Friday, September 30, 2011

September Assessment

Time for September's assessment.

This month began for us with my sister in the D.C. area and then my sister in WV. Thus I didn't start counting our money until the 7th of September. For that portion of the month we spent $262.70 on food. After subtracting $25.00 for entertainment costs, it came to $237.70 which, divided by the 24 days of the month we're counting is: $9.90/day.

Here's the breakdown:

Produce: 69.01 (that's including our 27.00 CSA cost)
Grains: 34.35
Dairy: 65.90 (that's including the 17.00/month for our raw milk share)
Meat/Eggs: 24.23
Beans/Legumes/Nuts: 25.95
Sugars/Sweets: 21.65
Fats: 13.95
Condiments: 7.66

It's the most expensive month for us so far, though I have to say we didn't eat out at all until tonight and I've been making more of an effort to prepare snacks for Kip to take to work, so he doesn't eat the free junk food that is hanging around. That said, we wasted more than usual this month. I'd like to tell you what I wasted and I have a partial list over here in costs, but truth be told, I did a horrible job keeping track this month. I'll try to do better next month. In fact, maybe I'll do a food waste Friday like some of the other bloggers out there and show you what we end up throwing out.


We did a much better job eating more fish this month. For next month, I hope to continue and to add some more omega 3's. And I do hope to add a food waste Friday just for this coming month. I would also like to take that evaluation day and use it to make my shopping lists--something along the lines of 'This is what I've got in the fridge; this is what we plan to make with it.'

How'd We Cheat:

We didn't that I know of, although I did lose at least one large receipt. I remember prices pretty darn well, having been a keeper of them for the better part of a year now, but I do have a few question marks in my costs. They're at least really close to right.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feta Alfredo

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Since the technical definition of Alfredo is a sauce that uses butter, cream, and Parmesan, I'm totally cheating here in calling this dish 'Feta Alfredo' because there isn't a lick of Parmesan in it. I suppose I should have called it 'Pasta with Feta Cheese Sauce,' which doesn't sound nearly as sexy, does it? But beyond that it doesn't capture the mood of this dish, which is very much the mood of a real Alfredo dish--creamy, cheesy, finger-licking, and with the kind of sultry kick not just any cheese sauce will deliver. And if food romance isn't enough inspiration for you, how about the fact that this comes together in 30 minutes or less. 

Sadly, the idea of combining feta with cream was not my own. How could this be so, you ask? I do not know. Cream, feta, butter, pasta--it seems like I should have come forth from the womb spewing such words. (Fortunately for my mother, I did not, though maybe she would have gotten better hospital meals if I had.) Instead of my own cream-obsessed brain, the inspiration for this recipe came from a blog called Crumbs and Chaos. Thank you Crumbs and Chaos for opening my eyes and expanding my world. Let us all come to be so enlightened. Make this dish. 

Feta Alfredo
Adapted from Crumbs and Chaos, which was adapted from Lavender and Lime
Serves 4
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $4.00
bacon: .50, butter: .10, broccoli: .70, peas: .30, cream: .70, feta: 1.00, pasta: .60, other stuff: .10)

1/4 lb bacon
2 Tbsp butter
1 head broccoli
1 C frozen peas
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
3/4 C heavy cream
2 oz feta, plus more for garnishing
8 oz pasta (we used bow ties)
salt to taste

Get your pasta water boiling. When it's boiling, add the pasta. 

While the water is coming to a boil, cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces. Put this and the frozen peas in a microwave-safe bowl. Add about 2-4 Tbsp water (enough to make 1/2 inch to 1 inch in the bottom of the bowl). Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2-3 minutes or until broccoli is tender, stirring one time in between. The broccoli should be fork tender, but not nuked into mushy mush. Note: I love this method for cooking broccoli. It's fast, many of the nutrients are retained, and it comes out perfect, bright green, and tasty. Remove from microwave with an oven mitt because it's really really hot. Also watch for steam when you remove the plastic wrap. Drain remaining water out. (Carefully--remember the steam.)

And while your pasta is cooking and you're multi-tasking your little heart out, heat a skillet and add bacon to it. Cook until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Wipe skillet out with a wadded up paper towel (don't burn yourself). 

Add butter to skillet and melt it. Add garlic and thyme. Give them a whirl in the butter for about 30 seconds. Add cream and let it get warm. Add feta to cream (crumble it up a bit before you throw it in). Stir it gently until melted. (Note: Unless you've done a superior job crumbling, it won't all melt and there will be a few lumps of it. That's okay.) 

Add broccoli, peas, and bacon. 

Drain your pasta. (It should be al dente, not just for food snob reasons, but because it's going to cook another few minutes with the cream and you want it to absorb a little of that awesomeness.) Add cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. I let mine cook in there for a few minutes, which allowed some of the cream to be sucked up by the pasta. 

Serve while hot with feta sprinkled on top. 


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

I've really been in love with roasted tomatoes this year. They're especially nice now that temperatures are dropping low enough that turning on your oven doesn't feel like a sin. Also, the quality of my tomatoes has declined and many of them are being brought in to ripen on the counter, which makes roasting a good solution. Roasting can take a so so tomato right back into wonderful summer land. Add a little cream, and fall is officially on.

If you're in a pinch, you can drain a 28-oz can of whole tomatoes and roast those up.

Cream of Tomato Soup
adapted from smittenkitchen
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour (but it's mostly inactive time as they roast)
Cost: $2.40
(tomatoes: 1.50, butter: .10, cream: .25, chicken stock: .50, other stuff: .05)

Note on tomatoes: You can use whatever kind of tomatoes you have. Romas are nice because they have fewer seeds and roast up really well.

Note on chicken stock: The salt in this recipe can go up quickly. If you've salted your tomatoes (which I recommend), use homemade or low-sodium chicken broth. If you don't have low-sodium, skip the salt when roasting the tomatoes.

6-8 Roma tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lb), cut into 1-inch pieces with seeds (or most of them) removed
1 Tbsp brown sugar
4 shallots
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp tomato paste (can be skipped and world won't end, but is nice if you have it)
2 Tbsp flour
1 can or about 1 3/4 C chicken stock (I used homemade)
1/4-1/2 C heavy cream

Cut and seed tomatoes. Toss in olive oil and layer on a baking sheet. Add shallots. Sprinkle with brown sugar and salt. Bake at 450 degrees until they lose most of their juices and start to color up. The color you're going for is dark red with a bit of brown. If you use track of time like I did, yours will really really color up and you might have to leave the blackened edges on the pan, but your life will go on anyway and this will turn out fine.

