Monday, February 28, 2011


We did a little better this month.

Our total came out to $230.71. When you subtract the $20.00 for our vitamin credit, it comes to $210.71.

Which brings our daily figure up to $7.53/day.

But February was a really weird month. It started out with sickness. For the first 10 days of the month, someone in the family was sick. I was getting up 4-6 times a night with various children and was just a wee bit tired. This really shot the planning side of my month. Which would have wrecked our month, except that we were eating less because we weren't feeling great. Being tired also may have affected my record-keeping--as I wasn't always recording things right away, which meant that there was a little more guesstimation going on this month. I think it is still very accurate, but it is possible that there are more errors in my record-keeping.

I did make 2 smallish changes in the way I do things also. I didn't count the vitamins I buy--deciding that they weren't actual food. And I only counted a portion of our $17.00 cow share. We've been getting very little milk from them since it's the time of year when the cows aren't producing much. And, yes, we'll get more later on in the year when it warms up and they have babies and stuff. So, yes, it's kind of cheating not to count it all now in the lean month, but I'm doing it anyway.

Next month, I'm planning to go full-throttle. When I told Kip this he sort of groaned and said he thought we were already going full-throttle. Which we have been, but there's been a learning curve. In March I'm going to try to capitalize on that. I've got a menu and a more comprehensive shopping list posted.

Here's the breakdown of how we spent:

Fruit/Vegetable: $54.21

Grain: $44.10

Dairy: $39.41

Meat/Eggs: $25.07

Sugars/Sweets: $27.82

Nuts/Beans/Legumes: $16.24

Fats/Condiments: $14.86

Yeast/Leaveners: $2.00

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rosemary Roast Chicken

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 eat on $6/day.

Also, check out March's menu and shopping list and see me get a wee bit anal.

And don't forget to check in Monday to see how we've done with this month's Cheap Eat Challenge (but don't check in at 7am or anything, because--underachiever announcement--it just won't be up by then).

I regret that I failed to get a picture of the final product. It was all golden-y chicken and vegetables, but I forgot all about taking pictures of finished chickens because things get a little chaotic around here at dinner time. Thus, this picture of a nearly raw bird with her raw veggies will just have to do.

Roasting a chicken takes time, but not effort. If you do it in a crockpot, you don't even have to worry about hanging around your house while it's cooking, though you do have to have the foresight to put the bird in 6 hours or so before dinner, and you will sacrifice a crispy skin, if you're the type who cares about such things.

P.S. I think if we ever get laying chickens, I'm going to name one Rosemary.

Rosemary Roast Chicken
Adapted from 365 Ways to Cook Chicken (which is 1 cent here on Amazon and a great book if you're a chicken lover. I've only tried a couple of these recipes that I didn't love.)
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 1/2 hours
Serves: 4-6 people
Cost: $8.86
(chicken: 8.00 (you can get it cheaper, but I like mine to be raised by the Amish:)), potatoes, .25, carrots, .20, apple juice: .20, butter: .06, onion: .15)

1 whole chicken (mine was just over 4 lb. I would have preferred one at 3 lb)
salt and pepper
1 tsp crushed rosemary or 4-6 sprigs of rosemary
1 Tbsp butter
2 potatoes, diced
1 onion, sliced
3 carrots, diced
1 C apple juice

Heat oven to 425. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season all over with salt and pepper (I recommend separating the skin from the breast and patting some up in there as well, but if that's super gross to you, I won't insist). Place 1/2 tsp or 1 sprig of rosemary in the cavity. Rub butter over the skin. Place in roasting pan or Dutch oven (I used a Dutch oven.) The oven rack should be at the lower middle position.

Roast chicken for 15 minutes. In the meantime, chop and lightly salt your vegetables. Take chicken out and put potatoes, carrots, and onions around the chicken. Sprinkle remaining rosemary over chicken and vegetables (if using sprigs, strip the needles off of the main stem and use the needles). Pour apple juice over it all. Put it back in the oven. If the pot is pretty tightly packed like mine was, leave it at 425 for another 15-20 minutes. If it's a larger roasting pan with the chicken and veggies more sprawling, leave it in at 425 for only about 10 more minutes. Reduce heat (without opening oven door) to 375. Continue roasting for about an hour or until an instant read thermometer reads between 160 and 180. (You want to test the breast at the thickest point and thigh at the thickest point.)

Let rest covered for about 15 minutes. We served it with a green salad.


The next night we had leftovers with this yummy rice from Kalyn's Kitchen.

Friday, February 25, 2011

White Mint Frosting

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

Apparently, the month of cake is not quite over yet. A couple days ago I was reminded that tonight is the Boy Scout Blue and Gold Banquet, complete with cake decorating contest.

The theme was magic, but we found that out a little late. Mark wanted to do a chocolate rocket ship cake with white mint frosting. So that is what we did (I made the stuff and he decorated). And then he (sort of 'we,' but mostly 'he') put the words, "Magic Rocks" on it, which took care of our thematic issue and which Mark thought was cool.

I regret that I did not get a picture of the frosting alone. I have some left over, but it is a sort of freaky mauve-ish your-grandmother's-bathroom-in-the-'80's color--the result of all the leftovers combined into one bowl. Maybe I'll get a good picture tonight of a piece of cake. I'm sure the flourescent lights of the church will do my already meager photography skills good.

Mint frosting is a particularly good match for a chocolate cake, and as you probably know, we love chocolate cake. There is one thing even better than a good white mint frosting. And that is a good chocolate mint frosting. To achieve that, use Kip's frosting recipe and substitute the vanilla for 1/4-1/2 tsp mint extract. (It's really amazing, but you won't be able to color it blue or red or freaky '80s mauve.)

White Mint Frosting
Frosts 13x9 inch cake
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cost: $1.30
(sugar: .75, butter: .50, milk: .03, other: .02)

1 lb powdered sugar (I was generous, so mine might have been a bit more than that)
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
4-6 Tbsp whole milk (a lower fat milk will work too as will full on cream)
1/4 tsp mint extract
a few drops green food coloring if white mint isn't your thing

Melt or significantly soften the butter. Add the sugar and beat with mixer. Add milk, starting with 4 Tbsp and adding the other 2 Tbsp if necessary. Add the mint extract and food coloring if using.


