Homemade Small Batch Pretzels

For me, soft pretzels conjure up happy memories of snack stations in the local mall of my childhood and sunny days at the State Fair.

While they are mostly a nostalgic food for me, soft pretzels are one of my mom’s favorite salty treats. A few days ago, my mom came over to my house to spend an afternoon together. When the time came to consider a snack, the subject of soft pretzels came up. Since we live several hours from the nearest mall that sells soft pretzels, we decided to make our own.

These soft pretzels are easy to make and delicious! They have a rich, chewy texture, with a pleasant, golden crust. A brush of butter and dash of kosher salt adds some wonderful, salty flavor to this decadent treat.

A few notes on the recipe:

Shaping the Pretzels:

Forming a pretzel is EASY! This recipe should result in four pretzels. Cut the dough in four relatively equal pieces. Starting with one piece, roll it until it is about 18 to 20 inches long (step 1). Then, form a circle with the two ends overlapping (step 2). Next, overlap the ends (twist them) one more time (step 3). Finally, fold the ends toward the circle and press the ends down to form the traditional pretzel shape (step 4). Repeat the process to form the remaining three pretzels.

Baking Soda Bath:

Soft pretzels should be given a baking soda bath prior to baking. This should result in a chewier pretzel. To complete the baking soda bath, combine three cups of water and 2.5 tablespoons of baking soda in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, dip the pretzels in the mixture for 20-30 seconds, and remove with a slotted spoon or spatula.

Cost Analysis:

I was, frankly, shocked when I did the price analysis for this recipe. Pretzels are a great inexpensive snack at $0.09 a piece!

Please note – the cost is based on what I paid for ingredients in the year 2020. Your actual costs may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Homemade Soft Pretzels (Small Batch)

  • Difficulty: Easy
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This small batch pretzel recipe results in four delicious, buttery soft pretzels in about half an hour.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon (heaping) active dry yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • kosher salt or sea salt, to taste
  • cooking spray
  • For the baking soda bath you will also need:
  • 3 cups water
  • 2.5 tablespoons baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine warm water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Allow the yeast to dissolve for about one minute. Then, add sugar and table salt to the yeast mixture and stir until dissolved.
  3. Gradually add flour into the yeast mixture. You can use a dough hook on a stand mixer, or mix with a wooden spoon. Continue adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky, form the dough into a ball, and cover it with a thin towel or cloth. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, combine water and baking soda in a saucepan to create the baking soda bath. Heat the baking soda mixture on medium heat. It will need to reach a boil before you can “bathe” the pretzels. Also, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. (Alternatively, you can use a baking mat.)
  5. After the dough has rested, cut the dough ball into four relatively equal pieces. Starting with one piece, roll it until it is about 18 to 20 inches long. Then, form a circle with the two ends overlapping. Next, overlap the ends (twist them) one more time. Finally, fold the ends toward the circle and press the ends down to form the traditional pretzel shape. (There is a tutorial with pictures available on the website post). Repeat the process to form the remaining three pretzels.
  6. After the pretzels are formed, they will need a quick (20-30 second) baking soda bath. Carefully drop a pretzel into the boiling baking soda mixture, allow it to soak for 20-30 seconds, and remove it with a slotted spoon or slotted spatula. Allow the excess water to drip off, and place it on the lined baking sheet. Complete the same process for the remaining three pretzels.
  7. Top the pretzels with kosher salt and bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Once the pretzels are baked, melt a tablespoon (or two!) of butter and brush butter on top of the hot pretzels.
  9. Top with additional kosher salt, if desired, and serve warm! These pretzels are great plain, but can be served with nacho cheese dipping sauce. Enjoy!

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Banana Muffins (small batch)

A lonely brown banana seems to be a staple in most kitchens. I often throw my brown bananas into quick fruit smoothies (click here for an easy recipe), which is an easy way to get them off of the counter. But, sometimes you have to cave and make banana bread.

I enjoy a good slice of banana bread. There is something almost comforting about it. However, it is hard for James and I to finish a full loaf by ourselves. So, I prefer to make a small batch of banana muffins.

This recipe is quick, easy, and only makes four muffins. It also uses up one brown banana, and costs about $0.22 per muffin (see below for full cost analysis).

Cost Analysis:

Note – costs are what I paid for ingredients in the year 2020. Your actual costs may differ.

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Small Batch Banana Muffins

  • Difficulty: easy
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This small batch recipe results in four fluffy banana muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 overripe banana
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a muffin pan with liners (or grease).
  2. Cream butter and granulated sugar together in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Mash the banana in a small bowl.
  4. Add the mashed banana and egg white to the sugar mixture and mix until combined.
  5. Sift remaining dry ingredients together and mix into the sugar mixture.
  6. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
  7. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full (about 2 to 2.5 tablespoons each).
  8. Bake for 18-25 minutes, until muffins are lightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool and enjoy!

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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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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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Fresh Tomato Risotto – Wine Not Required!

If you are a risotto connoisseur, you may be surprised to see one major ingredient missing from this recipe: wine!

Wine may add a bit of flavor, but I find the risotto to be just as delicious without the wine. Plus you cut down on the overall expense of the dish! However, if you would like, you can add a 1/4 cup of dry white wine to the dish prior to adding the vegetable stock. 🙂

I make a few different risotto dishes, including a pea risotto and a pumpkin risotto. This is perhaps the most deluxe and expensive at $1.73 a plate, but it is absolutely delicious. We had it for dinner last night with a few slices of rosemary focaccia bread, and again leftover for lunch. I regret nothing!

