Cooking Disasters, or When Good Intentions Go Bad

CLast night, during a break from my online work, I had a bright idea. I would find a bread machine recipe and surprise my husband with some homemade sweet bread for snacking and breakfast. The machine would do all the work, and I would get all the credit. Sounds good, right?

Well, in theory, I suppose. After a bit of searching, I discovered a brown sugar and pecan bread that apparently worked well in one person’s bread machine. Excited, I threw the ingredients in our aged–and secondhand–bread machine and went back to work. I checked on the bread periodically and gradually became suspicious when there was no delicious bread smell. Still, I was optimistic.

When the machine beeped, I opened it up only to find that the outside of the bread was browned to perfection with the center soft and squishy. Great.

Tired after a day’s worth of work, I began to panic. Still, I was determined not to throw the disaster in the trash. I tossed the partially cooked loaf of bread in a large pan with some butter and stuck it all in the oven. I let the bread brown a bit and then cut it up as it cooked further. Realizing that there was no salvaging this as a regular bread, I decided to make a bread pudding for my husband.

After the bread bits were fully cooked and browned, I soaked it all in a mix of milk and half-and-half. After awhile, I poured a whisked mixture of eggs and sugar over it all. Everything got good and stirred, and then back in the oven it went for about an hour.

And you know what? It actually worked. My husband was pleasantly surprised with his treat. With a bit of ingenuity and desperation, I had managed to create something from a total cooking disaster. Frugal living can be a great thing!

 

Almond Flour Scones with Chocolate Chips

almondfloursconesPerhaps they don’t have this product available in your neck of the woods, but around here, the grocery stores carry Two-Bite Scones. Have you seen these little treats? My husband and I certainly have. We were hooked on these sweet little things for quite awhile, buying at least two containers per week. Obviously, this wasn’t a healthy (or frugal) habit.

What to do? Well, I decided to make our own two-bite scones!

After a bit of searching, I found this recipe for Almond Flour Scones with Chocolate Chips. It looked simple–always a plus for me–and only included ingredients that I already had on hand. Another big bonus was that it would use up some of the chocolate that I had purchased awhile back from Bulk Foods.

These mixed up really easily, in only about 5 minutes. When I don’t have to drag out the stand mixer, it’s a good baking experience! As we prefer the small scones, I shaped ours like “cookies” rather than the traditional pie shape. In the oven they went, taking only about 8-10 minutes to finish baking. (One tip for summer baking: do all of your cooking in the morning or late evening so that it doesn’t heat up the house too much.)

And the verdict? Delicious, light and fluffy little treats. They are lightly sweet and perfect with morning coffee. To be honest, I actually prefer these over the store variety as they are satisfying and still provide some nutrients. And with such a short mixing and baking time, there’s no reason to go out and buy the super-sweet and expensive scones.

Making your own can be overwhelming sometimes, but in the case of these beauties, there’s no reason not to. To the kitchen!

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Quick Sunday Breakfast: Almond Flour Muffins

almond muffinI had a bit of time this morning in between shifts, and so I decided to make us a hot breakfast. Although we don’t normally use the oven during the summer, sometimes I will cook in the mornings while it is still cool. Of course, I could have used the solar oven, but baking in it takes much more care and patience than I had this morning.

Having just bought some almond flour yesterday, I decided to make some muffins or scones. After a bit of searching, I found this recipe for Almond Flour Muffins. Other than looking super easy to make, the recipe only used ingredients that I already had on hand. Yay for almond muffins!

I was able to mix these up in about 5-10 minutes. Using the amounts in the recipe, I was only able to make about five muffins, so if you have a larger family, you may want to double the recipe. The muffins cooked up nicely and quickly before the kitchen became too hot.

And the verdict? The texture reminded me a bit of corn muffins; the almond muffins were a bit drier and coarser than the result when cooking with all-purpose flour. However, the taste was lightly sweet and was a wonderful complement to morning coffee. Add a little maple syrup to both, and you’re in business!

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.

Cream Cheese Muffins for a Happy Family

Cream Cheese Cream Cheese (1)I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately as you might be able to tell by the lack of blog posts. My family, along with my blog, have been suffering with a lack of cooked goodies. In fact, this morning there was a minor revolt with my husband’s daughter refusing to eat the cereal that we had on hand. Although my husband dealt with that situation, I figured I should take some time to bake this morning.

As you might be able to tell, I personally enjoy sweets with a light texture and flavor. In order to make myself as well as my family happy, I decided to bake up a batch of these cream cheese muffins this morning. I have made these muffins in the past, and they are perfect for breakfast, snacks, or even desserts. With their fluffiness and sugary crust on top, they are definitely a win.

In order to stave off any family revolt, then you might want to consider making some muffins for breakfast. They are a quick option that can be made the night before, and they are certainly cheaper than most boxed cereals. You can relax with a muffin and your coffee while the kids eat happily. A peaceful morning definitely is worth a bit of baking.

