Vanilla Cupcakes (small batch)

Sometimes you just need something sweet! I have a sweet tooth, so my sometimes may be more often than yours. However, I think you will want to save this recipe as it is quick, inexpensive, and only make half a dozen cupcakes!

James and I live in a divided household regarding cupcake flavors. He is a chocolate fan and I am a vanilla fan. If you are like James, you may prefer our recipe for small batch chocolate cupcakes (click here for recipe). If you are like me, or don’t have cocoa powder on hand, continue on with this recipe!

A few notes on this recipe:

You can use oil or butter for the batter. I find that oil mixes in a little bit better, and results in a slightly more moist cupcake. It is also usually less expensive.

Only use 1/2 of an egg for this recipe. If you use the full egg, the cupcakes will taste like eggs! I tried and was not a fan… A simple way to split the egg is to lightly mix it in a bowl and use half of it.

For six cupcakes, only fill the cups 1/2 way full. This will result in regular-sized cupcakes. If you fill beyond 1/2 of the way full, you will need to cook them a bit longer and the recipe will only make 4-5 cupcakes.

Add the milk slowly when making the frosting. If you add too much milk, the frosting will be a bit runny. If it is too runny, add more powdered sugar.

Cost Analysis:

These cupcakes are pretty inexpensive to make at about $0.20 a piece.

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020 Your total cost may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

  • Difficulty: easy
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These vanilla cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream frosting are easy-to-make and delicious. The cupcakes cost about $0.20 a piece, and the recipe only makes six cupcakes!

Ingredients

    For the cake:
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (or softened butter)
  • 1/4 cup + 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 large egg (gently mix egg and use half of it – or about two tablespoons)
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the frosting:
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 8 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/3 to 1/2 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Mix granulated sugar and oil together. Add 1/2 of the egg to the mixture and stir until combined.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly stir into the oil mixture, and beat until combined.
  3. Stir in milk and vanilla extract. Gently beat batter until it is smooth. Be careful not to over-mix the batter.
  4. Line a muffin tin with paper liners (or grease) and pour batter into cups. Fill 1/2 of the way full. If you would like over-sized cupcakes, fill 2/3 of the way full and the batter should make 4 cupcakes. Otherwise, it should make 6 regular-sized cupcakes.
  5. Bake for 14-18 minutes. Check with a toothpick. It should come out clean when the cupcakes are done.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the muffin tin for 1 minute. Remove from muffin tin and allow to cool completely prior to frosting.
      For the frosting:

    1. Mix softened butter, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla with a mixer on low speed. It should form a thick buttercream. Make sure you add the milk slowly, starting with 1/3 tablespoon. If you add too much milk, the frosting will be runny.
    2. Frost cooled cupcakes.
    3. Enjoy!

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Roasted Breakfast Potatoes with Easy Homemade Seasoning

Crispy, salty breakfast potatoes are a key component of a lazy morning breakfast. This recipe combines a few basic spices and seasonings with some oil and a potato. The result is our favorite roasted potatoes.

A few notes:

This recipe is for one generous portion of breakfast potatoes, but can easily be multiplied to create more servings.

I used a yellow potato for this recipe, but I sometimes use russet potatoes. Either is fine. If you use russet potatoes, make sure to peel them first. I do, however, leave the skin on my yellow potatoes.

I use Kosher salt for my roasted potatoes, but you can substitute table salt. Sometimes the Kosher salt will give the potatoes a bit of a gritty texture (which I like), but you may not.

If you don’t have Italian seasoning, you can substitute a different dried herb of your choice. Perhaps parsley or rosemary.

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your total cost may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Roasted breakfast potatoes with easy homemade seasoning

  • Difficulty: easy
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These crispy, roasted potatoes are the perfect side dish for a great breakfast. This recipe makes one generous serving, but can easily be multiplied.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow potato with the skin (or a medium peeled russet potato)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika powder (sweet)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (or table salt)
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Dice potatoes into quarter cubes.
  3. Combine garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, italian seasoning, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Add olive oil to the bowl and mix until a runny paste forms.
  4. Add diced potatoes to spice mix and toss until combined.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread potatoes on baking sheet.
  6. Bake potatoes for 25-30 minutes in oven. Check halfway through and flip.
  7. Enjoy! (I eat mine with tomato ketchup)

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Chocolate Cupcakes (small batch)

My sweet tooth has been a little out of control lately. Since James is a chocolate fan, I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream frosting. If you prefer vanilla, you may like our small batch vanilla cupcake recipe.

