Saturday, November 5, 2011

Muffins from scratch

After going to Costco and smelling all the wonderful bakery temptations, I came home to count my bananas. I put any bananas that haven't been gobbled up into the freezer - peel and all. Then when they add up to at least 2 c. worth, I make banana muffins. This time, I thought I'd try a new recipe -
Apple strudel muffins.
Preheat oven to 375 F and grease a 12 cup muffin pan.
Mix 2 c. all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking pwd, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 c brown sugar. In small bowl, whisk 2 eggs, 1/2 melted butter (or olive oil), 1 1/4 tsp vanilla. Add wet to dry and mix thoroughly. Add 1 1/2 c. chopped apples (or put 1 1/2 c. sliced dried apples in hot water and drain them to use as a substitute). In another bowl, mix topping: 1/3 c. packed brown sugar, 1 T flour, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 T butter (no substitutes).
Spoon mixture into muffin pan. Sprinkle strudel topping onto each muffin. Bake 20 min. Allow 5 min to sit before removing from pan and then let cool on a wire rack.
(See - Apple Strudel Muffins submitted by NMARIEA).
I doubled this recipe with no problem. And they were gobbled up quickly.

These banana muffins have been a favorite for many years and can be done as bread or muffins. As you can see there are many variations as I have tinkered with it. Choose what you want with the ingredients that you have. I usually stick with regular flour, brown sugar and a combination of butter and olive oil. Here is the recipe:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Yield: Muffins - 1 1/2 batch = 24; Bread - one batch per loaf
Mix 1 3/4 c flour (substitution: 1/2 of this can be oat flour or whole wheat flour - not all), 2 1/4 tsp baking pwd, 1/2 tsp salt 2/3 c sugar (brown or white), 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cloves. In another bowl beat 1/3 c shortening (substitutions: applesauce, olive oil, or butter- chose two of the three with fairly close ratios but not just one completely), 3/4 tsp grated lemon rind (or 2 T Real lemon), 1-2 eggs, and 1-1 1/4 c. banana poi (4-5 bananas smashed). Add wet to dry and blend well. Optional - 1/2 c. broken nuts. Place in greased pan and bake for 1 hour (check with knife and continue cooking 8-12 more min. if needed). Cool before slicing. Or muffins go in tins and are baked for 20 min.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Two more sauces

White Sauce/Cheese Sauce
1 T butter, 1 T flour, 1/2 salt - place in blender.
Warm 3/4 c. milk in microwave. Take out center of blender lid. Turn on blender and immediately add warm milk through small hole in lid. Add more flour if not thick enough.
Cheese Sauce - omit salt and add as 3/4 - 1 c. cheese (chunks or shredded). Add cheese or flour until you have the consistency you want. If done quick enough, no need to heat any more.
Store in fridge or add immediately to hot noodles.

1 1/2 c. fresh chopped tomatoes (peeled), 4 oz can diced, drained green chilis (opt.), 1/4 c. sliced green onions, 1/4 c. finely chopped green pepper, 1-2 T snipped cilantro or parsley, 2 T lemon juice, 1 clove garlic (grated or minced), several dashes of hot pepper sauce (opt.).
Mix all ingredients in bowl. Blend 1/2 at a time in a blender, or keep chunky. Stores in fridge up to 1 week. Be sure to refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving (from Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, 1989).
Note: Three tomatoes should be enough for the 1 1/2 c. needed above. Using a clean pair of scissors, snip the green onions into small pieces instead of slicing. This same pair of scissors can be used for the herb you choose. has some more wonderful recipes!

One more sauce to come - Pesto!

Recipes from Cooking Class

I'm teaching a small cooking class and have started by doing a few sauces. Here are the recipes for them.
First two: Sweet & Sour Sauce, then Teriyaki Sauce.

