Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Carrot Cake

I really like carrot cake, but unfortunately it's hard to find it without nuts in it unless you make it yourself. This one is a winner. It tastes great without the frosting as a muffin (or put a strudel topping on it), but it's amazing with the frosting. Consider it dairy/protein topping for breakfast ;) If you have a food processor, shredding the carrots is a breeze. By hand it goes quicker than you think, but be sure to use the larger size grater.

4 eggs
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 c applesauce
1 c white sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 t vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour (or 1 c wheat/1 c all-purpose)
2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 t ground cinnamon
4 c grated carrots
1 c chopped pecans and/or raisins (optional)

1/2 c butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 c chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan, cupcake tin, or 2 bread pans.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar, and vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans or raisins if desired. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 min (25 minutes for cupcakes, 35-40 for bread pans), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

For Frosting: In a medium bowl, whip together the very soft butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and 1 t vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake. Top with nuts if desired.

CAKE COST: $2.85

Eggs: $.40 (Sunmart)
Applesauce: $.20 (I make my own)
Sugar: $.40 (Aldi)
Flour: $.35 (Sunmart)
Carrots: $1.50 (Cashwise)
Spices: From Pantry

Frosting: $1.70
Butter: $.40 (Sunmart)
Cream Cheese $.80 (Sunmart)
Sugar $.50 (Aldi)

Is it a bad thing if I admit that I ate two of these and finished of what my youngest didn't eat of his???

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Homemade Lemonade

"Making lenenade, making lenenade, in sunshine or in rain, we're making lenen-ade-ade-ade..." That's what my 3-year-old sings as we make his favorite treat -- homemade lemonade. We make it 1-3 times a week. He likes it that much...

So this is really all about the balance of flavors, and it's hard to say exactly what it's gonna be. It all depends on the flavor of the lemons you have. Some are super sour, some have a rich flavor, some are old/bland. This is my best guess. My secret weapon? If it isn't "lemony" enough, I add a bit of lemon extract.

2 1/2 lemons, squeezed
1/2 - 2/3 c Sugar
2 qt water, divided

Heat 1 1/2 c water just shy of boiling. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add ice to pitcher and pour sugar water (a.k.a. simple syrup) over ice to chill. Juice lemons and add to pitcher. Fill with cold water and stir. Adjust to taste - more sugar, lemon, lemon extract, or water.

Total Costs: $1.42
Lemons $1.17 (Cashwise)
Sugar $.25 (Sunmart)

Note: It won't have the yellow color that a powder lemonade mix has so don't think that something is wrong.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Frugal Lunch - Loaded Potatos

I keep 3 things on hand for the basis for lunches - rice, baked potato, and bread. I can usually do something with one of the three and the leftovers I have in the fridge. It beats sandwiches day in and day out and allows me to reduce waste and make the most of our money.

Of the three, I think the baked potato is my favorite canvas to create a masterpiece of lunch. It's filling, healthy (depending on how you top it) and everything goes well on top.

Couple of ways to fix a plain potato

Chicken Taco Leftovers - shredded seasoned chicken, sweet corn, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, sauteed peppers, etc

Cheesy Broccoli - this was leftover veggies from a restaurant (because they give you a whole head) cheese and a bit of sour cream

Beef Fajita - seasoned steak, corn, peppers, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, etc
Soup - cheesy broccoli, beef & barley, corn chowder, chicken fajita, etc.
BBQ Pork
Ham & Cheese
Pepper Steak

TIP: Potato Coking
When making baked potatoes for dinner, I simply make extra. Before wrapping in foil, I drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on each and rub to coat the potato. Sprinkle on a good bit of sea salt and poke a few holes in to vent steam. Wrap them up in foil and place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until soft.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

I've been on a hunt for the perfect blueberry muffin for years. The right flavor, consistency, weight, and density. I found them at the Christmas brunch table my sister-in-law spread out.

The blueberry recipe is an alteration of a basic muffin recipe. The basic recipe is below and special directions for the blueberry alteration follows.