Once you pull your tomatoes out of the oven, heat butter in a saucepan until melted. Add tomato paste. You can also add some pepper, cayenne, allspice, or paprika if you like one of those in your tomato soup. Add flour and whisk until thick and a bit bubbly. Add chicken stock and whisk until combined. Add tomatoes and any juices that can be scraped off the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes so all the flavors meld. (I did this; however, if you're in a hurry, I bet you could reduce this time and still turn out a good soup.)

Allow to cool for a couple minutes, then add to a blender (or use an immersion blender). Add cream and warm over medium heat. At this point, you can stir in a bit (1/2 Tbsp) of lemon juice or red wine vinegar if you feel it needs to be brightened up a bit. Adjust seasonings. Note: If your soup is still too thick, add a bit more stock and all should be well.

We ate ours with grilled cheese and it was good.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemade Kettle Corn

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Lately my toddler, has been on a bit of a hunger strike. Toddlers, should you have the good fortune of knowing one, do that. It's not a strike exactly, nothing in the Gandhi school of hunger strikes: toddlers will eat foods resembling sweets and there is no noble cause for which they are suffering, or more accurately causing you to suffer (unless, of course, you consider the consumption of only cookies a noble cause, in which case food striking toddlers have high causes indeed).

Generally, a toddler on a food strike just doesn't want to eat a few little foods, you know, accessory foods, things like meat, cheese, pasta, rice, most breads, soup, most sandwiches, casseroles, most fruits, vegetables, and any of a number of foods they ate and thoroughly enjoyed just last week, sometimes even pizza. And, while I do enjoy a (healthy I assure you) love affair with breakfast cookies, I refuse to feed them to my child only and always. A cruel lot, we mothers.

Fortunately for me, Emma also loves popcorn. We've been making a lot of it, often for lunch since she's been turning up her nose at the PBJ's I give her. (And by turning up her nose, I do mean opening the sandwich up, smearing the contents all over her face, her hair, her clothes, her chair, and any unlucky creatures who happen to come within arm's reach; and then throwing the remnants on the floor and screaming merrily.)

Popcorn is lovely on many levels. It's a whole grain that only takes a few minutes to pop. And I can sweep it off the floor instead of crawling around with a washcloth looking for smears of it.

However, I do occasionally find myself wanting to change it up. Cue, kettle corn.

Until recently, I considered it kettle corn a miracle of county fair/Orville Redenbacher Frankensteinian science, but no my friends--it is real; it is natural; it is wonderful. Below I will unveil it's many (fine, few) secrets.

1. You can make this with canola oil. It's fine. It's even good. I tried it and we ate it and we were happy. But if you want to make it really really taste like kettle corn and to be just so wonderfully good, you should make it with coconut oil. In fact it is so much better with coconut oil that, if you like kettle corn, I would say it's worth purchasing coconut oil for this purpose alone. (Afraid of coconut oil; don't be. Have a look here at it's many benefits.)

2. Heat your oil first, then add the sugar and the kernels together. Do not add the sugar with the oil. You will risk burning the sugar. And while you can sprinkle the sugar on at the end (a la salt), it's better and more kettle-corn-like if you add it in with the corn kernels.

3. You can probably kind of sort of do this in a popcorn popper, but to get it really good, you'll need to do it on the stove top. Have a look here to see how easy peasy (and super fun) this is. Someday I will make a video. Pinky promise.

Homemade Kettle Corn
Makes, I don't know, let's say 4 cups
Cook time: 7-ish minutes
Cost: $.10

1/4 C popcorn kernels
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp sugar
sprinkle salt (optional and I didn't do)

Note: If you do use canola oil for this, you'll need a little more; I don't know why. Try 3-4 Tbsp, but really put the coconut oil on your shopping list. A lot of Walmarts are even selling it now.

Put oil in a 2 quart pot (one that has a lid). Add 2-3 kernels popcorn with the oil. Put lid on and turn heat to medium. Let the oil heat, tilting the pan occasionally (especially if your stove top is uneven like mine). When the kernels pop, you know the oil is hot enough. Add the rest of the kernels and the sugar. Put the lid on. Tip the pan to swirl the kernels in oil and sugar.

Every few seconds, tilt or shake the pan (shake it from side to side, not up and down and hold the lid on with your other hand). Your kernels will start popping. Keep shaking the pan every few seconds. When the popping slows down considerably, take the pan off the heat. Take the lid off, but be careful of renegade poppers; they could burn you. Sprinkle on a bit of salt if that's your thing (another sprinkle of sugar wouldn't hurt either).


Monday, September 26, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

I try not to post too many recipes that are adaptations of things recently posted on the internet, but I'm making an exception today. Because I'm really loving these bars from Loves Veggies and Yoga (I'm really loving this blog in general truth be told.)

These bars are very good. We've made them many times since I discovered them (which wasn't very long ago). They're also incredibly cheap compared to their store-bought counterparts (more on that in a minute), and much healthier. But the main reason I'm in love with them is that we're in a bit of a snack food crisis around here. School began last month, meaning my kids need transportable foods. And Kip, who often works nights, needs quick easy foods to snack on or he will eat quick easy candy bars and whatever junk they have hanging around at various ER's (cupcakes, ding dongs, that sort of thing). I need some stuff in the freezer that I can toss at people as the need arises.

And, yes, I could fill my pantry with the granola bars from Walmart if I wished, but let's talk about that for a minute or two:

The last time I bought granola bars from Walmart was this summer. We were going swimming. I had to go shopping. It was a desperate moment. And in those bars I got myself the sort of thing a desperate moment usually delivers (no, not another baby): 5 bars in a package designed to fit 6 bars (a pet peeve of mine) for $2.00, about 2 tsp (or 8 grams) of sugar per bar, and lots and lots of ingredients I didn't understand. Since I got the high fiber bars (an accident) they did have tons of fiber (about 9 grams), but the very first ingredient was chicory root extract. Yummy. And also, or so I hear from the comments on this site, extremely gassy (we didn't have issues for the record).

The chocolate peanut butter granola bars I made:

*Cost $1.25 for more than double the number (and weight) of the store-bought bars.
*About 6 grams (or just over a teaspoon) sugar per serving (yes, I know chocolate chips aren't a whole food or the best thing in the world, but I think it can compete with shellac, high fructose corn syrup, barley flakes, and hydrogenated coconut oil--to name just 4 of the approximately 18 non-pantry ingredients contained in the store-bought bar)
*Prep time: 4 minutes. I bet the check out line at your Walmart can't compete with that. (Or the ingredient reading thing that happens in the aisle for that matter.)
*3 grams fiber per serving (none of it from chicory root, thank you very much). And of course if you add some nuts and dried berries, this number will go up quickly.