Two tips to start - dry flour can be used as thickening only in sauces when started when everything is cold. To add flour to a sauce at a warm point, add the flour to cold water, stir and pour into the sauce through a sieve. Usually 2T flour + 4 T water is enough for about 1 c. of sauce. Cornstarch works for cold or hot stages.
Sweet & Sour Sauce
1/3 c. vinegar, 4T pineapple juice, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 T cornstarch, 1/2 c. sugar
Mix all ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer 1 1/2 min. Pour over fried shrimp or tempura vegetables. (from Mary Sia's Chinese Cookbook, 1984, Univ. of HI Press).
Teriyaki Sauce
Hint: Freeze fresh ginger and garlic in ziplocks and pull out right before using. Run under warm water briefly then scrape off skin or peel back outside layer. Grate as much as you need; freeze remainder.
1 c. soy sauce, 1 c. water, 1 T grated ginger, 2 cloves grated garlic, 1 T honey, 1/4 c. brown sugar
Mix these ingredients and use as a marinade for meat, or continue with instructions for sauce.
In small container, add 2T cornstarch and 4T water. Add this to mixture above. Start on medium heat - once simmering, be sure you're mixing the sauce constantly. Once it reaches the right consistency, take off the stove.

Great Peach Jam Recipe

We have a peach tree. Some years, we have so much fruit we could bottle 200 qts. At 7 peaches per Qt. - it's amazing how much it produces. Other years, we do well to have a few to eat. This year was somewhere in between. Not all the fruit rippened at once and I wasn't always able to drop everything and bottle peaches.
One thing I used a lot is my mother-in-law's peach jam recipe. By just taking time to prepare the peaches (wash, parboil, skin, slice) on one day and making the jam on another, it seemed a lot more manageable. Now we have wonderful, inexpensive Christmas gifts to give out.
#1 If you do this quick method, you MUST add the full amount of sugar with the peaches. Missing this step will mean you have to start over. You may keep the sugary peaches in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Here's the recipe (be sure to have your jars ready first):
4 c. ground peaches (I just use the blender to do this, since it acts as a measuring cup too)
5 c. sugar
juice from one orange (if your peaches are really juicy, skip this)
1 ground orange peel (again, I use the blender with about 1/2 of the peaches from above)
Boil these four ingredients for 15 minutes.
**** Cover bottom of a small pan with 1" water. Put on high and add the # of lids you'll need (face down so seal is in water) once water is boiling. This needs to be boiling for at least 7 min, so time yourself. ****
Optional- add 1/2 c. chopped maraschino cherries or dried cranberries.
Boil another 5 minutes (whether or not you added above).
Add 3 oz pkg of orange jello.
Stir in and let jam come to a boil again.
Pour jam into bottles. Makes about 6 cups jam. Will fill (6) 8 oz jelly jars or (3) 1/2 pints.
Clean off upper lip of jar with a paper towel - using a different part of it for each jar. Then put boiled sealing lids on, screw the ring on tight and flip it upside down.
The jam will seal this way - with no further processing!
Just let it cool completely before moving or flipping back over.
Yes!! Gotta love it!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Six Must-Haves for Toddlers

Check out a great article at
Hint: The six items she can't live without for her toddler are:
1- Car Seat
2- Crib (or once they're climbing out, a toddler bed)
3- Stroller
4- Sippy Cups
5- Potty
6- Crayons
Of course you'll need other basics like clothing and diapers. Make your own coloring books and flashcards. It doesn't look like she has any toys, but this article's author's child goes to daycare all day and has a lot of toys there.
As you can see, there's a lot she does without at home when they are home. She has her child use a salad fork and spoon while sitting on a regular chair at the table. She places a towel on her bed to change diapers. And they visit the library instead of collecting books at home.
If I had to list must have toddler toys, they would include a plastic doctor's kit in a bag, the ball you drop shapes into, some stacked measuring-type cups, and large mega blocks (we got ours in a handy truck). Make your own playdough and use pudding for finger painting.
Any other ideas?

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Grocery Gardening book review

I guess I grabbed the wrong book at the library. So, here's my review of Grocery Gardening: Planting, Preparing and Preserving Fresh Food.

