With March Madness coming up soon, hearty snacks seem to be the order of business. But store-bought snacks can blow the budget, and mystery ingredients can blow a healthy diet. What's a basketball fan to do? Make your own sweet and savory snacks with today's fun recipes.
If you love beef jerky — the ultimate treat for family outings, sporting events, hiking trips and school lunches — I'm certain you're not fond of the high price. At the typical supermarket, it's not exactly a cheap treat. Instead, make your own jerky for less than $3 a pound. You don't need a fancy food dehydrator (although if you have one, get it out).
1 pound of very lean beef — a cheap cut like chuck, round or London broil
Jerky marinade (recipe follows)
Start by trimming all visible fat from the lean beef. Place in freezer until firm and solid, but not rock hard. Using a sharp knife, cut across the grain, making sure slices are as thin as you can possibly make them — about 1/8-inch thick. Place strips in a large zip-type plastic bag or a large baking dish. Prepare one of the marinades below, and pour the liquid over the strips. Close the bag tightly, or cover the dish with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for at least eight hours. Knead the bag occasionally to distribute the marinade evenly, or turn the meat strips if you are using a dish.
Preheat oven to 140 F. Remove meat from the marinade, and place the strips on a cake rack over a cookie sheet in the oven. Make sure they are not touching so that air circulates around each strip. Dry in the closed oven until strips begin to splinter on the edges, 18 to 24 hours, or longer as necessary. Or, if you have a dehydrator, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Cool completely before wrapping lightly with plastic wrap.
Notes: Jerky will keep in a tightly covered container for two to four weeks.
TRADITIONAL BEEF JERKY MARINADE
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4 teaspoon dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Mix all ingredients, and pour over meat strips to marinate. Proceed as above.
SWEET, HOT AND SPICY BEEF JERKY MARINADE
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
In a small bowl or cup, mix together the onion powder, garlic powder and some cracked black pepper. Season the meat lightly, using only part of the mixture. Reserve the remaining spices. Place the seasoned meat into an airtight plastic container or bowl, and refrigerate.
In a saucepan over medium heat, mix together the brown sugar, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, liquid smoke flavoring and pineapple juice.
Heat until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.
Pour over the meat, and proceed as above.
MAPLE FRUIT DIP
Place this dipping sauce next to a big bowl of banana chunks, apple slices, strawberries or any other kind of fruit available — and watch it disappear!
1/2 cup fat-free vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup reduced-fat whipped topping
4 teaspoons reduced-calorie maple pancake syrup
1 dash ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until use. Serve with fruit.
Yield: 1 cup
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
Photo credit: AlbanyColley at Pixabay