Vanilla Depression Cake Recipe

Have you ever “needed” to make a cake and found yourself in a bind because you’re missing eggs, butter, and/or milk? If so, this Depression-Era vanilla cake recipe is for you!

All of these ingredients were hard to come by during the Great Depression, so savvy cooks made do with what they had and came up with this delicious cake base.

Maybe it’s inconsistent to make whole wheat tortillas and eat homemade yogurt sweetened with raw honey…and then turn around and make a white cake (with white flour and white sugar.) This recipe won’t win me any healthy mom brownie-points.

Part of a homemaker’s job though is to find the balance of health, taste and cost that works in her kitchen.

Need cake, but don't have eggs, milk, or butter? This Great Depression inspired cake saves the day!

Depression cupcakes with fresh strawberry frosting

Rose turned five last week and requested white cupcakes with strawberry frosting.

I thought I had all the ingredients for birthday cupcakes, but when the time came to make them, I realized the eggs were used up for quiche and we were almost out of butter. Whoops!

There wasn’t time to run to the store. I searched for an egg-free, butter-free white cake recipe, but couldn’t find one.

Then I remembered this chocolate depression cake, named because it uses no eggs, milk, or butter—all of which were hard to come by during the depression.

I tweaked the recipe and this eggless, butterless white cake turned out surprisingly well.

Vanilla Depression Cake Recipe

Makes one 9×9 pan or 12-18 cupcakes

Ingredients

  •  1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond flavoring
  • 6 T oil
  • 1/2 cup yogurt, optional (It really increases the moistness and flavor of the cake! See how to make your own yogurt here. It’s a huge money saver!)

Instructions

  1. Mix together dry ingredients
  2. Combine wet ingredients and add to dry. Mix well.
  3. Pour into a 9×9 pan (or 12-18 lined muffin tins.)
  4. Bake at 350 for 30 (or around 12-15 minutes for the cupcakes) or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.
  5. Top with icing of your choice, if desired. (I added frozen strawberries to homemade buttercream frosting.)

Need cake, but don't have eggs, milk, or butter? Let this Great-Depression inspired recipe come to the rescue!

Enjoy Vanilla Depression Cake

So there. I’ve completely ruined any delusions you had of me as a super healthy mom. Oh well. My daughter loved the cupcakes!

If you need cake in a hurry and don’t have eggs, milk, or butter, let this vanilla depression cake save the day.

Whole Wheat Tortilla Recipe

Homemade tortillas were on our eat-from-the-pantry menu and Chris (from Joybilee Farms) asked if I’d share the recipe. Before doing so, I simply had to weigh in on the should-you-make-your-own-tortillas debate.

As you can see, it’s worth it for me.

Now, it’s time for the recipe.

My happy helpers. Will rinsed the beans for half an hour and had SO much fun! (And no, they’re not always quite so happy!)

Whole Wheat Tortilla Recipe

Makes about 10 tortillas

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups flour (can use any combination of white or wheat flour.)
  • 1/4 cup butter (or coconut oil, lard, etc.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • up to 3/4 cup water, very warm (the dough should be moist but not “soggy” unless you’re  using a heated tortilla press. Then it needs to be very moist.)

Instructions: 

  • Mix flour and salt in large bowl
  • Cut in butter (or oil)

  • Add warm water and stir. Dough should be nice and moist. (At this point, you can let sit for up to 4 hours, covered, if desired.)

  • Heat frying pan over medium-high heat.
  • Divide dough into 8-12 balls.

  • Roll thin on floured surface.
  • Bake tortillas for 30-45 seconds on each side or until just barely golden.
  • Stuff with desired toppings and serve warm. Or, bake til extra crunchy for a yummy snack for the little helpers. Unused tortillas keep for a couple days on the counter or in the fridge.

*Three years ago, my in-laws gave me a tortilla press for Christmas. Though I made my own before then, the tortilla press has made it SO much faster. If you love the taste of homemade tortillas, it makes for a very fun and practical gift. 

What about you? Do you make your own tortillas? 

Linked up at Tasty Tuesday, Living Green, Healthy 2Day WednesdaysFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysNatural Living Link UpSimple Lives ThursdayHearth and Soul, Feasting in Fellowship, 21st Century Housewives & Grocery Cart Challenge

Recipe: Savory Lentil Rice Casserole

Esau sold his birthright for a pot of lentils! (Gen 25) I’ve yet to come across a lentil recipe that is that good.

We do like this lentil dish though. It’s tasty, nourishing, and frugal.

