Saturday, December 17, 2011

Best. Caramels. Ever.

I haven't been blogging much as we've been trying to make do with cheaper suppers, but I feel the urge to shout from the rooftops: THESE ARE THE BEST CARAMELS I HAVE EVER EATEN. 

We have a tradition of visiting a local orchard every fall who makes the best orchard. We talk about these caramels all year. The caramels I made last night exceed the legendary caramels by far. 

I used this recipe:, by AmberLee. It's titled, HOMEMADE CARAMEL, my failproof recipe.   

I used: 1 cup butter, unsalted
1 cup light corn syrup (11.5 oz)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk 
2 1/4 cup brown sugar (14.5 oz.)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

On low heat, I very slowly melted the butter.

I added in the brown sugar. It was OK to plop the sugar in, but I did make sure to stir it quickly. 

I kept the heat low for over twenty minutes while I stirred. I slowly added in the corn syrup and sweetened milk. 

AmberLee makes a point of testing her thermometer. I confess: I had a hard time telling when my water was boiling (is it this bubble? is it now?). I just followed my thermometer's gauge. I used a candy thermometer that had a line at HARD BALL. 

I very slowly raised the temperature and stirred continuously. It did take about 30 minutes, AmberLee recommends. At HARD BALL (244F), I took the bubbling caramel off the heat and quickly added vanilla extract. I kept stirring.

I had an 8*8 pyrex pan lined with wax paper, but worried that it would be too thick. We quickly lined a cookie sheet  and I split the batch. 

This caramel is soft, chewy and a blast of sugar. An amazing blast of deep sweetness. 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Garlic smashed potatoes (Sunset p. 568)
Green bean casserole
Stuffing (crockpot)
Pumpkin pie
Peach pie
Cranberry upside down cake

Pho (crockpot)
Ham jumbalaya

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Homemade ricemilk

In my never-ending quest to trim our food budget, I've turned my attention to ricemilk. We spend $5 per week on rice or almond milk, due to my younger daughter's dairy allergies. It adds up.

I came across a recipe for homemade ricemilk and thought, "I can do that!"

I used this recipe. I do not necessarily agree with the political sentiment of the blog, but I like how easy the recipe is.

I mixed two cups of brown rice and sixteen cups of water in a large pot. After bringing it to a boil, I let it simmer for three hours. For taste, I added 5 teaspoons-ish of salt and 1/2 cup of maple syrup. I ladled the mixture, spoonful by spoonful into a blender and cut it 50:50 with water. The ricemilk is stored in large mason jars.

My daughters don't like the milk as much as they like store-bought milk, but they will drink it and eat it in cereal. I could add more syrup, but I'd like to wean them off the sweet taste. I like it because we've saved a ton of money this way.

My next experiment will be making ricemilk in the crockpot, so I don't have to babysit the stove. Stay tuned!

Week of September 2, 2011

Green chile chicken (crockpot)
Tater tot casserole
General tso's chicken
Pita, falafel, cucumber sauce
Fried lentil balls

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Homemade ricotta cheese

I've started looking into making homemade cheese. We originally eliminated cheese and other dairy products from our diet due to my youngest's food allergy. Now, she is older and I am again craving the dairy.

We are also looking into trimming our food budget. We currently spend at least $25 a week on dairy products, excluding milk. I'd like to see if we can decrease that amount.

I started my experimentation with ricotta. It's a soft cheese that doesn't require enzymes, thus eliminating a need to purchase additional ingredients.

I doubled the Smitten Kitchen's recipe and this was the result:

IT WAS AMAZING!! More after the jump ...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Week of June 27, 2011

Beef and cabbage (crockpot)
Sloppy Joe's
Beans and rice (crockpot)
Honey lentils (crockpot)
Homemade pizza rolls with white beans, garlic, sundried tomato and spinach (quick & easy cookbook)
Pasta with chickpeas and garlic sauce

Saltine toffee candy

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Week of May 1, 2011

Pot roast (Sunset cookbook, p. 580)
Cajun dirty rice (Sunset cookbook, p. 675)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beef steak stir fry with veggies

What a saga this meal turned into! I couldn't find the beef for stir-fry and spent five minutes digging in the fridge. I gave up and turned to the chicken that I had reserved for Chicken with Olives. I cut up the chicken thighs, all the while thinking that there was an odor that reminded me of cat abscesses. That couldn't be a good thing, so the chicken got chucked in the trash. I pulled out the beef for the Pot Roast and cut it up. My knife was mildly dull and the meat was tough ...

Finally, we were ready to cook! And, then I needed to head to an appointment and I didn't get to eat any of it! Shaun actually ended up cooking most of it.

