Showing posts sorted by relevance for query mixes. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query mixes. Sort by date Show all posts

Oct 3, 2012

DIY Seasoning Mixes: Cheap and Easy!


In the past two weeks, I've posted about DIY spice blends and DIY baking mixes. This week, I'm moving on to DIY seasoning mixes, such as those used to make tacos and Ranch dressing. All are easy to make, cheaper than buying mixes from the store, and healthier, too (because they contain no preservatives - and usually have less salt, too). Give them a try and I think you'll find them convenient and well worth while.

A Few Tips

* Add all the ingredients for any given recipe to whatever container you'll store it in. Then shake to blend.

* Store DIY seasoning mixes in air tight containers. Glass jars with lids or storage bags (like Ziplock bags) work best. I find jars more convenient; bags tend to get lost in the pantry.

* Be sure to mark your DIY mix so you don't forget what's inside. Also, be sure to write an instructions for using the mix directly onto the mix's container.

* DIY mixes last about as long as store bought spice blends - but all will loose their flavor and potency over time. Prolong the life of mixes by keeping them in a cool, dark, dry location.

* I use sea salt for all my spice blends. If you use table salt with iodine, you'll probably want to reduce the amount of salt in the recipe.

* For recipes calling for bouillon, use a product with the lowest sodium and MSG content possible.


Taco Seasoning

To increase or decrease the amount of “hot” in the spice, reduce or increase the amount of red pepper you use.

2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper



Ranch Dip or Dressing Mix

1 cup dried minced onions
7 tablespoon parsley flakes
4 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder

To use for Ranch dressing: Mix 2 tablespoons of Ranch mix with 1 cup of mayonnaise and 1 cup of buttermilk.

To use for Ranch dip: Blend 1 tablespoon of Ranch mix with 1 cup of sour cream.

In both cases, it’s best to mix the ingredients together and chill for several hours before serving.


Onion Soup or Dip Mix

3/4 cup dried onion
1/3 cup low sodium beef bouillon granules
4 teaspoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed celery seed
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

To use as a dip: Stir 5 tablespoons of the ix into 1 pint of sour cream.
To use for soup: Stir 5 tablespoons of mix into 4 cups of water and heat.

French Dressing Mix

1 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon onion powder

To use: In a blender, place 1/4 cup of the mix, 3/4 cup olive oil, 6 tablespoons ketchup, and 1/4 cup white vinegar. Process until smooth. Chill.


Italian Dressing Mix

2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoon paprika
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons pepper

To Use: Combine 3 tablespoons of the mix, 1 1/2 cups olive oil, and 1/2 cup apple cider-, wine-, or balsamic vinegar.



Hidden Valley Dressing Clone

1 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoon dried basil
4 teaspoon dried onion flakes
2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

To use: Stir together 1/4 cup of the mix with 1/2 cup water. Whisk in 3/4 cup mayonnaise.


Hamburger Helper Clone

2 cups powdered milk
1 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons onion flakes
1/4 cup low sodium chicken or beef bouillon powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper

Rice-a-Roni Chicken Rice Clone

4 cups  rice 
4 tablespoons low sodium instant chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 teaspoon dried parsley 
1/4 teaspoon pepper

To Use: In a saucepan, combine 1 1/3 cups of the mix with 2 cups cold water and 1 tablespoon of butter. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. (Makes 4 to 6 servings.)

Cream of...Mix

4 cups powdered milk
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
1/2 cup instant low sodium chicken bouillon granules
4 teaspoons dried onion
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon pepper

To use: In a saucepan, combine 1/3 cup of the mix with 1 cup water. Add flavorings. (For example, if you want cream of mushroom soup, mince some fresh mushrooms and add them.) Cook over medium low heat until thickened. Equals 1 can of soup.
Spaghetti Mix

1 1/2 teaspoons dried onion
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon dried green or red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dried garlic flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground basil
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano

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Sep 28, 2012

DIY Baking Mixes - Save a Bundle!


It takes just minutes to make a batch of homemade baking mixes
I've already blogged about making your own spice blends. Today, I'm sharing my favorite baking mixes. Just as with spices, you can save a real bundle on these. For example, Betty Crocker's Chocolate Chip Cookie mix (a favorite in our house), sells for about $2.50 a bag. To make my own mix? Just 30 cents! And it takes no more than 10 to 20 minutes to create plenty of DIY baking mixes.

NOTE: All of these mixes store as long as the store bought variety, about 6 months, unless otherwise noted.

