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Banana Muffins

This is another recipe I made to put in the freezer. I used my mom’s banana bread recipe as a base (I ONLY use this recipe as I don’t like how any other turns out right to me…maybe it is the proportions??) but changed it so it was healthier and with 100% whole grains, as we don’t use white flour in our house. I tripled the recipe and made two loaves of bread and a dozen muffins.

Banana Bread

2 eggs*
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 very ripe bananas**
1 1/2 cups ww flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1. Mix wet ingredients.
2. Add dry ingredients and mix just until moistened.
3. Pour in prepared pans and bake at 350 for 60-65 minutes for loaves, 25-30 for muffins.

*I actually used 1 egg per recipe and 1 tbsp flax seed + 3 tbsp water per recipe.
**I used bananas that I had stashed in my freezer. I just took them out and stuck them in the fridge (on a plate!!) the night before.

If you like super sweet muffins, this isn’t the recipe for you. But the small amount of sugar (for muffins, anyway) add just the right amount of sweetness to these moist muffins that make great on-the-go snacks and quick breakfasts with a piece of fruit. When these cooled, I cut up one of the loaves into 12 slices, and froze those and the muffins (what was left…) in a big container so I could just grab what I wanted. The second loaf I wrapped separately to thaw altogether at a later time.

Since this recipe uses whole grains, I am submitting it to LifeAsMom Ultimate Recipe Swap: Whole Grains.

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Brown Rice and Lentil Casserole

Last night’s dinner was a cheap one, but it is easy to prepare and we really enjoy it. It is simple but can easily be changed to accommodate different flavors and spices.

Brown Rice and Lentil Casserole (based on recipe from The Complete Tightwad Gazette)

3/4 cup organic lentils – $0.38

1/2 cup brown rice – $0.50

1 cup chicken broth* – $0.00 (I make my own so it might as well be free)

2 cups water* – $0.00

2 tsp italian seasoning – $0.15

1 tsp garlic – $0.10

1/2 cup cheddar cheese – $0.35

2 1/2 cups frozen broccoli florets – $1.00

1. Mix all ingredients except cheese in baking pan (I use an 11×7).

2. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour 10 minutes at 300 degrees.

3. Uncover, cover with cheese, and bake 20 minutes more, or until cheese is nice and melted. Like most casseroles, it is best to let it sit for a few minutes before cutting into it.

4. Steam broccoli and eat with casserole.

Total cost: $2.38 – The casserole technically makes 6 servings…but the two of us (and the Kid when he feels like eating) can polish off a whole one off if we are really hungry. The broccoli was just for one meal, though.

* You can use any combination of liquid here that you like – chicken/veggie broth, water, even tomato sauce. You just want to make sure you have 3 cups total.

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Vegan Chili Mac

image courtesy of mexicandestinations.com

I am not vegan. I am not even a vegetarian. But that does not stop me from loving FatFree Vegan Kitchen. I have no idea how I originally found this website, but I am glad I did. I have tried several of her recipes and loved them all. I also have several thousand more bookmarked to try. Why do I like her recipes so much? Because they are all about healthy, whole ingredients. But the dishes she makes are far from bland. Take her chili mac recipe for example. Traditional chili mac should be loaded with lots of fatty cheese and ground beef, but since those are a no-no for vegans, her’s has nutritional yeast (for that cheesy flavor) and pinto or kidney beans. It has been over a year since I first made this recipe (though by now I merely use her’s as a basic outline) and it is one dish that the husband requests over and over again (but that’s probably because he knows I won’t cook him the fatty, cheesy version…).

There are only a few changes as a result of our preferences (we have found we do not like onion in this dish) and what we generally have on hand. The way we make it is shown below.

Vegan Chili Mac (based on recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen)

8 ounces organic whole wheat spirals – $0.65

8 oz tomato sauce – $0.50

1 – 1 1/2 cups water – let’s say $0.00

2 generous tbsp chili powder – $0.14

10 oz organic frozen corn – $1.50

2 cups cooked pinto beans – $0.35

3 tbsp nutritional yeast – $1.35

3 cups fresh spinach – $1.33

1. Cook pasta until desired tenderness. Drain.

2. Put pasta back in pot and mix in rest of ingredients (exact amount of water will vary)

3. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (or it WILL stick…not that I would know)

Total cost – $5.82 for four servings

*Fresh kale as suggested in the original recipe is delicious in this dish and gets a more spicy bite to it. But frozen (or fresh) spinach works well in it, too, and is usually what I have on hand.


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Roasted Vegetables

Before

before

Need a healthy side dish but don’t have the time or energy to spend making something fancy? Want to turn that bitter, tasteless, or otherwise revolting vegetable into something sweet and delicious? Then roast it! I have not met a vegetable yet that I do not like after it has spent a little time in the oven getting soft and a bit caramelized from the natural sugars. There is no real recipe for this (actually you can find plenty, but this is a dish best suited for the term “to taste”) so the possibilities are endless.

after

Step 1 – Wash and chop vegetables. You obviously don’t want your pieces to be too different in size because they will cook differently, but you don’t have to be too precise, either.Cut them bigger than you want your finished pieces to be because they get smaller the longer you leave them in there.

