Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lemon Buttercream Frosting and an Orange Cake to Put it On

Call me old fashioned, but I really believe that a buttercream frosting should contain the elements butter and cream. Often these days they're made with shortening and, well, shortening. Blah.

Saturday was a birthday party for one of my dearest friends. The cake needed to fit the occasion. What do you give to one of your dearest friends on her special day? You give her orange cake with lemon buttercream frosting and raspberry sauce. (True, the sauce is missing from these pic's. I only put it on just before.) It was really really delicious. I hope she felt the same way. I, myself, checked tact and self-control at the front door and went back for a second piece. 

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
frosts 1 bundt cake
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cost: $2.10
butter: .50, cream: .50, powdered sugar: .80, lemon: .30

6-8 Tbsp butter
4-8 Tbsp cream
1 lb powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced (you'll use the zest and 1-2 Tbsp juice)

Melt butter. Add powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and beat. Add cream, starting with 4 Tbsp and adding more as needed (if it's still too thick add more cream or 1-2 Tbsp milk). Beat. It'll get nice and fluffy.

Then, if we wish to make something as divine as a best friend's birthday, make this cake in bundt form. Let it cool, frost it, and add this raspberry sauce (I halved the recipe and drizzled it on top--and, yes, it's called 'filling' in its original post, but totally drizzle-able). One of the best cakes I've ever made. Which is saying something since this is usually a chocolate cake house.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Refrigerator Oatmeal with Chia Seeds and Maple

(Look, it matches my countertops.)

Cold oatmeal. Who ever would have thought that that would have become a thing? Of course, to be fair, cold oatmeal of the cooked and cooled variety is a completely different beast that refrigerator oatmeal--oatmeal that is soaked in milk, yogurt, or a combination thereof, left overnight and then eaten the next day

Still, when I first heard of this last summer, the thought of it was just weird. One of my friends was telling me about their Swiss (I believe) friends who would eat oatmeal this way all the time. Well, not to be outdone by the Swiss, I went home and poured some milk in oatmeal, let it sit overnight, and tried it the next morning with a raspberry sauce. With every spoonful, strings of snot-like starchy substance hung from my spoon. When the raspberry sauce mixed with it, it looked even more repulsive. I could barely choke it down. 

Lucky for me, about that time recipes for refrigerator oatmeal started popping up all over the place online. Everyone was doing it. Everyone was raving about it. You could even make a week's worth and have all your breakfasts ready and waiting each morning. Now try that with hot oats. 

But it took me a while to hop on the bandwagon. I wasn't sure what I'd done wrong the first time, but I wasn't eating snotmeal again. It could have been the quick oats, or the type of oats (some people say generic kinds are starchier, though I don't think I agree), too much or too little milk. I didn't know. My friend suggested trying it with yogurt. And I did. And I'm glad I did. Because there was no snot. Since that time, I have found that even if I do part milk, part yogurt, I have success. And the thing is that it wasn't just like it was better now because it wasn't slimy. It was beyond better. It was creamy, fluffy, perfectly textured oatmeal. It was delicious. 

At first, I was still flavoring my oatmeal in much the same way I would hot oatmeal--with brown sugar and raisins. That was good and all, but I've come to realize that one of the fun things about refrigerator oatmeal is that it can be made with all kinds of fun add-ins and that this, too, can be done the night before

When I went to my sister's house over Thanksgiving, I found a combo I really really adored--oatmeal with chia seeds and maple syrup (the real stuff, but you only need just a bit). This was my first experience with chia seeds. I was, after all, raised at the height of chia pet commercialization. Who knew that one day the seeds that sprouted on your little chia pig would be the next hot super food? 

Vegans have known about chia seeds longer than the rest of us because, when combined with water, they form a gelatinous substance that can be substituted for eggs in baking. They're also noteworthy (for vegans and the rest of us) because they're super high in omega-3's (yet, unlike flax seed, don't have to be crushed or ground to access it) and because they can fill you up and are good for digestion (if you drink enough water, which you should). If you want to read a great article on the health benefits of chia seeds, check it out HERE

You can generally find them in health stores. They're going to be the cheapest if you buy them from bulk bins. You can buy them off of Amazon if your town doesn't sell them. You can also find them in different colors, but all are purported to have the same health benefits. 

Here's to a healthy, delicious breakfast that can be made for the week in 5 minutes or less. 