He says it was a good meal. Here's how it went down (loosely based on this recipe):

1 40 oz beef chuck roast, cubed into one-inch squares
1/2 cup red cooking wine
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Cover beef with liquid and let sit


Slice vegetables for stir fry. I used: 2 leeks, one onions, 4 carrots (cut thinly) and a bag of frozen broccoli.

Mix together 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 inch grated ginger (unpeeled) and 2 tablespoons coconut oil


Heat wok with 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. Add beef in a thin layer. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side, until brown. DON'T OVERCOOK. Remember, this will be cooked again later. It took 3 batches to get all the beef cooked because I didn't want to overcrowd the wok. I did cook the beef in all the liquid marinade.

Remove the beef and set aside. 

Add the vegetables and garlic/ginger liquid. Mix gentle. Cook until soft (~5 minutes). Add beef and stir together for 1-2 minutes.

Remove and eat immediately.

Week of March 4, 2011


Shaun makes chili
Shaun makes sushi

Split pea soup (crockpot)
Loose meat sandwiches with hidden veggies (crockpot)
Borscht (crockpot)
Pepperoncini beef sandwiches (crockpot)
Chipotle bean burritos

Fudge mocha brownies

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spaghetti with spicy peanut sauce

This was a tasty meal that was relatively easy to make. I didn't modify it much from The Perfect Pantry's recipe. I will say, though, that it didn't quite hit the spot and I don't know if I would make it again. It didn't seem ... substantial. I got filled up with pasta without actually feeling satiated.

This is what I used:

1 inch unpeeled ginger
5 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 TB chili paste with garlic
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 pound spaghetti
1 napa cabbage, cut into thin pieces
1 green pepper, diced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced

I mixed the first eight ingredients in my small cuisinart (a great holiday gift from S. Thanks, S!).

While that was mixing, I cooked the spaghetti al-dente.

I diced the last four vegetables and stir fried in the wok on 350, with a few TB of sesame oil. When the spaghetti was done, I mixed the stir fried vegetables with the spaghetti and coated with peanut

Perhaps if I were more of a vegetarian, I would enjoy this dish. I think it would've benefited from some meat. :) Also, the lack of Worcestershire sauce and Soba noodles may also have hurt.

I'm curious to see what true vegetarians think of this dish, if they make it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grown-up fish sticks

I just love Budget Bytes's blog. Her recipes are solid, delicious, nutritious and cheap. Fits all my criteria for a perfect meal.

Tonight we made grown-up fish sticks.

[Edited to add: I linked to the original recipe, but I wanted to make sure it was clear. This is Budget Bytes's recipe and I did not modify it at all.]

It was easy! In 30 minutes, I microwaved potatoes, made fresh bread, heated baked beans and fried the fish sticks. Here's what happened:

  • Defrosted a package of frozen tilapia fish sticks in the fridge during the day
  • Chopped the fish into halves and then thirds
  • Dipped the fish into a flour/cajun pepper mixture, then into egg, then into panko, then into a hot, oiled pan
  • Fried until golden. Flip and repeat. 
We tried this dairy-free tartar sauce. Essentially, I mixed mayonnaise, frozen dill, mustard and lemon juice and omitted the yogurt. It tasted like mayonnaise but was a good side.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Making your lemonade POP with a fruit infusion

This post is inspired by recipe hoarders original fruity lemonade. Thanks recipe hoarder! :)

This was a super-easy, kid approved drink!

I mixed lemonade from lemon juice as directed by the package. I poured a little lemonade into my mini Cuisinart and blended ~2 cups of frozen blueberries. Mix the pureed berries back with the lemonade.

The kids loved the sugar high. I loved adding whole berries to their sugary drink. This will be an excellent treat come summer.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Week of February 25, 2011

Tilapia fish sticks
Vegetable and chickpea curry (crockpot)
Pot roast (crockpot)

Napa cabbage with spicy peanut sauce
Chicken with olives
Beef and broccoli stir fry
Bean burgers

Quick curried chickpeas

Shaun lunch:
homemade pizza
Corned beef

Dairy and soy-free chocolate marshmallow pops

For Valentine's Day, E and I surfed Foodgawker and this recipe caught her eye. It was easy to make, kid friendly and tasted like chocolate peeps on a stick. Definitely sugar overload for me, but I think E could have eaten the whole plate.

6 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate
1 TB lard or other approved baking oil
4-6 TB powdered sugar
1 container of sprinkles
1 bag of marshmallows
1 bag of popsicle sticks. 

Melt the chocolate and oil/lard over a double broiler. I used a pan in a pan. When melted, add chocolate to taste.

Remove the sweet chocolate from the pan and place in a shallow dish. Place the sprinkles in a separate dish.

Stick the marshmallow on a stick and roll in the chocolate, then roll in the sprinkles.

Run around like a maniac when on a sugar high. Regret giving your young children 5 pops to eat. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Daily homemade bread from "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day"

I know I haven't posted in a while and I'm going to post more often. I'd say that at least two meals a week are ones I'd like to share; they are tasty, nutritious, cheap, easy to make ... or some combination of the above.