Which reminds me that one of the other great things about these bars is that you can make them more or less virtuous to suit your tastes. You can add in flax seed and nuts and dried berries. Or you can throw in a few more teaspoons of sugar and chocolate chips.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Makes 9x13 pan or 8 long bars or 12 store-bought sized bars
Prep and cook time: 5 minutes (though to be fair, these do have to set up for about 10 minutes in the fridge)
Cost: $1.35 for 12 bars (that's .11 per bar)
(choc. chips: .45, PB: .45, milk: .08, oats: .27, and a few more Tbsp chocolate chips: .10)

Melt in microwave, stirring or whisking at 20 second intervals:

1/2 C chocolate chips
1/2 C peanut butter
1/2 C milk (can be dairy or a non-dairy variety)

To this add and stir in :

1 splash of vanilla if you remember it (let's say 1/2 tsp)
1 Tbsp sugar (or agave or raw sugar or honey). You can skip the sugar if you wish. You can also add more if you want a sweeter bar.

To this add and stir in:

2 C oats (I use quick)

To this add and stir in:

1 C dry ingredients (more oats if you're not daring; otherwise you can try dry fruit, coconut, flax seed, protein powder, nuts, whatever). We used more oats since I didn't think anything else would go over with the masses.

You're going to have a thick "dough" that looks like no bake cookie "dough." It should start to ball together as you mix.

At that point, press it into a 9x13 inch pan (I put parchment paper in mine to make removing and cutting easy, but you don't have to). Your hands will get a little messy; wet them with a bit of water if the stuff is sticking to them too badly.

Once you've got your "dough" all pressed in, you can press some toppings into your bars--more chocolate chips, nuts, dates, cherries--the sky's the limit. We used chocolate chips (tell me you just fainted from the shock). And one of the really really great things about the end press method is that if you like things your family members don't, you can press some nuts, seeds, or dried fruit into a portion just for you. Ha. I do like me some personalized granola bars.

Refrigerate bars until hard. I leave mine overnight. If you want them quickly, throw them in the freezer for 10 minutes.

To store these, I cut them and then layer them between parchment paper (I use the same parchment paper that I lined the pan with--cheap and lazy, yup). I store them in the refrigerator or freezer and when one is needed I toss it in a Ziploc bag.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why I Make Birthday Cake For My Kids

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

After all, my homemade cakes aren't exactly stunners.

And sometimes it feels like kids care more about frosting color than actual taste anyway.

And everyone who's ever hosted a birthday party knows that several of the kids take one or two bites and leave the rest (which is one of those delightfully healthy kid habits that we never give them credit for because it drives us absolutely bonkers).

And while a basic and delicious cake can be cheaper than a boxed one (think wacky cake), the cakes I make probably aren't even always cost efficient (think pounds of frosting).

So why do I take a couple hours out of an already busy day to dust off the cake pans and put something in them. 

Because my mother made homemade cakes for us. This meant something to me as a child. She asked what we wanted. We could make a demand (um, okay, I'm sure we made many and not just on our birthdays, but on this day with our cakes it was allowed, encouraged even. We got to choose the cake type and shape and Mom would make it). And even at that age, I had knew that Mom's cakes tasted better than store-bought ones. Even when they didn't turn out quite right. And sometimes they didn't.

Mom's homemade cakes had more, um, personality than other cakes. Sometimes (like that butterfly one, remember it Mom?) they were utterly perfect in both beauty and taste. Sometimes they were awesome and then someone (like maybe me, but I'm not admitting anything) sort of smashed an edge when the cake was in the car and turned them sort of less than perfect (sorry about that Wonder Woman cake, Rebecca). And sometimes Mom's cakes had so very very much personality that some might have called them a little, um, special. We may or may not have had a few years of jokes about ugly cakes. But they sure tasted good.

Yes, my mother could have slapped a store-bought cake down on the table and it would have been a definite rectangle and the colors would have been piped on just perfectly. And it would have tasted just exactly like the last store-bought cake that I got the year before. Yeah, that's just not for me. I'll take the lopsided thing that's trying to be held up by the long toothpicks and is nevertheless flopping over enough that the coconut icing is sort of slipping off. And then I'll stick a finger in that icing and you better believe I'll love every lick. Those cakes taught me a lesson too. They taught me that things given in love don't have to be perfect to be just right. 

Which is part of the reason that food means something. And food does mean something. It means something to me to make a cake. And it means something to my kids to receive a cake, even though they can't yet put that thing into words. It gives us things to remember. It gives us things to enjoy. It gives us things to laugh about or tell stories about. It is one of the avenues through which we can communicate to those for whom we care. It is not the only avenue. If you hate making cakes, or if you need to simplify a truly crazy birthday, this post isn't about how you should feel guilty and absolutely always make a homemade cake. It's definitely not the only avenue to meaning in life or birthdays. Maybe you like to throw awesome parties, or spend special time with your child/loved one, or visit Grandma's house, or buy a knock down gift, or whatever. This post isn't meant to impose guilt or extra must-do's. It's merely a jaunt down my cakey cakey road. And who wouldn't want to take a jaunt down a cakey cakey road.

Which brings me to my final point. I really love making cakes. I especially love making them for people I care about. I love the ritual of getting out the bowls, the pans, the flour, sugar, cocoa. I love the smell, look, and texture of a homemade cake. I love their imperfections (unless they're dry; then I weep). I love their dings and those places you have to fill with frosting. I love that things given in love don't have to be perfect to be just right. 

Thank you, Mom. And Happy Birthday, Mark.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Watermelon Lemonade Slurpee

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Yeah, I know that today is the first day of fall. (Of course I only know that because my 1st grader pointed it out, but whatever, I knew it was coming.) But here in southern Indiana, you can still find a decent watermelon at the Farmer's market. And you still have days of such stunning beauty that your husband spends the bulk of them outside working on a stone patio and you occasionally go out and stand there and watch. Yes, it can be exhausting. Which is why you need this slushee. And maybe you can share some with your sweating spouse too.

I had some watermelon chunks hanging out in the freezer. They were waiting for a watermelon drink experiment involving limes, which I never got around to before consuming all my limes. In addition to this I had not enough lemonade to feed all my children without one or all of them whining that they hadn't gotten enough. I had a hot husband (in every sense of the word, I assure you) and I had an after school snack to dream up. And then I had an idea.

The best thing about this drink was that it really did come out in consistency exactly like a 7-11 Slurpee. It had that frothy icy thing going on. I was a little surprised myself. I'm quite confident that if I had set out to create a Slurpee-like drink in my very own blender, I would have spent the rest of my life in frustrated trying. Fortunately, the idea never occurred to me, and thus, a Slurpee fell right into my lap (not, fortunately, literally, although Emma did her best to try to spill hers on me several times).