This is a good overall book for those who have done little growing. There are some fun recipes that will help you use your produce and herbs if you're not use to doing that. One recipe caught my eye: Blueberries & Barley. Sounds like a side dish I need to try this summer.


Written by Amanda Thomsen, Robin Ripley, and Teresa O'Connor

Monday, April 25, 2011

Another great frugal blog

I was researching how to reuse milk jugs and came across this great blog. Check out how to have "a fabulous life on a frugal budget" at and see the great ideas. There's recipes, freebies, tips, coupons, rebates and giveaways. Gotta love that!

Friday, April 22, 2011

America's Cheapest Family

I've seen the Economides on the web and once on television, but I've never really looked on their website until today. It has a good reader base with many suggestions. Their blog is easy to read and informative. It is, all in all, a good resource. May I suggest if you haven't checked them out yet, to do so. I'm sure their books are easily obtained at the library if you want to read more about what they do to stay frugal.
Go to and enjoy!

Looking towards Retirement

No matter if you're 25 or 55, retirement is something to think about.
Here are four quick suggestions from Yahoo Finance:
1- Don't start Social Security Benefits too early.
2- Know how much retirement savings you'll need.
3- Don't start using your retirement funds now to meet your current needs.
4- Stay in shape (have a BMI of 25 or less).

For more details, go to

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Eventual Millionaire blog

After reading a short yahoo news article on how a family got rid of $70,000 of debt, I noticed that the lady had a website where she talks about things step by step.
The website didn't work, so I searched her name on blogspot and she's here. It is after all, free.
To check out how they did it, go to
Have a frugal day!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Check this frugal website out

I found a good frugal website by accident. Go to
The newsletters are fun and it looks like the books may be good reads too, although I haven't checked them out from the library yet.
One title intrigued me: The Grocery Garden, How Busy People can grow Cheap Food.
I wonder if there's mention of herbs in there.
I'll check it out next month and let you know.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Final posts on herbs

Just in case I haven't gotten to what you'd like to know on herbs, here is the outline for the rest of the class I taught (and some things I learned that I didn't have time to teach):

  • Transplanting
  • Harvesting, Storing and Drying herbs
  • Lavender - the ultimate herb
  • Recipes to use Lavender (skin care, toner, moisturizer, sunburn help, ice cream, butter, tea, and ginger snaps.
  • Edible flowers - identification, do & don'ts, other tips
  • Recipes for Edible flowers
  • The long awaited Pesto recipe

Don't know when I'll get to all these, so I thought I'd let you know what is coming next.

Get outside and enjoy that sunshine!

Easy ways to try flavors

There are four easy ways to try out different herbs: butters or cream cheeses, potatoes, roasted chicken and salad dressings.

Herbal butter or cream cheese: Mix 1 T of finely chopped fresh herbs to 1/2 cup margarine, butter, cottage cheese, low fat yogurt or cream cheese. Let it set for at least an hour to blend the flavor; then taste test on a plain cracker or Melba round.

Roasted Potatoes: Coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet with olive oil. Cover the entire bottom of the skillet with a single layer of your chosen herb (sage, rosemary, dill or thyme are good). Sprinkle with sea salt. Place small halved new potatoes, cut side down, over the surface so the pan is crowded but there is only a single layer. Bake at 400-450 until the potatoes are done. The insides of the potatoes turn creamy and the herb fries crisp in the oil.

Use your favorite recipe for roasted chicken and try different herbs on different parts of the bird. When you eat the chicken, overlap some of the herbs in each mouthful to see what you like best for combinations. If you're not the experimental type, Rosemary & Sage work well with lemon.

Salad dressings are a wonderful place to try herbs out on an unsuspecting family. Buttermilk dressings need parsley, onion, garlic, dill - depending on your recipe.
There are many varieties of herb dressings at
or go to your favorite cookbook - chances there are good recipes there too.

