Making the Best of a Bad Thing – Waste Not, Want Not

May 13, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Posted in Oops | 1 Comment

I guess I’m going to categorize this post as a grocery shopping tip of the weak week.

Not that this technically has anything to do with grocery shopping. Instead, it has to do with making do and making it work. As you may have noted from some of my recent posts, I’ve had some magificent failures lately. And there were several which were so BAD, I felt that posting it could ruin my public image of perfection *cough, cough*.

So most recently, R had expressed a desire for one of those chocolate-on-chocolate layer cakes and I found a recipe, which will get posted in about a week, after I try it again – hopefully with success this time. Anyhow, it was a VERY complicated recipe and to top things off and make them worse, I decided it would be a great idea *cough, cough* to change it up and make it a roll cake. You know, like pumpkin roll or whatever? Um … stupid idea.

To make a very LONG story short (-er), I used a cake recipe that was way too moist and fluffy to be a roll, causing it to essentially crumble to bits at the unrolling step. I had already made this WAY complicated frosting, so – in the spirit of making the best of things – I decided to make it a torte. So I went about crumbling and ended up with pieces too small. And frosting too runny. *sigh* So … the final result was crumbled up cake mixed with slightly runny frosting and smooshed back into a 9 x 13 cake pan. The flavor and texture was somewhere between actual fudge and a fudgy brownie. Yum. Very, very, very yum.

The moral of this (admittedly long and rambling) story is that sometimes in the kitchen, things go wrong.
And you know what? That’s okay.


Homemade Barbeque Sauce

May 6, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Posted in Sauce | Leave a comment
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In yet another installment of my “Why buy when you can make it for less” series … I gave homemade barbeque sauce a try. And discovered something. But more on that later. This recipe was obtained months ago off the internet, but I’m not sure what site … so if you recognize this recipe, please leave me a comment and I’ll give credit. This barbeque sauce made some delicious Crock Pot Ribs, although I used country-style pork ribs yesterday instead of bone-in beef ribs. The results were fantastic and I really like that I can change up the flavorings to suit my fancy, so to speak.

1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard (I used some sort of fancy Mesquite Smoked stuff we had in the fridge)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder (I ran out at about 1/2 a teaspoon)
1 teaspoon chili powder (I actually used 1.5 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon black pepper

Heat the vinegar and molasses in a small saucepan until the molasses dissolves and mixes with the vinegar. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients.

That’s it. Really pretty simple. And tasty! If you’re going to use this on meat as a basting sauce, you can use it right away. If you’re going to dip stuff in it or whatever, I’d refridgerate for a few days to let the flavors mingle.

Calorie-wise, I guess it depends how much you’re planning on using. If you divide this up into 20 servings (I guess for dipping), it’s about 32 calories a piece. If you’re using it in larger chunks (like in a recipe), it’s 646 calories in the whole recipe. You can do the math.

1/4 cup cider vinegar = $0.10
1/3 cup molasses = $0.90
1 cup ketchup = $0.40
1 tablespoon mustard = $0.03
1 teaspoon garlic powder = $0.02
1 teaspoon onion powder = $0.02
1 teaspoon chili powder = $0.08
1 teaspoon black pepper = $0.10

That’s the surprise. I thought for sure it would be way cheaper than that. To be honest, I’m fairly certain you can get cheap-o BBQ sauce (especially for use in recipes) for a dollar at any local grocery store. However, I will say that this sauce offers so many possibilities that it’d be worth it in the long run.

Bagels … Done Right!

May 1, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Well, I finally did it. I tried a complicated food that has intimidated me for years. And it wasn’t that hard after all. In fact, although my oven is stupid and I didn’t exactly follow instructions, what I got was deli-worthy bagels which are both cheap and healthy(ish). Go figure! The bagels here come out chewy because of the water bath – so if you’re not a fan of jewish-style bagels, these are not the recipe for you. I gave them an A+ for taste and myself a B- for evenly-rounded and normal looking. Ha! Apparently making perfectly round bagels is an acquired skill. Anyhow, I got this recipe from Melinda Lee and it was worth the effort. I tried to take step-by-step photos for this but missed a few b/c I was up to my elbows in flour. I will try to add them as I re-make the recipe in the future. Cost analysis and calorie information after the recipe.

