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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pineapple upside down cake!

Recently, canned pineapple went on sale at Publix. It was a BOGO sale, so I bought up a bunch to use in various recipes. Canned pineapple is great, because it tastes almost as good as fresh, it can be used in a lot of recipes, and it's really good for you! Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, has fiber, and best of all, it's fat free and low calorie! Here is our favorite canned pineapple recipe.

Pineapple upsidedown cake!
3-4Tbsp butter
7 slices pineapple, drained on paper towels
3/4C brown sugar
1C flour
1Tbsp baking powder
8Tbsp buttermilk, divided
6Tbsp butter, softened
1/2C granulated sugar
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract

Place butter in an 8-10 inch cast iron skillet, and put the skillet in the oven while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After the butter melts, remove the skillet and add the brown sugar, spreading it evenly over the butter. Place the pineapple slices over the sugar.
Place the butter and sugar in a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Mix the flour and baking powder together with a pinch of salt and add them to the mixer. Add 6Tbsp of the buttermilk. Beat on medium for exactly 1 1/2 minutes. Combine the eggs and the remaining 2 Tbsp of buttermilk and the vanilla. Add to the batter and beat for 30 seconds longer. Scrape the batter over the pineapple and spread it around so that it is even. Bake for 40 minutes, or until cake is done. Let sit in the skillet for 10-15 minutes and then invert onto a plate. Enjoy! Sometimes I use whole wheat flour in this cake. It turns out heavier, but still pretty good! This is an easy dessert to make if you are pressed for time and have people coming over.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I'm still working on the $25 menu post, but it's taking me a lot longer to finish it than I thought it would! I'm hoping to finish it soon. I decided to do a different post in the interim about making juice!

Making juice requires some startup costs. The biggest cost is of course, the actual juicer. My juicer is a Champion Juicer, and it cost me $200 about 7 years ago. It's a great juicer, though. It can juice ANYTHING, make nut butters, and it can also be used to make awesome sorbet! There are other, cheaper juicers out there, but I would really go for better quality when buying a juicer. A lot of the cheaper models are very difficult to clean, and they don't juice softer fruits like strawberries and peaches.

Juicing is a lot of fun! I've tried a lot of different combinations of fruits and vegetables together, and I've never had anything turn out bad! Juicing also has a lot of health benefits. Fresh juice has a lot more vitamins than bottled and pasteurized juice. Also, you can control what fruits and vegetables go in the mix, so YOU can make your juice as healthy as you want! I like to have a big pitcher of juice in the fridge, especially in the Summer months. Nothing is more refreshing than a glass of fresh, ice cold pineapple strawberry juice, or watermelon juice in the Summer! Here are some of our favorite juice combinations by season! It's always better to juice seasonal produce, because juicing requires a LOT of it.

The only winter produce that's really good for juicing is citrus. Luckily, carrots are always inexpensive, so there are awesome juice combinations to be had! My favorites are:
Carrot orange: Take 8 peeled oranges and 5 peeled carrots and run them through the juicer. Place the juice in a pitcher and add about 10 ice cubes. Stir well before drinking and enjoy!

Carrot tangerine: Even more delicious than carrot orange! Juice 10 peeled tangerines and 5 carrots. Pour juice into a pitcher and add 10 ice cubes. Pour a tall glass and enjoy! Stir the juice in the pitcher before drinking.

Orange tangerine: Just juice half oranges and half tangerines! Add some carrots if you want.

Carrot orange strawberry: Take 5 carrots, 6 oranges and 10 strawberries and run them through the juicer. Delicious!

Watermelon juice: Just peel a watermelon, cut it into chunks, and run them through the juicer! One medium watermelon makes a TON of juice, so you might just want to juice half. Watermelon juice makes great Popsicles!

Cantaloupe honeydew: Just cut the melons into chunks and juice away! This juice turns into a very pretty color.

Strawberry mango peach: This juice is best blended with a banana into a smoothie. So delicious!

Pineapple strawberry: Just take 1 pineapple and about 20 strawberries and run them through the juicer. Tropical Heaven!