Refrigerator Oatmeal with Chia Seeds and Maple
Serves 1 (but can be multiplied)
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cost: $.30
oats: .02, milk: .03, yogurt: .10, chia seeds: .10, maple syrup: .05

1/4 C oatmeal (regular oats are best, but quick will work too)
1/4 C milk
1/4 C plain yogurt (Greek or regular)
1 1/2 tsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp real maple syrup (or honey)--I use a fairly low grade, but it is the real stuff

Combine all ingredients. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Put in fridge overnight or longer. Eat. 

Note: You can mix up a big batch, put individual size servings in Tupperware or small mason jars and then you have a quick, transportable breakfast for each day of the week.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Crock Pot Creamy Chicken and Ranch Chili

This is what I like to think of as a true crock pot recipe--meaning that you take a bunch of things, dump them into a crock pot, and turn it on. It takes 5 minutes. I realize that there are other crock pot recipes where you cook things first or prepare things first and then leave it to slow cook in the crock pot. It's not that I hate these recipes. I even have one or two on this site. But for me the 5-minute crock pot recipe is what really made crock pot cooking great. It's what most of us think of when we think of crock pot cooking. Of course, it's partly also what's given crock pot cooking a bad name because often what you're dumping is a few cans of cream of whatever soup or maybe one of those packets of dried onion soup. Yeah--you know the recipes. They're not evil incarnate or anything, but they remind us of our grandmothers' cooking (for better or for worse). And yet. The new, young, trendy crockpot cooking often involves 15 steps and 25 minutes (or more) before anything actually makes it into the crock pot.

This recipe combines the best of all worlds--no cream of anything soup (and it can be made pretty whole-foodsy if you wish), but it's a five-minute time commitment.

This is also a chili for people who don't like chili. That's helpful in this house. It's creamy, chickeny, and the white beans are more mild tasting and less offensive to bean-haters than kidney, pinto, or black beans. Kip really liked it.

It's also delicious--possibly my new favorite chili.

Crock Pot Creamy Chicken and Ranch Chili
adapted from Rita's Recipes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 6-8 hours
Cost: $5.50 for 6-8 servings
chicken: 1.50, tomatoes: 1.00, beans: .50, corn: .50, ranch powder: .50-1.00, cream cheese: 1.00

2 small breasts chicken (they can totally be frozen)
1 small can Rotel (or just a 15 oz can of diced tomatoes would work with juice)
1 15-oz can corn (with liquid)
1 15-oz can Great Northern white beans (drained and rinsed)
1 package Ranch dressing (or 3 Tbsp ranch powder or a homemade recipe like this one--just use the dry ingredients)
1 Tbsp cumin
1/4-1 tsp chili powder (we used 1/2 and that was plenty of heat for us)
1 tsp onion powder
1 8-oz package of cream cheese

Throw it all in the crock pot and cook on high for 6-8 hours. [Note: My crock pot is an older model (probably 11 years old) and my 'high' setting is not as high as many newer crock pots. If yours cooks hot, you might want to set it to low.]

This would be great served over rice or farrow, but we just ate it as a chili with cornbread.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fruit, Spinach, and Yogurt Smoothie

There is much to love on Pinterest. But today I'm going to tell you about one thing I do NOT love: those bogus posts that a) do not link to any kind of real page, b) do not look in the least like the actual thing you make--as if they took a stock photo (yeah, they probably did) and posted it for whatever lame/lousy recipe they made, and c) do not in any way, shape, or form actually work.

Let's take that hair straightening tonic I made last week for example. It called for 2 Tbsp brown sugar and 1 C warm water. Shake together, spray on hair, comb through, and--boom--straightened, shiny, supermodel hair. I like to consider myself a thinking woman. I should have realized that brown sugar + water equals stickiness (do I or do I not have 4 young children?). And, yet, there on the pin was a picture of a girl with the most beautiful, shiny, straight hair ever. How could I not believe? After the surface of my bathroom was entirely covered in a thin layer of sticky (from spraying my long, thick hair with sugar water), after my hair was not straight and distinctly crunchy, and after I felt like I needed a another bath from the sticky mist wafting down to my arms and everywhere else, I realized that some posts on Pinterest aren't really posts at all. What they are exactly, I'm not sure. I would call them advertisements because they do everything an advertisement does--give you an unrealistic picture of a subpar item or idea. But there's nothing for sale so I don't understand what is to be gained by posting bad advice with gorgeous picture. Anyone get it?

