Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Caramel S'Mores Popcorn Balls

Like the cookies I posted yesterday, I donated these popcorn balls to The Auction at our family reunion. The tin of 2 dozen popcorn balls sold for $35. It surely would have gone higher - my sister really wanted these, but so did one of my cousins. They were neck and neck for a while, but my sister's husband wouldn't let her bid any higher and so my cousin won them. Boy, was my sister upset with her poor hubby! But I was able to pacify her with a couple extra popcorn balls I had brought that didn't go in the auction tin, as well as with the promise that the recipe would go on my blog.

Caramel S'Mores Popcorn Balls
1 cup unpopped corn, popped
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup light corn syrup (I substituted honey, and it worked fine)
1 sleeve graham crackers, broken into bite-sized pieces
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup chocolate chips

Pop corn; keep warm in very low oven. In heavy saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and sugar is completely dissolved. Pour mixture over popped corn and stir to coat evenly. Allow the mixture to slightly cool (if you cool it too much it will harden be more difficult to form into balls); add crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate chips. Stir in very gently - the marshmallows and chocolate will melt, but you want to avoid spreading them too much.

Shape mixture into balls, and wrap in plastic wrap.

If you can, wait until the popcorn balls are cooled before eating them. But if you can't wait, that's okay too. ;-)

Here's a picture of the tin as we filled it. Don't they look tasty?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Outrageous Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

We recently got back from an awesome family reunion. My dad's family has been having reunions every two years for as long as I can remember. These are no small reunions - my grandparents have eight children, and well over fifty grandchildren. Many of these grandchildren (including me, of course) are now married and have young children of their own. We are a very large family, so these reunions are a big thing. And at every reunion, the pinnacle of the activities - the event looked forward to and planned for most excitedly by all - is The Auction.

The Auction is held at every reunion, and the proceeds fund the next reunion. This event holds a great deal of entertainment value (and sometimes drama!) for all involved, as well as providing for great reunions and letting everyone come away with a ton of fun stuff. Nearly every family member donates something to The Auction. There are donations ranging from cute little toys for the young ones to bid on, to crafts made by various family members (there are cross-stitched or embroidered samplers, there are always quilts, and last time I donated several crocheted purses), to services such as camping trips and massages. There are miscellaneous fun things, like this year's bottle rocket launchers (courtesy my parents), scrap booking supplies, and a little girl's room decorating kit. And there are edibles - cookies, breads, granola, boxes of chocolates. These are usually homemade, and always bring in a goodly amount of money. My family loves to eat. Here is The Auction table, laden top and bottom with this year's wares ready to be auctioned off.

This year I donated two items - 4 dozen Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, and 2 dozen Caramel S'more Popcorn Balls (recipe coming soon). I may be breaking some unspoken family Auction rule here, but I am posting both recipes here.

The tin of 4 dozen cookies sold for $50.

Outrageous Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla and egg until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter just until moistened. Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Drop by tablespoonfuls on to lightly greased cookie sheets.

Yes, my pan is old and ugly. But it does the job, and I'm too poor/cheap to buy another one for now. :-)

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges start to brown. Cool on cookie sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

I felt kind of weird writing this post - like I'm giving away sacred family secrets or something when I talk about
The Auction. I mean, you can tell how important it is simply by virtue of the fact that I have to write it in bold, italics, and capitalized! But this recipe is too yummy to not share. So anyone reading this post, who isn't in the family, you may consider yourselves lucky to be privy to such incredible and wondrous information as I have just given about our special Family Auction!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Frugal Fridays - a day early...

I'm early for this week's installment of Frugal Fridays, because we're leaving tomorrow afternoon to spend the weekend at a family reunion. Yippee!

I made this Garden Saute with Pasta last night for dinner, using a zucchini and a yellow squash from Mom's garden. I absolutely loved how simple, delicious, and easy it was. But I had accidentally left my camera at Mom's house (again!) and wasn't able to take pictures. I was all set and ready to give up on this recipe, which I made up on my own as I was cooking it last night.

But then I went to do laundry at Mom's house today, and there were some more zucchini and squash in the fridge. After some quick thinking, I decided that I had enjoyed this enough to make it again, and this time I had my camera! So here it is: my delicious, simple, and totally cheap recipe of Garden Saute with Pasta.