Apple carrot juice: Take 4 apples and 4 carrots and run them through the juicer. So good for you!

Apple celery: This neon green juice is crisp and refreshing. Use 1 part celery to 4 parts apples. If you use too much celery, it will be overpowering.

Carrot apple grape: It sounds unusual, but it turns out sublime! I just do the recipe for apple carrot juice and then add a handful of grapes to the mix.

These are just a few ideas for juice combinations. Definitely come up with your own and then e-mail them to me so I can try them! All juice should be consumed within 2 days, because it goes bad really fast.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What to do in a food money crisis situation

I've gotten a few e-mails from readers where they say they have run out of food and only have $20-$30 to buy groceries for their families for the next week, or even TWO weeks until payday. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on the worst situation a reader asked me about, that I felt I could actually offer a viable solution to.. The reader lives in a family of four and she had only $25 to buy groceries for the next week. All of the food in her pantry was gone, except for some condiments in the fridge, two boxes of spaghetti noodles, and oddly enough, a can of sardines. Here is my advice to her, or anyone else in this situation:

There are many, many churches who will donate food to the needy. You will probably have to listen to some religious doctrine before you get the food, but they WILL eventually send you home with a decent amount of it.When you call the food bank, make sure to say that it is an EMERGENCY, meaning that your food supply is already gone, and that you have kids.

This won't work for everyone, but if you are pregnant and/or have children under 5 years old, you could be eligible for this program. The only problem with WIC, is that it can take a long time to get an appointment. Once you start getting the vouchers, expect to get: eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter or beans, bread, or rice, or whole grain tortillas, juice, $6 per month in fruits and vegetables, and 36 oz of cereal.

This option is harder to get than WIC, and unfortunately, can take up to three months to actually take effect. Once you get them, though, food stamps are great! I don't personally receive this benefit, but I have a friend who does. She gets $525 per month for her family of four. Seriously, with that much money for food, you can feast on steak every night! I know it is embarrassing to apply for welfare, but just try to remember that extraordinary circumstances have probably driven you to that option. Anyone can have a run of bad luck. It doesn't make someone less of a person if they need to ask for help for a while. What's bad is to not get the help when you need it!

Everyone has stuff in their house that they don't really want anymore, but that doesn't mean that someone else wouldn't want it! Maybe you have baby items, or baby clothes, books, movies, decorative items you're tired of, kitchen appliances you never use, an old TV that's just gathering dust somewhere. A yard sale won't make you rich, but it can certainly net you enough money to go food shopping!

I cannot stress enough the importance of having a constant reserve of food. Even just a supply of rice, beans, rolled oats, flour, yeast, dry milk and sugar can make it so you never have to actually go hungry. Add some canned fruits and vegetables, some dried fruits, and some canned meat to that and you have the makings of a feast! Never let it get to the point where you have no money and no food left again. No one should ever have to go hungry, not in a country with as much surplus food as the United States.

My next post will be about how to go shopping for a family of four for 2 weeks with only $25.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Barley: Better than rice, cheaper than pasta!

Barley is a great ingredient to add to soups and stews. It adds fiber and bulk, without adding a lot of calories or expense! I spend about $.65 for a pound of barley, which will make 4 big pots of soup. So far, soup is the only meal I use it in, but I'm going to start experimenting with other meals. I know some people make bread with it, and my friend Corey makes TEA out of it! Here is my recipe for barley soup.

1 1/2C chicken or beef, cut up. The meat can be cooked, or raw. If it is raw, brown the meat in a skillet before adding it to the soup.
2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
4C chicken, or vegetable broth
1/2C uncooked barley

Heat 1Tbsp oil or butter in a heavy bottomed soup pan. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the carrots and celery and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth, chicken and barley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables and barley are tender. Enjoy! I like to serve this with homemade bread! My kids literally go crazy over this soup.

This soup can also be made with leftover turkey, or pork, or even diced ham. Sometimes I will substitute leeks for the onions, or add a zucchini in the Summer. Adding a diced tomato is also good in the Summer! Corn makes this soup even more spectacular.