I know a great blog with recipes that use many herbs too. It's at
I love the way she shows photos and step by step instructions. Using fresh produce and good varieties of all sorts of foods makes this blog a must for anyone who likes to cook. Check out the following four recipes to use your herbs: falafel, lemon basil salad dressing (listed with the Ruth's Chris Chopped Salad), hearty lentil soup and chicken pesto.

Have fun. It's easy to search for things to do with your herbs.

You'll find these recipes - many of them - on the websites I listed in an earlier post.

I'm really not teasing you about this, but I will post my recipe for pesto VERY soon.

Basic Hints for Cooking with Herbs

Many people have one thing in mind if they grow herbs - cooking with them. Here are some tips when doing so:
  • Use sparingly to enhance flavors.
  • Use different parts of the herb in preparation - roots, stems, leaves, flowers - all have different uses.
  • Be careful in combining herbs- especially when experimenting. Some flavors do not belong together.
  • Recognize there is a distinctive taste with specific relationships to different foods.
  • Grind or chop fresh herbs right before using - this releases the flavor.
  • Use 3-4 times the amount of fresh herbs to replace dried or powdered herbs in the recipe.
  • Use a small amount of strong herbs until you are use to the flavor and how much you like.
  • Heat releases the flavors and aromas.
  • Extended cooking times reduces the flavoring of herbs, so add fresh herbs to soups and stews about 45 minutes before completing cooking time.
  • When using herbs for refrigerated foods (dips, cheese, veggies, dressings) add the fresh herbs several hours or overnight before using. The only exception to this is basil - putting it in overnight or longer will make your dish bitter.

Well-drained soil

When planting herbs, you'll often come to the phrase "well-drained soil."

You need to pay attention to the soil you'll be placing your herbs in - whether transplanting or placing seeds directly in the soil. Be sure that water moves through the soil easily rather than pooling up around the roots of the plants. Pay attention to your soil in wet conditions before you plant there. For example, see if it puddles after a hard rain or drenching. Add more compost and mix well at least 12 inches down and check again or don't plant there.

Websites on Herbs and their uses

Here are the websites that I gave to those who came to my class on herbs:
Basic info & newsletter:
Planting for Butterflies & Bees:

There's a lot to see on these pages.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Many sources; Be wise

I hope you noticed that I listed three different websites to check out the benefits of the three herbs I handed out in my class. These three sites will give you a lot of information on many different herbs.
Of course, there's no end to information on the web, but it's nice to have someone else narrow things down for you sometimes.
I would caution anyone looking for relief from medical difficulties. Consult your doctor if you have a headache or pain or anything else that doesn't go away in a few days.
Herbal remedies are wonderful and I use some of them, but they do not take the place of medical advice.
Don't forget that herbal remedies can interfere or block over the counter or prescribed medicines you are also taking. Talk to your pharmacist to see if there are any complications that may arise if you decide to take, for example, an herbal tea with your arthritis medication.
Make wise decisions - someone is counting on you to do your best to take care of yourself.

Delicious Dill

Wow! This herb has everything. This is the third herb I'm highlighting because it's the last of the three I gave away. Now don't you wish you had been in my class? :)
Dill, just like Cilantro, gives you different benefits from its leaves and seeds. Rich in dietary fibers and eugenol, it helps to control cholesterol and diabetes. The essential oil eugenol has been used "as a local anti-septic." Dill oil (made from the seeds) has been used as a disinfectant and sedative. Full of Vitamin C and A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, beta-carotene, copper, potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium - you can almost throw away your multi-vitamin pills if you start using dill in your diet regularly. One thing we do to keep it as a regular part of our diet is to always put it in our scrambled eggs. We use about 1 1/2 tsp of dill with 6 eggs, 1/4 c. milk, salt & pepper.
See for more info. It shows you just how much of each vitamin and mineral (daily percentage) when you add dill to your diet. For example, 100 grams of dill gives you 257% of your needed Vitamin A.