P.S. Should you wish to make a rocket shaped cake or any of a number of other extremely cute/fun, but not completely-over-the-top-only-lunatics-or-art-majors-or-both-could-accomplish-such-a-feat cake decorating ideas, we got the idea from Family Fun Birthday Cakes. Seriously, several great, but doable ideas in there. (We checked it out at the library if you're local.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Skillet Lasagna

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

First of all, let me announce that--tada--I have finally (being the technological genius that I am) figured out how to make a printable version of these recipes, so should you wish to print one, just click on PRINTABLE RECIPE at the bottom of the recipe and then when it takes you to the recipe, click on the little printer icon in the top right.

Now, on to today's recipe. It's easy. It's good. It's fast. It's adaptable. It uses one pan. I think that that's enough said.

Skillet Lasagna
Adapted from
Betty Crocker's Quick and Easy Cookbook
Serves 6
Prep/cook time: 20 minutes
Cost: $5.00 (Our meal was considerably less since we used less meat, our sauce was home-canned from garden vegetables, and we skipped the other vegetables because, frankly, I forgot them.)
(1/2 lb meat: $1.50, vegetables: 1.00, pasta: .50, sauce: 1.00, cheese: 1.00)

Note on vegetables: You get to pick; isn't that fun. You can use peppers, mushrooms, olives, carrots, romas, spinach, whatever you wish. (If you use romas or spinach or something else soft, add it near the end of the cooking time, rather than at the beginning when instructed below.)

Note on pasta: I use radiatore or or bowtie pasta. The original recipe called for mafalda, which is supposedly mini-lasagna, but I've never ever seen it in a store. At any rate, the pasta needs to be a little thick-ish and/or ridge-y soas to absorb the water and create a nice al dente noodle.

1 lb Italian sausage or ground beef (I used much much less--about 1/4 lb)
2 C vegetables that you like (some suggestions: peppers, mushrooms, olives, carrots, celery, romas, spinach)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 C) (or, if you're us, some onion powder--have I mentioned picky people live here)
3 C uncooked pasta
2 1/2 C water
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (I use oregano, basil, and sometimes rosemary or marjoram)
26-30 oz pasta sauce
1 C mozzarella cheese

Cook meat and vegetables in 12-inch skillet until meat is not longer pink. Drain fat if there's a lot.

Stir in remaining ingredients except cheese. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simme uncovered for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Sprinkle with cheese and allow cheese to melt.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vegetables, Cost, and the Good Ol' USDA

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

Top to bottom and left to right:
frozen strawberries, carrots, kale
tomato puree, broccoli, artisan lettuces
spinach, banana, apple, grapes, orange
sweet potato, russet potato

Recently there's been a bit of talk in the old blogosphere about how much must be spent in order to get the 4.5 C of fruits and vegetables recommended by the USDA. (specifically 2.5 C vegetables and 2 C fruit). (Don't know what I'm talking about. Have a look here or here for a couple of the more objective outlooks, although the comments aren't always as objective.) The USDA says it can be done on $2.50/day. A bunch of other people say the USDA is living under a rock or perhaps on a mountain far away or maybe under a rock on a mountain far away.

And while I certainly won't argue that the purported scientists, dieticians, and politicians who comprise the USDA certainly must be a troop of Martian invaders having a good laugh at our expense ("Hey, Borg, let's make it look like a prism and keep calling it a pyramid and see if anyone notices." "Okay, (snorking genetically modified frozen soybean juice out nose) "but only if we can change the measurements from ounces to cups and spend over $5 million to do it."), I have to say that I believe folks can eat 4 1/2 C of fruits and veggies--a wholesome, colorful, and balanced blend on $2.50/day. Perhaps even less. It's not even too much of a challenge if you shop the Aldi/Walmart/Costco circuit. It's also possible in other supermarkets if you're careful to shop seasonal and loss-leader items. Co-ops, farmer's markets, and your own garden can also be helpful. In fact, in the summer, I'd wager people can even do the $2.50/day by eating locally and perhaps even organically (or near-organically).

Also, as a parting jab point: There's been a lot of criticism about how "sure, you can do it with iceburg lettuce and white potatoes, but..."

It's true that these are not the most nutrient-dense foods, but they are still more nutrient dense and unadulterated than, say, candy or French fries or soda or Cheese Whiz. Therefore if people not eating vegetables/fruits (and isn't that really who the guidelines are there for anyway) start to replace these foods in people's diets, or even merely supplement junky foods in their diets, that's a step in the right direction. After all, they've added some vitamin C, fiber, water, and other nutrients that weren't there before. And that is hardly a bad thing. Enough of those super cheap, somewhat nutritious vegetables and we might even find ourselves on the way to health. Or wealth. Or both. But I don't think we'll have to stick to the iceburg/russet regimen to make it on $2.50.

Here's a sampling of real foods at real prices that I had in my house:

1. Canned Tomato puree: 1 C for $.35 ($1.36 for 29 oz from Walmart--this is not sauce; it's concentrated tomatoe puree: ingredients--tomato pulp)

2. Frozen Strawberries: 1 C for $.60 (2 lb for $3.75 from Aldi; similar or better deals can be found at Costco/Sam's)

3. Banana: 1 C for $.20 ($.39/lb at Aldi, but this is something that's cheap no matter where you get it.)

4. Grapes: 1 C for $.38 (2 lb for $2.29 from Aldi. They were 2 lb for $1.49 last week.)

5. Oranges: 1 C for $.60 (I got 4 lb for $1.99 at Aldi. A month ago that much went for $1.49. The prices are higher now, as they're starting to slide out of season.)

6. Apples: 1 C for $.40 (3 lb from Aldi for $2.99)

7. Russet potato: 1 C for $.14 (10 lb for $2.84 from Aldi)

8. Sweet Potato: 1 C for $.25 (Bought on sale in season from Walmart for $.10-.20/lb; stored for the last 2-3 months in my very cold basement.)

9. Carrots: 1 C for $.40 (1 lb from Walmart for $1.00. You could have gotten them even cheaper from Buy Low a couple weeks ago at $.77/lb.)

10. Broccoli: 1 C for $.35 (I got about 3 crowns or about 9 oz from Aldi on sale a couple weeks ago for $.98)

11. Little heads of a variety of lettuces (petite tango, petite gem, petite oak) labeled 'artisan lettuces': 1 C for $.33 (a box of 4 heads from Aldi--about 9 oz. for 1.99)

12. Spinach: 1 C for $.28 (9 oz for $1.69 at Aldi. I see 10 oz for $1.99 at Walmart fairly often and I know the Asian store in our area has it even cheaper.)

