Tag Archives: frugal cooking

Twice Baked Potatoes

I’ve made these a number of times, always varying the recipe according to what I have on hand.  It’s very inexpensive, easy to adapt, and it always tastes great!  We make double this amount for a lunch meal, but a smaller family would probably do better to halve it.  :)

Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 8 medium potatoes
  • 1/4 – 1/2  c. butter or coconut oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion (any kind – white, green, or red)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • optional – 2 c. shredded vegetables (carrots, broccoli, spinach, napa, cauliflower, zucchini or whatever you have on hand)
  • 1/2 c. milk/cream/sour cream
  • 2 c. cheese (hard cheese or cottage/ricotta, or combination of )
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Wash the potatoes well, prick them with a fork, and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour or until tender.

    While the potatoes are baking, saute the chopped onions and garlic in butter.  When they are soft and translucent, add the finely chopped/shredded vegetables of your choice.  Cover them and continue cooking on low until they are soft.

    When the potatoes are done, scoop out the insides, and mash them with milk, cream, or sour cream.  Mix in the sauteed vegetables, then the cheese.  (If you’re using hard cheese, reserve some to sprinkle on top at the end.)  Add salt and pepper to taste, mix well.  Then add the mixture to the empty potato shells – it will be overflowing, especially if you add the optional vegetables.

    Sprinkle some hard cheese on top, then pop them back into the oven for another 10 or so.  Serve warm.

    (This post is part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday and Pennywise Platter Thursday.)


    Making homemade buckwheat noodles (gluten free)

    I’ve had this noodle recipe in my file for months, waiting to make it, and I finally got around to it this week!  Flours and grains need to be soaked to neutralize the phytic acid, but when you buy whole grain pasta at the store, it generally hasn’t been soaked or sprouted.  That means that even though you think you’re buying something really good for you, your body isn’t able to absorb most of the additional nutrients. So the health benefit isn’t very substantial.

    Until now, my solution has been to cut our consumption of store bought whole grain pasta so that having it is a rare occasion; I treat it as a semi-junk food.  However, by making it myself I can soak the flour so that the phytic acid issue is no longer a concern.  So these noodles really are good for you!

    Homemade Buckwheat Noodles (gluten free)

    • 2 c. buckwheat flour
    • 1/2 – 2/3 c. water
    • 1/2 T. raw apple cider vinegar (we use Bragg’s)

    Mix the water and apple cider vinegar together, and then stir together with the flour.  It’s going to seem like you don’t have enough water when you add a 1/2 cup; add some more a little bit at a time since you don’t want it to become too sticky to work with.  You’ll need to work it with your hands for a few minutes until the moisture is all worked through the flour.  Let this sit overnight (this step is the one that reduces the phytic acid, so don’t skip it.)

    When you’re ready to roll it out, sprinkle some kind of flour (gluten free, if that’s a concern for you) on the work surface, then a little on top of the dough.  Roll out the dough to be about 1/8″ thick.  Using a sharp knife, cut the noodles into thin slices (you can be creative with shapes if you like).  Then add them to a pot of salted boiling water and let cook for several minutes.  How long you cook them will depend on the thickness of the dough and the size of your noodles.  You’ll know they’re done when they are tender but still a little chewy.

    You can substitute wheat flour if you want to make regular noodles.  Experiment with different kinds of flour, using this same basic recipe, and see what kind of combinations you can come up with!  Be sure to soak it overnight, though.  It would be a shame to spend the time making these and not end up with the good nutrition that your time warrants.  I’m planning to try dehydrating some next time we make them so I can make these in advance and then store them like store bought pasta.

    I made four times this amount for our family for dinner, so I used about two pounds of buckwheat flour.  Generally I buy buckwheat and grind it myself but I got some buckwheat flour at a super cheap price, less than buying it whole (I paid .99 for the 2 lb. box; generally I pay about 1.60 lb).   This made a very abundant amount of noodles for dinner tonight, that we served together with a meat sauce (slight change in menu), carrot fries, lacto fermented green beans and ginger carrots.


    Integrating leftovers into meal planning

    If you’ve ever paid attention to how much the food you throw away is costing you, you know that letting your leftovers go to waste can really add up! Using up your leftovers is part of carefully managing your food budget, and I have a couple of ways that I stay on top of the large amount of food that we buy and prepare to minimize what could easily become a huge amount of waste.  This is another strategy that I use to maximize our food dollars so that we’re able to eat abundantly and healthfully for our family of eleven on $600 monthly.

    Firstly, on Saturday night, I inventory whatever is in the fridge, and make a list of that. These leftovers are only from Friday and Saturday, nothing before then.  Often this is a little bit of this, a little bit of that; sometimes it’s enough to serve as a main dish or as several side dishes.  Then I think about ways to integrate these leftovers into whatever dishes I’m planning for the coming week.  While most people make a menu and then go shopping, I do the opposite – I see what I have and then make the menu! Really – I almost never go out to buy a meal ingredient;  if I don’t have an ingredient in the house, then I won’t make a dish that calls for it.

