Cornmeal Biscuits

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I’m always looking for new, cheap recipes, and I stumbled across this book at my library:

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The “More with Less” cookbook was originally written in the 1970’s, and has since been updated. It had lots of useful recipes, and ideas for using up leftovers, which I’m clearly a fan of. I also keep an eye out for allergen-free recipes, since my kiddo is allergic to most things that taste good. This recipe for cornmeal biscuits immediately caught my eye, because I accidentally bought too much cornmeal, and now two giant, hulking sacks are taking over my whole pantry.

Cornmeal Biscuits

Combine in a bowl:
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Add:
2 tbsp fat (bacon drippings are good)
1/2 cup milk
Grease a large, heavy skillet with bacon drippings, Drop batter from a tablespoon, shaping into 4 biscuits, Brown on both sides. Serve hot with butter or margarine.

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Some variations: I used olive oil, rather than bacon grease, and you can mix some herbs in for different flavors. I’ve also mixed cheese into them before, and those were pretty tasty. I had an extra bag of fish fry sitting around, so I substituted some of that for half the cornmeal, and they were very flavorful.

I formed some of the biscuits into fish shapes, to copy the fish biscuits from the Octonauts cartoon. My kid absolutely loved them. They are a bit crumbly though. I’m planning to try adding some flax meal as an egg substitute, to see if they hold together better, but feel free to try an egg if you aren’t dealing with that particular allergy.

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Overall, they are tasty, and crispy. They go great with butter, and even jam or honey. They are a bit crumbly, but I hope to fix that in future variations. This would also be a good batter to use as a casserole topping for those with food allergies. Or if your kid is obsessed with Octonauts, they were very easy to form into fish shapes. Have fun with it!

February 17, 2017. Tags: , , , , , , , . Cooking, Kid Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. 1 comment.

Silly Faces for Lunch

I think all of us are could benefit from getting more veggies in our diets. Yes, even you, T-Rexes. Lots of people have to find ways to “trick” their kids into eating vegetables, which I’m totally on board with. Trick your kids as long as you can get away with it! Personally, I end up having to trick myself into eating more veggies, not because I don’t like them, but because I just kind of forget there are foods other than coffee and cheese.

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The other day, we were all hungry, I had too much produce in the house, and the 3 year old needed an activity. I stood him on a chair in the kitchen to help me make silly faces for lunch. I saw this in one of his Elmo books, so it’s clearly a good idea.

I cut up cheese for teeth, cucumbers and tomatoes for eyes, and used cucumber and carrot peels for hair. You can use whatever you have in the house. And let the kid be creative! Don’t get hung up on it being a face, necessarily. I’m here to tell you, LOTS of those pictures on pinterest are plain old lies. No, random blogger, I don’t believe your 18 month old perfectly decorated that Christmas tree craft you’re guilting me into doing. So here’s what my 3 year old made:

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See? Perfect three year old artwork. And he ate ALL OF IT, which was the important part. I made this one for myself, and it’s far more terrifying:

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I’m not sure why it came out like a nightmare clown, but whatever, it still tasted good.

Some ingredient ideas:
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Snap peas
Rinsed, canned beans
Carrots
Cherry tomatoes
Cheese cubes
Radishes
Cucumbers
Olives
Hard-boiled eggs
Peas
Avocado
Spinach or salad for hair
Cottage cheese
Whatever needs to get used up in the fridge

This was a fun way to “cook” with my kiddo, let him do something creative, and get all of us fed at the same time. So clean out the produce drawer and have at it!

January 11, 2017. Tags: , , , , , . Cooking, Kid Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. 1 comment.

Save the Celery!

We’ve all had that moment were we open the produce drawer only to be confronted by a wilted, accusatory vegetable.

“You wanted me! You drove all the way to the store, wandered the aisles for an hour, and selected me to come home with you. Then you just forgot me?!?!!”

“Look, I’m sorry, Celery. I just got busy-”

“Oh, please. You managed to cook the squash and the broccoli! You cook all the time!”

“I know, you’re right. Look, let me make it up to you.”

“I’m listening….”

“I’ll write a blog post all about how to use up celery in your condition, so that no celery ever gets wasted again.”

“And?”

“….And, I’ll give you a bunch of dialog, so you can yell at me all you want.”

“Deal!”

So here we are. As I said, I bought too much celery, only to find it limp and unappealing. What to do?

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If the celery is not too bad, just on the cusp of “Oh crap, I better use this up right now”, cut it up for snacks! I’m very fortunate in that I can hand almost any food item to Hubby, say “I made you a snack!” and he’ll eat it up. Much like Joey on Friends when their fridge broke. You can always count on me for current pop-culture references!

