Posts Tagged ‘cake’

Happy Valentine’s Day at Food Stamps Cooking Club

February 14th, 2013

Today’s the day for hearts n flowers…and chocolate…and love!

Today everyone is agog with fluttery hearts over Cupid’s big day. 

For people who struggle with food budgets every day, having to think about some special treat for their family might be overwhelming.  You might be a single parent with a job-two jobs, even-and money is one issue; time and energy are still issues, as well.  Ya gotta eat and making that happen is tough enough without extra pressure over a holiday!

Mother Connie’s advice is this:  KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Breakfast might be heart shaped toast with peanut butter and red jelly.  Simple enough and cost effective, right?  Right.

You might have cranberry juice in the house, especially if you are a WIC user.  That’s a festive beverage for a Valentine breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Prepare whatever you have on hand for your evening meal and garnish everyone’s plate with strips of red pepper, arranged in a heart shape.  Dessert could be red gelatin.  You might like to  put red hots into heart shapes atop applesauce.  If your food budget will allow, get a box of strawberries and slice them to look like hearts…arrange them on a plate and pass them at the table.

It is not written in stone that desserts must be chocolate or expensive or fancy.  Those things stress moms and dads out and might raise expectations for growing kids.  Really, less is more. 

Many parents lose sleep because they feel they must bake heart shaped sugar cookies.  Cookies are fun and fine but they are not necessary and they can stress the food budget as well as the resource of time.  People who are working and caring for a family are tired and don’t need more stuff to do or bake!  And really, with all those carbs and calories, who needs to eat more cookies? The same is true for cake…

One of the things families could benefit from is to turn OFF the TV and sit around writing notes to one another, listing all the reasons why you love your family members so.  The person who comes up with the longest list could win a muffin cup full of chocolate chips, a handful of nuts or a sammie bag full of raisins. The winner could also get the biggest strawberry in that box of berries you splurged on!  Valentine’s Day is a great reason to haul out the UNO cards and have a family game night.  

Kids don’t need presents or sweets or STUFF so much as they need to know they are loved and cared for.  When they grow up they won’t remember the toy they got; they WILL recall the fun they had on Valentine’s Day when the family got together and shared.

Valentine’s Day might be a terrific time to start a family tradition.  When our kids were small we were certainly living on a dime but we had a “Valentine Fairy” who brought little red goodies every year.  Over the years, they got red toothbrushes, red socks, red pencils, all sorts of trinkets that did not stress the budget.  As soon as they got home from school they would check the red laundry basket that the Valentine Fairy had left in the dining room.  Nobody got their unders in a wad and everyone felt loved and cherished.

Here’s hoping YOU feel loved and cherished.  Each of you Members is such a treasure; we do hope our ideas contribute to the quality of your lives.

Happy Valentines Day to each and every one of you!

~Connie Baum

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Food Stamps Cooking Club: Scratching the Surface of Desserts?

December 9th, 2010

If it's dessert and it's chocolate, have we scratched the winning lottery ticket?

Faithful Club Member and contributor, Maxine and I had a long back and forth email conversation awhile back about helping people learn to cook the old fashioned way: from SCRATCH.  Oh, we think it’s keen that there are zillions of ready-to-eat foods available but nothing beats the satisfaction of created food for those you love from simple ingredients combined to make lovely and delicious offerings.  Furthermore, cooking from scratch is very economical.

Bless Maxine’s heart.  She got busy and prepared this post just for those of you who are ready to step up and learn how to make frosting from scratch.  She has taken all the fuss and muss out and laid it out in easy to understand terms. Please leave Maxine some love in the form of a comment, won’t you? You are also welcome to send her a message:  Thanks, kids!  Here’s what she sent:

“I told you that I learned to cook before frosting came in a can. Unlike Connie, who just turned 33—again—I’m older than dirt.
In the late 1950s, you could buy frosting mixes in a box. We rarely used them—we were making our frosting from scratch. It was better, cheaper, not much additional effort and made more—a winning combination!

Today, I’m going to share a few simple recipes with you. They are mostly buttercream frostings that use powdered sugar, confectioner’s sugar, 10X sugar—whatever you call it, it is the same thing. And, at this time of year, you should be able to buy 2 lb. bags of powdered sugar-and brown sugar-on special for .99 or less. If you can afford it, pick up a couple of bags when it goes on sale, and you’ll be set for the year.

