Saturday, July 11, 2015

A simple start in the kitchen: recipes

I learned to cook and bake from helping my grandma in the kitchen, from experimenting at home on Friday Serve-Yourself nights (when my mother refused to cook), from working in church and camp kitchens, and from cookbooks. Now my children are learning how to get around in the kitchen.

Here are some of my core frugal recipes. Abbreviations:  C for cup, T for tablespoon, tsp for teaspoon.  I buy yeast in bulk at the co-op (for around $6 per pound), so I generally skip the "proofing" step in making yeast breads, as I know that it is alive and will activate. "Cocoa powder" means baking cocoa, not hot cocoa mix. In place of baking powder I often use 1 part baking soda to 2 parts cream of tartar, when I can buy the cream of tartar in bulk.

On my own recipe cards, I write the baking temperature and pan size at the top, because preheating the oven and getting the pan ready is what I actually do first in baking.

These are mostly baking recipes, because baking requires more precise and definite recipes, while stovetop cooking is usually much more flexible in terms of ingredients and techniques. I'd advise getting a good basic cookbook (such as an older edition of The Joy of Cooking) that teaches the techniques of cooking and baking, in particular:  how to select and cook meats and vegetables, make a white sauce, make a basic soup and stew, how to knead, when to take your baking out of the oven. Some sort of primer on slow cooker/CrockPot cooking would also be good. Dried rice and beans and pasta and oatmeal have cooking instructions on their packaging; it is well worth learning how to cook these "from scratch", rather than buying the convenience versions. I keep some old issues of Taste of Home and Taste of Home's Quick Cooking magazines, to browse through when I get in a cooking rut, although they contain many recipes that could hardly be called frugal.

No-knead peasant bread

2 1/4 tsp (or 1 packet) yeast
2 C warm water
pinch sugar
4 scant C flour
2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients in bowl; cover and let rise in warm place 1 hour. Divide dough into two greased pans and let rise again for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, put pans in and turn oven down to 375 degrees; bake for 35 minutes.

Pizza/breadstick dough

2 1/4 tsp (or 1 packet) yeast
1 C warm water
pinch sugar
2 T olive oil
about 3 C of flour; increase slightly for breadsticks
1/2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients and knead a few minutes to make dough smoother and more elastic. Put dough in bowl, oil it with a little more olive oil, cover, and let rise in warm place one hour. Punch down. Let it rise again (I usually don't).  Press into cookie sheet/pizza pan for pizza, or flatten, slice, and twist to form breadsticks. Pizza dough can be prebaked for 5 minutes before topping (I usually don't). Pizza:  add sauce and toppings. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes for pizza, 12-15 minutes for breadsticks. Breadsticks: rub tops with butter. (This recipe originally called for a shorter baking time at a higher temperature, but I can't remember exactly what they were, and this is what I do.)

Fast pizza dough

2 1/4 tsp (or 1 packet) yeast
1 C warm water
2 C flour

Mix and press onto pan; top and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

Simple chocolate pudding

2 C milk
1/4 C sugar
2 T cornstarch
2 T cocoa powder
1 t vanilla

Combine everything except vanilla in saucepan; stir and cook over medium heat until it thickens and boils. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Cheese sauce

(This is a variant of the chocolate pudding recipe.)

1 C milk
1 T cornstarch
2 T butter
1/4 t salt
dash pepper
about 1 C of shredded cheese, or a handful of diced cheese

Stir and cook everything but cheese in saucepan over medium until it thickens; remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted. Put back over low heat and stir if needed to melt cheese.

Tightwad Gazette's Generic Muffins (rewritten to put ingredients in order of addition)

2 to 2 1/2 C grains
Up to 1/2 C sweetener
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1 C milk
Up to 1/4 C fat
1 egg
Up to 1 1/2 C additions

Mix dry ingredients in bowl; add wet ingredients and mix briefly, put into muffin pan (greased or lined with cupcake papers) and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes

Wacky Cake

1 1/2 C flour
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 T cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla
5 T vegetable oil
1 T vinegar
1 C sour milk

Grease an 8x8 inch pan, put in dry ingredients and mix. Add wet ingredients and stir thoroughly. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cream cheese frosting

8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
1/2  tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
powdered sugar

Soften cream cheese and butter; beat until combined. Mix in vanilla and lemon juice. Gradually mix in powdered sugar until it is the desired sweetness and consistency.

Popcorn on the stove

I use a stockpot for this, with its accessory steamer basket inverted over the top to act as a lid that lets steam out while keeping the popcorn in.

2 T vegetable oil
1/2 to 3/4 C popcorn kernels

Put oil in large pot with 3 kernels; cover and heat over medium heat until kernels pop. Add remaining popcorn, cover, swirl pan to coat kernels in oil, and continue cooking over medium heat until popping sounds slow down, occasionally shaking pan from side to side.

Homemade cocoa

2 C milk
1-2 T sugar
1 t cocoa powder
2-4 drops of vanilla

Stir in saucepan and heat over medium heat until steaming.

Potato wedges

6-9 potatoes
1 T mayonnaise, olive oil, sour cream, or plain yogurt
1 t salt or seasoned salt
seasonings as desired

Slice potatoes into wedges about 1/4 inch thick and put into large bowl. Add other ingredients and stir until wedges are coated. Spread in single layer on cookie sheets and bake at 375 degrees for about one hour.

Quick bar cookies

1/2 C butter (1 stick), melted
1 1/2 C brown sugar (or use white sugar and add 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp molasses, or just use white sugar)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C dry oatmeal (optional)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C chocolate chips (optional)

Mix first four ingredients in bowl. Add dry ingredients and mix. Put in greased 9x13 pan and bake 20 minutes.

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