Okay, okay, so why the rant? Because I planned to make a greenest of green green smoothie. I even wanted to call it that. To look at the deep green elixir on Pinterest that seemed like it must have been formed from the rivers and greens of the garden of Eden itself, I was a little surprised at the light greenish, (kind of sort of almost brownish), speckled with pink drink (doesn't make for the best post title, does it) that I wound up with. It just didn't seem quite as virtuous as the lovely shot o' green pictured here (which, incidentally, also has no real post to go to--hmmm). But I drank it anyway. Almost all of it, as a matter of fact. And it was very very good (just like the garden of Eden after all). And then I realized that for breakfast I'd already consumed 1 apple, 1 banana, 1/2 C strawberries, 1 C plain yogurt, 1 C spinach, and half an orange. Welcome 5 fruits and vegetables and one healthy dairy into my January system. And thank you.

So although you don't get a Greenest of Green Green Smoothie, I present to you the Light Greenish (maybe a little brown on the color spectrum) with Specks of Pink Smoothie. Bottoms up.

Fruit, Spinach, and Yogurt Smoothie
adapted from random post-less pin on Pinterest so go ahead, pin this instead
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $1.55 for about 3-4 C
apple: .50, banana: .15, yogurt: .40, strawberries: .40, orange: .10

1 generous C spinach (mine was actually a combo spinach, baby bok choy, and baby chard because I'm an  amazing human being--or maybe because I stumbled upon such a big bag of greens at Walmart last week by accident)
1 apple (I used a very sweet pink lady--pink lady I love you)
1 banana (mine was frozen, but doesn't have to be)
5 strawberries (frozen)
1 C yogurt (I used full fat)
1/2 orange (I sliced the rest and fed it to the minions)
1/2 C water (maybe in a high-end blender you can skip, but mine wouldn't blend without this)

Blend. If you've got a mediocre blender like me what you want to do is pulse it a few times and then start blending on a low-ish setting until it's getting chopped up/mixed. Then up it to a higher setting so that it actually smoothie-i-fies and you don't feel like you're drinking fruit salsa (not that there's anything wrong with that).


Monday, January 21, 2013

Hot Pink Smoothie

This is the most beautiful smoothie you'll ever make. It's also one of the most unusual. It's also one of the most well-rounded (protein, fruit, veggies). It's vegan if you skip the honey.

If you hate beets, you WILL NOT like it. I'm sorry and I wish it wasn't so. But the beety undertones are inescapable, even if you add a bunch of sugar to it like I did for my kids. So if you don't like beets, you might want to omit them and go for a Light Pink Smoothie instead. That said, if you are going to eat raw beets, I can't think of any other or better way to do it than this smoothie. Also, as just one more note on taste: The first sip is kind of like, "Whoa, earthy/beety." But the more you drink, the less striking/shocking that flavor is. So, unless you really hate beets, it might be worth giving a try. Just give it more than one sip of a chance.

Having a fancy (Vitamix or Blendtec) blender would be nice for this. I don't and even my mediocre blender could turn out a decent smoothie, but without the very high-end blender you will still have a few small chunks here and there and will never achieve silky smooth nirvana. That said, I will give some tips for how to make this as very smooth as possible in a mediocre blender.

The other comment about this is that it's not cheap. The Thai (young) coconut cost me $2 at the Asian store, dates are pricey, and cashews are pricey. It's somewhat balanced out by the uber cheap beets and carrots, but not entirely.

I've wanted to try this recipe for a long time. Green Smoothie Girl created it and talks about it though she never gives the recipe, hoping instead that one will buy her book (who can blame her). But even Green Smoothie Girl cannot escape Pinterest and that's where I found this.

Hot Pink Smoothie
Makes 2-6 servings (2 large--full glass, 4 "normal", and 6 small)
adapted from The Royal Cook
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cost: $2.55 (still only about $.60/serving. You can't even get a soda for that at McDonald's)
beet: .15, carrot: .10, cashews: .40, dates: .40, strawberries: 1.50

