Basic Pie Crust

Plain pastry

Single crust

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
5 to 7 Tablespoons cold water

Sift flour and salt together; cut in shortening with pastry blender till ieces are the size of small peas.  (For extra tender pastry, cut in half the shortening till like ecornmeal.  Cut in remaining shortening till like small peas).

Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon water over part of mixture.Repeat until all is moistened and you have a dough that sticks together without being too sticky. Gently toss with fork; push to side of bowl.

From a 1950s era Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book
Form into a ball.  For double crust or lattice top, divide dough in half.

Flatten ball of dough on lightly floured surface by pressing with edge of hand three times across in both directions.  Lightly flour (or oil) your rolling pin.  Then take your rolling pin and start rolling outward from the center, rotating around the circle of dough.

Think of your circle of dough like the face of a clock.  Roll from the center out to 12 O’clock. Roll from the center and down to 6 O’Clock, from the center out to 3 O’Clock, then 9 O’Clock, and then continue around the clock, from the center to 1, then 7, then 2 and 8, and so forth.  Do this until the dough is about 1/8 of an inch thick.

Gently fold the pie crust into quarters (you might use a pancake turner to gently loosen the dough). Set the folded pie crust in the pan so it occupies a quarter of the pan.  Gently unfold it so that it covers the entire bottom.

Take a knife or shears and trim the crust to about 1/2 an inch beyond the edge.

Put the filling in the pie.  Roll out top crust and cut slits in it. fold the top crust in half, and half again. Gently lay on the top of the filling and unfold so it covers the pie. Trim to 1/2 inch, pinch around the edges, fluting top and bottom edges together.

Bake as directed, but keep an eye on the edge of the crust. If it starts to brown too quickly, take a couple strips of tinfoil and fold around the edges while the pie finishes baking.

What to do with surplus pie crust: Roll it out, dot with butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, roll, slice into pinwheels, turn on sides and bake until golden.

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Oatmeal Muffins, using leftover oatmeal

Not for beginners.  Click on the picture to enlarge.  If your muffin tin was new when you got it, and it doesn’t look like this one- you probably should not attempt this recipe yet.


This money-saving recipe comes from one of my great-grandmother’s many cookbooks, this particular cookbook focused on saving money on the grocery bill is from around 1940.

Oatmeal or cornmeal mush are two of the most inexpensive breakfasts you can make, and they also make some of the most unpleasant leftovers, unless you add them to quick breads or muffins.  This recipe using up leftover oatmeal is really tasty- but it’s not for beginning muffin bakers.  Oatmeal varies greatly in its moisture content- your leftover oatmeal may be thin gruel or it may be thick enough for a spoon to stand up straight in the center. It may be sticky sweet and full of raisins or it may be rich with butter, but not very sweet.

Therefore, the ingredients here are approximate.  The batch in the photograph was made with a thicker, less sweet oatmeal, and when I first stirred it into the batter, it looked more like biscuit dough than muffin batter (In fact, I think it would have made delicious biscuits, maybe with pumpkin butter).   So I added more milk- somewhere between 1/2 a cup more and a full additional cup- until the batter looked right.  If you haven’t made enough muffins to judge between batter and dough, then try one of the other recipes here in our Kitchen.  If you’re ready for it, well, then, here you go:

Sift together:
2 cups sifted flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 t. salt

Stir in 1 well beaten egg
2/3 cup cold, leftover oatmeal
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons melted butter or shortening

Stir only enough to moisten flour- lumps are fine.  Spoon into greased muffin tins (2/3 full); bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Makes 12.

Add cinnamon and chopped apple for variety, or, if you like your oatmeal unsweetened, add a bit of grated cheese to the batter.

You can have these for breakfast the day after you’ve had oatmeal, or you can make them for snacks or tea.

Another frugal snack my children used to love is melba toast- I sliced home-made bread into slices about three inches long and one or two inches tall, and then put them on a cookie sheet in the oven on low for a long time- bread was done when golden and fairly hard.

I’ve also made extra pancakes (you can use leftover oatmeal or rice in pancakes as well) for breakfast, and then the children spread leftover pancakes with peanut butter for snacking on later in the day.

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Winter Rice Salad

We always use leftover rice for this (and I cook extra just so I have ‘leftovers’), so it only takes a few minutes to make.

Chinese Style Vegetable Rice Salad

4 cups brown rice, cooked and cooled
2 scallions, green onions, leeks, onions- very thinly sliced and/or diced
1 large carrot, grated
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1-2 turnips (optional)- grated
1/2 cup peeled, diced cucumber- or the same amount of grated cabbage)

Combine, toss with…


1 tablespoon minced resh ginger or 1 teaspoon dried.
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped nuts- we usually do walnuts. These are optional, but they really do contribute flavor.