Garden Saute with Pasta
1 to 2 medium zucchini
1 to 2 medium yellow summer squash
2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
8 oz. cooked spaghetti or angel hair pasta

Chop zucchini and squash into bite-sized chunks. Heat about a teaspoon or so of oil in a large skillet. Saute veggie chunks and garlic until veggies are tender-crisp. Partially drain can of tomatoes and add to squash, along with Italian seasoning, and s&p to taste. Simmer until liquid from tomatoes reduces down. Serve over pasta.

That's how I made it last night. When I made this again today, Mom didn't have any canned tomatoes. So instead we added 3 chopped fresh tomatoes with the squash. When the squash were tender, we added about 1/2 cup tomato juice and the seasonings. Again, simmer until liquid reduces. It was delicious either way.

Price of ingredients:
8 oz. spaghetti - $0.80
Can of tomatoes - $1.39

Everything else was either spice cupboard basics or free garden produce.

Total Price: $2.19

Serve with a green salad for a healthy, delicious, inexpensive side dish.

I didn't calculate how many calories this is, but if you stick with a moderate amount of pasta, I'm sure this definitely qualifies as a low-calorie dish.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Little Lemon Tassies and an Award

Our Relief Society is having a quilting bee this evening (I know - isn't that so quaint and cute?), and everyone was asked to bring little treats to snack on while we quilt. I had about half a can of sweetened condensed milk in the fridge left over from when I made Ranch Bean Soup. This milk was, of course, not left in the can, but stored properly in a plastic container. Foods go bad faster when you leave them in the can, and that leads to throwing away food, which isn't frugal at all!

But I digress. I tossed together a few ingredients and came up with these delicious little tarts. I've used this crust before, and am always pleased with the results. Usually we just fill the tarts with jam, but I wanted something a little more special (and something that used the sweetened condensed milk).

Little Lemon Tassies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 large egg

1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour and sugar, cut in butter, and stir in egg until a dough forms. Press dough into bottom and up sides of miniature muffin tin (makes 24). Set aside.

For filling, mix sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice until well-combined. Spoon into little crusts, about 1-2 tsp. filling per crust.

Bake at 350 for ... um ... I don't really know how long I baked these. I just went until the crust and the filling were nicely browned. Just keep an eye on them, I guess.

These are delicious little treats. I won't admit to too much, but I will say that not all 24 of these little babies are going to make it to the quilting bee this evening. :-)

On to the award!

I want to thank Barbara from Barbara Bakes for giving me this Smile Award. I just recently found Barbara's blog, and was absolutely smitten with her Surprise Cookies - beautiful chocolate cookies topped with marshmallows and chocolate frosting. Now I like her blog even more!

Characteristics for the Smile Award:
1. Must display a cheerful attitude. (not necessarily at all times--we are all human)
2. Must love one another
3. Must make mistakes
4. Must learn from others
5. Must be a positive contributor to blog world
6. Must love life
7. Must love kids

These are the rules:
1. The recipient must link back to the award's creator (
2. You must post these rules if you receive the award.
3. You must chose 5 people to receive the award after receiving it yourself
4. You must fit the characteristics of the recipient of the award, as posted by Mere.
5. You must post the characteristics of a recipient.
6. You must create a post sharing your win with others.
7. You must thank your giver.

It's nice to know that my blog is being read and enjoyed, and that it makes someone smile. It sure makes me smile to create all the foods and posts that I do.

Here are my nominees for the Smile Award:

1. Stephanie of A Year of CrockPotting - This is the coolest blog ever! Stephanie made a New Year's Resolution to use her crock pot every day in 2008, and so far she's made it 204 days. She never fails to post her recipes and experiences with them, good or bad. And whether the dish turned out fantastic or terrible (most of them turn out great), her posts always make me smile!

2. Bakerella - Bakerella makes the cutest cupcake pops in the blogosphere! Not only does she make all sorts of cute cake ball treats, but so many other delicious baked delights. Every time she posts something new, there is definitely a smile on my face.

3. Michelle of Fabulous Food! - Michelle does something called Around the World - every week she features a menu of dishes from a different country. She has featured Austria, England, France, and Germany. I can't wait to see where she'll take us next!

4. Drew of How to Cook Like Your Grandmother - Drew uses real ingredients to make real foods. He also posts step-by-step instructions and frequent tutorial videos to make sure that anyone who reads his blog will be able to cook just like a Grandmother. He's got a fun sense of humor that permeates his posts and always makes me smile.