A note on Thai coconut: First of all, it is also known as "young" coconut because (shocker) it is actually an underripe coconut--it hasn't developed that tough brown cover we associate with coconuts. Usually you will find them with the outside (which is green) shaved off and it will look white and naked like this. You can also visit that link for tips on how to get it open. I, being ignorant, didn't visit any sites about how to get it open and just took a (sharp) knife and cut the bottom (not the top, like everyone recommends) off and then, whoosh, stuff started leaking out, so I held it over my blender and voila. Ignorance is bliss right. After you've cut the bottom off or whatever method you choose to get it open and gotten the liquid out, stick a spoon in it and scoop out the soft, gelatinous flesh (it doesn't look like something you'd love to eat, but trust me, it's good). If your milk or flesh smells rotten, it is. Don't eat it. You want to look for a coconut that is firm and doesn't have any moldy or soft spots on the outside. Another tip is to shake your coconut. The coconut water shouldn't slosh around. If it does, there is a leak in the coconut and this is allowing bacteria into your coconut (not to mention the fact that you're getting less bang for your buck, people). The flesh can be white, but mine was light pinkish-purple. Some say that that means it's got bacteria in it, but (again--blissful ignorance) I ate it and it was fine. It also smelled perfectly good and coconut-y.

1 Thai (otherwise known as "young") coconut
1/2 beet, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/4 C raw cashews
1/4 C dates, pitted
1 1/2 C frozen strawberries
1-2 Tbsp honey (optional, but I liked it better this way)

Instructions for making this in a mediocre blender:

Open your coconut using my expert (not really) instructions above. Pour the liquid into your blender and then scoop out the gelatinous flesh and add that. Blend this.

Add beet and carrot and blend. Add dates and blend. Add cashews and blend. The idea being that you want to get one thing fairly well blended before you go adding other things and overloading your sadly mediocre blender. When this stuff is all blended to the best of your blender's abilities, add the strawberries. Pulse and blend. The smoothie should get thicker and smoother. It should be the consistency of a very melty milkshake. If it's too runny (as in looks like just a juice), then your coconut may have had a generous amount of "milk." Add some more strawberries and blend.

Add honey if you like (or sugar or agave or whatever it is you use as a sweetener).


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Winter Fruit Dip

Today one of my friends had a baby shower. I really really wanted to bring a nice wintery fruit tray. I looked online and found several fruit trays labeled as "winter" which contained berries and melons. This irritated me. Just like it irritates me to go a restaurant in the winter and order a "seasonal vegetable medley" and get zucchini and yellow squash.

Unless you live in, say, Florida, I'm sure you can see the problem with a winter fruit tray as--if we were going to do it true North American style--it would contain cranberries and perhaps some old apples you've been keeping in the cellar. Yum. Even if you're willing to push the definition of winter fruit and call upon our Californian/Floridian neighbors for a little help, you're going to wind up with orange slices, apples (going to brown), pears (going to brown), and maybe a pineapple or some pomegranate seeds. You could also use dry fruit and nuts, which I did think was a nice idea--especially mingled in a tray with real fruit--but it can also be a very expensive idea.

So I settled on an average-ish fruit tray.

But I did find a great dip. It's tasty, simple, and sort of healthyish.

Even if you already have your favorite fruit dip, you can "winterize" it by grating in a bit of orange rind. It's pretty and adds a nice flavor and gives it that wintery something special. (Garnish it with a few pomegranate seeds if you really want to be belle of the ball, but I was running late, which must be why I am never ever the belle of the ball.)

Winter Fruit Dip
Makes about 3 C
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $2.00
yogurt: 1.10, whipped cream: .60, sugar: .15, orange for rind: .15)

2 C yogurt (I used whole fat. Greek would be best, but normal worked too)
1 C whipped cream (this can be homemade or Cool Whip if you want to cheat--I did homemade)
1/2 C powdered sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp grated orange rind

Mix it all together. I cut out half a pineapple and served it in that, which was kind of fun, and easy enough for those of us with cuteness impairments. Add a few more grates of orange to the top if you've got the time for garnish.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Five Small Changes that Can Save You Hundreds Each Year

You know those articles Yahoo occasionally posts about changes you can make to save you money (you could save thousands every month if you fire your housekeeper!!! You don't say...). Yeah, I hate those. They're changes for rich people. Here are a few to try if you are a little less than rich, but still looking to save some money. I should tell you that these ideas are fairly easy and that I tried to make even trades. However. However, there is going to have to be some change made if you'd like to save a little money. Some of these require a small bit of extra effort or time. Some require a small sacrifice or the changing of habits. Some require the threatening of children. I've tried to keep things reasonable, but I recognize that we all have limits. My mom used to wash out her generic Ziploc bags. That's my limit. I just don't do it. Below are some things I usually do do (though I still give myself permission to splurge or slide sometimes).

