Friday, February 27, 2009

Flaxseed Meal, the Averter of Baking Disaster

Your task is to make mini cupcakes for a book report project with your son. The cupcakes need to be brought in to school in the morning and naturally its later than you anticipated starting to make them. As your son is mixing the dry ingredients, he gets a little overzealous and the bowl hits the floor. The majority of the dry mixture remains in the bowl but enough flour has hit the floor that you're concerned the wet to dry ingredient ratio might be screwed up. What now?

This was was the scene in my kitchen last night. I tried to eyeball how much had hit the floor. I think it was less than a cup but more than half a cup. I didn't want to take a chance and add more flour. What if I added too much?

I opted instead to add about 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal and 1/4 of oatmeal ground into flour. I hoped that the flaxseed/oatmeal combo would bind the mixture but maintain a moist final product. It worked remarkably well.

SInce I'm spreading baking wisdom, here's a tip I had to search the internet for again. Mini cupcakes take about 16 minutes to cook. For some reason this is the best kept secret in cooking.

If you're wondering what recipes I used, the yellow cake recipe from Simple Treats worked beautifully. We added chocolate chips to some of them which was very nice. The frosting recipe was the vanilla frosting recipe from The Compassionate Cook by PETA. Both were very simple recipes but they worked really well. Rob wants to make them again for his birthday in May.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kntting News

If you've held out this long and you haven't watched Pardon Me I Didn't Knit That for You from the ladies at Mason Dixon Knitting, do it now. It's the perfect answer to the midwinter blues.

Speaking of knitting, I've just completed a knitted ensemble (isn't that a great word?) for my sister who just moved back to the east coast from California. I figured she'd be freezing her cookies off as she adjusted to winter in NY. With this in mind, I made her a calorimetry to keep her ears from freezing.

A pair of mittens I really liked this pattern BTW.

A scarf in a feather and fan pattern which is just about the simplest fancy looking pattern a person could knit.
Here's a close up of the feather and fan design.
I got the pattern from a classmate when I took my knitting class a few years ago but I can't find a source for it. If anyone recognizes it, let me know. The yarn and needle size are up to you. I used three strands of fingering weight yarn knit as one on size 8 needles. Here's the pattern:
Cast on 24 stitches loosely
Row 1: Knit all stitches
Row 2: Purl all stitches
Row 3: K2tog twice, (YO, knit 1) 4 times, K2tog 4 times, (YO knit 1) 4 times, K2tog twice
Row 4: Knit all stitches
Repeat rows 1-4 until scarf reaches desired length. Cast off all stitches loosely.

I'm thrilled with the way this all came out and the mitten requests just keep coming from my kids! Right now I'm working on a recycled wool (it was a sweater that I unraveled) sock to wear over their regular socks inside their snow boots.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Have You Seen the Magical Pixies

I did a cooking/nutrition class last night for a group of teens that were in a transitional housing group home. They were all going to school, working and learning how to live independently as part of the program. I wanted to teach them basic cooking skills that could be applied to anything they wanted to cook.

I opted to make stir fried vegetables, biscuits and apple crisp. The woman who worked at the group home requested we make chicken to go with the stir fried vegies. I haven't been in the same room with unwrapped raw chicken in years so this was a huge compromise but since the benefits to the kids outweighed my disgust, I agreed. (However, It was just as disgusting as I remembered it.)

The kids learned about cutting things in same size pieces to promote even cooking, how to mix batter without overmixing, how to make a tasty fruit based dessert, managing leftovers, how a dinner biscuit becomes a breakfast biscuit(margarine vs.jelly on top), how to cook when you have very little time plus other random facts about cooking in the real world. They've invited me back and maybe I'll get them to try a veg dish next time.

We went around the room to get opinions on how everything turned out. The consensus was good although one girl said the chicken was bland. I asked her what she could do differently to make it more to her taste which started a great conversation about marinating and using spices to personalize your cooking.

Although I'm not usually talking about making chicken less bland, the thought process is the same as we strive to cook frugally. We try recipes and then look back on them and ask ourselves, should I do anything differently next time to better suit my tastes? If the answer is yes, right down those changes right on the recipe! I know, I'm telling you to write in your recipe books again but if you don't, you're doomed to have the same conversation with yourself next time.

While you're digging through your cookbooks, if you find those magical pixies who chop and premeasure all the ingredients on cooking shows so all the chefs have to do is toss everything together, send them over to my house. I could use the help today!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Business of Doing Business

I seem to have fallen off the frugal veggie planet! I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted. I've been spending my time organizing my yoga classes and getting all the business of officially starting a business in place. I'm delighted to report it has been an extremely frugal process with very minimal cash outlay.

Here's a few things I learned along the way:
  • Getting a DBA is easy, inexpensive ($45 in my county) and will make your life a whole lot easier in the long run.
  • Getting a PO box is also relatively inexpensive ($60/year in my area, apparently it varies by area) and a lot less creepy than having your home address show up all around town.
  • A website is a must but it can be very affordable (My total so far is $29.86 which covers the next three months. After that I'm looking at a monthly expense of $12.94 to maintain the website) and easy to put together. Many people I knew recommended yahoo's small business service to set up a website and, having used it, I would recommend it as well.
  • You can fit 2 sheets of paper plus 6 business cards in a size 10 envelope and still use a first class stamp.
  • There are a ton of ways to advertise your business for free. Craigslist, press releases in local papers, local yahoo groups and enlisting the help of friends who live locally are just a few ideas.
In other frugal news, I've finally decided its time to do something about the ever growing collection of AFOs Kyle has. (It's not really a collection but he did get his first brace when he was about 2, he outgrows about one a year and he's 8 1/2. Just for the record, the little plastic buggers cost about $1500 because they have to be custom made. Thankfully our insurance covers it!) I've found an agency in Georgia that refurbishes them and distibutes them at no charge to needy people in Mexico. Now all I need is a box big enough to put them all in. BTW, if you're wondering why I'm not keeping my donation local, apparently they can't be used domestically because of health laws.

I'm off to find a box...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Knitting Needle Fix

I've unraveled all this yarn so naturally that leads to more knitting projects. I found this mitten pattern which would go nicely with the Calorimetry that I'd made. I got the yarn all set up, because naturally I'm not using a chunky yarn, I'm using several yarns together to create a chunky yarn. That's when I discovered that I didn't have size four single point needles, not even in the set of needles that I got at the thrift store last year. It seems the fours in that were replaced with sixes! What to do?

I wound a rubber bands around the end of each of two double pointed size fours creating a pair of temporary single point needles. This worked great for my mitten project because I didn't have too many stitches to cast on. If the project had been bigger it wouldn't have worked as well.