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.

DIY Toddler Food

Once your kid can start feeding him or herself, there are a million pre-packaged, expensive foods you could buy. If you’re awesome and frugal like me you think “Surely, there have to be convenience foods I can feed this kid that don’t cost as much as lobster, ounce for ounce”. You’d be right! I have a few things I keep on hand or pre-make so I can hand food to Baby Nacho immediately, without spending a bunch of time cooking and whatnot.

1) Canned meats – Canned chicken is soft and chewable. It apparently tastes great, because my son goes crazy for it. It’s like those baby hot dogs, but cheaper, and less odorous. Canned salmon is great too. You can mix it in with veggies, a mashed avocado, olive oil, or mayo (if your kid isn’t allergic to eggs, which mine is).

2) Canned Fruit – mandarin oranges are a HUGE hit with my munchkin. Canned mangoes are a little mushy for self-feeding, but they’re fine to blend into other foods.

3) Cottage cheese – this and yogurt are wildly popular in my house. Once your kiddo can chew stuff, this is so easy to just pop open and shove in their tiny mouths.

4) Cereal – obviously a childhood staple. We have a hard time with this one, because Nacho has dozens of food allergies, so we tend to avoid normal boxed cereal. When you’re just starting out with self-feeding, those little baby puffs that dissolve are indispensable. I have yet to find a cheaper substitute. Now that mine can chew, he gets cornflakes occasionally.

5) Oatmeal – stores in the pantry forever. Just get the big canister and you can use it in overnight oats, or mix it with fruit or veggies for added fiber. You can even pre-cook some and store it in the freezer for later.

6) Puffs – Baby puffs are awesome, as I said, but pricey! Once your little one can actually crunch some snacks, and doesn’t need the dissolving kind, Pirate’s Booty is a cheaper substitute. It’s still not cheap, but my son freaking loves it (as do I). It comes in several flavors, but your kid probably needs a few teeth for this one to be feasible.

7) Cheese – small chunks of cheese are easy. You can even leave them out to warm up a bit to make it even softer.

8) Fresh fruit – really ripe bananas, peeled pears, peaches, and kiwis are great. Really any fruit that is pretty soft.

9) Bread, pasta, etc – Unfortunately, with my kiddo’s allergies, most carbs are off the table, literally. Bread, dried pasta, and tortillas can all be kept in the pantry, ready to be torn into little pieces for little hands. We do use corn tortillas, and some rice pasta.

10) Canned beans – these are great to keep on hand to add some fiber and variety to baby’s diet. Don’t go overboard unless you want to fog your house with toxic baby farts.

11) Food pouches – these are more expensive than regular baby food, usually, but I found them in another part of the store for about half the price! On the fruit aisle with the applesauce instead of getting them in the baby aisle. Also, applesauce is cheaper than buying apples and blending them up, FYI. Food pouches are so great for traveling. I keep a couple in the diaper bag as emergency back up food in case we’re out longer than I expect, or I fail to bring adequate supplies. We only use these for running around town and such, not for daily eating; they’re still too pricey for that.

12) Food dots – this came up on my facebook, so I don’t have an original blog post to give credit to (and I’m not sure there is one). If anyone has a link, please let me know so I can give credit. I haven’t tried this yet, but you can bet I’m going to!

food dots food dot instructions

If you have an idea for a self-feeding food, but aren’t sure, test it by mushing it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. This is a great test for feeding your kiddo from your plate (which is all they will ever want). As always, if you’re cooking for yourself, you can make extra for the bambino, and just cook it a little longer, until you reach that easy-to-mush state. For this post I just wanted to focus on what you can keep on hand for those “oh-no-the-kid-is-hungry-right-this-second-but-I-just-walked-in-the-door-and-haven’t-even-set-my-stuff-down-where-are-my-keys-am-I-losing-my-mind-I-swear-I-just-had-them-great-now-the-dog-is-barking-too-what-is-happening-to-my-life” moments.

March 3, 2015. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Baby Stuff. 2 comments.

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.

Herb Biscuits

I wanted some biscuits the other day, but had no eggs or milk in the house. I googled “No milk, no eggs biscuits” and found this recipe from cooks.com. Since they use actual measurements in their recipes, unlike my half-assed “I think I used about a cup” type recipes, you should probably check them out. I mixed in some olive oil, dried basil, and garlic salt as a variation. The comments on the cooks.com site also mentioned using cheese and jalapeños as a topper and mix-in, which I might try next time. 

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Here’s my pinterest-quality before shot:

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They don’t really puff up, but I liked them. They are great with soup or a little butter inside. The recipe was really easy, and lots of variations are possible.

