We broke a 119 year old record yesterday when the mercury recorded at -1 degrees for April 2nd. The cold and accompanying snowfalls had cancelled most of the egg hunts in the area. Our neighborhood had an egg ‘handout’. It was fun, but not as good as the real thing. Frugal Boy and I made a giant snowman and other people accessorized it.
Frugal Boy had Spring Break last week and spent most of it at the grandparents house. He had a fantastic time and even got to visit Lego Land.
Shae, Frugal Girl, and I took advantage of the relative quiet to go out on a date. Frugal Girl really liked the crab tacos.
Autumn is imminent and that means that squash type plants are coming into season. We have a couple of butternut squash vines in our garden that have produced. Eating in season is both healthy and frugal!
Shae had picked up a new kitchen gadget called a spiralizer from Sears for $2. It was originally $12 and then Sears gave her a $10 credit to lure her back to the store.
After you peel the squash, you can cut off the long cylindrical part and attach it to the spiralizer.
Cranking the gadget yields long flowing ‘noodles’ of golden orange squash.
From here you can cook the noodles in any number of different ways. I decided to put them in a mixing bowl with some olive oil, toss to coat, and then lay out on a baking tray.
With the addition of garlic, Italian seasoning, and onion powder, the noodles were then roasted in the oven at 400° for 10-15 minutes or desired tenderness.
To wrap up the meal, we paired the noodles with a sun dried tomato alfredo sauce and pan fried chicken. It was delicious, cheap, and healthy! We’ll be making these again.
Mulberry trees are in peak ripeness in the Midwest right now. I thought that I would take advantage of that fact by going on a bike ride with Frugal Boy to a place that had plenty of low hanging trees branches.
Frugal Boy can eat them faster than I can pick them, so I had to teach him how to pick his own. Give a boy a mulberry and he’ll poop purple for a day, teach a boy to pick mulberries and he’ll poop purple for a week!
After I had filled up all the containers that I had brought with we took our bounty back to Shae.
Mulberries are fragile and don’t stay very long even when they are refrigerated. That is part of the reason that you won’t find them in stores. Shae decided that she wanted to make jam out of them. She followed a recipe without pectin. It was just mulberries, sugar, and a little water.
Mulberries have a very dark purple color to them. It looks almost black.
After cooking up the mixture it filled one pint canning jar. It is a bit runny, but very tasty!
This past Christmas, Shae and I got the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment as a gift from her parents. The set consists of a freezer bowl, a churning paddle, some plastic connector bits, and an instructions manual.
In the world of homemade ice cream, there are three methods.
Method 1 – Salt & Ice
This is the tried and true coffee can way of making ice cream. You pour your cream mixture into a small can, seal it up, then place that small can inside a bigger can packed with ice and salt. After sealing the bigger can, you (or better yet, your kids) roll the can back and forth across the kitchen floor for 30 minutes until the inside can freezes.
There are more sophisticated setups for salt & ice but they all work the same. A nice write up on this if you want to try it at home is available here.
Method 2 – The Freezer Bucket
In this method, instead of using ice and salt, you pre-freeze a special mixing bowl that contains blue-ice in the side walls. These big mixing bowls act like cooler packs that you throw in the freezer before going on a picnic or taking your lunch to work. The KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker utilizes one of these bowls. The advantage is that you don’t have to bother with crushing up ice and adding in salt. The disadvantage is that you need to freeze the bowl overnight in order to get it cold enough to make ice cream.
Method 3 – Compressors
At the very highest end of home ice cream makers are kitchen gadgets that have built in compressors. These units just plug into the wall and the built in compressor makes the mixing area cold enough to make ice cream. The advantage is that you don’t have to pre-freeze a bulky bowl. The disadvantage is price. Compressor styled ice cream makers range anywhere from $200-600. Assuming that ingredients are free and you only buy high end $5/quart ice cream. It would take between 40-120 quarts of ice cream to pay off one of these machines. As you’ll see further down, ingredients for high quality ice cream are anything but free.
Starting with a Recipe
We followed one of the KitchenAid recipes back in January when we broke in the gizmo. I don’t think we had our freezer cold enough, because there were a lot of large ice crystals that formed. This time around, we were better prepared and set our freezer down to the coldest setting. The faster your ice cream mixture freezes, the smaller the ice crystals will be. The name of the game becomes, get your cream mixture as close to freezing as possible before starting the churning process.
This time around, we followed this rocky road recipe with some modifications. We substituted whipping cream in place of the heavy cream and we changed light cream with 2% milk.
With our mixing bowl frozen and the cream mixture thoroughly chilled, we were able to start the churning process.