13. Kale: 1 C for $.15 (9 oz from Walmart for $.98)

14. Romaine Lettuce: 1 C for $.14 (23 oz from Aldi for $1.99)

That averages out to $.31/cup of fruits/vegetables, which makes 4.5 C fruits and veggies come up to $1.39. There is variety, color, and plenty of leafy greens. No we don't live in NYC or Alaska, though Indiana hardly boasts the cheapest food in the nation; no this produce is not local or organic (though in the summer it very well might be), yes it tends to be seasonal and I see nothing wrong with some canned or frozen stuff in the mix. And yes, it was measured by me right in my very own kitchen only yesterday.

And now that I'm done dissing on the USDA (because it's fun) and also those who claim that it simply cannot be done (because I absolutely disagree with them), let me pause for a few moments of self-reflection and self-critique. Can a family of 6 whose collective nutritional needs (and let's face it, those USDA standards are surely bare minimums) come up to 11.5-12 C (I've used to determine the minimums for the children) of fruits/vegetables a day live healthfully on $6/day. Er, um, well. Maybe. Like if we were very very careful and only ate the cheapest foods of the lot (hmm, kale and russet potatoes--colcannon everyday anyone???) With an average of $.31/cup, we'd be spending $3.72 for 12 C--our minimum daily requirement. If we could reduce that to half by eating only the cheapest we'd be at $1.86, which is a more realistic number. But difficult, very very difficult. Difficult enough that I can pretty much guarantee that we wouldn't do it. Even if I tried to, I'm pretty sure I'd meet with resistance from the troops, who I'm pretty much 110% sure would NOT eat colcannon everyday, having lost touch with their Irish roots a long long time ago. And so, I must ask myself what I am sacrificing to eat very very cheaply and is it too much. I usually get my 4.5 cups. It's important to me and I make it a priority. Kip probably doesn't ever get his, though our dinners usually contain a couple of servings of vegetables. However, Kip is an adult and can therefore decide that he doesn't want to eat a salad with lunch if he doesn't want a salad with lunch. I'm not going to nag or pester because I don't believe in that sort of thing and because it would surely only backfire if I did. But our children... They, as I may have mentioned oh, a time or two, are very picky eaters and therefore it's not always easy to get them to eat their allotment of fruits and vegetables. But if they're tucked into some of the more expensive options like smoothies or if they're lovingly cut into slices at dinner, then we have a fairly decent chance. If they're in colcannon or an inexpensive salad, then we really do not. Much to think about for the mother who wants them to live a long and healthy life. Much to think about.

Any suggestions or thoughts about how to get kid-friendly, inexpensive foods down their stubborn little gullets? Please share. (And for the record, I love their stubborn little gullets with my whole soul.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Essay on Dare to Dream

Check out my guest blog on Dare to Dream.

It's an essay about how I began cooking and why I find it so satisfying.

If you're new to the blog, check out a few of my favorites (I found it hard to choose; maybe I need to start a favorites label; I'll get right on that):

Breakfast: Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies

Lunch: BLT with Avocado Mayonnaise

Dinner: Chicken Ranch Pizza

Dessert: Kip's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blender Waffles

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

I know plenty of people consider waffles a breakfast food. I won't argue with that. I will simply say that in this family waffles are eaten for dinner. Because someone is too lazy to stand by the waffle iron for 20 minutes in the morning. And yet waffles are the perfect lazy woman dinner because they only take 20 minutes. That's right--that's how things are run 'round here.

These waffles are not typical. They contain cottage cheese and a booty load of eggs. Because of this they are quite high in protein,which is nice. They also taste almost like crepes in waffle form. And in my opinion that is a good thing, a very good thing. And like crepes, they are very good with any of a number of toppings: syrups, fruit sauces, whipped cream and bananas, jam, Nutella (oh mama), or whatever you have on hand.

The other life-changing thing about these waffles is that they are made in the blender. That means they take all of 2 minutes to prepare (that's right; no egg white whipping necessary). Perhaps more even that their crepe like deliciousness, this quality has endeared them to me forever. I love you cottage cheese blender waffles. And since I'm saying that I need to give a special thank you to my friend, Pilar, from whom these come. Thanks Pilar!

I have not yet tried them with whole wheat flour. I love them so much as is that I've been afraid to. If you do, please let me know how they turn out.

Blender Waffles
Serves: Our family of 6
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes (depending on how large your waffle iron is; mine is unfortunately small, so it takes longer)
Cost: $1.15
(cottage cheese: .50, flour: .05, milk: .05, eggs: .50, oil: .05)

Note: These can be kept warm on a cookie sheet in the oven (set at 200 degrees) if you want to serve your whole family at once instead of flipping them onto plates as they're ready, diner style.

1 C cottage cheese
2/3 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C milk
6 large eggs
1/3 C oil
1/2 tsp vanilla

Throw it all in a blender and blend until combined and smooth.

Cook in lightly greased waffle iron.

If desired keep warm in oven as noted above.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Double Orange Cake and Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

Some things are good. They are very very good.

And some people don't know how to leave well enough alone. 

That's not necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes it can turn into a somewhat less pretty thing.

You see sometimes some people, they make orange cakes with orange frosting, and they might even go a bit berzerk with the orange zest. And then they wonder if their lovely cakes might be a little too in your face orangey and need some kind of a contrast. And so they make a chocolate ganache that's a bit runny because they want to just drizzle it on the cake, you know fancy style, classy. But their drizzles don't look quite right, so they drizzle some more. And then the cake looks a lot like a zebra, so they figure they'll just pour it on and let it drip beautifully down the sides, only, um, the ganache was a little runny for that and maybe, just maybe, the cake a little lopsided for that. Yeah, some people. You just can't trust them. And you certainly shouldn't invite them to your dinner party because they will try out a totally new recipe on all 20 or so guests--these bakers with their inclinations to go crazy with both the orange zest and the chocolate ganache. Of course, the cake will taste great. So all will be well. It reminds me in a slightly alarming way of the Amelia Bedelia books. Hmmm.

So, yes, this cake. It was very very tasty. And there are many many ways you can alter it to suit your different needs and desires. Let me throw out a few ideas. But before I do, let me point out that despite its overage of frosting as it is pictured above, this cake in its original version was not frosted at all, but had merely a dusting of confectioner's sugar. The point being that it can be as simple or as dolled up as you wish--something to serve with your afternoon tea (what you don't have afternoon tea? Fine, something to serve with brunch? What you don't eat brunch? Fine, something for your kid's lunchbox) or something that would be worthy of a birthday party for a fun or sophisticated (or both) friend. Now, those ideas...

