Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Restaurant Style Salsa

A reader asked me to try my hand at restaurant style salsa.  She had tried a variety of recipes, but just didn’t like the results that much.  I’ve made plenty of fresh summer salsa, but this one was new for me.  When I went online to look at some recipes, I was shocked at how many recipes there were, and how different from one another they were!  I made a few decisions off the bat: 
1.       I was not going to use Ro-Tel tomatoes for the simple reason that I’m not familiar enough with them. 
2.       I was going to have a lot of lime in mine; lime juice makes Mexican food pop and shine!  Look for limes that feel a little soft and have thinner skin, they’re the juiciest.
3.       I would use as little canned products as possible.  I figure that’s how they do it in the restaurants, right?

You will need

1 smaller onion, roughly chopped ($.25)

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes ($2.29)

½ bunch cilantro, roughly chopped ($1.99 per bunch, $1.99/2 = $.99)

Juice of 2 limes ($.50)

2 jalapenos, deseeded and roughly chopped ($.47)

½ tsp salt ($.47 per 26 oz, $.47/ 30.69 tsp = $.02 x .5tsp = $.01)

Just about everything except the cilantro ready to go.

Toss everything into a food processor or blender and blend till you like the way it looks.  I like mine really smooth.  Stick it in the fridge so the flavors will settle for at least an hour.  To really kick this up to restaurant level, serve the salsa with some homemade chips!

A few notes: I’m not much for spicy things, so I deseeded my peppers right over the compost.  This was probably a mistake, because it came out really mild.  Leave some seeds in there for an added kick.  Also, I fully intended to add garlic to this recipe, but I didn’t have any.  Feel free to add a couple cloves. 

How was it?  It was good.  It was not as good as my local Mexican restaurant makes, but good.  There is no way that I will be able to finish all this, so I’m going to freeze most of it.   

Try It

$4.51 for about 5 cups, or $.11/oz

Buy It

This is a little tricky, because I’ve never bought restaurant salsa, I’ve only ever enjoyed it with the complimentary chips.  If I buy salsa, I generally buy Pace.  Even though it’s not a fair comparison, I’ll use Pace since it’s what I would have bought.  $3.99 for 24 oz, or $.17/oz.


If I had a party coming up, or if you just use a lot of salsa in your everyday life, I’d Try It.  This recipe is so versatile- fix it up to suit your taste- more spice, chipotle peppers, or even some peaches!  Go nuts!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pancake Mix

I had a reader request for a Bisquick-like mix months ago, and I have finally gotten around to it!  It took very little searching to find a recipe on allrecipes, but once I did I was a little confused, because it called for powdered buttermilk.  Powdered buttermilk?  It sounded expensive and hard to find.  Then I remembered the good people at Yoder’sCountry Market and all the odd powdered things I had seen there, and sure enough, it was available and cheap (plus Spencer got to go see the animals, including his favorite “puffy turkey”)!
Who knew?

There were a couple reasons this one took me a while to get to: I don’t really use Bisquick, I’m more of a frozen waffle girl, so I didn't have a lot of personal incentive.  Plus, even though I knew this was what I was making this week, we got busy- Spencer started at a co-op preschool this week, and yesterday was my volunteer day.  On the upshot, that meant that this morning I had all to myself, and I decided there was no better time to fix myself some pancakes.  Note- this is a quarter of the original recipe, I didn’t want to make a ton.

You will need

2 cups flour ($3.29 per 5 lb, $3.29/80 oz = $.04 x 11oz = $.45)

½ cup powdered buttermilk ($3.39 per lb, $3.39 x .125lb = $.42)

2 Tbsp sugar ($3.67 per 5 lb, $3.67/80 oz = $.05 x .94oz = $.05(ish))

2 tsp baking powder ($1.59 per 10 oz, $1.59 per 10oz, $1.59/59.06 tsp = $.03 x 2tsp = $.06)

1 tsp baking soda ($.69 per 8oz, $.69/50.38tsp = $.01)

½ tsp salt ($.47 per 26 oz, $.47/ 30.69 tsp = $.02 x .5tsp = $.01)

Mix everything up and store in an airtight container.

To make pancakes, mix 1½ cups of the powder with 1 egg, 1 cup water, and 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used melted butter instead), and let it sit for a few minutes.  Heat a frying pan over medium to medium low heat, and add a little butter.  Pour in the batter to your preferred size, and let it sit till there are bubbles forming all over the pancake (not just the edges).  Flip the pancake and let it sit just until the pancake puffs.  Enjoy!
Yep, looks like pancake batter.
So how were they?  Really tasty.  My only real memory of Bisquick is from childhood, when my mom used to make pancakes on occasion.  Mostly what I remember about them were that they were oily, undercooked, and a little burnt on the outside (sorry, Mom, but it’s true!).  The flavor was the same, but without the consistency issues.  They were fluffy and soft, a nice treat to enjoy by myself in my temporarily quiet home!

Try It

$1.00 for 12.5oz, or $.08/oz

Buy It

$3.99 for 40oz, or $.10/oz.