Bisquick Clone Mix

10 cups all purpose flour
8 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/4 cups powdered milk
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups shortening

Combine dry ingredients, then cut in the shortening. Finish by squeezing the mixture together with your hands until it resembles fine crumbs. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 months. Use exactly like Bisquick.


Cornbread Mix

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Store in a gallon sized, sealable bag. Add 1 egg, 1/3 cup milk, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and bake in a preheated 400 degree F. oven for 15 to 20 min.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Store in a quart-size, sealable bag. Add 8 tablespoons butter, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 9-11 minutes.

Chocolate Cake Mix

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Store in an air tight container in the pantry; equals 1 box of cake mix. Mix with ¾ cup milk, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, ½ cup butter, and 3 eggs. Bake at 350 degrees F. Bake in one 8 or 9 in. round pan for 20-25 min. Bake in one 13×9 in. pan for 35-40 min. Bake as cupcakes for 12 – 15 min. Bake in a bundt pan for 45 – 50 min. Flour and grease pan before adding batter.

Carrot Cake Mix

2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons powdered vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg


Store in a quart-sized bag or container; makes one 13.x9 in cake. To keep the pecans nice and fresh, consider storing in the freezer. Add 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, 3 eggs, 3 cups grated carrots, 1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple. Pour into a greased 13x9 in. baking pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 40-50 min.

Spice Cake Mix
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered milk
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup +1 tablespoon shortening
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Makes 1 cake; store in quart-sized, sealable bag. Add 2 eggs, 1 cup water, and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F. Bake in one 8 or 9 in. round pan for 20-25 min. Bake in one 13×9 in. pan for 35-40 min. Bake as cupcakes for 12 – 15 min. Bake in a bundt pan for 45 – 50 min. Grease and flour pan before adding batter.



White Cake Mix
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered milk
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon shortening


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Sep 24, 2012

DIY Spice Blends: Healthier, Cheaper - and Easy

Homemade Garlic & Herb blend
As the economy continues to decline, I've learned many of the kitchen skills my great-grandmothers knew, but which have been neglected by most today. No, I don't spend all day in the kitchen. But I've found if I make certain items from scratch, I save a considerable amount of money. Too, the end result is often healthier, being free of preservatives. To top it off, I can also do something few great-grandmas did: I can make these from-scratch recipes convenient by putting them together in bulk and storing them until I needed.

Because most of us are having to cut back on our spending these days, I'll be blogging about a variety of DIY mixes. Today, I'm posting recipes for popular spice blends. Over time, I'll share other types of mixes, including seasoning and baking mixes.

A Few Tips

* Add all the ingredients for any given spice blend to whatever container you will store it in. Then shake to blend.

* Store DIY spice mixes in air tight containers. You could re-use old spice jars, or you could use canning jars with lids or sealable storage bags (like Ziplock bags). The latter is the least convenient, since they quickly clutter up your spice drawer.

* Be sure to mark your DIY spice blend containers so you don't forget what's inside.

* DIY spice blends last about as long as store bought spice blends - but all spices loose their flavor and potency over time. Prolong the life of spice blends by keeping them in a cool, dark, dry location.

* I use sea salt for all my spice blends. I buy it coarse and grind it fine, as needed. If you use table salt, you'll want to reduce the amount of salt in the recipe or it will end up too salty - and too full of sodium. Note: Non-iodized salt has a more mild flavor than iodized salt.


* You may use herbs from your garden, but they should be thoroughly dry before adding them to a mix.

* Save even more money by purchasing your spices in bulk.

* Grocery store bulk spice bins that allow you to scoop out however much you wish to buy can save money. However, the spices tend to be less flavorful and potent because they are exposed to so much light and air before you purchase them.

* If using or purchasing whole spices (such as coriander seed, allspice, or cloves), toast them first in the toaster oven or traditional oven. This helps bring out their flavors. If needed, you may then grind the whole spices in a (clean!) coffee grinder.

Montreal Steak Seasoning Clone Recipe
We love, love, love this seasoning and rarely eat beef without it. However, it's also tasty on pork and chicken.

4 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon garlic powdered
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander seed

Mrs. Dash (Original) Clone Recipe
This great blend of herbs adds enough flavor, you won't need salt.

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon savory
1 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon black pepper

Garlic & Herb Mix
This one is very similar to Mrs. Dash's Garlic and Herb seasoning, making it perfect for any type of meat - or as a more flavorful replacement for garlic and onion powder.