Watermelon Lemonade Slurpee
Serves 2-4
Prep time: 2 minutes (not counting watermelon freezing time and lemonade making time)
Cost: $.40
(watermelon: .25, lemonade: .15)

Note: I'm willing to bet a limeade would have been just as good if not a little bit better, so if you've got some hanging around, go for it. As for me, that's a project for next summer.

3 C frozen watermelon balls
1 1/2 C lemonade (I used homemade, but I bet any would work)

Blend them together.


This and my other sweet treats from the week are linked up at Sweets for a Saturday

Thursday, September 22, 2011

100% Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

I think it's time to invest in a white sheet (tablecloth?) so that when I take a picture I can pretend that my counters are clean and that my table is clear and that, indeed, I live a life of sterile white sheetliness.

At least I don't take pictures on my kitchen floor.

Question: How many times did I (or Kip) sweep the kitchen floor today?
Answer: 4, possibly 5; it's easy to lose count.

Question: Is my kitchen floor at present clean?
Answer: If I were you, I would not bet my life (or perhaps any significant amount of money, or perhaps even an insignificant amount of money) on it.

But I digress.

Today I had cookies ready for the kids when they came home from school. I did this because I have to lure them to the kitchen table to do their homework. I have to do this because otherwise they go to the couch, empty out their backpacks and throw enough paper to keep Office Supply in business on the couch and floor. And then they whine about how they can't find such and such a terribly important paper. And then they cry. And then Kip comes in, sees the floor, and leaves again (he tries to pretend he's being helpful: "Um, I'm just going to go pick up something really really important from the store..." but we all know he's just escaping). And then inevitably the baby poops in her diaper, because we all know that that's what babies do when things are stressful and/or messy. With any luck she will get poop on the terribly important paper that went missing no less than 2 minutes ago when the children came home and spewed papers on the couch as though it was birthday confetti.

So, yes, the kitchen table. It seemed more orderly to me. At least the papers would fall under the table and I could pretend that they didn't exist as I do with so many things that fall under the kitchen table (oh look, a bread crust that's become fossilized with a prehistoric insect inside). And no one would get poop on them. Well, probably.

The only problem was that my kids didn't want to go to the table. The table was hard. The couch was soft. I guess I could understand their logic.

So I promised them after school snacks. I've never been a very dutiful mother in this department. I usually make them fuss around and get their own snack. For the first day of table homework, I promised them I'd have a really good snack. Mark wanted chocolate chip cookies.

And yet, I couldn't bring myself to make just a regular old chocolate chip cookie 2 hours before dinner. I mean, a person has to have some standards when bribing her spawn. So I filled it with whole grain. I didn't do much else to healthify it, although I docked the butter by a couple of tablespoons and I really believe I could have gotten away with 1/2 C less sugar.

The result: They were a HUGE hit. My kids did their homework, didn't lose anything (that I know of at this moment) and then even ate their dinner (you know, as much as they ever do).

100% Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 15
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cost: $1.10
(butter: .25, sugars: .50, egg: .10, oat flour: .05, whole wheat: .20)

6 Tbsp butter, softened
1 C white sugar (I bet you could get away with 1/2 C and I'm going to do that next time)
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C oat flour
1 C whole wheat flour (I used white, but brown works too)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (unless you used salted butter)
1 C chocolate chips

Combine butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla and stir until smooth and well-incorporated. Add dry ingredients (I just plop them on top of the wet ingredients and sort of stir the baking soda in and then mix it all into the wet ingredients). Add chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chocolate Chip Blondies

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Sometimes it's a tough sell to get Kip to go for a blondie over a brownie. They are, after all, generally devoid of cocoa products. What, he always wants to know, is the possible culinary advantage of consuming a brownie-esque treat without the, you know, brown?

Well, I'll tell you:

1. They're a sort of wonderful cross between a brownie and a chocolate chip cookie. They combine the contrast of a chocolate chip cookie (not all chocolate; not all white) with the denseness of a brownie.

2. They marry butter with a whole lot of brown sugar and then they refuse to cover or dull those flavors with other things (too much flour or cocoa).

3. They heat that marriage up, which creates a caramel-like flavor and a chewy texture, especially on the edges. I can't resist these edges. In fact, if you look at our pan, you'll see that I have a little issue with cutting off all the corners for myself. Yeah, I'm working on that. (Just kidding; I'm actually not working on it at all.)

4. Everyone in my family loves them. Yup, even Kip (although you did note that a cocoa product was added to these blondies, didn't you). Maybe not quite as much as brownies, but a lot nevertheless.

Chocolate Chip Blondies
adapted from--oh dear, I've lost the source. If these are yours, let me know. At the top of the recipe it says, "Submitted by Elizabeth Cisneros," so thank you Elizabeth.
Makes 9x13 inch pan
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20-30 minutes

1 C butter
2 C brown sugar
2 eggs
12 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (I omitted since I used salted butter)
1 C chocolate chips

Combine butter and brown sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Add chocolate chips if using. Note: You could also add white chocolate chips, nuts, toffee bits, butterscotch chips (ooh, now that sounds right tasty).

Press mixture into 9x13 in baking pan.

Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes or until the edges start to brown and the middle is set.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cinnamon Glaze

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Forgive my whimsical mounds of whipped cream that were rapidly melting in a most non-whimsical fashion. 

Several months ago, we took our kids to IHOP for dinner. I hadn't been to IHOP in many many years. And my food was gross. In fact, most of the food was gross with one exception. Mark and Elizabeth got some pancakes with cinnamon glaze and whipped cream. After we ate, Mark asked if I could make that at home. Oh, I bet I could, I told him, and better.

Sometimes after a lousy meal at a chain restaurant, I'm a little overconfident. Because it took me several pancake Sundays before I actually got that thing right. And better, of course.

The good news is that it's crazy easy. That's always good news.

We ate ours as a glaze with a bit of regular syrup and more than a bit of homemade whipped cream thereby. But I'm betting the farm that you could mix this in with your regular syrup (be it store-bought or homemade) and have a pretty wicked cinnamon syrup. And I'd bet another farm (it's so easy to do when you have no farms isn't it) that you could pour it into nearly whipped whipped cream for a crazy good cinnamon whipped cream.

