Monday, April 14, 2014

Tangy Lemon Cake and a little of this & that...

Tangy Lemon Cake with Glaze
(adapted from Honeyville's recipe)
1 & 1/2c fine almond flour
1tsp baking powder
1/8tsp pink salt
lemon zest of 1 lemon
2tsp lemon juice
1/2c butter, softened
4oz cream cheese
1c xylitol
5 eggs
1tsp homemade vanilla extract
4T butter, softened
juice of 1 lemon
1 & 1/2c powdered xylitol

1tsp cornstarch

Heat oven to 350. Mix almond flour and baking soda and salt in a bowl, set aside. Zest (I did this onto a small plate), then juice lemon (squeezed into a bowl and hand picked out the seeds) and set them aside. In another bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with xylitol. Once mixed, add eggs and extract and beat until blended. Then add in the almond flour mixture, beat, add in zest and 2tsp of juice, beat. Pour into a greased 9"pan (I used a springform pan). Bake 35mns, test for doneness, adding more time as needed. 

According to their site you should be able to make a soft frosting with the remaining lemon juice, butter and powdered xylitol. Mine did not come together. Maybe because it was xylitol rather than sugar? I don't know. But whatever the reason, I ended up adding 1tsp of cornstarch and heating this to a simmer on the stovetop until the xylitol was dissolved and it thickened slightly, maybe five minutes total. I think you could easily use a little xanthan if avoiding cornstarch. But this is an acceptable amount to me and gave a result that I expected. I set it aside to cool, alongside the cake that was cooling. Once the glaze was just barely warm, I spread it onto the cake, making sure to let plenty slide and soak along the edge - and still had about a 1/4c leftover which I refrigerated for later use. You could halve the glaze recipe and still end up with plenty enough to give an extra bit of zip and gooey-ness. 

What have you been eating recently? The first pic is of a Strawberry Pretzel Salad (no, I don't think it's really a salad, either) that I made-over by switching out strawberries with raspberries, using sugar-free jello and replacing the sugar in the cream cheese layer with xylitol and stevia. I know I should have gone further by making a nut crust. But the whole reason I made this was to use up the few pretzels left hanging around from Christmas. Do a quick internet search for Strawberry Pretzel Salad and you can create it however you would like.

The second pic is a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens. I tried to find a link on their site, but it wasn't being very user friendly for me. It's called Soy-Ginger Pot Roast and is from the March 2014 issue. It was great, though I would add more ginger next time, or go with a smaller roast than what I did - mine was huge.

Cleaning tip - Frugal recipe:
I'd come across someone's comment on another blog about how she made up a batch of homemade stain-remover. While she did not include a recipe in her post, a quick internet search yielded a simple recipe. It is simply 1 part original, blue Dawn dish soap to 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. I made up a small dish using 2T Dawn and 4T hydrogen peroxide, giving it a gentle stir to mix. I then used a small spoon to ladle it onto large stains and dribble it onto small ones. I also used an old toothbrush to give a quick scrub... to my scrub tops. (I tried it on an old one first that was going to be thrown out anyhow due to a torn snap to make sure no fading or "bleaching" would occur.) Let me tell you, it was getting downright embarrassing to wear my grease splattered scrubs to work. I've tried store-bought stain removers and I've tried various soakings already - to no avail. Unbelievably, as simple a recipe as this was, it worked. I was able to save a couple of my sweatjackets from the rag heap, too. Sadly, it did not work on the little blop of hair dye on the sweatjacket.

Pics above show the grease stain in the first pic and the "after" photo. I apparently forgot the flash for the second photo, but the grease stain was completely gone. Yay!

 These two, above, show various grease spatters. Pics below show them gone. Woot, woot!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tangy Rhubarb BBQ Sauce Recipe & Re-done!

