Generation Cedar

“The heart of her husband safely trusts in her…” Prov. 31:11
This verse carries over into very practical areas of our lives, including how we handle the family’s income.
I’ve been compiling a group of recipes/tips for baking from scratch and saving money in the kitchen, and I hope it evolves into an ebook soon 😉
Many women had little experience in the kitchen growing up and are rather impaired, through no fault of their own, when it comes to being resourceful and preparing delicious yet economical meals.
Making a white sauce.
One simple tip I learned years ago was how to make a white sauce; some call it a “roux” which can take the place of canned soup. Any recipe that calls for canned soup (which is full of MSG) can be substituted with the versatile rue.
I start with a stick of butter, melt it in a skillet and then add about 2 Tbls. of flour. Stir the flour around until it gets lumpy and then add chicken broth or milk, depending on what kind of sauce you want. (Adding milk basically makes gravy.)
This is the basic base, but you can add many things for flavoring and variety. Onions, garlic, mushrooms, wine, and sour cream are some things I add from time to time. (I saute the onions, garlic and mushrooms in the butter before adding other ingredients.)
You can also use heavy cream or half and half instead of milk, or make the base without even using the flour (I would use the cream or sour cream) and just cook until it thickens.
This sauce can be poured over chicken, pasta or rice for a delicious meal. Experiment with it and you’ll see how easy it is to adjust and use in dishes!
For the Valentine’s banquet we hosted last week, we made Chicken Marsala, using a variety of this sauce. My friend’s recipe included using butter and olive oil to saute garlic and mushrooms. Then I added Marsala wine, and then some heavy cream and sour cream.

Seventy-five pieces of chicken in Marsala sauce!

I found that cooking my chicken and pouring the sauce over it to marinate overnight produced the most flavorful results. Yummy! We served it with mashed potatoes, but you can serve it with pasta or rice too.

Let me know if you have a creative version or meal using white sauce!

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18 Responses

  1. Rouxs are invaluable money-savers. I actually use much less butter than you in mine, which I have found to be even cheaper. I do about 3 T butter with the same amount of flour, whisk for one minute, then slowly add milk, and the milk gets very thick. This is also how I begin my macaroni and cheese: just make a roux, then add the grated cheddar. Sooooooo creamy 🙂 And, you can use less cheese, which saves money.

  2. I shudder to think of the fat content. When we make home-made mac and cheese, to save money on cheese, we make this type of white sauce/gravy and then mix a bunch of grated cheese in. It is yummy. I’ve had problems though when I used the pre-grated cheese from the store where it didn’t want to melt in. So we just grate it from a brick ourselves.

  3. Hi Kelly, When I was young my mother taught me to make a white sauce. We’d then add chopped peppers, mushrooms and shredded ham and cook for, say, ten minutes. Serve with cheese on pasta. Yum.

  4. I was just looking for something like this today. I didn’t have any soup and really have decided to stop using them so much. I found a chicken and rice recipe but will record this for next time. Thank you.

  5. I have never ever made a roux but I keep seeing them used to start dishes on Food Network but didn’t quite “get it”. Thanks for the tip. Also, Chief Cook, the shredded cheese in the bag has a coating on it that keeps the cheese from clumping together so it looks prettier to the consumer. Problem is it also keeps the cheese from sticking together properly in a recipe. We just stopped using it and bought a grater to use. 🙂

  6. Hi Kelly,

    I am a big believer in homemade instead of store bought, and use white sauce to add flavor to many a meal, as well. One tip for you and your readers who may be watching their cholesterol intake – you can make a roux with olive oil (or really any fat at all) in place of the butter (adjust the amount to create the same texture that you would with butter), and still come up with a good sauce to add to dishes without the “bad cholesterol” component!

    Love your blog – thanks for all of your inspiring words!

  7. I do this a lot too! Why spend a fortune on cream soup when you can whip it up for pennies in minutes?!

    Last time I went to the grocery store, I was SUPPOSED to buy a whole chicken but I forgot! My dear husband, being the macho hunter he is, had recently added a rabbit to our freezer. I did not want to go back to the store.

    I cooked the rabbit in the crockpot. Then I deboned it into little shreds. Put a pat of butter in the skillet with the rabbit (to get rid of the wild flavor), added some dried rose-mary, onions, and milk… and CREAM CHEESE (leftover). During this time I was boiling frozen mixed vegetables. Then I layered rice, the frozen vegs, and poured my rabbit sauce over the top. The end result was DELICIOUS!!! I am sure you could do this with chicken too. That rosemary & cream cheese really go well together!

    You probably already know this, but you can make a clearer gravy with broth & corn starch.

  8. Kelly,

    So, when is your new e-book coming out about making things from scratch to save money by making things homemade? Unfortunately, I am one of those women who is totally clueless about “making things from scratch”, but I am always willing to learn! This is really a valuable skill I need to learn, especially when I become a full-time housewife in June! Thanks also for the white sauce tip! I’ll be sure to try it on a future meal!

  9. Kelly – Thanks for yet another informative post!

    We are trying to cut down on fat around here, so I use a ratio of 1 tbsp of canola oil to 2 tbsp flour when I make a white sauce. It gets thick quickly because there’s less fat, so I make up the texture difference with more (skim) milk or broth. I do this in a pan without nonstick coating, so I can whisk the mixture to keep lumps from forming. There would probably be fewer lumps if I used more fat, but again, then I’d be using more fat…which defeats the purpose of making it myself so there’ll be less fat, hehe.

    We don’t have a problem with MSG around here. Some people are sensitive to it, but it doesn’t bother us. In Asian cultures, especially Japan, MSG is considered to be the fifth taste (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, umami/glutamate). MSG isn’t evil or unhealthy, but like wheat, dairy, and even table salt, some people have negative reactions to it. It’s gotten an undeserved bad reputation based on how it affects just a few people, if you ask me.

    While you can also make gravy with cornstarch, I don’t really like the “mouth feel” of cornstarch gravy. Flour gravy just feels better in my mouth…which probably makes me sound crazy, but oh well.

    Yearning – Thanks for the cheese clumping information. I always wondered why my bagged cheese wouldn’t melt the right way!

  10. This is such a great tip. I do this all the time as well. I started out making my own white sauce because there are so many recipes that call for creamed soup, but I can’t buy that here in Japan. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since the canned versions are so unhealthy, as you said!

    Like Bethany, I use only 3-4tsb. of butter, and that works just fine — cheaper to boot!

  11. I think the best frugal cook book is the “more with less” cookbook put out by a Mennonite group. La Leche League’s Whole Foods for the Whole family is also good, but it is really high in fat for some.

    Each of these has lots of replacement recipes and substitution charts so you can more easily use the stuff you have on hand.

  12. I make a roux for beef and /or chicken gravy when I don’t have enough drippings.

    Makes 2 cups
    2 T. butter
    4 T. flour, brown then add
    2 cups water with 3 bullion cubes dissolved.

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