The most important thing about this recipe is to make sure you bake it fully. If the lentils are not fully cooked, it doesn’t taste nearly as good. Baking it takes a couple hours, but you can speed up the process by cooking it. I like to make it on bread-making days when the oven is already on.

Savory Lentil Rice Casserole

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • dash of Worchestershire sauce, optional
  • salt to taste (how much depends on whether or not broth was salted!)
  • cheddar cheese, optional

Instructions: 

  1. Rinse lentils and rice thoroughly and drain.
  2. Place in 8×8 pan and add remaining ingredients.
  3. Cover and bake at 300 for 2-2 1/2 hours or until very tender OR to speed it up, cook on the stove for 30-45 minutes and then just bake for 15 minutes to get the nice baked texture.

Nourishing Energy Bites Recipe

Looking for a snack that is easy, healthy, filling and delicious? And much cheaper than packaged snacks?

These energy bites fit the bill. They are filled with healthy, satisfying ingredients and are one of my favorite whole-food snacks.

Looking for a delicious & nourishing snack? Keep your refrigerator stocked with these energy-boosting bites.

I was inspired by Food Doodles All-Natural, No-Bake Energy Bites, but what fun is cooking if you don’t change the recipe?

Energy Bites Recipe:

Ingredients: 

(Part of the fun of this recipe is just how easily you can change ingredients! We don’t like ours overwhelmingly sweet and I added coconut oil make it more filling. )

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup honey, preferably raw
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 T chia seeds (these are optional. I only recently started adding them, but think it helps give them a lovely added energy boost!)
  • dash of salt
  • ~2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • ~1/2 cup chocolate chips, raisins or other add-ins (optional)

(Update 2015: recently I’ve started adding a few tablespoons of this amazing date syrup in place of part of the honey and love the depth of flavor it gives.)

Looking for a yummy but nourishing snack? Keep your fridge stocked with these delicious energy bites!
Instructions
  1. Cream peanut butter, oil and honey
  2. Add coconut, flaxseed, chia seeds, and salt
  3. Add chocolate chips and enough oatmeal to make a nice, moist cookie dough texture
  4. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes or until you can easily shape. Roll into balls.
  5. Freeze or refrigerate.

Keep them on hand for a satisfying snack or quick breakfast!

(Full Disclosure: Links to products in this post are my referral links)

Recipe: Whole Wheat Applesauce Muffins

Muffins make a filling, frugal and healthy breakfast or snack. I’ve been keeping a stock of freezer-friendly muffins for Joshua to grab on workday mornings or for us to enjoy with a bowl of homemade yogurt. 

These muffins are some of our family’s favorite—and they taste almost as good frozen and thawed as they do fresh.

The recipe makes two dozen but I usually do one dozen regular-sized (in muffin tins) and two dozen mini-muffins.

Whole Wheat Applesauce Muffins

Whole Wheat Applesauce Muffins Recipe

(Makes two dozen)

Ingredients: 

3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar or other sweetener (more if you want a sweet muffin!)
1 heaping Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup applesauce
cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top, optional

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease two muffin tins (or line with cupcake holders!)
  2. Combine dry ingredients
  3. In separate bowl combine wet ingredients, then add to dry and mix well
  4. Spoon into muffin tins.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired.
  6. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  7. Serve warm with milk, fruit or homemade yogurt. 

Homemade Yogurt Recipe

Yogurt-making is a regular part of our week. Why do we make our own? Cost and health.

You can make half a gallon of yogurt for just over $2 dollars and it’s much healthier than pre-flavored types. You get to control just how much (and what kind) of sweetener is added.

Plus, making yogurt simple. Super simple.

Super simple (and frugal) homemade yogurt recipe with consistently creamy results!

Yogurt-making basics: Heat milk. Cool to “bathtub warm.” Add “live” starter. Keep warm. Wait seven to ten hours.

Told you it was simple!

There are many ways to make yogurt: you can make yogurt in a mason jar. You can make it in a special yogurt maker.

There are two ways that I make yogurt, depending on how much of a hurry I’m in. If I remember in the morning or early afternoon, I just make it in the crockpot. If I forget until later, I use a pot to hurry up the process.

