Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Lemon Bundt Cake

My birthday is coming up this week. I love my birthday--love it like a child. This is what I do every year. On the day of my birthday, I spend the morning going to various stores/restaurants that give you free stuff for your birthday. For a few good resources about where you can go to get free stuff on your birthday, look here. Then Kip and I go out for dinner (often for Indian food, which I love, but Kip doesn't). And then I have adult friends over for cake and ice cream. Because I think we all know that it's perfectly adult to eat cake and ice cream together. I love it. Love love love it. 

But it's only good if you've got good cake. 

I also loooove making my own cake on my birthday. Not everybody does, but I do. Truthfully, I usually make it the night before, but it must be made by me me me. Because I make amazing cake. And I like making cake. And I like eating amazing cake. The end. 

Here is what I'll be making this year. It's a lemon bundt cake. I first made it for a church potluck. I wasn't sure how it would turn out (and, in fact, only snapped a few quick shots of it with my camera). I didn't quite trust the recipe. It had no baking soda. I was worried it'd be flat or weird. Nope. It was incredible. If I had known how amazing it would be, I might have skipped the potluck and just sat in a corner of my kitchen eating it by the fistful. So it's probably fortunate that I didn't know how fantastic it would be. The glaze for this is perfect, but if you wanted to do orange or lime or raspberry, I wouldn't stop you. 

Lemon Bundt Cake
Makes one bundt cake
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 70-80 minutes
Cost: $3.35
flour: .40, butter: 1.00, sugar: .30, powdered sugar: .20, buttermilk: .30, sour cream.25, lemons: .75, other stuff: .15


3 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 C butter, softened
2 C sugar
3 eggs
1/2 C buttermilk (can use 1/2 C milk and 1/2 Tbsp vinegar if don't have buttermilk)
1/2 C sour cream
4 Tbsp lemon juice
zest of two lemons (about 2 Tbsp)
1 tsp vanilla

Lemon Glaze: 

1/4 C butter, softened
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
3 Tbsp lemon juice

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and spray bundt pan well. 

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one by one. Mix in the sour cream, lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon zest.  

Mix half the flour mixture in. Then add the buttermilk. Then mix in the other half of the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated. Pour batter into bundt pan. 

Bake for 60-70 minutes (this was the original instruction; mine took longer--probably close to 80 minutes, so don't freak out if it's not quite done at 70 minutes). A toothpick or knife or some other pricking implement should come out clean or with moist crumbs (not wet blobs) when inserted into the thickest part. 

Allow the cake to cool for 5-10 minutes, then turn it out on a cake platter. Spread half the lemon glaze over the warm cake. Do this! It will soak into the cake and contribute to its sheer amazingness. 

Let cake cook completely and add the rest of the glaze (Note: The picture you see up top is just with the first layer of glaze. I had to wait for it to cool and by then we were at the potluck and I was dumping it on there, so I didn't get any shots of it truly complete. The glaze on the cooler cake will be more of a frosting and less of a glaze that sinks in.)

For the glaze: 

Cream butter. Add sugar and lemon juice. Beat well until it's smooth and creamy. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Pasta Salad Bar

My kids are picky. One weird thing about some picky kids is that they might like all the parts of a meal, but then when you put it together, they won't eat it. For example, my kids just started eating tacos as tacos. Even though they like hamburger, cheese, salsa, and olives, (and corn chips of course) when I would combine these items into a taco, they would refuse to eat it. It made me super crazy. And then I gave up (yes, I'm weak). I started putting the different taco items in bowls on the table and they would eat their tacos ingredient by ingredient. Le sigh. But now they eat them normally, so yay.

A few weeks ago when I was craving pasta salad, I was bummed because I was like "No one except Kip will eat it." And then I realized: My kids like pasta, my kids like olives, some of them like pepperoni, some of them like cheese, some of them like broccoli. And I realized that a pasta bar could meet my grown up craving and their picky kid needs (or wants as it were).