Cinnamon Glaze
Makes 1/4 C
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cost: .05

3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn syrup (I used dark because that's all I have)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp water

Whisk ingredients together in a pot. Heat just until sugar melts, stirring every minute or so. If it just starts to boil, that's fine, but you don't want it boiling for long or it will get much too thick. So don't think you can just run downstairs and grab your laundry (all 4 baskets) and bring it up. You can't.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Raw Chocolate Oat Breakfast Cookie

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

The Secret Recipe Club reveal day has come around again. I always look forward to it. It introduces me to a new food blog and gives me plenty of motivation to try new recipes. This month that was especially true. I was assigned For the Health if It, written by the lovely Faith.  Faith's blog of full of vegetarian and vegan recipes. Which put me a little out of my element. And we all know that can be good for a person sometimes. I gravitated to the breakfast recipes because, well, I have an obsession. There were several that looked tasty. I chose--okay prepare for the shock--a breakfast cookie. Yeah, um, speaking of obsessions. But wait, I'm really not as dull as you think; it wasn't just any breakfast cookie. It was a raw breakfast cookie.

I've been wanting to try one for a while. Vague idea meet motivation. Raw breakfast cookies (or perhaps raw cookies of all varieties) are mixed up and then chilled--usually in a bowl or plate so they have a cookie-like shape. In this way, I must warn you baked cookie aficionados that they're not traditional cookies that you just pop off the pan and eat with your hand. Mine was firm, but it was the type of thing you still eat with a spoon.

And here's the part where I confess. This was a nice vegan recipe. And I de-veganed it. It wasn't my fault, I swear. Okay, it was kind of my fault. But it was also the fault of my refrigerator, which did not contain all the proper ingredients (I thought it was supposed to birth them when I needed them. What? Your fridge doesn't do that?). And it was also the fault of my shopping plans gone awry. As in gone not at all. I dislike shopping as a rule and so it is fairly easy for my shopping plans to go awry.

Thus. Thus, this vegan recipe became merely vegetarian. I also made several other changes due to my refrigerator's inability to spontaneously sprout ingredients I've neglected to purchase. We'll forgive it though, won't we? Oh, I think we will. (P.S. Faith--I do hope you will forgive me as well. Just so you know, I also made your deviled eggs and didn't change a darn thing and enjoyed the lighter version of an old favorite. So why the heck didn't I post those? Um, well, because these contain chocolate and you eat it for breakfast.)

Below I'll be posting Faith's original recipe as well as my mutilated, though tasty, variation.

Raw Chocolate Oat Breakfast Cookie
adapted from For the Health of It
Serves 1-2
Prep time: 5 minutes plus refrigerating overnight (although you could just spoon it out of the bowl)
Cost: $.45
(oats: .05, milk: .04, nuts: .30, other stuff: .06-ish)


1/3 C vegan milk of your choice
1/4 C wheat bran
1/4 C oat flour
2 Tbsp chocolate protein powder
1 Tbsp flax meal
1 Tbsp finely sliced almonds
1 Tbsp apple sauce
1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
toppings of choice (she used chocolate chips and blueberries)

Mutilated, but yummy (and also potentially gluten-free), adaptation:

Note: You'll probably want to taste thid before you put them in the refrigerator overnight to check the sweetness. If you want them sweeter, up the sugar a bit. I've listed it below with a range.

Another note: I think these would be super tasty with some chopped chocolate chips mixed in.

1/4 C 2% milk
1/4 C oats (I gave them a spin in the blender a few times to get them smaller and more wheat bran-ish in size/texture)
1/4 C oat flour
1 1/2-4 tsp sugar
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp super chopped cashews
1 Tbsp apple sauce
1/2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
(I ate mine without toppings)

Mix all ingredients (except toppings) together in a small bowl. Spread evenly on a plate (I just left mine in the bowl because I am lazy. Which must be clear from the fact that I failed to make it to the store for over a week as I stewed on this recipe.)

Place in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, add toppings if using. Eat it up. You'll probably do this with a spoon instead of grabbing it up like you would with a non-raw breakfast cookie because--unless you've coated it in M & M's--it will sort of melt/mush in your hand.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to Can Applesauce

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

I made my first applesauce this summer. For it I only used the few extra apples I had that were heading south--a pound or so of apples. And I gobbled the applesauce up that day or the next. Now it's fall and I'm drowning in apples. The time has come to learn to can applesauce.

So if you could please bestow the domestic goddess award, I'd appreciate it.

'Whatever,' you say, 'canning applesauce  is, like, shockingly easy. We're saving our domestic goddess award for someone with real skills. Like cheese making.'

And it's true. Applesauce is easy to can. Who knew? You make the applesauce. You put it in clean jars with clean sealing lids. You submerge these in a big old pot of water and boil for 20 minutes.

Applesauce, Canned
makes about 6 pints
Cost: $8.00 for the batch
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

7-8 lb apples (this translates to 16-20 C of apples), peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces (or so--I'm not a very careful chopper, but I can peel an apple in no time and keep the skin all in one piece. See, I do have goddess-like qualities, come on...)
2-2 1/2 C water
1-2 C sugar
several slivers of lemon rind
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon

To Make Applesauce:

Peel and chop apples. Put them in a big old pot with the water and lemon rinds. It won't look like enough water, but it is; the apples will release their juices. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10-20 minutes (yeah, I didn't keep very good track). You're going to simmer them until they are super soft. Pull out the rinds and mash the apples right in the pot with a potato masher. I get mine pretty mashed because my family has issues with chunkies. If you want yours super duper smooth, put it in the blender and give it a spin.

While it's still plenty hot, add sugar. I like to add it at the end just so I know how much I really want to put in. Start with a cup, taste it (blow it off first; it's hot, remember), and then add more sugar according to your needs. Ditto the cinnamon.

At this point you can throw it into the fridge and just eat it. Or you can be a domestic goddess like myself and can it, which is surprisingly satisfying.

To Can:

1. Clean your jars. Clean your lids and seals. People generally pour hot hot water on the lids and clean them that way.

2. Pour the hot applesauce into the hot jars (You want hot in hot so your jars don't crack or burst). Leave 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jars (Head space they call this in domestic goddess land).

3. Put the seals and lids on.

4. Submerge jars in a pot of hot water (again, hot in hot so the jars don't burst). You need enough water so you have a good two inches above the top of the jars (stick your finger in and touch the top of a jar; if at least 2 finger joints are submerged, you're okay). Note: You don't need a fancy pot. You just need a large (tall) pot. Also, I lay several butter knives on the bottom of my pot to create a sort of rack so that the bottoms of the jars aren't touching the bottom of the pot (i.e. the most direct source of heat). Is it necessary to keep your jars from cracking? Probably not, but I do it anyway. There's a rack you can buy, but I don't can enough to justify it.

5. Bring water to a boil. When water has reached boiling, let jars boil in the water for 20 minutes.

6. Remove jars from water with special jar removing device. If you don't have one, I once used a set of BBQ tongs to get mine out. It's a little trickier, but it can get the job done.

(This thing is pretty ancient. My mom gave it to me. It reminds me of my early childhood.)

