December 08, 2011

Cranberry Harvest Bread

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 TBSP Vegetable Oil
1 TSP of Baking Powder
1/2 TSP Baking Soda
1/4 TSP salt
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup of canned jellied (or whole) cranberry sauce
2 TSP of Vanilla
1 TBSP of honey
1/3 cup of milk
1 TSP Cinnamon
1/4 TSP Clove
Chopped/diced Pecans (I only had about TBSP)
1 Small apple diced
1/8 TSP All Spice
1/8 TSP Nutmeg

Pr-heat oven to 350

I wanted to make another quick bread. I had gone to the store to buy applesauce however the store did not have the type of applesauce I wanted, the type I wanted was not in my budget. . So I resolved to make my Banana bread. I was going to make my Banana bread however I saw a leaking cracked bowl of cranberry sauce I had used from a previous meal (roasted chicken). I had no other plans to use it this week for any meals. So I thought, why not use the cranberry sauce like I would applesauce? I had also bought dried cranberries and pecans for some homemade granola I wanted to make. I had planned on using fresh apples too, so why not put that all together in a bread? At first I thought "will this go with my chicken and rice soup I made?" Well why wouldn't it? It would be like eating stuffing and having cranberries with your chicken. Should be great!

Now obviously you can add however much you want of the fillings. However remember what this blog is about, cooking on a budget from scratch. I rather have something fresh and homemade with a little of special ingredients, and not make anything because I don't have a cup of dried nuts or fruit. When you cook on a tight budget having that smell of aromas in your home give that feeling of comfort. Even if you only have a bowl of soup, that fresh bread gives it a more of a full meal feeling. You don't feel deprived.

So on to the instructions for the bread....
Put flour, sugar (brown and white), baking powder, baking soda, oat's, salt all in one bowl and whisk. Now as with everything if you have a kitchen aid or a mixer go ahead and use it, but I don't have one so I do it the "old fashion" way.

  In another bowl add eggs, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, veg.oil, honey, milk, cranberry sauce and mix all together.
Dice up your apples and pecans or whatever nuts you are using. Leave cranberries whole.

 Once wet ingredients are all mixed properly pour into dry ingredients and combine well.
 Then take diced apples, nuts and dried cranberries and fold into the batter. 
 Place batter into a well oiled (or buttered) loaf pan. Then let bake on 350 for 60 min (depends on your oven).  I suggest checking your bread after 50 min. Just use a toothpick or butter knife and insert into the middle of bread loaf. If comes out clean, it is done.

November 20, 2011

B.A.N.A.N.A Bread

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 TBSP Vegetable Oil
1 TSP of Baking Powder
1/2 TSP Backing Soda
1/4 TSP salt
1/3 cup rolled oats
2 Banana's
1 TSP of Vanilla
1 TBSP of honey
1/4 TSP lemon
1/3 cup of milk
1 TSP Cinnamon
1/8 TSP Clove (optional)
1/8 TSP All Spice (optional)
1/8 TSP Nutmeg (optional

Pre-heat oven to 350

I am proud of this bread!

I think it is flavorful. It probably only cost $1.00 to make one loaf. I find it annoying somtimes when someone says it only cost x.y.z to make when you dont have the ingredients to make it. So if you can try and shop at a market that sales items by weight in bulk containers. So lets say flour cost $.30lb that means for about  two cups of flour you will spend less then $0.20. A banana cost any where from $0.19-$0.34 each (if you divide the $.69lb)...then you have all your other items. If you dont have any of these ingredents in your pantry it may cost you $2.00 if you bought from a bulk store, or it may cost you $10.00 to get all your supplies. Obviously paying $3.00 for your vegetable oil or $3.00 for a 5lb bag of flour feels like it hurts your wallet (just to make one loaf of banana bread), but keep in mind you can use those items for a bunch of other things, like pancakes. I have learned it is a good idea to plan your food budget for the month and break it down by each week....anyway, that's getting off subject.

My goal this past week was to try and cut back on using butter, butter is my fav thing however it really makes the cost of your baked goods to go up. So because I did not have butter in my house, or the money to buy it I used vegetable oil becuase thats what I had.I wouldent sugest using olive oil, but if yo have some other type of oil besides veg. or olive oil (i.e canola oil) you could use that. You can buy butter substitutes like Blue Bonnet which cost less then a $1.00 for 4 cubes. Its not the most healthy thing to use because it has partially hydrated oil, which I like to avoid when I can. However baking with it here and there to help out with the cost of your grocery bill helps when you need to cut back on items for the month to pay that Doctor bill you have, or get a gallon of gas for your car. 