Homemade yogurt recipe 

Ingredients and supplies: 

  • 3/4 gallon milk (I use whole, but any kind will work, though it won’t be as creamy)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt starter (most plain yogurts with live, active cultures will work. It’s one of the few areas where Aldi let me down though! I usually use Dannon Naturals.)
  • Large pot
  • Crockpot crock
  • Thick towel or blanket
  • Thermometer (optional, but highly recommended for the first few batches)

Instructions: 

  1. Heat milk in pot until it reaches 185º F. At this point it starts to froth and steams heavily. If I have time, I just let it sit in the crockpot until it reaches this point. Otherwise, I heat it in a pot on the stove, but have to stir frequently to prevent burning as it reaches 185ºF. For thicker yogurt, hold milk at 185ºF for a few minutes, or up to half an hour.
  2. Let the milk cool to 120º F, or until it’s very warm, but not hot, to the touch. (If you heated it on the stove, transfer to the crockpot slightly before it reaches 120º.)
  3. Pour one cup of the warm milk into the yogurt starter and mix well.
  4. Pour yogurt starter into the milk and swirl gently.
  5. Cover crock with lid then wrap in thick towel or blanket overnight (or for at least seven hours.)
  6. Refrigerate.
If you like your yogurt sweetened and flavored, add honey or sugar and crushed fruit. Top with granola for a yummy breakfast or turn plain yogurt into healthy refreshing smoothies.
A super simple yogurt recipe with consistently thick and creamy results!

Tips and tricks:

  • Once you’ve made a batch, you can freeze a portion of your starter to use next time (though I’d recommend replacing the starter every few batches, just to be on the safe side!)
  • If you want a thicker yogurt without adding extra ingredients, maintain the yogurt at 185F for up to half an hour.
  • Want to make Greek yogurt? Just pour your homemade yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a thin drying towel. Let sit in the refrigerator while the excess fluid (called whey) drains out. Depending on how thick you want it, let it drain for 30 minutes or overnight. The remaining yogurt will be nice and thick!
  • Contrary to what I would have guessed, more starter actually makes for thinner yogurt because it takes less time for the cultures to permeate and thicken the yogurt! (Kind of like with sourdough.)

Nerdy yogurt facts:

The first step of making yogurt is to heat the milk to 185F. Why? Not to pasteurize. Most milk already comes pasteurized. You heat it to 185F because that de-natures the proteins and helps the finished product be thick. The longer you hold the milk at 185F (up to 30 minutes) the thicker it will be!

Then you cool the milk to 115-120, at which point you add the starter. 115-120 F is the perfect temperature for the active cultures (usually L. acidophilus) to thrive, grow and turn your milk into yogurt. Keep it at this temperature so the healthy little yogurt bacteria don’t get too cold and slow down their work.

Enjoy your homemade yogurt!

As you can see, this homemade yogurt recipe is incredibly simple. And it produces consistently thick and creamy results. Pull out your crockpot and make some up today!

Have you ever made yogurt? What’s your favorite way to eat it? 

Recipe: Health[ier] Red Lobster Biscuit Clone

Health[ified] Red Lobster Biscuits

On the incredibly rare instances when we’ve gone to Red Lobster for dinner, my favorite part is always the biscuits. I was thrilled when my sister-in-law pulled a pan of these clones out of the oven one day when we were visiting. They were even better than I remembered, for a fraction of the cost of going out for dinner!

While this recipe still won’t win any prize for healthiness, I have tweaked it to make it as healthy as possible, without entirely compromising the taste.

[Healthified] Red Lobster Biscuits Clone

Ingredients: 

2 cups flour (I use 2/3-1 cup freshly ground wheat flour)
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp. baking powder
3 T powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
up to 2/3 cup milk
1/2-1 cup of grated cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you have on hand)

Coating: 

1/4 cup butter (more if you want the biscuits dipped, not drizzled)
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or, for health benefits, one clove of minced garlic, lightly sautéed.)

Instructions: 

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter. Add just enough milk to help it form dough. Lightly mix in cheese. Shape into 12-18 balls. Place on pan and bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden.

Meanwhile, melt butter and add spices. Drizzle over the biscuits. Serve fresh and hot.

What’s your favorite biscuit recipe? 

 linked up at  Tasty TuesdayFeasting in Fellowship & Grocery Cart Challenge 

Smorkaka: Danish Breakfast Pastries

Both Joshua and I trace our ancestry to Denmark (or at least the tiny Faroe Islands they rule), so Danish foods are fun part of the holidays for me.

These breakfast pastries are one of my family’s favorites, but with a little deviance from the original. Thanks to my mom’s tweaking, the rich and decadent pastries are transformed into rich-and-somewhat-more-healthy pastries, but still so yummy.

Smor means butter in Danish, as you might guess from the recipe.

Smorkaka: Danish Breakfast Pastries

Ingredients:

  • scant cup milk
  • 1 ½ T yeast
  • 1 ½ T sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • Approx. 3 ½ cups flour (I use 1 ½ wheat)
Fillings:
  • 1 cup pudding (use store bought or make your own.)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Raisins, optional
Frosting: 
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 T butter
  • a few drops of milk

Instructions:

Prepare pudding, and refrigerate.