1. Do not buy individually packaged things. From GoGurt to GoGo Squeez apple sauces to Cup o' Soup, it's going to save you a lot of cash to do your own packaging. Let's take yogurt for example. If I splurge on an Aldi GoGurt-style yogurt, I get 8 two-oz servings for $1.99  or $.25/piece. Yes, it is convenient for my kids' lunches. But if I get a 32 oz. carton of yogurt from Aldi, it is also $1.99 (often; it varies a bit) and I have gotten twice as much. If I get one yogurt item each week, I could save $8/month. Or $96/year. From switching up just one item. Do that with all the packaged foods in your family's lunches and this could add up.

2. Eat oatmeal instead of cereal. For a box of Aldi cereal, I pay $1.99 for 15 servings. For 30 servings of oatmeal, I pay $1.99. Even when accounting for an addition of brown sugar ($1 for 30 servings and we are pretty generous), the oatmeal costs about $1.50. But the real kicker is that my kids inevitably eat at least 2 servings of cereal every morning (and sometimes even more than that), but usually one (or even 1/2) serving of oatmeal fills them up. So you're looking at a food that in reality ends up costing about half as much. Yes, we eat cereal too sometimes. Yes, it's convenient and easier for my kids to get for themselves. But this is a blog about saving money and eating good food, and making oatmeal is actually only going to cost you 5 extra minutes each morning. If you eat  4 boxes of cereal/week, you'll save $4/week by switching to oatmeal or $16/month or $200/year. Even if you only change it out half the time, you'll save $100.

2 1/2. Even if you are dead set against changing your cereal habit, make your kids drink their cereal milk or pour less milk into their bowls. Recently, I measured out the amount of milk my son had left in his bowl after he was done with breakfast (a whopping bowl of cereal as usual). It was a generous cup. That's $.10-.15 every day if you eat cereal every day. If all my kids did that (they don't; Mark's the main perpetrator), we'd be spending an extra $.40-.60/day or $3.50/week ($14/month; $180/year). Just down the drain. I saved my son's milk, showed it to him and told him that he was going to pay me $.15 every morning he left that much milk. We came to an understanding. Ah--understanding.

3. Cut junk food in half. Literally. My mom used to divide the packages of Little Debbies in half in our lunches--I got one; my sister got one. We never got a full package of 2 Little Debbies. I know, it's pretty much child abuse. And, yes, a little part of me always yearned for that full package like my friends. But, really, not all that awfully much--I didn't even need counseling later in life. Truth be told, I was fine with my treat. I even learned to eat it slowly (nibble of the ends of the Swiss roll, then roll it out and lick off the "cream," then eat the cake part. Still a fond memory after all, even though I bet those Swiss rolls would make me gag these days--maybe. Now I'm having an urge to go out and buy some.) Also, I was a skinny kid who grew into a thin adult. I can't complain about that. So thanks Mom. And the fact is that most of us wouldn't be hurting too much from cutting most of our treats in half and saving the other half for another time. Using our Little Debbie example, you'll save about $1/week or $50/year per kid (an estimate--I remember Little Debbies from childhood only; I've never bought them as an adult; except that now I have to go buy some Swiss rolls). It's not a super ton of savings, but this is just the savings from one treat and it's money saved off of food that we could all benefit from eating less of. (So, go ahead and figure some health care savings into that mix too.)

4. Cut out soda or juices (or coffee or booze or cigarettes--please, you'll be loaded by the end of the year). Who even needs them (I said need, people)? If you do want to splurge, try the 2 liter bottles of soda or the 1/2 gallon jugs of juice or even cheapter the frozen concentrate juices. Occasionally, my kids beg for juice in their lunches. Occasionally I give in. But I pour a couple ounces into their water bottles instead of buying the juice boxes (usually--I even splurge there occasionally). The kids don't seem to care and their friends don't seem to either. I realize that sometimes it's the box (aka some kind of social status thing) to bring a box of juice and if it is you'll have to decide what to do about that. But if it's really just the drink your kids are wanting, you can save some money by skipping the packaging. And of course you'll save more money by just sending them water (and the cycle of abuse continues to my kids--wow--thanks a lot Mom). If you give your kids water (yup, I take it from the tap) instead of juice boxes you'll save $1.25 per week per kid. That's $5/month/kid. Or $60/year/kid. What if you just gave that money to them at the end of the year instead? I bet they'd like it better. What about your drinking habits? Let's say you drink 7 sodas a week at $.50/pop (this strikes me as moderate soda drinkage among soda drinkers btw). You've saved $3.50/week or $14/month or $180/year. Would you rather someone just gave that to you at the end of the year? It's a question worth asking. If you drink a glass of wine each night instead of a soda, then that cost has multiplied by at least 10 (that's $1800/year--would you like to have that?). Please don't write me nasty emails about how I'm trying to take away your favorite, most relaxing habits. This is just here for you to think about.

