Baking my way through unemployment

Since I haven’t started working yet, I’ve been spending a lot of time pursuing my hobbies. These past two weeks, I have watched a lot of Netflix. I’ve also done some gardening and some sewing.

Mostly, I’ve been cooking and baking. My husband even told me I should stay unemployed so I can do more baking. He’s enjoyed coming home to the almost-daily surprises of bread, cookies, desserts and other goodies.

Baking is a pretty inexpensive hobby. A jar of yeast costs a few dollars and lasts for quite a while. Flour and sugar are cheap, especially if you stock up when they’re on sale. With the exception of chocolate chips, I haven’t gone out and bought any special ingredients for my baking escapades. Plus, a girl’s gotta eat something. 🙂

For this apple braid, I used the last of a batch of sliced apples I froze last fall. We ate this for “breakfast for dinner” alongside eggs and bacon last night. It tiptoes right along that dessert/breakfast pastry line.

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Apple Braid

Filling
• 2-3 cups coarsely chopped apples
• 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
• lemon juice
• cinnamon

Dough
• 3 cups white flour
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoon instant yeast
• 3/4 tablespoon salt
• 1 cup warm water
• 1 tablespoon vegetable or coconut oil

Glaze
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1/4 cup milk
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• pinch salt
• pinch nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss apples in enough lemon juice to cover (you’re not trying to make the mixture wet), then add brown sugar and cinnamon to taste. Bake in a ceramic or glass dish for about 15 minutes.

While apple mixture is baking, combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add water and oil, then mix on medium-high speed for 6 to 8 minutes. Dough should pull away from sides of the bowl but still feel sticky. If your dough does not pull away from the side of the bowl, add small amounts of flour until desired consistency is achieved.

Transfer dough to a well greased baking sheet. Roll dough into a rectangular shape, using a well-floured rolling pin. Using an oiled sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut strips as illustrated in this wonderful diagram (I should have taken a photo!) The middle third of the dough should remain uncut.

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Spoon apples onto uncut portion of the dough. Criss-cross dough strips over the apples at an angle to create a braided effect.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until browned.

While bread is baking, heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Add salt and brown sugar, and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until brown sugar is melted. Remove from heat.

Using a sifter or a wire mesh strainer, sift powdered sugar into glaze mixture, stirring frequently.

When the bread has finished baking, move bread from baking sheet to a wire rack. Position baking sheet under the cooling rack to catch any drips, and spoon glaze all over the bread.

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Slice and enjoy.

 

 

Saving Money on Groceries: Going Less-Meat

Chicken and tomatoes on the stovetop. One breast, three servings.

Does anyone out there have a husband like mine? He’s a carnivore to the core, and he’s not big on many fruits or veggies. Beans aren’t really his thing either.

Obviously, my family will never go meatless.Cutting out meat is a popular suggestion when people ask how to save more money on groceries. For us frugal queens, having husbands that won’t go meatless is a sad, sad situation indeed.

We’re not going meatless, but we are going less-meat.

Take last night’s dinner, for example. Tomatoes, pesto and chicken over pasta, accompanied by homemade bread. I made it using one single chicken breast.

We each ate a bowl last night, and Zack took a leftover serving for lunch today. That means one chicken breast, bought on sale for $1.99/pound, stretched into three servings.

Cutting the chicken into pieces is key here. It sort of distorts how much or how little meat you’re eating.
Had I made the pasta and sauce, but served whole chicken breasts alongside, Zack and I would have each eaten one chicken breast.

I’m also a fan of slicing my chicken breasts into cutlets (slice through the middle to make two thin pieces). Each cutlet gives an impression of being a whole piece of chicken, but it’s really only half. While Zack usually eats two of these anyway, I’m satisfied with one. So it’s about tricking myself, too. 🙂

Making a New Home

Just call me an Atlantan…I’ve left the suburbs.

Zack and I moved to a home inside the perimeter over the weekend. We’ll probably only be living in this house temporarily, so Zack told me not to “make myself too at home.”

I’ve also left my job, since it’s so far out of the city. It’s been pretty sad, but the world still turns.

I have a part-time job (~25 hours per week), but I haven’t started yet. Honestly, I’m hoping one of the full-time jobs I’ve interviewed for will work out.

In the meantime, I’ll be pursuing even more frugal activities and catching up on things I’ve always complained about not having enough time to do (sewing, baking, etc.).

While our Atlanta adventure hasn’t happened as glamorously as I had hoped, we’re making the best of it, and I’m sure things iwll all work out one way or another.

After the move…

After my husband and I move, I will…
• Make homemade laundry detergent. I got some Fels Naptha in a gift basket, but I can’t bring myself to make gallons of laundry detergent weeks before I have to haul it out of my apartment and into the new place.

• Rearrange the craft supplies. They’re in a built-in desk nook now, so I will need a new system.

• Have dramatically fewer bottles of lotion, shampoo, body wash, etc. I’m hoping to consolidate all my half-empty bottles before the move.

 

Of course, I still have a lot to do before we move, too. I have a few good-looking prospects on the job front, so I should hopefully hear something soon.

We had a yard sale right after we got married, but without any furniture or large items to sell, it was a lot of work for very little money. I will probably declutter as I prepare to move, but I won’t be trying to sell anything.

My no-spend weekend

Hello there!
My apartment has been pretty quiet since yesterday morning…the hubs is off to a bachelor party, so I’m on my own. Since I’m by myself, I decided to make it a no-spend weekend. And I’ve almost succeeded.

I had to get my driver’s license renewed this morning, so that cost me $20. 😦 Does that have to count? I don’t think it counts.

So, what have I been doing?

Watching the Olympics (on the Olympics website, which a friend graciously let us use his cable TV information to log into since we don’t pay for TV service).

Altering one shirt and two sweaters. As a side note, it’s so hard for me to remember that changing an article of clothing is called “altering,” not “editing.” Ah, journalism.

Baking Guinness bread.

Eating some soup that I froze several months ago. I didn’t like it the first time around, but I hated to throw it out. Added some spinach, parmesan and black pepper, ate it with my bread, and it was better. Much better. Still won’t be making it again, but at least it didn’t go to waste.

Drinking coffee on the balcony while watching the clouds roll in.
Now, I’m watching a documentary, and I’m helping some friends move this afternoon, so I’m calling this weekend a success when it comes to not spending.

So, readers, does the license have to count as “spending?” What free things have you been doing?