a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rainbow 4-layer cake---elegant and deceptively cheap and simple

When I first started this blog, I told you that, except on very rare occasions, all the recipes would be simple and cheap.

This elegant cake's look is deceptive! It is, in
keeping with the blog title and author, really
cheap, quick and simple! And looks even
better in "real life" than in the photo.
      At this very moment I am baking this rainbow cake for a party tonight. Looking at the photo you will think this is one of those rare occasions----and when I decided on posting this cake----that is how I remembered it.
     Actually it is cheap and simple and just fits in the elegant category---deceptively.  I have been making this cake for special occasions for 33 years and it always gets oohs and aahs!

The recipe and the photo comes from my well-worn and taped together 1978's Make-a-Mix Cookery book as "Mom's Spumoni Cake." I simply call it Rainbow Cake.

The cake can be made from your favorite chocolate cake recipe or from a boxed mix, baked in two 8" cake pans.  The elegance is in the frostings.

After baking layers according to recipe directions. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then cool on wire racks. Cut each cake with a serrated knife (I use a long piece of thread) to make two layers from each. Frost each layer with a different color of Rainbow Frosting. Stack layers. Do not frost sides.

Rainbow Frosting
1 cup milk
2 T flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 cube) butter or margarine, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar

2-3 drops each green, yellow and red food coloring
1/4 tsp each almond, lemon, peppermint and vanilla flavorings
3 T cocoa powder

In a small saucepan, combine milk, flour and salt. Cook over medium heat about 5 to 7 minutes, until thickened. Set aside and allow to cool.

Combine butter or margarine, shortening and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat well. Add to cooled milk mixture, beating constantly for about 7 minutes, until smooth.

Divide mixture among 4 bowls and flavor each as follows:

  1. Add the green coloring and the almond flavoring
  2. Add the cocoa powder and vanilla flavoring
  3. Add the red coloring and peppermint flavoring
  4. Add the yellow coloring and lemon flavoring.
When I first came across this recipe it was one I had to try because it sounded so intriguing (weird!). I have done that with a few other recipes that struck me the same way. Maybe I'll have to hunt them up and share them.

In the meantime, enjoy this one.

'til we eat again,
          Simply, Gail

Thursday, December 8, 2011

#9 What If . . . SUBSTITUTE INGREDIENTS---when the grocery shelves are empty!

Continuing the series to prepare you for a time when the store
shelves are empty and you have to get by on what you have on hand.
Has this ever happened to you?
Right in the middle of making something you discover you are out of an ingredient!
When that happens, it is helpful and handy to know what you can substitute in its place. Imagine how helpful it will be when the shelves are empty.

While these substitutions come in handy, the finished product may not be exactly the same as when you use the original ingredients called for in a recipe.  Again, experimenting is the best way to discover what works best for you. Sometimes the substitute regularly becomes the "original" ingredient!

Generally use only one substitution in a recipe. The more ingredients you substitute, the more chances of the finished product being "off."

Usually the substitute ingredients can just be added to the other ingredients. Rarely is there a need for them to be combined before adding to the other items----if making brown sugar, you do not need to combine the white sugar and the molasses before you combine them with the other ingredients.

Need  --- Substitutions

  • 1 T fresh herbs --- 1/3 to 1/2 tsp dried herb of same kind
  • 1 clove fresh garlic --- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garlic salt --- 1/8 tsp garlic powder + 7/8 tsp salt
  • 1 small fresh onion --- 1 tsp onion powder OR 1 T dried minced onion
  • 1 T prepared mustard --- 1/2 tsp powdered mustard + 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice --- 1/4 tsp cider vinegar

  • 1 cup whole fresh milk --- 1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water OR 1/3 cup dry milk + 1 cup water
  • 1 cup buttermilk --- 4 tsp vinegar or lemon juice + milk to make one cup (may need to let set a few minutes) OR 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup "half and half" --- 1 T melted butter + whole milk to make one cup
  • 1 cup cream --- 1/3 cup butter + 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup sour cream for baking --- 7/8 cup buttermilk or sour milk plus 3 T butter
  • 1 cup sour cream for dressings or casseroles --- 1 cup plain yogurt or 3/4 cups cup sour milk + 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup butter for use in recipes --- 2 sticks softened margarine + 1/3 cup vegetable oil + 1/2 cup buttermilk (beat until liquid is absorbed and refrigerate) OR 1 cup vegetable shortening + 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup tomato sauce --- 3/4 cup tomato paste + 1 cup water
  • 1 cup catsup --- 1 cup tomato sauce + 1/2 cup sugar + 2 T vinegar + choice of spice