3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups lowfat plain yogurt
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously coat a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray.
2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the yogurt and eggs together in a medium bowl. Gently fold the yogurt-egg mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in the melted butter.
3. Use a large ice-cream scoop or measuring cup to divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. NOTE FROM JENNY: Following these directions results in absurdly gigantic muffins, I usually make 18 muffins from this recipe and reduce the cook time to 22-25 minutes. :) NOTE FROM JENELLE: I made 24 smaller muffins with cooktime about 21 minutes.
4. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Blueberry variation:
Add 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest to the yogurt-egg mixture and fold 1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (rinsed well) into finished batter. Add 1 tablespoon of flour to fresh blueberries. Frozen should be rinsed in a strainer until water runs clear, drain on paper towel, and pat dry before adding to the batter.

Total Costs $3.75
Flour - $.40 (Sunmart)
Sugar - $.20 (Cashwise)
Blueberries - $1.50 (Various)
Butter - $.45 (Sunmart)
Yogurt - $1.00 (Walmart)
Eggs - $.20 (Sunmart)
Other ingredients from pantry stock

The muffins freeze/thaw well. Just be sure they aren't overdone or dry before they are frozen.

Monday, March 22, 2010


These are oh-so-good from my friend Elissa. Watch them carefully, if they overflow in the oven, the smokey smell will be a bit overwhelming. Not that we ever experienced that in a church basement.

1 c brown sugar
1/3 c maple syrup
1/4 c melted margarine
1/2 c nuts (walnuts or pecans)
1/4 c powdered sugar
2 T margarine, softened
8 oz cream cheese
2 cans refrigerated biscuits

1. Combine brown sugar, syrup, melted margarine and nuts. Spread in a 9 X 13 inch pan.
2. Cream powdered sugar, softened margarine and cream cheese; set aside.
3. Press each biscuit into a circle and put 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture in center. Fold 2 sides up over filling and place seam side down on top of brown sugar mixture.
4. Bake at 350 F for 25 to 3o minutes or until golden brown. Flip over onto cookie sheet and serve.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

Yum, Yum, Yum. It tastes like fall.

4 c soft bread cubes (french bread)
2 1/2 c peeled and sliced apples
1 c brown sugar
1 3/4 c milk
1/4 c butter
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c Caramel ice cream topping

1/4 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1/3 c milk
1/2 c butter
1 t vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x9 inch baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine bread and apples. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 c brown sugar, 1 3/4 c milk, and 1/4 c butter. Cook and stir until butter is melted. Pour over bread mixture in bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together cinnamon, 1 t vanilla, and eggs. Pour bread mixture into prepared dish, and pour egg mixture over bread. Drizzle caramel over top. Bake in preheated oven 40 to 50 minutes, or until center is set and apples are tender.

While pudding is baking, mix together sauce ingredients (except vanilla) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat, and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Serve over bread pudding (I prefer under). Drizzle additional caramel sauce over top if desired.

Total Costs: $4.40
Bread - $1.00 (Family Fare)
Sugar - $.40 (Aldi)
Milk - $.20 (Aldi)
Butter - $.80 (Aldi)
Apples - $1.00 (Meijer)
Eggs - $.20 (Aldi)
Caramel $.80

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cheaper Doesn't = Frugal

Some of the recipes you may find on this blog aren't "cheap." You could follow the stockpiling blogs and shop for a lot less. However, that doesn't mean that you will eat well. And if you aren't eating well and balanced there is nothing frugal about it.

I'm just starting to truly learn the importance of that. What is a true value? Which organic items are worth the cost? Which foods add a great deal to a meal at a great price? Which items are important to be eating more of? These are all the questions I'm asking myself.

I want to eat well and eat food that I love. I want my kids to grow up and enjoy food responsibly - taking care of their bodies and health. I want the same thing for myself. Now in a new location it's a great time to reevaluate the way I eat and cook before getting established in my personal patterns.

This Week:
  • Coconut oil - I've learned about it's health benefits for a long time. At room temperature it's a solid, but melts quickly and easily. I used it for stir fry this week. Planning on using for pancakes in the morning. I've heard it's great for skin as a moisturizer too. Time to read up. Do you use it? If so how?
  • Flavored Stevia - It's a natural sweetener. It's taste is good, but the aftertaste is a bit acquired. Only a small amount is used, and it's very low calorie. I'm hoping to make my own coffee creamer. I love flavored creamers but reading the ingredient list is a bit frightening. I bought chocolate flavored to try making my own "chocolate milk."
Next Week:
  • Looking for local co-op farms. Living in a rental isn't going to let me grow much, just what will fit on my mini deck in pots. So I'd like to find a place where I can make something grow.
  • New Spices - I'm clearing out the old and starting over. Spices don't last forever. A store in town offers organic spices by the scoop at an incredibly low cost. I have my own spice rack/jars so this is perfect and inexpensive. What's the spice that you can't live without? Best surprise taste?