7. Sometimes the lids don't seal right away, but as they cool, they will, so don't despair. If one really doesn't seal, still don't despair: put it in your refrigerator and eat it up in a couple of weeks.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Cheater 'Smores

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

(I know, I know; the pictures on the blog just keep getting better. What can I say? It was dark; it was a party.)

Tonight we had a marshmallow roast/'smores fest with some friends. I went to the store to buy some supplies and, while standing in the candy aisle in a stupor, wondered if I shouldn't try something new with the smores--Twix or Reese's or something else between the crackers. Or maybe I should go the other way and use some kind of cookie to sandwich the chocolate and marshmallow--like a chocolate chip cookie or a Nilla Wafer. But I just couldn't do it. Apparently, I'm a traditionalist.

So what did our first guest show up with? Deluxe Grahams. She said her parents always used them to sandwich a marshmallow. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. You get a two for one with the chocolate graham cookie and you have a simple 'smore with Kip's favorite store bought cookie. Oh, sure, I'm still a fan of the traditional sort, but these were good; they were great. And they were easy. The only problem is that Kip is still snacking on the Deluxe Grahams.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Hummus

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

So I took a jillion pictures of this dip, side by side with the plain vegetable dip and the plain hummus that inspired it. The dips were colorful; they were interesting. Unfortunately, the larger images came out with certain of those dips looking a little like poop. So you get this severely cropped version. Note to self: when taking pictures of thick dips, just...just be careful.

A while back, I shared this roast veggie spread. I mused about combining it with hummus. And today that is just what I did. It was really good. It was even healthier than regular hummus. And it was a great way to use up ugly vegetables.

But it does require the good part of an hour for vegetable roasting. I couldn't help but wonder if it would be easier just to bend some raw chopped pepper, tomato, and/or carrot into your hummus. Also, I was hoping it would come out so that you just threw one recipe of hummus in the blender with one recipe of dip. And you could, but I preferred it in both texture and taste when it had more hummus and less vegetable--about 2 parts hummus to 1 part vegetable to be exact. That is the recipe I'll give below, but you'll notice you're using some pesky 1/2 vegetables. Sorry, folks, it tastes better that way.

Roasted Vegetable Hummus
Makes 3 C dip (approximately)
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
Cost: about $2.00 if your vegetables are cheap

Roast at 400 degrees:

1/2 eggplant
1 small tomato, seeded
1/2 red pepper
1/2 onion (1/4 if your onion is huge), optional
1 clove garlic
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper for sprinkling

Dice these and roast them at with olive oil and salt and pepper for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees until they turn dark at the edges. Note: I think when combining this with the hummus you can skip the onion which will give the final product a more purely hummus-y taste. But it's up to you.

Once roasted, let cool for a minute and then throw them in the blender with this:

1 can chick peas, drained
1/4 C tahini
1/4 C olive oil
1/8-1/4 C water

Blend until smooth.

Eat with crackers or sour dough bread. Oh, and have some gum on hand for afterwards; you're gonna need it.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cranberry Oat Breakfast Cookies

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

It's been a long time since I posted my Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies. It's even been a few months since I made them myself. But this morning, I was peanut butter and chocolated out and Savannah was begging for breakfast cookies. I wanted to make these just a tiny bit healthier and I had some cranberries (homemade, but not by me, and sweetened with apple juice) sitting in my pantry calling to me. Or maybe that was one of my children stuck in the pantry and calling to me. It's hard to be sure some days.

We threw in a few white chocolate chips for good measure and ended up with a beautiful, delicious cookie. The cranberries gave a zingy punch that I liked (especially those apple juice sweetened ones). If you don't like zing, well, store-bought cranberries don't have as much, but if even that's too much for you, you could sub in dried figs or dates and have something not quite as lovely, but very delicious nevertheless.

Cranberry Oat Breakfast Cookies
Makes 12 smallish cookies, 9 larger ones
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes
Cost: $1.75 for batch

1/3 C butter, melted (you can get away with 1/4 C, but you'll have to reduce the oats a bit)
1/3 C brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 C oats
1/8-1/4 C white chocolate chips
1/3 C dried cranberries

Combine butter with sugar and mix in egg and vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, and baking soda. Mix that in with the wet ingredients. Add oats (I use quick). The mixtures will be quick thick. Add white chocolate chips and cranberries and mix those in (don't be afraid to use your hand to mash them in if you need to).

Plop dough onto cookie sheet and smash it a bit as it won't spread during baking. Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes depending on how crispy you like your oatmeal cookies (we like ours soft and went the 8 minute route). Note: We made large cookies. If making small ones, you'll want to reduce the baking time a tad.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

New picture--hurray!

These cookies are very good. But that is only the first of their virtues.

They are also terribly easy to make. The ingredient list is 5 long, which made these the ideal cookie for my my daughter, Elizabeth (age 6), to make by herself.

They are gluten free.

But do you know what I like the most about them: they're kind of like peanut butter balls all grown up. Warm, crispy. I can totally pass on the peanut butter balls because they're kid-like to me, but these, they have just that extra bit of sophistication that calls to me (what do you mean, you don't think it's the sophistication calling to me; what do you mean you think it's the granules of sugar popping so nicely between my teeth. Truly, I'm insulted; I don't even know if we can be friends anymore.) Especially when I remind myself how, um, healthy they are (see, ha). Okay, fine, they're not exactly health food; they have a LOT of sugar, but they also contain no fat outside of the peanut butter and all the protein that peanut butter provides. Because of this, I consider these an ideal dessert to feed to hungry kids before bed. No, it's not breakfast food, but it's not as bad as a regular chocolate chip cookie (may it be forever blessed) either.

Unfortunately for me, I can't take credit for these. I found them on Loves Veggies and Yoga. (She has much prettier pictures too. I'll work on that; these were taken in bad light.) And they needed no improvement or alteration. Well, except for one little one, which you might be able to guess if you know me or any living members of my family. And so, a handful of chocolate chips later we were good to go.

And just for kicks, here's the old picture:

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
taken from loves yoga and veggies
Makes 12 big; 18 small
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cost: $1.40
(peanut butter: .90, sugars: .20, egg: .10, chocolate chips: .20)

Note: You can make these chocolate peanut butter cookies by adding 1/2 C cocoa to the mix. This is good, but I like them best just as peanut butter cookies.

1 C peanut butter
3/4 C white sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 C chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together except chocolate chips. Add chocolate chips. Roll into balls (12 large or 18 small).  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. They will be just barely barely golden at the edges. I recommend you take them out at 10 minutes (11 if they're large) whether you see gold or not, because these can burn fairly easily. They won't even look burned, but when you taste them, they will taste burned. I expect that the PB burns more easily without the flour to temper it a bit. Please, be warned and watch the clock, not the cookies (not usually a rule to live by, but trust me).