5. Leftovers. If you eat leftovers for one night a week instead of throwing them out and you do this for every week of the year, and if you normally spend $5-10 for your family's dinner (a modest estimate), you could save $20-40/week or $240-480/year.


6. Develop a habit of making your own "bagged" salad or whatever it is at the beginning of the week. Eat it throughout the week. Yes, it's a small lifestyle shift, but if you were thinking this post was going to be about how to save money without doing or changing anything, well, I'm sorry because it's not. So whatever food it is that you want to have on hand every day and you find yourself buying so you'll just eat it, make a batch at the beginning of the week. This could be salads, soups, prepared breakfasts, or even smoothies. The internet is full of ideas for salads in jars and overnight oatmeal, so if you want to do this, you totally can. And in style too. Let's use a salad as an example. At Walmart, a head of lettuce will cost about $1.20. A bagged salad (which is really just lettuce) about $2.50. So every week you'll save $1.30. Every month $5.20. Every year $60.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

After a break for December, it's time for another Secret Recipe Club post. I've spent the last 2 weeks sick and this is a nice way for me to get back on the horse.

This month I had the blog No Reason Needed. It wasn't hard for me to choose which recipe I wanted either.  She had a recipe for Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. I've had this on my 'learn to' list for, quite literally, years.

Why, you may ask? Why the hesitation. Well....and now it's time for my confession--I've never actually eaten them from scratch. I've always only made them from a box or--even worse--bought them package-wrapped from a store. And that I haven't done for years. It started seeming, well, kind of unwholesome and all, and at least half of my family does not like poppyseeds (you'll remember that they have issues with texture of any kind, right. Telling them that poppyseeds felt like sprinkles in your teeth didn't help either). So I didn't want to wind up with a whole batch of sugar-laden muffins that I'd wind up eating myself.

Looking at No Reason Needed's post, I hesitated again, although for the exact opposite reasons. Half whole wheat, limited sugar, limited fat. Would I even like them? Was I in for a big disappointment?

Heck no. These were great. Moist, flavorful, and they had the texture of those delightful popping poppyseeds. Ah, texture how I miss you when trying to cook for my picky family. They were (as No Reason Needed noted in her post) not intensely lemony. I think that if you had some lemon extract, 1/2-1 tsp of that wouldn't hurt if you wanted a more lemony muffin.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
adapted from No Reason Needed
Makes 12 muffins
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $.1.50 or about $.12/muffin
whole wheat flour: .20, flour: .10, sugar: .07, poppy seeds: .05, lemon: .50, yogurt: .45, egg: .10, other stuff: .03

Note: The original recipe called for 8 oz lemon yogurt. I only had plain yogurt, so I subbed in more lemon juice and a bit more sugar to compensate. If you happen to have lemon yogurt on hand you can use it and reduce your sugar to 1/3 C and reduce your lemon juice to 2 Tbsp. If lemon yogurt is hard to find, just follow the recipe below.

1 C all-purpose flour
1 C whole wheat pastry flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp grated lemon rind
3 Tbsp lemon juice
8 oz plain yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine flours, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, combine oil, lemon rind, lemon juice, yogurt and egg. Mix that all together.

Add wet to dry and mix until just incorporated.

Pour into muffins liners and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Best Chocolate Cakes

One of my little ones had a birthday today. Which always gets me thinking about cake. Over the course of my marriage I have made quite literally dozens of chocolate cakes in search of the perfect one--moist, chocolatey, not a brick, but dense enough to not fall apart all over itself. Sometimes I've made several in a weekend--in the name of science and good food of course. This search was at times frustrating--nothing worse than yet another birthday with a dry, crumbly chocolate cake. But in the end it paid off. I have several chocolate cakes that are worth getting to know--a chocolate cake for every occasion really. Plus--they're hard to mess up. Let me save you the search.

1. Best Layer Cake (my favorite chocolate cake ever)

2. A close second layer cake that is somewhat more devil's food-esque in appearance and texture:

3. Best 9x13 (also cheapest and easiest cake out there--you stir it in the pan)

4. Best Texas sheet cake. Pioneer woman wins this one. Do be sure those tablespoons of cocoa are heaping. Heaping.

5. Best chocolate flourless cake. (Plus another that's really good and almost virtuous.)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ways to Use Home Remedy Raw Garlic That Won't Make You Hurl

Because that's totally what you need, right???