5. Jeanette of Jeanette's Kitchen - Jeanette is a woman after my own heart. Her recipes are simple and delicious, just the type of recipes I grew up with, and still enjoy today. She has two kids, the same ages as mine, so I know that her recipes are going to be little-kid-friendly. That makes me smile!

One more picture to smile about:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Crock Pot Pineapple Chicken

This recipe comes from A Year of CrockPotting. I had a chicken leg quarter thawed in the fridge, so I looked up all of her chicken recipes. This one caught my eye because I love pineapple with savory dishes (like pizza, Hawaiian haystacks, etc), and it only had a small handful of ingredients. It looked really good, and really easy (most of her recipes do look good and easy). So I made it, and it ended up being both! I did decide to thicken the pan juices into a gravy, and add pineapple juice to sweeten it. That turned out great.

I served this with steamed broccoli, seasoned with Chinese five spice and garlic powder.

Crock Pot Pineapple Chicken
Enough chicken for four
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 20-oz. can pineapple chunks
1 tsp. crushed red peppers

Place chicken in crock pot. Drain pineapple chunks (save the juice), and add to crock pot with soy sauce and red peppers. Cook on low 4-6 hours or on high 3-4 hours.

When the chicken is done, remove chicken and pineapple from the pot. Pour pan juices from the crock pot into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat on the stove. Whisk together reserved pineapple juice and cornstarch (I didn't measure - I think it was about 2-4 tbsp). Whisk pineapple/cornstarch mixture into pan juices, and heat and stir until thickened and bubbly.

Serve chicken, pineapple, and gravy over rice.

This had a great flavor, but I think it was a bit too strong. The pineapple chunks soaked up the salty flavor of the soy sauce and they were very salty. Next time I would probably substitute water for half the soy sauce, to make a milder flavor. That being said, I'm pretty sure there will definitely be a next time, because this was such a simple, delicious recipe.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thomas' Birthday Cake

I think that, of any cake I've ever made and decorated, this was my absolute favorite so far!

How cute is this cake? Racing through the desert, this little car is so happy to be in first place!

My little baby Thomas turned one year old today. I can't believe that he has grown so old so fast! This is all about the cake I made to celebrate his big day.

The recipes will be at the end of the post - this is a homemade yellow cake, topped with a delicious boiled peanut butter frosting, and it tasted incredible!

To decorate this cake, I used:
1 large package assorted sandwich cookies (chocolate and vanilla)
1 package mini Charleston Chews
Small amount yellow frosting (leftover from the sugar cookies I made a while back)
Some spiny fake foliage
A toothpick and paper
Toy car (doubled as birthday present)

After frosting the cake, coarsely crush the sandwich cookies. Press vanilla cookie crumbs into frosting for sand, and press chocolate cookie crumbs in for the road.

Press Charleston Chews along the sides of the road to act as a curb and define the road better. Press them along the middle of the road to make the stripes in the road. Pipe a small amount of yellow frosting on the chews in the middle of the road.

My mom was able to find me a branch of plastic some-sort-of-plant. It had little spiny heads on it that I pulled off, washed really well, and stuck into the cake as desert bushes. For the flag, cut a rectangle out of blank paper, and color black and white checkers on it. Tape this to a toothpick and stick into the cake. I originally thought of taping the flag to the candle, but decided that would be a fire hazard (albeit a small one).

Place toy car on the road, and you're ready to race!

The recipes:

Yellow Cake
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 stick butter or margarine
1 1/4 cups milk
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 9x13 pan. If using the boiled peanut butter frosting, use a glass pan because you'll leave the cake in the pan to frost it, and leaving cake in a metal pan can negatively affect the cake.

Beat all ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Pour batter into pan.

Bake 35-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (the pan I used ended up being 10x14, so I checked it at 25 minutes and kept checking on it until it was done). Cool in pan on wire rack.

***To make ahead (like making your own cake mix!), combine all dry ingredients in a container with a lid (all ingredients except milk, butter, vanilla, and eggs). Then, when you're ready to make the cake, dump dry ingredients into mixing bowl, add wet ingredients, and mix and bake as directed.