Brownie Cake

This is cake my son designed for his 6th birthday. He was very determined about what he wanted. He wanted a "brownie cake." I tried to clarify, do you want brownies or cake? He made it clear "a brownie on the bottom, then frosting, then more brownie, then more frosting, then a rainbow on top." It lots of chocolate and really rich, but I would do it again. Creative kid ideas that work. Need to get my boys conceptualizing some more.

So lessons I learned the hard way... Fudgy brownies don't come out of the pan well. I should have lined the pan with parchment paper to help pull it out. The good thing is that brownies are almost "moldable" so the pieces that fell apart I stuck back together and covered with frosting. The rainbow is made with Skittles, which get hard when they go stale. If the whole cake had been eaten right away it would have been no problem. M&Ms would have worked better.

Total Costs: $5.40
Brownie Mix $1.00 (Aldi)
Eggs $.20 (Cashwise)
Oil $.30 (Aldi)
Frosting $2.00 (homemade)
Skittles $1.89 (Cashwise)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Frugal Freezer - Marinaded Meat

A quick fix for weeknight meal. Instead of thawing your meat, cutting it up, and then marinading it... try it in a different order. I often buy meat in a large piece when it goes on a great sale. For instance, when I can get a whole pork loin at a ridiculous price. I do. Bring it home and get it set up for several meals. I'll cut some into a large roast (that I can use the leftovers for another meal), slice up into pork steaks to grill, and dice it up for stir fry or braising. The same with steak.

I'll watch the reduced price area for quick sale following a large sale. The leftovers there are discounted off even their sale price. They can be immediately used or frozen for later grilling. I thinly slice some for stir fry and fajitas as well. So instead of thawing and then marinading... I put the marinade in the quart bag with the sliced meat, allow it meld for a bit and then throw it in the freezer. I put several different meals in a "Beef" gallon bag that can be reused.

I'm trying to keep beef, pork and chicken on hand. For chicken I'll buy the extra large packages and roast (be sure not to over cook) them ahead of time. Bone in cooked chicken can be frozen and then used to grill for BBQ chicken. You simply are reheating and adding sauce. No more pink chicken off the grill. The rest I debone and shred for stir fry, soup, tacos, fried rice, enchiladas, etc where I use pre-cooked chicken.

THIS SAVES TONS OF TIME on meal night. I can use marinades like this that I bought at a discount (based on upcoming expiration date) and get meat marinading in the freezer. I don't have to eat a week worth of meals of the same sauce because it's about to expire. And I also don't have to eat the same protein all week as well.

  • Pork - plain, soy sauce, terryaki/ginger marinades, chipotle, bbq, molasses and stock, etc
  • Beef - plain, chipotle, soy sauce, dry rubs, A1, Italian dressing, taco seasoning, fajita seasoning, tomato sauce/juice, etc
  • Chicken - plain, lemon pepper, lime and tequila, soy sauce, Italian dressing, herbs & olive oil, fajita seasoning, taco seasoning, chipotle, terryaki/ginger marinade, bbq, chicken stock (for soup), Cajun, etc

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Oatmeal Pancakes

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you. Make these for breakfast and your Irish eyes (or non-Irish eyes) will be smiling all morning long. Drop in a bit of green food coloring and use a shamrock cookie cutter to celebrate. No luck needed to makes these. Simple and easy, and definitely frugal.

I love pancakes, but made straight from the box they are tasty, but I end up hungry after eating lots of carbs and little fiber. These filling pancakes will keep you going all morning long. I'm becoming a huge fan of using yogurt in baked goods. You really don't need the oil in these.

1/3 c unbleached flour
2/3 c wheat flour
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/3 c quick oats
1/3 c yogurt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 c milk
1 T canola oil (or melted coconut oil)
2 T brown sugar

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl. In a separate bowl, wisk together wet ingredients, except for yogurt. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combines. Gently fold in the yogurt (meaning mix gently, pull from the bottom and "fold" over the top). Preheat griddle on high until HOT, reduce heat to medium high and grease liberally. When you pour the batter it should sizzle immediately and start to rise with bubble starting quickly (making them light and fluffy). If the griddle isn't hot enough, the pancake will be flat and dense.