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When the celery is just a little wilty, cut some of the bottom off, then place it in a glass of water. It’s still a plant, and it will suck up water like a 3rd grader’s science experiment. If any of the leaves are gross, just throw them away, and clean the celery off. You can use the same trick with green onions.

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Chop it up and freeze it. You can either cut it up by itself, or with carrots and onions, as I’ve done here. The next time you’re making soup you can just throw your pre-chopped veggies in there, and pat yourself on the back for your frugalness! Go you!

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The only way to save money is not to spend it. One way to do that is to eat the food you already have, rather than buying new.

December 29, 2016. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Cooking, Thriftiness is Cool. 5 comments.

Overnight Oatmeal

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If you google “overnight oats” or something similar, you’ll turn up tons of recipes, but they seem to be a little too granola for me, and I don’t mean the cereal.

“Go to your neighborhood oat collective and hand harvest 1 cup of organic, steel cut Irish oats, NOT regular oats. Add the milk from your household goat, some homemade, probiotic, kombucha yogurt, periwinkle zest, and foraged acorns. Leave it in the fridge overnight, and you’re done!”

Ok…that sounds great and all, but for those of us who get food at the grocery store, here’s how I made it:

  • 1/2 cup yogurt (this will basically be doing all the flavor work. I used vanilla)
  • 1/2 cup oats (I used “Old-fashioned oats”, not instant, cause you know, back in the 1500’s they microwaved oatmeal for FIVE minutes, rather than just ONE. Talk about the Dark Ages)
  • Dash of milk
  • Optional:
  • Handful dried cranberries
  • Handful pumpkin seeds (can also use walnuts, or whatever you have on hand)
  • Applesauce, or canned pumpkin
  • Fruit chunks
  • Ground flax seed, protein powder, whatever floats your organic, farm-raised, free-roaming goat

As you can see, this is YET ANOTHER of my what-do-I-have-laying-around-I’ll-do-anything-to-avoid-going-to-the-store recipes. Use up what you have laying around. Mix everything together in a small container, preferably a little tupperware you can just eat it straight out of tomorrow morning. You want the consistency to be a little like a runny stew, not soupy. The oats, nuts, and dried fruit will absorb the moisture overnight.

I love this stuff for those bleary mornings where you wake up, inexplicably starving, there’s no coffee ready yet, you were up to late, and you don’t want to think. AKA a typical weekday. It really takes the edge off before second breakfast.

January 11, 2015. Tags: , , . Cooking. 5 comments.

Fruit and Barley

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The minute we get the first wisp of cold weather, my brain goes into complete hibernation mode. And I live in Texas, so that means when temperatures hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit I am completely useless. I start craving hot cocoa, soups, biscuits, anything warm and heavy. This fruit and barley recipe falls right into that category. Barley is a great whole grain, with a somewhat chewy texture I really love. Like most of my recipes, this one is extremely easy to customize with what you have on hand.

The basics:
One cup of barley needs to be cooked with 2 1/2 cups of liquid for 40-50 minutes. You can also check the instructions on your packaging.

The options:
This is so much fun! I love to play around with stuff like this!

Liquids:
You can cook it in plain old water, or you can use some juice, tea (Chai would be so tasty in this), or even the leftover juice from canned fruit. I would use at least half water to make sure it doesn’t get too sugary. You can throw in a dash of bourbon or a liquor for fun.

Mix ins:
I cooked mine with dried cranberries and walnuts. You could use any dried fruit, nuts, or pumpkin seeds. You can use spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract. After it’s done cooking you can add a few chocolate chips, or some canned pumpkin, if you like that kind of thing.

This is one of those recipes where you can use up little bits of things you have laying around. I seem to gravitate toward any that let me use up things, and use what I have on hand, rather than going to the store. Yay for not going outside!

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November 25, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

DIY Baby Food

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Making your own baby food is super cheap and easy. Before my son started eating solids, I started squirreling away food for him in the freezer. Basically you take a food, run it through a blender or food processor until it’s smooth, then store it until you feed it to a baby. It’s seriously that easy. I do have a few hints and tricks to make it even easier. I mean, of course I do. I couldn’t call myself That Clever Chick if I didn’t, could I? Well, not without shame.

Cooking:

To start off, you want to keep each food completely separate from everything else, meaning no apple banana blends until you make sure the kiddo doesn’t have a food sensitivity. I’m sure you’ve read all about this in your baby books, so I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail. So the first ingredients in your baby food will be just the food and probably some water.