When I was sick--7 painful, dreary days of fevery-boogery-flu-coughy-ickiness and then a few more to rest and recover (still in the recovery stage, but so much better)--I tried some natural remedies. The one that I found the most effective was raw garlic. It's a natural antibiotic and I do feel it kept me from getting a nasty sinus infection along with all the other nasties I was already enjoying. I ate about 3 cloves, chopped and mixed with butter on toast. It helped my aching sinuses and it wasn't too bad. I was totally stuffed up, so I couldn't taste much anyway. And I couldn't smell myself afterwards, so that was a total plus. But by day three of my garlic toast regimen, the garlic was getting to me--it started to burn my mouth when I chewed (not something I noticed the first time) and, frankly, it was getting to be all I smelled (which made sense since I couldn't smell anything but the strongest of scents). I ended up asking Kip to buy me some garlic tablets (awesome) and NyQuil (should have been purchased on day 1, people; should have been purchased on day 1), so I could at least knock myself out and forget about my misery for a while. Both were good decisions and ones I wish I'd made earlier on in my sickness.

However, I couldn't help but thinking that if you had a milder illness--a cold or something that was threatening, but not quite on yet. Or wanted to use more raw garlic in a cold/flu preventative manner (don't know if it works, but this is the season to give it a try), there had to be a better way than munching your way through several cloves of raw garlic. Below, you'll find three recipes that would have been a more pleasant way to get my garlic on.

Public Service Announcement: When trying any of these extra garlicky versions/home remedies, get to know your toothbrush and maybe your Listerine too.

1. Hummus. In normal life I like my hummus with just a whiff of garlic. However, it would be super easy when you're sick or on the brink of sick to add several extra cloves to your hummus. This is especially true if you're already stuffy and can't taste mild things anyway. You probably don't have the energy to up and make hummus (even though in normal life it's easy peasy), but maybe your husband will do it for you. Or maybe he'll buy you some hummus and you can add the extra garlic to the store bought stuff.

2. Smoked Paprika Dip. This is good on home fries or baked potatoes or any meat. Normally, you just use one clove of garlic, but it'd be easy to throw several more cloves in and bake yourself a potato. I ate several baked potatoes in the coarse of my sickness because I had no energy, but needed some food and could just throw them in the microwave (no, not the best potatoes, but 'best' wasn't what I was going for at that point).

3. Pasta sauce. You're going for raw garlic here, so you're going to make the sauce first and then puree (or mince) some raw garlic into it at the end.

4. Soup. Whatever kind. Just mince some extra garlic, add it to your cooked soup, and slurp it on down.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Home Remedies for Cold and Flu

So you may have noticed I've been off this blog scene for a week now. I'd like to say that the reason is that I've been holidaying my heart out, but unfortunately it's because I have had a nasty cold/flu thing for the last 6 days. The first 3 days were rough, but kind of sweet. I rested and read, the kids made me cards and (kind of) took care of each other. Day 4 everyone was feeling ready for Mom to be back on her feet. Day 5 was frustrating because not only was I not better, but my sinuses and jaw were starting to hurt and I feared that instead of getting better, I was going to start getting worse with an infection.

Soooo...I decided to try about 100 home remedies (okay, maybe 9 or 10). Last night I still went to bed feeling extra miserable and cursing the internet homeopaths and swearing that I was calling the doctor in the morning. And then. This morning I woke up, not feeling like what you would quite call a lark, but not feeling like a walking corpse either. I still had plenty of boogery goop, but the throbbing sinuses and jaw were gone and my fever, if not gone, is lower grade.

I am actually a big believer in home remedies when you are on the verge of getting sick, but after you are full-blown ill I think they get a little sketchier.