Step 2 – Put in pan and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil (or spray with oil mister if you’re lucky enough to have one…I really should get one). I used to sprinkle with salt and pepper, but now we share with the Kid so no salt for us. Pepper if I’m feeling adventurous.

Step 3 – Stick pan in 400 degree oven until veggies are soft and starting to brown. You don’t have to leave them in until they brown, but that just makes them sweeter and yummier (is that really a word?).

Step 4 – EAT!!

If you are anything like my annoying wonderful husband you are screaming at the computer “how long do they stay in the oven?” Until they are done, of course. Really this all depends on the vegetable and your preference. 35-40 minutes is a good, general time guideline for most vegetables for me, except summer squash, which cooks much faster and only takes about 15-20 (max) to taste like caramelized goodness.

The vegetables pictured are carrots and Brussels sprouts; night before last we had cauliflower and radishes. Broccoli, most root vegetables, and most squashes taste great this way. Try it sometime. You’ll be surprised what nasty vegetables you suddenly love and even crave!

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Yogurt

photo courtesy of Ode al Vino

Doesn’t that yogurt look delicious? Sadly it is not my yogurt, but my yogurt is delicious. One of the ways I save money on groceries is by making my own yogurt. All it takes is store-bought plain yogurt that has live and active cultures (this is because you need a starter the first time and this is about the cheapest route, after that you can use your own yogurt) and milk. And a yogurt maker. But you don’t even have to have a yogurt maker, you can use a slow cooker or even a mason jar and heating pad. I have a yogurt maker – that I stole from my mom – but basically you just need a constant source of low heat to incubate it.

I’ve already linked to a few different ways to do it, but I like that the yogurt maker makes it super simple. These things can often be picked up at yard sales and thrift stores (or your mother’s garage) for next to nothing.  I know that the instructions will be different depending on your method of incubation, but I think you could take these general instructions and apply them to your method.

Yogurt

1/2 cup yogurt with live active cultures (use store-bought to begin with but your own after that)

4 cups milk

Heat milk on stove top (or in microwave – yuck!) until it almost reaches boiling.

Stir in  yogurt, then let cool until luke-warm (this is easily done in a sink full of ice water).

Pour into yogurt canister and let incubate for 6-24 hours. (the longer it goes the thicker it will be but it also allows me to procrastinate)

Put canister in fridge to cool and continue setting up.

Add in your favorite toppings, mix into a smoothie, or enjoy plain.

Ideas for toppings: vanilla, fresh fruit, granola, all fruit preserves

Many recipes use much more milk than yogurt to start with, but I find that this ration produces a thicker yogurt. You can always experiment with less. Also, on suggestion from my lovely sister, Greek yogurt works great as the starter as it is thicker to start with.

Cost breakdown for yogurt using prices from this week:

4 cups organic milk – $1.75

1/2 cup Greek yogurt – $1.00 (would have been less if I had remembered my coupon!)

Total cost for quart of organic yogurt – $2.75

Cost of store-bought organic yogurt – $3.75

Total Savings – $1.00

A dollar may not seem like much of a savings, but I would need to buy two quarts a week (fat free for the hubby and me and whole for the Kid), so that is $8/month, $96/year. That still may not seem like a whole lot, but keep in mind that the cost goes down when you use your own yogurt as a starter (if you remember to save and freeze a 1/2 cup!). Also, organic milk can be found on clearance sometimes, lowering the costs even more. Plus there is much less waste. So that makes it green and thrifty 😉

Now get in the kitchen and make some yogurt!

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I finally did it

I will admit that I LOVE Kraft Zesty Italian Salad Dressing. Nothing but Kraft will do. I had wanted to try my hand at homemade dressing for awhile but after looking at about a bazillion recipes, it all seemed too hard to get right. Actually I did make homemade dressing once in college. It was a Rachael Ray recipe and was pretty much oil and lime juice. I wasn’t a fan. So that ended my homemade-dressing-making career.

But in my efforts to eat healthier and save money (though I never spent much on it because of coupons), I decided I would finally start making my own salad dressing.  And you know what? It wasn’t hard at all. I think it took me all of two minutes to mix up. And it actually tasted pretty good. The hubby said it was better than the Zesty Italian. The recipe is a mix of several based on what I had on hand. Most recipes call for some kind of mustard, but I am not a fan so I left it out.

Italian Dressing

5 tbsp white vinegar

1/2 c olive oil

1/4 c water

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

generous pinch of: sugar, basil, thyme, oregano

1. Add all ingredients together and mix or shake.

2. Add to favorite salad or use as a marinade.

*It can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to a week.

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