A meal of soup and bread is very frugal and satisfying. It's a way to get vegetables and whole grains into my kids, the soup is low fat, so it doesn't add any unwanted pudge to me, and best of all, it's really easy to make! Having a homemade soup and bread night once or twice a week is one of my most valuable tools for staying within my grocery budget.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My dinner party!

My friends from church came over this weekend for dinner, and it was a great success! It was socially awesome, and secretly frugal. Here's what I made!

Homemade pita bread is not only delicious, it is also very frugal! It takes a little time to make, but the results are well worth it. Here's my recipe!

Pita bread recipe
1 1/4C water
2Tbsp oil
2tsp yeast
1 1/2C white flour
1 1/2C whole wheat flour
2tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 475
Place the ingredients in the order given in a bread machine and set it to the dough cycle. Add more flour if the dough seems too wet. When the cycle is finished, remove the dough to a floured counter and punch it down. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape them into balls. Place the dough balls on a greased baking sheet and cover them with damp paper towels. Let the dough rise for 20 minutes. Grease a second baking sheet and set it aside. Working with one dough ball at a time and keeping the rest covered, gently stretch each ball into a flat round about 6 inches across. Place 4 on each baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time on the bottom oven rack for 4 minutes. These pitas are best consumed right after baking.

Hummus is also easy and frugal to make. We like to spread it on the pita bread.

Delicious Hummus recipe
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.
1/4C tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice from 1 lemon
3Tbsp water
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with pita bread!

Cucumber Raita
This is a condiment/salad that goes great with pita bread and hummus. It works best with whole milk yogurt.

Cucumber raita recipe
1C whole milk yogurt
1/2 English cucumber peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice
1/4tsp cumin
pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve right away.

Cucumber/tomato salad
This salad is very frugal and simple, especially if you buy tomatoes and cucumbers in bulk.

Cooling cucumber salad
1 English cucumber, peeled and diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
salt to taste
2Tbsp olive oil
1-2Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Place cucumbers and tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the salt, oil and vinegar and mix well together. Serve with pita bread and delicious hummus for an awesome dinner!

This cake was especially frugal, because I used jam that I had made and canned last Summer.
1 1/2C butter, softened
1 1/2C sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3C flour
1Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2C plain yogurt (whole milk)
2/3C preserves
1/2C walnuts
Preheat oven to 350
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add 1C of the flour and the baking powder and mix for 1 minute. Add 1C yogurt and mix again. 1C flour and the salt and mix for one minute. Add remaining 1/2C yogurt and mix again. Add remaining cup of flour and mix well until Incorporated, scraping the bowl if needed.
Stir together nuts and preserves. Grease a bundt pan. Spread 1/3 of the batter in the prepared bundt pan. Spoon 1/2 of the nut mixture over the batter, dropping it in dollops from a spoon. Spread another 1/3 of the batter over the dollops of nut mixture. Spoon remaining nut mixture over the batter. Spread remaining batter over the top. Bake for 60 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a large plate. Drizzle glaze over the top (recipe follows) and let cool completely.

1/3C preserves
1 1/2C powdered sugar
1Tbsp water
Mix ingredients together until the mixture reaches drizzling consistency. Add more water, 1 tsp at a time if too thick.

In case anyone wants to know, I was in The Augusta Chronicle today! There was an article that talked about my frugal blog.:P If you go to The Augusta Chronicle website and click on Life, the article about me comes right up! There's even a picture of me. I'm the woman wearing the blue dress, cooking. My awesome friend, Corey, took the picture. He's the photojournalist who introduced me to my new church. The reporter, Lisa Kaylor, has also been very awesome. She interviewed me at Panera, where I had bought a decidedly un-frugal tea!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Busy Liz!

Sorry about my lax blogging this past week! It's getting down to crunch time in my classes, so I've been having to do a lot of last minute work and studying. Also, I've been trying to get my Spring cleaning done, so I won't have to spend Spring break doing it! After today, though, I should have some more time, so I'm hoping to get my blogging back on track. My next article is going to be about a (semi)frugal dinner party I had this past weekend!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My goals update

I made several New Years resolutions this year, so I thought I'd do an update post. Here's how I've been doing!