1. You can make it as is--a 3-layer cake with orange frosting and chocolate ganache.
2. You can make it into a bundt cake.
3. You can make it into 2 loaf pans of cake.
4. You can make it into dense amazing muffins (I'm guessing 36).
5. You can use only the orange frosting.
6. You can make a cream cheese orange frosting.
7. You can use a vanilla frosting.
8. You can add more orange juice to the orange frosting and make it an orange glaze.
9. You can use chocolate ganache. Or a chocolate ganache with a bit of orange juice and zest mixed it to give it an orangey-ness.
10. You can use powdered sugar to dust it.
11. You can use raspberry preserves--either in the middle of the layers or as a topping for muffins or loaf cakes. You can swirl the raspberry preserves into the orange frosting, which is such a tempting prospect that it makes me sort of drool. (At the dinner party, there were homemade raspberry preserves on the table for the rolls. Some people put them on their cake and deemed it a very very good thing.)
12. Heck, you could probably swirl the raspberry preserves into the actual batter.
13. You can use orange frosting and chocolate ganache and garnish with real raspberries.
14. You can substitute the canola oil for olive oil, which was its original Portuguese conception.
15. You could top it with whipped cream.

So, seriously, go nuts.

I actually want to try it with some very fine whole wheat and reduce the sugar and eat it for breakfast.

Orange Cake with Orange Frosting and Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Adapted from David Leite The New Portuguese Table
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Cost: $2.35 for cake, $6.00 with both frostings
(oranges: 1.00 in season, flour: .28, eggs: .50, sugar: .32, oil: .25)

4 large navel oranges
3 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 tsp salt
5 large eggs
3 C sugar
1 1/2 C canola oil

Grease 3 layer pans, line with wax paper and grease paper.

Grate zest of 3 oranges and set aside. Juice oranges; you'll need 1 1/2 C or juice.

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

Beat eggs for about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat until thick and light yellow (3-5 minutes).

Add part of flour mixture, then half oil, then flour mixture, then oil, then last of flour. Don't overmix.

Add orange juice and zest and mix till combined.

Divide batter between pans and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Orange Frosting
Cost: $2.80
(sugar: 1.25, butter: .75, orange: .20, cream: .60)

2 lb powdered sugar
3/4 C butter, softened
the zest from 1 orange
2 Tbsp juice from an orange
1/2-3/4 C whipping cream

Combine sugar and butter. Add zest and juice and beat together. Add whipping cream, starting with 1/2 C and beat until somewhat light/fluffy and lovely. If it's too stiff, add more cream.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Cost: $.80
(chocolate: .50, whipping cream: .30)

1/3 C chocolate chips
2/3 C whipping cream

Combine in micrwave and nuke at 20 seconds intervals, stirring at each break until almost smooth. Take out of microwave and continue stirring until smooth. Let cool before you pour onto cake, but don't let it get so cool that it sets up.

And check out where I've posted this cake and where there are about a million other AMAZING looking treats. I just might have to add this site full of sweet treats to my sidebar because, well, yum. Also linked this (as well as Best Ever Chocolate Cake and Carrot Cake with Best Ever Cream Cheese Frosting) to Cupcake Apothecary.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Classic White Bread

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

You may find this shocking, but until a couple weeks ago, I'd never made just a plain old white bread. I'd made rolls and tried French bread once (in the breadmaker--no, it didn't work) and I make sourdough regularly (though I always throw in a couple cups of whole wheat flour). And then a couple Sundays ago, I made reuben dip, but hadn't made some sourdough (our favorite accompaniment, which normally must be started the night before) to go with it. I figured I could make some kind of cheater sourdough by doing a white bread and throwing in a bit of sourdough starter. It might have worked. We'll never know because the idea of doing a plain lush white bread was too appealing. Although I repeatedly had to resist the urge to throw in a few cups of whole wheat flour. I mean white bread is just so unapologetically, you know, white.

I got over it.

I cheapified the original recipe, and it was great, but if you've got honey and butter, I'd recommend using them over the sugar and oil I used. Why? Because white bread is like a pretty, but potentially dull date. It benefits from a little bit of complexity. The honey and butter will give it that; the sugar and oil, not so much.

Classic White Bread
Adapted from
The New Best Recipe
Makes 1 loaf
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35-40 minutes
Rise time: 1- 1/2 hours
Cost: $.55
(flour: .30, milk: .13, yeast: .10, other stuff: .02)

3 3/4 C flour
2 tsp salt
1 C warm milk
1/3 C warm water
2 Tbsp butter (melted) or vegetable oil
3 Tbsp honey or sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp yeast (you can definitely use less than this. It rises plenty fast. I'd say you could use 1 1/2 tsp easily)

Combine milk, water, butter, honey , and yeast.

Add one C flour and mix. Add another cup and mix. Add more by bits and mix. Turn dough out onto counter when it becomes too hard to mix. Knead for 6-8 minutes, adding flour as it becomes necessary. When you've got a nice pillowy ball, place it in a bowl to rise. Cover with towel.

Let rise till doubled (about an hour).

Punch down and put in greased loaf pan. Let rise again until doubled (about 20-30 minutes).

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 180-185.

For more tips on bread, have a look here or even here.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

BLT on Sourdough with Avocado Mayonnaise

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

I am a firm believer that BLT's are usually best in the summer when the lettuce and tomatoes are fresh and abundant. However. On Monday Kip and I went out to lunch at a sandwich shop where the first thing listed was a BLT on sourdough with avocado mayonnaise. It sounded awesome, but I didn't order it. I got another sandwich that also sounded amazing, but just wasn't. And so, ever since then I've been unable to shake the urge for that BLT. And then avocados were on sale for $.78. What can I say? I know when a thing is simply meant to be.

I had fresh lettuce, but could not bring myself to pay $2.48/lb for the mostly green tomatoes at Walmart. I figured I would improvise something and I did. I had some home-canned tomatoes (I know some of you just checked out; stay with me), but I knew just flopping them on the sandwich wouldn't do it any kind of justice. So after the bacon had cooked I tossed the tomatoes into the bacon grease and let them warm up and some of the juices evaporate off. It worked. It's not fresh summer tomatoes, but it was still very very good. A winter BLT. Come and dine with me.

BLT on Sourdough with Avocado Mayonnaise
Serves 4
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Cost: $2.43
(avocado: .78, mayo: .10, lettuce: .10, tomatoes: .10, bacon: .1.25, bread: .10)

10-12 strips bacon
4 large lettuce leaves
1 large fresh tomato or about 1/2 C quality canned tomatoes
1 avocado
1/4 C mayonnaise
8 slices sour dough bread, toasted (French or white or whatever firm and yummy kind of bread will also work)

Cook bacon.