Next Tuesday the post will continue with more substitutions.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making Spicy Scents for Cents

NEVER leave the pot unattended!
You can quickly, easily and 
for just a few cents. . .fill your 
home with simmering, spicy and welcoming scents.

Simmering Potpourri #1
3 T ground cinnamon
2 T ground cloves
1 T anise seed (optional)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 quart water
Combine all ingredients in large pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat. Add additional water as needed. Can be stored in refrigerator and reused several times.

Simmering Potpourri #2
 3 four-inch cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup whole cloves
1/2 lemon, sliced
1/2 orange, sliced

Combine above with 2 to 4 cups of water in a pot. Simmer over low heat. Add additional water as needed. Will keep several days in refrigerator.

Renewing the Scents of Dry Potpourri
Add new life to dried commercial potpourri mixes by simply stirring or shaking the ingredients. When that loses its effectiveness, sprinkle the mixture with a small amount of matching scented oil.

This method also works well with the commercial cinnamon-scented pine cones.

Price the Spice!
Spices can be expensive, especially when purchased in small bottles at the grocery stores. You can save lots of money by buying them in bulk.

Don't let the word "bulk" scare you off. You can purchase any amount from one ounce up. And, most spices and dried herbs are very light-weight.
A little research in your area will pay off in large savings.
Check around for bulk products at health food stores. This is a great time to let your fingers-do-the-walking. Following is a comparison of four of the spices used in the above recipes to let you see the varying prices. Each price is the price per ounce. The first price is the name brand price, the second number is the discount brand (or store brand) price and the last is the bulk price.

Ground Cinnamon 
Name brand---$1.89
Discount or store brand---$1.03
Bulk---45 cents
Ground Cloves
Name brand---$6.01
Discount or store brand---$1.54
Bulk---70 cents
Ground Ginger
Name brand---$3.20
Discount or store brand---$1.54
Bulk---45 cents
Ground Nutmeg
Name brand $3.02
Discount or store brand---$1.03
Bulk---45 cents

Note: These prices are from my "$imply Centsational Gifts" bookette from 1996. The prices have probably risen dramatically but the comparisons are comparable. If you can't find a place to buy in bulk, at least consider the store or discount brand.

And lastly---something they don't want you to know.  We are encouraged to throw out spices after one year. Most will usually last much longer than that but if you have older spices that have lost some potency,  just add a little more than called for to get the same results. When that is no longer effective then you can throw them out and replace them----hopefully from bulk sources!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Simply Yummy Eggnog Pie

Looking for a quick and simple elegant-seeming holiday dessert? 
Look no further!

Eggnog Pie
4-serving box of instant vanilla pudding
2 cups commercial eggnog
8 ounce carton frozen non-dairy topping, thawed

  1. Prepare the instant vanilla pudding, using the eggnog as the liquid. 
  2. Fold in the thawed topping, creating a marbled effect.
  3. Pile high into baked or graham cracker crust
  4. Sprinkle with nutmeg
  5. Chill
Flaky No-Roll Pie Crust
This recipe works for both baked and unbaked crusts. It doesn't lend itself to the creation of a pretty crimped edge but it is flaky, delicious, quick and easy. Most of those who have tried it call it their crust of choice.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 T milk
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

  1. With a fork, in a small bowl, beat oil and milk together until milky-colored.
  2. In a 9-inch pie pan, thoroughly combine the flour, sugar and salt.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the oil-milk mixture.
  4. Mix with a fork until combined.
  5. Using fingers, press the dough to cover the bottom and sides of the pie plate.
  6. Prick with a fork in a few places.
  7. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Let cool before filling.
If using as an unbaked crust, do not prick, add filling and bake according to recipe directions.

Get ready for the compliments from eggnog lovers!

'til we eat again,
          Simply, Gail