Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cheesy, Creamy and Delicious White Sauce

Ok, I'm a huge slacker. I'm awful, truly awful. Who has neglected blogging? *This Gal*

It's not that I haven't been cooking or baking... I'm just selfish and bad at sharing. Or something.

I made this sauce for dinner tonight and put it on top of some shell pasta. It was ready before the pasta, so obviously it's simple. Simple AND delicious, and the ingredients are so basic you should have them on hand!

Cheesy White Sauce:

2 TBSP sweet cream Butter (or regular, I won't judge you on your butter choices!)
1 TBSP Flour
1/4 tsp Salt (I use sea salt for nearly everything)
1 1/2 cup Milk
1/2 tsp Coriander- ground. I used my mortar and pestal to smash them up.
1/4 tsp Crushed Mint (yes, mint)
1 tsp Parsley
1 to 1 1/2 tsp Chives
2oz white cheese (I used mozzarella)

On medium-high in a saucepan melt the butter. Once it's all melty, add in the flour- whisking to keep it from getting lumpy and weird.

Add salt, then milk all at once. Add the other spices. Stir every now and again until it's bubbly. Reduce heat to medium and add the cheese.

If it's not quite as thick as you want it, cook it down just a little. It will thicken up some upon standing.

Toss in some pasta, and YUM. Nosh away.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Buying in Bulk to Save Money

With gas prices rising, it seems that even people that weren't buying in bulk before are considering it and will now buy bulk products. If you're going to buy bulk and haven't before, you might want to start out small unless you are working on getting a years supply of food like LDS families do. (For more information on that, check out the LDS Food Storage Calculator).

If you are looking for organic or locally sourced ingredients, you can usually find a co-op type farm that delivers on a route on a specific delivery time line. For the North West, check out Azure Standard. You will have to order a minimum amount if you are not a part of a preexisting drop, so call to see if there is one in your area. If you're not in the Northwest, a Google search should be able to find you a co-op that delivers in your area, or ask around in your local organic food store.

Buying bulk food online is going to cost you a pretty penny in shipping, and if not in shipping, then in packaging. A lot of it will be packaged as "emergency food". If you want it to be as long lasting as the "emergency food" that is selling on the websites there are a few things you can do, but you will need to package it well. Most of the "emergency food" is in 5 gallon buckets or super pails (which I think are 6 gallon buckets) with the actual food in a Mylar bag and an oxygen absorber. So all you need to do to keep your bulk food you buy from the store as fresh is put it is buckets with Mylar bags with and oxygen absorber. NEVER put an oxygen absorber in with sugar unless you want it to be a brick. When you seal the bags, you need to make sure that as much oxygen is out as possible. Google around for more information, I am not an expert on this.

If you are going to use your food in a reasonable amount of time you can just put it in buckets for storage. You can either buy buckets, which are a little pricey (you need FOOD GRADE plastic, DO NOT use anything that held anything toxic such as paint, primer, paint thinner, chemicals, etc) or you can go to your local bakery and ask them if they have any extra buckets. They will usually have extra frosting buckets laying around. It helps to call ahead and have them save them for you. Sometimes they will charge you $1-2 for each bucket, but at the store buckets go for about $5-7 so you're still saving money. If you don't want to pay, try calling a different bakery. If the lids they provide you with don't work, you can buy lids. Lids are cheaper than buckets.

You WILL have to clean out the buckets. It's what you get for getting cheap/free buckets. Even if they look clean, you want to clean them out well, with soap. Hopefully you have a utility sink because, well, they're buckets. Otherwise try to set up a station outside near your hose and use a non-toxic soap that won't kill outside plants.

What to Buy
Buy what you eat. Packages have been shrinking. I have noticed it. I don't know if you have noticed it, but cereal boxes are getting smaller, cans are getting smaller, and I am getting less for the same amount of money. There is one thing that doesn't change. A 25lb bag is a 25lb bag. A 50lb bag is a 50lb bag. 25lbs of oatmeal is nutritious, will make great cookies, breakfasts, won't shrink, and is great on the budget. A 25lb bag of rice usually cost less than a 5lb bag of rice. I paid $11 for our 25lb bag of rice. How much did you last pay for rice? Oatmeal? My 25lb bag of oatmeal was $15. You can even buy Sea Salt in bulk if you are so inclined! Granted, it will last you for a bajillion years, but for $8, I just couldn't pass it up. I got all of my bulk foods from WinCo. They also have a ton of different kinds of beans.

So buying in bulk is great. I love it, you can find a lot of different products, and it can save you a lot of money. Find what works for your family. If you buy something they're not going to eat, it's not really saving money. If you buy products you regularly use and are in regular rotation, you will be doing yourself and your wallet a huge favor.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review- Essentials Of Baking

I thought I would review a book I have. All of the books that are in my library have either been bought by me, given as gifts by family or friends, or I have got them for free at yard sales or other places. I have not gotten any of the books from the publisher, and if I ever do, I will let you guys know.