As a family of two, large batches of baked goods can be problematic. We either eat all of the treats (bad for the waistline) or don’t eat all of the treats (waste of food and money). So, this recipe is perfect for us. It makes four cupcakes that cost about $0.37 a piece (see below for a cost analysis).

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your total cost may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

For the cake:

For the frosting:

Recipe:

Small batch chocolate cupcakes

  • Difficulty: easy
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These dark chocolate cupcakes with thick chocolate buttercream frosting are rich and delicious. The recipe only makes four, so you could eat the whole batch…

Ingredients

    For the cake:
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg (at room temperature)
  • For the frosting:
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 7 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder
  2. Beat softened butter into the mixture of dry ingredients.
  3. Beat in water and vanilla for 2 minutes. If using a hand mixer, set it to medium speed.
  4. Beat in egg for an additional 2 minutes.
  5. Line a muffin tin with paper liners (or grease) and pour batter into cups. Fill the cups 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full. If you would like over-sized cupcakes, the batter should make 4 cupcakes. Otherwise, it will make 5-6 regular-sized cupcakes. Note: filling beyond 1/2 of the way full may cause your cupcakes to form a muffin-like top. If you prefer cupcakes without this, only fill 1/2 of the way full!
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Check with a toothpick. It should come out relatively clean when the cupcakes are done.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the muffin tin for 1 minute. Remove cakes from muffin tin and allow them to cool completely before frosting.
    1. For the frosting:

      1. Combine softened butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl and mix with a mixer. After a minute or two, it should form a thick buttercream. If it is too thick, add a little bit of extra milk and mix until smooth.
      2. Frost cooled cupcakes.
      3. Enjoy!

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Basil Lemonade

I like fresh lemonade, and we are currently having hot, sunny weather. Unfortunately, we don’t have any lemons in the house. Thankfully, you can make lemonade from lemon juice concentrate that tastes deceptively like the real thing!

I made my lemonade with fresh basil leaves. You can omit the basil, or use a different fresh herb.

Also keep in mind that you can easily tweak this recipe to your liking. If you like really tart lemonade, cut the sugar or add more lemon juice concentrate.

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your actual costs may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Basil Lemonade

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This fresh basil lemonade is easy to make and can be made with lemon juice concentrate.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of ice cold water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice concentrate (or fresh lemon juice)
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 2 basil leaves, optional
  • Ice, optional

Directions

  1. Combine water, lemon juice, sugar, and basil leaves in a small blender.
  2. Blend ingredients until you can no longer see the basil leaves. Note – the lemonade will be frothy from the blending process.
  3. Add a few ice cubes to a glass. Then, pour the lemonade into a glass. If you do not like the froth, pour carefully or strain. Or, refrigerate the mixture to allow the frothiness to decrease.
  4. Garnish with a basil leaf if you are feeling festive, and enjoy!

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Easy Overnight Oats with Raspberries

For many years, I commuted an hour each way to work, and left very early in the morning. In an effort to maximize my sleep, I started making overnight oats every evening so I had access to a convenient breakfast the next day.

The base recipe of oats, milk, and peanut butter has remained the same, although I have used both powdered and regular peanut butter. Powdered peanut butter mixes well, but is more expensive than regular peanut butter. The base recipe has a cost of approximately $0.52, but the toppings can add up quickly.

The recipe I enjoy the most includes whole flax seed, almonds, and raspberries. I found that this keeps me full until lunch, and adds some much needed fiber to my diet. However, cheaper combinations I have used include using dried fruit (like cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc.), nearly any sliced or chopped nut is pleasant, and other fresh berries (such as strawberries and blueberries).

I used to add all of the toppings prior to refrigeration, but the meal ended up too soggy for me. I also used to make multiple servings ahead of time, but the quality becomes marginal by the third day. So, I would recommend making it nightly and adding the toppings just before eating.

The cost of the raspberry overnight oats is a pricey $1.39. Consider alternate toppings to significantly reduce your daily cost. See below for the cost breakdown.

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your total cost may differ.

Night Before:

In the Morning:

Recipe:

Easy Raspberry Overnight Oats

  • Difficulty: easy
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An easy and tasty breakfast with a nutty flavor and a mixture of texture.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter or peanut butter powder
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup raspberries

Directions

  1. Combine oats, milk, and peanut butter in a bowl with a tight fitting lid (or use a mason jar).
  2. Seal bowl and refrigerate mixture for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
  3. Before consuming, mix in toppings of your choice. This recipe includes flax seed, almonds, and raspberries, which results in a pleasant nutty taste and a mix of textures.
  4. Enjoy!