2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons basil
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper

Old Bay Clone Recipe
I rarely use this one, but I know you New Englanders can hardly cook without it! Traditionally, it's used on  seafood, chicken - and French fries.

1 tablespoon bay leaf powder
2 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoons ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/8 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoons ground mace
1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom

Emerile's Essence Clone Recipe
A good general spice mix for meat, fish or pasta.

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried Oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Chinese 5 Spice Powder
A classic for stir-fries, marinades, and sauces. 

60 Black Peppercorns
4 tsp Anise seed or
1 ea Star anise
2 tsp Fennel seed
12 ea Whole cloves
4 ea 1" long stick cinnamon

Curry Powder #1
Famous in Indian cuisine. This version offers complex flavor.

1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup cumin
1 tablespoon fennel powder
2 tablespoons mustard powder
1 tablespoon ground red pepper flakes (omit if you want the mix less spicy)
3 tablespoons ground coriander
1/4 cup ground turmeric root
1 tablespoon ground cardamon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves powder

Curry Powder #2
A good substitute if you can't find some of the ingredients for version #1, but not as complex.

2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons whole cardamom seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds, toasted
1/4 cup ground turmeric
1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne

Seasoned Salt
Gives a little extra kick than plain salt.

1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons dried parsley (optional)

Poultry Seasoning
For...poultry.

2 teaspoon ground sage
1 ½ teaspoons ground thyme
1 teaspoons ground marjoram
¾ teaspoons ground rosemary
½ teaspoons ground nutmeg
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Pumpkin Pie Spice
 Not only is this a must for making pumpkin pie, but it tastes great in anything that contains pumpkins.

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground allspice
1½ teaspoons ground cloves
¾ teaspoons ground nutmeg

Apple Pie Spice
 Great for any baking that contains apples.

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamo
1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

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Feb 11, 2017

Weekend Links & Updates

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Deuteronomy 31:6


It's been very windy. Our large, main living windows often flex in the wind. A little scary! So sometimes I put tape across them...just in case.

* Happily, my blood sugar is now regularly in the 80s and 90s - normal. And I've lost 18 lbs. since going on this super-low carb keto diet right before Christmas. Yay!

* Another pet food recall.

* Have you seen Ball's new spiral canning jars? Pretty! I think they'd be great for gifts.


* Do You Truly Cherish Your Husband?

* Dealing with Sibling Fighting and Rudeness. 

* The Link Between Gut Bacteria and Your Child's Behavior Just Got Stronger.

* How to Adopt for (Almost) Free.

* How to prepare a home inventory, in case of fire or other disaster.

* Want to make your own natural cleaning products? Here's a great resource for getting started.

* Spring is nearly here, and with spring, come nettles - a natural, free superfood. 

* How tending a garden is good for your health. 

* How to prune blueberries for a larger harvest.  

* Have you seen the crazy news story about feeding cattle Skittles? It's true! And they've been doing it for years. Poor qualify feed = poor quality meat. 

* First GMO apple going on sale.


Oldies But Goodies



* How to tell if old seeds are still good.

* How to lead your children to Christ - with a free lesson plan.

* Keeping your marriage spark on Valentine's Day and every day.

* Make your own seasoning mixes to save money and eat more healthy.



Dec 10, 2016

Weekend Links & Updates

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

 In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.


"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies and your right hand delivers me."
Psalm 138:7

 * What a week! Last Sunday, we were in the ER because my son had a severe case of hives due to a food allergy. (He's just fine now.) Thursday, my doctor called and said I have diabetes...in fact, I'm right on the level where medical guidelines say I need insulin. (My doc is trying non-insulin pills on me first; in about a week he'll do another test to see how I'm faring.) Then yesterday, my hubby spent the afternoon in surgery.  Last weekend, he was weed whacking a trail on our property and accidentally hit a metal post with the whacker. A piece broke off the post and hit him in the throat. He bled like crazy, but wouldn't go to the doctor. Yesterday, he decided he'd better see a doc, because he could feel a weird bump on his throat. Turned out, he not only had a piece of metal in him, but it was all the way back at the base of his tongue. The doctor said if it had been just a little bit one way or the other, it would have killed him. The surgery was two hours (lots of prodding around, trying to find the metal) and now hubby is in a lot of pain. God definitely preserved his life, but if you think of it, will you pray for his healing and pain reduction?

* Recall of Publix Pancake and Waffles mixes, due to Salmonella.

* Recall of Phil-Am Smoked Mackerel due to possible botulism.

* Recall of Apple Tree Goat Cheese due to possible listeria. 

