Saturday, February 12, 2011

Economical, Decadent & Healthy are 3 words that dont often apply to the same dish

   I woke up early Saturday morning. It was cold, it was my morning off. So baking was the only natural thing for me to do... And what's more delicious than warm bread pudding on a cold morning, maybe warm chocolate bread pudding, but still?
I threw together this impromptu version using traditional bread pudding recipes as a guideline for combining the ingredients I wanted to use. 

Non-traditional Bread Pudding        
  • 2 C coconut milk beverage (not the same as canned coconut milk)
  • 3 C whole grain bread, cubed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 C butter
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/3 C dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 C raisins
  • 1/4 C sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 t vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground clove
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2 qt casserole with a little butter. Add milk and butter to a small pot on medium heat and cook until the butter is melted. Crack eggs into a medium sized bowl. Add the sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, extract and spices. Whisk them together until well combined then add the warm milk and butter a little at a time while stirring. Put the cubed bread into the buttered casserole. Sprinkle the bread with raisins and cranberries. Pour the milk and egg mix over the bread and flatten the top with your spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 mins. 
Serve with greek style yogurt and cranberry chia sauce.

So this recipe is awesome because:
  1.  The coconut milk beverage has lots of medium chain fatty acids in it and 60 less calories than the same amount of 1% milk. 
  2. It uses 9 grain wheat bread instead of french bread.
  3. The applesauce and the fat in the coconut milk replace 1 large egg in the recipe.
  4. Greek style yogurt, whisked with a drop of vanilla extract and a spoonful of honey, makes a lower sugar, higher protein sauce than the traditional cream and sugar ones.
  5. The cranberry juice soaked chia seed gel is on there just to be cool. 
No, but seriously, Im going to have some form of chia in every meal I make from now. Maybe it's healthy, but what fascinates me more is the uniqueness of the seed itself. It soaks up a lot of fluid (nine parts to one), doesn't add much flavor, and turns whatever fluid chosen into a high protein, Omega-3, Omega-6, high fiber, thickening gel. What? Ive got to play with that...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dehydrator Deliciousness

My first original (kinda) dehydrator snack recipe:

Corn Chip Redux
   - The recipe I based mine on, link pasted below, calls for 1 cup of cheese per 1 cup of corn. I eliminated the cheese to see if a low fat version was possible and changed the seasonings up a bit to compensate.

  • 2 15 1/4 ounce cans no salt added whole kernel corn rinsed and drained
  • 1 packet Goya cilantro & annatto seasoning 
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 4 or 5 sweet piquante peppers
  • salt to taste
  • 1 T powdered dried tomato ( I made mine in the dehydrator a couple weeks ago with some tomatoes that had gotten too cold and were mushy but not spoiled.)
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth (adding a little water if necessary). Pour the mix onto greased fruit roll trays and dehydrate at 130 degrees for about 10 hours or until you can lift the sheet of corn up and turn it over. Dry the other side until the sheet is crispy. Break into pieces and store.
Cost: About $1 for the batch (I bought the corn on a buy 2 get 3 free sale)
Yummy, cheap, healthy and I didn't miss the cheese at all, though its absence does make the sheet crack and break up a little on the tray.

Im also using my dehydrator to make beef jerky for pennies by purchasing cuts of beef reduced for quick sale.
And Ive found that applesauce is incredibly versatile when making fruit roll ups. Though it can be used on its own for a delicious snack, it can also be used as a base to stretch the more expensive fruits. You can add thawed and well drained frozen fruit to the applesauce for more exciting combinations during the winter when good fresh fruits aren't available cheaply. I bought a case of unsweetened applesauce last time it went on sale.
Ive used frozen pineapple, blueberries and cherries with my applesauce to great results. But my favorite combo has been a thick leather I made with a bag of cranberries I had in the freezer from when they were cheap last Thanksgiving. The fruit roll tastes just like the sweetened dried cranberries that cost $3 for a small bag!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Extended Butter

A few years ago I picked up an interesting looking book from a used book store for about a dollar. Its called "Make Your Own Convenience Foods" by Don & Joan German. I came across it again recently while reorganizing some shelves. This is the first, but will not be the last project to come from its sage, inspired and now slightly mildewed pages.
They call it "Extended Butter" - for 1/3 the cost of the real thing. I call it awesome.

The recipe calls for only one special ingredient, but it happens to be one of my favorite things in life - liquid soy lecithin. There's so much you can do with that stuff that I'm going to have to write more about it later. Lets just say for now that it is worth a trip to your local health food store to pick some up. I got a 16oz bottle (enough for the next few years of my life) for less than $20. Do make sure to buy "unbleached" or better yet, "certified organic".
Other ingredients you need:
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil (any of the good kinds, i.e. unsaturated, like safflower)
  • 1lb softened butter (salted or unsalted, you decide)
  • 5oz water
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid lecithin
(They also mention you can add the oil from a carrot oil capsule for a more groovy yellow color and additional vitamin A. Ive never heard of carrot oil capsules and I dont have any, but they sound neat.)

You will need a blender or food processor - or a whisk and a lot of determination.


  1. Soften the butter (leave it on the counter for a while).
  2. Put it in the food processor.
  3. Add oil, lecithin and water (in that order, slowly) through the chute of the food processor while its running on low until the mix is all smooth and creamy.
  4. Put it in the fridge.
  5. Enjoy!

In addition to saving you money, this recipe has about 20 less calories per ounce than regular butter and more polyunsaturated fats (the good kind) and less saturated fats (the not good kind).

DIY buttery spread - healthier, cheaper, better for the planet. Yet another victory against the evils of potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA, monoglycerides and artificial flavors, plastics and packaging - just to name a few. I'm storing mine in a re-purposed Smart Balance spread container - that just makes me giggle every time I use it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Clean and Green

A few months ago I clicked on an article from MoneyTalksNews that was posted on the Yahoo! Finance page. Happily, it inspired me to undertake the easiest, greenest, most economical and successful D.I.Y. projects in the history of the whole entire world ever.

The article,, details everything you need, but Google searching also turned up an abundance of recipes and excellent advice on the subject of do-it-yourself detergent making.

One of my favorite reads was on The Simple Dollar. Blogger and author Trent Hamm has (among other great tips) a simply awesome how-to article on the subject:

As it turned out, all the ingredients I needed were to be found cheaply at my local grocery store (its so local, I walk there) and the recipe I chose just called for:

  • 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha (which was on sale at the time, yesh!)
  • 1/2 cup of Borax 
  • 1/2 cup of washing soda
  • 2 gallons of water
The extras I added, based on my web research, were all items I already I had on hand:

  • 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar (for preventing residue in the machine) 
  • 3 tablespoons of glycerine (for softening fabrics)
  • a few drops of orange essential oil (a fresh, lovely scent)
The process took about 15 minutes and consisted only of grating the Naptha and then melting it in hot water, stirring in the 2 powders and finally adding more water.
Crazy easy right?
Unfortunately, it would just be wrong to brag about the project as it was such a no-brainer and not even my own idea.
Still, Im giddy with my small victory over mass produced, over priced, polluting commercial detergents and their huge plastic, landfill fodder packaging.
As far as the money part goes, figuring in your ingredients, most recipes save you about $0.15 cents per load versus common supermarket detergents.
Tide & Co - I feel bad for you man, I really do - but the secret's out!

By the way, if you're lucky enough to come across a three gallon bucket - I got mine from the Habitat for Humanity re-sale shop (it held vegetarian chicken pellets originally, lol) get several. They're the bomb.

I wonder if one day I'll take D.I.Y. detergent a step further by using my own bar of laundry soap instead of Naptha... :-)