Continue reading “Fresh Tomato Risotto – Wine Not Required!”

Chunky and Easy Homemade Vegetarian Tomato Sauce

Pasta is a cheap staple food in our household, but we haven’t found a jarred pasta sauce that we enjoy eating. So, this chunky vegetarian tomato sauce is one that we make relatively frequently. When we were newly married, we made the sauce about once a week. It is delicious by itself on top of pasta, and can be improved with the addition of cheese. You may even want to use the leftovers as a pizza sauce! Click here for that recipe. Enjoy!

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:

Chunky and Easy Homemade Vegetarian Tomato Sauce

  • Difficulty: easy
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Delicious chunky vegetarian tomato sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 can (14-15.5 ounces) diced tomatoes (I prefer low sodium petite diced)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 peeled carrot, or brown sugar to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning (or other dried herbs)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Melt the butter and oil together in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add finely chopped onion, garlic and celery to the melted butter and oil. Allow this mixture to saute over low heat for 5 – 10 minutes (until the celery is softened). Stir occasionally.
  3. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, dried herbs, and water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Also add in peeled carrot or brown sugar.
  4. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. The sauce should be thickened when it is done. Remove carrot prior to serving!

Small Batch Miniature Chocolate Chip Cookies for $0.11

I love chocolate chip cookies, but generally don’t want to be tempted by dozens of cookies. So, I compromise with the following recipe. It makes 16 miniature chocolate chip cookies.

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 miniature chocolate chip cookies

  • Difficulty: easy
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Delicious miniature chocolate chip cookies to meet your craving without breaking your budget or diet!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cups + 1-2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons SOFTENED butter (1/2 stick)
  • 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk (from a large egg)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet is our favorite)

Directions

  1. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Use 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon of flour in the initial mixture. Add additional tablespoon of flour (if needed) when you add the flour to the butter and egg mixture.
  2. Beat butter in a mixing bowl
  3. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract to butter and mix together.
  4. Add egg yolk to butter mixture and beat.
  5. Gradually add flour mixture and beat after each addition.
  6. The mixture will be relatively dry. Add chocolate chips and mix together with your hands.
  7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit and chill dough for 20 minutes.
  8. Use your hands to roll cookie dough into small balls (about 1 heaping tablespoon worth of dough) Note: The dough will be dry. Use your hands to squeeze the dough into balls.
  9. Place balls of cookie dough on a cookie sheet (spaced out as cookies will spread a bit)
  10. Bake for 8-9 minutes.
  11. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  13. Enjoy!

Homemade White Cheddar Popcorn – Super Easy!

We love white cheddar popcorn, but don’t like to pay for the bagged version at the grocery store. The King Arthur Flour Vermont Cheddar Cheese powder is a splurge at about $9 a canister, but results in a more economical popcorn treat! After analyzing the cost, you will pay approximately $0.22 for a nice hot bowl of cheese popcorn (see below for analysis).

Frugal Cost Analysis:

ItemIngredient Cost per UnitUnits Required for RecipeTotal Cost
Popcorn$ 0.47 per cup1/4 cup$0.12
Canola Oil$ 0.02 per tablespoon1.5 tablespoons$0.03
Cheese Powder$ 0.28 per tablespoon1 tablespoon$0.28
Total cost for 2 large bowls$0.43
Total cost for 1 large bowl$0.22
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:

Homemade White Cheddar Popcorn - Super Easy!

  • Servings: 2-4 depending on your appetite!
  • Difficulty: easy
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A stove-top version of white cheddar popcorn!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels
  • 1.5 tablespoon of oil (we use Canola oil)
  • 1 tablespoon of cheese powder (we use King Arthur Flour Vermont Cheddar Cheese powder)
  • Note: You may choose to add an addition 1/4 to 1/2 of a tablespoon of cheese powder
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Add oil AND five popcorn kernels to a medium or large saucepan. You don’t want to add all of the kernels until after the oil is HOT!
  2. Heat the saucepan on medium heat.
  3. Once the five popcorn kernels pop, add the remaining 1/4 cup of kernels.
  4. Allow the kernels to pop until you the popping slows and you don’t hear a pop every 2-3 seconds. (usually about 5 minutes on medium heat)
  5. Pour the popcorn in a bowl (do not add the cheese powder to the saucepan, as it will burn!)
  6. Shake 1 tablespoon of cheese powder over the popcorn.
  7. Stir the popcorn, add salt to taste, and serve!

Quick & Easy Guacamole

We love avocado, but avocados can be made even better when turned into this easy guacamole! We celebrated Cinco de Mayo by this year by loading up on 25 cent avocados.

Click here for some tips on keeping avocados fresh longer!

Picture Tutorial:

Recipe:

Quick & Easy Guacamole

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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A fast and delicious addition to any Mexican fare.

Ingredients

  • 1 avocado
  • a few spoonfuls of fresh salsa,
  • or a small roma tomato and 1/4 small yellow onion (diced)
  • 1/2 tsp dried cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, cube and mash your avocado.
  2. Add fresh salsa (or add diced tomato and onion)
  3. Mix avocado and fresh salsa (or diced tomato and onion)
  4. Add onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and lime juice
  5. Stir all ingredients together
  6. Serve with chips (or veggies if you prefer)!

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