Monday, September 29, 2008

Some Like it Hot!

We've had some tasty little jalapenos in the fridge waiting to be used. Today, we finally decided to use up most of them. I've been wanting to make jalapeno poppers, but upon checking the jalapenos, we realized that they were much too small to make decent poppers. So Jeff took several peppers and turned them into some really insane hot sauce. This stuff seriously needs to come with a warning label, but we figured a biohazard sign would be sufficient.

Jeff's Insane Jalapeno Hot Sauce
1/3 cup onion
1/3 cup jalapenos
2 tsp. minced bottled garlic
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. parsley
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. bacon bits (optional)

Combine in food processor and process until finely minced. Pour into one half-pint jar. Microwave uncovered about 2 minutes. Put lid on and let cool at room temperature. When Jeff made this, the lid actually popped down, like lids do when you process food in jars. But since we didn't process it, and I'm not sure about the food safety stuff involved, it's best to store this in the refrigerator.

This is very spicy, especially when you use (as we did) tiny jalapenos that have been sitting in the fridge for a while, because they heat up the longer they sit. Yum!

Jeff says that this can be added to stuff like ketchup or salsa to spice them up, or just use it like you would any hot sauce. If you're brave enough...

This sauce is really good, but I wasn't satisfied. We still had lots of jalapenos left, and I was still craving poppers. After thinking about it, I realized I could have the jalapeno popper flavor, without actually making poppers. I made it into a hot spread by taking the ingredients normally found in poppers, mixing them together, and baking them.

Jalapeno Popper Spread
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
2 tbsp. bacon bits
Several jalapenos, seeded and chopped
Bread crumbs

In a 9-inch pie plate, combine first four ingredients. If your jalapenos are particularly small and spicy, you might want to microwave them in a bowl with about a tablespoon of water first (cooking dulls the bite). But if you're like my husband, and start washing some dishes right in the spot where the steamy air shoots out the side of the microwave, be prepared for the jalapeno steam to hit you full in the face and make you choke a bit. As you're coughing, be sure to rub your eye with the fingers you got jalapeno juice on while you were chopping them. Yell a lot, and go running to the bathroom to rinse your eye thoroughly as your wife giggles at you.

Here's a pretty picture of the spread just after I added the jalapenos. I hadn't mixed them in yet, and it looked so pretty and colorful!

After you've combined the cream cheese, Colby Jack, bacon bits, and chopped jalapenos, spread it out evenly in the pan, and top with a sprinkling of bread crumbs. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.

This turned out so fabulous! It had all those great jalapeno popper flavors - cream cheese, bacon, melted cheese, and spicy jalapeno. Jeff and I absolutely loved it. I didn't particularly care for the fact that as I ate it my nose started sweating and running - but that's just what happens to me when I eat spicy food. TMI? Sorry...

Anyway, this wonderful spread can be used for crackers, chips, pita bread, or ... Focaccia Sticks!

Focaccia Sticks
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup water
Seasonings - garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and water. Plop dough out onto a greased baking sheet. Pour oil in your hands and spread the dough out flat. Sprinkle with seasonings. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut into 16 bread sticks.

I handled the different baking times and temps thus: As the bread was baking at 425, I was busy preparing the jalapeno spread. As soon as the bread finished baking, I removed it from the oven, turned the temp down to 375, and popped in the spread. The bread was cooled and sliced by the time the spread was done in the oven. It worked perfectly!

Since the jalapeno popper spread was too spicy for the kids to eat, I made a simple Italian-style tomato sauce for them to eat with their focaccia sticks: I combined 1 can diced tomatoes with 1 tsp. Italian seasoning, 2 tsp. minced garlic, and about 1/2 tsp. salt. They loved both the focaccia sticks and the sauce.

Here's the whole spread, on the table and on my plate!

And we still have four jalapenos (see picture at top of post) to use somehow!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rice Pudding

This is one of those great recipes to have on hand because it uses leftovers. I love eating foods with rice. I sometimes purposefully make too much rice so that I can use the leftovers to make this delicious comfort food.

Rice Pudding
3 cups cooked rice
3 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine the rice, milk, sugar, and butter in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened - about 30 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into individual dessert dishes or one large serving dish and sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve hot or cold.

