How NOT To Make a Lemon Meringue Pie

December 31, 2007 at 5:41 am | Posted in Oops, Tips | 1 Comment

SCENE: Tonight I made a lemon meringue pie for my father to celebrate his birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!) It’s his favorite. I mentioned earlier that my mother gave me a handwritten, family-recipe-collection cookbook for Christmas. Well, my mom included “Dad’s Favorite Lemon Meringue Pie” recipe. Since it was DAD’s birthday and this recipe was for his favorite lemon-meringue pie, I thought it would be the perfect recipe to make.

Mistake #1: I decided that it would be a great idea (since lemon meringue is so time-critical) to make the pie mise en place. So I did a quick review of the ingredients, gathered them, and set about prepping and measuring so that everything would be ready when the time came. NOT a bad idea with lemon meringue. The bad idea entered the picture when I reviewed the recipe, had doubts about it (it didn’t have any cream of tartar, only 1 tablespoon of corn starch, etc), and didn’t double-check the recipe for accuracy.

Mistake #2: I followed the first set of directions, mixed the water with the sugar, salt and corn starch, and set it above the double boiler to thicken. Stirring constantly. This is not wrong. What was wrong was waiting more than 30 minutes for it to thicken before I started to wonder why nothing was happening. Did I mention I was stirring constantly?

Mistake #3: Trying to rescue the recipe, I took the whole mess off the double boiler and put it directly on the burner to thicken. It did – momentarily – then went back to a soupy, liquid mess. So I kept stirring, although by this time I was REALLY frustrated.

The aforesaid soupy mess. LOL

RESOLUTION: So finally I just said “the heck with it” and put it aside. I went and retrieved another (fool-proof) recipe and started over. But … the new/improved recipe called for 6 tablespoons of corn starch – not 1. Therein laid the problem all along. More cornstarch and I’d have had an award-winning recipe!! Darn it all – but it all worked out okay.

&#149 Never, never, never ignore your instincts. If a recipe doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.
&#149 When a recipe isn’t working out in the first 20 minutes or so, don’t keep trying. It will only lead to heartache and frustration for all.
&#149 If your recipe has failed, compare it to other recipes for the same item. This will help you not only to learn what the problem was, but also to learn more about how ingredients work – both individually and together.


Frugal Grocery Shopping Tip of the Week

December 29, 2007 at 7:38 am | Posted in Cookbooks, cost-cutting, Grocery Shopping | Leave a comment

Here’s a new feature I’m adding to the blog. We go grocery shopping every week (or so). Each time I shop I find a new way to save money, so I will highlight my “discoveries” for you when that happens.

This week’s idea: use the Price Per Unit (PPU) cost on the shelf tag to your advantage.

Many people go to the grocery store and try to save a few bucks by buying bigger sizes or generic products. Often, this is a good idea, but not always. The easiest way to save money is by calculating the PPU of each item in the category.

For example, we bought tuna this week (for those of you who’ve been with me since the beginning, this is the first time I’ve even WANTED to eat tuna in a couple of months.) The selection of tuna available in our local HEB is mind boggling. Honestly, I didn’t realize a person needed so many different flavors and varieties of something so simple! But I digress. Between store brands and bigger sizes, you’d think I’d need to buy another 5-lb can, right? Not exactly. When I figured out the PPU of the tuna, the cheapest option turned out to be: Chicken of the Sea. In the small can. No, really. Name brand tuna in a smaller size was cheaper than the giant can of off-brand.

How does one calculate all this? Well, you simply divide the cost in dollars (or your currency of choice) by the (in this case) number of ounces in the can. Or number of eggs in the box, or whatever your “unit” happens to be. However, unless you’re my husband, mental math (particularly division) isn’t always easy, especially when you’re in the middle of the grocery store, blocking the aisle with your cart while you think. No one likes a cart blocker, so what do you do? It’s not really practical to carry a calculator through the supermarket (although I bet there are at least a couple of people out there who do.) So …

Behold the shelf tag!!

This simple little tag shows you how much an item costs, right? Well, see that smaller number on the upper left (your tag’s placement may vary)? It’s the PPU, calculated out FOR YOU by the grocery store! Now, not all grocery stores do this – but most (including Wal-Mart) generally include this information somewhere on the shelf tag. No mental cartwheels required!

In the tuna example above, the cheapest large can of tuna was PPUed at $0.11 per ounce. Not bad, right? Except the Chicken of the Sea cans I purchased were PPUed at $0.08 per ounce. I not only have smaller packaging – a plus when you’re only cooking for two – but I pay less, as well.

