Saturday, May 5, 2012

Food Stamp Budget-Basic Bread Recipe

It’s Friday again, and that means Food Stamp Challenge recipe time.  For today I have a recipe for my go to bread.  I bake bread 2-4 times a week, depending on my menu.  Today’s recipe is my standard for whole wheat bread.  If you’re new to bread making, start with the standard recipe and then mix it up based on your own taste.
This recipe uses 100% whole wheat flour.  If your family isn’t used to eating whole wheat, substitute some of the wheat flour for white flour 1:1. 
Basic Whole Wheat Bread
Yields 1 loaf
Britt Huffman
3 c 100% Whole Wheat Flour
4 Tbsp Milled Flax Seed
1 Tbsp Sugar
3 tsp Dry Active Yeast
½ tsp Sea Salt
1 ½ c Warm Water (Around 120 degrees)

   1.      Mix sugar and yeast in 1 c water and let dissolve.  Allow the sugar and yeast to foam.  Set aside for about 5 minutes.  If it doesn’t foam toss it out and try again.  If a second time fails your yeast may be tired and need replacing.

   2.      Mix Flour and Flax seed together.  Add in the Sugar and Yeast and mix together.

   3.       Add in Salt and remaining water as needed.

   4.      Mix completely and turn out onto a floured surface.

   5.      Kneed bread until it forms a soft elastic dough ball.

   6.      Cover with plastic wrap and allow to double in size (about an hour)

   7.      Punch down, shape into a log and allow to rise in a loaf pan. (About an hour.)

   8.      Remove plastic wrap and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  The loaf should sound hollow.

   9.      After baking remove from the pan.  Coat the top with butter (this will ensure a soft and tasty crust) and allow to cool.

The amount of water you need will depend on the temperature and humidity.  You want a soft elastic dough ball.  Add water or flour as needed. 
There are infinite possibilities for flavoring this basic loaf. I like to add roasted garlic, onion, and peppers to this along with some cayenne powder and cinnamon for a southwestern flavor.  Try basil, oregano, garlic, and sundried tomatoes for an Italian bread. 
I wrote this recipe on the assumption readers do not have a bread machine or stand mixer.  Those things make it easier, but they are by no means a requirement.  If you have a stand mixer use the bread hook and kneed for about 5 minutes.  For a bread machine, add the ingredients according to your machine’s directions.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Watch It Online

Big Bang Theory
Everybody has tips for saving money on entertainment, and nearly every article on the subject includes canceling your cable or satellite subscription and just watch the ever increasing array of programming available online.  I’ll assume at this point you’ve read at least one or two of those articles.  I’ve never had cable except when I lived with my mother.  What I will tell you about today are some of the fun stuff I enjoy watching online.  Some of it is free others require a Netflix subscription, though at only $8 a month it’s still a good deal.

Big Bang Theory
What can I say, I LOVE NERDS!  It’s available for free on CBS

I’ve been a loyal fan of Psych since its first episode.  Old seasons are available on Netflix and the new ones are on USA Network.

IT Crowd
Tragically this hilarious British comedy will not have a fifth season in 2012.  The four fantastic seasons are however, available on Netflix.

Doctor Who
Doctor Who
Okay, I’ll admit it, I think it’s sort of gone downhill this last season, but I’m willing to stick with it because it’s still a decent show and I have faith it will get better.  If you’re not familiar, Doctor Who is the longest running sci fi series in history.  The show began in the 1960’s and was cancelled in the 90’s.  BBC brought it back in 2005 and it is a classic    not only in it’s British homeland in countries around the world.  It is hands down my absolute favorite show!  Watch the entire new series and a good bit of the original on Netflix and throw your own 50th anniversary party for the show in 2013!

This is one of my new favorite shows!  A hysterical story of a mobster turned witness on the run in Norway.  It’s funny.  It’s dramatic.  It’s awesome.  It’s available on Netflix.

They Live
They Live
It’s not new by any means.  This John Carpenter classic is as awesome today as it was in 1988.  There are countless pop culture references, South Park’s Cripple Fight and anyone who has ever repeated the timeless statement, “I’ve come here to chew gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of gum.”  They Live is a quirky classic that has withstood the test of time and improvements to special effects.  Check it out on Netflix

Those are my picks for this month.  Check back in June for all my newest fabulous entertainment finds.  Do you watch tv online?  Leave a comment with your recommendations.     