While it cooks, prepare avocado mayonnaise by mashing the avocado with a fork, then combining well with mayonnaise. Tough, I know, I'm just a regular old gourmet.

Toast bread.

When bacon is done, toss tomatoes into grease if using canned tomatoes. Give them a minute and let them sizzle and some of the juices evaporate off, but don't burn them. I took the pan off the heat because it was so hot. Turn them over to warm the rest and remove from heat.

Assemble sandwich: Avocado mayo, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce.

Eat, my friends, eat.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Best Ever Chocolate Cake

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

I love this cake.

Then why don't you marry it, you may be asking, especially if you are six years old.

Because I have, as alluded to yesterday, a wee problem with fidelity. I see other recipes and they just sound and/or look so good sometimes. I flirt with them a little, just to see, I tell myself. And some of them are good. Some of them are even great. But none of them is this chocolate cake. Which is the best there ever was. Period. Please forgive me chocolate cake, for ever thinking anything else. I love you and promise not to go seeking after grass that may seem greener, except maybe for that one with almond filling that I'm thinking of trying for my birthday. But after that, I swear, it's you chocolate cake, only you...

Best Ever Chocolate Cake
adapted from smittenkitchen
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Cost: $2.63
(chocolate: .50, sugar: .50, flour: .23, cocoa: .75, eggs: .30, oil: .12, buttermilk (I do milk and vinegar): .20, other stuff: .03)

3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (about 1/2 C)
1 1/2 very hot water
3 C sugar
2 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 C vegetable oil
1 1/2 C buttermilk (or use a scan 1 1/2 C milk mixed with 1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar)
3/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300. Grease and line bottoms of three 9-inch cake pans. Grease the wax paper lining also.

Chop chocolate (or save yourself some time and use chocolate chips) and put it with the hot water. Let it stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted.

In large blowl, sift fugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, beat eggs until thickened very slightly and lemon colored (3-5 minutes). Gradually beat in oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined well.

Divide batter evenly into cake pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.

Allow to cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out on racks to cool completely.

Frost with your favorite frosting. We favor the chocolate one you'll find here.

Note: Just want two 9-inch layers. Smittenkitchen gives an adaptation here, but don't cook it as long as she guesstimates. You must only do 35-40 minutes or it will be burned and dry and not the best ever.


(Look, I even found a picture of it from Kip's birthday a while ago.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Mousse and Sour Cream Ganache

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

Today we celebrate 100 posts on The Tasty Cheapskate. Actually, yesterday was the 100th post, so we should have been celebrating then. But we were celebrating other things. Which is why today I have a cake for you to celebrate with.

A cake which, incidentally, didn't end up looking like the one above (but could). More on that in a minute.

I like cake. I especially like chocolate cake. Surely that is not a secret. This cake promised lots of lovely things. And in most ways it delievered. Perhaps I should say in all ways it delievered, but I think it delivered some of the things to the wrong places. No, I am not referring to my hips. Well, maybe I am referring a little to my hips. But what I really trying to say is this:

This cake had all the right stuff--a great cake, a lovely soft mousse, and a fabulous twist on ganache. But it put the soft, potentially colorful mousse on the inside of a towering three layers of chocolate cake--towers that were sure to squish it in the few hours before we actually ate the cake when we were left not with this decadent loveliness,

 but with these thin squished out lines (they wereyummy squished out lines, but still).

And that delicious and somewhat firm ganache was placed on the outside of the cake, where it sat there looking simply brown--tall and brown, but brown nevertheless and serving through it's inherent heaviness to further squish those inside layers.

And as a final twisted criticism, this cake was good. It was even great. But it was not the perfectly perfect chocolate cake that is my standard. And with every good great bite, I found myself thinking, It's good great, but it's just not my perfect chocolate cake. I was, in fact, just going to substitute my favorite chocolate cake here, but this cake is great and it is also possibly just the slightest bit more traditional, by which I mean a wee bit lighter/airier than my favorite cake. In this way it is perhaps slightly more like a cake mix cake (only, you know, worlds--worlds--better tasting) and I realize that is some people's thing. And so I leave it as it was. (Also, it's a bit cheaper to make than my favorite.) But tomorrow I will post my favorite chocolate cake. And I recommend if you only ever try one homemade chocolate cake in your life that it should be that one. Please. For all that is perfect and delicious in the world. Even though I will not have a picture when I post it. Since I didn't make it this time around. Because I like to flirt with different chocolate cakes. And then go running back to my old faithful. If you like to flirt with different cakes too, then by all means give this one a try. Because it's very good. Great even.

Oh--and one final thing--one thing that my husband will surely not advocate. This cake is too big. If you're 2 people with several small children who are so insanely picky that they may or may not eat the chocolate cake (my son insisted the pink insides tasted like strawberry, though there was no strawberry anywhere in this cake), you probably want something smaller. Three layers is a whole lot of cake. Which can hurt both in calories and in money spent on all those yummy ingredients. And yet, I like the layers--they're so pretty and fancy. And so I am taking a tip from and recommending you buy 6-inch pans instead. The math works out so you can halve the recipe and end up with a towering and yet miniature cake. Kip thinks miniature chocolate things are retarded. But after freezing half our cake yesterday in order to save myself and those hips I mentioned earlier, I went out and bought the cake pans anyway. It's the kind of thing you get to do when you're the chef. And while you can certainly buy the pans from the link above (I have nothing but to gain from that or any other Amazon purchase you make from this site), I'll give you a tip that my best friend gave me this morning: they're $6 each at Walmart in the wedding section.

Now go make some cake!

Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Mousse and Sour Cream Ganache
Adapted from Sky High
Serves: 10 million people
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cost: $1.83 (not bad for 3 layers, but the rich toppings make it expensive) With the frostings it comes to $6.81
(flour: .20, cocoa: .50, chocolate: .40, milk: .13, mayo: .25, sugar: .35)
And, no, I'm not counting this for our cheap eat challenge--It was a gift to Kip. Yes, that's a loophole that I'm using shamelessly. Forgive me.

2 1/4 C flour
1 C cocoa
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 oz unswetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 C milk
1 1/4 C water
1 C mayonnaise (this makes the batter not as yummy as batter usually is; don't worry; cooking will fix it)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 C sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter three 9 inch pans, then line them with wax paper on the bottom and spray or butter the wax paper.

In a saucepan, heat milk and water until hot. It shouldn't be boiling, but nearly so--a few small bubbles should be on the edges of the pan. You'll want to stir this regularly, but while it warms you'll have time to sift the dry ingredients.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon.