One recipe is for Seven-Minute Frosting, which takes-you guessed it-7 minutes to make! It uses granulated sugar and NO butter or other fat. Since it’s mostly air, one recipe makes a whole boatload. It’s the classic frosting for coconut cake, and it’s delicious on a devil’s food cake from a box, too. It’s also the cheapest icing you can make. Oh, yes, it impresses people, too, although I’m not sure why.

And speaking of cheap, the cheapest cake you can make is anything from a mix bought on sale and iced with Seven-Minute Frosting. Next cheapest is vanilla buttercream. If you have a “thing” for chocolate—and who doesn’t—get your fix from the cake mix.   All flavors are usually the same price.  Frost it with a “white” icing.  No cocoa to buy.

We’ll start with my favorite light chocolate frosting. The recipe was on the Hershey’s cocoa can over 40 years ago, and it’s still my fave. If you want a darker, almost fudgy frosting, just double the amount of cocoa.

This is a light chocolate frosting. For darker icing, increase cocoa to 1/2 cup.
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter or stick margarine   *It’s really better with butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup evaporated milk
dash of salt

Mix cocoa and powdered sugar. Cream part of this mixture with the butter until it is light and fluffy. Blend in vanilla and part of the milk. Add remaining cocoa/sugar mixture and blend well. Add remaining evaporated milk and beat to desired spreading consistency. Add more milk, if necessary.  Frosts two 9 inch layers.

To frost the top of a 13×9 cake, use 3 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1/3 cup butter, ¾ teaspoon vanilla and 1/3 cup evaporated milk.

6 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1/4 to 1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter until light. Beat in the orange rind, salt and lemon juice. Add the powdered sugar and orange juice alternately–start with 1/4 cup orange juice and add a few drops more at a time until the consistency is right. Beat until light and fluffy. Frosts two 9 inch layers.

To frost the top of a 13×9 cake, use 1/4 cup butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 4 teaspoons grated orange rind, a little more than 3 tablespoons orange juice, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and a dash of salt.

These recipes give you a good idea of what you need to make vanilla buttercream frosting.  That’s the beauty of scratch cooking—once you’ve mastered a recipe, you can figure out variations as needed. I don’t even think I have a recipe for it—I just use 6 to 8 tablespoons butter, 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1/3 to 1/2 cup milk to moisten, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and a dash of salt. Use the creaming technique described in the recipes above.
Want peppermint frosting? Add a couple of crushed candy canes to a recipe of vanilla buttercream frosting. I buy candy canes after Christmas for 75% off and use them all year. I don’t use peppermint flavoring, but you can experiment with it if you have a bottle.

If you’re making a 13×9 cake for an event, and want to take it in the pan, here’s a cooking tip from my late mother-in-law.  She and my FIL ran restaurants and I learned a lot from them.   Remove the cake from the pan and cool on a rack. Wash the pan, and return the cake to the clean pan. This looks and cuts so much neater! And it’s not THAT much more trouble.

Do you have a double boiler? I don’t, but I’m able to stack two same-diameter pans, and it works just as well.  Don’t put too much water in the bottom pan, or it will boil over.  A 2 quart double boiler, or something that passes for one, is needed for Seven-Minute Frosting. The recipe comes from the 1956 edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook.

Combine in top of double boiler—
2 egg whites (1/4 cup)
1-1/2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar OR 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
Place over boiling water and beat with electric mixer or rotary beater until mixture stands in stiff peaks. This will take — ta-da! — 7 minutes!   Scrape bottom and sides of pan occasionally. Fold in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Frosts two 8 or 9 inch layers. For 13×9 pan, reduce all measurements by half.

When you make Seven-Minute Frosting, you’re going to have two egg yolks left over. Either sub them for one of the eggs in the cake recipe, or add them to scrambled eggs for breakfast. Also, I’m not sure of the why of cream of tartar or corn syrup, but I suspect it is to keep the frosting from going to sugar.  NOTE: My cakes rarely last that long!


Users of food commodities, those who depend on food pantries or Angel Food Ministries for their food budgets will benefit greatly from Maxine’s “cooking class” and if you have an EBT card for SNAP or WIC you can easily see how these ideas will s-t-r-e-t-c-h your food dollars.

Maxine and I both are intent upon helping you.  We hope we exceed your expectations in that regard.

Thanks and welcome to those of you who are new in the Club House.  It’s always fun to look at the list and see that it is getting longer.  We also hope you enjoy the series of cooking tips we send your way after you join.

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links in this post.  Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated.  Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline.  Always do business with those you trust implicitly.