Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

Super Simple Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

A few Thanksgivings ago, I thought I would be Miss Fancy Pants and make my own cranberry sauce to wow my guests.  Turns out, it was so easy and delicious that I will never go back to canned sauce again!

For simple Cranberry Sauce you need:

1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
1 Cup of sugar
3/4 Cup of water

Wash the cranberries in some cold water and discard any bad ones that you see.

I like dumping my cranberries onto a cookie sheet and running my hands over them.  The bad ones are much easier to spot this way.

Throw the cranberries, sugar, and water into a saucepan, stir to combine and bring to a boil.  After it boils, reduce heat so it simmers.

 

 

 

After a few minutes, the cranberries will start to pop releasing its pectin into the mix.  Pectin is a natural gelling agent and as the sauce cools it will thicken.  Stir your sauce every few minutes.

After 10 minutes, most of the cranberries have popped.

After 15 minutes, you can remove the sauce from the heat and transfer to serving bowl.  I like to cook an additional 5 minutes or so to really break down the berries and boil off some of the liquid.

The sauce will thicken as it cools.  You can serve it warm and it will be more sauce like or you can make it in advance and store it in the fridge to firm up. 

This is our sauce after 1 hour in the fridge.  Perfect!  Not too sweet and not too tart.

Variations abound for this recipe. You can substitute orange juice for the water, add orange zest, cloves, cinnamon sticks, more sugar, less liquid, etc…  I haven’t found a recipe that I didn’t like so far!  Evelyn loves the simple version and eats it with her cottage cheese as a snack.

Ours lasted a week in the fridge.  Is it less expensive to make your own?  Well, a bag can cost anywhere from $1.50 (2 for $3) to $1.99.  There’s a few cents for sugar and you can make about 16 ounces.  A 16 ounce can costs around $1.50 during the holidays.  I’d say it’s about even cost wise, but flavor and presentation wise you cannot beat fresh cranberry sauce.

Frugal Food: Crispy Upside Down Roast Chicken

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Upside down roast chicken

We love roasting a whole chicken in the oven, especially when we’ve bought the chicken for 49 cents a pound! 

This family fave is a classic recipe turned upside down – literally.  Roasting a chicken breast side down in a rack and then flipping it halfway through cooking yields crispy skin all over and juicy white meat.  The recipe is my own design.  Feel free to experiment with your own spice blend.

Ingredients:

5 – 6 lb whole chicken – rinsed and patted dry with paper towels (Crispy secret #1)
1 Tbsp kosher salt (use half this amount for table salt)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp thyme
zest of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cooking time, 1 hr 30 min (45 min per side) for a 5-6 lb bird, 1 hr (30 min per side) for a 3-4 lb bird.

In a small bowl, mix together the spices and lemon zest.  Pre-baby, I used to add cayenne pepper to the mix for some zing.  In another bowl, whisk together the oil and lemon juice.

Most people season the outside of the chicken.  I like to season under the skin of the chicken as well.  This not only adds to the flavor of the breast and thigh meat, but it will cause the skin to crisp up nicely in the oven (Crispy secret #2).

Carefully slide your fingers under the skin over the breast.  Use your fingers to break the clear connective membrane holding the skin to the meat.

Gently lift the skin covering the entire breast and thigh area.  You can see in my photo the skin slightly split.  This is due to me being unable to take pictures with my left hand at the same time that I’m feeling a chicken up with my right.

Make sure your chicken is nice and dry (Crispy Secret #1).  If the skin is wet when you put it in the oven, it will take extra time for the water to cook out and the skin to dry before it will start to crisp.  Drizzle the lemon juice/olive oil mixture over the chicken and work it into the skin.  Make sure you do the back and get some juice under the skin and over the breast.

Spoon some spice under the skin and rub it into the breast and thigh meat.

Use the rest of the spice mixture to season the outside of the chicken.   Don’t be shy.  Rub it into all the nooks and crannies, the chicken doesn’t mind.