So next time you’re at the grocery store, remember that a little bit of math (or reading, depending on your grocer) can save you a lot of money!

Contest: Frugal Foodie Challenge!

December 27, 2007 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Contest, Frugal Foodie Challenge, January | 12 Comments

That’s right, folks, you saw it here first! In my quest for inexpensive yet tasty meals, I’ve decided to turn the ideas over to the masses.

So here’s the lowdown on the first ever Frugal Foodie Challenge!

I challenge you to create an entire meal (not including dessert or beverages) for two people. Each month I will give you a dollar value and a special ingredient, and you are to be as creative as possible.

This month’s ingredient is MOZZARELLA CHEESE. You may spend no more than $7.

Deadline for entries is January 25th, 5:00pm EST. The winner will be posted no later than January 31st at 5:00pm EST.

A prize will be given to the person who creates the most creative, tasty, and useable meal within the guidelines! This prize will consist of a “blog button” with the Frugal Foodie logo to display on your blog and a kitchen gadget, still to be determined – but definitely random.

For those of you who desire the rest of the specifics, here are the rules:

&#149 You must create a complete meal for TWO people.
&#149 You can spend NO MORE THAN $7 for both servings.
&#149 You must include the following ingredient: MOZZARELLA CHEESE
&#149 Each meal must be “re-creatable” by me for less than $7.
&#149 Basic pantry staples are not required to be included in cost. Please use good judgment as to what this entails – email me if any questions!
&#149 You may include partial costs for ingredients that must be bought in bulk. i.e. A carton of eggs costs $1.50 but you only used one. You can credit that as $0.12
&#149 Post recipe/instructions/photos on your blog by the deadline. If you don’t have a blog, you can still participate, but email me for further directions.
&#149 Email me a link to your blog post for the contest.
&#149 The top 2-3 meals will be re-created and judged based on creativity, taste, ease of “construction” and overall cost.
&#149 Winner will be posted no later than the last day of the month.

If you are interested in participating or have any questions, please email me at or leave me a comment in this post before the judging deadline.

GOOD LUCK – and – GO!

The Future of the Food Revolution!

December 27, 2007 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Poll, Updates | 1 Comment

Good morning!

As 2008 approaches, it is time, indeed, to make changes and review our lives. Since part of my life is this blog, I think some changes are in order. I’d love it if you kind folks would stop by the poll located in the upper right corner and take a few minutes to vote on what blog changes you’d like to see. I have listed a bunch of options, vote for as many (or as few) as you like. If you have other suggestions, please email me at – yes, I’m creating a new email just for this blog – I’m listening to your suggestions!!

Thanks, and hope to hear from you soon!!

New Cookbooks!

December 27, 2007 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Bookshelf, Christmas, Cookbooks, Favorite Things, Review | Leave a comment

One of my new features this year on my blog will be, essentially, to profile my cookbook collection and provide a review for each. Hopefully this will be helpful to you.

For Christmas this year, one of the things I mentioned to my family was that I wanted new cookbooks. And I got them! Lots of them, in fact.

The most precious to me is one that my mother has been assembling. It is essentially a 4×6 photo album with handwritten index card recipes. This is a VERY good thing because I can use it in a moveable, changeable way … and it includes all the recipes I loved as a child and growing up. Family “heirloom” recipes, as it were.

Second, the Blue Ribbon Country Cookbook, by Diane Roupe:

This is a great cookbook, chock-full of easy, tasty recipes. I have yet to try it, but it has some tasty-looking options, and there are a lot of them. The only disappointing thing about this cookbook is that there are no color photographs (which I find to be – usually – VERY appealing in a cookbook).

Finally, the Best of Amish Cooking, by Phyllis Good:

Having grown up in Amish country, eating Amish food, has spoiled me a little. Down here in McAllen, authentic Mexican is available on every street corner … but authentic Amish food? Not likely to be found – anywhere. So this little cookbook offers a wide selection of Amish-oriented recipes. There are some color pictures, but I really wish there were more. Another thing to be aware of is that Amish recipes don’t take shortcuts (no cake mixes or bisquick here). So some of the recipes may be time consuming.

That’s all for today, folks. Hope you get a chance to try out one or more of these cookbooks … if you do, let me know what you think!

Dark Molten Chocolate Cake(s)

December 20, 2007 at 7:36 pm | Posted in Cake, Chocolate, Desserts, Favorites, Happy Birthday | 3 Comments

So, yesterday was Rob’s birthday. While he wasn’t feeling the best, I still wanted to bake him something special. His only request was “chocolate cake”. So, I looked around online and located this recipe from the good people at Baker’s Chocolate on

This cake was DELICIOUS!! And SO easy … the first baking recipe I’ve made in a while that I could fully prepare in the time it took the oven to preheat. Rob gave it 512 points out of a possible 100, and I thought it was fantastic, too.