* Recall of 2 million pounds of chicken. 

* Excessive folate and B12 during pregnancy linked to Autism. 



Oldies But Goodies:

* Christmas Tradition: A Birthday Cake for Jesus
* Tricks for Mailing Christmas Cookies
* 20 Ways to Save Money this Christmas


Jul 16, 2016

Weekend Links

Harvesting tons of plums on our new homestead!
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

* I finally got around to counting the fruit trees on our new homestead. There are 9 apples, 11 plums, 1 pear, 1 apricot, and 2 cherries. That alone ought to keep me busy this summer!

* Betty Crocker mixes recalled due to possible E. coli contamination.

* Common additive (often not found on food labels) may cause food allergies.

* Why you might want to grow Yarrow.

* Zucchini is far more versatile than most people imagine. Take this Zucchini Brownie recipe, for example. (Find more zucchini recipes here.)

* It's important to be prepared for persecution.

* Introducing our first addition to the homestead: Buddy. He's my daughter's pet Polish rabbit. He's only about 2 lbs. and will stay that way.

Oldies But Goodies:

 * Get organized to pay your bills and never miss a due date again. 
* Powdery mildew treatment that's cheap, natural, and WORKS! 
* To the Mom Who Thinks She's Not Doing Enough 
* Homemade Yogurt in the Crock Pot

 

Aug 24, 2015

Healthy Dinner Strategies for Busy Moms

If you're a mom with kids at home, you're busy. And many of us find ourselves even busier (and more tired!) than usual once the school year starts. That makes feeding our families healthy food a real challenge. And while modern moms have more unhealthy food options than ever - we also have more options when it comes to feeding our families healthy, quick meals.


Crock Pots

I have a love/hate relationship with my crock pot. I love that I can throw some ingredients into it in the morning and have a healthy dinner ready for my family by evening - no matter how busy I am. And if I plan ahead just a little, I can even prep the ingredients ahead of time, toss them into the freezer, and literally spend less than a minute making dinner on weekdays.

What I don't care for is the somewhat bland flavor many crock pot recipes have. Fortunately, there are fixes for that; click here to learn how to pump up the flavor of crock pot foods. Another not so great part of crock pot cooking is that so many recipes you find online are contain processed food (condensed soup, Ranch mixes, and so on). Sometimes you can easily substitute homemade versions of those processed foods, other times not. Happily, though, you can turn your favorite non-crock pot recipes into recipes you can use in a slow cooker. Also, check out this blog for healthy crock pot recipes...and my Pinterest Slow Cooker board, too.


Freezer Cooking

You may have seen blog posts showing ambitious moms cooking and freezing 30 days worth of meals in one weekend. If you can do that, good for you! I can never seem to get my act together to make this many freezer meals. But that doesn't mean freezer cooking isn't for me.

Courtesy of Elin B and Wikipedia Commons.
The easiest way to start freezer cooking is to double meals and freeze the extras. An even easier way is to simply cook up, say, all the ground beef soon after bringing it home from the store. Freeze it and you've just cut at least 10 minutes off each meal you prepare with it later in the month.

Other ideas include starting modestly by cooking and freezing a week's worth of dinners on a Saturday. Premeditated Leftovers also has ideas on spending just 30 minutes each day to fill your freezer with cooked food. For freezer-appropriate recipes and guidelines for beginners, be sure to check out my Freezer Cooking Pinterest board.


Pressure Cookers


For some reason, pressure cookers aren't mainstream in the United States. I really have no idea why, because they are such a quick, easy way to produce a healthy meal. For example, you can cook a moist, delicious whole chicken in just half an hour! Unsoaked black beans? 24 minutes. (If you soak them first, they take just 6 minutes.) Brown rice? 20 minutes. And you can cook whole meals, too, usually for 20-30 minutes. And unlike stove top cooking, pressure cooking takes less work on your part. You just stick in the ingredients, watch for the pressure to reach the right level, and then set the timer. In short, cooking time is cut by 1/3, saves 70 - 90% in energy, and retains 90% of the vitamins in your food! (Source.)

One word of caution, though: Don't confuse pressure cookers with pressure canners. Pressure canners are designed specifically for home canning. Sometimes they are appropriate for cooking, too, but not always. Pressure cookers are designed specifically for cooking. Do NOT use them for canning! I use my Presto canner as a pressure cooker; my only complaint is that because it has such a large capacity, it's difficult to get into the sink for cleaning. On the other hand electronic pressure cookers are favored by many because you don't have to tend to them at all: Just put the food in, turn them on, and walk away.