When milk and water are hot, pour them over the chopped chocolate. Give a whisk and whisk occasionally until chocolate is incorporated.

In large bowl, beat together eggs, mayo, and vanilla. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add the dry ingredients and the chocolate liquid alternately in about 2 additions. Beat until smooth and well blended. Divide the batter among the three pans.

Cook for 15-20 minutes. (The original recipe recommended 25-28. That would have totally ruined my cakes. I don't know if my oven's wonky or not, but always always check your cakes way before the recommended bake times.)

Remove when a tester or knife comes out clean or with just a moist crumb or two attached.

Cool cake in pans for 10 minutes. Then cool on racks the rest of the way.

When cool, you can assemble the cake.

Sour Cream Ganache
Cost: $3.20
(chocolate: 2.00, butter: .50, half and half: .20, sour cream: .50)

Note on sour creamliness: I tried a sour cream icing before and though it was nasty--not sweet enough and too sour creamy. This one is absolutely awesome. It is much more chocolate than sour cream and that is just what we like in these parts. And the advantge of the sour cream: it makes it just a little looser than normal ganache, which is nice for a cake.

Note on dairy: Also, the half-and-half and sour cream are best at room temp because the mixing is easier and because it doesn't harden as fast, making icing the cake easier. But I forgot and mine were cold and all was well, though it was a bit clumpy getting it on the cake.

12 oz semisweet chocolate
1 stick butter
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 C half-and-half (best at room temp)
1/2 C sour cream (best at room temp)

Combine chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals stirring in between until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth (and not to crazy hot). Whisk in half-and-half (or half milk and half cream) and then sour cream. Spread on cake while it is soft. It will get much stiffer and become unspreadable as it cools, so don't wait.

White Chocolate Mousse
Cost: $1.78
(white chocolate: .67, cream: 1.00, egg: .10, sugar: .01)

4 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1 C heavy cream
1 egg white
1 Tbsp sugar
several drops food coloring (optional)

Combine white chocolate and 1/4 C cream in microwave. Microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring between, until chocolate is melted. Add a few drops of food coloring if desired. We gave it a good dose of red to get our pinky pink. And, you know, St. Patrick's Day is coming. Cool to room temperature.

Beat remaining 3/4 C cream until stiff peaks form (you don't want butter or anything, but the stiffer your peaks, the better your mousse will hold up as a frosting).

Combine egg white and sugar. Beat until egg white forms fairly stiff peaks.

Fold egg mixture into chocolate. And then fold in the whipped cream.

To Assemble:

(Remember, I'm recommending the opposite of what I actually did, so don't get confused by the pictures above.)

Place one layer of the cake on a large plate or cake stand. Frost top (not sides) with ganache. (If ganache isn't your thing, you can use another firm frosting like either of these.) Repeat with second layer. Add a thin layer of ganache on top layer if desired.

Top with mousse and dab it onto sides, spreading it around. (Again, be sure you got it thick enough that it won't just slither down the sides. If you didn't because, you know, we're all human, just put it on the top or serve it as a lovely dollop on the side when you serve the cake).

Serve the cake within a few hours or refrigerate it so that your mousse doesn't start melting and getting all funky on you.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Heart-Shaped Pizza: A Valentine's Idea

My parents gave me a Valentine's Day gift--not a literal sort of gift (though they gave those too), but a legacy type of a gift. For us, Valentine's Day was a fun day--a day of homemade doily Valentine's stashed on your bedside in the night, a day for nice dinners, for small gifts (very small) for everyone in the family, and sometimes heart-shaped pancakes. In other words, a day for sharing with the ones you loved, not necessarily for going on a fancy expensive date or hooking up with whatever hot someone. So I was surprised when I got to college to find that not everyone loved Valentine's Day. In fact, some people had downright hateful feelings towards this day of love. Because they associated it with romance, with chocolates and secret admirerers, with lofty expectation; and thus, with disappointment and sometimes loneliness. And don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a nice date or a surprise something from that very special one. It just happens to be my opinion that there's plenty of love to go around in this world and plenty of people in our lives to love for those years when a super special someone isn't in the picture. Or when he has to work. 

This idea came from my sister Rebecca.

It's not a recipe, per se. I'll save the dough and sauce for another day. Today just take whatever ingredients you've got--be it your special dough or a box of Bisquick, a century-old family recipe or a can Great Value of spaghetti sauce. And make something special out of it. Because that--the making of something lovely out of the things you've got, however imperfect or unpolished they may be--is the spirit of Valentine's Day.


Spread the dough out in the shape of a heart. You can use a pizza cutter if you'd like, but I just pressed it into the shape. (They usually sell frozen dough or you can use Bisquick or there's an easy pizza dough recipe here.)

Add the toppings.

Bake at about 400 until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

And don't forget to wear your "Kiss the Cook" apron.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stir-fried Kale

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

Okay, so maybe you're asking, "Is stir-fried kale the type of thing a person really needs a recipe for?"

Answer: No.

Unless, of course, you've never thought of making something like that before before. Or you think it sounds barfalicious. In either case, you should very much think about making this because it is absolutely not barfalicious. It is so surprisingly good that you might even make a little tentative batch as a sort of experiment and then find it so amazing that you feel you must at that moment go back and make more. Not that I know this from experience of anything. Ah, greens. It's the type of thing a body starts to really crave in February.

I should mention, too, that despite the fact that this week I have now posted not once, but twice, on the mighty kale, I myself am fairly new to the vegetable. We had never really been introduced until a year and a half ago when a friend let me have the tail end of her CSA share. There at the farm were these bushels of vegetables I'd never used and sometimes never heard of before. It was great fun. And the great thing about kale is that it's a fall/winter vegetable that is super super hardy and nutritious. I tried it in soup, in colcannon, and in smoothies. And since then I've thrown it into various dishes here and there. But I'd never just cooked it as, like, it's own little vegetable deserving of it's own little vegetable spot on my plate (sorry, kale) until a few nights ago. It had honestly never occurred to me. Because, you see, even though kale looks like a sort of salad green, it's not good if you just toss it into your salad. It's actually a cole vegetable (in the same family as broccoli and cabbage) and it's generally too tough-ish to be eaten raw. It can also be a bit bitter, though generally at this colder time of year, it is not (it likes a little freeze to sweeten it up). Anyway, back to my story (what, you didn't think a person could tell a whole story about cooking kale; well, my friend, I've certainly proved you wrong now, haven't I?). The other night I was worn down from the care of my sick family. And I was craving some greens. But I didn't want a smoothie. So I just threw some olive oil (and a little coconut oil as an afterthought) in a pan with some salt and pepper and then shredded the leaves and tossed them in. I didn't trust the kale in such a simple manner so I put in a small dollop of my honey mustard dressing when it was about done, and my oh my, it was so so good. I ate it up. And then I went back and made more. Because it was that good. And also because it only took 3 minutes.