    To illustrate this, I’ll give a sample of what this looked like in my home this week.  When I wrote my leftover inventory, I noted that I had about 4 quarts of chicken broth, a couple of cups of jellied lamb broth (very concentrated), about half a cup of lamb fat (skimmed from the top of the broth), 2-3 c. shredded meat, polenta from Friday’s breakfast, fresh cauliflower and zucchini both on the edge of freshness, soaked and sprouted chickpeas, beef stew, two fresh salads, three pints of defrosted heavy cream, a 28 oz can of pumpkin puree, and baked eggplant chunks.  Once I had this list, I sat down to figure out what to do with it all and wrote out my menu plan for the week.

    I started the week with a breakfast on Sunday of pumpkin pudding – this used the can that was opened since we thought it was tomato sauce (a toddler had pulled the label off :)).  Mixed into the pudding was one pint of the defrosted cream.  One can of pumpkin isn’t enough for a meal for our family of 11, so we mixed in a triple recipe of coconut pudding with it to increase the quantity.

    Next, for Sun. lunch was a cheesy cauliflower soup that used up all the cauliflower in the fridge.  I could have used more cream for this but felt it would be more appreciated served whipped to accompany a couple of breakfasts – coconut mango pancakes (Mon) and date scones (Thurs).

    On Monday the polenta was turned it into corn fritter batter and fried for lunch.

    Monday dinner was beef stew with a couple of salads.  Nice when there’s enough of leftovers for a full meal!

    Tuesday morning we used all the zucchini, shredded into flourless chocolate zucchini muffins.  We made these last week and the only problem was we made less than three dozen – we should have made a lot more!

    On Tuesday night was West African stew.  This used the soaked and sprouted chickpeas.  (I bought some dried beans that were labeled in a foreign language, but fortunately one of the packages was in English and so I knew they were ‘chickpeas’.  They are smaller and much darker than regular chick peas, but the price was right and when the price is good I’m willing to experiment. :) At the end of last week I soaked them to see if there was an outer layer that would come off and leave them looking typically light colored underneath, but it didn’t.  So it’s clearly a different kind of chickpea.  Anyway, that’s why I had the equivalent of 1.5 pounds of dried chickpeas that were soaked and nicely sprouted!)  This recipe calls for eggplant, so I used the baked eggplant chunks.  A chopped onion for this was sauteed in lamb fat and the cooking liquid was the chicken broth.

    By Wednesday just about all of the leftovers were used (usually they’re finished by Tuesday evening).  For Wednesday’s dinner I made a stir fry that used the shredded meat (that I put into the freezer on Saturday night so it would stay fresh).  Of all the leftovers I mentioned, the only one left is the congealed lamb broth.  It’s not an accident that I left this for last. Because it’s so concentrated, this will stay fresh in the fridge easily for a couple of weeks.  This was the cooking liquid for the stir fry.

    There are other things that aren’t leftovers but also need to be used in a timely way, like the fresh fruit and vegetables we have on hand, as well as the perishables, like dairy.  These aren’t leftovers but also have to be managed carefully so that they’re used while they’re fresh; otherwise they end up getting thrown out.

    Can you see how planning a menu with my leftovers in mind makes efficient use of what I have on hand?  Most of these things would easily end up getting thrown away without a plan, since they were a bit of this and a bit of that.  But it would have been a substantial amount of food when considered in total.

    Then, because leftovers continually accumulate, there’s the second part of managing them.  As you know from my weekly menus, Thursday night is usually CORN – Clean Out the Refrigerator Night.  Lunch is a great time to use any leftovers from the night or two before; by the time Thursday rolls around, the only leftovers we have to work with are generally from about two days prior or less.

    This process is very simple.  It repurposes leftovers into something new and delicious,  so no one is left feeling like they’re constantly being served the same food over and over. It keeps food from having to be thrown away, and it saves you money!


    How to make butter

    I got a great buy on organic cream a week and a half ago, and this morning I decided to show the kids how to turn it into butter.  This is a fun and simple activity for  kids of all ages, two and up – it’s like magic to see cream turn into butter before their eyes!

    All you need is heavy cream and a container with a lid.  I used a glass jar, but if you’re going to let a two year old do this, use a plastic jar, like an empty mayonnaise jar with a tight fitting lid. You can even use a disposable water bottle – it doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s something that will close tightly and be easy for your child to handle.

    Pour a cup of heavy cream into the container, making sure not to fill the container more than half way, and tightly close the lid.  Hand it to your child and tell them to shake it until it turns into butter.  That’s it.  :)  At first the cream will become whipped cream – we stopped and let them taste at this point.  Then as they continue shaking it, it will form a solid ball as the liquid separates.  This takes a lot of shaking – great to use up some little kid energy!

    If you’ve used a narrow plastic container like a water bottle, cut it open (since the ball of butter obviously won’t fit through the opening); otherwise just open the container and pour out the liquid. Reserve the liquid to use for soaking flour or grains; pour out the butter and put it in a closed container in the fridge.