I never peeled anything, like apples or pears, that I would normally eat the peel on. I did cook these things, rather than just blending them up raw, at least at first. Bananas don’t need to be cooked, but I think everything else should be. You can steam, boil, or bake your foods. For apples and pears, I cut them up into chunks and put them in a glass baking dish with some water. I put this in the oven at 350 until they were mushy. Wait until it cools to run it through the blender.

For first foods, whatever you’re making for the baby, you basically cook it until it’s mushy and will blend easily. So instead of steaming broccoli until it’s still crisp, let it keep going until it falls apart when you push on it. Once the baby gets a little older and is ready for more textured food, you can cook it a little less. Eventually you can just mash up what you’re having for dinner, and skip the blender altogether.

Tips:

Make extra of whatever you’re eating. Are you making broccoli for yourself? Make extra (without any spices or seasoning) for the baby.

Once you have the blender or food processor out, make several things at once. You can microwave a sweet potato, or just blend up some raw bananas if you don’t have anything else prepared for your little munchkin.

Rinse the container out in between batches until you’ve established what foods your baby is not allergic to. After that, run them through starting with safe foods, and ending with new foods. So you know your baby can have bananas just fine, but haven’t tried peas yet? Blend the bananas first, store them, and rinse the blender. Now when you run the peas through, if there’s a tiny bit of banana residue left behind, it’s no big deal.

Something too runny? Add a little baby cereal to thicken it up.

Too chunky? Try adding water, then blending it some more. Still not working? Run it through the microwave a bit to cook those stubborn bits.

Need ideas? Check out the baby foods at the store. They have quinoa and stuff in them! You bet I made some quinoa for my kiddo. I mix it in with fruit or veggies to add protein, and he loves it.

Storing:

I used normal ice cube trays to freeze the baby food into small, ~1 ounce portions. Once these were frozen, I popped them out and stored them in freezer bags. The food cubes fit into baby food jars, so you can just grab one, pop it into a jar, and then store it in the fridge or put it on the counter to thaw. They’re so small, they thaw pretty quickly. I got baby food jars from a friend who bought her baby food, but you could also buy your first few jars. You can also use Tupperware. Nothing says you have to feed your baby out of those classic glass jars.

Note: If you’re going to make baby prunes, soak them until they’re soft first. I destroyed my old food processor trying to blend them up too enthusiastically. Also, they DO NOT pop out of ice cube trays, so when making prunes, freeze them in small, individual containers. They stay sticky and never freeze solid. I haven’t tried other dried fruits, but I would take the same precautions with them.

 

I hope you’ll try this. It seems like there’s some special process Gerber goes through to make their baby food, but there really isn’t. Making your own is surprisingly easy, and cost effective. By my rough estimation, homemade costs half as much as store bought, if not less. Think of all the toys you can buy with the savings! Or something boring, like college savings.

September 29, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Baby Stuff, Cooking, Thriftiness is Cool. 2 comments.

Baking Day

What to do on a hot summer day at home with the family….heat up the whole house by baking a bunch? Why not!? Maybe it wasn’t the best plan, but Hubby and I had a fun day working in the kitchen together, while our baby, Nacho, played on the floor. It was such an adorable scene of domesticity, Donna Reed would have been jealous. So what did we make? 

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Goat cheese and pear pie! I know it sounds super fancy, but I got the goat cheese at Costco super cheap, and the pears were home-canned ones Mi Madre made. I used this recipe, but I used store-bought pie crust (cause I’m classy), and left out the pine nuts (cause I didn’t have any). It tasted like goat cheesecake. It was great!

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We also made cookies! My sis-in-law gave us one of those jars of cookie mix for Christmas, so we finally got around to making them only 8 months later! Not too shabby. You can tell a couple of them got a little extra “love” from the oven, but they all tasted great.

No real advice today, I just wanted to prove that I’m still alive, and active, and use these pictures I took. Oh, and brag about my delicious goat cheese pie!

September 27, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

Breakfast Quinoa

I saw a recipe for savory oatmeal somewhere, and I thought, “That would be much better with quinoa, which I happen to have gallons of from my Costco trip“. So I did it, cause I’m cool like that. You will need:

1 cup quinoa (I used red quinoa this time)

2 cups broth or water

1/2-1 cup shredded cheese

2 green onions, chopped

3-4 eggs

optional: leftover cooked veggies

Cook the quinoa according to the instructions, using broth or water. While that’s cooking, either fry or poach your eggs. You could scramble them also, I guess. I won’t judge. I will judge if you hard boil them though, and harshly. When the quinoa is done, mix in the shredded cheese and chopped green onions. I also happened to have some cooked zucchini in the fridge, so I heated it up, and threw it on top, then dropped the egg on top of that. The whole process takes ~20 minutes or so, and yields 3-4 servings. This is a great hearty breakfast, perfect for those days when you have a lot to get done. It will stick with you for hours.

