite “grown up” sandwich and lunch recipes.

Below is a quick slide show of some of the food I made with her recipes.

Rated G
Review Copy Provided by St. Martin’s Griffin. Thank you.

I received a copy of this book to review but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations.

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