Has rhubarb sprung up where you are at? Not here. Unfortunately, as I look out the kitchen window, I see gray sky, cold wind and snowflakes falling... Again. But knowing that spring is here and the rhubarb will start to come up soon, I dug out from the freezer what's left of last year's that I'd harvested. I love this use for rhubarb! I have tried a couple low-carb recipes for bbq sauce in the past. They just didn't do it for me - yuck. But this? This is great! I imagine you could:
1.) add a little liquid smoke.
2.) use honey (or other natural sweetener, for that matter) for a sweet honey bbq sauce.
3.) add molasses for a darker and deeper flavor.
4.) add more chipotle for a spicier kick (though this already leaves a nice little "sting").
5.) omit the chipotle if you don't like heat at all.
6.) use as a salad dressing when chilled.
7.) add to mayo/sour cream for a veggie dip or onion ring dip.
8.) etc., you get the picture...

Tangy Rhubarb BBQ Sauce 
(adapted from Cooking Light magazine, April 2014) 
1T butter
1/2c diced onion
1T minced garlic, heaping
3c frozen diced rhubarb
1/2c water
1/3c sugar
1/4c ketchup
2T white vinegar
1/2tsp chipotle powder
1tsp Dijon mustard
1/8tsp salt

Melt butter in saucepan. Add onion and garlic, cook until tender, about 5mns. Add rhubard, cook about 5mns more, stirring occasionally. Add water, sugar, ketchup, vinegar, chipotle and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5mns more, or until rhubarb is tender. Pour into either a blender or processor and run until smooth. Pour back into saucepan and let cook a minute. Turn off heat and stir in mustard and salt. Makes about a full pint.

Their notes say that this contains 5g carbs per 2T sized serving. No sugar count given. Just think how easy this would be to make into a low-carb sauce! Wait! Don't even give it a thought. I redid it for you!

Tangy Rhubarb BBQ Sauce Re-done to Low-Carb
(adapted from adapted recipe above)
1T butter
1/2c diced onion
1T minced garlic, heaping
3c frozen diced rhubarb (or fresh if yours is up)
1/2c water
1/3c xylitol
1/4c sugar-free ketchup
2T white vinegar
1/2tsp chipotle powder
1tsp Dijon mustard
1/8tsp pink salt 

Follow directions as posted in recipe above.

Now on to-
Frugal doings:
1.) Making our clothes last longer by fixing what we own, such as sewing up a split seam on my black yoga style pants and a tear in the underarm of A's thermal top. I've also been hanging up all of our clothes to dry inside on racks, though this began as a matter of necessity since our dryer conked out. I will continue to hang most things after the new dryer arrives in a week or so, except underwear, socks and washcloths. (As an aside, I have found that hanging my work scrubs to dry has resulted in infrequent shocks at work! I'm tellin' ya, it was a dozen times a day thing before - darn plastic wrap roll. Anyhow, no softener used and haven't had anywhere near the static problems.)
2.) I had set a limit of $1 for shampoo and hairspray a while back. This meant that I purchased those items only if I had a high-value coupon or a great sale at our grocery store, like 77cents for V-05 shampoo. I took a risk (for me, anyway) and while in the nearby city bought two different shampoos and a hairspray from the Dollar Tree store. My expectations were low. But I am happy to say that they work just as well as the higher priced items I'd been buying. While 77cents is better than $1, the dollar store bottle is substantially larger.
3.) Think twice before making a purchase. Then think again. Two examples: I nearly picked up two darling little journals that I'd come across on clearance at Target the other day. They'd been about $5-6 each originally, were marked down to $2 each. I had them in my basket with the idea of putting them away for stocking stuffers. I then recalled that I've seen many cute journals at the dollar store or Michael's for half of that clearanced price. So they went back on the shelf. As mentioned in number 1, we are expecting our new dryer soon. J and I shopped around, looked for scratch-n-dent deals, and finally decided on one at Home Depot. However, it was not in stock and they offered to order it for me. I turned them down since I could order it for myself online and have it delivered right to our doorstep as they had free shipping at time of purchase. On top of that, I get 5% back from our credit card company for going through their link.
4.) Know prices of things I buy regularly. The one thing that comes to mind right away is my favorite mozzarella cheese log. It sells for $5.99 per log at Walmart, $7.99 at our local grocery store. I have bought it from Sam's Club for $9 - as a 2 pack! But I do not have a membership, only had gone with someone else who did. I did a quick online search for a day-pass and was able to print one before heading to the city. Sure, I paid 10% on top of that $9. But $9.90 for two logs is equal to $4.95 each, still the best price.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sugarless White Hot Chocolate