The truth is if you're a parent of picky kids and you don't necessarily want the battle of the century at all your meals, it's often a good idea to break some meals down into their individual parts, especially when you introduce new foods.

Try it. It's a party.

For our pasta salad, I combined the salad with the dressing (and actually even the broccoli because I wanted mine dressing soaked), but left the other ingredients separate.

I'd love to give you a killer dressing recipe, but mine was only so so. The toppings we used were broccoli, cheddar cheese, olives, pepperoni, and sausage. I desperately wanted artichokes as well, but we were out (the horror). They were a fantastic combination of toppings that made up for the lame-ish dressing.

Monday, April 18, 2016

How to Be a Skinny Cheapskate

Of course the real title of this post should be "How to Be a Cheapskate While Maintaining a Healthy Weight that Makes You Feel Happy and Content" But it wasn't as catchy.

And, also, as we all know, I should begin this post with a smoking hot picture of myself in a tiny little bikini. Because why else would anyone want to be skinny (or at a healthy weight that makes you feel happy and content) if not to post smoking hot, scantily clad pictures of oneself for the entire Internet to see. I can't really think of any other ways to show that we have value as human women so I really should get on that bikini photo shoot. But I haven't yet. Don't worry, what I don't have in smoking hot bikini pictures I make up for in Grandma sweater pictures, usually involving me making some sort of weird face (because I'm pretty sure that Kip waits until I'm making the absolute weirdest face possible before he snaps any picture of me ever).

Anyway, you're probably wondering what the purpose is of this post if not to post smoking hot bikini pictures of myself. I will tell you. I get pretty annoyed when people start talking about how Americans are obese because they can't afford good food. So then they have to buy generic boxes of mac and cheese which they are, we can only presume, forced to consume in unholy amounts in a vain subconscious attempt to attain sufficient nutrition and not die.

I'm not buying it--the generic mac and cheese or the argument that that's all you get to eat when you're poor.

Below you'll find Eight Tips on How to Be a Skinny Cheapskate (note; none of them involves bikini selfies; you're welcome).

1. Water. The next time I hear a snooty, rich food writer tell me that the poor are just fat because soda is so cheap, I'm going to personally fly to his chateau in France, and smack him (or her). Well, probably not because I can't afford to. I will not say that water is free because it is technically not free because you technically have a water bill that comes to your house every month. But the little half gallon of water that you should drink each day is actually a very insignificant part of that water bill. Let's face it, your kids probably waste more water than you drink putting temporary tattoos on their hands. Water is cheap and healthy and good for your teeth and perfectly wonderful in a host of ways that almost make it seem like a miracle drug. Drink it if you want to be cheap and skinny.

2. Don't freaking overeat. Sorry about the language there. But, seriously, eat enough to be full and satisfied and then stop. You can save the leftovers for lunch tomorrow or a family leftover night. If you're really hungry, then by all means, eat. But if you're only eating that much food because it's there and your mother isn't stopping you, then save some for later. The nice thing about this rule is that it applies to all food at all price points. No matter what you spend on food, you always spend less if you eat less. Not overeating always saves you money. 

3. Eat at meal times. Along with #2, I would say that reserving eating until meal times is very healthy as far as keeping the budget and the girth in check. I don't care if you're in the three-meals-a-day camp or the 6-smaller-meals-a-day camp, mindless snacking is both expensive and unhealthy. We usually do it, not because we're truly hungry, but because we got bored or stressed or we saw a food and it looked good (maybe it's on the counter staring us or we sat by the vending machine at work). Whatever the cause, cut it out.