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Cookie Wars: Autumn Edition

cookiewarsautumnThere is a war going on in my household. It is a cookie war. Yes, dear friends, I have learned an important lesson this week, one that might prove instructional for others. When your family members express their desire to become healthier, take this with a grain of salt when choosing recipes to make. Their desire for a healthy lifestyle may be less strong than the pull of their sweet tooth, thus producing a cookie war, one that can potentially cause dissension within the ranks—and lots of healthy cookies for you to eat.

pumpkinspicebreakfastcookiesIn an effort to keep breakfast a bit simple and healthy, I decided to make Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Cookies. This recipe not only utilized ingredients already stocked in our pantry, but it also featured the key ingredient for fall, pumpkin. And who doesn’t like pumpkin around this time of year? Too, the recipe seemed very healthy and packed full of nutrition.

When looking at the recipe and the use of whole wheat flour, I decided to take a chance that my freshly ground soft white wheat could be used in the batter. Rather than go with my usual half and half rule in regard to using whole wheat flour, I used a whole cup. I excitedly mixed these babies up and cooked them to perfection. The texture was soft and very nice; the sweetness was light and not overpowering. The smell of pumpkin and spices in our kitchen was heavenly. I personally couldn’t wait for coffee and cookies the next morning!

The reaction among my family members was less than enthusiastic, however. My husband remarked that they could have used more sugar, and his daughter frowned as she ate her breakfast. I admit that I was perturbed. I had found a cookie that could be eaten for breakfast, and they didn’t approve. Well, I decided I would show them who could bake up something sweet.

instantoatmealpacketcookiesSome time in the not so distant past, my husband decided that he would buy a couple of boxes of instant oatmeal packets so that we could have an easy breakfast. A few of these packets were used, but most languished in the box, forgotten like an old rag. Well, I wanted to remedy that situation. Enter the Instant Oatmeal Packet Cookies. These cookies seemed like a solution to all my problems in the cookie realm. They used up some old ingredients and provided my family with a super sweet cookie.

Mixing up the batter, I realized that it was a bit dry, and so I would recommend possibly adding a bit more milk if you find this to be the case in your home. However, the cookies themselves had a great texture and were sweet as could be. I couldn’t leave it at that, though. I whipped up a batch of Maple Cinnamon Glaze just to add a final punch to the cookies. And yes, that definitely took them over the top in the sweet department and was a perfect addition to the dessert.

The final verdict? If you have a family like mine, you might want to begin healthy cooking a bit more slowly. A cookie battle is never pretty. We all know who the winner will be—the glazed beauty with the sweet goodness. I’ll keep eating my pumpkin cookies, though, and tuck away this learning experience for future examination. For husbands and kids, sweet is everything when it comes to cookies.

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On Sausage Pinwheels and Being a Wife, or The Further Adventures of Inadequate Irene

cheesesausagepinwheelsI’ll admit that I have not always been too concerned about traditional wifely matters, such as the home, cooking, and crafts. I was a career woman intent on doing career things, and that often meant that my husband fared for himself in the mornings. While my grandfather almost always enjoyed a warm breakfast, my husband has all too often consoled himself with cold cereal.

Lately, I have been trying to change that. Choosing breakfasts that can be made the night before, I have found a great way to enjoy that morning cup of coffee while still making sure that my family has a hot breakfast waiting for them when they wake up. Doing all the work the night before lets me just stick the dish in the oven and get to that most important part of waking up, that first cup of coffee.

Starting with the Overnight French Toast, I realized the wisdom of this plan, at least for now. Perhaps with further changes to our lifestyle, I could do something a bit more elaborate, but for now, this will do. This morning, my husband awoke to the savory smells of sausage mixed with the aroma of coffee brewing. Certainly better than a bowl of cold Wheaties.

True, Sausage Pinwheels is a simple recipe, but it was easy to prepare the night before. I spread the dough with sausage and cheese, rolling it up like a log afterwards. That was then wrapped in wax paper and foil; it chilled overnight in the fridge. This morning, all I had to do was unwrap everything, cut the log into pinwheels, and bake them on a cookie sheet. A matter of just minutes, but it meant a lot to my husband.

Reading posts online from wives who make their own cream cheese to be spread on their homemade bagels, I definitely feel the rise of Inadequate Irene. I wonder if their husbands are happier, if they feel more satisfied in their relationships. Silly, I know. But these are the adventures of Inadequate Irene, whose observations are not bound by reality.

Maybe I’ll never be Susie Homemaker crafting ridiculously beautiful cakes and pies, but even sausage pinwheels can be done with love. And for my husband, a hot, savory breakfast is certainly a good start.