Taking pictures of this tonight was sort of an afterthought. I downed mine, then decided I wanted to post the recipe, so I took a quick picture of my daughter's serving before handing it to her (sorry it isn't a prettier picture - but it's better than nothing). I also took one of her eating it, because as Jeff said, "She's just so cute!" :-)

Feel free to adjust the ingredients as necessary. I always just use the rice I have leftover from something else, and it rarely ends up at exactly 3 cups. More often I have something like 1 1/2 cups. So I adjust the proportions of the other ingredients to fit how much rice I've got.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Kitchen My World - India

I'm a procrastinator. I've known that the country for MKMW this week was India (chosen by Aunt Lolo of The Chow Review), ever since the beginning of the week. But I didn't do any planning or special shopping or anything. So when Saturday rolled around, I wasn't sure I was even going to do it this week. I'm not officially on the blogroll so no one would notice. But I wanted the fun involved, and I love trying foods from different cultures. I did a search on for Indian recipes, and found one for Chicken Korma. It looked really good, and although I definitely didn't have all the ingredients, I realized I had acceptable substitutes for most of them. Since I changed the recipe around so much, I don't really feel comfortable calling my dish Chicken Korma; it probably isn't very authentic at all - I was simply using what was available in my tightwad American kitchen. But it tasted very Indian to me, and it was delicious!

Spicy Indian Chicken with Rice
3 tbsp. oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. curry powder
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1 tbsp. lemon juice plus milk to equal 1/2 cup)
Cooked rice

Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, and curry powder. Cook for several minutes, until the onions are mostly tender. Cut each chicken breast half into four pieces and add to the skillet; cover and cook for 5-8 minutes.

Season with salt, red pepper, and cumin. Stir in the tomato juice and water. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add buttermilk and cook for 5-8 minutes.

Serve over hot cooked rice.

This was a spicy, flavorful chicken dish, and I absolutely loved it! It also would have gone well with chapati, along with or in place of the rice. Check out the other Indian delights from My Kitchen My World!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Microwave Mug Cake

I've seen this recipe floating around on a variety of blogs, and finally gave in and tried it. I have a microwave cake recipe that you make in a bowl, but I like this one better; it's more chocolatey. And it looks funnier too.

I was having a rough time last night, so I made this cake (at 10:30 pm!) and ate it all up. And it was good. Today, I showed my sister how to make it. And it is still good. These pictures are of my sister's cake.

Microwave Mug Cake
4 tbsp. flour
4 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg
3 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. oil
3 tbsp. chocolate chips (optional, but not really. Add them!)
Small splash vanilla

Measure flour, sugar, and cocoa in a large mug. Mix well.

Add egg and mix well.

Add milk and oil and mix well.

Add chocolate chips and vanilla and mix well.

Microwave for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise up over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed. All the recipes said to not be alarmed when the cake rose. But my microwave is weird, and I was alarmed anyway as I watched my cake spill over and drip down the sides. But don't worry, a regular microwave won't have this problem. My sister's cake (made in my mom's microwave) rose properly and didn't spill or anything.

Here it is rising in the microwave

Let cake cool briefly, and tip out onto a plate if desired. Then eat it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Four Grain Batter Bread

I wanted to make some bread today, but I had a huge list of requirements that needed to be met. I wanted it done before lunch. I didn't want a recipe that included a bunch of kneading, shaping, rising, and all that stuff. But I didn't want to just throw the ingredients into the bread machine. You know, sometimes I'm just not in a "bread machine" mood. But I wanted a bread that was bigger and more filling than my oft-favored, very fast and easy yeastless focaccia. Boy, was I hard to please this morning, or what!

Luckily, one of my blogging buddies, Jeanette, happened to post a delicious batter bread recipe just this morning. I knew when I read her description that this was the recipe I wanted to make: "This is one of my favorite breads to make because it is quick and easy. It only takes about 1 1/2 hour from start to finish." Sounds good to me!

A batter bread is a yeast bread that does not use kneading or lots of rising time. The gluten in the flour is developed by stirring or beating the dough instead of kneading it. The dough rises in the pan and then you bake it. For a yeast bread, this makes it very simple and quick.

Four Grain Batter Bread
4 1/2 to 4 3/4 cups all purpose flour or bread flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast (2 packets)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ (I used wheat bran, because that's what I had on hand)
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

Grease bottoms and sides of two 8x4 inch loaf pans and sprinkle with cornmeal.