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Also, today is my due date, so this post is dedicated to the little bun in my oven! I’m pre-writing a bunch of posts, so I’m really hoping I had him by now. This has been a long, uncomfortable process that better be worth it in the end. (It probably will be, otherwise people would quit breeding after one kid). At least I’ll be able to drink again soon!

December 13, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

Scones

I have a very dear friend I trade books with as often as possible. She is responsible for me having read some truly awful books, that we then mock together. However, she also gives me awesome books, to make up for the terrible ones. The best thing she’s ever given me is The Complete Tightwad Gazette. It’s a resource I have read through a few times, and refer back to frequently. Some of the information is a little dated, since it’s from the 90’s, but the overall concepts and the majority of the ideas are extremely useful.  I would recommend it to anyone trying to save money, whether you’re just getting started, or consider yourself a veteran penny pincher. Obviously, it’s right up my alley.

This scone recipe came from the Tightwad Gazette. I’m not generally much of a baker. Hubby and I don’t eat a lot of carbs in general, and for some reason I’m not very good at it. I think baking requires a little more science than I’m capable of, but I keep trying, periodically. I have muffins in the oven right now, and they are nothing to brag about. They taste ok, but never really plumped up. Whatever, I’ll eat them. Here’s an actual recipe to follow:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup softened margarine
1/2 cup raisins (I used dried cranberries)
3/4 cup sour milk (or milk with 2 tsp of vinegar added)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients; cut in margarine and raisins. Stir in enough sour milk just to moisten. Divide the dough in half. Flour hands and pat dough into two circles on a greased cookie sheet about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into quarters. Bake for 10 minutes. Brush on egg and then bake until golden brown. Serve with honey, margarine, or jam.

I was making these for a vegan friend, so I simply left off the egg. I don’t know what purpose it serves, other than to make them pretty? I also checked to make sure I was using vegan margarine. Overall they came out fine. Scones are rather plain, and you can see there’s no sugar in the recipe. I guess that’s why British people cover them in jam and clotted cream. When Mi Madre makes hers, she sprinkles cinnamon and sugar over the top, and I should have probably done the same.

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I know these look kind of weird, but that’s because I added chocolate to the dough for the one on the right. I didn’t add enough for the flavor to be evident, just enough to make it looked burned. This kind of thing is why I don’t bake often! But if you want a simple recipe to bring to a brunch, these are easy to make (follow the actual recipe, unlike me). Bring some jam also, and you’re golden.

October 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Book Reviews, Cooking. 2 comments.

Bacon Lentil Soup

I know soup is not something you usually think of as a summer time food, especially in Texas, but I didn’t want to make a mountain of dirty dishes, and a casserole would heat up the kitchen even worse, so soup it was. I accidentally made what appeared to be an enormous amount of soup last night, but once it got into bowls it vanished quickly. I had a little bit of bacon lying around that I wanted to finish off, so I conceived of this recipe. (Vegan alteration below) You will need:

1 16 oz. package of lentils
1/2 onion, diced
3 strips of bacon (more if you want)
5 cups kale, chopped roughly (remember, kale is bulky, so with other greens you won’t need nearly this much. If you’re using finely chopped or frozen greens about 2 cups should be plenty)
1 tsp liquid smoke
6 cups chicken or veggie broth
Seasoning salt or garlic salt to taste

Cut the bacon into small pieces and throw it in the pot. Get it started on low to medium heat while you dice the onions. Once there’s a little fat in the pan, add the onions. If you want to make this recipe vegan, leave out the bacon (shocker! I know!), and use a little olive oil to saute your veggies instead, and obviously use veggie broth later on.

Chop up and throw in your greens and let them wilt a bit. I only used 4 leaves of kale, but they were GINORMOUS MUTANT LEAVES, so I can’t really judge how much you should use. I also love greens, and they’re so healthy, I just toss in as much as will fit in the pan most of the time. Once the greens are a little wilted and easier to stir, add the broth and dried lentils. If you are using already cooked lentils, add your broth 1 or 2 cups at a time and judge how brothy you want it to be. Hubby likes thicker, more stew-like soups, so that’s what I tend to make.

Bring the pot to a mild boil (not like a vigorous, knocking-the-lid-off boil) and let it cook until the lentils are done, probably about 45 minutes. Stir it periodically. Once it gets close to done, I always eat some of the lentils to make sure they’re actually done, and not faking it. Then add the liquid smoke, and other seasonings. I also threw in a bunch of dried parsley, both to make it look pretty, and because herbs have lots of nutrients, but this is optional.

