Try. Fail. Try again. Fail Better.

It feels terribly appropriate that I tried to search this quote to give credit to the creator only to be unable to find this exact quote. The only quote I could find was a very similar one by Samuel Beckett but not this particular quote. It tickles the back of my mind as something from a movie. I can just picture some wise male mentor character saying this in a deep gravelly voice that inspires the hero or heroine to go forward and succeed. Hmm… maybe I should search again… As amusing as my quote sourcing abilities are, that’s not what this post is about.

Do you ever get it in your head that you really, really want something? Ever want to do something nice for your spouse/partner? Well, I was in exactly that mood yesterday and neither venture ended in success. On the upside, I learned a thing or two about a thing or two. And I managed to make a stellar riff on shepherds pie… so success! But what were the failures? It all started with a cheesecake.

It’s been almost two weeks of doing keto and I am proud to say we are going strong. But cravings have a way of sneaking in when you least expect them. And there I was, sitting on the sofa registering for health insurance when what should pop into my brain like some culinary epiphany? Cheesecake.

Now I’ve never made cheesecake. I tried once a few weeks ago and it turned to custard with berry sauce over it. And in that case my failure was delicious. I didn’t get any pictures of that gooey disaster but believe you-me, it didn’t last long despite being cemented to the bottom of my pyrex cake pan. What do they call those? A beautiful disaster? Well, I’m gonna call it a delicious disaster.

So armed with the knowledge I’d gotten in that failure, I did a quick recipe search for keto cheesecake. Success! An easy to follow recipe! Huzzah! Okay, let’s look at this.

Filling:
24oz cream cheese
1 1/2 C sweetener
3 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

That’s the filling. That’s it. How could I possibly mess that up? All the recipe said was to whisk together until smooth. So that’s what I did.

Crust:
1 1/2 C almond flour
1 tbsp flax
3 tbsp sweetener
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter

That’s not too complicated either. The recipe said to mix together thoroughly then press into the bottom of a greased spring form pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 325 degrees before adding filling and baking for an additional 50 minutes.

So, let me say that none of this was an outright failure. It just wasn’t cheesecake like I know it. I wanted dense, sweet, cheesy goodness. What I got was a fluffy, custard-y sweet that vaguely resembles cheesecake. It tasted good. It just wasn’t what I was expecting or hoping for so it was a bit of a let down. Manny said it was delicious. We both agreed though, calling it cheesecake is a bit of a stretch.

So that’s the basics. But since when have I ever done anything basic? Nah. Plain cheesecake, or even plain not-quite-cheesecake just ain’t it. So before I popped that sucker in the oven I added a couple handfuls of pecans and some Lilly’s chocolate chips. But that’s not enough! I wanted turtle cheesecake! But how to make keto caramel? Well, I’d figure that out while it baked… in the oven it went.

On to the caramel! Pinterest informed me that this was the absolute best keto caramel recipe out there… so down the bunny hole.

Keto Caramel
1 C allulose
1 1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 C butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

The recipe said to combine ingredients in a high walled pot, stir to combine, and then let simmer for roughly 15 minutes. When caramelized the recipe said you could thicken using gelatin but I didn’t have the kind they said to use and they were very adamant that only that particular gelatin would work so I decided to slip a little xanthum gum in to thicken and lady’s and gents, that was my first mistake.

Did you know xanthum gum is very touchy? So after I had mixed my caramel into a gelatinous mass of gak-like grossness I did a little research. I had treated the xanthum gum just like I would corn starch or flour to create a roux. But oh no, let me tell you that was a mistake. Turns out xanthum gum has roughly 6x the thickening power of corn starch or flour. So I thought I was adding a little thickener when in fact I was creating a snot-like caramel flavored goo you wouldn’t let your child play with much less eat. Ugh.