    We gave each of our kids a small container to put the finished butter in, and after smoothing it into the container, they marked their butter with their initial.  I let my ds7 and ds3 make this first, and everyone else was so interested that they asked if they could also make some.  It’s a good thing I bought a lot of cream!  For the first batch we didn’t add salt, but I told the kids who wanted to make it afterwards that they could decide if they wanted to salt theirs, and choose the kind of salt and proportions they wanted to use.

    My kids were wondering if it was cheaper to make butter than to buy it, so naturally I told them to figure it out.  :)   But I’ll do the math for you.  😀  A pint of heavy cream yields a half pound of butter.  Since I bought the cream at the low price of .79, our homemade organic butter comes out to 1.58 lb, which is cheaper than regular non-organic butter (which is what I usually buy).



    How to make grape juice

    At the end of last week I found a great deal on boxes of wine grapes.  There were two kinds, Concord and a yellow grape that another shopper told me were called Niagara.  I tasted one of the Niagara grapes, and as I did, the memory of being a kid eating grapes in my grandparents’ backyard suddenly flooded over me.  These were the grapes they grew, something that I had entirely forgotten about.  They were so good!

    The grapes were super cheap because they were so ripe – the Concord grapes had some clusters that had mold on them and since I wasn’t interested in having to pick through them, I decided to get 2 boxes of Niagaras instead (they looked very ripe but in basically good shape).  The price was $7.50 for two boxes, and each box had about 18 pounds in it, so .21 lb.

    They made for great eating and we enjoyed the grapes for our picnic right after our shopping, but we decided to reserve some of them to make some homemade grape juice, something we’ve never tried.  When I got home I learned from reading online that it takes about 20 lb of grapes to make 7 quarts of juice – if I’d had any idea of that when buying the grapes, I would have bought a lot more.  We used about a third of a box, about 6 lb. of grapes, which made enough to fill a 64 oz jar plus a couple of cups more, about ten cups in all.  So my estimate on cost is that it was $1.25 for ten cups; when I get it on sale, I pay $3 for 8 cups.  That means that making my own grape juice cost me less than 1/3 of the price I can get it on sale. 

    Here’s how you make grape juice – this is soooo simple!  First you wash the grapes, then blend them slightly in a food processor or blender to break open the skin (yes, this means with the seeds and skins, but make sure all the stems are off, because it will make the juice bitter).  Put all of them in a pot with enough water to cover them, and cover the pot.  Then heat it until boiling.  When it reaches boiling, turn it down to medium low and let it simmer for about fifteen minutes.  Then line a strainer with cheesecloth or muslin, and set it on top of a cleanpot where the juice can drain in. Pour the grape mix through the strainer, and bottle the strained juice.  If you make a large amount, you can can fruit juice by water bathing it.

    This didn’t look or taste like the grape juice in the store; it was much better!  It was so amazingly good!  Everyone loved it and we all are sorry we won’t have any more.  When I encountered the sale, I didn’t want to buy lots of grapes (not that 36 lb is a small amount) that needed to be dealt with immediately, since I didn’t know how much time would be involved and was concerned that it would be a big project that would compromise the commitment I’ve made to myself to be ready for Shabbos by Friday afternoon.   (I already had a lot of unpacking for Thursday afternoon to do from my monthly shopping which was putting me on a tight schedule.)  Now that I know what’s involved, I won’t hesitate to buy up a bunch more if an incredible sale comes my way again! 


    How to make yogurt

    Yesterday I made a large batch of yogurt, something I haven’t done in a while. I had forgotten how extremely easy it is to make, and it’s about a third of the price of the least expensive store yogurt!  I made a very large recipe of 1.5 gallons (24 cups), but the recipe below is for a more moderate amount.

    Homemade Yogurt

    • 2 c. milk
    • 2 T. yogurt to use as bacterial starter (look for any plain yogurt at the store that says it has bacteria in it – eg. acidophilus- you can get the smallest cup size sold)

    I used organic whole milk, but you can use any kind of milk you want.  Put the milk in a pot, and heat it until almost boiling, 180 degrees.  I have a candy thermometer for this, which eliminates the guesswork.  Once it reaches that heat, turn off the heat and let it cool down to between 105 and 110 degrees.

    Stir in the yogurt.  Don’t let the temperature go below 105 degrees before you pour into a jar, then cover the jar with a lid.  Now put the jar somewhere warm where it can incubate overnight.  An oven set to 100 degrees is perfect, but you can also put the jar into a picnic cooler.  If you’re using a cooler, line it with a towel, put the jar in, and cover it with a towel.  Some people put a heating pad set on low on top of the towel, or a hot water bottle, to keep the temperature constant, but if you make several jars of yogurt, then the heat from the jars will keep all of them warm without anything extra.  It should be ready within eight to twelve hours.

    I did a couple of things that made the process even easier.  First of all, I left the yogurt to incubate in the covered pot I heated it in.  Then I removed the trays from my dehydrator and put the entire pot inside (set at 100 degrees).  And that was all we had to do, except eat large quantities of it for breakfast. :)

    You can add flavorings if you like. This morning I had mine with some fruit spread that I canned a while back, and it reminded me of a healthy version of the yogurt cups with fruit at the bottom when mixed together.