Boiled Peanut Butter Frosting
1 1/2 cups sugar
7 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. shortening
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Combine sugar, milk, shortening, butter, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Once it reaches a boil, let boil for one to two minutes without stirring. Remove from heat and add vanilla and peanut butter. Beat until smooth. Working quickly, pour and spread the frosting onto the cake. You want to spread it pretty quickly because it'll harden. If you're decorating the cake with cookie crumbs like I did, do it soon after spreading the frosting, because it does harden quickly. But it tastes soooo yummy!!

I got this frosting recipe from Southern Plate, who has a touching story on her blog about why this delicious frosting is so special to her.

Verdict: This was a delicious cake, with an even more delicious frosting. I think it may be my new favorite frosting recipe, it's that good! Everyone thought the cake was very cute, and gave lots of compliments. I mean, just look at it! So adorable!

And Thomas thoroughly enjoyed his piece.

Friday, July 18, 2008

One Good Meal, Two Blogging Events

Today being Friday, it's time for yet another installment of Frugal Fridays. This is also my entry for my first Taste&Create event. A quick description of Taste&Create - those who want to participate e-mail the founder and administrator of Taste&Create. She matches up all the entries so each person has a partner blog. Then you get to select a recipe from your partner's blog to make and post about. They in turn choose something from your blog and do the same thing.

My partner is [eating club] vancouver, a blog created by sisters TS and JS. I had such a difficult time choosing a recipe to make! The blog is full of delicious-looking recipes, but so many call for seafood and other exotic-to-me ingredients. But after a great deal of perusing (and drooling all over my keyboard, might I add), I was able to find several recipes I could actually afford to make. I showed them to Jeff and he helped me to pick the official Taste&Create recipe for this month - Curried (Easter) Egg Salad. There are definitely other recipes I want to try very soon (Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies, anyone?), but the deliciously unique egg salad is my actual entry.

And you have to have something to serve your egg salad on, right? At first I wanted to make pita pockets, but changed my mind when I found a really awesome recipe for Savory Pull-Apart Loaf. This will be one bread I'll make again and again. It was delicious and fun to make. When you see the loaf, you'll groan at what I'm about to say, but I'll say it anyway: It's the best thing since sliced bread.

And for dessert, a simple yet delicious pineapple sorbet.

Ingredient Prices:
Eggs, 4 - $0.52
Celery, 1/2 stalk - $0.10
Mayonnaise, 1/4 cup - $0.11
Milk, 1 cup - $0.27
Butter, 2 tbsp. - $0.13
Flour, 3 1/2 cups - $0.37
Yeast, 2 tsp. - $0.15
Pineapple, 1 20-oz. can - $1.00

Ingredients with negligible price:
Curry powder (this came free, it was given to us)
Dry parsley
Salt and pepper
Green onions (from garden)
One tiny little garden tomato, and one cherry, for garnish

Total Price: $2.65

Curried Egg Salad

3 eggs
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 stalk celery, chopped
1 tbsp. dry parsley (I didn't have the cilantro called for, but that would be delicious!)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
I also added some sliced green pepper from our garden

Boil the eggs: set in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil, then shut off the heat and cover the pan. Let sit for about 20 minutes. Then run the eggs under cold water until they're cooled enough to peel.

Coarsely chop eggs, then combine with remaining ingredients, and chill until serving.

Before stirring - beautiful!

After stirring - gooey and delicious!

Served nestled in lettuce atop a slice of homemade bread, this unique and flavorful egg salad completely hit the spot!

Savory Pull-Apart Loaf

1 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I substituted in 3/4 cup whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. active dry yeast

About 3 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. olive oil

Place 1st seven ingredients in bread machine in order specified by owner's manual. Program machine to dough cycle (or remove after first rise).

Grease 9x5-inch loaf pan; set aside. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces. Form each piece into ball. Cover with clean towel; let rest 5 minutes.

Flatten each ball into 4x3-inch oval. Coat both sides of dough with olive oil. Sprinkle one side of each dough oval with rounded 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning.

Stand loaf pan on short end. Lay one piece of dough, herb-covered side down, in pan. Stack remaining 15 pieces of dough in pan so that herb-covered sides of dough are touching sides of dough not covered with herb mixture. (They look a little like pancakes, don't they?)
You can see that my pieces of dough were rolled a bit too thin - they didn't quite fill the pan.

With a little creative squishing and scooting, I got the dough to fill the pan.

Cover with towel; let rise in warm place 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 35 minutes or until top of loaf is golden. Immediately remove bread from pan and cool on wire rack.

