Friday, April 29, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - MAPLE PANCAKE SYRUP


Making your own pancake syrup is a super easy way to save some $, especially if your family loves pancakes and waffles as much as mine! There are a lot of variations of homemade syrup out there, but this recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe is one of my favorites. I only made 1/4 of her recipe because it makes a lot more than we would use in the near future. It may seem real runny at first, but don't fret, it will thicken as it cools!

Total Cost (guesstimate): under $ .30

MAPLE PANCAKE SYRUP
makes about 2 1/2 Cups (to make a big batch like Mel does, quadruple this recipe)


2 C. white sugar
1/4 C. brown sugar
1/8 C. honey
1 C. water
1/2 tsp. maple extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large pot, combine the sugars, honey and water. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to low so the mixture gently simmers. Cover the pot and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for 10-20 minutes before stirring in the maple and vanilla extracts. Let the syrup cool in the pot for another 20 minutes, or so, stirring occasionally, before filling jars/containers. Once the containers are filled, let them cool to room temperature uncovered.
Store covered in jars or other containers in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 2 months in the refrigerator. Gently reheat before serving, if desired.




Tuesday, April 26, 2011

VEGAS TRIP

My hubby and I just got back from Vegas a few days ago. I can't say much for Vegas itself, but the food...we ate a LOT! We stayed at Aria hotel, which was pretty swanky, but the real "eye candy" was the Jean Pierre Patisserie on the casino floor. Look at these goods, all made of chocolate! Yes, even those huge flowers were made of pure chocolate.






After a few days at the Aria hotel, we switched to THE Hotel at Mandalay Bay, where we found THE BEST Mexican restaurant ever! Border Grill This was not your ordinary Mexican restaurant (at least not from where I live!) It's described as "modern mexican" and is owned by two ladies who were on Bravo's Top Chef Master's. That's what really sold me on trying out their restaurant over others. Now if I can just duplicate those sweet corn tamales, I'll be in heaven, and I'm in luck cause I found their recipe on their website. Yay!


Appetizer Tray: Green Corn Tamale, Beef Brisket Taquito, Plantain Empanada

Chunky Guac, and not too spicy...just the way we like it!

Marlin Tacos (My hubby said they were good. I wouldn't know since I don't like fish :)  )

And of course...dessert! Tres Leches Cake with Passion Fruit and Prickly Pear Sauce

Then there was the Aria Buffet where we stuffed ourselves with a late breakfast consisting of cookies, fruit, eggs, pancakes, and a lot of etc, etc., Lemongrass Thai, where I convinced my hubby to order a duck dish that totally upstaged my pork satay big time! And then there was an Italian place that wasn't so great, oh well, can't win them all; especially in Vegas ;)



Friday, April 22, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - BROWN SUGAR


Have you ever been in the middle of making cookies only to discover you're out of brown sugar? If you're like me, you would panic and run to the store or borrow some from your neighbor. Fret no more. It's SO easy to make your own (as long as you have molasses on hand).  This takes a little elbow grease, but turns out beautifully. It works and tastes just like regular brown sugar, but even fresher! Increase the molasses for a darker flavor, or decrease the molasses for a lighter flavor. 

BROWN SUGAR

1 C. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses

Mix in a bowl with a fork or beater until all the molasses is worked into the sugar. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, April 15, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK


I apologize for the lack of postings, but it's been a crazy week! I went to the store for sweetened condensed milk the other day, and wow, it's not cheap! I think I paid $2.99 or more for a little can. I've seen several recipes online for making your own. Most use powdered milk with a small amount of water, a LOT of sugar, vanilla, and some add butter. Some say to heat the ingredients, some say to mix it up cold, etc.  So, I ended up trying it a few different ways. The first method I tried was mixing everything up cold, which left sort of a grainy texture. My next attempt was to dissolve the sugar in the hot water, then add the rest of the ingredients. This worked much better. The consistency is relatively smooth, although I did strain mine through a sieve to get rid of a few lumps. By itself, the taste is slightly different than the canned stuff, but not necessarily in a negative way. I have yet to use it in a dessert, but when I do, I'll post the results! And, if any of you get around to using it before I do, please let me know what you think! Overall, this is a way cheaper route to go, not to mention it will save you a trip to the store