Hubby and I both enjoyed the finished product, and I’m glad there are leftovers. This recipe probably makes 8-10 normal people servings, but about 6 for me (eating for two, remember!) and Hubby. There was really minimal veggie chopping and clean up, and it was easy, even though it has a medium-long cooking time. The ingredients were also super cheap! I probably spent no more than $3 for the whole pot! Can’t beat cheap eats!

June 29, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Cooking. 3 comments.

Egg Salad

I have an odd fascination with egg salad. It seems like it should be good – I mean, I like deviled eggs, and it’s essentially the same – but it’s always so bland. I decided I would learn how to make it, and make it tasty. The recipe calls for: 8 eggs, 1/2 cup mayo (I used less than that), 1 tsp mustard, 1/4 cup green onions, 1/2 tsp paprika (I used more than that), salt and pepper to taste.

First things first: boil those eggs. I think I cooked mine 15 minutes, but I googled it so I don’t remember. When they were done, I drained the hot water and rinsed them in cold.

Boiling eggs
Oh yeah, while they were boiling I chopped my onions.

Chopped green onions

Here’s a picture of ingredients!

ingredients

I read online that an easy way to peel hard boiled eggs is to put the lid on the pan, and shake it around a bunch, and you have magically peeled eggs. Too good to be true? Judge for yourself:

smashed hard boiled eggs

I still managed to peel the eggs, rinse off the extra shell bits, and make eggs salad. I found it was a lot easier to peel them once that had completely cooled, as opposed to once they were cool enough to handle, which was my impatient method. Once they’re actually cool, you can get the membrane under the shell to peel off, which takes a whole bunch of shell with it. I did this yesterday while watching TV, which is my favorite way to be productive.

After the egg-peeling debacle, I rinsed and chopped up the eggs. I recommend rinsing even for people who aren’t as peel-challenged as I am. Nothing kills my appetite faster than rogue bits of egg shell in my mouth. I can never seem to get them out of my teeth once they’re in there. Even talking about it is grossing me out!!

Egg Salad

So chop eggs, mix ingredients, tada, food. BUT STILL BLAND. So I took it upon myself to get creative. I tried 2 variations, both of which are good. Not amazing, but good.

I divided the batch in half and added about 1 tablespoon of blue cheese crumbles to one half. The blue cheese blended in well, and the flavor was really good without being over-powering, unless you don’t like blue cheese. In that case, you’re nuts, and probably shouldn’t be allowed near knives or boiling water anyway.

If you are nuts but still determined to make flavorful egg salad, you can try the second variation: Sriracha. What can that beautiful chili sauce not do? It is spicy, so you should probably taste your egg salad frequently to make sure you don’t make it too strong. I also added a big spoonful of chopped garlic, and a bit more salt. Both of these options are much better than traditional egg salad, and I will continue my quest for mix-ins. I want egg salad so good I can eat it with a fork or just rolled up in lettuce, so I can avoid the carbs from bread. I wonder if green olives would be good?

October 9, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Cooking. 3 comments.

Crock Pot Lentil Soup

I’m posting this recipe mostly because I did it on accident, and I don’t want to forget what I did. I chopped up a whole onion, 2 carrots, and one small potato, and tossed them in the crock pot. I added a giant spoonful of jarred, chopped garlic, 3/4 of a bag of lentils, 2 handfuls of barley, 2 bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of tomato bullion powder, and water to cover, maybe 8 cups. I set it to cook for 4 hours, then went upstairs and took a nap. The food smelled so good I was dreaming about eating. I woke up because the dogs decided to wrestle on top of me, so I went downstairs to feed them and check the soup. It needed some more water, so I added a bit, and let it do its thing. Ya’ll. It’s FANTASTIC. This is for serious.

Crock Pot Lentil Soup

I don’t know if it’s the bay leaves or what, but I am DAMN proud of this one. It was insanely easy, and took a total of 10 minutes to throw together. The bullion I used isn’t vegetarian, but you can easily substitute a can of tomato paste, or some tomato glut sauce, since it’s the season to make it. Then it actually would be vegan. This recipe is very cheap, and healthy.  I had all the ingredients on hand though, so I can’t calculate exactly how much, or the nutrition info or anything. Meh, do it yourself. I got soup to eat!!

September 23, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

Generic Breakfast Egg Sandwiches

This is another amazing idea I found on Pinterest. If you haven’t been on there, be careful. It’s addictive. If you ever wanted to make your own McMuffins generic breakfast egg sandwiches this is the perfect recipe.

Spray some baking spray into a muffin tin, and crack an egg into each muffin cup (or however many you want to make). Bake it at 350 for 15-20 minutes. These bad boys pop out looking just like this:

Well, I semi-scrambled mine. On hers the yolks were intact. These are the perfect size to fit on a mini bagel, with a little cheese!