Not sure where to begin with pressure cooking? Check out my Pinterest Pressure Cooker board!


Which One Is Right For You?

Personally, I don't know what I'd do without all of these strategies! When my family grows tired of crock pot food, I can pop something in the pressure cooker. If I'm too tired for that at the end of the day, I can pull something out of the freezer. You see, having all these options available to me means I don't have to be hyper organized. And that is a very good thing!


May 4, 2015

How to Make Brownies Without a Box (Brownies From Scratch Recipe)

Growing up, I never had brownies from anything other than a boxed mix. And until a few days ago, I'd never made brownies from scratch. Yes, the boxed mixes are full of preservatives, GMO soy, and bad-for-you oils, but because brownies aren't something we eat often, they were low on my list of things to learn to cook from scratch. But when I did finally get around to them...oh my! They were the best brownies my family had ever tasted. And there's even better news: They are quick and easy to prepare! Never eat brownies from a box again, my friends.

How to Make Brownies Without a Box

1/2 cup butter
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I use dark chocolate, which is lightly sweetened)
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon real vanilla
3/4 cup all purpose flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 in. pan. (I use coconut oil; butter is a healthier choice, too.) Set aside.

2. Place a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the butter and chocolate. Melt, stirring now and then, until both the butter and chocolate are fully melted. Remove from the heat.


 

3. Add the eggs, sugar, and vanilla and stir until just combined. Stir in the flour until just combined.


4. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. All to cool on a wire rack.

Variation: If desired, you may add 1/2 cup chopped nuts, while stirring in the flour.

Jan 19, 2015

Bread by Hand vs. by Stand Mixer vs. by Bread Machine

Store bought bread is expensive - especially if you're buying "healthy" bread. Worse, almost all brands are packed with unhealthy ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, GMO soy or corn, azodicarbonamide (a chemical used in yoga mats and other non-food products), food dyes, sucralose, and more. (Real Food Forager has a good article with more reasons why store bought bread isn't healthy.)

Making bread at home, on the other hand, is much healthier - and typically less expensive. But it does take time and energy to create. So as a busy mom, you might ask yourself: What is the best, fastest way to make my family's bread? Entirely by hand? With the help of a stand mixer? Or with a bread machine? Over the years, I've made our bread all of these ways. Here's what I've discovered.




Making Bread Entirely By Hand
My No Fail Bread


For me, making bread by hand is immensely satisfying. Kneading is relaxing, and the entire baking process,  calming. To make bread my hand, first mix the ingredients together, then knead them with your hands. The kneading creates good texture by adding air bubbles and helping to develop the gluten in the bread. (Assuming you're not making gluten-free bread.) Kneading by hand takes about 7 - 8 minutes. Next, leave the dough  in a warm location to rise - usually a half hour or longer. Then "punch down" the dough (literally punch it with your fist, so it deflates). Depending upon the recipe, you may need to repeat the rising process a few times. Then you shape the dough, allow it to rise for a time, and bake it in the oven.

Recipe Recommendation: Here is the very first bread recipe I ever used. It's very easy, and no fail.

Pros:
* Best texture; with a good recipe, the bread is crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and not crumbly. This is the standard by which all other breads are compared.
* Many people find the process relaxing.

Cons:
* This is the most time consuming way to make bread.
* If your house is cool, getting the bread to rise without turning on the oven and putting the dough nearby can be difficult.

Making Bread With Stand Mixer
Homemade pita bread.

With this method, you let the mixer do the mixing and kneading: Put the ingredients in the bowl of the mixer, attach a dough hook, and turn the mixer on. Stand mixer kneading takes about as long as hand kneading. The rest of the steps are the same as if you're making the bread entirely by hand.

Pros:
*Similar in texture to hand made bread, unless you overmix the dough.
* Faster than handmade.
* Some people find this method easier than kneading by hand.

Cons:
* It's important not to overmix the dough, or you'll end up with tough bread.
* If your house is cool, getting the bread to rise without turning on the oven and putting the dough nearby can be difficult. 

Making Bread with a Bread Maker Doing the Mixing and Rising
Homemade garlic bread.

With this method, you dump all the ingredients into a bread maker, which mixes and kneads the dough, then let it rise in the machine, which does a great job of keeping the dough warm. Once the dough is done rising, you punch it down, shape, allow to rise again, and bake in the oven.

Pros:
* A very fast method - you just dump the ingredients in and the machine does the mixing, kneading, and rising.
* Perfect rising - even if your house is cool.
* Can walk away and let the dough sit for hours.