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Low Budget Birthday

Michael’s B-Day
Just wanted to give a quick update about Michael’s birthday which was Wednesday.  With Michael between jobs and the utility companies insisting they need to receive payment for services (I mean how rude), money in our house is like straight men in a Broadway musical, very little of it and I get excited whenever I find some.  So, right now any special occasion is celebrated mainly by remembering the reason we’re celebrating.  But, it wouldn’t be a birthday without a present and a cake.  I’d love to share some pictures of the giant chocolate chip cookie cake I made for him, but he ate it.  I turned my back for a minute and it was gone.
I did get some pictures of his pressie.  I was really pleased with my ultra low budget idea.  Have you heard of Heroics?  Unless you have a small boy or a big nerd man, my guess is no.  Michael has started collecting these things.  They’re the size of a ping pong ball and have little super heroes in them.  I bought him four at Wal-Mart for about $1 each. 
In keeping with the superhero theme, I bought an Avengers cup from the party supply section for around $2.
Packed some blue (his favorite color) tissue inside and put the Heroics on top adding another $1 to the cost.
I put the whole thing in a blue gift bag ($2) and topped it off with light and dark blue tissue.  Slapped a pretty premade bow ($1) on it and called it a gift.
Grand Total- $7

At his request, I made his favorite dinner, Buffalo Chicken Pizza, and for desert was had his giant chocolate chip cookie.  The cookie cake was next to nothing since I made the cookie from scratch.  Much cheaper than buying one at the bakery.
To cap off his birthday we had a fabulous picnic at the park today.  I made a lovely roasted chicken (which will serve for a couple more meals) a salad, and some fresh made bread.  It was a fantastic birthday for almost no cost.  Our low key (and low budget) celebration gave us the opportunity to appreciate how grateful we are to have had another year together.

Slow Cooker Meatball Heaven

Slow Cooker Heaven
I love, love, love, love my slow cooker!  I’ll say it again I LOVE MY SLOW COOKER!  Three days a week I work until 10 o’clock at night.  The last thing I want to do is come home and cook dinner.  My slow cooker makes a hot and fresh meal totally doable on a busy night.  So Monday is my slow cooker day here at Misadventures in Homemaking.  Every Monday I’ll post my favorite recipes for slow cookers. 
Today’s slow cooker delight is meatballs!  I love meatballs.  There is so much you can do to make them unique.  Seriously you could eat meatballs everyday for a month and never have the same meal twice.  Plus you get to talk about rolling and eating balls. :-D
Today I have a couple of terrific meatballs that go over great at my house!  I use ground turkey because it’s cheaper in my grocery store, but ground beef works too.  I also like to buy a medium fat package, around 85% lean (hint: grind your own meat for extra saving.)  The extra fat keeps the meatballs moist and holds them together.  On that note, if you’re meatballs should fall apart, no worries.  They’ll taste the same.  Just pretend like you meant for it happen.
Savory South of the Border Turkey Chorizo Balls
This recipe makes roughly 24-1 inch meatballs.  Make them whatever size you want.  Also note that some might consider it a little spicy of if heat is problem for you cut back a bit on the cayenne and chili powder. 
1 lb ground turkey
½ lb ground chorizo
2 Tbsp. of cocoa powder
1 tsp. of sugar
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp cayenne powder
1 tsp. Mexican chili powder (Mexican chili powder is the hot kind.  Use Sweet or mild chili powder if you’re not into spicy stuff.)
4 c water (more or less to cover the balls in the slow cooker)
Oil for browning

 1.   Mix the turkey and chorizo together in a bowl
2. Divide into meatballs (make them any size you want)
3. Lightly coat the bottom of a large pan with oil and heat over medium high heat
4. Brown the meatballs on all sides and transfer to the slow cooker
5. In a couple of cups of hot water dissolve the dry ingredients and pour over the balls
6. Add more water to cover the balls. 7. Cook on low for at least 4 hours
 I like to serve these along with some brown rice or quinoa mixed with black beans, frozen corn (thawed obviously) and salsa.  Top it all off with a little sour cream, guacamole, and cheese.
Note: Michael has suggested I add cinnamon to the spice mix, but as I’ve not yet had a chance to try it I haven’t worked out the amount.  I think it sounds good.  If you’re daring leave a note in the comments and let us know how much you used and how it worked out.