Without further ado, here they are:

3 1/2 cups bread flour (I ended up using about 3 3/4 cups b/c it was raining and the dough was really sticky)
2 packages yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees)
3 quarts water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white – beaten with 1 teaspoon water

In your mixer bowl, combine 3 cups of the bread flour and all the remaining dry ingredients (I use the “Stir” function for this). It’ll look like this:

Mixed Dry Ingredients

Next, get your hot water ready. I just use the tap water on full-hot, but I check it with a digital instant-read thermometer until it is over 120 degrees (but not over 130 degrees unless you want to kill your yeast and make crackers instead):

Correct Water Temperature

Pour the hot water into your dry ingredients and stir on low speed (mixer setting 2 or 3) for about two minutes. Add the remaining flour a little at a time, stirring constantly (again the “Stir” function). The batter should become thick and heavy and begin to stick to itself.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface (I use the top of my dishwasher). It should look like this:


Knead vigorously for 10 minutes (using the standard ram’s head, push-turn-fold technique) until the dough is smooth and firm if you pinch it. Add flour as needed throughout. It should look like this when you’re done:


Next, spray a large ceramic mixing bowl with cooking spray (I use PAM Organic Olive Oil). Place the dough inside, turning it over once to coat it, and cover the whole thing with a cotton towel. (The original recipe calls for plastic wrap, but I hate it and I prefer to cover the bowl with a clean, lint-free towel instead.) Place it in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. Because I keep our house pretty cool, I use the oven. Turn it on to 350 for about 1 minute, then turn it off and place the bowl inside. It will rise perfectly in about an hour.

Toward the end of the rise, put 3 quarts of water into a large pot and bring it to a vigorous boil. When it reaches full boil, add the sugar and stir, then turn it down to a very low simmer. The water should be just barely moving.

When the dough has completed the first rise, turn it out onto your floured work surface and punch it down using a flat hand to remove excess gas. Mine usually ends up looking like a pizza crust by the time I’m done. Next comes the part that is the hardest for me. Divide the dough into 10 parts and form each one into a ball. Allow them to rest for a few minutes, then flatten them with the palm of your hand.

Take the flat dough-ball and push a hole into the middle (as close as possible to exact). It is important to make the hole larger than you think is actually necessary due to re-rising. I learned this lesson the hard way. Put the dough over your finger and spin it rapidly in a circle until you can fit it around your hand. That’s about the right size. When you have completed all 10 bagels, cover with wax paper and allow them a half-rise (about 10 minutes or even a little less).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. You may also want to coat a pan with a lint-free dishtowel to drain the bagels onto. At the end of the second rise, place the bagels into the simmering water two at a time. Turn them over after 30 seconds (or so) and then remove them from the water and onto your prepared dish towel at the one minute mark. Give them a few seconds to drain, then move them to your prepared baking sheet. Repeat this process until you have water-bathed the whole batch. They will be shiny because of the sugar in the water and will look like this:

Almost ready

Next, brush the tops of all the bagels with the prepared egg white mixture. You can also flip them over and do the bottoms, but to be honest, I tried this the first time around and I didn’t like the bottom of my bagel with that texture.


After you brush with egg whites, you are finally ready to bake! The original recipe says to turn them over when the tops have lightly browned to prevent the bottom from being flat, but you don’t have to unless you want to. (Plus, I can’t open my oven that often without screwing the cooking process all up.) So I didn’t. Bake for 25-30 minutes, then remove onto a wire rack to cool. The finished product will look like this:


As you can see, my oven doesn’t cook evenly. It came with the apartment, I can’t help it. But the results? Delicious!!

Makes 10 bagels, about 187 calories each.

Bread flour (approx 4 cups = 1.12 lb) – $0.37 (I buy 25 pound bags of bread flour at Sam’s Club)
Yeast (2 packets = .5 oz) – $0.19 (I buy yeast in 1 pound packages from King Arthur Flour)
Sugar (4.5 tablespoons = 2.25 oz) – $0.07 (I buy 10 pound bags of sugar at Sam’s Club)
Salt (1 tablespoon = 1 oz) – $0.04 (Regular 26oz round container of Morton from IGA)
Egg (1 large) – $0.05 (Eggs are currently about $0.60 a dozen here)
TOTAL: $0.72

Yes, you read that right. It costs less than a dollar, not including energy and time, to make 10 delicious bagels. That’s $0.07 a piece. Just saying, but that’s ridiculously cheap.

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