Benefits of Basil

The second plant I gave out yesterday is sweet basil. Over the years I have planted many types of basil. I particularly like opal basil which gives a lovely purple color to Alfredo sauce. I've never grown enough to use it in my pesto, but basil a favorite ingredient for pesto. The health benefits of basil are HUGE. It is rich in flavanoids and is effective in preventing cell damage from both radiation and oxygen. It also inhibits bacterial growth - including making your salads safer to eat when you add basil to your salad dressing. Basil also has anti-inflammatory properties - good for those with arthritis. Vitamin K, iron, calcium, Vitamin A, manganese, magnesium, Vitamin C, and potassium are some of the vitamins and minerals found in this super herb. "It is good for the heart, because it helps to prevent building up in the arteries and fights free radicals. The magnesium helps blood vessels to relax which increases blood circulation."
Check it out at
And you thought you just got a pot of dirt with a few seedlings.

Cilantro and Coriander

Did you know that Cilantro and Coriander all come from the same plant? Cilantro is the leaf portion and Coriander are the seeds. Cilantro is also called Chinese parsley. Check out more information at
Cilantro is an annual herb. You can collect the seeds at the end of the season and keep them for next year. This makes growing an annual herb much less expensive.
Cilantro is most commonly used in Mexican dishes. There are many benefits from using this herb. You can check out all thirteen listed at
Three benefits listed are: good source of iron, protects against salmonella bacteria, and is an anti-inflammatory that many alleviate symptoms of arthritis.
This herb is one of three herbs that I handed out in a pot to those who came to my class this weekend. The seedlings are still small; probably too small to tell which is which. Wait for another week and you'll be able to tell which is which.

Planting for Bees and Butterflies

Even if you never pick or use any of your herbs, if you have garden crops that need pollination (zucchini, squash, pumpkins, cantaloupe, etc.), you'll benefit from planting certain kinds of herbs. Bees will be attracted to your garden. Did I see you squirm a bit? Really, bees are great to have around. With real honey bees around, you'll have less wasps. Bees don't sting you unless you act really aggressively towards them OR if you look and smell like a flower. While you and your children are outside, try not to smell too much like a flower (perfume, strong soaps, bubble bath) and don't wear bright colors. That will help.

Go to these websites for some good ideas:

There are some underscores in there that are hard to see, so copy and paste it to get to the right address.

I can tell you right now the wonderful varieties that have brought bees into my garden (and we love them for the great cantaloupe we get every year): Basil, Lemon Balm, Dill, Lavender, Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Mint.
Other varieties suggested are: Bee Balm, Catnip, Cornflower, Echinacea, Goldenrod, Horehound, Hyssop, and Feverfew. I don't know much about these herbs and what climates they like. I guess I have some more to learn.

Another way to attract the bees is to keep them interested and add a few annual herbs each year. By mixing it up, you in essence are adding to your restaurant's desert menu. Regular customers like that.

A third component is to keep a variety of herbs that bloom all season. That keeps the bees coming longer. There are many varieties of bees. Some like certain herbs and others like different ones.

If you plant mint, you MUST put it in a CONTAINER. Do not let that mint get roots in your regular garden area, or you might as well become a mint farmer and throw out all of the rest of your plants. It's much worse than thinking you should plant that whole package of zucchini seeds.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Herbs that work in my Garden

Over the years, I've changed my herb garden around quite a bit. There are, however, some favorites for me. These are tried and true. Perhaps some of these will be easy for you too. The #1 best, easiest and prettiest herb I've ever used is sage. I've got three varieties of it at the moment, but have used all of these varieties successfully - Broad leaf Sage, Golden Sage, Clary Sage (green), Purple Sage, and Tricolor Sage. Another favorite is Oregano. It can be used in so many dishes. I especially like it in my recipe for Pesto. I'll share that later. Garlic Chives, English Thyme and French Lavender are other staples. Parsley and Garlic are very useful too, although they take a little more effort than the perennials.
The annual herbs I love are cilantro, purple (opal) basil, dill, and summer savory. The summer savory grows best when placed to the west of an established plant so it doesn't get the harsh sun. All of these annual herbs have the best chance if they are started 8 weeks early inside (mid-March).