The other thing about home remedies--especially if you go all non-scientific and try more than one at once--is that you never really know if they're actually working or if it's something else you did or if it's just the body recovering on its own. Neverthless, I went to bed feeling like death and I woke up feeling only like someone with a bad cold. It's a big difference. Take it or leave it, but here's what I tried (in order of my belief about how effective it was):

1. Raw garlic. Let me be honest here. This is the one thing that I think actually worked. The others soothed and felt good, but I don't think they actually made a change in my health. Raw garlic is a natural antibiotic. What this means is that the next time your child gets a cut, you should smear some on that cut. Ha ha. Do not do that. Because raw garlic also burns like the sun on an August beach. The internet is powdered with tons of advice and conflicting opinion on garlic. You can eat it raw or take pills which supposedly retain the allicin (the antibacterial thing within the raw garlic). You can't cook it to get the benefit; that is agreed upon. And most agree that it's best to crush it and let it sit for a few minutes as that releases the allicin. However, opinions differ about whether or not garlic will wipe out the good bacteria in your gut with the bad or not, so you might want to use a probiotic while using the garlic. The internet is also full of suggestions about how to eat your garlic. Some say to pop a clove in and chew it up. I wasn't woman enough for that. Some say to juice it (seriously? these are the real homeopaths of the world). A friend said to chop up a clove, swallow without chewing, and then chase it with a glass of water. I thought I could probably handle that. Another friend said that she chopped a bunch of cloves and ate it with butter on bread. I, being extremely wimpy and wanting to get more than a clove into my gullet, decided to go with that method. It was actually kind of pleasant. When your nose is all stuffed up, you can barely even taste all that garlic. I toasted my bread, melted my butter, and chopped my garlic, then mixed it in with the melted butter, so the garlic wasn't cooked, but everything else was normal. I also did a little experiment of my own [grossness alert]: I had wondered what would happen if you were, say, to stick a clove up your nose and leave it there for a bit, so when my hands were garlic-juicy from chopping, I tentatively stuck a finger up to see how it would feel. It did not feel good. First of all, it burned like the dickens. Secondly, it set me off sneezing--7 or 8 times--more than I've ever consecutively sneezed in my life.

2. Warm tomato juice with lemon, chili powder, and raw garlic. I actually really loved this. It's another way to get a bit of raw garlic into your diet. It's also a way to get in some veggies when you might not feel like pulling out the salad fixings, and the salty tomato juice is just the thing for a sad throatAlso, it cleared my sinuses a bit1 C tomato juice, a couple dashes chili powder, 2 tsp lemon juice, and 1 garlic clove chopped. Warm the tomato juice, lemon juice, and chili powder in a mug. When it's warm, but at a drinkable temperature, add the garlic. Bottoms up. If you hate tomato juice, you'll probably hate this, but if you like tomato juice, this will be the funnest remedy you've got. Also, you're going to get some chunks of garlic there on those last couple gulps. They'll do you good, but I admit I gulped more and savored less on those ones.

3. Steamy bath with epson salts. This seemed to be my next most helpful thing. I threw some epson salts in the tub, plugged the drain, and then turned the shower on HOT (while I sat in the bathroom, not in the tub). This steamed up the bathroom while also filling up the tub. I sat in the bathroom and breathed and then when there was enough water, I turned off the shower head and got a bath. It was pleasant and soothing and cleared me up for a few pleasant minutes. Fluke or not, I don't know, but I'm not one to complain about a hot, soothing bath.

4. Steam treatment with mint and vinegar. Boil about 5 C water, add a few glugs vinegar, and 6 drops mint or tea tree (also minty and not related to actual tea) oil. Put your face over the bowl after it's cooled to a non-boiling temperature (boiling hot steam=burn your face off) and put a towel over your head. I'd never actually done this before. I had high hopes for it since the internet sings this method's praise--the steam was supposed to clear you up as was the mint; the vinegar was supposed to fight bacteria--but it didn't actually clear me up much at all. I was just about as stuffy after as before. However. My sore sore nose and lips felt much better and I actually had some color to my previously un-dead looking face. And that made it kind of worth it. Dab some moisturizer on those places that have been tissue-blown raw to take full advantage.

5. Salt gargle. This is always soothing to my throat. A glass of warm water and 1 tsp of salt. Gargle.

6. Eating spicy, pungent foods certainly didn't hurt. I could kind of taste these foods, which I couldn't say for most foods. And they did a little to clear me up.

7. Sleeping with an extra pillow should be been done on night one, even though I usually prefer a nice flat sleep. I sleep almost perfectly flat and on my back. When I got sick, I didn't change that, and I really should have because adding a big fat extra pillow let things drain better.

8. Warm lemon water with a bit of ginger and maybe honey. Soothing, yes. Medicinal, eh.

9. And I've been totally wanting to try this.

10. I'm also a big believer in Vitamin C and also D, although I think they do a lot more good at the front end of a sickness than in the passionate middle.


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