These separate into individual pieces easier if you pull them apart while the bread is still fresh and warm. The longer you wait to separate them, the more difficult it is. Also, make sure you coat the pieces of dough really well with oil, all the way to the edges, to keep the pieces from sticking together.

Like I said, the best thing since sliced bread! :-)

Pineapple Sorbet

1 can (about 20 ounces) pineapple chunks (or crushed pineapple) packed in juice

At least a few hours before you want to eat this, open the can of pineapple. Pour into a large, flat freezer-safe container. Freeze until solid.

When you're ready to make your sorbet, take the fruit out of the freezer and let it sit out for 10 minutes to soften a little. Break up into chunks, and put chunks in food processor. Process until it is creamy.

The best part about this entire menu is that it's all make-ahead! This evening when I decided it was time for dinner, all I had to do was set the table and say, "Dinner time!" All the work - baking the bread, preparing the egg salad, and freezing the pineapple - had already been done. That's my kind of meal!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Florida Sand Dunes

This recipe is based on the ever-popular rice dish Hawaiian Haystacks - rice stacked high with chicken gravy, fresh vegetables, cheese, chow mein noodles, and pineapple. We happen to have a large pile of oranges that we received from my mom, and need to use. Well, oranges come from Florida, and thus tonight's Florida Sand Dunes were born.

Florida Sand Dunes
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/4 cup broccoli
1/2 cup carrots
1 can beef broth, divided
1/2 tsp. each chili powder, black pepper, and garlic powder
Salt to taste

2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. minced dry onion
1 tsp. chives
1 tsp. garlic powder
Dash each black pepper and paprika
Salt to taste

Cooked rice
Chow mein noodles
Orange, peeled and chopped

Cook the ground beef and the celery together until beef is browned. Add broccoli, carrots, and 1/4 cup beef broth. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Stir in spices.

While the meat is simmering, make the sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour until smooth. Stir in remaining beef broth. Heat until thickened and bubbly. Stir in seasonings.

To serve, layer rice, sauce, beef mixture, oranges, peanuts, and chow mein noodles as desired in serving bowls.

p.s. I got my camera back! Yay!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Double-Quick Tomato Rice

This whole lack-of-camera thing is driving me nuts! I didn't realize how much I use and love it. Well, I'll get it back within the next couple of days, and then I can start taking pictures of my foods again.

For this recipe, just picture something that looks similar to Spanish rice, but without the spice. This has a very mild flavor, but it tastes very good. I got the recipe out of a book I checked out from the library, called the Grains Cookbook. This is a pretty hefty book, with recipes for tons of grains, from grits, rice, oats, and wheat, to bulgur, amaranth, triticale and quinoa. It's unlikely that I'll try the recipes incorporating some of the more exotic or fancy grains. I would love to try them, but until our budget eases up I probably won't be spending the extra money on these fascinating grains. But you can bet your biscuits that I'll be experimenting with all sorts of grains and other foods once we're no longer so poor!

Double-Quick Tomato Rice
3 tbsp. unsalted butter (I used only about a tablespoon and got away with it!)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 small celery stalk, chopped
1 cup V-8 juice (or plain tomato juice)
1 cup chicken broth (or 1 cup water and 2 cubes bouillon)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup long-grain white rice

Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until the vegetables lose their color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the V-8, broth, and salt. Cover and quickly heat to boiling. Stir in the rice and reduce the heat to low. Cook, covered, until tender, about 15 minutes. Raise the heat slightly if the rice is too wet.

This was well-received at our little table this afternoon. Zaylee and Thomas both ate their whole serving, and enjoyed every onion-and-celery-filled bite. Then again, I've trained them to eat and enjoy onions. That is a feat in and of itself.

Banana Bread Pudding

This was our dessert last night (still no pictures, sorry - it wouldn't have been photogenic anyway). It's another crock pot recipe. We had about four slices left of some banana bread I made a few days ago, using this recipe. It was nowhere near going stale or anything, but I know our family. We tend to leave those last few pieces of bread out too long, no matter how good the bread is. I didn't want that to happen. So I decided to do something about it, and turn them into bread pudding right away.

Banana Bread Pudding
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. brown sugar
A few slices banana bread, cubed
A handful or two of raisins

I whisked together the first 5 ingredients in my little crock pot (I think it's 1.5 qt.). Then I folded in the bread cubes and raisins. Banana bread is more crumbly than regular bread, so fold it in carefully to avoid breaking up the cubes as much as possible.