Frugal Boy wanted to pour his milk into the bowl as well. I am not sure if he understood that ice cream comes from dairy, or if he would have just as happily poured in a cup of water. Either way, I am happy that we can teach him how different foods are made so that he can understand what it is that he is eating and what had to happen in order to make that possible.
When using the KitchenAid, you have to start the mixing paddle before you pour the mixture in otherwise it will freeze to the sides instantly.
The paddle is designed to start slipping when the ice cream gets thicker. This helps to protect the mixers motor from burning out. At the end of mixing, throw in any add-ons. For rocky road, that would include mini marshmallows and chunks of pecan.
At this stage, the ice cream will have the consistency of soft serve. You’ll want to ‘ripen’ it by putting the ice cream in the freezer. Remember that the faster the ice cream freezes, the less ice crystals it will have and the smoother the consistency will be. We used a shallow plastic tub and that seemed to work quite well.
The Taste Verdict?
Yummy. When properly made, like this batch was, you end up with a really high quality creamy silky smooth ice cream that tastes just like the expensive brands at the supermarket. The key to a great consistency is to keep everything as cold as possible. Chill the mixture at the bottom and back of your refrigerator. Some people even pop it into the freezer for a few minutes before starting the churning. You really want it to freeze quickly.
The Cost Verdict?
Making ice cream at home is not going to save you money over buying it at the store. So don’t buy into a system with that delusion. Even if you use the coffee can method instead of a fancy machine, the fact remains that the raw ingredients are pricey. A pint of whipping cream will set you back about $2.50. Add in a 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk and you are already at $3.50. Throw in 25¢ of regular milk (a cup or two) and just the base of the ice cream is at $3.75 for 2 quarts. Mix-ins such as pecans rapidly drive up the price.
What About FroYo?
Shae is the queen at making yogurt. It is a fairly simple process with one ingredient, milk. Aldi has been selling milk for under $1/gallon. I think the last time we went it was 94¢. One gallon of milk will make half a gallon (two quarts) of strained, thick, greek yogurt. Most frozen yogurt recipes are pretty simple: yogurt, sugar, a flavoring such as vanilla extract. Sugar is about 21¢ per cup and that is more than enough for two quarts of greek yogurt. Vanilla extract is also about 21¢ per tablespoon. That brings the raw ingredient cost of vanilla froyo to around $1.36 for two quarts.
Have you made ice cream before? What recipes should we try out?
The extent of my baking knowledge up until now has been to follow the instructions on the back of the ready mix boxes. Come along with Shae and myself as we embark on a six week baking challenge where we push our comfort zones and try baking recipes we have never done before!
Week 4 – Apple Turnovers
We chose apple turnovers because we wanted to make a puff pastry. In particular, we wanted to make a full puff pastry. Normally, a turnover recipe has you use pre-prepared pastry rolls from the store, and while that greatly cuts down the work and time required, it doesn’t teach us anything about the process!
So how does one make a flaky, crisp pastry dough? Easy! All you need is flour, water, salt, and a metric ton of butter.
We all put our aprons on, Frugal Boy too after much convincing, and got out the stand mixer to combine 5 cups of flour with a teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of water. You’ll want to add the water in slowly otherwise the dough gets very hard and tough to roll out.
While you are doing that, you’ll want to get out a block o butter. This recipe called for 2 cups worth. Sandwich it with plastic wrap and get out something heavy, like a rolling pin.
Then pound the butter flat and stick it in the fridge to chill.
After the dough has rested, and the butter has chilled, you can roll out the dough.
And yes, that is the manliest apron we have.
Once the dough is rolled out, place the butter on top. We are going to start laminating the dough and butter.
Here begins the lengthy part. In order to laminate the butter and dough together, you will repeat folding the dough and butter into thirds, rolling it out flat again and sticking it back in the refrigerator to chill. You don’t want the butter to melt into the dough. After about six times of doing this, you will end up with a nicely layered dough/butter creation.
The whole point of layering butter in the dough is to have it expand (some might even say puff) when baking. The butter steams up and gives a wonderful flakiness to the finished pastry.
Now that you have your finished pastry dough, you can roll it out to a 1/4 inch thickness or thinner and shape as desired. Traditional apple turnover recipes call for cutting out squares from the rolled dough, placing the apple filling into the square, and folding the dough over before baking. We opted to make cups instead.
Look at those beautiful layers!
We finished off the apple cups by adding a sugar glaze.
They are best eaten fresh from the oven. Over time they will get soggy and lose their crispiness. If you buy the pastry dough pre-made the recipe only takes about 60 minutes to make. If you make the dough from scratch, it will take several hours.
We have two weeks left on this 6 week challenge. Leave a comment on what we should try baking next!