I guess that’s where the title comes in. Try, fail. Try again, fail better. I haven’t tried to recreate the caramel yet but I will. Manny loves caramel so I will definitely be perfecting that recipe. I think if used sparingly xanthum gum could definitely work to thicken a caramel sauce, and next time I’ll be armed with all the knowledge of this attempt’s failure.

I did manage to eek out enough to stretch over my not-really-cheesecake. It sure was pretty even if it didn’t taste the way it was supposed to. And for that matter, it was delicious too, just not what I had expected. Thank goodness dinner was a roaring success otherwise I would have felt very dejected by yesterday’s failures. I think yesterday I just wanted normalcy and I wasn’t quite ready to accept “normal” keto foods as the new normal yet. So I browned hamburger and whipped some cauliflower and added all the cheese and spices and herbs and put it together to bake. The end result was a delicious dinner of keto shepherd’s pie that racked in at about 5g carbs per serving. It was everything we needed.

So yesterday was an adventure. I normally do a lot of baking and cooking on my days off but I think today I’m just gonna take it easy. Dinner tonight is gonna be a stir fry of chicken and cabbage with a spicy peanut lime cilantro sauce. And desert? Well, even custard-cheesecake is better than no cheesecake.

Work tomorrow will be a breeze. We’re going to enjoy the left over shepherd’s pie for dinner after but to get me through I have perfect keto’s instant french vanilla coffee, their cinnamon roll bars, and their hazelnut chocolate nut spread. Keto made easy! And the items were completely free thanks to the thank an essential employee give away Perfect Keto did to show appreciation for essential workers during the covid-19 pandemic. Thank you Perfect Keto!

Leave me a comment with your best (or worst) cooking fail! As always, take care and God Bless!

Grab and Go

Mini Pot Pie

We do our absolute best to be as frugal as possible and have been trying to do so for some time. But one thing both of us struggled with was wanting the convenience of eating out. When I was not working I didn’t struggle quite so much with this. Now that I’m back to work and we’re rocking out the same schedule, it is actually hard to come home and cook.

Even with me working we want to be as frugal as possible. Simple fact, no one knows what will happen in the world in the coming days, weeks, months, and sadly, even years. So, we want to be as smart as possible. One simple way to save money is for us not to eat out. And of course simple does not necessarily mean easy.

So how will we continue to save money even with us both working? Well, prep work is definitely involved.

The plan is this! Our crock pot is about to get the workout of it’s life. And other than that I will have as many ready to go, easy to eat meals and snacks ready for us as I can without creating unnecessary waste. If we can have things prepped and ready to go for our work week, it’ll make sticking to our resolution that much easier. We were given a TON of food storage for my bridal shower so we have the storage to do it. All that’s left is making the food. This is what I came up with.

Mini Pot Pie

Filling:
1 lb meat of choice cubed (I used venison but you could use really any that you want)
5 C water (divided)
1/2 C peas
1/2 C corn
3 medium potatoes cubed
2 medium carrots, cubed
1 onion diced
dollop fresh garlic
pinch of rosemary
pinch of thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp cornstarch or flour

In a large skillet brown meat on high in a little olive oil or any fat of your choice, adding a little salt and pepper. Add onion and garlic, reduce to medium heat and cook until onions are caramelized. Add rosemary and thyme. Pour in 4 1/2 C water. Stir. Add vegetables and bay leaf. Cook on medium low heat until well cooked. Remove bay leaf. In a separate bowl mix 1/2 C cold water and 2 tbsp cornstarch. Bring pot back up to a full rolling boil and slowly add your water/cornstarch mix, stirring constantly as it will thicken very quickly. Turn off heat and set aside.

Simplest Pie Crust

2 1/4 C flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 C milk
1/2 C + 1 tbsp oil

Mix dry ingredients. Add liquid all at once, mix through. Roll out between wax paper or pie crust sheets. Voila! Done!

This pie crust recipe is simple, fool proof, and delicious. It is a little on the dense side which is what we want for these mini pot-pies as it would really stink to have the filling seep out from super fluffy pie crust!