Total Costs: $1.43
Flour $.10 (Sunmart)
Wheat Flour $.50 (Meijer)
Oats $.15 (Cashwise)
Yogurt $.35 (Walmart)
Egg $.08 (Sunmart)
Milk $.25 (Walmart)
Others - from pantry stock

Toss in a few berries, chopped apples, or chocolate chips
Freeze them and toss them in the toaster for a busy morning

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wheat Waffles

Yes, I know that I topped a healthy waffle with a cream cheese sauce, strawberry sauce and whipped cream... Kind of defeats the health purpose of these waffles, but it sure tasted good.

3 t butter
1 c wheat flour
3/4 c white flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 T sugar
1 1/2 c milk
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
**I like 1 t of Cinnamon in mine

Preheat waffle iron. Melt butter in microwave.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In another bowl, beat together milk, vanilla and eggs. Whisk liquid mixture into dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in melted butter.

Generously coat iron with cooking spray. Pour batter onto iron and close to cook. Cook waffle until golden brown. Remove from waffle iron and keep warm. Repeat.

Break the waffles into sections and freeze. Throw them in the toaster for a great breakfast fast.

Total Costs: $1.25
Flour: $.50 (Cashwise)
Butter: $.15 (Sunmart)
Milk $.40 (Walmart)
Eggs$.20 (Sunmart)
Rest from pantry stock

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Frugal Tip: Portion Size

I struggle with portion size. It's a common problem so maybe this idea helps you too. It's a muffin tin measuring system. See how much volume your tins hold (usually around 1/4 - 1/2 cup). You can measure portions to eat into the tins and freeze them for later use. When you pull them out, you know what a portion is. Besides, if you have a whole cake/cheesecake/ice cream bucket/pie you will be tempted to keep eating it until it's gone.

This summer I'm looking for muffin tins at garage sales and thrift stores. Some items you can take out after freezing, others work better left in. Stock up on muffin cup liners when they are on sale or clearance after a holiday (for holiday prints). I don't care if I eat something out of a holly print cup in July.

  • Fruit - by freezing in individual portions you can grab just what you need for smoothies, cereal, muffins, etc
  • Desserts - cheesecake, cupcakes, mini pies, ice cream pie, ice cream, etc
  • Meat - small diced cooked meat for recipes like soups, fried rice, etc - works well for cooked bacon, chicken, ham, ground meats, etc. If likely to dry out... add a bit of the broth or juices to keep moist in the reheating process
  • Breads - zucchini/blueberry/banana/apple/pumpkin/cinnamon breads can be made into muffins and stored in mixed varieties is a zipper bag. When you thaw them you have a sampler bag rather than a whole bunch of one thing that you grow tired of.
  • Broth - I've started making my own broths. They have a lot more flavor and much better for you, not to mention exceedingly cheep. I'm gonna freeze them into 7 oz portions so that I can grab 2 to equal a can.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cheddar Biscuits

Like those biscuits at Red Lobster? These are a lot like them.

4 cups Baking mix
4 oz Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/3 cups Water
1/3 c Butter, melted
1/4 t Garlic powder
1/4 t Salt
1/8 t Onion powder
1/4 t Dried parsley

Preheat oven to 375. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix together baking mix, cheese, and water. Mix until dough is firm. Scoop a small amount of dough on the prepared pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

In a small dish, add garlic powder, salt, onion powder and parsley to the melted butter. Brush butter mixture over hot baked biscuits and serve immediately.

Baking mix $.80 (Cheep Foods)
Butter $.40 (Sunmart)
Cheese $1.00 (Cashwise)
Spices from pantry

Monday, March 8, 2010

Strawberry Cream Wafers

Make the full recipe of these lovelies for a party or make a few for a snack. The frosting refrigerates well. We've tries all different fruits (think mini-fruit pizzas). Thinking of some chocolate shavings to top them with too. Yummy, easy, pleasing.

1 Box Vanilla wafers.
1 Qt fresh Strawberries, washed & sliced
Cream cheese frosting (recipe following)

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 c Butter, softened
1 c Confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 t Vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar (store in the refrigerator until ready to use). Spread approximately 1 t of frosting on the flat side of the wafer. Top with a round slice of strawberry. Serve immediately. Makes about 100 wafers or 33 servings

**If cream cheese and butter are not good and soft the frosting will be lumpy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Easy Chicken & Dumplings

This hearty meal is perfect for a chilly day. In fact, I think it's even better the second day.