So on to the instructions for the bread....
Put flour, sugar (brown and white), baking powder, baking soda, oat's, all in one bowl and whisk. Now as with everything if you have a kitchen aid or a mixer go ahead and use it, but I dont have one so I do it the "old fashion" way.

In another bowl take banana's and smash with a fork then add lemon juice. Then add eggs, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, veg.oil, honey, milk and salt and mix all together. I like to put the salt with my wet ingredients because I find when I do it with my dry ingredients it does not disperse properly. Once wet ingredients are all mixed properly pour into dry ingredients and combine well.

Place batter into a well oiled (or buttered) loaf pan. Then let bake on 350 for 45-55 min (depends on your oven). I suggest checking your bread after 45 min and then again at 50 min.  Just use a toothpick or butter knife and insert into the middle of bread loaf. If comes out clean, it is done.

You can add other things to this bread like nuts, cranberries or raisins (even all of it if you want).

A great tip when measuring honey is oil your measurements cup or spoon first then add the honey, it will come right out. I measure my oil first then use the same spoon for honey.

November 03, 2011

The perfect fluffy pancake

So I accomplished it! I was able to come up with the perfect fluffy pancake. Its a simple recipe, but I think one day I will try to use buttermilk because I like the sourness it can add. Here is my recipe. I have made this recipe 3 times now, and I have made edits to the orig. recipe (below are the new measurements), one day I will take new pics.

2 cups plus  of All purpose flour
3  tbsp p of granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder (make sure you have fresh powder because this effects batter)
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of half & half cream
1 cup of 1% milk
2 eggs
2.5 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of melted butter

In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and whisk together.

Combine  eggs, milk, cream, and whisk/blend. Then melt 1/4 cup of butter (melt for 30 sec) then add the 3 tbsp of sugar to butter and combine then pour into egg/milk and whisk/blend together.

 Then take wet mixture and slowly pour into dry mixture and stir while pouring wet mixture. Do not over mix! You want a semi lumpy batter that will be a slightly thick texture.

Set mixture aside and heat your cast iron or griddle pan. I started pan on a high to low heat, then once it started to smoke turned down to a medium low temp. I took pan off burner for 2 mins. Then placed a dab of butter, however I would use vegetable oil instead. Place some v.oil on a paper towel and rub you pan. You will need to re-oil your pan after 5 pancakes. 

Then took a 1/3 measuring cup and used to scoop up batter. This way all pancakes are the same size. Place in pan with melted butter then placed back onto burner.

Once bubbles start to form on top of pancake it is time to flip. Pancake will then puff up and after 20 to 30 sec remove from pan....the bottom should have a nice color to it.

And there you have it! Personally I think you need to follow directions as is first. If you try to adjust the type of milk I can not promise you will get the same effect. And also always remember the tip when measuring. When it comes to flour, use a spoon to scoop out of bag into measuring cup. This results into a more accurate measure. Also there is a difference between the type of measuring utensils you use. If you have those glass measuring cups, know that is for measuring liquids not dry ingredients. If you have plastic or metal cups that is what you should use for dry. These make a difference in the final again if the pancakes don't turn out fluffy and light, it possible the wrong cups where use and the batter was over mixed. Don't be afraid! Its not necessary to use a blender to mix the wet ingredients, I have just whisked together.

October 22, 2011

Who likes Blondes?

I think I do! I was watching the Food Network Show "Throw Down with Bobby Flay", and the epi was for Blondie Brownies. Now I have never made brownies from scratch, only a box. I love Ghiradelli Brownie and Cookie mixes! I was looking for a simple technique. So after some research I came up with my version of a Blonde Brownie. It pretty much taste like a chocolate chip cookie but more gooey. I'm impressed with them and plan on making them again for my brownie enthusiast sister in-law when she arrives in a couple weeks.

I think the most important step is to learn how to cream your butter. This is a step that's important for anything you will bake requiring to cream your butter. I'm not going to go into technical jargon but I will show you pictures below LOL and tell you it is the one step that takes the most time. 

Blonde Brownie
1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup (room temperature)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp of baking soda
Dash of salt
1 cup of brown sugar (not packed)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate morsels
1 egg (room temperature)
2 tsp vanilla extract
Oven 350 degrees
My directions are based on an electronic hand mixer.