-James

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Fast, Easy, & Delicious Pasta

My college cafeteria served made-to-order pasta. It was great. Perhaps it was a little too great, as I gained 10 pounds during my first year of college…

In the cafeteria, a cook would allow you to select your garlic, oil, sauce, vegetables, meat, and pasta noodle shape. As a frequenter of the pasta station, I sampled a variety of made-to-order dishes. Now, easy pasta dishes are my go-to lazy meal. You can use up the produce you have in your home, and make the pasta dish to your taste.

For me, a great lazy pasta dish only requires:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Some form of tomato (grape, diced, or even canned)
  • Pasta

Other add-ins I like include:

  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh herbs
  • Other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, peppers, etc.

The olive oil and tomatoes form a light sauce. The addition of garlic, cheese and fresh herbs makes it a great light dish for summer. If you want something heavier, consider adding butter, additional cheese, and meat.

The pasta we had last night incorporated fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, and two types of cheese. The cost was $1.71 per person (see below for cost analysis).

Cost Analysis:

Note: The costs are based on what I paid for ingredients in 2020. Your total cost may differ.

Recipe:

Quick & Easy Pasta Dish

  • Difficulty: easy
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An easy and versatile pasta dish.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
  • 1 1/4 cups grape tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 4 ounces pasta (I used fettuccine, but any shape will do)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (or balsamic vinegar)
  • Additional add-ins: mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil or other herbs, other vegetables!

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil on medium heat. Separately, boil water in a saucepan and prepare pasta noodles per box instructions.
  2. Add finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt to the olive oil and allow the onion to cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and 1 cup of grape tomatoes, and any additional vegetables. Allow mixture to cook for a few minutes in the oil. Add lemon juice.
  3. Allow this mixture to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, until onion and tomato are softened.
  4. Mix pasta noodles into the tomato sauce.
  5. Top with 1/4 cup of uncooked tomatoes (if desired). I like this for the texture, but you could choose to cook all of the tomatoes.
  6. Top with cheese, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Enjoy!

What are your go-to lazy meals?

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Low-Cost Gifting: Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

One of the best smells in the whole world is the aroma of cinnamon roasted nuts. I associate it strongly with fairs and carnivals, and with wandering around with a little paper cone of nuts in my hand, trying not to devour the pricey little treat too quickly.

Fortunately for me (and for you), cinnamon-roasting your own almonds at home is easy, inexpensive, and just as delicious as the ones you can buy at fairs and carnivals. I have even given glass jars of cinnamon-roasted almonds as very successful (and budget-friendly at $3.64 per batch) gifts on several occasions. People never fail to be impressed and delighted with this tasty treat! If you are interested in more creative ways to save on gift giving, visit our post here!

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

  • Difficulty: easy
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Sweet, savory, and crunchy. The perfect thrifty gift, or a great homemade treat!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups natural almonds
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (white sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.
  2. Heat a large frying pan on medium heat.
  3. Add water, sugar, and cinnamon to the frying pan. Mix it thoroughly and wait for it to come to a low boil.
  4. Add the almonds and stir slowly and constantly in a circular motion. Scrape the sides of the frying pan to keep the sugar from building up.
  5. When the water/sugar mixture begins to form a thick syrup, remove the pan from heat and pour the almonds onto the baking sheet. (Note: It is hard to gauge when to remove the almonds. If the sugar starts to form granules, take it off the heat immediately).
  6. Allow the almonds to cool for 15 minutes before enjoying.

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Small Batch Peanut Butter Oat Breakfast Bites

James’ previous job required an hour long commute. He often left early in the morning, and he did not have time to sit down for a lengthy breakfast. During this time period, I started making these breakfast muffins on a weekly.

The muffins have just about everything. You get a little maple syrup, oats, cinnamon, peanut butter, and chocolate in every bite. They are quick to make and easy to transport. Win win!

I prefer to make a small batch (about 6 muffins) because they are really only good for a few days. However, this batch can easily be doubled or tripled.

Despite the amount of flavor in these bites, they are relatively inexpensive. My cost analysis (see below) comes out to about $0.28 per muffin. You could always ditch the chocolate chips to save a few cents, but where is the fun in that?

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Small Batch Peanut Butter Oat Bites

  • Difficulty: easy
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These delicious breakfast muffins pack a lot of flavor into every bite. Peanut butter, oats, cinnamon, chocolate...need I say more?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats (uncooked)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Add egg and oil to the dry ingredients and mix.
  4. Mix peanut butter, maple syrup, and vanilla into the mixture.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Line a muffin/cupcake tin with liners or light grease.
  7. Fill muffin tin cups about 3/4 of the way full.
  8. Bake for 14-18 minutes. The muffins should be lightly browned.
  9. Allow to cool and enjoy!