In a large bowl, mix 3 1/2 cups of the all purpose flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and yeast.

Heat milk and water until very warm (120-130 degrees). Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Beat with electric mixer on low speed until moistened. Beat on medium speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.

Stir in whole wheat flour, wheat germ, oats and enough remaining all purpose flour to make a stiff batter. Divide batter evenly between pans. Round tops of loaves by patting with floured hands. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until batter is about 1 inch below tops of pans (I either let mine rise too long or used a bit too much yeast - mine ended up rising about an inch above the tops of the pans - whatever, it still worked out great).

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake about 25 minutes or until tops of loaves are light brown.

I'm glad I chose to make this recipe. It turned out very delicious, and I'm sure I'll make it again and again.

P.S. This is a very healthy bread, with the wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and oats. And an added bonus is that, besides greasing the pans, there's no added fat. Hooray! (although of course, that benefit is reduced somewhat when I spread about an inch of butter on the fresh-from-the-oven slices...)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

PB & J Muffins

Good Morning! Here's a yummy breakfast that the whole family can enjoy. I found this delicious recipe on Baking Bites, a blog I like to lurk at. These muffins feature one of those classic flavor combinations that you just can't go wrong with - peanut butter and jam!

PB & J Muffins
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup brown sugar
6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (I used creamy, but I want to try it with crunchy as well)
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
approx 1/3 cup jam (I used some homemade apricot jam)

Preheat oven to 375F and line a muffin tin with paper liners (I do suggest using the liners instead of just greasing - the jam could leak out and stick to the tin, making a big mess. Liners are easier, and you can get plain ones that are really inexpensive).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, peanut butter, eggs and milk until smooth. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Fill each cup of the prepared muffin tin about halfway up with batter. Top each with a heaping teaspoon of jam and cover with remaining batter. Each muffin cup (of a standard 12-cup muffin tin) should be filled to the top (I actually prefer these not quite filled to the top - I don't like dealing with spillover. If you have leftover batter, pour it into a greased microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for a few minutes until the top springs back when you touch it. Voila - instant bowl-shaped muffin!).

Bake for 17-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the top of the muffin springs back when lightly pressed. Cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Kitchen My World - Lithuania

This is my first entry in the My Kitchen My World blogging event. I'm actually not even on the blogroll yet, but this event just looked too fun to not participate. Andrea of Nummy Kitchen chose Lithuania as the country of choice this week. I wasn't really clear on the rules of the event. I think I'm supposed to make an actual meal from the featured country, but I didn't realize that and instead made little Lithuanian pastries. Next time I'll be sure to do an actual meal.

Ausukes ("little ears" - Lithuanian pastries)
2 eggs
3 tbsp. sweet cream (I substituted whole milk)
1 tbsp. sugar
About 1 3/4 cups pastry flour (I used all-purpose)

Beat eggs until light and fluffy. Add sugar and cream. Add enough flour to make a dough which can be rolled very thin. Cut into diamond shapes. Slash the center of each diamond, twist one end through the hole to form a knot. Fry in hot fat until lightly browned. Drain on absorbent paper. Dust with powdered sugar.

Note 1: Check the hot oil before frying to make sure it's the right temperature. Toss in a scrap of dough or two (okay, don't toss it. Set it in gently and stand back). If the dough just sits there and maybe bubbles half-heartedly, your oil probably needs to heat a bit more. If it pops and hisses and oil jumps out at you and the scrap starts burning within seconds, turn the heat down. If the dough starts bubbling merrily, and is nicely browned in about half a minute or so (maybe less), then the oil is just about right.

Note 2: These cook up really quickly. I learned that it's best to cook them in small batches. I would put in four little pastries, and by the time all four were in the oil, it was time to start turning them over. By the time I was done turning them, they were ready to be taken out and sugared.

Note 3: These were yummy! They didn't last very long because we kept snatching them as they finished cooking. You see this plate of ausukes? I ate the whole thing, and then some, in just a few minutes. Tasty little pastries!

Check out the My Kitchen My World website to see what yummy Lithuanian dishes that other (official) members of this event prepared!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Cheap Picnic Lunch

Another delicious Frugal Fridays meal (create a meal for 4 under $10). But this one is a little bit different from what we normally do...