Also, keep in mind, I’m not a food photographer. I make my food, take a picture, then eat it. I don’t sit around, posing it for hours, analyzing lighting, etc. I’m usually starving, and barely remembered to take a picture in the first place. I still think this one came out pretty good, though:

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June 13, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

More kitchen Efficiency

The other day I was yet again in the kitchen chopping vegetables. As I was preparing to make soup I thought, “Why should I chop veggies for just one pot of soup when I make it all the time?” So I chopped double, and put one batch in the freezer! If you’ve been following the blog as religiously as I hope, you can one day end up with a perfect storm of tastiness in your freezer: shredded chicken, your pre-chopped veggies, and some amazing broth, all ready to be assembled.

Any time you’re chopping stuff, think to yourself “What else could I be chopping?” This saves time and mess later, and makes it that much easier to cook at home rather than going out, or living on mac ‘n cheese.

Below, left to right we have onions for breakfast tacos, freezer soup veggies, current soup veggies, compost for scraps, veggies for chicken salad, and veggies for my dog, Flapjack. He freaking loves frozen green beans and the ends of carrots.

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Also, this is my 500th blog post! I have been blogging for about 4 years now, which just blows my mind. I wish I had something special planned, but you know, just had a baby and all that. As a mini-celebration, I will send a hand-crafted item to someone who comments on this post. For real! You will get something created by my elegant hands. I will choose a comment using secret and completely arbitrary criteria, but if you make me laugh you have a good chance. I know you can barely contain yourselves, so have at it minions!

April 5, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Cooking. 4 comments.

Comfort Casserole

I’m calling this comfort casserole because it’s not healthy in the slightest, and there are too many ingredients for the name. I don’t want to call it chicken rice soup veggies cheese casserole.

When I was pregnant, I may have stocked up on a few too many cans of soup. Now that I’ve had the birth, the cans are sitting on shelf, staring at me, wondering where that pregnancy craving went.

So I thought to myself, we use condensed soups in casseroles all the time, why not the ready to eat kind? Presumably, there’s too much liquid in them, but that’s where the instant rice comes in. You mix it in uncooked, and it soaks up the broth and cooks in the oven! Hooray! 

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You will need:

  • 1 1/4 cup instant rice (uncooked), or about 2 1/2 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
  • 2 cans of ready to eat soup (not condensed)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cooked chicken thighs, cubed, or 2 cans salmon or tuna, drained
  • 2-3 cups cooked veggies (I used cauliflower)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup shredded cheese for top, bacon crumbles, green onions

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I mixed everything together in a bowl, then spread it in the baking dish, and baked it for 30 minutes at 350. I then added the cheese on top and baked it another 15. You can taste the rice periodically to make sure it’s done before pulling the casserole out of the oven. Hubby really liked this casserole, which didn’t surprise me because it’s filled with cheese. But, it did trick him into eating a bunch of cauliflower, which he usually hates. Plus I used up those soup cans which made space in my pantry!

March 31, 2014. Tags: , , , . Cooking. Leave a comment.

Vegetarian Moussaka

My friend Sara-of-the-long-red-hair made this recipe for us once, and it TOTALLY changed my view of eggplant. I had never been much of a fan before, but in this dish I can’t get enough. In fact, I have some of this as leftovers for lunch today! This dish is tomato-y, a little sweet, and creamy, and has great flavor complexity.

This recipe is the one I used, but that one is vegan and mine is vegetarian. Basically, I used regular cream cheese and milk instead of the soy versions. Sara makes it vegan, and I honestly can’t tell a difference, flavor-wise, so it’s your choice. If you’re trying to introduce someone to either eggplant or vegan foods, this is a good recipe to use. Sara also throws in some pre-cooked lentils to thicken the sauce and add protein.

I’m going to be incredibly lazy and just let you use the link above for the details of the recipe. I want to share some blog hits with someone whose website I find very useful! So I’m really being lazy out of the goodness of my heart.

True to form, I did not follow the recipe exactly. For some reason, I seem incapable of that. So use the above recipe for reference, and here are my changes:

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I didn’t actually broil the eggplant. I know my oven has a broiler, but I have no idea how it works. I just put the slices in the oven at 400 until they looked like this:

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I believe I left out the red wine, because I didn’t have any in the house. I have also used fresh tomatoes when I had too many in the fridge.

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Sara serves this over pasta, but I just eat it straight. It can be a little saucy, so some rice, lentils, or textured vegetable protein would work in it. If you wanted to add extra of the creamy topping it would taste amazing, but of course make it much less healthy. This recipe also freezes well. I’m going to eat my leftovers right now!

March 15, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

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