Cons:

?

Making Bread with a Bread Maker Doing All the Work

Another bread maker bread.

With this method, you dump all the ingredients into the bread maker and the machine does everything else: Mixing, kneading, rising, and baking.

Recipe Recommendation: Here's a wheat bread recipe that works well in the bread machine.

Pros:
* This is the fastest method - just dump in the ingredients and the machine does everything else.
* An ideal method if you'll be away from the house; requires no babysitting of the dough. You can even make bread overnight.

Cons:
* Bread made entirely in a bread maker just doesn't have the same texture as bread made any of the above ways. It tends to be a bit tougher and more crumbly.
* Often, the size of the loaf means you either get huge sandwiches from it (using two slices), or tiny sandwiches (using one slice, cut in half).
* Personally, my entirely bread machine baked bread often ends up with a fallen top - even though I've used many different machines and recipes. I never have this trouble with other methods.

Conclusion

As you can probably tell, my favorite method is to use the bread machine for mixing, kneading, and rising; then I like to take over with the shaping, the final rise, and the oven baking. I've used this method for everything from sandwich bread to cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, and pizza crust. That said, I sometimes make bread entirely by hand. And sometimes I use a stand mixer. And sometimes I even let the bread machine bake the bread. Having all these options available to me really makes a difference when it comes to the temptation of buying store bought bread! But just so you know I'm keeping it real: Yes, when I'm uber busy or overwhelmed...I buy store bought bread, too

Tip: The best way to slice homemade bread.


Recipes:

Easy, No Fail Bread for Beginners 

No Fail Sandwich Bread

Bread Maker Whole Wheat Sandwich bread with honey

Bread Maker Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread with brown sugar 

No Knead Oat Bread

Pita Bread

From Scratch Biscuits (Made Healthier)

The Best Cinnamon Roll Recipe Ever

Tender, Crowd-Pleasing Dinner Rolls

Apr 10, 2013

Top 12 Tips for Saving Money on Groceries

* Don't buy processed food. Many Americans really have no idea how much processed food they eat - and how it really is possible to do without. Not buying and eating processed food can drastically cut your grocery bill - and it's much, much healthier besides. Have you studied the labels of processed food and compared it to homemade? Processed is packed with preservatives, unnatural dyes, unhealthy fats, and GMO ingredients. This really is not stuff you want to eat - even if you can get it cheap by being a coupon diva. It may seem impossible to cut processed food from your life, but my family is testament to the fact it can be done. And once you do it, you'll wonder what the big deal ever was.

* Don't buy prepared food. Whether it's pre-sliced fruit or vegetables or pre-cut meat costs so much more!

* Cook from scratch. Somehow, marketers have successfully convinced Americans they don't have time to cook from scratch. But it's often just as quick to whip up a meal from scratch as it is to heat up some sort of processed meal. From scratch is nearly always healthier - and cheaper. You can even make your own from scratch convenience foods! (Check out my posts on DIY seasonings, baking mixes, spice blends, and more.)  


* Avoid eating out. It's massively more expensive to get food from a restaurant than it is to make it at home. And again, homemade is usually healthier, too.

Biscuits are so cheap, easy, and quick to make from scratch.
* Pay attention to sales. Go to your local grocery store(s) website(s) and look at their sales. Look for the best deals, then plan your meals around those things.

* Do some meal planning. It really isn't that hard - especially with my bare bones technique - and it will save you a lot of stress and money.

* Stock up when things are on excellent sale. I have a local grocery store that puts quality meat on BOGO (Buy One, Get One Free) from time to time. It's a fantastic deal. So I try to buy enough BOGO meat to last us until the next BOGO offer.

* Use your freezer. Freezers help you stock up on good deals, like those mentioned above, and they also reduce waste. If there is produce, for example, that tend to rot before you can eat it, try freezing it. (Freezing can also be really convenient. For example, if you chop up a bunch of onions and freeze them, or brown some ground beef and freeze it, it will make cooking dinner that much easier.)

* Consider cheaper alternatives. Many families can't imagine life without boxed cereal, but we rarely buy it. Not only is it generally expensive, but it's typically packed with GMOs. If you need a quick and easy breakfast for the family, consider oatmeal, or make pancakes or waffles ahead of time, and freeze a bunch for heating up later.