We went out for a picnic at the park this afternoon. Even though we really didn't start planning this picnic until about 12:15 this afternoon, we were determined that we would have lunch at the park. Problem was, we didn't really have any picnic-appropriate foods readily available. So here's what we did:

Picnic Lunch
Go to Albertson's. Select at the deli:
1 4-piece chicken meal (2 thigh, 2 drumstick) - $2.99
1/2 pound macaroni salad on sale for 20% off - $1.10
1 pkg. 4 King's Hawaiian Rolls - $1.10

As you approach check-out lane, make impulse dessert purchase:
1 Oreo Go-Pak on sale - $1

Drive to park, spread out your homemade denim quilt, and chow down!

Total price (including 6% sales tax): $6.56

This was one of the most spendy meals we've done in a long time. As we tossed the Oreos in the cart I felt like such a spend-thrift! But every once in a while, it's good to splurge just a little bit, and have a good time with your family. Tomorrow it's back to eating frugal, home cooked, delicious meals. :-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Summer Produce, Autumn Flavor!

Yesterday Jeff and I talked about how fun it would be to try to make a pumpkin pie using summer squash in place of the pumpkin. So today, that's what I did. This really is a neat idea - we are still having a bumper crop of crookneck yellow squash, and are looking for unique ways to use them. This pie allowed us to use up several squash, and have a taste of autumn at the same time!

This pie really did end up tasting delicious. It was slightly different from a real pumpkin pie - in color, texture, and flavor. But it was wonderful in its own right. So if you've got a lot of summer squash to use, and are in the mood for fall flavor, give this pie a try. You'll be glad you did.

Summer Squash Custard Pie (or Mock Pumpkin Pie)
Several yellow summer squash
Single pie crust, partially baked (see below)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or use 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ginger, and 1/4 tsp. cloves)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)

Cut up summer squash and place in saucepan. Add water, not quite covering the squash. Heat to boiling and cook until squash is tender. Drain. Place squash in blender and puree. If necessary, add water 1 tbsp. at a time. Add as little water as possible, because too much will change the texture of the pie. Allow squash to cool.

While squash is cooling, prepare your crust. Any regular pie crust recipe will work, or use frozen. Partially prebake crust to keep it from getting soggy: Line crust with a double thickness of foil. Heat oven to 425 and bake foil-lined crust for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 2-4 minutes until crust is just barely starting to brown. Press down any bubbles with a fork. Don't prick the crust, though; you don't want filling leaking through.

To make filling, lightly beat eggs in medium mixing bowl. Measure 1 1/2 cups pureed squash, and add to bowl along with remaining ingredients. Mix well, and pour into crust. To prevent spillage, place crust on oven rack and then pour or spoon in the filling. Place a large baking sheet on the rack under the pie to catch any spills that might occur while cooking.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 350 and bake an additional 45 minutes, until butter knife inserted near center comes out clean. You can line the edges of the crust with foil for the first 30 to 45 minutes of baking time to prevent over-browning. I didn't, because I didn't really have an edge of crust to protect.

Let cool on wire rack two hours before slicing and serving. Pie can be kept at room temperature for 2-4 hours after this, but then should be covered and stored in refrigerator.

I really wanted to serve this with whipped cream or ice cream. But we don't have any at the moment. That's okay - this was good even without it!

See how nicely it held its shape? This pie was just beautiful.

I'm submitting this recipe to the I Love Baking blog event. Yum!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cocoa Mix / Chocolate Milk

I have a guest blogger today - my dear hubby Jeff. He made this yummy treat and wrote up this post.

This is Jeff here.

Stephanie recently came home from an enrichment activity where they were shown recipes and uses for powdered milk. One of the recipes was for hot chocolate mix and it mentioned that you could also chill it.

I love chocolate milk and this recipe rules! This is the second time that I made it. The first time I only made a half gallon (big mistake - it was too good to only make a half gallon). This time I made a whole gallon. It's good warm, it's good cold. Try it, enjoy it, love it.

Instant Cocoa Mix
4 cups instant powdered milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup non-dairy creamer (optional)
2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

To make cocoa mix - Combine ingredients and store until ready to use. Add 1/3 cup mix to 1 1/2 cups hot water.

To make chocolate milk - Mix together 11 cups of water, powdered milk, sugar, cocoa, creamer, vanilla and salt in a medium saucepan with a wire whisk. Heat on medium until warm, just before boiling. Don't let the mixture boil or you'll scald the milk. Pour into a gallon sized container and chill in the refrigerator. Mix before serving each time as the mixture will settle.

