Put it in a Pie for Fast, Frugal Food

by Linsey Knerl on 13 November 2007 16 comments
Photo: Jeremy Keith

Are you running out of fresh ideas for supper? Are you also running out of meat and fresh veggies? Pie shells are the best trick for putting a new spin on some old ideas. You’d be surprised what you can get away with putting in there!

The cheapest way to make a pie shell is to do it from scratch. Here is my favorite, simple pie crust recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup water

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water until mixture forms a ball. Divide dough in half, and shape into balls. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Roll out dough on a floured counter. Don't over work it. Use as directed in pie recipe.

If that’s too much work, you can use a pie crust mix from Jiffy, which will usually run you no more than 40 cents for a top and bottom crust. If you’re desperate for time and space, however, it is still alright to use a pre-made pie crust from your grocer’s fridge or freezer section. (You will be paying more for this convenience.) Pillsbury is by far my favorite, but it will cost at least $2.50 for the roll-out variety.

Now that you have your crust, you can begin planning on what to put in it! The possibilities truly are endless. Feel free to stray from the traditional chicken or beef pot pie recipes, and think of any meat or veggie combo that would be easily contained in a pie crust.

Here are my favorites:

Cowboy Pie – 1 can of baked beans (brown sugar variety), 2 strips of crisp crumbled bacon, 1/3 pound browned hamburger, ½ cup sautéed onions, ½ cup sautéed green onion

Runza Pie – 1.5 pounds of browned hamburger, ½ cup sautéed onions, 2 cups steamed shredded cabbage, 1 cup shredded cheese of your choosing

Breakfast Pie – 8 eggs scrambled, 3 strips of crisp crumbled bacon, ½ pound browned breakfast sausage, 1 cup shredded cheese of your choosing

Taco Pie – 1 pound browned hamburger (seasoned with taco seasoning), ½ cup sautéed onions, 1 can black or red beans, 1 cup fresh/frozen/canned corn, 1 small can diced green chili peppers, 1 cup shredded cheese or your choosing (This is also great with cornbread mix substituted for the pie crust – add two tablespoons of honey or maple syrup for a great flavor combo!)

Supper pies just need to be filled and baked at 350 degrees until the pie is a nice golden brown and the insides are hot! We have been known to fill pies with leftover stews, chilis, casseroles, or anything seemingly inedible or boring on its own. Recycle all kind of foods in a snazzy new pie shell!

Dinner for one? Avoid waste by snipping off part of the pre-made crust with some kitchen shears and folding it over a small amount of filling for a tasty “pie pocket” for a super single meal. (These are also great for brown bag meals.)

What can you put in a pie? Just about anything. We’d love to hear what you’ve baked up lately!

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Will Chen's picture

Are you running out of fresh ideas for supper? Are you also running out of meat and fresh veggies?

Yes and yes.  =)

Thanks for the tips Linsey.   

Myscha Theriault's picture

You've definitely taken this in a direction I never would have thought of. Thanks! One thing I do so I don't have to make the crust every time is make a bulk batch a couple of times a year and freeze them separately. I'm on the road with a way slower connection, so opening up a second window for the exact link isn't going to be easy. I'm pretty sure the recipe's up on our family blog though, if you or anyone else is interested. http://www.webesharin.com . If you can't find it with the search box, let me know. I'll be back to a normal internet connection in a few days and will put the exact one up. 

LOVE the cowboy pie idea. Thanks again!

Linsey Knerl's picture

for the comments!  Myscha, I love the pie shell freezer plan.  I freeze everything else, so this works well with me.

It's funny, because Cowboy pie was something I made up one day after finding NOTHING in the house to eat but a can of beans and some leftover breakfast meats.  The kids kept asking, "What is that thing?"  So I thought back to the days of the old western movies and rustled up the idea of "cowboy pie."  Now the kids beg me to make it for them... 

Good to see you're not just lurking in the forums, Will.  :)

Myscha Theriault's picture

It's a recipe I just sort of fell across, but it bakes up quite flaky and makes 24 individual crusts. I put them each in a fold over thin plastic sandwich bag, and put all the bags in a couple of larger sized gallon freezer bags. I've used them from the freezer for up to 12-14 months, so they last a long time.