Dying to know even more about kale (because who wouldn't be, you know), have a look over here.

Would this be good over or mixed in with rice, couscous, or your hip grain of choice? Yes, it would. But it's good just on it's lonesome too. And it's cheap. And it's pretty.

Stir-fried Kale
Serves 4
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Cost: $.28
(kale: .25, other stuff: .03)

Note: I cut the large rib of the kale out and put it in my compost (because I am lazy, lazy I tell you). However, it's perfectly edible, so you can use it if you wish, but you'll want to give it a longer cook time, so separate it from the leaf, chop it, and throw it in the pan first for about 2 minutes before adding the leaves.

Note on dressing: I've tried this with and without dressing. It's very good both ways, though I feel you need more salt and pepper without it. This may also be good with Ranch, Caesar, or another dressing of your choice. I think it'd also be some kind of wonderful with coconut milk. Or a hard cheese. If you try it with something else, let me know how it turns out.

1-2 Tbsp olive or coconut oil (if it all dries up in the cooking process add a bit more)
4 large kale leaves, washed and shredded into 1-2 inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
honey mustard dressing, optional

Heat oil on medium heat as you shred the kale leaves.

Toss the leaves in and stir them to coat with oil. Stir/toss about for about 1 minute. Then cover pan with a lid for 1-2 minutes to get them wiltier more quickly (you may want to reduce the heat when you do this or even remove the pan from the heat for a minute, so you don't burn your kale). When they're sort of wilty, but not like cafeteria spinach or anything, add the dressing if using. Stir to coat and give it another 30 seconds or so.

Sprinkle with more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately. Once this stuff cools off, it loses all its charm.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Chicken Bacon Chili

Cheap Eat Challenge: Join or watch us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

How do people take pictures of chili? I mean, it just doesn't pose well. So much easier to photograph cookies. But man cannot live on cookies alone, and despite it's homely-hood, this chili is my favorite in the world universe. At least so far.

It originally came about as all good and cheap soups/chili's do--that is by way of throwing random leftovers into a pot with a can of beans. I liked it so well that I re-created it and wrote down the recipe so that I could actually eat it again.

It uses chicken, bacon, and white beans, so it can be a good gateway chili if there is such a thing. (Kip does not believe there is such a thing, but he did have a small portion anyway to be a good example for the kids, and I appreciated it greatly.)

And like all soups/chili's it is infinitely adaptable. Tonight I added a couple tablespoons of corn that were hanging around in the fridge and 1 leaf of kale just to keep it real around here and to ensure that no kids in my family would touch it so there'd be more leftovers for me. (You'd add the chopped kale when the onion is almost ready and let it cook for about 2 minutes till it's wilty.)

I think it would do well with any number of herbs, but I love love love it with cilantro. I didn't use it tonight because the old herb garden is frozen, but it's really good. It'd also probably be good with a bit of salsa or bell pepper (warning: haven't tried it, but it sounds good to me) in with the tomato, but I'd already added kale, and--as chili--it contained beans, so I was already pushing my luck with Kip and just kept it simple.

We served it with cornbread on the side. The cornbread was really good sort of crumbled into the chili and it occurred to me that the chili would be so good with some sort of cornbread crouton--if, you know, you're the type that likes to make simple, down home meals difficult and/or gourmet (come on, you know who you are).

Chicken Bacon Chili
Serves 2 heartily, 4 side dishily
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cost: $1.65
(chicken: .40, bacon: .30, beans: .20, tomatoes: .75)

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice (or about 2 C fresh diced tomatoes)
1 14 oz. can Great Northern white beans with a little juice (or 2 C white beans that you've rehydrated)
3 strips bacon
1/3-1/2 C shredded chicken (I used leftover from freezer--to make from scratch, you're looking at a just a bit of meat--like a leg or 1/4-1/2 of a breast, cubed)
2 dashes onion powder (or 1/4 C onion--Kip doesn't like onion and I was already so pushing my luck, so I stuck with powder)
dash chili powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
small handful fresh cilantro, parsley, chives or green onion, optional

Options to drive your family bonkers: 1 C chopped kale, 1/2 C chopped bell pepper, 1/4 C salsa, 1/2 C cooked macaroni--or use 1/4 C and be sure to let it simmer long enough to soften. You'd add the vegetables into the oil with or just after the onion, and the macaroni with the wet ingredients.

In sauce pan or Dutch oven, cook bacon. Remove from pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Crumble when cool enough.

In bacon grease, cook chicken (if using already cooked chicken leftovers, throw them in anyway to flavor them) and add onion (if not using powder). Cook till chicken has no pink and onion is transluscent.

Add tomatoes with juice and beans. Stir and let simmer for a few minutes. Add bacon. (Alternately--if you like your bacon crispier, you can save it and garnish the chili with it--that might have improved my picture above--alas, didn't think of it in time.) Add herbs. Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Garnish with cheese or sour cream if desired.


Linked up to Miz Helen's Chili Cookoff

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jean's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

We like cookies in these parts. But generally speaking, I'm not the main cookie maker in this family. Don't get me wrong; I make plenty of sweets, but I like to experiment and try new things. Most of our faithful standbys--brownies, cookies, wacky cake--are made by Kip. However, this past Sunday I found myself home from church with a few sick kids and it just seemed like something fun to do. By that point in the over-a-week-of-sickness, I was in need of something fun to do.

When Kip makes cookies, he makes a lot. And he doesn't like to vary from the way we always do them (see that comment above about me being the one to experiment). With him out of the picture, I did it my way. And I halved the recipe. Please imagine the maniacal laughter of someone drunk with her own power. Thank you.

What is my crazy way, you may ask? And why on earth would a sane person halve a cookie recipe?

First of all, who every said I was sane, and secondly, my way isn't so very different, but it involves oat flour, which I love. Plus, that makes it healthy, right? (Public Service Announcement: The previous comment was a joke. Adding a bit of oat flour to your normal old chocolate chip cookies will not make them healthy, though it will make them more complex and tasty. Please do not serve these cookies for breakfast. Thank you.)