The author of the recipe was pre-assembling whole sandwiches, wrapping them individually and freezing them for fast breakfasts during the week. She used english muffins also, but the eggs fit better on mini-bagels.

Here are my ideas (as yet untried) for variations that could be mixed into the raw eggs before baking: chunky salsa, cheese, diced onion, spinach and romano cheese, bacon or sausage bits, chorizo or soy-rizo, and sauteed mushrooms and onions. I would mix in ingredients that have low water content, so things don’t get mushy, but it seems like having it mixed in would make these so much easier to reheat.

She recommends reheating in the oven, but if you keep the bun separate from the egg, that’s not necessary. I just toast my bagel and microwave my egg for about 30 seconds on 50% power, or else exploding happens and I get teased.

December 17, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Cooking. 2 comments.

How to make soup stock

I’m sure, like good little minions, you saved your ham/turkey bones from Thanksgiving, lovingly wrapped and stored in the freezer. We had a ham (cause Hubby is a pirate, and we all know they only eat ham), so that’s what I used. First, carve as much of the meat off the bones as possible. (No one will judge if you nibble at it like a mouse during this process).

Next, you will need a giant cooking pot with water, about 2 or 3 carrots, half to a whole onion, and either 2-3 stalks of celery, or use the inside of your celery that’s not really good for much else. I threw in a couple cloves of garlic for fun, and you can add a whole jalapeno or two if you want something spicy.

Throw that all together, and you can add your tupperware for your almost-free soup, which you all have in your freezers at all times, right? Get it started boiling, then go do something constructive. I let mine boil for about an hour. You want to cook it until the meat comes off the bones easily. If you cook it too long the cartiledge will start to disintegrate, which is disgusting, so try to avoid that.

Oh, this is just me showing off how much ham is in my freezer:

Most of the time when you make soup stock, you are told to scoop out those veggies that have been boiled to death in the broth, and throw them out. What is the point of that?? Put those in the blender with some of the broth, and blend it all up.

You end up with this veggie mush you can mix right back into the broth. It makes it much thicker and more flavorful. Note: if you are using turkey bones, be VERY CAREFUL to get all the bones out before doing this. You don’t want bone shards in your soup. I swear, I’ve seen muslin bags designed for this exact problem; you put the bones in the bag, then throw it in the pot with everything else. An internet search has turned up nothing, so maybe I’m delusional. Or need more coffee. I can’t have all the answers. 

Here’s another quick trick. To clean your blender, rinse it out, then add a drop of dish soap, and fill it with water. Put it back on the base and turn it on for about a minute. This gets the blades really clean while the food is fresh.

Look at that! A double-whammy of helpfulness! IS THERE NO END TO MY GENIUS?

December 9, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Cooking. Leave a comment.

Homemade Refried Beans

I had never had homemade refried beans until a friend of mine opened my eyes to the amazing possibilities. We make them for breakfast tacos, but they are good any time of day. For this recipe you’ll need some cooked beans, preferably pinto or black, garlic, garlic salt, and either bacon or olive oil, depending on your preferences. I start out by cooking some bacon.

While that’s cooking I chop 4-5 cloves of garlic up very finely.

Oh look! Beans that are already cooked, as if by magic! (I’m like Rachel Ray, but with a normal-sized mouth).

Once the bacon is mostly done, start the garlic browning. If you’re making vegetarian refried beans, brown the garlic in olive oil. Turn the heat down pretty low for this.

I use garlic salt and sriracha to flavor mine, and the potato masher will be very important in a minute. I don’t just take photos of random crap on my counters, this is all part of my plan.

Put a bunch of beans in the pan and mix in the bacon fat or olive oil. Let that heat up a little bit.

Once the beans are warm, smash them with the potato masher (see? The plan! I had one!). Warm beans are a little easier to squish than cold ones, in my opinion. Once you have everything smashed thoroughly, let the beans cook a little more. You want to cook off some of the liquid until they reach a consistency you like. But remember, the beans will thicken as they cool, so let them cook until they are slightly runnier than you’d like. That way, when you serve them they should be just right. If your beans are too dry you can add warm water or olive oil a little at a time to get a consistency you like.

I made these beans into breakfast tacos with the bacon, but I ate all the results before I took a picture. Meh. I had plenty of extra, and I’ve made quesadillas also, which were amazing. This process is way easier than I thought it would be, and it’s very easy to make a small batch to experiment. You can use canned beans, or beans you’ve cooked from scratch yourself. And it’s an excuse to eat bacon!

October 17, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Cooking. 3 comments.

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