When you take them out they'll be kind of thick. You can mash them with a spatula if you like which causes the edges to crack a la snickerdoodle and is lovely, or you can leave them as thick delicious mushroom cap cookies. If you make them smaller, they come out flatter. Lovesveggiesandyoga's are flat and really delicious looking. And ours were much flatter when we made them smaller.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Basil Alfredo

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

I love a good pesto sauce. Unfortunately, Kip does not. Oh sure, he'll eat it if it's what winds up on his plate, but he'd much rather eat his noodles with something red or cheesy. Still, I had some pesto and I was itching to use it. The good news for Kip is that I also had some cream. And that when I looked in my refrigerator at that pesto sitting next to that cream, a little idea popped into my head. It was a good idea. A very good idea. Although I'm not really sure how Jenny Craig would feel about it. Let' just not ask her, okay.

If you still feel a little guilty eating something comprised so largely of cream, know this: this recipe accepts lots of vegetables lovingly into its arms. Even vegetables that might normally not be extremely welcome in your abode. We served ours with sauteed yellow squash mixed in. Yellow squash and Kip aren't exactly BFF, but he didn't mind it one little bit mixed in with all that creamy goodness. I threw some tomatoes on mine as well. And today when we eat the leftovers I plan to whip out a chicken breast.

Basil Alfredo
Serves 4
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cost: $3.00
cream: 1.89, Parmesan: 1.00, pesto: who knows, let's say .11 to keep things easy

Note: If you don't have pesto, you can use regular basil. You'll want to chop it as finely as you can. Also, if just using basil, you'll want to add some salt to this recipe. My pesto is already salted and adds enough salt for my needs.

Note on Parmesan: You need shredded or block Parmesan. The powdery kind won't incorporate very well.

2 C cream
1 C shredded Parmesan cheese
dash black pepper
1-4 Tbsp pesto or one handful basil, chopped up as small as you can get it with a good knife

Pour cream in saucepan. Bring it to the simmering point and let it simmer for about 8 minutes. It will thicken and reduce just a bit. Whisk in Parmesan cheese until it's melted (or mostly melted). Add pepper. Add pesto. Start with 1 Tbsp and taste (try not to drink it up, eh). Different people have different tolerances for basil. I settled at about 2 or 2 1/2 Tbsp since I was serving this to Kip.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Basil: A Tip

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Yeah, it's not a glorious picture. The good news is that it's not supposed to be.

See that whacked off basil plant there in the middle; that's what we're going to talk about today.

Yesterday I made a booty load of pesto. I cut off all my basil plants to the tune of 12 C of basil leaves for my pesto. However, when I cut them off--and here's the tip part--I leave a few leaves at the bottom--sometimes even some teeny weeny ones will do. These will grow into another branch. Depending on how much summer/mild fall you've got left, they'll grow back a lot or a little. But the point is that you can have your pesto and eat your basil too. I made a LOT of pesto. And I'll still have enough basil leaves to meet my current basil needs until a frost hits and does the little guys in. On a very good year (i.e. and Indian summer kind of a year, or a year when your basil is ready early), you might even get the little guys to grow up enough to get another batch or few of pesto out of them.

Oh--and if you haven't made pesto before, and if you have a source of cheap basil, you really really should make pesto. It's good; it's easy; it makes you feel special.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Zucchini Latkes

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $6/day.

I was working really hard before our trip to get the refrigerator cleaned out. Maybe that seems like an unpleasant job for some, but once I get started I always think it's kind of fun. It's almost like a puzzle in that you're piecing together different segments of something, only it's more creative than a puzzle because you don't quite know what that something is.

I had a couple fresh zucchini and some really sad looking potatoes that must have been a couple months old. And as I always say, "When life hands you potatoes with inch long eyes growing out all over the place, and most especially if life hands it to you with a needy zucchini, make latkes." Also, if life hands you lemons, (which would be very cliche of life and why would life do that when it can hand you alien-eyed potatoes) you should definitely make that ice cream we talked about yesterday.

Zucchini Latkes
adapted from smittenkitchen
Makes about 8 latkes
Prep time: 10 minutes with food processor
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $1.00
(zucchini: .50, potatoes: .25, flour: .10, egg: .10, other stuff: .05)

1 small zucchini
3-5 medium sized potatoes, peeled or not (I used russets)
1/4 onion (or a good dash onion powder)
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
oil for frying

Put the grater thingy on the food processor. Send the zucchini through. (If the zucchini is seedy, first cut it in halves and scoop out the big seeds.) Then send the potatoes and onion through. As an alternative, you can grate these vegetables with a grater.

Transfer the vegetables to a colander or strainer and press the juices/waters out of them. You can also do this by wrapping all the shredded vegetables in a tea towel and then wring the tea towel out. You'll see how much water comes out of these vegetables. Let the vegetables sit for a few more minutes and then squeeze more juice/water out of them.

Put the vegetables in a bowl and add flour, egg, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir.

Heat oil in a skillet (I used cast iron.) Use enough oil that you've got a millimeter or two on the bottom of your pan. Then, drop a blob of the mixture onto the pan and flatten it with a spoon. (You can shape them into patties beforehand if you wish, but I prefer the texture of the non-shaped latkes. They are less glutinous, though I can't tell you why.) The latkes are going to be about 1/2 inch thick or maybe just the slightest bit thinner. When you drop them into the oil, it should sizzle, but not go berserk.

Cook over medium high heat until the edges get golden (which means the bottoms are nice and golden). Have a peek here or there to be sure they're not burning. Adjust your heat if they're cooking too fast or if they're taking forever. When the bottom is golden, flip them over and cook until the other side is golden too.

Let them drain on a paper towel.

You can serve with sour cream, yogurt, this awesome cheater sauce, or--as you must surely have guessed is our family's favorite--ketchup.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lemon-Lime Gelato--No ice cream maker required

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Have you had enough of virtuous drinks and ugly vegetables?

Good. Because I think there's still just enough summer left to squeeze in more ice cream, don't you?

This treat was inspired by a grapefruit gelato posted on apronstrings. It was the best frozen treat I've had all summer (and I have had, um, a few). I figured it would work with other citrus as well. And boy, did it ever.

In addition to tasting amazing, this ice cream requires no ice cream maker and takes a whopping 7 minutes to whip up (although for purposes of full disclosure, I should mention, it takes 4-8 hours to freeze). Seriously, it's so good, so easy, and all natural. And if you want more virtue in your ice cream, hear this: Before we went away on our trip, we had 1/2 lemon, 1/2 lime, and some cream. So you see, I had to make this ice cream, because otherwise, those things would have gone bad. And we all know that's a sin, right? Amen and amen.