Total cost: about $0.65


Sweetened Condensed Milk


3/4 C. white sugar
1/2 C. boiling water
1 C. plus 2 Tbsp. powdered instant nonfat milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir white sugar into boiling water until dissolved. Whisk in powdered milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. If needed, pour mixture through sieve into bowl. Chill until ready to use. Equal to one 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk.



Friday, April 8, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - BROWN BAG MICROWAVE POPCORN


We're not a huge popcorn-eating family, but with our newly finished theater room, I think we'll be eating a lot more of it! I couldn't believe that after all these years of buying microwave popcorn, I finally discovered you can pop your own right in a brown lunch bag! Not only does it save money, it's healthier for you too. You can season it before popping by adding some oil, salt and other seasonings, or do as I did and doctor it up to your liking once it's popped.

BROWN BAG MICROWAVE POPCORN
Yields about 6 cups popped


Place 1/4 C. corn kernels in a brown lunch bag. Fold the top down a few times and secure with tape. Place in microwave on its side with tape facing up. Microwave on high for 
1 1/2 - 2 minutes or until there's about 4 seconds between each pop. (Mine took about 1 minute 45 seconds). Let rest in microwave for one minute. Serve as desired.

Total Cost: about $ .15 per bag

Monday, April 4, 2011

BANANA BERRY MUFFINS


We had such a nice, relaxing morning Sunday, thanks to LDS General Conference, which allowed us to stay home all day. I was going to make my stand-by muffins for breakfast, but at the last minute was "brave" and baked up these instead. I say "brave" because my family gives me a little grief if I try something new and it's not as good as our stand-by. I try not to make muffins that have a lot of oil, sugar or a/p flour in them because then they're more like a cupcake than breakfast! I typically use applesauce or yogurt in place of the oil, so I was skeptical of using cottage cheese in them, but it worked out well. 

Banana Berry Muffins
recipe from Eighty Twenty

Printable Recipe

Makes 10 muffins



1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup white flour


1/4 cup rolled oats


1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup low fat cottage cheese, small curd
1 egg white
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup frozen mixed berries (I used 3/4 C. shredded zucchini & 1/2 C. frozen blueberries)

I also added some ground flax 




Preheat oven to 365 degrees. In a large bowl, combine sugar, mashed bananas, cottage cheese, egg white, and vanilla extract. In another bowl, combine flours, oats, baking powder, and baking soda.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir for ~10-15 strokes, just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in 1 cup frozen berries.

Place muffin liners in a muffin tin (regular size) or spray with nonstick spray. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full with batter. To the top of each muffin, add a couple of remaining frozen berries. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with a dash of sugar. (I didn't do this part)

Bake for ~15-18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool ~ 5 minutes before serving.




(Approximate) Nutrition Info per 1 muffin: 144 calories, 1 g fat, 4 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber

Friday, April 1, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - PRODUCE WASH


Oh, how I would love to buy all organic produce. There are two main problems with that; 1) It would be too expensive for my budget, 2) There's not a large enough selection in my area. So, my next best option would be to scrub off as much of the residual pesticide that's left on non-organic produce as I could. But as soon as I saw the $5.00+ price tag on the small container of commercial produce wash, I figured I might as well spend my money on organic produce after all. Frustrating!
 I looked around the internet and found several sites that suggested putting together your own produce wash with simple ingredients you already have.  All you need is a clean spray bottle. (Mine was from the dollar store). Fill it with equal parts water and vinegar and a bit of baking soda. For example: 3 cups water, 3 cups vinegar, 2 Tbsp. baking soda. Be sure to label it so that everyone knows what it is and what it's to be used for. Spray it on the produce, rub a bit, then rinse under running water. 

Total cost: about $1.25