Tag Archives: homemade

brown bag microwave popcorn

Did you know you can microwave popcorn simply in a brown paper lunch bag? This was making the rounds online ages ago, and I finally got around to trying it.

All you need is a standard brown lunch bag. They cost less than two cents each. I love that this package says “Packed with love“. I also love that I didn’t notice it until I looked at the photo I took.

I don’t think we’ve had these things in the house since Levi was little and we made puppets and birthday party loot bags out of them. Nostalgia.

With a little testing, I found 1/3 cup of kernels to be the magic number. Go up to 1/2 cup and you will either waste a lot of kernels or burst open the bag. With 1/3 cup the popcorn fits with a little room to spare.

Simply put the kernels in the bag. Some recipes call for oil or butter, but I wanted plain ol’ popcorn.

Fold twice at the top of the bag. Alton Brown uses staples, but doesn’t that go against the cardinal rule of microwave use? You don’t need staples. Put the bag upright in the microwave on high for 3 minutes. Listen as it pops, and just like store-bought microwave popcorn, you remove it when the popping slows to 2-3 seconds between pops. This could happen anywhere between 2 and 3 minutes.

I called Jess at work and said, “Why does anyone buy microwave popcorn?” My mind is blown. This is simple, cheap, and you can compost the brown paper bag when you’re done. It’s nice when the cheapest option is also healthier and better for the planet.

I can’t wait to share what we made with eighteen cups of that popcorn tomorrow.

brown bag microwave popcorn

Makes about 8 cups.

one standard brown paper lunch bag
1/3 cup popping corn

Unfold the paper bag and place the kernels inside. Fold the top of the bag over twice. Place upright in the microwave. Set the microwave to 3 minutes on high heat. Listen carefully, and stop when popping slows to 2 to 3 seconds between pops.



Filed under food, recipes

Make it from Scratch: vegan seitan nuggets

One of our biggest strides this year has been in the “buying less processed food” department. This is an exciting development. If we learned anything when we were eating for $5 a day, it was that making things from scratch beats any coupon hands down. Look at our homemade soy milk. The numbers are in: we spend about 53¢ on a half gallon of plain organic soy milk compared to the $2.69 store bought containers. A little quick math:

($2.69 – $0.53) x 2.5 (average half gallon containers per week) X 52 (weeks in a year) = $280.80 annual savings

Just like that, we trimmed $280 from our annual grocery budget by making one grocery staple at home. The more things we start making ourselves, the more we save. Another big budget saver for us lately has been cooking big batches of beans in the pressure cooker every week instead of buying cans. Organic canned beans aren’t cheap. I haven’t done the math, but there are significant savings there. This is the financial benefits alone. We are also creating less garbage and eliminating weird chemical ingredients from our food and its packaging.

The next step is to keep trying new recipes for food made from scratch. We need to find recipes we like that are easy enough to work into our busy schedule. Yes, our time is valuable, but we’re not superheroes for spending an extra 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there in the kitchen. Or even an hour or two when you are multi-tasking a few recipes at a time and making double batches of them all to stock up the fridge and freezer.

A big budget item for vegetarians can be meat analogues. All those veggie burgers, nuggets, and sandwich slices are spendy. For our budget and our health, we try not to buy that stuff too often. It is processed food, and it is easy to fall into the trap of buying and eating it a lot when things get hectic.

When I came across Joanna Vaught’s seitan nugget recipe, I was intrigued. I’ve made my fair share of homemade seitan, veggie sausage and burgers before. Never nuggets! I loved the way she compared the nutritional values of different nuggets. Hers win! So I decided to test them out.

They were a huge hit with the whole family. We loved them. In all honesty, of course we prefer the texture and the junk-foodiness of some of the store bought veggie nuggets. We don’t allow ourselves to buy them very often, though, so homemade nuggets will be a welcome addition to our dinner schedule. The recipe really was faster than some of my other homemade seitan making experiments. I made two batches pretty quickly, and plan to make more soon to put in the freezer.

Next up: I’m going to test out a couple of Vegan Dad’s lunch meat recipes(Veggie lunch meat and Hickory Smoked Veggie Turkey). Wish me luck.


Filed under food, goals

baked tortilla chips

This is the latest thing around our house. Baked tortilla chips made with real corn tortillas are nothing like those cardboard tasting “baked” chips from the grocery store. This is the perfect snack with a little salsa and crema, and lately it seems like they make it into taco salad almost once a week for dinner.

Here’s what you’ll need:

12 corn tortillas
4 teaspoons olive oil
smoked salt

special supplies:
Silpat mats or parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Cut the tortillas into triangles.

Next, layer the triangles and olive oil in a large bowl.

Then use your hands to toss them gently until all the triangles are lightly coated in oil.

Next put them in a single layer on cookie sheets lined with Silpat mats or parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. You can either fit them all onto two sheets or bake them in batches. If you want to bake both sheets at once, just check on them frequently. The closer they are to the element the quicker they can get a little too brown.

Bake about 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.


Filed under food, recipes

homemade soy milk

After spending years being reluctant to own yet another single-use kitchen appliance, we finally decided to take the leap and buy a soy milk maker. We chose this machine for its ability to make raw milks, excellent reviews, and a $10 off deal. We even decided to overlook the atrocious use of comic sans on the machine’s label. I think the final push was our consumption of homemade iced soy lattes over the summer coupled with a certain teenager’s consumption of bowls of cereal drowned in soy milk (bowls plural, as in more than one per day).