* Don't buy fresh, out of season produce. It's expensive! And it rarely tastes very good. Instead, stick to Epicurious' peak season map - and my A Vegetable for Every Season Cookbook.)
In season produce is cheaper and tastier.
what's in season. (Not sure what is in season when? Check out

* Keep a price book. This sounds like a huge deal, but it's not. Basically, it's just a way of never forgetting what you typically pay for grocery items your regularly buy. By keeping a price book, you can easily and accurately see whether it's worth shopping at more than one grocery store - and whether sales are truly a good deal.

* Consider buying in bulk. Some bulk items will usually save your money; good examples include flour, sugar, oats, dry beans, and rice. All these items last long time if stored in air tight containers in a dry pantry. Poor choices for bulk buying include anything with short shelf life or foods you rarely eat. Use your price book to determine whether buying in bulk will truly save you money.

For an excellent all round guide to keeping your grocery budget tamed, I highly recommend The Joyful Momma's Guide to  Shopping & Cooking Frugally. The Kindle version is just $1.99.


Jun 27, 2011

Homemade Convenience Foods

I see a lot of the moms buying convenience food for their families. Here are two reasons I rarely do this:

1. Because they are processed, convenience foods are far less nutritious and healthy than homemade.

2. Convenience foods are far more costly than homemade.

But YES! Just like every other mom, there are times I'm way too tired to cook from scratch! The good news is, we can have the best of both worlds, if we make homemade convenience foods. All it takes is a little thought, followed by just a little time. (Think you don't have the time? It doesn't take much longer to double recipes - one excellent way to make convenience foods at home.) Here are a few ideas:

* Frozen Meals/TV Dinners. This is a great place to start. Just cook double every time you make a meal. Cool the food, then freeze it. Next time you don't have time or energy to cook, all you have to do is grab a meal from the freezer and warm it up.

* Pizza. It costs us at least $15 to purchase delivery pizza for our family, and at least $7 if we buy frozen or deli pizza. But I can make pizza at home for a couple of bucks. To make homemade pizza a convenience food, try these freezing options.

* Baking mix. I don't find it troublesome to make biscuits, pancakes, waffles, and the like from scratch - especially if I keep all the ingredients in one location. However, if you prefer having a ready made mix, these are super-simple to make and cost pennies compared to store bought. Here is a recipe for a white flour, Bisquick-like mix. If you prefer something with more healthful whole wheat flour, substitute up to half the white flour with whole wheat flour, then store the mix in the freezer. (No need to thaw before using.)

* Frozen biscuits. Once you make these from scratch, you'll never buy Pillsbury again. Just whip up a bunch (try Light as Air Biscuits or Buttermilk Biscuits), and either freeze them after the first rising, or after they are baked. (I recommend the first approach. To use, thaw, let rise in a warm location, and bake.)


* Frozen Pancakes or Waffles. These are just too easy to make at home. Learn how to freeze pancakes here - waffles here.

* Frozen Burritos. Again, seriously easy to make at home! I whip up large batches, wrap in foil, toss in large freezer bags, and reheat when needed. Here's my recipe for breakfast burritos, but any type of burrito - or enchilada - works.

* Store bought bread. Admittedly, it takes a little time to make bread at home if you don't have a bread maker. But a consumer-model bread maker pays for itself pretty quickly if you normally buy a few loaves of bread each week. There's also no point in buying store bought loaves to accompany dinner - just make a bunch of dough ahead of time and freeze it. (To use, thaw, let rise, and bake.) Or freeze baked loaves.

* French Fries and Hashbrowns. Once again, these are so cheap to make! If you like a lot of French fries, it makes sense to invest in a good mandolin for faster cutting. Here are instructions on freezing homemade fries. Hashbrowns are even easier to make. Just peel, cut into halves, boil until just tender, then strain. Pour the potatoes in a bowl and cover with cold water. (This keeps them from overcooking.) Shred by hand or in a food processor and place in freezer bags.

* Cookie dough or mixes. Homemade is both better tasting and cheaper. If you want to be able to make cookies at the drop of a hat, make extra next time you bake from scratch, then freeze the dough.
* Canned beans. Use dried and save a bundle. If you have trouble remembering to prepare the beans enough ahead of time, make large batches and either freeze or can them. The same goes for baked beans or refried beans. (Hint: Can pinto beans and mash them as you reheat; Linkviola! Refried beans!)

* Pre-cooked Meat. I honestly can't believe anyone buys precooked meat; it's very expensive yet easy - and cheaper - to make at home. Cook up more than needed when making a particular meal, allow to cool, and put in freezer bags. This works for ground meat and chopped or shredded poultry, beef, or fish.