My little crock pot doesn't have high or low settings, you just plug it in and it's on. It took about 4 hours, so I think it runs a little closer to a low setting. If you do this in a pot with high and low, cook it on high 2-3 hours, or on low 3-5.

Jeff and I loved this bread pudding. Well, he liked it and I loved it. He only recently learned to like bread pudding, so I'll cut him some slack for not coming back for seconds. If the kids had been awake when the pudding was finished cooking, I'm sure they would have loved it too.

This was an adaptation of a bread pudding recipe from A Year of CrockPotting - I love that blog! I cut the recipe in half and used banana bread instead of regular, of course.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rich Ranch Bean Soup in the Crock Pot

I am sad.

Why am I sad, you ask? Well, I made a delicious, beautiful meal tonight, and I have absolutely no proof of it.

We visited my parents last night for my younger sister's birthday, and I left the camera there by mistake. So sadly, there will be no pictures accompanying this post. I'll have to make it again sometime very soon so I will have pictures to post.

This recipe is adapted from a little recipe booklet extolling the virtues of sweetened condensed milk. I cut the original recipe in half. Next time, I'll make the whole thing so we can have lots of leftovers, because this was a very delicious soup! It was sweet and savory, and creamy. Soooo good!

Originally this recipe was written to be prepared on stove top, but I adapted it for the slow cooker.

Rich Ranch Bean Soup
1 15-oz. can pork and beans with tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash pepper
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk

Combine all ingredients except milk in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir thoroughly. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for about half an hour more, or until heated through.

Makes five 1-cup servings
Calories per serving: 250

You can add some chopped ham or hot dogs if you choose. We didn't have any, so we didn't add any. But they would taste fabulous with this soup.

The cooking times I give are pretty variable. I started this about 4:00, then added the milk a little while before I expected to eat. Since the temperatures are so low, you can be pretty flexible with how long you cook this. That's what I love about crock pot cooking - unless you wait until 5 or 6 in the evening to plan your meal, you can pretty much fit in a crock pot meal no matter what kind of day you have!

In keeping with frugality, I served this with a garden salad. Literally, everything in the salad was from the garden - lettuce and spinach from my parents' garden, fresh green beans from ours. Yummy!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pakstani Kima with Indian Chapati

Tonight I realized that it was going on 5:00 and I hadn't planned anything to eat. No biggie, that happens just about every night. So I turned to the trusty Internet. I found a recipe for Chapati, which I've been wanting to try for a while. I love the idea of cooking Indian and other Middle Eastern foods, but the ingredients are always so foreign to me that I get scared. Plus, since we're on a very tight budget, I tend to shy away from buying ingredients just to try a recipe - more often I look for recipes to accommodate the foods I already have. But chapati seemed simple enough, and the recipe doesn't have a bunch of weird words like ghee, garam masala, and dal.

So I knew I wanted to make chapati. The next step was to decide what to eat with it. This brought me back to the original reason I don't usually make Indian foods - what could I prepare with the foods I have on hand? Then I remembered the Pakistani Kima I made a while back. It isn't Indian, but it definitely has that Middle Eastern flavor and texture that I wanted. So kima it was.

Pakistani Kima
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped onion, or 2 tbsp. dry minced onion
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Dash each pepper, cinnamon, and ginger
1 (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes, undrained
2 potatoes, diced
2 cups frozen peas or green beans

Brown ground beef in large skillet with garlic and onion. When meat is browned, stir in curry powder, salt, seasonings, tomatoes, potatoes, and peas. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, adding a small amount of water if necessary. Last time, I added water. This time I didn't end up needing it.

While the kima is simmering, make the chapati.

Indian Chapati
1 c. whole wheat flour
1c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 c. hot water or as needed

In a bowl mix together the flour and salt. Stir in oil and enough water to make a soft dough that is elastic but not sticky. Knead the dough until smooth.

Divide into 8 parts (the recipe said 10, but I chose to do 8 larger chapatis). Roll into balls and let rest for a few minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the balls of dough until very thin like a tortilla.

Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot, and grease lightly. When pan is hot put a chapati on it. Cook until the underside has brown spots, about 30 seconds, then flip and cook on the other side. Continue with remaining dough.