If you are already a pancake mix user, Try It, it takes longer to pull the ingredients out of the cabinet than it does to get the mix ready!

Monday, January 2, 2012


I attended arguably the “crunchiest”college in the US- we had our own organic farm and garden, solar powered golf carts for the work crews, a compost so awesome it allowed bones, and it was not unusual to have multiple barefooted people in a class.   Somehow though, this is the first time I have ever felt inclined to make my own granola, spurred by my sister in Chile who misses the stuff, and can’t seem to find it abroad. 

I started searching the web for a recipe, and found that there were a MILLION, and they’re all really different.  So I thought I’d try two- one recipe that involves mostly things you might have in the pantry, and one that’s more… involved.  First for the simple one, found on All Recipe- Cinnamon Raisin Granola:

You will need

4 cups organic old-fashioned oats ($1.49 per lb, $1.49)

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut ($3.49 per 12 oz, $3.49/4.13cups = $.85)

1/4 cup packed brown sugar ($.99 per 16 oz, $.99/ 2.35 cups = $.42 x .25 = $.11)

1/4 cup vegetable oil ($3.37 per 48 oz, $3.37/ 48oz = $.07 x 2oz = $.14)

1/4 cup honey ($2.99 per 12oz, $2.99/12oz = $.25 x 2oz = $.50)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon ($1.97 per 2.37oz, $1.97 x .067 oz = $.13)

1 1/2 teaspoons homemade vanilla extract ($.01 per ml, $.01 x 7.38 ml = $.07)

1 cup raisins ($2.49 per lb, $2.49 x .33 lb = $.82)
Syrup is ready to pour

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix the oats and coconut together, set aside.  Add all remaining ingredients except the raisins in a saucepan, bring to a full boil, and pour the syrup over the oat mixture, and mix thoroughly.  Pour it onto a large rimmed baking sheet and spread it out (I patted it down to induce clumps, but I don't think it actually did anything).  Bake for 20 minutes, turning once, until it's lightly brown.  Leave it in the pan till completely cool, mix in the raisins, and store in an airtight container.
It was really simple, it made my kitchen smell delicious, and it actually held some clumps (I love clumps). Mmmm.
My 2 year old loves this stuff!
And now for the more involved, also from All Recipe- “Megan’s Granola”, slightly tweaked for personal preference.  If, like me, you aren’t the type of person to keep things like oat bran and flax seeds in the house, this is where Whole Foods or your local natural food store comes in really handy.  Buy them in bulk and you can get only as much as you need for the recipe, they're cheaper that way, anyway.

You will need

4 cups organic rolled oats ($1.49 per lb, $1.49)

¾ cup wheat germ ($2.79 per 16oz, $2.79/ 3.5cups = $.79 x .75 cups = $.59)

¾ cup oat bran ($1.99 per lb, $1.99 x .24lb = $.48)

½ cup flax seeds ($1.99 per lb, $1.99 x .19lb = $.38)

1 cup finely chopped almonds ($8.39 per lb, $8.39/16oz = $.52 x 3.5oz = $1.84)

¾ teaspoon salt ($.47 per 26 oz, $.47/ 30.69 tsp = $.02 x .75 = $.02)

¼  cup brown sugar ($.99 per 16 oz, $.99/ 2.35 cups = $.42 x .25 = $.11)

2 tablespoons maple syrup ($12 per 16oz, $12/16oz = $.75)

¼  cup and 2 tablespoons honey ($2.99 per 12oz, $2.99/12oz = $.25 x 3oz = $.75)

½  cup vegetable oil ($3.37 per 48 oz, $3.37/ 48oz = $.07 x 4oz = $.28)

½  teaspoon ground cinnamon ($1.97 per 2.37oz, $1.97 x .067 oz = $.13 x ½ = $.07)

½  teaspoon homemade vanilla extract ($.01 per ml, $.01 x 2.46 ml = $.02)

1 cup sweetened dried cranberries ($4.69 per lb, $4.69/16oz = $.29 x 4.5oz = $1.32)

Preheat the oven to 325.  Mix together the oats, wheat germ, oat bran, flax, and almonds, set aside.  Add all remaining ingredients except the cranberries to a saucepan and bring to a full boil.  Pour the syrup over the dry ingredients, mix thoroughly, and pour into a large rimmed baking sheet.  The recipe says to bake for 20 minutes, turning once, but mine didn't crisp up enough.  I would recommend a little longer, or baking at 350.
This one is definitely a more complex flavor than the basic cinnamon raisin variety, I really love this one!
Much tastier than it appears in this terrible picture from my phone...

Try It

The Cinnamon Raisin was $4.11 for 1.47lb, or $2.79/lb, and Megan’s was $8.10 for 2.47lb, or $3.28/lb

Buy It

The bulk granola I used to buy at Whole Foods is $3.49/lb.


Making granola was really easy, and it’s very flexible.  As long as you have enough syrup to coat everything, you can put just about anything in it.  I would say Try It.