For my comeback post, I'd like to share my adventures with Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This book change my life! Those of you who know me IRL have probably heard me go on and on and on about this book. :)

Due to T's allergies,  I started scouring ingredients for dairy and soy. I started to buy bread at $5 a loaf on a weekly or twice weekly. It was way too much. I had heard about the book but when we visited my friend M, we ate bread fresh out of the oven and I was sold.

It truly spend only five minutes a day and I make fresh bread daily. For those who haven't heard for this took, essentially what I do is mix flour, yeast, water and salt together in a storage container. I let it sit out for two hours and pop it in the fridge. Then, when I want to make bread, I just pull off hunks of dough, dunk it in flour and place on a greased baking sheet. It bakes in 25 minutes. I don't clean out the storage container between batches and the remaining dough develops a lovely sourdough taste.

Let me share some pictures.

 Bread on a baking sheet (I tried to rotate the picture but it got lost somehow)

 Rosemary and roasted garlic flatbread (half-eaten). S's favorite. 

E took this picture. She loves the bread, especially fresh out of the oven.

 Bread in a container in the fridge. 
 is the basic recipe I use. I also make the flatbread and rye recipes.

Let me know if you want more baking tips or want to borrow the cookbook!


Friday, January 21, 2011

Week of January 21, 2011

Shaun makes lasagna
Sriracha honey buffalo wings
Sloppy joes (crockpot)
Cowboy beans (crockpot)

Chocolate chip cookies

Nutritious chicken nuggets

These are such a hit in our household. Our preschooler calls them "nutritious chicken nuggets," to differentiate them from McD's chicken nuggests. I would guess she probably prefers McD's. If I were four, I probably would too.

This is an easy meal to make that only requires about 30 minutes from start to finish. The only reason I don't make this meal more often is because chicken breast gets expensive. And because I don't really like to handle raw meat. 

Here is the original recipe. I found it because I was looking for dairy and soy-free breadcrumbs. I do like the taste and texture of Panko. I would probably start using it even if I weren't dairy and soy-free.

Here is my lazy adaptation of the recipe:
  • Heat the oven to broil. Close bedroom doors so the smoke alarm doesn't get all uppity. 
  • Cut the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces
  • Mix 3 big globs (~ 1 cup) of mayonnaise with a glob (~1/3 cup) of dijon mustard. Pour in a fair amount of agave syrup (~1/3 cup). Shake in several shakes of hot sauce (~2-3 TB). 
  • Pour the panko into a second bowl
  • Dip chicken into mayo into panko and place on a cookie sheet
  • Broil ~8-10 minutes on each side. I monitor them chicken closely and flip and/or remove when browned. I want the chicken to be well cooked but I don't want to burn
Serve with baked potatoes and frozen veggies for a well-rounded meal.

Note: I have run out of agave syrup and don't want to make a special grocery trip for it. I now use maple syrup, which I also like.

ETA: I should have also said that I really like this meal a lot. The chicken is juicy with a crunch (if that makes sense) and there is a wonderful sweet and sassy taste.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chocolate pancakes. Or, chocolate cake in pancake form

I woke up with the intention of making healthy oatmeal pancakes and decided on a whim to make chocolate pancakes. After all, cocoa powder has some nutritive value ... right ...?

Here is the recipe I used. I suppose adding fruit would be nutritious, but I did not have any on hand.

Essentially, you mix
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups buttermilk. I used two cups of coconut milk. 
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil. I used canola. 
Place 1/4 cup on a hot griddle. Flip after 3-5 minutes, or when the underside is firm. Cook an additional 3-5 minutes.

Yup. That's cake. In pancake form.  It was pretty good. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Inside-out stuffed peppers

We really, really liked this meal. I have always been a fan of stuffed peppers but it always seems like so much work. On the evening of this meal,  our groceries were delivered at 6 pm and I wanted to get supper on the table. This is what I did:
  • Brown 1-1.5 lbs of ground beef. Drain fat
  • Add one diced onion, a diced green pepper and 8 ounces frozen corn kernels and cook until soft
  • I added a couple of handfuls of cooked navy and garbanzo beans because they were sitting in the fridge. I think they added some nice texture and substance, but I wouldn't go out of my way to add them
  • Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning and oregano
  • When the onions and corn are soft, add a can of diced tomatoes. It's a plus if they are seasoned as well. I used a 14 oz can, but a 28 oz can will do nicely if you like tomatoes
  • Stir occasionally and serve when heated through
This is an easy, hearty dish. We ate them with baked potato slices. I told S that next time I will add more frozen vegetables and he gave me the stink eye. I may keep this as a primarily beef meal but I think it would be good with more veggies.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Homemade falafel and pita bread

I originally did not to post these recipes because I did not alter them to make them my own. They were easy, solid, nutritious, cheap recipes but definitely Budget Bytes's recipe. However, I decided to share them because they truly are wonderful to have in the recipe repertoire. 
Here a recipe for homemade falafel. Here is a recipe for homemade pita. Aside from the tomato and cucumber, the rest of the ingredients were in my pantry. It was truly a cheap meal.