Planning Ahead for Comfort: Chicken Dumplings and French Toast

planningaheadforcomfortI’ll admit it: I have never been good at planning ahead when it comes to meals. I’ve tried time and time again to make and follow weekly meal plans, only to abandon them part-way through the week. Partially this stems from a former lack of emphasis on all things home, but too, I believe that it also comes from the fact that I am usually only cooking for two. I have found that what works for me is to plan a few meals based on what I find on sale, “winging it” for the rest. By stocking my pantry with a variety of ingredients, I can have those showy, planned meals that provide leftovers and create spur-of-the-moment dishes and snacks throughout the rest of the week.

crockpotchickenanddumplingsThis weekend has been all about comfort foods, and that has necessitated a bit of planning. For my own special comfort, I made Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings. My grandmother would make chicken and dumplings for me when I was younger, and it was certainly my favorite dish. The creamy, slightly spicy soup with chunks of chicken and tasty biscuits always warmed me up no matter how cold it was outside. I know that my version certainly isn’t nearly as yummy as hers, but I just don’t think that’s possible. She was a master at improvised cooking. Still, I wanted to have that experience again, even if it was just a shadow of what I remember of my grandmother’s tasty creations.

readytoeatThe slow cooker chicken and dumplings was very easy; I just threw everything in the crockpot and let it cook. One thing that we did do, however, was shred the chicken half way through the cooking time.  This allowed us to confirm that the chicken cooked thoroughly. By the end, the chicken fell apart anyway, but we really wanted to make sure that everything was cooked. I also found that the biscuits required at least an hour to cook completely, much longer than what the recipe states. Too, if you make this for your own family, you might want to consider adding some spices as it was rather bland.

overnightfrenchtoastFor a final goody for this weekend, I prepared Overnight French Toast last night so that we could have a hot breakfast this morning. When I saw French bread on sale yesterday at the grocery store, I knew that I would have to give this recipe a try. As we already had all of the other ingredients, it was a cheap risk. And that risk was certainly a tasty one! Preparing the dish the night before and storing it in the fridge overnight, I found that it was ready to stick in the oven this morning. Perfect for those of us who can’t function–much less plan a meal–before our morning coffee. I was able to wake my husband up with cinnamon and coffee smells. What a nice way to begin the day!

I know that plenty of wives follow meal plans strictly, and I do admire that. I suppose I haven’t yet reached that level of organization. For now, this works for us. Occasionally planning ahead doesn’t hurt one bit. And it’s mighty yummy!

Emergency Baking: 5 Minute Pumpkin Cinnamon Crescent Rolls

emergencybakingMy life seems to be a bit of a farce lately. Coming home from an early morning shopping trip, I heard what sounded like a glass hitting against some other object. As I don’t have any glass objects in my car, I thought it quite strange but continued for home. When my husband and I opened the trunk of my car, we found that one of the cans of crescent rolls had burst open, with at least half of the dough all over the trunk. Not quite what I expected for what should have been an easy shopping trip.

Stubborn and frugal, I was determined to make something out of that remaining dough. Quickly searching for an appropriate recipe, I found 5 Minute Pumpkin Cinnamon Crescent Rolls. Recently I had seen recipes similar to this one in my Facebook stream, but I couldn’t find them in the rush of taking care of this baking emergency. And when you’ve got a baking emergency, you must get things taken care of.

I found that the remaining dough wasn’t in very good shape, and so I floured a board and worked it into shape. Halving the recipe, I was able to use the dough and make some relatively yummy rolls for a late breakfast. Perhaps my life may be a comedy of errors lately, but the ending was positive. And that’s what matters, right?

Cream Cheese Squares: Love Calories

cream cheese squares on a plateI often think that I will make a special breakfast for my family on Saturday morning. Then Friday night comes, and I have nothing planned. Too, I believe that I can whip something up that morning, but doing something pre-coffee always sounds a bit too much. My family therefore usually fends for themselves for breakfast. That is, until today.

Looking at my friends’ posts on Facebook, I had been seeing over the past few weeks recipes using canned crescent rolls. I was impressed as I had never thought of using them to make cookies and such. Perhaps my view of these pre-made goodies was stuck in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when they were purchased as dinner rolls only for very special meals. Thinking that I might be able to use them for a quick breakfast, I purchased a can last week during a shopping trip.

Now, you might wonder how pre-made foods can be frugal. I’ll admit that they’re certainly more expensive than making something yourself. However, I consider the occasional purchase of them to be “love calories.” Why? When I was regularly reading the environmental blogs during the mid-2000’s, I would often see authors talk about “love miles.” Wanting to limit their carbon usage, they were driving less; however, they considered visiting family to be “love miles” and thus not part of the carbon equation. The occasional purchase of a ready-made food could be similarly thought of as “love calories.” Too, if the product is bought on sale or as a store brand, it could still be frugal!cream cheese squares in the dish

This morning I whipped up a half batch of cream cheese squares. By using the pre-made crescent rolls, I could still make them while my coffee was brewing. As I wanted to make sure that the filling was extra creamy, I used my stand mixer for that task. It also made it easier as I could do other things while the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla were beaten into submission. The only thing I changed in the recipe was the use of margarine; I used butter instead.

So this morning I actually fixed a special breakfast for my family. Of course, I had to wake them up to enjoy it. Having coffee already prepared certainly helped to rouse my husband. Love calories can be good for an occasional treat and can keep up the morale of your frugal family.

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