So for the remainder of the recipe! I used a tart dish but you could use a muffin tin or actual mini pie tins. Roll out your pie crust and cut to fit your chosen pan. Fill with gravy mixture. Roll out a second layer of pie crust. Cut again. Place on top of each mini pie and pinch the edges to create a crust edge. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Remove from heat and let sit until cool. Remove from pan. Package and store as you like!

Next up! Bran muffins and breakfast biscuits! Keep checking in to get those recipes in the next couple weeks. And as always, take care and God bless!

Banana bread without a bread pan

No bread pan? No problem. Use a saute pan! As always, we’ll get straight to the good stuff and jump right into the recipe.

B-nana bread

1/2 C oil ($0.24)
1 1/4 C sugar ($0.34)
2 eggs ($0.22)
1/2 C milk ($0.11)
1 C mashed bananas (roughly 3 bananas) ($0.58)
2 C flour ($0.66)
1 tsp soda (> $0.01)
3/4 tsp salt (< $0.01)
Total: $2.15

Cream sugar, oil, eggs, and milk. Add flour, soda, salt. Mix well. Add bananas, mix very well. Oil pan and add batter. Bake at 350 degrees until done. Because the saute pan cooks the bread thin it will cook much faster than a regular loaf of banana bread. Should be done in 30-45 minutes.

Does anything smell better baking in the oven than banana bread? It’s such a warm and comforting smell. I remember as a kid my mom making banana bread quite frequently and for me the smell conjures up such pleasant memories. Sometimes she’d add nuts but more often she’d add chocolate chips. This basic recipe has neither but as with all of my recipes, feel free to play around and make it your own.

If you need to go gluten free this recipe works well with standard mixed all purpose gluten free flour. It also does very well with a 50/50 mix of almond and coconut flours. Stevia is an easy substitute for the sugar as well. Want a more buttery flavor? Use butter instead of oil and substitute butter milk instead of milk. And lastly apple sauce instead of oil will keep it moist but reduce the fat content if that’s a thing you worry about.

Now, taking that fear of fat and throwing it straight out the window! Who loves butter on banana bread? I know I do! One of my favorite ways to eat banana bread when it is no longer fresh from the oven is to melt some butter in a non-stick pan and gently fry the slice of banana bread in it over medium heat. You can flip it. I find doing this gives the bread a delicious crunch and irresistible butter flavor, but uses less butter than if I just slathered it in cold butter. So a win-win!

Prefer banana cake to bread? Simple fix. Double the recipe on everything except the flour. Keep that at 2 C. Top with cream cheese frosting and voila! Delicious! Need a simple but delicious cream cheese frosting recipe? Well bonus, here one is!

Simplest Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package cream cheese (softened)
1 stick butter (softened)
2 tbsp vanilla
3 C powdered sugar

Mix well! I use the food processor attachment on our blender but you could mix using hand beaters or even just by hand. We have the food processor attachment though and I’ve gotten spoiled. Mix until smooth, spread on top of your cooled cake! Bam! Delicious desert!

Whatever you do, whether you make cake or bread; choose frosting, butter, or just pain; enjoy yourself. Play around a little! Add chocolate chips or nuts or something else entirely! If you’ve got a unique add to banana bread let me know in the comments! Let me know if you try the bread or the cake! Comments are love and as always, take care and God bless!

Enter the Kitchen

The best place to begin is… well… the beginning. So let’s start there. This morning I woke up to the ping of an email, an email that would send my heart straight through my stomach and down so low it sat in my butt for a few good hours until I could work up the courage to move on and face the world again. Maybe that’s being a little dramatic but for real, it was an oddly earth shattering if very politely worded email informing me that the latest job I had lined up had fallen through much like all of its predecessors.