Two things you need to do is set out a stick of butter (1/2 cup) and one egg and let it get to room temperature (about an hour). After egg is at room temp crack and place egg in bowl with the vanilla and put aside. Once butter is soft place in bowl and on a low speed start mixing until butter gets smooth/creamy. Then add about 1 tsp of brown sugar to butter and blend on low speed for 40 seconds. Keep doing this until all sugar has been added. It took me 8 mins to do this. Once all sugar has been blended turn up the speed to a medium speed and blend for one or two minutes. Then add egg and vanilla to mixture and on low speed blend together. Once blended, take a spatula and by hand fold 1/4 cup of flour at a time into mixture. Once all the flour has been folded in, add chocolate morsels and fold. Then take a 8x8 pan and butter pan on all edges. Then pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Then place into fridge to keep cool. Turn on oven to 350 degrees. Once the temp has been reached, place brownies inside and bake for 40-50 mins.

Now the reason why I give this 10 min frame is because I was distracted with my screaming Cupcake and forgot to reset timer. I only placed timer on for 25 min in the beginning. I had checked for doneness with a toothpick and it came out clean. But when I cut into the brownies they were not done. I placed back into oven but because of my distraction forgot to set timer. I think I only had it in there for an additional 20 min. So please use a knife to check for doneness after the 25 min and 40 min mark.

Baked in oven on 350 for 45/50 min

Nice and chewy with a slight crunch.

October 21, 2011

The Simple Chicken tips

You may ask "really a post about chicken"?. Yes because you never know who is reading this and maybe I can provide them a tip!

So Mr.Tasteful is paid monthly and it has made it a challenge for me to budget cost for our food budget. Now that 3 months or so have gone by I am seeing a pattern. I notice that once a month the grocery stores will have deals on chicken be it whole, legs and thighs. Now what I consider bargains is when the chicken is priced between $.79lb to $.99lb. I then stock up on the chicken. I buy one whole chicken for each week of the month plus two extra. At an avg of $3.50 per chicken, 6 chickens cost $21.00!!! For my family we are not big eaters, even if we were I would still try to stretch the chicken into 2 separate meals. I would make sure we ate more side dishes like rice, potatoes or bread to be filling. As long as we each have at least 3 oz of chicken that's all you really need per serving. Technically you take one chicken breast and cut in half and that's a proper serving per person for a healthy diet.

Now typically I will always roast the whole chicken in the oven simply with olive oil, salt and pepper. If I have available, take one cut lemon and half of a onion and put in the cavity of the chicken. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 min then turn temp down to 350 and bake for another 40 mins (depending on size) or until I can move chicken thing back and forth with ease and then stick knife into the thick part of the chicken breast and see if juice runs clear.

My favorite thing to do before I roast a chicken is a brine. You can make it complicated and add spices however if u are just looking to keep chicken breast moist a simple water and salt brine is perfect. Place chicken in a glass or non aluminum bowl and put 2 tablespoons of kosher salt let dissolve in a couple tablespoons of warm water. Then fill bowl with cold water until chicken is covered. Let this brine for at least 2 hrs no more then 8 hrs. I have done overnight and I found it was very water didn't ruin the chicken just the skin had a harder time getting crispy and the flavor of the chicken seemed not very strong for a small 3.5lb chicken.

So after we eat our first meal of roasted chicken I will usually remove the parts of meat we did not eat. I always eat the dark meat of the chicken and Mr.Tasteful eats the white meat. We always have leftover at least one chicken breast, one thigh and one leg. I take the chicken carcase and wings and place in a zip lock freezer bag for a later use the Chicken Stock. Now if you bought a Rotisserie Chicken from the store you can do this to, you don't have to roast the chicken. This is just leftover chicken parts (not the meat).

If you want a stronger chicken stock, cut up the whole chicken before you cook it and remove the breasts, thighs and drum sticks for roasting. Take the wings and everything else left and use that for the chicken stock.

The average cost for a can of Chicken stock is $1.25 (I only buy with no MSG). I prefer to buy organic chicken stock in the large container where you get about 4 cups of stock. This cost about $3.00 per container. I refuse to buy store bought stock not on sale. So far the cheapest I can buy organic stock at is $1.99 each. If I am making chicken soup I usually use two containers and that is at least $4.00 just for stock. Now its great to have on hand as a quick thing....but if you can, make your own, its not hard and less expensive with superior taste.

If using leftover chicken carcase from a previous roasted chicken, it only takes 45 mins to make the stock. When you use fresh uncooked chicken carcase and parts I like to give it two hours. How much will this cost you? About $1, if that!