Herbs 101 part 3

Basic Requirements for growing Herbs:
Most herbs prefer well-drained soil.
Although many herbs like a lot more, they need at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight.
A good balanced fertilizer is fine.
Some can tolerate dry conditions and poor soils once they are established.
They are great companions to flowers and shrubs (depending of course on how much sun they get).
For harder soils, mix in 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 natural soil, and 1/3 manure. Mix it well and then plant.
If you notice the plants are getting too much sun, add mulch around the established plants (at least 4" high). This will decrease the water evaporation and get your plants looking much better.

Herbs 101 part 2

Getting started is always the hardest part. Once you're into a project like growing herbs, I think it's rewarding and fulfilling - even if the only thing you do is look at and smell them.
Decide on where you want to plant your herbs. Go to a local nursery and look at what is available. Many times, good nurseries will only have plants that will actually grow in your climate. Imagine that. I know, weird.
Start with some basics like Oregano, Lavender, Chives, Parsley, Sage, Basil, Thyme, Mint, Garlic. Think about what you'll actually use in cooking. Don't do more than 2 annual and 4 perennial to start with. Once you've decided on what to plant, look at how tall it will be and organize your space accordingly. You'll want the taller plants at the back so they don't shade other smaller herbs.
One warning - beware of anything in the mint family (catnip included) - it will SPREAD and takeover. The easiest thing to do with these is to keep them in a pot - even if that pot sits in the middle of your herb garden outside (mine does). This will keep those roots from going crazy on you.
Okay - you've chosen your spot, your plants and your line-up. Now, you'll want to be sure the soil is ready for your seeds or plants. See the next section (part 3) for basic growing requirements.

Herb Websites I Like

Two great websites I've found on herbs are: and
The first gives you great descriptions of herbs and basic info on how to use them. The second is the home page for a lady in Texas who loves herbs and calls herself "the Herb 'n Cowgirl" - quite clever, I think. She's got books out, does a monthly e-mail newsletter (to which I subscribe), and is quite active in radio spots and newspaper columns, etc. I love her personality and no-nonsense attitude. Enjoy checking these out!

Herbs 101 part 1

I've been asked to teach an herb class this weekend and so you have the benefit of getting all of the information right here too.
First of all, herbs fit right into the frugal friend category since adding herbs from your own garden is much more economical than going to the store and buying them. There are a handful of herbs that are used in many dishes we make.
Some of the herbs are annual (they last for the season and then don't come back) and others are perennial (keep coming back over and over). There are even a few that are biannual (last two years) - like parsley.
Even the annual herbs can be quite affordable, however. All you need to do is learn how to let the plant "go to seed" at the end of its life and then collect and preserve the seeds to be planted again in the spring.
The beauty of herbs is that you can have an herb garden practically anywhere that gets at least a little sun. if you don't have room in a garden, you can put them in pots and keep them on a balcony, porch, or inside.
Have I convinced you yet to get herbbie?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Apparently there are new restrictions for those of us who itemize deductions. We can't file until after February 14th. See for more details. So much for rewarding those paying most of the government's bills. It'll be nice if they change that. I like the money back as soon as possible - January is always nice. I bet a lot of frugal people will be changing their with holdings this next year.

Back to Basics

I found a good overall article for those just looking into what to do. Many of us have our own preferences as to what we should be tightening and relaxing financially. We've read a lot and many people have come to ask what is most important. Besides the wise counsel I'm sure you'll give, consider having them look at this article. It's a good basic "I can start from here" description for those who want to tighten up financially. Go to
It is from Emergency Essentials, but you don't have to buy any products to enjoy their articles!

Find all your Frugal Friends info right here now!


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