Crispy secret #3 – put the chicken on a rack in the roasting pan upside down.  Put it in the oven for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, pull the chicken out and admire the crispy behind.  Baby got some serious back!  

Carefully lift the chicken and flip it breast side up.  I have these large rubber heat resistant gloves from Ronco.  I’ve also used a wooden spoon in the cavity combined with tongs and also plain old (clean) potholders.  (Note: please wash the potholders before using again) 

After another 45 minutes, pull out your beautiful bird.  Yum! 

Use an instant read thermometer and make sure the thigh meat registers 180.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil for 10 minutes.  Letting the chicken rest lets the meat cells close up to lock in the juices.  If you were to cut into the chicken right away all the juice would run out leaving you with dry meat.  Speaking of juices, you can make a gravy or pan sauce out of the drippings in the pan if you wanted.

And the final verdict?  Frugal – our chicken cost just under $3 at 49 cents per pound – and delicious – Oliver gave this 2 thumbs up –  it was frugalicious!

After you finish picking apart your bird do NOT throw away the carcass.  Stick that and the bones into a ziplock bag and throw it into the freezer for chicken soup.  I’ll be posting that recipe some other Friday.

Frugal Food: Easy Chicken Parmigiana

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

We buy 6 or 7 packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they go on sale for $1.99/lb.  After scouring the web for ideas, I got creative with one pack and came up with a super easy and quick chicken parmigiana.  What I like about my recipe is how flexible it is and how much less salt I used than most recipes.

Ingredients:

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts from 2 – 4 lbs.
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs (I like Italian breadcrumbs)
1 cup of your favorite spaghetti or marinara sauce
6 – 8 oz of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup – 1 cup of oil for frying

1.  Trim excess fat from chicken breast, place between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, and pound to uniform thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Tip – Sprinkle water on both pieces of plastic wrap to make the chicken slide easier as it stretches out.  Use a rolling pin, cast iron skillet, heavy can, or even an old glass coke bottle to pound the chicken.  The chicken on the left has been pounded.

Pound Chicken

2. Liberally season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides.

salt and pepper the chicken

3. Dredge in flour and tap off excess.

4. Dip chicken in the beaten egg mixture to coat both sides and immediately press into the breadcrumbs.

5. Cover the chicken thoroughly in the breadcrumbs and set aside.

6. Heat up 1/4 cup of oil in frying pan over medium high heat per each batch of chicken that you will brown.  When oil is almost smoking, fry chicken breasts until golden brown – about 2 minutes per side.

7. Spread about 1/4 cup of sauce on each breast.  You can use more or less, depending on your tastes.

8. Sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan evenly over the chicken breast and bake in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 160 degrees. 

9) When the chicken is done, turn the broiler on for a couple minutes to brown the cheese if you desire.  Watch the chicken carefully as the cheese browns quickly.

Serve with your favorite pasta and a nice side salad.  I used penne tossed with melted butter and parsley with a bag salad and fresh grape tomatoes.  From start to finish this takes me less than 45 minutes and that includes preparing the two sides as well.  And the best part – Oliver loves it!

Tutorial: Making Foaming Hand Soap

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I always thought foaming hand soap was too fru-fru for me.  I had tried a few of my friends nice smelling foaming hand soap and thought I would give it a try.  Well, I didn’t like my hands smelling like flowery cucumbers, so it sat in my bathroom forever.

Having a baby changed my mind real quick on foaming soap.  It is a million times easier to use to wash his hands than bar soap or plain old liquid soap with a pump.  When my fru-fru foaming soap ran out this week I was dreading paying another $3.50 for SOAP.  I researched online and came up with a foaming hand soap recipe!

Ingredients:

1 Empty foaming handsoap dispenser
Water
Clear liquid handsoap

For this experiment I cleaned out the foaming dispenser until clear water ran through the pump.

I used a ratio of 1/5 liquid soap to 4/5 water.  This dispenser was 8.5 oz.  I guessed that the pump took up an 1/2 an ounce of space.  I divided 8 by 5 to get 1.6 ounces of soap.  Subtracting 1.6 from 8 I needed roughly 6.4 ounces of water.