COST: $7.28
Bittersweet Chocolate – $2.49
Butter – $0.65
Powdered Sugar – $0.45
Flour – $0.10
Eggs – $0.60
Raspberries (accent) – $2.99

6 ounces Baker’s Dark Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
10 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup flour
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease and flour 6 custard cups of souffle dishes (I used Pampered Chef Glass Prep Bowls). Place on baking sheet.

Microwave chocoalte and butter in large microwaveable bowl on MEDIUM for 2 minutes or until butter is completely melted (my microwave took 3 minutes). Stire with wire whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Add powdered sugar and flour; mix well. Add whole eggs and egg yolks; beat until well blended. Divide batter evenly into prepared custard cups.

Bake 14 to 15 minutes or until cakes are firm around the edges but still soft in the centers. Let stand 1 minute. Run small knife around cakes to loosen. Carefully invert cakes onto dessert dishes. Sprinkle lightly with additional powdered sugar and garnish with raspberries, if desired. Serve immediately.

NOTE: May be refrigerated and reheated easily, but MUST be refrigerated. About 45 seconds in the microwave brings back to temp.

Christmas Cookies

December 19, 2007 at 7:41 pm | Posted in Christmas, Cookies, Desserts, Favorites | 2 Comments

Okay, so these were my first attempt at Christmas cookies by myself, without mom. If I do say so myself, I did a pretty good job, taste-wise. Looks? Well, lets just say most 6-year-olds do a better job with frosting, but Rob & I had fun … and that’s what matters, right?

Again, I’m going to have to pass on the cost for these cookies and the frosting, because I already had most ingredients on hand. As I have to start buying, I’ll be able to start supplying ingredient cost again. 🙂

These cookies are a recipe from my great-grandmother Heer. All the ingredient amounts are approximations, because she didn’t use measuring utensils. Mom says this is close, though, and it is the perfect sugar cookie to frost. A little dense and not too sweet. My dad likes them with apple butter.


2 cups white sugar
1 cup shortening
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups all-purpose flour (or more if dough is sticky)

Mix together sugar, shortening, baking powder, and nutmeg. Add eggs. Combine milk and baking soda, then add to mixture. Add flour until dough is not sticky.

Roll out to 1/4 inch thick on floured surface (I just use the kitchen table). Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes.

Bake at 350 for 8 minutes or until very lightly brown on edges and/or bottom. Cool on wire racks. Allow to cool completely (I usually leave 24 hours) before frosting. Store in airtight container.


1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla (use clear for true white frosting)
4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Food Coloring (if desired)

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear very dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp paper towel until ready to use. Add food coloring if desired.

Rum Balls

December 3, 2007 at 4:36 pm | Posted in Christmas, Desserts | Leave a comment

I think the photo on these says it all, don’t you? You should make these. 🙂

Oh, and isn’t my food photography getting better? I found some great tips on taking good food photos here: Shoot first, eat later

Without further ado, here is your recipe … which gets an A+ from all parties involved. Please note that these should be kept refridgerated and contain high-alcohol-content rum. I am not responsible if you turn your child into a drunk.

COST: $4.70
Butter – $0.50
Powdered Sugar – $0.25
Chocolate Chips – $0.15
Eggs – $0.30
Salt – Neglible
Nilla Wafers – $0.50
Nuts – $1.00
Dark Rum – $1.00
Coconut – $1.00

1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 eggs, beaten
Pinch of salt
1 3/4 cups nilla wafer crumbs (grind in food processor)
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I used pecans – walnuts, hazelnuts, or cashews would also be yummy)
1/4 cup dark rum
1 1/2 cups (approximately) grated coconut


In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the butter, sugar, and chocolate chips. Stir constantly until fully melted and smooth. Slowly whisk in the eggs until fully incorporated.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in salt, cookie crumbs, nuts, and rum. Allow the pan to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the chocolate mixture. Chill 6 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to make the rum balls, place the coconut in a medium mixing bowl. Scoop out 1/2 teaspoon of the chocolate mixture and quickly roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball.

Toss the rum ball in the coconut to coat, then place on waxed paper. Repeat with remaining mixture, refridgerating mixture in between batches (I did 12 at a time). Store in the refrigerator. Serve cold or bring to room temperature about 20 minutes before serving.

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