Lemon-Lime Gelato
adapted from apronstrings
Serves 6 (or 4 or 2 or maybe just you because, really, who's counting)
Prep time: 7 minutes
Cost: $2.15
(1/2 lemon: .20, 1/2 lime: .15, cream: 1.50, milk: .10, sugar: .20)

Note: This recipe requires regular whipping cream--as in, not heavy whipping cream. You're shooting for 25-30% milkfat, so it's not too icy and not too much like whipped cream. Here in Evansville we apparently like our creams on the heavy side. The only non-heavy cream I found was still one at 36% milkfat. So for this recipe, I combined 1 1/2 C heavy whipping cream with 1/2 C whole milk (though other milk would probably work too). For the grapefruit version, I used 1 3/4 C of the 36% milkfat cream and 1/4 C whole milk. Both worked well.

1/2 lemon
1/2 lime
1 C sugar
2 C non-heavy whipping cream (see note above)

Juice the lemon and lime. You should end up with about 1/4 C juice. Then zest the lemon and lime.

Pour cream, sugar, juices, and zests into into an 8x8 inch pan. Mix it up. I used a flat whisk and mixed it till the sugar was incorporated enough that it didn't sit in a big lump on the bottom. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and freeze for 8 hours. (If you'd like this ice cream faster than that--and who wouldn't--put it in a larger pan so it's spread thinner.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

One might assume from the last several posts--all of which have consisted of perfectly righteous beverages--that I have spent the last week sitting around sipping vegetable/fruit based drinks and watching my waistline decline. Let us preserve that illusion for just one more day.

Because when you come off of a trip, you sometimes need a little detox. For this I have a children's movie and a children's cookbook to thank. 

Anybody else remember that line from the movie, "Ratatouille" where the chef kid decides to feed the mean reviewer guy ratatouille and his French sort-of-girlfriend-chick says, "But it ees peasant food." 

Well, I'm not French (as so aptly demonstrated by that dialogue above) and I don't really know why it was considered peasant food, but as a gardener, I have a decent guess: ugly vegetables. 

When we left Evansville it was hot and dry and we spent a good bit of conversation worrying that everything in the garden would die in our absence. We returned 6 days later to cool air and wet dirt,  as though the seasons had shifted just like that. Leaving us with lungfulls of delicious fall. And we all know what fall means, right? No no no. Not Halloween or leaf piles or hayrides or football. Fall means, of course, ugly vegetables. By which I do not mean those funky gourds a few over-zealous decorators are beginning to set outside their doors. Fall means that those buxom fruits of summer are starting to come off the vine at a much slower pace and that when they do they're often stinted or misshapen. So you wind up with a teeny eggplant and a reddish-green bell pepper and some tomatoes that the bugs have taken a bite out of. You can't exactly serve these offerings to the queen of Sheba. But you can chop them up and throw them in a skillet with onions, garlic, and olive oil. And you can have a perfectly delicious, healthy meal. Especially if you happen to have picked up a children's cookbook from the children's section of the library where you, frankly, sometimes get stuck. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

adapted from Passport on a Plate
Serves 4-8
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cost: I don't know; I haven't bought my vegetables. I'm going to guess $2.00

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt (I scaled this down just a bit)
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

In large skillet, heat olive oil. Add eggplant, onion, pepper, and zucchini. Cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add garlic and cook a minute or two more. Add tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add basil. And if you're me, a splash of grated sharp Cheddar (come on, I think the French would approve). 

Also, if you taste it and find it needs a little something something, add some pepper and a pinch of chicken bullion granules.  

I ate this warm with sourdough bread. I imagine it would be a great pizza topping or that you could add a cup of broth and make a soup out of it. Also, it freezes well. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Avocado Green Drink

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.


Motto: Looks like swamp sludge, tastes like yum.

My sister has a vitamix blender (swoon). She made us these the other day and they looked, um, really gross, but they tasted so good you will not believe.

And while we talk of things you won't believe--avocado in your green drink is wonderful--creamy and rich. Try it; you'll see. 

Avocado Green Drink
Serves 2-4
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cost: $1.75
(kale: .30, strawberries: .40, avocado: .50, apple juice: .40, banana: .15)

3-4 large kale leaves (with a good blender you can leave the ribs in; with a normal blender, cut the big middle ones out)
1 1/2 C frozen strawberries
1/2 avocado
1 RIPE banana (not rotten, but not green--lots of brown spots=good)
2 1/2 C apple juice (this is a bit much and if you are used to ugly green brown drinks, you can use some water for some or all of the apple juice, but we went the low road and had ours apple juice sweet)

Blend in blender. Consume. With eyes close if necessary. You won't regret it.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Cantaloupe Smoothie

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats well on less than $10/day.

Cantaloupe are tricky fruits. They have a short shelf life. It's easy to get a less than great one. And then, well, you've got so much of it. Sure, it's still good for you and low-calorie and all that, but wouldn't it be nice if it tasted great too.

Cue the almond milk and a nice ripe banana.

Why did I have almond milk (Aldi sells it; who knew) on hand? Because of some experimentation with cold summer oatmeal (but more on that later). And after my oatmeal experimentation, I had plenty of almond milk left. Abundance of almond milk meet abundance of mediocre cantaloupe. Ah, symbiosis.

I froze my cantaloupe. To do so, I cut it into inch-size pieces and put it on parchment paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer for several hours. Then I threw the cubes of cantaloupe in a freezer bag. You'll want the parchment paper; otherwise it will stick to your pan and you'll wind up hacking away at it with a metal spatula and ruining your pan and a' cussin' away; or a' bitin' your lip and wishing you could cuss away. So, yes, parchment paper.

My first round of smoothie was made with just frozen cantaloupe and almond milk. It was a bit icy. I liked it well enough, but the peanut gallery wanted something smoother. Enter the ripe banana. There's nothing better than a nice ripe banana to smooth things out. I was worried it would taste like all banana, but it didn't.

Would regular milk work instead of almond? I believe it would, though you might need to sweeten it just a tinge with a teaspoon or a few of sugar, but taste it first because that banana sweetness goes a long way.

Oh, and today when I made another batch, I may or may not have thrown in a few tablespoons of whipped cream (I had to; it would have gone bad on our trip). I didn't mind that one little bit, no I didn't.

Cantaloupe Smoothie
Serves 2-4, depending how piggy you are
Prep time: 3 minutes (after your cantaloupe is frozen)
Cost: $1.85
(cantaloupe: 1.00, almond milk: .70, banana: .15)

2 C frozen cantaloupe
2 C almond milk
1 ripe banana

Puree together till smooth. If your cantaloupe is really a super dud, you may want to add a tablespoon of sugar.



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