The stock is simple add 1 onion cut in half, 3 whole garlic cloves, 2 carrots cut in quarters, 2 celery cut in quarters (or use up all of those celery leafs), 1/2 teaspoon of dry or fresh herbs like thyme and pinch of dried Rosemary. Add about 1 tbsp of kosher salt and 7 to 8 cups of water if using fresh chicken parts. If using leftover chicken use 5 cups of water. Usually the water amount depends on how much chicken and veggies you have (So if you only have a little use less water. If you use to much water your stock will not be very flavorful. You can always add a little water later if the flavor is to strong. Add a 1/2 cup at a time after u have cooked stock for allotted time. But personally I would only do this when you go to cook soup with it). Once it has finished simmering on a med to low heat, drain everything out and throw it away, only saving the liquid. I let it cool a bit then place in fridge. Once it has cooled completely (2hrs or more) I remove all the fat that has gathered to the top (it will be like a crust).  Then take 3 or 4 cups and place in a freezer bag and keep in freezer for up to 2 months.

Chicken tips:
  1.  There is also an option if you buy your chicken with skin on (less expensive then skinless) and you want the meat to be skinless, remove the skin yourself and use the skin for the stock. 
  2. Also after you eat your chicken like the thigh and drumsticks instead of throwing away the bones, you could use in stock. I know that may sound gross to some of you, I have not needed to go to that step, however to get more out of your chicken when you only have so much money it is a great way to stretch the dollar. Maybe just do a quick rinse of the bone and of course don't use anything eaten by someone who was sick. 
  3. If you roast the chicken in the oven and you have all those juices in the pan, don't throw that away. Save it! Use it instead of butter or olive oil when roasting vegetables or making your chicken soup. It only last a couple days in the fridge. However you could freeze it in an ice cube tray and then place in a freezer bag for up to 2 months.
  4. Don't throw away the fat after you cool the chicken stock in fridge. Use that just like I pointed out in tip 3.
  5. You could also  take a whole chicken and make a very concentrated chicken stock, however this will cost more money. My tip is based on using one whole chicken for two meals and making stock with leftover unwanted parts, all costing you $4.00.
  6. Great time to use up all those limp carrots, celery and onions. Even if you don't have chicken parts use that chicken fat and make a vegetable stock base but add the chicken fat for added flavor.

Tip about herbs: I always have dried herbs. A great tip about dried herbs is buy it by weight in the bulk food. I am able to get 2 oz of dried thyme for $.10 where the same amount in the seasoning section would cost $3.00. So I highly recommend finding a store that offers bulk foods/herbs.

I used a cut up whole chicken, took skin off because I wanted skinless chicken for my particular meal. Then used the carcase and wings plus the skin for my stock. I baked the breast, thighs and drumsticks. We had one whole chicken breast, thigh and a drumstick leftover. I used half of the saved breast for a salad. Now I will be using the rest of the chicken meat for a chicken shepherds pie. So I was able to stretch one whole chicken into three meals and make 8 cups of stock. Wow that is pretty good for $4.00

When I make chicken soup it is very simple! Even if I only have a half a cup of chicken meat, you can still  get 4 to 6 servings (think of how much chicken is in a can of Campbells Chicken soup, 8 pcs?) of coup.

Chicken soup
1/2 cup of chicken meat (more or less whatever you have available)
1 carrot diced small
1 celery diced small
1 or 2 garlic cloves diced
1/2 of a small onion diced small (1/4 cut of onion)
4 cups of chicken stock
1 dried bay leaf (optional)
Salt and pepper for tasting
1 teaspoon of chicken fat or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme
Pinch of dried  Rosemary (3 dried sprigs)
1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice (optional)

In a stock pot add either 1 teaspoon of reserved chicken fat or olive oil let melt on a low to medium heat. Add carrots, onion, celery and dried herbs and a pinch of salt. Let cook for 5 min or until onions are translucent. Add chicken and garlic (if using lemon add too), let cook for one or two min so that garlic can render some juices. Then add chicken stock. Let simmer until carrots are tender (15-20 mins). That is it! If I have left over pasta noodles or rice I like to add to each individual bowl for serving. I find pasta and rice gets to soggy if I cook with the soup or store any leftovers. My preference is to cook rice or pasta separately and store separately.

Chicken stock ready to simmer.