Smoky BBQ Balls
These are without a doubt my favorite meatball recipe.  I love BBQ!  I make these a bit on the spicy side, but that’s easy to fix by using less red pepper flakes and using a less spicy BBQ sauce.  The sauces listed are my preferred, but use whatever you like or make your own!\
Recipe yields around 18-20 1-inch balls.
1 lb Ground Turkey
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Chipotle Powder
2 Tbsp McCormick’s BBQ blend (that’s the one I use, but any you like will do just fine.)
2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
¼ c Kraft Chipotle BBQ Sauce
¼ c Kraft Smoky BBQ Sauce
4 c Water (Enough to cover the meatballs)
Oil for Frying

   1.    Mix turkey, chipotle powder, BBQ blend, and garlic powder and form balls.   
 2. Lightly cover a large pan with oil and heat over medium high.
  3.   Fry balls on all sides (just enough to brown the outside) and transfer to the Slow Cooker
4. Mix the BBQ sauces in about 2 c. of warm water and pour over balls
5. Add more water to the slow cooker to just cover the meatballs
6. Cook on low for around 4 hours (longer is fine)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day

Happy May Day everyone!  In honor of the first day of May here is a link fun spring projects.  I’d love to hear what other projects everyone has planned for the beginning of spring.  Leave a comment to share your ideas.

On a somewhat separate note, it is presently about to storm here.  March started off very very warm and then spring tricked us and it got cold.  Today it was finally warm again, around 80 I think.  It felt wonderful and it still does even at 9 o’clock at night.  Now a spring thunderstorm is threatening and, I’m loving it.  So, here’s to pouring yourself a strawberry vodka martini, relaxing on the porch, and welcoming all that summer has to offer!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Food Stamp Budget

Have you heard about the Food Stamp Challenge?  It goes on around the country at various times of the year and sometimes just individuals give it a go independently.  Their objective is to raise awareness of the millions in America who are feeding their families on $35 a week per person.  That’s the average a person receives from SNAP, also known as food stamps.
I’ll start by saying I have a couple of issues with the Food Stamp Challenge.  Number one, I doubt it’s really influencing policy.  The policy makers who take the challenge already don’t want to cut funding.  People who want to reduce the program aren’t out trying to prove it needs more money.  Which leads me to my second problem, the challenge is designed to fail.  The entire point is to prove it can’t be done.  Those taking the challenge want to demonstrate that it is not possible to eat a healthy diet on a food stamp budget.  Well it is.  I regularly spend less than half of the $140 per month per person this challenge allows. I don’t think this challenge actually benefits anyone.  It makes its participants feel good about themselves for feeling bad for others.  People in poverty don’t need pity.  They need real employable solutions! I’ve discussed and debated this many times with many people and I’m not debating it here.  Without addressing the many other difficulties a person living in poverty faces when trying to put food on the table, I want to offer what help I can for people needing or simply wishing to eat healthy on a low budget.  I don’t have all the answers.  I’m just sharing what I’ve learned over the years from my mother and grandmothers as well as my own endeavors of trying to feed a family on a very low budget. 
So Fridays are now Food Stamp Fridays.  Stop by each week for my tips and to read the helpful comments of others as well as share your own ideas.
My first tip is not about shopping or eating.  It’s about thinking.  For many people the biggest change needs to come in the form of what they know to be true versus what is true. 
1.      Get a good handle on nutrition information.  Since you’re reading this I’ll assume you have some kind of internet access somewhere.  Use it to study nutrition information and become an informed eater.  There is lots of info out there.  Read about the different types of diets; organic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, raw foods, ect.  Decide for yourself what you think and what works best for you, your family, and your budget.
      2.      Learn how to cook!  Probably the biggest money saver ever.  Cooking from scratch not only allows you to control what goes in and create a healthier meal, it allows you to stretch your ingredients.  Adding some more beans, veggies, or grain can expand a meal for very little additional money.  It’s easy to learn a few basic recipes and with proper planning doesn’t need to take hours.  I work a full time job and never cook a boxed.

      3.      Learn to live without meat.  I know for some of you that’s hard, for others not so much.  I’m not a vegetarian by any means.  If I can catch it, I’ll eat it.  Unfortunately right now the budget doesn’t allow for it.  I purchase very little meat because of price.  There are plenty of other sources of protein. 

      4.      Adopt the mentality of “mend and make do.”  You have what you have.  You may be able to eventually find additional resources, but immediate needs must be met.  There is always a way.  Human beings are remarkably capable and resourceful creatures when left with no other option. 

