Friday, March 1, 2013

cookin' at home: (easy bread edition)

The other day when our Chinese feast came to a grand total of $24,I found myself wondering once again. . . why do I cook?  Twenty four dollars isn't that much and even though we didn't have any conversation  (because a violent sci-fi was distracting everyone on the humongo big screen)

I wonder again

is this cookin' at home thing worth it?

It is, it is, it is.

Here are just a couple reasons why:

Home is a safe place.

It is a great time to gather the family together in one place and catch up. 

The dinner table is one of the very best places to learn manners



please and thank you

pleasant conversation

You have the ability to teach children a balanced diet, something that is sadly lacking in our society.

And even though our Chinese was de.lish and only cost $24, that was for lunch.  *math time* $168 per week is a bit steep.  For lunches.  For anything.  That's well over our whole weekly grocery expenses. 

So. . . it is cheaper. . . to eat at home.  That's another good reason.

Way back last fall I had a huge frustration meeting with my grocery budget and my slush funds [ha ha]  and facebook.  I got a ton of sympathy but a lot more advice on how to stretch the ol' grocery budget.

I didn't grow up stretching much.  If we wanted it. . . well. . . we pretty much went to Wal-Mart and bought it.  :)  We didn't take a yearly vacation (camping is not a vacation) but we didn't view life through budget lenses, either.  If you wanted to have a big party, well, you had a big party, and if you wanted to order pizza for your big party, you ordered pizza for your big party (and we'll have a side of wings with that). 

My background is hardworking crazy fun loving family life, emphasis on fun.  This thought process contributed to a definite carelessness toward finances on my part; we clashed a lot over money issues during the early years of our marriage.

What I didn't realize about budgeting [or, telling your dollars where to go] was the fact that it would revolutionize our finance arguments.  At one time we fought over money issues constantly. After we began drawing up a monthly budget, calculating what there was to spend and the places the money had to go, needed to go and the places we wanted it to go, those frustrating misunderstandings just plain ceased. 

Of course, we still argue.  [You knew that.]  But we both look back at that point five-ish years ago as the place our money arguments really disintegrated.

So we tell our grocery dollars where to go. We tell them to go buy groceries.  Ha ha.

The only problem is that it is so stinkin expensive to buy fresh things, to eat healthy, to feed your children balanced meals and not spend hours cooking either. 

One of the best tips I received via my facebook plea was to serve breads  at a meal.  Initially we all react a little to serving carbs, but breads can be healthy and the important thing is to be serving well rounded meals.

As I started incorporating breads and more side dishes my grocery $$ have practically stood up and saluted.  In other words, they are actually buying more food.

So I thought I'd give you some of our very favorite bread selections.  Hopefully your grocery budget will stand up and salute you too.
I took the Carbonara away.  You would cry, too. It's yummy.

This is a batter bread that does not require kneading.  It's very easy, and usually called Idiot Bread but we think that's a nasty name and after a lot of discussion the kids came up with Anybody Bread. (Since anybody can make it.)

Buttery, herb-y, parmesan-y, the perfect accompaniment to a lighter meal such as a broth-based soup or a chef salad.  We make it almost once a week, usually serving it cut like breadsticks with some marinara sauce on the side.

Anybody Bread

serve with tossed chef's salad, carbonara, spaghetti squash & marinara, any italian soup

2 c. warm water
1 T. yeast
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1 c. whole wheat flour
3 c. white flour
1 stick butter, melted
garlic powder
italian seasoning
parmesan cheese

Soften yeast and sugar in warm water. Add salt and flour and beat well. Spread into a lightly greased 9 x 13 pan and cover loosely. Let rise for 1 hour, then pour melted butter over the top, sprinkle with the seasonings and bake at 400 for 30 - 35 minutes.

It's the bomb!

Anybody Bread
And who doesn't love a good cornbread?
I know I blogged this at one time, but I'm going to put it in here again.  It's just so yummy.  We make this about once a week, too.  It's perfect crumbled for a cornbread salad, it's good with soup, chili or any meal that just needs a lil extra "somethin'. "
Sweet Cream Cornbread
serve with chili, corn chowder, chicken taco salad
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup oil
1 cup half and half

Mix dry ingredients; add wet ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Pour into greased, round 9" pan. Bake 18 - 20 minutes at 400.
*For every day, I replace the 1/2 & 1/2 with skim milk and the white flour with w/w.  I also use a stoneware round pan.
While we're on the subject of cornbread,  just in case you aren't aware of the South's great secret-with-a-boring-name, you may want to try baked corn.  My very first introduction to this was from my very Southern friend, Jodi. It sounded a bit weird to my small midwestern mind, but I tried it out and life has never been the same. ha ha ha.  Imagine a very rich, dense corn bread that almost has a custard like crumb. 
(Really I want to be a food writer when I grow up.)
Baked Corn
serve with taco salad, roast beef sandwiches, anything spicy that needs some sweet balance
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1 egg
1/4 c. butter
1 cup sour cream
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole corn, undrained
Mix all ingredients together, pour into greased 9 x 9 pan and bake @ 350 for about 30 minutes. 
*I usually double this, and bake it in the crock pot for 4 hours on low, convenient for Sunday dinner.
There's just no way to make biscuits healthy unless you look at it this way: you're caring for your mental health. 
And there's really no better warm fuzzy comfort food.
Here's my favorite dinner biscuit recipe, similar to the ones Red Lobster serves;  I usually mix up all the ingredients except the milk and store in the fridge until I'm ready to bake them.
Red Lobster Copycat Biscuits
serve with seafood (tilapia & steamed broccoli) or chicken wild rice soup. or anything that needs a cheesy biscuit.  :)
2 cups flour
1/2 t. garlic salt
4 1/2 t. baking powder
2 T. sugar
1/2 c. shortening
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 t. italian seasoning
1 cup milk
Drop by large spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet.  (You should have enough for 12 biscuits.) Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.  Brush with garlic butter and serve immediately. 
And our newest craze,
This bread is great dipped in a little olive oil, salt, pepper & parmesan. I have been keeping the dough in an apothecary style jar ($7 at Walmart) and it's worked fine.  The recipe directions can seem a bit intimidating, but it's really quite easy. It's truly a five minute project to make a loaf of bread using this method, and there's great artisanal texture and holes and crustiness.  It's fun. 


  1. I made your anybody bread yesterday and loved it! I hope it becomes part of my normal, everyday side dishes. Thanks!

  2. I made your biscuits today when we were snowed in :). Very yummy! I've actually never made biscuits before and they were really fun and easy. Thanks for putting these recipes together.

    1. Wow. . . I find that hard to believe! :) If you decrease the milk to 2/3 cup and leave out the cheese & seasonings, this is a great basic recipe.

  3. Trying the Anybody Bread tonight-thanks for sharing your recipes! The Artisan Bread looks soooooo yummy!

    1. I hope it turns out for you Liz! *crosses fingers* :)