See last week I quit my job. I was an advocate at a very well respected domestic violence shelter but I was working overnights and quite frankly it was doing it’s best to kill me. I had been sick for the better part of two months, permanently exhausted, experiencing migraines that would last anywhere from one to six days (that’s right, DAYS, not hours) and my mental health was deteriorating at a rate that frightened myself and my fiance. So the decision was made. I needed to quit my job. Not wanting to be completely impulsive, I reached out to a former job and asked if they would hire me back and they assured me yes, they would. So I put in my notice and exhausted but hopeful, waited for my last day.

You know the saying “out of the frying pan and into the fire?” Well that’s kind of what happened here. I was no sooner done with my job than the new one I had lined up fell through. Never one to dwell for long, I cried for a couple hours, questioned my life choices, and then started applying for jobs. I had decent luck too. Twelve years of food service experience and roughly sixteen of customer service and I was pretty marketable. Within a couple days I had two job offers and although not life alteringly awesome, they were workable. Then Covid-19 became truly worrisome and the world stopped turning.

Again, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but that’s kind of what it feels like right now. On Friday I drove to a neighboring town to do some grocery shopping and while I was driving I was hit by the complete and all encompassing awareness that we are in fact living through history now. Whatever camp you’re in as far as Covid-19 is concerned, you would be hard pressed to deny that what we are currently experiencing will change the world and make history. Years from now they’ll teach our grandchildren about this pandemic in the same way that we were taught about Spanish Influenza and dare I say it? the Plague. A person should always be hopeful but as someone with a degree in history, I can’t help but feel I am reading the writing on the wall when I say hard economic times are ahead of us. If pressed to make a prediction, I would say that Covid-19 will affect the economy for years and that the recession in the early 2000’s was nothing compared to what lies before us.

Which brings us back to that email from this morning. Due to Covid-19 the country has ground to a stop. One could argue that the world has ground to a stop but I will stick to what I know and that is my own country. There’s something very heavy about being able to watch not only your president but also your governor, and your mayor declare a state of emergency. Piece by piece normal day-to-day life has slowed to a grinding halt, closing restaurants, bars, theaters, schools, daycare, and literally anything non-essential. And like a puff of smoke those two job offers I had disappeared.

Here I must insert another bout of crying and questioning life choices but I am very lucky in that I have been blessed to have the sweetest, most supportive partner to go through life with. My fiance has listened to me cry and freak out and wonder where on earth we’re going to get money to take care of things; then, when I’ve cried myself out he holds me close and tells me how we’ll make it. The number one and most crucial part of how we’re going to make it, is that we are going to get through this together. Second, he has a job that pays decently and there is generally no shortage of potential overtime. Cash will be tight but we should be able to meet our bills and make ends meet. Thirdly, given the fact that I have pretty bad asthma and the common cold can at times cause distressing airway problems, maybe this is for the best. So, based on a joint decision, I stopped looking and put the frantic search for work on the back burner until the pandemic clears up. My top priority now, is to keep our house, manage our finances, and ensure we have good food on the table every night.

Right here I would like to just say that I have never in my life looked down on stay-at-home moms or house-spouses but that has never before been an option for myself. I didn’t meet my fiance until I was thirty and by then I had long since come to terms with the fact that whatever I wanted in life I would provide, at least financially that is. Not working for financial gain was an utterly foreign and ultimately impossible concept. Because life costs money. Unless you live in the woods on land that is fertile and dotted with productive farm animals, life costs money. Rent, groceries, cars, gas, medicine, insurance, phones, internet, water, electric, etc. The list goes on and on. But we’re now in a place to have me stay home for a few weeks and I refuse to not be productive during this time. I love to cook and bake and keep house and I also love to write. So I thought, why not combine those passions and keep a blog of my adventures in frugal housekeeping. Here we go!

My name is B. I am currently unemployed and waiting out the pandemic in one of hundreds of cities affected across the United States. When life gives you lemons you make lemonade… or lemon bars… or lemon meringue pie… or lemon rice… or lemon chicken… you get the point. Click follow to get the latest in my frugal adventures. New posts daily. Comments are love. And as always, take care and God bless.