    What do you think are the big mental hurdles to making do with less grocery money?  Leave your ideas and struggles in the comments.   
    Visit the link for that quesadilla pictures for the super easy and really cheap recipe!  It's fantastic and one of my go-to recipes for a great meal when I'm short on time. 
Links for nutrition information

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thrifty Thursday-Whole Chicken

Thursday’s Thrifty Tip
This week’s money saving tip is saving money on dinner time.  The whole chicken!  If you’ve never cooked a whole chicken you’re missing out.  I too, was once intimidated by the whole chicken.  It seemed like a temperamental time consuming beast.  In reality it’s simple and cheaper than buying cuts and pieces.  A little seasoning and an hour or so in the oven and dinner is ready.
I regularly buy boneless skinless chicken breast, but at a minimum of $1.98/lb in my local grocery store it’s quite costly.  I regularly find a whole chicken for $0.89/lbs and just yesterday snagged several at the bargain price of $0.59/lbs because they were near their sell by date.
Preparing a whole chicken is really quite easy.  I loosen the skin and put whatever seasoning blend underneath it and rub it in.  Garlic and oil, your favorite BBQ seasoning blend, a curry powder, or whatever else you can think of work wonders to turn boring chicken into an exciting dinner adventure.  I rub a little olive oil on the skin, lay it on a foil covered baking sheet, and put it in a 350 degree oven for an hour to an hour and half.  The internal temperature needs to reach 180 degrees.  Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast without touching the bone.  When it hits 180 it’s done.  Let it rest for a few minutes and its ready to serve. 
It’s such a cheap alternative to my nearly $2/lb boneless skinless chicken breast.  For around $5 I have a roasted chicken for dinner, chicken for a buffalo chicken pizza (1 dinner), chicken for a casserole (3 dinners), chicken salad for a lunch, plus the carcass for stock.  I can usually get around five different dinners and a lunch or two out of one bird preparing enough for three adults. 
Menu Cost For A Whole Chicken
Prices are based on my local grocery store.  For obvious reasons your prices may vary. 
Meal 1
I have allowed $0.50 for seasoning on the chicken.  A couple of gloves for fresh garlic for the broccoli would be pennies extra and garlic powder even less.  The total cost of the chicken is included in the budget for Meal 1.  Subsequent meals will list the chicken at Free.
Garlic Seasoned Roasted Chicken- $6
Steamed Broccoli from frozen with Garlic- $1.50
Green Salad (Romaine lettuce and various in season produce)- $2
Fresh Whole Wheat Bread- $1
Meal 2
Chicken Casserole
The cost of the crushed tomatoes is based on the price of a 6lbs can from Sams Club.  If you’re using smaller cans from a grocery store estimate $1 for the tomatoes.
This yields about 9 servings.  I’m feeding three adults so it makes three meals for us.
1 c. Chicken- Free
½ lbs Dried Black Beans (reconstituted and cooked)- $0.75
1 small can Cream of Mushroom Soup- $0.80
2 c. Crushed Tomatoes- $0.25
½ c Diced mushrooms- $0.15
1 lbs Whole Wheat Pasta- $1.10
1 Bag Mixed Frozen Veggies- $1.20
1 c Shredded Cheese- $1.25
1 Sleeve Butter Rounds Crackers- $0.75
If you have a bigger family try adding a large salad for only a couple of dollars more, or bulk out the casserole with more beans and veggies to stretch your servings.

Meal 3
Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Again the price is based on the tomatoes from Sams Club as well as the ranch powder in bulk from Sams.
1 c Chicken-Free
Homemade Pizza Crust-$0.50
Homemade Buffalo Sauce- $0.50
½ Medium Red Onion-$0.15
2 Stalks of Celery-$0.10
2 tbs. Ranch Powder- $1

Green Salad (Romaine lettuce and various in season produce)- $2
Total- $4.35
So the grand total for the entire menu from the chicken is $20.10
That comes out to $4.02/meal and an average of $1.34/serving. 
The per meal and per serving prices are based on serving three adults with the casserole yielding nine servings in a 9x13 baking dish.
Stretch that bird even further by throwing it in a pot with some water, herbs, garlic, celery, carrots, and onions to make a killer stock for soup and other delicious recipes.

That beautiful chicken up there is from pioneer woman.  Check her site out for the fabulous recipe.
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