Yes! We hit a high of about 45 degrees today. Finally, it appears spring is nearly in sight. I can actually see... well, mud... now that some of the snow's melted in the driveway. I'll take it. This feels like the longest winter EVER. For around here, I think I can say that this was the type of winter that we used to have. (We've been spoiled with years of mild winters.) Thank goodness that it's starting to dwindle. I don't know if you'd heard about how much propane shot up this winter. But we can't afford another $800 fill like we'd had just a couple of months ago. "J" checked the propane tank and we are already down to 40%. The oil company likes us to let them know when we are at about 30% so that they can fit us into their routes. Come on warmer weather!

But last week was still frigid. I have been trying to cut back on artificial sweeteners but found myself craving that low-sugar Swiss Miss cocoa all the same. (I imagine I was also influenced by the white chocolate coffee drink "A" had that day and I'd caught wind of.) I then remembered I still had a chunk of cocoa butter in the crisper drawer and thought I'd go ahead and experiment. Since it was an experiment, I can't tell you if you need xanthan. Though I can tell you that I thought to add it with the idea that it would lend it a little creaminess... and it did, I think, as almond milk's pretty watery. I can tell you that a whisk is awesome to help incorporate the cocoa butter prior to pouring into your mug and you want to whisk it fast and furious. I thought it would leave an oil slick on the surface. But it was made up of such teeny-tiny little droplets, I scarcely noticed it. I also had topped mine with a blob of whipped coconut cream (the thick layer found in some cans of coconut milk) that I'd sweetened with a couple drops of stevia. Then I didn't notice it. By turning my "whipped topping" under with a spoon as I sipped, I kept the cocoa butter mixed throughout and added to the creaminess. Yum.

White Hot Chocolate
(made 2 average coffee mug sized servings)
1/2 oz. cocoa butter shavings (about 1/8c)
2c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
12 drops liquid vanilla stevia
2 tsp xylitol
dash (1/16th tsp?) xanthan
1/2 tsp homemade vanilla extract

Heat cocoa butter, almond milk, liquid stevia and xylitol in a saucepan over medium heat until xylitol's dissolved, cocoa butter's melted, and milk begins to look steamy (or dip your finger in to see if it's hot - carefully). Remove from heat and whisk in xanthan, then vanilla. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cranberry & Orange Bread

While I don't have a calculator to figure the carb or sugar count in this recipe, I am sure enough that it is fairly low-carb. I imagine that you could reduce carbs further if you have an orange flavoring, unsweetened cranberries, or use full-fat sour cream in place of the yogurt. I use what I have available. I am enjoying this raisin bread substitute much more than the Wheat Belly recipe for Walnut Raisin Bread. (WB's bread wasn't horrible, it just wasn't as good. Plus, I get to use coconut flour instead of almond flour which was a goal of mine!) It's great with a slab of butter or cheese, too.

Cranberry & Orange Bread
(adapted and inspired by Satisfying Eats' Cinnamon Bread)
1/2c coconut flour
1/2tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1/4tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp ground cloves
1/4tsp ground ginger
2 packets Stevita stevia sweetener (about 1 tsp)
3 large eggs
1tsp vinegar
1/3c full-fat plain Greek yogurt, heaped
4T butter, melted and cooled
2T water
2T minced dried cranberries
1T heaping orange zest (from 1 entire orange)

Heat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients, coconut flour through Stevita. In another bowl, whisk eggs through water. Then combine the dry and wet, then stir in cranberries and zest. Taste for sweetness, add more if desired. Line bread loaf pan with parchment paper, spray lightly. Give batter one more stir, spread into prepared bread pan. Bake about 30mns, testing with a toothpick for doneness and noting that the top of the loaf should appear dry. Cool & store in fridge.

*I used a toaster oven, so heating may not have been as efficient as a standard oven. I actually put my loaf back in for nearly 10 additional minutes as the top was not completely dry. I sliced into 10 pieces. If you like spiciness, you may want to double the spices as I intend to the next time I make this. I would try making this in a paper-lined muffin pan next time, which would likely be done baking in a shorter time, too.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Are you staying frugal?