Sorry, I just had to include this picture. I just got my Clinical Laboratory Science diploma, and wanted to display it!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Skillet Apple Cake

I hung out at my mom's house yesterday because my sister was visiting. Mom happened to have several slightly-past-ripe apples in her fruit bowl that needed to be used. I jumped at the chance! Southern Plate just recently did a whole week of apple recipes, and every single post made me drool my head off. I was so excited to have the chance to try one of her delicious-looking recipes. I've been wanting to do more autumn-flavored foods in honor of the change in seasons, and thought that one of Christy's apple recipes would be the perfect start. This is the one I chose, and I'm so thrilled with how delicious it was!

Skillet Apple Cake
1/3 cup margarine or butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
5-6 apples, sliced and peeled
Chopped pecans
1 cup self rising flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt)
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbsp. additional melted margarine (I used oil)
1 egg, well beaten
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup water

Melt butter in skillet. Stir in 2/3 C sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Top with apple slices (in a single layer. This is important so that the cake turns out pretty); cover over medium heat for ten minutes. Top with pecans. In separate bowl, stir together flour, 1/3 C sugar, and 3/4 tsp cinnamon. Combine 3 T melted margarine, egg, milk, and water in separate bowl. Add to flour mixture and mix until just moistened. Spoon over hot apples and pecans. Cover and cook on stove eye for twenty minutes on low heat or until firm to the touch. Turn out onto large plate. DEVOUR! (Those are Christy's exact words. I would add that this is fantastic with ice cream).

A couple notes: I think my skillet was a little too large, and my apple slices too thin, in too many layers. I should have put the apples all in one layer. The cake didn't turn out of the pan neatly. It ended up slightly unsightly, in a huge pile on the platter. But that's just an aesthetic problem - the cake tasted so incredibly delicious no one noticed how funny it looked!

On a different note, I received something really fun in the mail yesterday morning. During her apple week, Christy held a giveaway for her cookbook and an apron made by her mom. And I won! Here I am posing with my fabulous new goodies!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Omnivore's 100

Here’s what you do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns - so good!
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - sounds too spicy, I couldn't handle it
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi - doesn't sound good, but I'd try it
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects - fried mealworms in a biology class
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu - sounds too dangerous
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill - um, eww.
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I thought that I would be able to bold a whole bunch of these, but apparently not. I've only eaten 31 things on the list. I don't drink coffee or alcohol, so immediately crossed out anything related to either. Other items were crossed off simply because they were too gross for me to consider eating!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Frugal Fridays - Zucchini Lasagna

Recap: Frugal Fridays is a blogging event where you prepare a cheap meal - serves 4 for under $10 - and you post about it sometime between Thursday evening and Saturday morning. I've been a Frugal Fridays slacker lately - I've still been preparing frugal meals on Fridays (and every day!), but I haven't been posting them. They were a little too plain, I felt, to be submitted to a blogging event.

This is a plain dish. I decided to post it anyway. Sometimes you just have to have plain dishes when you're on a tight budget. But plain can still be delicious.

This was a really frugal meal - one of those throw-together-whatever-you've-got sort of meals. I had a zucchini in the fridge. I had some homemade spaghetti sauce (made from blending together canned tomatoes, onion, and seasonings). I had some pepperoni. I had some shredded cheese. So I layered them all in a little pan and cooked it up!

Price of ingredients:
Zucchini - this came free from Mom's garden.
Spaghetti sauce - since I made it a few days ago, I don't recall what all went in it. I'll say it cost about $1.
Pepperoni - I only used about 10 slices; it was leftover from making pizza last week. We'll say $0.50.
Shredded cheese - Shhh, this was actually fake cheese, or "alternative shred," because we discovered that it was much cheaper than buying real cheese. It cost $4.25 for 2 lbs, and I used about 2/3 cup. So that cost me about $0.70.

Total - about $2.20. Woot!

The recipe wouldn't feed 4 hungry people, though. It was just me and the little ones and we pretty much finished it off. To feed 4, double it. Even doing that, it would cost under $5.