October 20, 2011

Portuguese Bread

So it was Mr.Tasteful and my 13th wedding anniversary and I wanted to cook a meal that represented our past. There is this great Portuguese restaurant on Long Island that Mr. Tasteful and his family took me while we were dating. I believe it was the place where you could say we "fell in love" with each other. Food was so good and simple. So I wanted to recreate a Portuguese chicken, rice and bread, and for desert flan. At first I was going to walk to the store and go by bread,  hoping they would even have a Portuguese bread. Before I left I did some research and it seemed like a simple bread to make. So I had all the ingredients and decided to try it even though it was 2:30pm. I found a recipe from a European website using metric measurements....this worried me because I barely can do math. I spent about 30 min researching this. So I came out with some measurements and changed some of the ingredients. The bread turned out really good! In fact Mr.Tasteful was most impressed because it came very close to what we had in NY. It was so simple that I didn't even think it would work. I was also happy that the recipe did not require butter or eggs which was a huge cost savings! This bread loaf probably cost $.50 to make, it would have cost at least $4.00 or more to buy a fresh bread from the store.

My little cupcake did well she was distracted by all her snacks so it was a smooth baking day. Plus the steps were so simple compared to my white bread I have made (will post one day).  It was great having her with us while we ate dinner on 10/17 (our anniversary is actually 10/18) because on our 11th anniversary our biggest gift was given to us on 10/17 when we found out we were having our first child.

4 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of warm water
One packet of yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Preheat oven to 400
Bake 25-30 min

Place water in bowl with yeast and sugar let sit for 10 mins to activate (bubble) and double in size. Once yeast is activated add salt and stir everything together so salt dissolves.
Then one cup at a time add flour and blend together with spoon. Once the 4 cups of flour have been added start kneading mixture with your hands.  Place ball of dough on a lightly dusted floured surface and start kneading by hand for 10 mins (if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer you can allow it to do the work but only knead for 5 mins) while adding the half cup of flour one or two tablespoons at a time. It will be sticky however you should be able to manage without adding more flour once you empty the half cup of flour.If you must add more flour only add one tablespoon at a time until the dough is just slightly sticky (no huge chunks sticking to your fingers) and knead it. Lightly coat large bowl with olive oil before placing dough in bowl. Once you place dough in bowl lightly coat the dough with olive oil. Let sit in a warm area (like oven) with a damp towel over bowl for at least 45 mins or more so the dough will double in size. I allowed my dough to rest for two hours because my kitchen area was cold.

Once the dough has doubled in size, lightly push your fist into middle of dough (like you are gently hitting your pillow to fluffy it) Place dough on a lightly dusted surface and knead dough for one or two min. This recipe will make one large loaf. Form dough into a round loaf. Then place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper ( I did not have parchment paper so I just lightly oiled my sheet first). Then take the one tablespoon of olive oil and pour it all over dough. Make three long deep cuts into dough. Then Flour it lightly with flour maybe 1/2 tspn. Bake at 400 for 25 min (I mistakenly baked mine at 350 and just baked for 35 min). It should have a light color. The bread is very heavy and will sound hard as a rock when you take out of oven. Let bread cool down (30 min) because the crust will soften and allow the bread to become chewy. It may taste salty to you, I like that! I used 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt when I made mine, however for recipe cut it down to 1 1/4 teaspoon. Portuguese also have a light rye loaf, just use this recipe and next time substitute one and half cups of all purpose flour with rye flour depending on the strength of the Rye flour you want.

Add one cup of flour at a time and blend with spoon

Add half cup of flour 1 or 2 tbsp at a time, looking for sticky texture but not overly.
Lightly coat bowl and dough with olive oil for rise
Lightly coat baking sheet with olive oil, or use parchment paper
Make 3 slices across dough then place olive oil on top.
Lightly dust with flour after olive oil
Bread is done!
Our dinner table

October 04, 2011

The baking journey begins

I have always been afraid to bake. I admit I am not one to follow recipes, I like to create and invent a recipe. Therefore knowing that baking requires accuracy (I am so not an accurate person) I always shied away from baking. Plus I like immediate result's, patience is not a skill I have developed.

However being a new mom has required me to be a more patient person. Of course isn’t being patient a good quality for anyone to have? As I look back on my life I have lacked patience very much! I was always in a hurry to get to the next step. Even my fourth grade teacher told my mom, “she is always in a hurry to grow up”. Yep, that is me! Now I am all “grown up” and wish I was young again LOL So I guess I owe it to myself and everyone around me to be more patient. With this new found awareness of my lack of patience I decided to apply this to baking. Yes, yes my mind is wired to think how a moral quality applies to baking/cooking.

So my journey of baking begins because of the desire to have more patience.