It took me about half the batch before I could get mine to look chapati-like. I eventually decided to not grease the pan anymore, and to cook them for much longer than 30 seconds. After I made those changes, I was able to get those pretty brown spots.

Zaylee was okay with the kima, but she really loved the chapati. Each time she finished a piece, she would call out, "More 'pati please!" So cute. And Thomas was pretty good with his too, though I think he preferred the more strongly-flavored kima.

As for Jeff and I, we loved the whole deliciously flavorful meal!

Kima - 6 servings, 200 calories per serving
Chapati - 8 servings, 130 calories per serving

Biscuits and Gravy

Today being Saturday, we had more of a brunch than a breakfast. And it was a fancier meal than I usually start the day with (it's hard to not be fancier than cold cereal). I can't take credit for this breakfast, because I slept in while Jeff got up with the kids and did the cooking. And cleaning as well - when I finally crawled out of bed, the living room had been cleared and vacuumed, the kitchen swept, and Jeff was working on the dishes. What a great guy!

I hung out with the kids while Jeff cooked. The smells coming out of the kitchen were so good! And here is what Jeff produced, all by himself:

Biscuits and Gravy

Baking Powder Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Cut in shortening using pastry blender or criss-crossing 2 knives, until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in milk until dough leaves side of bowl (dough will be soft and sticky).

Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times. Roll or pat 1/2 inch thick. Cut with floured 2 to 2 1/4-inch round cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart for crusty sides, touching for soft sides.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm.

I love this biscuit recipe. Look at them - they practically split themselves!

Turkey Sausage Gravy
1/4 cup diced onion
2-3 oz. ground turkey sausage, formed into bite-sized chunks
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. chives
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Salt to taste
All these seasoning measurements are approximate - you can use whatever herbs and spices appeal to you, in whatever amounts you see fit.

Spray skillet with cooking spray. Add onions and sausage; cook until sausage is done and onions are a little caramelized (Jeff really likes caramelized onions. If you don't, that's okay, just cook until the meat is done).

In a separate saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth. Whisk in milk, and cook until thickened and bubbly. Add sausage-onion mixture, and remaining ingredients. Serve over biscuits.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Frugal Fridays - Oven Pancake with Banana Cherry Topping

Once again it is time for Frugal Fridays! A chance to show off my financial prowess in the kitchen - and tonight was frugally fabulous!

I noticed I did two weeks in a row of marinated chicken, so I decided to change things up this week with a Breakfast for Dinner meal. While blog-cruising (one of my favorite pastimes), I came across a couple great recipes. Oven Pancake came from the wonderful blog, NotSoPerfect Housewife. Hers was much more beautiful than mine, but I don't mind, because the taste was spot on! I did end up overcooking the edges, as is clearly visible in all my pictures. It detracts from the aesthetic value, but the flavor was still wonderful.

The topping recipe is one I adapted slightly from a banana topping posted by Jo of Sugar & Everything Nice. Yesterday my mom gave me some cherries they had picked the other day, and I chose to add some to this delicious topping, in addition to increasing the honey. This topping is not only great on pancakes, but can also be used to top dessert items like cupcakes or ice cream.

Ingredient prices:
Eggs, 4 - $1.28
Milk, 1 cup - $0.24
Flour, 1 cup - $0.11
Butter, 1/4 cup - $0.50
Bananas, 2 - $0.37
Honey, 2 tbsp. - $0.25

Ingredients with negligible price:
Sugar - pantry staple
Salt - pantry staple
Cinnamon - pantry staple
Cherries - free from my mom

Total Price: $2.75

Oven Pancake
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 heaping tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup butter

Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, and salt until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour and cinnamon. Add to wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (the recipe I followed said 500, but my pancake got a little overdone around the edges. I did a google search and found that most recipes say between 400 and 450). Place butter in a 9-inch pie plate, and put the plate in the oven until the butter is melted. Remove from oven.

Pour the batter into the pan. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes, until puffy and golden brown. Don't let it get this dark:

During the last few minutes of cooking the pancake, start prepping your fruit for the topping so you can have the topping ready shortly after the pancake is done.

Banana Cherry Topping
2 bananas, sliced
10-12 cherries, pitted and quartered
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. honey

Combine all ingredients in saucepan. Heat over medium-low until warm, and bananas are slightly softened. Spoon over oven pancake.