Frugal plans, ideas and thoughts:

1.) Plant more cabbages than I did last year, which I think was four. They could've stood hanging out in the garden a little longer without any damage done to them and could've then been stored in the garage or porch entryway. Also could grate more and freeze it as freezer coleslaw, though would like to grate it by hand rather than use the processor since it grated too fine.
2.) Must plant some sort of squash. So far, butternut and spaghetti have grown well. As well as zucchini, of course. Again, these remain hardy long after being harvested and stored in a cool place, though I don't believe the zucchini would store as long. They also can be cubed and frozen.
3.) Grow green beans. While we are not big fans of green beans, I have found a recipe that I was able to successfully convert to somewhat low-carb that most of us agreed makes green beans... good?!? The recipe I loosely followed was here. Frozen garden beans turned out great, Splenda substituted fantastically, and there was no need to pre-stir anything together. Toss the following in crock for about 2hrs : about a pound of frozen green beans, 1/2lb chopped and fried bacon, 1T butter, 1/3c Splenda brown sugar, 3tsp soy sauce, 1 scant tsp garlic powder. So a half row of green beans will get eaten after all!
 4.) Try to include and convert recipes to use more coconut flour as opposed to almond flour. It is so much cheaper. I also would like to increase my fiber intake and coconut flour's very high fiber - think I read nearly 60%.
5.) Try to convert more recipes to use Stevia In The Raw as opposed to Xylitol. While I like Xylitol, it is hugely expensive. I also need to order it online as it's not locally available. Stevia In The Raw's cheaper and sold at our small-town grocer.
6.) Avoid stopping at the local grocer. We spend too much there. If I need an item or two for a recipe, I will make something else rather than spend the gas/time/money to run into town. It's not even worth stopping on my way home from work as it usually leads to spending more on other items that I hadn't intended to purchase at that time.
7.) Preserved foods are meant to be eaten! Stop saving them for "some day" and start using them. I have actually started to do this. But I need to make a more conscious effort to do so regularly. Some of these preserved foods I will need to look up more recipe options for, such as the dehydrated spinach and canned garden carrots. But point being, why buy a bag of frozen diced carrots when I have home-canned ones already?!?
8.) Preserve more of the apples from our two trees. We did a couple gallon bags of dried apple rings and plenty of canned and frozen sauce. But I would like for none of it to go to waste out there! Canning may be the better option for next year so that there'll be more freezer space.
9.) Clean the closet across from the bathroom. This is where canned goods are stored... all over the shelf, amidst bedding, cereal, wrapping supplies... You get the picture. If I neaten it up I will be able to see what all I have in there for canned homegrown foods.
10.) Keep a large bag in the freezer for meat scraps. I do keep the carcass from turkeys and chickens that were roasted whole (most of the time), but need to do it at ALL times and with other meats. Steak fat and bones, pork fat and bones...Ham bone, don't give it away. Simmer that puppy down to a delicious, gelatinous broth.
11.) Keep a large bag for clean vegetable trimmings. I compost. So that is where it all usually goes. But I would like to make vegetable broth that can be used right away for soups or stored in the freezer.
12.) Learn to use the free texting app that I downloaded to my Kindle Fire (text+). I've tried for a couple of days to figure it out. But still don't know how to use it well. My original intent when I downloaded it was so that I could use it in conjunction with Redbox since I have heard that people with cells can text and get free rental codes now and then.
13.) Dried beans - use 'em. Yes, I know they are not low-carb. But I do use beans now and then. I make soup and taco salads and other people in my family do eat them. Admittedly, I eat a few each time I make something that includes them. But I do mean a "few". I am experimenting right now as I type this. I have a pot of pinto beans on their second boil on the stovetop. When they are done I will drain and rinse, then bag and freeze.
14.) Use the crockpot, electric fry skillet and toaster oven more often in the winter. Right now, propane has doubled since we filled just a few short weeks ago. There's supposed to be a propane shortage due to our extreme cold temps this January to explain that outrageous cost. Extreme cold that has cancelled school a handful of times and runs -35 to -50 with wind chill. Our last fill was $760! Keeping my fingers crossed it makes it through spring. (We heat our home, cook with a gas range, run a hot water heater... all with propane.) We did recently purchase an electric infra-red small room heater that we run in the living room when everyone's home. Small appliances, small appliances, small appliances!
15.) Keep thermostat between 60 and 65 as needed. Which means, turning it up nearing mealtimes and bathing times and keeping it lower all other times. My old slippers finally fell apart and I've been anxiously awaiting the clearance pair that I bought online from Kohl's using a 30% off and free shipping code. It's already been about two weeks, so I expect them any time. But, boy, are my feet freezing right now!
16.) Exercise. I've been struggling with doing regular exercise. I've been using my Leslie Sansone walking dvd's again and have been slowly trying to build back up to at least a 3 mile walk each morning before work. But have only been rotating the 1 & 2 mile walks. I need to step it up. Something's been missing with this lower-carb way of eating. Oh, yeah. Weightloss! I haven't lost anymore since nearly three years ago. I am hoping to build up strength and stamina, as well as using it to play a mind-trick on myself - I tend to eat better when I include regular physical activity.
17.) Walking to reduce gas (in the car, silly) and sneak in more exercise. This thought is actually something I intend to do this spring. I would like to park at our grocery store's lot and walk from there to work, then back again at the end of the day. I know about how long it takes to go one way and guess it to be around a mile or so. That'd be an easy couple of miles per work day. (We do not live in town, so walking to work's not feasible.)

