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
  • Print

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!

Advertisements

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
  • Print

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!

Advertisements

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
  • Print

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!

Advertisements

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
  • Print

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

Advertisements

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
  • Print

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?

Advertisements

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
  • Print

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!

Advertisements

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
  • Print

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!

Advertisements
Advertisements

Easy Vegetarian Refried Beans

When we were newly married, we lived near an excellent Mexican restaurant. We didn’t eat there often, but when we did, I always got a dish that included refried beans. We no longer live near the Mexican restaurant, so I make them at home instead!

This recipe is delicious (and reheats reasonably well). It is a great side dish, but we often eat them as part of an entree. I use the refried beans as a filling in my tacos (in lieu of meat). I combine the beans with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and guacamole. It is absolutely delicious.

The beans are also relatively inexpensive. It costs about $1.65 to make a batch of the beans, and you should be able to get two entree-sized servings out of the batch. If you are serving as a side dish, you should be able to get four servings out of the batch. Enjoy! – Kristin

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:

Easy Vegetarian Refried Beans

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

These homemade refried beans are easy, delicious, and cost $0.83 per serving. You'll never go back to the can…

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder (more if you like them spicy)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime juice, optional
  • 1 can (14.5-15.5 ounces) pinto beans, NOT drained

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat.
  2. Add diced onion and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add garlic and chili powder and cook for an additional minute.
  4. Mix in the pinto beans (with liquid from can), the vegetable broth, and lime juice.
  5. Continue to cook the mixture on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to stir and mash (or mush if you prefer the term) the mixture periodically. The beans are ready when they thicken.
  6. Serve in tacos, as part of a taco salad, or as a side dish to any Mexican fare.
  7. Enjoy!

Advertisements

The Humble Egg Sandwich: Fast, Cheap, & Hearty

The humble egg sandwich is a fast, convenient, and relatively nutritious meal. Although this is usually something that I would consume for breakfast, I have eaten a lot of egg sandwiches for quick lunches or lazy dinners. At only 250 calories, with 11 grams of protein, the egg sandwich is also pretty nutritious and very cheap!


For many years, I had an hour-long commute to and from work every day. I often made one of these sandwiches, wrapped it in waxed paper, and ate it on the way to work.


If you want to make your egg sandwich even cheaper, use a slice of bread (or two) instead of an English muffin. (If you opt for 2 slices of bread, use a slightly larger bowl – at least 4 inches in diameter.) Although I usually top my egg sandwiches with nothing more than salt and pepper, feel free to experiment. Cheddar or pepper jack cheese, hot sauce, bacon, ham, fresh tomato, or even ketchup or mustard can liven up your sandwich.

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:

The Humble Egg Sandwich: Fast, Cheap, & Hearty

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Kick start your day with this hearty and convenient sandwich (or eat it for lunch, or dinner, or whenever…)

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 spray of cooking spray, or any oil to prevent sticking
  • 1 English muffin, bagel, or sliced bread
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Slice English muffin in half and place in toaster (or toaster oven).
  2. Spray a small bowl (about 3″ in diameter) with cooking spray or wipe with oil.
  3. Crack egg into bowl and scramble with a fork.
  4. Microwave egg on high for 1 minute, stopping every 15 seconds to allow the egg to “rest” for 10 second intervals. This will prevent the egg from exploding.
  5. Butter insides of toasted English muffin.
  6. Place egg “disc” inside the English muffin. Top with salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Enjoy!

Advertisements

Easy Summer Caprese Appetizer

It is a gorgeous summer day, and James and I wanted something light for lunch. We had some leftover crusty artisan bread (click here for recipe) and decided to make a lunch out of one of our favorite appetizers: easy summer caprese!

We had some fresh mozzarella, a few tomatoes that had seen better days, our trusty basil plant, and the leftover homemade bread. On a colder day, I would make make a toasty caprese sandwich (click here for recipe), but some days are just too warm for a grilled cheese!

A few notes: If you don’t have fresh mozzarella, you can use part of a block of mozzarella cheese (or even mozzarella cheese sticks). If you don’t have fresh basil, a pinch of dried basil will still be tasty! If you don’t have or want bread, this is delicious as a salad.

If you serve this as an appetizer, it will cost you approximately $0.60 per person (assuming you 4 servings). If you eat as a light meal, only plan on 2 servings. See the cost analysis below:

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:

Easy Summer Caprese Appetizer

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

An quick and easy appetizer perfect for a warm summer day.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf of bread (see artisan bread recipe)
  • 3 ounces of mozzarella cheese (fresh mozzarella if you have it)
  • 4 basil leaves, sliced (I keep a basil plant for economical fresh herbs)
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil + more for bread if desired
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Combine chopped tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil in a bowl.
  2. Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar to bowl.
  3. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. Mix ingredients.
  5. Serve with slices of bread (cut into half or quarters) or as a salad. If you would like, you can toast the bread and serve this as bruschetta! Advise your guests to put the mixture on top of the bread for optimal deliciousness!

-Kristin

Advertisements