Point of info: you need a REALLY large mixing bowl for this, and it's a bit of work to get the bulk set of ingredients mixed to the right consistency. However, you don't have to make it often at all, and it is so great to just be able to grab one for chicken pot pie, desert, quiche, and now my new item of choice to try . . . cowboy pie. I'm really quite psyched about that recipe.

Guest's picture
Guest Dottie Killian

I love the idea of making 24 pie crusts & keeping them in the freezer for a long time. I really would like your recipe. It sounds very good. Could you send it to me or let me know where to find it?
Thank you,
Dottie

Guest's picture
tari kay

Check out the recipes that you can use from Bisquick to make fake quiches. No crust but pretty easy to do & although I can't do a price breakdown right now these are certainly something that we have used on more then once. They even freeze great - we made breakfast ones for our wedding brunch, some bacon & some ham. Also very easy to do assembly line production.

Guest's picture
WanderingOak

There are some FANTASTIC ideas in this post. However, as a cook who wants to avoid trans-fats, I would hope that there was an alternative to shortening. Would a 'light' olive oil work as a substitute in the crust, or would butter be a better alternative?

Myscha Theriault's picture

You know, the only thing I've ever seen over the years to cut down on pie crust fat was to make something called a slurry, and from what I remember about it there was no way to do it in advance. But you might want to Google it if you really are concerned about it. Otherwise, to my knowledge (and I could be wrong) you have to basically make shortening based pie crust. As far as the Bisquick / baking mix "pie" suggestions, we've used those too, and I do have a low fat version for the homemade mix recipe if anyone's interested. But those pies would be completely different from the ones Linsey's suggesting. They are definitely cheap and a great leftover strategy, just not quite as awesome looking and decadent as Linsey's. It's personal choice.

Guest's picture
WanderingOak

I've been doing a bit of research (slow day at work...), and it looks like coconut oil might be a good alternative to shortening. I'll need to give that a try. If the health nut stores don't cary it, an ethnic Thai grocery should.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Crisco just came out with a 0 grams trans fat shortening... I haven't tried it yet.  If anyone has any thoughts on how it has worked for them, I'd love to know!

http://www.crisco.com/about/0_grams.asp

 

Guest's picture
Kim (Guest)

My daughter and I just used the butter flavor Crisco (0 trans fat) to replace the butter in chocolate chip cookies last weekend. It worked great, no one complained, and the cookies tasted no different from the traditional recipe.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Thanks ladies, I'll keep a lookout for both of those. Also, I'm back to a normal internet speed connection, so here's the direct link for the bulk pie crust: http://webesharin.com/2007/06/03/budget-recipe-bulk-homemade-pie-crust/

and the link for the bulk low fat baking mix, which has half the shortening of the regular mix recipes:

http://webesharin.com/2007/06/01/dry-mix-recipes-bulk-low-fat-baking-mix/

I'll be waiting for the product substitution update, if anyone has a chance to post their results.

Myscha Theriault's picture

I'll be more apt to try that type of Crisco now. Thanks.

Guest's picture
steve

Ff you want to avoid artificial trans fats, you can use butter. It's a classic ingredient for sweet pastry crusts, but you can use it for savory crusts as well. You might want to Google some recipes to get the technique right. Mark Bittman (NY Times) had a fun article comparing a bunch of different pie crust recipes in early 2008 I think--something about "the search for the ultimate crust". It would be worth reading. Other sources of fats are leaf lard (fat from around the internal organs of the pig) and I think there are some others, too.

I'd be inclined to go with butter.

There are also some shortenings that are made without artificial trans fats now--i'm not sure how they pull that off.

Guest's picture
steve

Coconut oil pie crust sounds yummy!

Guest's picture
steve

I just reread this:

Would a 'light' olive oil work as a substitute in the crust, or would butter be a better alternative?

No, any kind of oil (anthing that is liquid at room temp) will not work. You need a fat that is solid at room temp.

YOu need saturated fat (stays solid at room temperature) in making a crust, because it keeps the flour from sticking to itself, then melts when cooking, thus creating the "flaky" layers that are appealing about crusts.

Which is why all the recipes require CHILLED water--the chilled water keeps the fat from melting so their can be "layers of dough and fat. When the crust is baked, that turns it into layers of flakiness if you prepare the crust correctly.

Thus, margarine, shortening, butter, lard, or suet. (in approximately reverse historical order) I'm guessing coconut oil would work too, particularly if you chilled it first and used ice water for the crust.