* Chicken Nuggests/Tenders. My kids love these things, and they are my go-to food whenever the main meal I fix is not to their liking. Here's a recipe; just wrap individual tenders in waxed- or parchment-paper and pop them into freezer containers.

* Soups. Once you've had good, homemade soup, it's pretty hard to eat the canned stuff. The good news is, any soup can be frozen and many can be canned.

* Powdered or Ready Made Pudding. Shelf stable pudding is scary. Plus, you'll save a bundle making it at home; store this mix in an air tight container.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg. Chances are, if you do a Google search, you will find recipes for nearly any convenience food you buy in the store. And that's good not only for your bank account, but also your family's health.

What are your favorite home made convenience foods?


Aug 20, 2010

What To Do with Summer and Winter Squash

It's that time of year when many people are either overrun with squash from their own garden or they are getting lots of freebies from their neighbor's gardens. I never used knew what to do with squash - I wasn't even sure I liked it. But squash - a fruit native to the U.S. - is a highly versatile and nutritious food, and now I know a number of ways to make it delicious - or hide it in other foods.

There are over 100 different types of squash, but only two basic types: Summer squash and winter squash. Summer squash (like zucchini, patty pan, straightneck and crookneck) have tender skin and don't store well for long. Winter squash (like acorn, spaghetti, butternut, and carnival) have thick, tough skin and can keep for up to 6 months in a cool, dry, dark location. Both types of squash are generally available year round in grocery stores but are at their peak in late summer through fall.

If you grow squash, or receive it as gifts from friends, you might quickly get overwhelmed. A single plant often produces more than a family of 3 or 4 can eat fresh. Summer squash, in particular, only keeps for about a week or two in the refrigerator. So what to do with the extras?

The good news is, summer squash is easy to freeze. Just cut off the ends of the fruit, grate it (skin and all), place in a freezer container, and put it in the freezer. I like to store grated summer squash 3 cups at a time. This is the amount I need for my zucchini bread recipe, but it's also a good amount for adding to soups, stews, and spaghetti sauce. This latter method really hides the squash - the grated pieces almost disappear - making it a good choice for picky eaters.

You can also freeze summer squash in slices measuring about 1/2 inch thick. Toss the slices in boiling water for 3 minutes, then dump them in a sink or large bowl filled with ice and cold water. Once the fruit is cool, transfer to freezer containers and then pop them into the freezer. These slices are an excellent addition to stews, soups, roasts, and vegetable mixes.

If you prefer to can summer squash, the only safe way to do so is to turn it into relish or pickles. Check out The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for recipes.

Winter squash takes slightly more work to freeze because it must be cooked first. The easiest way to do this is to place the squash in a glass container, along with a couple inches of water. Cover and microwave until soft. Depending upon the type of squash, this will take about 14 to 30 minutes. Remove the seeds and pulp, slice as desired, place in a freezer container, and pop into the freezer. If you prefer, you can boil, bake, or pressure cook the squash before freezing it. Winter squash can also be canned cubed.

Favorite Ways with Summer Squash:

* Slice into circles, pepper, and saute in a little bacon grease. (Summer squash has an extremely mild flavor, so whatever you sauteed it with, make sure it has great flavor.)

* Made into zucchini bread or muffins. (Recipe coming soon!)

* Chopped into soups, stews, or any recipe calling for a mixture of veggies.

* As a substitute for flat pasta. (For example, use long slices of zucchini in place of lasagna noodles.)

* Shredded and added to cookies and breads.

* Chopped and roasted.

You're most likely to run across recipes for zucchini, but remember any type of summer squash can be used in place of zucchini. Also, don't peel summer squash. The skin is perfectly edible and holds much of the fruit's nutrition.


Favorite Ways with Winter Squash:

* Baked whole. (Prick the skin all over with a fork, cut off the top, remove the seeds and pulp, season, and stuff, if desired. Replace the top before baking. Smaller winter squash cook up well in the microwave: Cut in half and place in a bowl, cut sides down. Add about ¼ cup of water. Cover and microwave on high for about 6 minutes per pound, or until a fork pierces the skin easily.)

* As a substitute for pureed or canned pumpkin.

* Roasted.

* As an edible tureen for stews or soups.


Other Delicious Ideas:

Young squash leaves are edible and make a nice addition to stews or soups. Squash blossoms are also edible, and are often added to rice or salads. All types of squash seeds are delicious when roasted; make them just like roasted pumpkin seeds (instruction here), but check the seeds every 10 minutes or so. Smaller seeds will roast much more quickly than pumpkin seeds.