4. Snack on fruits and veggies (or something else not junky). If you are truly hungry at 3 pm, then maybe your body really does need a snack. If that is the case, I think that most of us can agree that our body doesn't really need a full bag of Cheetos. But, wait--snooty food writer is always telling me that the poor have to eat chips because fruits and veggies are not calorie dense enough to sustain me. Um, I think that as Americans (even, and perhaps especially.the American poor) we're getting enough calories. Nutrients, on the other hand, not so much. So, for heaven's sake, if we're talking about a snack, let's try to keep our faces out of the jar of onion dip. Which is why I think if you get the 3 pm blahs you can reach for that apple (maybe even that apple with a few slices of cheese). It will sustain you until meal time (see #4) just as much as the package of Mentos you got out of the vending machine. Also, that bag of carrots and that small bag of generic Doritos cost the same amount.

5. Cut out your desserts. I do not in any way or lifetime believe desserts to be bad, but they do add cost and calories to your life. You know when I notice the price creeping up on the little "cost" section of my recipe posts? When I add butter and cream and chocolate chips to things. Again, we always hear snooty food writers talking about how cheap sugar is. This is actually fairly true. But when was the last time you made cake from just sugar? And that bag of candy you bought from Dollar General--it's still more expensive than buying no bag of candy at all. Also, sugar candies won't fill you up, so that argument is no good either. Please feel free to indulge occasionally. But if you're looking to trim down (haha, why are my puns so amazing), then cut out some or all of your desserts for a while. You might notice that you don't miss them or at least that you don't miss eating so darn many of them.

6. Eat vegetarian occasionally. Meat is a larger food expense, especially high quality grass-fed meats. I don't think cheapskates have to become vegetarians or that vegetarianism is even necessarily the healthiest way to eat. But I do know this--adding a few interesting vegetarian items to your menu keeps the weekly food budget down. It also helps you get out of the meat and potatoes/pasta rut we sometimes find ourselves in. Also, good vegetarian recipes often introduce us to interesting types of grains or vegetables, and in larger quantities than we might eat if a big gorgeous roast is the centerpiece of our meal. I believe that adding some vegetarian meals to the menu is a great way to stay healthy and cheap.

7. Buy seasonal veggies. It's so chic. It's also cheap. I'm not sure if this is true in other cities in the U.S., but here in Evansville, the farmer's market is a place to get incredibly inexpensive seasonal fruits and veggies. We're apparently not quite hip enough yet that the farmer's markets have gone all Whole Foods on us and charge a bunch. But even if they had, grocery stores are always having sales on seasonal veggies. They're just cheaper.

8. Cook your own food. It's  almost always cheaper (with the possible exception of that generic boxed mac and cheese). You can still go out occasionally, but if you're struggling with your waist and/or your budget, the first thing that really needs to go is that restaurant food. When we are used to restaurant food, I'm not even sure we're aware of how much extra food it is. Recently I went out to lunch three times in one week. That is a lot for me. Kip and I usually eat out twice a month. What I noticed about eating out so much (and I was trying not to be a big pig and I usually had leftovers to take home) was that I was never hungry by dinnertime (I'm almost always hungry by dinnertime even if I have a big homemade lunch and take an afternoon nap instead of doing an afternoon workout). My out-to-eat food hadn't necessarily looked or seemed excessive (I never got an appetizer or a dessert or a drink other than water), but it was. Maybe it was the bread with every meal. Maybe it was what they put in the food to make it tasty. Maybe they were just bigger portions. Whatever the case, my unintentional experiment with restaurant food proved (in super scientific ways of course) that eating out is just a heavier way to eat than eating in. It's also so much more expensive--a single plate of restaurant food (and I'm not eating at 5-star dining establishments) easily costs more than a nice meal for my entire 6-person family. Again, I'm not saying that eating out is something you should never do. I'm saying it costs a lot and if you do it too much, you better double up on the boot camp. Even taking my family to McDonald's and ordering two items off the dollar menu costs as much or more than making a really nice meat and potatoes meal for us at home.

So now you have enough money to buy that new bikini, and you have the smoking hot bod to go with it. Congratulations. I'll be here in my grandma sweaters making weird faces for no apparent reason at all. And eating great food, of course. For cheap.


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