Remove the pump and add the water to the empty bottle first.  Next pour in the liquid soap.  By adding the water first bubbles will be minimized.  Twist on the pump and shake gently to mix the soap into the water.  (NOTE: The pump was about 1/2 an ounce larger than I expected, ergo the excess spilled all over the counter.)

I used the same method to fill an ordinary liquid soap dispenser as a control.

The ordinary pump produced no foam, just watered down soap.

The foaming pump actually produced soapy foam!

The results side by side.

I washed my hands with the foaming soap and it worked like a charm.

Provided that you have an empty foaming soap dispenser, the cost of this recipe was rougly $0.30.  That’s a steal!

Things to remember:

1) Do not use moisturizing liquid soap.  It can clog up the pump.
2) The ratio of water and soap may vary depending on the pump style.  Use more or less until you find something that works.
3) If the pump gets clogged after a bit, pumping vinegar through the dispenser should clear it up.

I will report back in a month to see how the soap and dispenser held up.

Frugal tip of the day: Need I say it?  Make your own refills for pennies instead of buying a new bottle.

UPDATE:  I emptied out a little of the soap mix and added more liquid soap to the bottle.  The ratio is now probably 2/5 liquid soap and 3/5 water.  Upping the soap made a thicker foam and has not clogged up the pump yet.  I’ll report back in a while to see if this penny pinching idea is worth it!

Tutorial: Making Homemade Powder Laundry Soap

Friday, March 19th, 2010

With a baby in the house, we wash a ton of clothes.  I’d say we wash at least 8 loads a week.  After buying another container of Gain for $11, I thought I would give homemade laundry soap a try.

I am choosing the dry method for this tutorial.  I purchased all the ingredients for this at my local Kroger in the laundry supply aisle.  I used Fels-Naptha for the bar soap.  Some people have used Ivory, Dove, etc… Do not substitute baking soda for washing soda.  They are not the same thing.

Ingredients:  Makes approximately 2.5 cups = 40 tablespoons = 40 loads.

1 bar soap
1 C. Washing Soda
1/2 C. Borax

1) Grate the soap into fine pieces.

I used 3 methods to grate the soap to see which one was the most efficient and worked the best.

A) The medium-fine side of a box grater.

It took about 10 seconds to do this little corner.  That’s a lot of grating to do!

B) A Black and Decker mini-chopper.

 I used a bread knife to cut the soap.  It cut easily with downward pressure.

I then chopped up the cut block a little bit.  It had the consistency of a firm cheese.
 

I pulsed the chopper about 4 or 5 times and it crumbled the bits.  I held the button down for a steady 5 seconds and the pieces did not get any smaller.

C) A Cuisinart processor.

I put the same sized soap crumbles into the Cuisinart and did a couple pulses of grind and a couple pulses on chop.  Within 10 seconds, the soap had been finely ground.

The results:

The Cuisinart was the winner.  It took 20 seconds to shred the soap.  The particles were uniform and fine.  The second best was the box grater.  It took 20 seconds to grate 1/8 of the bar, but also had uniform and fine particles.  Lastly, the Black and Decker just couldn’t cut it.

 2) Dump the grated soap in a container and mix in the washing soda and Borax.

 3) Store detergent in a sealed container. 

Use 1 tablespoon for a full load up to 2 tablespoons if it is really dirty.  We use one baby formula scoop per wash, which is about 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Is it worth it?

The total cost of the ingredients were roughly:  $9.10
The total cost of the ingredients in the recipe:  $1.88
Cost per load (1 Tablespoon): $0.04

Gain Detergent – Powder, 63 oz, 40 loads: $7.25 = $0.18 per load

Using homemade detergent over Gain saves $0.14 per load.  At 416 loads per year that’s a savings of $58.24. 

From start to finish, minus the trial and error, I would guess it takes about 20 minutes max to make a batch of soap.  I would say it is worth it.

But does it work?  Tune in next week to find out.  I will be doing a dirt test between Gain and my homemade soap.

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