First up is Williams-Sonoma Essentials Of Baking- Recipes and Techniques For Successful Home Baking (Oxmoor House $34.95US)

The recipes I've made from this book are: Traditional Sourdough, Challah, Classic Dinner Rolls, Cinnamon Rolls, Focaccia, Double Crust Apple Pie, Classic Chocolate Cake, and Flowerless Chocolate Cake. There are numerous other recipes.

I've noticed a few errors in the book that they have hopefully fixed, but I am not sure if they have. One thing was that the sourdough starter "recipe" was flour + milk. I've always known it to be flour and water. Maybe it was correct, but I don't want to use spoiled milk in my bread, and commercial milk spoils, it doesn't sour.

 Other than the few errors, the book is a wonderful resource. It has very detailed instructions, and each recipe has information for doing the mixing either by hand or with an electric mixer.

If you are new to baking, there is a section in the beginning of the book detailing equipment to use, what it is used for, and how to use it. Each section also has a trouble shooting section as well as a primer telling you the basics of what you will be doing in the following section. For breads, it explains the basic process of kneading, raising, and the second raise, and how to bake your bread for the best results.

Another thing I love about this book are the pictures. They are absolutely beautiful. Each recipe has a picture. If it's a complicated recipe, or has complicated steps, like the braiding of Challah, there will be multiple pictures. They aren't just quick snapshots either. They are very nicely done. You could really use this as a coffee table book, the pictures are so nice.

I like the binding. I like that it's hardback. It stays open well when I'm baking. I've spilled flour and liquids on it (wouldn't recommend it of course, I'm just a clutz). The pages have a nice gloss to them but it's not hard on the eyes.

All in all, I think it's a great book. It has a few flaws, but nothing is ever perfect. I recommend it for everyone's baking library.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Couponing- That's not junk mail!

I'm pretty sure that the cashier at my local Safeway is not a big fan of me, because every time I go grocery shopping (which is about every two weeks) I use a lot of coupons. Yet I frequently get mailings from the store itself for discounts of $10 or more. Frequent shoppers FTW!

It started out innocent enough. A coupon here, a coupon there, a register reward that was something I would actually use. I tried the grocery game, but to be honest, I'm too scatterbrained to pay attention for long periods of time, and I couldn't justify the expense. It's a good program for some, but it wasn't for me- but it was enough to jump start me into hardcore couponing and turn me into a monster.

Do I have an obsession with coupons? Yes. Will I change brands if I have a coupon for something? You bet your hiney I will, if I know that quality won't be compromised.

People ask me where I get my coupons from. You know that junk mail that's in your mailbox? Have you ever looked through the papers in there? Actually looked through them? You'll find a coupon insert usually about once a week. That's free money in your mail box that you've been throwing in the recycling! What kind of coupons you get varies depending on your market (where you live), which is why coupon exchanges have become popular. I get a lot of coupons for hair dye. Not useful to me. I also get a lot of coupons for very useful food items that we eat on a regular basis.

One of the best places to get coupons is from the Sunday newspaper. You'll get at least one, if not two or three different inserts, unless it's a weird week. If you're in an area where you have two papers, they will probably have slightly different coupons in them. You can check the insert schedule here.You can usually subscribe to just your Sunday paper if you don't feel like going out and buying one all the time. I save more money from a single paper than spend on it for sure, but if you discover that couponing isn't for you then you probably don't want a subscription.

You can also print coupons off the internet. I haven't yet done this. Some people swear by it. To be honest, I'm a little scared of it because I've heard of some people having problems, but don't let that scare you! Try one or two, see how your store accepts them. And remember- if a coupon seems way too good to be true, it probably is. Only print coupons from reliable sources. Most will only allow you to print between one to three of a coupon. If you're not sure of your stores couponing policy, look it up online.

Another way to get coupons off the internet is from the manufacturers website. Usually you can't print them- they will send you a coupon book with some pretty valuable coupons. I got one from P&G a couple weeks ago with coupons ranging from .50 to $5 off, so it was well worth it. Remember to always be careful with your information! If the site looks sketchy, don't give them your information, and if it asks for a phone number I would recommend making a number with Google Voice to avoid telemarketing calls.

How much do I save couponing? It really depends on the trip, how much I plan it out, and what we're buying. Since I shop at Safeway, I use their store coupons too, which unfortunately show up as "club card discounts" and not coupons (at least I'm pretty sure). My last shopping trip breakdown was this:
We spent $121 total on groceries with $46 in savings. The savings is broken down to $15.05 in manufacturer coupons and $31.61 in "club card" savings.

I think that's pretty significant, as that's $15 we wouldn't have had before, I forgot my $10 off coupon, and our trip was pretty last minute. So in my humble opinion, coupons are your friends.