That's all I can think of for now. But, as always, I am constantly thinking of how else to cut costs without feeling too deprived of anything. You know. Like HEAT. What types of things are you doing to either "buck down" or to self-improve?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Banana & Blackberry Muffins and Chocolate Cake Recipes

Banana & Blackberry Muffins 
(adapted from my adapted raspberry muffins recipe)
(made 10 muffins)
2 large eggs
1/6c xylitol
1/6c Stevia In The Raw  
1 tsp homemade vanilla extract
2Tbsp full-fat plain Greek yogurt
4 Tbsp h&h
1 small banana, smashed
1c almond flour
3Tbsp coconut flour
2Tbsp golden flaxseed meal
2tsp baking powder
1/2-3/4c fresh blackberries

Heat oven to 350. Place silicone muffin cups on cookie sheet or liners in wells (sprayed). In bowl, combine first 7 ingredients. In another bowl, sift together the next 4 dry ingredients. Gently add the dry ingredients into the wet. Scoop into muffin cups. Press a blackberry or two into center and smooth over the tops. Bake about 15mns or until they begin to brown and are firm to the touch. Take out and allow to cool... or not. 

*Notes to self - I replaced the vanilla liquid stevia with just vanilla to cut back on the sweetness since there's banana which increases it. I added the yogurt to increase the moistness, considering how much coconut flour soaks it up. I changed the original xylitol amount to a 50/50 split with powder stevia as a way to cut back on the xylitol due to its cost. 

I recently made this super-duper-do-dupity chocolate cake! Giving credit to Maria Emmerich for inspiration. I did tweak it to fit my preferences and needs. Please check out her book, The Art of Healthy Eating - Sweets to find her original recipe, plus a good many more goodies! (You would also get her accurate count of 11g carbs for each of the 12 servings.)

Chocolate Cake
(adapted and inspired by Maria Emmerich's Mocha Fudge Cake recipe)
1c Stevia In The Raw
1/2c xylitol
4Tbsp butter
5 eggs
2 squares Lindt's 85% dark chocolate, melted & cooled
3/4c sour cream
3/4c coconut flour
2Tbsp cocoa
1.5tsp baking soda
1/2tsp pink sea salt  
3/4c hot coffee
1.5tsp homemade vanilla 

Heat oven @ 350. Beat sweeteners and butter until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Then beat in melted chocolate and sour cream. Mix coconut flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in another bowl. Then add to chocolate mixture. Beat in coffee and vanilla. Pour and spread into a prepared 8" square pan, bake about 35mns or until done. 