1 lb Chicken or turkey, cooked
1 (10.75 oz) Can condensed cream of celery soup
1 (10.75 oz) Can condensed cream of chicken soup
3 c Chicken or turkey stock
1 c Carrots, diced
1 c Celery, diced
1/2 c Onion, diced
1 T Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (12 oz) Package refrigerated biscuit dough

1. In a large pot over high heat, saute vegetables in olive oil until softened.
2. Reduce heat to medium, and add the cans of condensed soup, stock, and chicken/turkey. Bring to a simmer. Add a bit of broth if consistency is thicker than desired.
3. Season with salt and pepper (you will want to use plenty of pepper). Pull the biscuit dough into small pieces, and add to the soup. Simmer over medium heat for 8 - 10 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through. Can be made ahead of time (reheats well).

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake

I got this FABULOUS recipe from Amy (friend of a friend) and let me tell you. You've never had chocolate cake like this. You've GOTTA try it. You'll never want a boxed cake again. Don't think you can make a cake from scratch? It's far easier than you think, and this is the recipe to give it a whirl on.

It's on my splurge list for next week (so picture will be coming).

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup margarine (I use butter)
1 cup boiling water
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine chocolate, margarine and boiling water. Stir until melted. Combine dry ingredients and gradually add chocolate mixture. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Beat one minute at medium speed. Bake in a greased and floured 9x13 pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

1/2 cup margarine (I use butter)
1/2 cup cocoa
3 2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk

Melt margarine and add cocoa. Heat, stirring constantly until mixture just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour into small bowl. Add sugar and milk, alternately. Beat to spreading consistency. Spread frosting while still warm on cake.

TOTAL COST: $5.75 (and worth every cent)
Chocolate $1.00 (Walmart)
Butter $1.00 (Cashwise)
Brown Sugar $.50 (Aldi)
Flour $.35 (Aldi)
Sour Cream $.75 (Sunmart) - dairy is expensive in ND
Eggs $.15 (Sunmart)
Cocoa $.75 (Cashwise)
Powdered Sugar $1.00 (Cashwise)
Milk $.25 (Cashwise)
Other Items from Pantry stock

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Polynesian Pork

Love how the flavors meld on this dish. Works great in the crock pot or slow roasting in the oven. This freezes beautifully and I've done it for meal swaps. I cooked 3 meals worth of this last week. We actually ended up with almost 4. Jazz it up with a little bit of sweet heat or ginger if you are looking for a bit more traditional Polynesian flare. I used a cheap store brand marinade this time and paid for it. It's all about the flavoring so don't cheap out on that one.

2 lbs Pork Sirloin (or other lean pork)
1 sm can Pineapple tidbits
1 bottle Sesame Ginger Marinade (I like Lawry's or Ken's)
1 can Chicken broth
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 T Sesame seeds

The pork can be roasted whole or chopped into bite size pieces. If cooking whole, they are tender enough to easily pull apart to serve.

Start by chopping bacon into small pieces and cook over low heat until cooked through but not dry. Drain and set aside. Cover meat with pineapple and it's juices, seeds, and bacon. Add about 1/2 bottle of marinade and enough broth to cover the meat so it braises while slow cooking.

CROCK POT - cook on low heat for 7-8 hours (stirring occasionally). Serve over rice.

OVEN METHOD - cook in a dutch oven at 325 for 2 - 2 1/2 hrs, until fork tender. Watch liquids at 1 1/2 hours and add a bit of extra broth if needed. Recommend chopping the pork into pieces with this method.

Serve over rice.

Pork $4 (Sunmart)
Marinade $1 (Cashwise)
Pineapple $1 (Cashwise)
Sesame Seeds* $.50 (Cashwise)
Bacon $1 (Sunmart)
Rice $.50 (Walmart)

*Sesame seeds add tons of flavor, but can be costly. DO NOT buy them in the spice isle. You'll pay way too much. Check in the ethnic food section, bulk spices, or an Asian market. They keep a long time so buying in bulk is great. Use them on pizza crust, bread sticks, sauces, stir fry, salads & dressings, spiced or sugared nuts, etc.