Combine milk yeast and sugar. Let sponge five minutes. Add butter, eggs and salt. Add flour ’til it stops sticking. Let rise 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together powdered sugar, butter and cinnamon.

Press 1/3 of dough into well greased 10×15 pan. Spread with thin layer of powdered sugar mix, then one cup pudding. Sprinkle with raisins (if desired.) Roll out rest of dough. Spread with powdered sugar mix. Cut into 18-24 pieces and place on the pudding. Rise 30 minutes.

Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

Cool slightly and drizzle with frosting.

Healthy? maybe not. But you should have seen the original recipe!

How to Make Nourishing Broth

Winter is right around the corner and it almost snowed here last night. Soup time is definitely here!

We’ve had colds and have been eating chicken soup like medicine. I even had it for breakfast. [I know, I’m weird! But it was really yummy. What do you think, does soup for breakfast work?]

Soups are a nourishing and frugal way to keep warm this winter. A good broth is the integral starting point.

Added bonus: Recent studies have shown that more and more children are lacking calcium (86% of teenage girls, according to the USDA!) A nourishing broth is an excellent way to get you and your family necessary calcium. The longer you cook soup bones in an acidic medium, the more calcium is drawn out.

How to make nourishing broth:

What you’ll need:

  • Soup bones (from high quality beef, chicken, lamb, etc) OR the leftover carcasse of a cooked chicken, turkey, etc.
  • Water, filtered
  • Vinegar
  • Salt, pepper and seasonings to taste
  • Chopped onions and celery, if desired
  • Fresh minced garlic, wait ’til nearly finished

Instructions:

Put the bones in a large stock pot or crockpot and cover with filtered water.

Add about 1 T vinegar for every 4 cups water. (The point is to make the water acidic to draw calcium from the bones. You don’t want it tasting like vinegar!)

Chop up onions and celery and add to the broth for flavor and added nutrition. Add salt, pepper and desired seasonings.

Bring to a boil them simmer over low heat for 12-24 hours. (Why so long? We want as much calcium as possible!)

Shortly before its finished, add minced fresh garlic.

Make immediately into soup or let it cool and store in the fridge for a few days or freeze to add to soups and gravies over the next months.

Tips and tricks:

If storing in glass jars, make sure to leave plenty of room for the broth to expand while it freezes

Want to removed excess fat? Refrigerate the broth. Once cooled, the fat rises to the top and you can easily remove it.

Why wait on the garlic? Garlic is full of anti-bacterial, anti-fungal goodness, but cooking it reduces its effect. Wait til the last minute for the best nutritional bang.

Articles and scientific studies, for nerds like me:

Growing calcium deficiency in children 
Study on how to increase calcium in soup broth

 Linked up at Works for Me Wednesdays and Frugal Fridays

Panacakka: Scandinavian Crepes

The tiny Faroe Islands, nestled in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, hold many fond childhood memories for me. My siblings and I spent countless hours playing by the ocean in my grandparent’s backyard or climbing the mountains that stood right outside the front door. And we loved Omma’s breakfasts!

While serving these crepes to my children this morning, the true appeal of Scandinavian Crepes dawned on me. Their purpose is to hold as much cream, strawberries and powdered sugar as possible! What kid wouldn’t like that?

Although they are easy to make, crepes are somewhat time-consuming to fry. They are best for a weekend or holiday morning served with a glass of milk or cup of hot coffee.

Scandinavian Crepes, makes 12-16 crepes

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1 to 1½ cups milk, divided
3 T melted butter, slightly cooled
1 cup flour (I use half white and half fresh ground wheat)
dash salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Toppings:

Whipped cream
Strawberries (we use sliced fresh strawberries, strawberry sauce or strawberry jam)
Powdered sugar
Cinnamon or nutmeg, optional
Syrup, optional

Instructions:

Heat frying pan(s) over medium-high heat. (Use two pans to speed up the frying time.)

Beat the eggs. Add half a cup of milk and stir well. Add the melted butter, flour, salt and cinnamon. Stir well.

Add up to one more cup of milk. The batter should be thin, but not watery. I used a little less than 1 ½ cups total.

Pour about 2 T batter on heated pan and quickly swirl the batter to make a thin roundish crepe. Fry for 30-45 seconds ’til golden. Flip and fry for about 15 seconds.

Serve immediately and spread with cream and strawberries. Roll up and dust (or coat) with powdered sugar.

The crepes do not keep well, but you can refrigerate the batter for a few days. Just let it warm up to room temperature and stir well before frying.