And I halve the recipe because I think it's fun to torture my poor husband. Just kidding. I halve the recipe because I don't like having cookies around for days. It's not good for us. We do this weird thing and we eat them all. If we save some as dough, then we eat that. If we don't eat them all, sometimes scooping dough in clumps from the refrigerator (and we usually do eat them all, though occasionally there's like a cookie and a half hanging around stale), then I feel guilty for wasting them. So I halved it. Kip does not allow this. Again, please imagine Dr. Frankenstein limping around her laboratory kitchen doing whatever she will despite the warnings/fears of others--bwahaha. Thank you.

Jean's Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 18-24 (Yes, this is half what we usually make.)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 9 minutes/batch
Cost: $1.90
(butter: .50, brown sugar: .17, sugar: .08, egg: .10, flour: .08, oat flour: .07, chocolate chips: .90)

Note: To make your own oat flour, just throw some oats in a blender and blend until flour-y consistency. Freeze what you don't use.

1 stick butter
1/2 C brown sugar (packed)
1/2 C white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 C all purpose flour
1/2 C oat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 bag chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream butter, sugars, and vanilla. Beat in eggs.

Combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Mix. Add to wet mixture.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. I did mine right at 9 and thought they were perfect. Don't overbake these boogers or you will be sad--they should be just browning at the edges and maybe a wee bit on the top.

These freeze well as does the dough. You can freeze the dough as a hunk or roll it into balls and freeze it in individual serving sizes. Then you can just throw the balls onto a cookie sheet and add a couple minutes to your cooking time and voila.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Renee's Cornbread

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 learns to eat on $6/day.

It's been a rough month. Someone--usually more than one someone--has been sick every day for the last 11 days. We've been sick in all kinds of ways from tummy stuff to boogers to hacking coughs to an ear infection--several of the children enjoying many varieties of sickness in succession. As you can imagine it's been a regular fun house around here. I've barely left the house. I've rarely gotten dressed. And, yet, I am grateful because through it all I've remained fairly healthy. In fact, in some ways I've felt like a general watching her soldiers fall one by one. Last night Kip succumbed, albeit in a much more mild way than the kids. And I'd like to believe that I'll remain standing and, um, win the war and stuff, but today I'm tired and just a wee bit under the weather. Sigh.

Anyway, no one has wanted to eat much in the normal balanced meal department. Last night we were going to have chili and cornbread. It turned into just cornbread. Fortunately, it's really good cornbread, so I can tell you about it.

I got this recipe from my friend, Renee. It's moist and just the right amount of sweet (which for us is definitely sweetish). My son--who eats almost nothing in the out of the PBJ range--loves it. And in case the word 'sweet' didn't give it away, it's northern style cornbread--nothing to do with bacon grease. Sorry southerners.

Renee's Cornbread
Makes 16 pieces
Prep time: 5 minutes (I'd like to point out that this is so easy to assemble. It will take approximately 3 minutes longer than a Jiffy mix and it tastes worlds better.)
Cook time: 25 minutes
Cost: $.60
(Cornmeal: .15--bit of a wild guess; I haven't bought it for a while, flour: .11, milk: .13, egg: .10, sugar: .08, other stuff: .03)

3/4 C yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 C flour
1/2 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease square pan (8 or 9 inch). Sift dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients and stir thoroughly. Pour batter into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Test with a toothpick or fork or knife or some other method besides cutting it into 16 pieces and realizing that the top was still raw and throwing the partially cooled and thoroughly cut concoction back into the oven and then cooking it again (not that I have ever done this before).


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kale Green Drink

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch or join us as our family of 6 eats, or tries to, on $6/day.

Let's talk about kale. It's green. It's pretty. It's can handle cruddy soil if you're growing your own (as opposed to its more needy counterpart, the spinach leaf) and it can endure cooler temperatures. In fact, it's sweeter after it's gotten a little frost-bitten, so it's peak season is during the fall and winter. It lowers cholesterol, acts to detoxify the body, has anti-inflammatory properties, and of course tons of antioxidants. It also contains a crazy amount of vitamins K, A, and C, as well as lots of nearly everything else. For more info, have a look here.

And it's cheap. A bushel of about 9 oz. of kale cost half as much at Walmart as a 9 oz. bag of spinach. When used raw in a smoothie, the tastes of the two greens are surprisingly similar.

Kale Green Drink
Makes 3 cups
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: .80
(kale: .15, applesauce: .10, strawberries: .25, peaches: .20, banana: .10)

Note on kale: If you're new to green drinks you might want to start with 2 cups.

Note on fruit: This tastes better if at least some of the fruit is frozen when you start out. Then it's nice and cold and smoothie-like instead of warm fruit-drink like.

3 C kale (middle rib removed unless you've got a strong blender)
1 banana
1 C strawberries
1/2-3/4 C peaches
1 C apple juice

Blend till smooth.

This will supposedly keep for up to 3 days (with most of the nutrients in tact) if it's sealed and refrigerated, though I've always drunk it right up sooner than that.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Hot Reuben Dip

Cheap Eat Challenge: Watch, or join us as our family of 6 eats, or tries to on $6/day.

So I'm a little late to the Superbowl. It and I never quite make each other's radar.

Fortunately, this dip/sandwich spread would be good for any old sporting event party you'd like to have. Or any other kind of party. Or any old evening when you're pressed for something quick, hot, and so delicious.

We use it as a sandwich spread and like it best served on slices of sourdough bread. But it's great as a dip served with crackers or cut veggies. Last night we ate it with some homemade white bread, and green drinks on the side.

Hot Reuben Dip
Adapted from Betty Crocker's Quick and Easy Cookbook
Serves 4-8
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $3.72
(cream cheese: $1, corned beef: .58, Thousand Island: .50, sauerkraut: .15, Swiss cheese: 1.50)

Note on substitutions: Don't like sauerkraut, just leave it off (you'll notice in the picture below that half of ours has it and half of it doesn't. I'm sure that doesn't surprise you). And if you hate Swiss cheese, you can use mozarrella or a mild cheddar. But the Swiss is delicious. And of course, it and the sauerkraut make a reuben a reuben.

1 package cream cheese (8 oz), softened
1/2 C Thousand Island dressing
1 1/2 C shredded Swiss cheese (6 oz.)
1 oz deli sliced corned beef (I just used the cheap Budding package), chopped into 1/2 inch (or smaller) bits
1/2 C drained sauerkraut

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine cream cheese and Thousand Island. Add 1 C of Swiss cheese and corned beef. Mix well. Spread onto bottom of 9 inch pie plate.

Top with sauerkraut and remaining 1/2 C Swiss cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are brown and bubbly.

Serve warm with crusty bread, cut vegetables, crackers, or pretzels.



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