Once we had our new machine, we just needed to buy bulk organic soybeans from the co-op. They look so nice in this vintage mason jar, I may have taken too many photos.

Then we had to remember to soak 3/4 cup of beans overnight for 8-10 hours. We have mostly stopped buying canned beans, so we’re really good at this step. By morning, the soybeans are more than double their size!

Then you just fill the pitcher to a line, add the soaked beans, put the top back on, plug it in and push a button. It does its thing for less than 30 minutes and beeps at you when it is complete.

This is the okara, or soy pulp, you strain off when it is done. I thought this step would be harder or messier. You really just have to stir the okara around a bit to let all the liquid drain off. The cool thing is that you can use okara to make veggie burgers or other things, so more bang for your buck. Prepare to hear the results of some okara recipe testing in the near future.

Once it is strained, voila!

Well, okay, maybe not voila. We usually buy plain soy milk instead of vanilla. One of my pet peeves is making something savory and being stuck with nothing but vanilla soy milk in the fridge. Still, even the plain stuff is sweetened and flavored. So far we’ve made 4 batches and just added about a teaspoon of sugar per cup (or less), a couple pinches of salt, and sometimes vanilla. We have deemed this more than adequate. The only thing it isn’t good enough for yet is those iced soy lattes. The flavor isn’t quite as good as store-bought. However, we are really encouraged that we have the recipe so close when we’ve been making it less than a week.

Our next experiment will be to try the recipe in this video from Everyday Dish. I have high hopes about the secret ingredient: barley malt powder.

More to come on this topic! Like a cost breakdown, and perhaps a perfected recipe in the near future.


Filed under food

what’s for dinner?

Hectic week. Phew. How about you?

Dinner might have been spring rolls and dumplings from Trader Joe’s, but hey, at least we had homemade plum sauce from plums we scored at our community garden.

Recipe from Put ’em Up.

And! Our very first taste of our very first edamame.

Add that to the list of things worth growing again.

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Filed under food, garden

homemade cola syrup

I came across this recipe for homemade cola syrup in the New York Times, and I was intrigued. It’s adapted from the Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain I keep reading about. I adore ice cream sodas and the idea of the old fashioned soda fountain. I wouldn’t mind a new career as a full time soda jerk. Until we find a way to make that happen in Olympia, I will play around with homemade syrups and bump up bottling my own sodas on the agenda.

This list of ingredients is so fascinating, I had to photograph each one. Could they really come together to taste like cola?

star anise

lemon & lime zest



citric acid



orange zest

vanilla bean

brown sugar


I prepared myself mentally for this to be medicinal or weird.

I’m not sure how, but the flavor really screams cola! You can taste subtle bits of individual ingredients but they come together. You have got to try this. No, it doesn’t taste like a Coke. It’s homemade, so it’s so much better.

I can’t wait until the wife gets home for rum & (not) cokes!


Filed under food

day thirteen

(Click here for an explanation of the project.)

Here’s what we ate for $3.05 yesterday, January 14, 2011.


whole grapefruit $0.25
2 hard boiled eggs $0.34


whole wheat bagel $0.42
4 tablespoons hummus $0.24
3 clementines $0.66


1 cup green beans (frozen) $0.26
generous portion homemade potato gnocchi with tomato-porcini sauce $0.70
fresh grated parmesan $0.14

6 ounces stovetop espresso with 1 tablespoon markdown cream $0.04
(We keep sucking at snacks – we are going to try harder to plan and fit in enough snacks.)

total $3.05

We have been talking about making homemade gnocchi for awhile, but I finally got inspired one day when I started watching CHOW’s charming Cooking with Grandma videos. The Cooking with Grandma Paola video had her and her granddaughter making gnocchi together complete with homemade sauce.

I thought perhaps buying porcini mushrooms would break the bank. I headed downtown to Buck’s in search of mushrooms. God, I just love that place. There is always something amazing to discover. Not only did they have my mushrooms, but they showed me all these dried mushroom powders you can buy to add flavor to dishes and threw in a free sample of the espresso salt I was oohing and ahhing over. Can’t wait to try that!

The porcinis were the most expensive thing I’ve bought since we started this, but the $6.30 was for a triple batch of sauce, so after a momentary “Whoa!” I realized everything would be okay. It is funny how quickly my perspective of what is expensive for food has dramatically changed.

I knew this recipe was going to be cheap, but I can’t believe how cheap it turned out. We are now almost through that $1.98 10-pound bag of potatoes. I think the richness of this cheap meal comes from all the time and love that goes into making it, and those amazing porcini mushrooms. Even if you buy gnocchi, I highly recommend making that sauce.



4 pounds russet potatoes $0.79
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour $0.50
2 cups Tomato-Porcini Sauce $2.74
2 tablespoons unsalted butter $0.16

We froze half the gnocchi (uncooked) for another night, and split the other half between the 3 of us.

total = $4.19
for the half we ate = $2.10
split between 3 people = $0.70 each


2 cups loosely packed dried porcini mushrooms $6.30
1/2 bunch Italian parsley $0.50
6 large garlic cloves $0.06
1/2 small yellow onion $0.10
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil $0.52
2 tablespoons unsalted butter $0.16
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste $0.60

total $8.24
makes 6 cups
$1.37 per cup

washing the mushrooms

chopping the Italian parsley, onion, and garlic

ricing the potatoes

adding flour


the hardest part = rolling out, cutting, and shaping the dough

when they are almost done, they pop up and float on the top

Now to plan another dinner featuring the sauce, since we have 5 more cups!


Filed under food