I baked navy and garbanzo beans in the crockpot overnight on low for 8 hours. Look at the steam!

Edited to add: I used dried beans and cooked them first. You can certainly use canned beans, but I like the lower price and lower salt content of dried beans.

 I did not have oil to fry or cumin. I baked the falafel balls on a cookie sheet, omitting the cumin. They were OK. I think next time I will shape smaller patties and definitely make sure I have all the ingredients.

The pita was a cinch to make. I rose the dough in the morning and then stored it in the fridge until supper time. I did not even try to cut the pita in half.I just folded it over tomato and cucumber. Drizzling the pita with tahini sauce was just perfect!

See the camera cord?

This is definitely on my list of cheap and nutritious eats.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Beef, squash and tomatillo slow cooker dish

 Ok, stick with me on this one. It was so good, I was almost done with my second bowl before I remembered to take a picture. The recipe is based on a stewed pork and squash recipe.

  • Brown ground beef in a skillet. Drain fat. Add to crockpot.
  • Add one diced onion and eight medium-sized diced tomatillas to the beef. 
  • Peel and cube one butternut squash and add to the crockpot. This was the worst part, mostly because many of my knives are dulled.
  • Open a can of diced tomatoes (I used one flavored with onion and garlic) and add to the mixture
  • Stir together with chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. 
Simmer on low for eight hours. The meat was tender and full of flavor. I loved the nutrients from the vegetables.  S liked the beef. We really liked this meal.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Easy taco salad and sauteed spinach

This is one of J and S's favorite suppers. Unfortunately, it is neither especially cheap nor healthy. I suppose it's healthier and cheaper than food we'd buy at a restaurant ...

I tried to healthy-up my supper. I microwaved a baked potato and sauteed spinach to eat along with the taco salad. And ate it on a monkey plate. The rest of the family did not want to join me in healthying-up their meal :)

Taco salad:
  • Brown 1-2 pounds of beef in a skillet. Add taco seasoning with water as directed. One of these months we will perfect our own taco seasoning
  •  Crunch mission chips onto a plate. Top with beef
  • Add tomatoes, black olives, canned diced chilies, diced onions, diced tomatoes, diced green pepper
  • Top with sour cream, cheddar/taco cheese, salsa

A child's hand reaching for the black olives.

Any ideas how to make the taco salad healthier? Cheaper?

For the spinach, I sauteed onions in tarragon vinegar. Added defrosted frozen spinach (catch that?). Sautee until cooked through. I'm trying to up my calcium intake and I think that regular spinach will help.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Easy breakfast oatmeal

This is not a glamorous breakfast, but it is hearty, cheap and easy to make. I do, however, limit this meal to one or two mornings.

To make this oatmeal:

  • Add 2-3 cups of milk to a saucepan on medium-high heat. I use coconut or rice milk.
  • Add an equal amount of oats. I love the Quaker Oats.
  • Add ~1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice. This is a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice and ginger.
  • Add a handful of raisins, a handful of dried cranberries or any other small, dried fruit.
  • Lower the heat to simmer once the milk is boiling and let simmer until the liquid is evaporated or you are ready to eat. 
The girls like this meal with locally-harvested maple syrup. I eat the oats plain. I find it flavorful enough as a stand-alone meal and I don't want the extra calories.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sausage and vegetable stir fry

 Herbivores and carnivores: UNITE

S made chili and it was DELICIOUS! So delicious that it disappeared before I could take pictures. We will try to document next time.

Tonight, I made a fantastic meat and veggie stir fry. The recipe is based on this recipe. I started with ground sausage, since it was just as cheap as hot dogs. Plus, I like sausage better.


  • Brown the sausage in a frying pan
  • Remove the sausage and cook vegetables. I use whatever veggies I have on hand. Tonight I used potatoes (cut up small to cook faster), carrots, frozen vegetable mix, leeks, onions and celery. The vegetables cook in the sausage juice, which adds so much flavor. I did end up adding a little olive oil to keep the potatoes from burning
  • Add the sausage back and let simmer for a few minutes 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Serve on a starch. In the past, we have put it on rice. Tonight, we put it on leftover mashed potatoes. 
Delicious! Easy, relatively inexpensive dish that packs a lot of nutrients and flavor. It's not the fastest recipe; the vegetables took about 20 minutes to cook. But, I was able to start the veggies cooking and continue working nearby.

We will definitely be making this often.