Zucchini Lasagna
1 large zucchini
1 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
10-15 slices pepperoni
2/3 cup shredded cheese

Slice zucchini at an angle to make those fancy-looking long slices. Spray 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Layer half the zucchini slices, half the sauce, all the pepperoni, and half the cheese. Then layer the remaining zucchini, sauce, and cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

The zucchini slices were still a little crisp, and they were so tasty! The flavors went together better than I expected for such a simple, modest, inexpensive, thrown-together dish. Anyway, it cleaned out some leftovers in the fridge. :-)

Thomas (1 yr old) loved this, as long as I cut the zucchini pieces up really small. He kept wanting more. Zaylee (3 yr old) was less convinced. She had several bites, but decided she was done long before her bowl was empty. I ate two servings.

Zaylee's Birthday Cake

Last night we had the birthday party for Zaylee. Since Jeff and I bought her Candy Land for her gift, I thought a Candy Land Cake would be appropriate.

To make this cake I used:
1 box strawberry cake mix
1 batch Decorator Frosting (recipe below)
Air Heads
Gumdrops (large and small)
Small licorice pieces
Nutter Butter Bites
Chocolate chips
Colorful ice cream cones
Green sugar crystals
Candy Land game to use as pattern

To save money, I purchased most of these items in the bulk foods section at Win-Co. We only got a little bit of each, and spent just pennies on each item!

I started with a boxed cake mix, strawberry flavor. Zaylee is a girly-girl and wanted a pink cake! I baked the cake in a 10x15 pan so I could have a larger surface to work with. Most Candy Land cakes I've seen use a double 9x13, but I didn't want that large of a cake. So I did one box of mix in the larger pan, and reduced the baking time. It took about 25 minutes.

Once the cake cooled, I frosted it with this frosting recipe. I really liked this frosting, because it ended up tasting very much like bakery frosting. The key was using shortening instead of butter, and beating it for a very long time.

Decorator Frosting
6 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup shortening
6 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla

Beat until fluffy. I used my mom's stand mixer and just let it go for several minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. I did have to add an additional 2 tbsp. milk because Idaho is dry and everything requires additional liquid. The frosting was fluffy, thick, and beautifully white!

Frost the cake, reserving a cup or two of frosting.

Trace path on cake with toothpick. Cut Air Heads into six squares each to use as path pieces, and lay along the path traced. Use Airheads cut into strips for the Rainbow Trail, and another Air Head, lined with gumdrops, for Gumdrop Pass.

For Candy Castle, press ice cream cones upside down into the frosting, and decorate with some of reserved frosting and sprinkles.

Snow Flake Lake is made with big globs of reserved frosting, piped from a baggie with a large hole cut in the corner. For Chocolate Swamp, mix some cocoa into the rest of the frosting and pipe large globs. Top with chocolate chips. I'm glad they changed Molasses Swamp to Chocolate Swamp - it would have been much more difficult to come up with a way to incorporate molasses onto this cake!

Pipe a small amount of the chocolate frosting into the arrow at the start of the path.

Use the remaining candies to make Peppermint Forest, Gumdrop Mountains, Licorice Forest, Peanut Acres, and Lollipop Woods, using board game as a guide. There is also a Gingerbread Tree on our game, but I didn't have space to put that on the cake.

Zaylee enjoyed her cake very much! Who wouldn't?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Zucchini Snack Cake

Today is my daughter Zaylee's third birthday. Happy birthday, Zaylee!

We're having her actual party, with the official cake and ice cream, on Thursday because it worked out more conveniently for us. But we wanted to have a little celebration today to commemorate the day our little sweetie was born. So I made this little cake with a zucchini we had sitting in the fridge.

I altered a recipe for Zucchini Bars/Cake from Real Mom Kitchen - the original recipe was for a whole sheet cake, and I just wanted a little cake. So I decreased all the ingredients and here's what I came up with.

Zucchini Snack Cake
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup grated zucchini
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
Dash pepper (optional)

Combine ingredients in order given. Pour into greased 8-inch square pan. Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling. Top with cream cheese frosting, or powdered sugar for a more vintage feel. I decided to go with powdered sugar because I've been eating way too many calories lately, and didn't want to go overboard - the real party with the calorie-rich frosted cake is only in two days anyway!

This was a tasty little cake - soft and fluffy, not too sweet or too spicy. This would be a great anytime cake, because it's small and nutritious, but still sweet enough to satisfy cravings.