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Pea & Parmesan Risotto

I had a dish similar to this one on a vacation about five years ago, and I absolutely loved it. The dish was delicious, so of course I attempted to recreate it! I have tried a number of variations (including topping with fresh pea sprouts, omitting the additional peas, and experimenting with dried basil), but the recipe I am including in this post is the one I make the most often.

Concerning modifications, I don’t think the pea sprouts are worth the extra cost, but are a lovely topping if you are serving to dinner guests. I also prefer the dish with fresh basil, but have made it a number of times with dried basil. I use frozen peas, but it is good (if not better) with fresh peas. The great thing about cooking is that there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. So, use what you have and enjoy!

Side note: I love bread. I almost always serve rosemary focaccia bread (click here for recipe) with this risotto. I think it is a stellar combination!

From a cost perspective, the dish cost us about $1.50 per serving to make. An obvious way to make the dish cheaper is to either make your own vegetable stock or use a stock cube. I usually pay for pre-made broth, which makes the dish a lot more expensive than it needs to be.

Frugal Cost Analysis:

Note: This cost analysis is based on what I paid for my own ingredients in the year 2020. Actual prices may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Pea and Parmesan Risotto for $1.50 per serving

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This easy and delicious risotto combines frozen peas, fresh basil, and Parmesan cheese, which results in a delicious vegetarian meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 32 ounces vegetable broth + hot water, if needed
  • 10 ounces frozen peas (you don’t need exactly 10 ounces. Less is fine. If you love peas, more is fine!)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 fresh basil leaves
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat vegetable broth in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat.
  2. Heat frozen peas following bag instructions. Note: Steam in the bag frozen vegetables are more expensive, but quite convenient for this recipe.
  3. Add butter to a large saucepan and and heat using medium-low heat. After it is heated, add diced onion. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until onion is softened. Stir the onions occasionally, and do not allow them to burn.
  4. Increase heat to medium and add arborio rice. Cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. While the rice is cooking, add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and 1/2 cup of peas to a blender. Also add 4 fresh basil leaves (or a pinch of dried basil). Blend until smooth. Set aside for use later.
  6. Reduce heat of the large saucepan to medium-low. Add a ladleful of broth to the rice. Stir (you will need to stir frequently throughout the entire broth process). Once the broth is absorbed, add another ladleful of broth. Continue this process until the rice is tender. (I generally taste the rice to confirm it isn’t still crunchy). This process will likely take 20-25 minutes. If you use up all of the broth, continue with hot water.
  7. Remove from heat. Add pea puree and stir. Add shredded Parmesan cheese and stir. Add remaining peas and stir. Allow to set for about 3-5 minutes.
  8. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt (if desired). Enjoy!

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15 Minute Dangerously Delicious Lava Cakes

Before making these lava cakes, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I like chocolate?
  2. Do I have 15 minutes?
  3. Do I have $2?

If you answered yes to all of the above, you should proceed!

These lava cakes are one of my default recipes for entertaining. They are delicious and can be ready in just 15 minutes! My recipe is a modified version of a recipe I saw on Kraft’s website a few years ago (click here for original recipe).

The cost computation revealed that the lava cakes cost about $0.50 per person (without any whipped cream). See below for details:

Cost Analysis:

Please note, costs are based on what I paid for my ingredients. You costs may vary.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

15 Minute Dangerously Delicious Lava Cakes

  • Difficulty: easy
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Gooey and delicious lava cakes that are easy, quick, and relatively frugal at $0.50 a piece!

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces of baker’s chocolate (I use semi-sweet)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • a few sprays of cooking spray
  • chocolate syrup and whipped cream, if desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cut butter and chocolate into pieces, place in a large microwave-save bowl (I use a large glass measuring cup), and microwave until the butter is melted. It usually take about a minute in my microwave on HIGH.
  3. Stir the butter and chocolate mixture until the chocolate is fully melted.
  4. Add powdered sugar and stir. Add egg and egg yolk and stir. Add flour and stir.
  5. Spray a cupcake tin (or small ramekins) lightly with cooking spray.
  6. Pour batter (about 3/4 of the way full) into cupcake tins.
  7. Bake 8 to 9 min. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  8. Use a butter knife to gently remove lava cakes from cupcake tin.
  9. Garnish with chocolate syrup and whipped cream!

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