*Note to self - I did not get the "mocha" part of this, so referred to it as just a chocolate cake. If striving for a mocha flavor, I would probably make a double strength coffee, use espresso, or dissolve maybe a Tbsp or two of instant coffee granules. As it is, I'd leave it in since coffee's known to add a chocolatey depth. This also tasted rather great with a gob of store bought Tiramisu Mascarpone, and equally great with a sliced strawberry or two and a glop of whipping cream! This would be perfect to use as a birthday cake - YUM!



Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dehydrated Spinach

Fresh spinach was on sale in the nearby city. So while I was in the city anyway, I stopped in and bought two bags at the B1G1 price. Since we're not huge spinach eaters (I'm learning, I'm learning...) I thought I'd need to freeze a bunch. The last time I froze it I didn't blanch it first, I just rinsed, let dry, then froze. It worked out just fine since I have used it in soup or stew. However, our freezer is a bit too full of meat (though a freezer can never truly be too full of meat) to pack anything more in there and still be able to find things easily enough. I decided to give drying it a try. The booklet with my dehydrator didn't list spinach in its listing of temps and times. So I winged it. And it worked. This will be great to add to soups/stews/sauces! I also like discovering this option (dehydrating) for use in the summer when I garden.

As for the other bag, and learning to eat spinach more often? Well, it's halfway used up. Last night we had spinach salad with a diced roma tomato and a few slivers of onion alongside pizza. This morning I made J and myself scrambled eggs with diced Spam bits, minced onion, fried mushrooms and a small handful of spinach, topped with a sprinkle of my favorite soft mozzarella. You know what? It was darn good!

I ended up with a 2.5 cup container of a lot of intact leaves and some crushed. You may want to go further and crush into a powder, depending on how you like to use it.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mmm... Alfredo Sauce... and a couple frugal holiday gifts.

Super-Simple Alfredo Sauce
(adapted from this recipe at allrecipes)
1/4c butter
1-8oz pkg cream cheese
1/2tsp garlic salt
2tsp minced garlic
1c h&h
1c milk
3oz parmesan & romano cheese shreds
1/4tsp freshly ground black pepper
1tsp dried parsley

Melt butter over medium heat, add cream cheese, stir until all's melted and combined. Add garlic salt, garlic, h&h, milk, pepper and parsley. Whisk. Add shredded cheese while continuing to whisk. When melted and slightly thickened, remove from heat and serve.

Changes I'd made to the original are cutting the butter in half, using minced garlic in place of powdered, substitute half of milk called for with half & half, used stronger flavored cheese so I could use less, at least doubled the pepper and used fresh coarsely ground.

We ate about 4 or 5 servings at lunch and there looks to be about the same amount left. So I'm guessing this serves about 8, depending on how saucy you like your meal.

I was very surprised to have been so satisfied with this served with beef meatballs and steamed chopped broccoli. For one thing, I am not a big broccoli fan. Second, I'd been mighty tempted to make some Dreamfield's pasta so I could enjoy it like I normally would. But I'm learning to like a new normal, I guess. Who knew I would look forward to the leftovers of this for lunches in the upcoming couple of days?!?

Has everyone else been "behaving"? I certainly have not. Just too darn many goodies. It's been an all-out pig fest for me since about Dec.19th. And, boy, have I paid for it. I've felt pretty yucky each day, and I finally jumped on the scale yesterday to see the damage. There was a 5-6 pound increase. But I began easing back into eating better yesterday. My sweet tooth has been assuaged with some dark chocolate covered dried berries that I'd received at Christmas in my stocking from J, which I try to just eat a small handful of. I've also cut back on the amount of diet soda I was getting into (trying to replace with carbonated coconut flavored water but don't like it), gave away some sugary treats I'd been gifted, froze some dark chocolate gifts that I can't bear to part with and have dug out the Atkins, South Beach, Protein Power and Belly-Fat Cure books that I have and placed them by my side of the bed to peruse through each night.

On a different note, here's the wool mice I made with the scraps from the coat I'd used to make mittens:

I stuffed them with catnip for fun, too. The boys like to bat them around.

I also made my nieces and nephews each a candy sleigh. I included a gift card on the sleigh. The sleighs were an idea I saw on another blog. But because these were for teens, I wanted to include the gift cards.