I'm sorry to report that so far, this one is a dismal failure. I wish I could afford a gym membership, because if I actually had somewhere to go, I think I'd be a lot more motivated. Oh well, I just need to get on the ball and START. I think starting an exercise program is the hardest part, because once I get into a routine, I'm usually pretty good about sticking with it...At least, for a while.:P

I've decided to just visit my parents this Summer, because my sister is going to visit them at that time, and I haven't seen her in almost a year. Luckily, I don't need to save up nearly as much to go and see my parents, so I'm actually doing pretty good on that goal. I figure I'll need about $400, including gas, spending money, and paying for someone to watch my dog. So far, I've saved up $200, so I'm halfway there!

I've been doing pretty well with this one. One thing that has helped, is I've been really trying to stick with my menu plan. I have a tendency to make one, and then decide I don't want to make the meals I planned! Another thing I've been working on is trying not to waste so many leftovers. This requires me to make some unusual concoctions, but I think it really cuts down on my grocery spending. The average household wasts 12% of the food they buy...12%! I'm trying to stop being a member of that statistic.

I'm happy to report that this one is going well, too! My kids and I recently started going to a church, and the people there seem very friendly and nice. It's really difficult for me to reach out to people, because of bad experiences that I've had, so I'm hoping that this time I'm finally making the right decision.

Unfortunately, I haven't made much headway on this one. This weekend, though, I'm determined to at least organize my kitchen cabinets. Sadly, this has been my goal for the past 4 weekends!:P

Monday, March 1, 2010

Whole Wheat Recipes!

I've been experimenting with recipes this week, and I'm glad to say I've found some really delicious whole wheat treats! Here are some of the recipes we've enjoyed.

1C whole wheat flour
1/3C white flour
2 1/2tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3C wheat germ
5Tbsp cold butter
1/2C orange juice concentrate, plus enough water to make it 2/3C
1Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 425

Mix together the flour, wheat germ, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and process until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the juice concentrate mixture and sugar and pulse a few times, until a rough dough has formed. Add more water if the dough is dry and not holding together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times. Roll or pat the dough out 1 inch thick. Cut out biscuits and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 12-13 minutes, or until golden brown.
These biscuits will not turn out as light and fluffy as other biscuits, but we still found them to be delicious! I served these with lentil soup.

3C all purpose flour
1 1/2C whole wheat flour
1/2C ground flax seed
1 1/4tsp yeast
2Tbsp honey or sugar
1 3/4C warm water
2tsp salt
In a large bowl, stir together the water, honey, flax seed and yeast. Add the flours and salt, stirring until all the flour is moistened. Knead in the bowl until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead for 10 minutes, adding some more flour to prevent sticking, if needed.
Place the dough in a large bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour. Turn the dough onto a floured counter and punch down. Shape into a loaf and transfer to a greased loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Bake @375 for40-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and unmold bread onto a wire rack. Allow to cool before cutting. We like to eat this bread with peanut butter and blackberry preserves. It also makes a fair sandwich bread. I say fair, because it's hard to slice it thin enough to make really good sandwiches.

Pita bread recipe
1 1/4C water
2Tbsp oil
2tsp yeast
1 1/2C white flour
1 1/2C whole wheat flour
2tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 475
Place the dry ingredients, except for the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix briefly with the dough hook. Add the yeast and mix again. Add the water and oil, and knead the dough for 5-7 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Add more flour if the dough seems too wet. Remove the dough to a floured counter and punch it down. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape them into balls. Place the dough balls on a greased baking sheet and cover them with damp paper towels. Let the dough rise for 20 minutes. Grease a second baking sheet and set it aside. Working with one dough ball at a time and keeping the rest covered, gently stretch each ball into a flat round about 6 inches across. Place 4 on each baking sheet. Bake one sheet at a time on the bottom oven rack for 4 minutes. These pitas are best consumed right after baking. Serve the pita bread with hummus for an even bigger fiber punch!

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.
1/4C tahini (sesame seed paste)
juice from 1 lemon
3Tbsp water
salt to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with pita bread!