Mix ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce in small bowl. Whisk in the vinegar and olive or vegetable oil. Add remaining ingredients, stir well, pour over salad and toss well. Add seasoning as desired.

This serves 8

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Pasta E Fagioli Casserole

I used to make this a lot, but haven’t made it for quite a while now (perhaps years). I’m cleaning out my recipe boxes and clippings (it would be embarrassing to tell you that when organized properly they probably fill five very fat three ring binders, so I won’t tell you that), and found it again.

For 8 servings
Prepare 12 ounces pasta (we like spiral noodles for this) according to directions and spoon into a 3 qrt casserole dish. Heat 1 1/2 pounds diced polish sausage (or turkey ham), add 1 can of stewed tomatoes (about 28 oz) and bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, until meat is well browned. Stir in one drained can of kidney beans (can use other beans). Add to pasta, leaving liquid in pan. Cook 2 diced onions and 2 minced garlic cloves in liquid until the onions are tender. Add a teaspoon each oregano, thyme, basil, stir in 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, heat until boiling. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered five more minutes. Add to pasta. You can cool it, cover it, and freeze it at this point, or bake at 350 for 50 minutes.  When you bake it, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Omit beans, increasepasta, add spaghetti sauce.
Omit pasta, increase beans, add green peppers, basil, and chili powder for a more chili like dish.


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1973 Frugalities

From a 1974 Family Circle magazine article on frugal eating.

 Yam chips and Pepper Slaw

Yam chips:
2 large yams, ice water to cover (.19)
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups vegetable oil reused for potatoes three times (.10)

Peel yams and slice in paper thin, uniform rounds (I find a vegetable peeler makes the thinnest slices).
Soak in several changes of ice water for 2 hours in the refrigeroator.

Just before frying, turn onto towel and dry each chip thoroughly on both sides. heat fat in small saucepan to 375 degrees. Fry chips a few at a t ime until golden brown and crisp, about five minutes for each batch. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. When all are done, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

Pepper Slaw
1 pound green cabbage (.19)
1 small onion
2 carrots
1 small green pepper (.10)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons dill seed
white pepper to taste

Cut off and sicard heavy white ribs from cabbage leaves and any tough outer leaves. Cut cabbage into coarse pieces. Peel onions and cut in large chunks. Scrape carrots and cut in cubes. Cut pepper into strips, descarding seeds. Chop all vegetables together until very fine. Mix with salt and let stand 30 minutes. Pour off any liquid that might accumulate in bowl. Add vinegar and toss and let stand 20 minutes, tossing twice. Drain off excess vinegar. Add sugar, oil, dill seed and pepper. Toss and adjust seasoning. Chill several hours or overnight before serving.

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Quick Bread Variations

I’ve had this since my freshman year in high school- my home ec teacher passed it out. That was, um, so long ago it won’t be polite for you to ask how long ago for another three decades. I’ve used it often.

Baseline Recipe
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 t. salt
3 Tablespoons oil
1 egg

For Banana bread:
to above add 3/4 cup milk; a cup mashed banana, and 1 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

For apricot nut bread:
to above add 1/2 cup milk; 4 teaspoons grated orange peel; 3/4 cup orange juice, 1 cup finely chopped apricots (can be dried or canned); 1 cup nuts (optional)

For Date Nut Bread:
to above add, 1 1/4 cup milk; 1 cup finely chopped nuts, 1 cup cut-up dates

For Orange Nut bread:
to above add 1/2 cup milk; 4 teaspoons orange peel, 3/4 cup orange juice, 1 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

For plain nut bread:
to above add 1 1/4 cup milk and 1 cup finely chopped nuts

For all:
Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour loaf pan (9x5x3) or 2 8x4x2 pans

Measure all ingredients into a bowl. Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping bottom and sides. You don’t want to overmix- lumps in muffin dough are great. Dry lumps of flour, not.

Pour into greased pan. Bake 55-60 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan, cool before slicing.

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Imitation Crab Soup

We have made this a couple of times, and it’s tasty enough, but not very filling. We are hearty eaters at The Common Room.  You need substantial side dishes- hearty rolls or biscuits to go along with this.

2 cups imitation crab meat, flaked
2 cups whole milk
2 cups half and half
3 tablespoons butter
2 lemon peel strips
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
salt and pepper to tste
2 Tablespoons sherry, dry (optional)
1/2 cup crackers, crushed (saltines, oyster crackers)

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker- except sherry and crackers. Stir well. Cover and cook on low for 3-5 hours. Just before serving, stir in sherry and cracker crumbs to thicken. makes about 2 quarts.

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Wise Woman Pot Pie

The Wise Woman looks well to the ways of her household. She uses what she has. She is not wasteful. She does not show contempt for God’s bounty by throwing it in the garbage because she let it go bad in her refrigerator.

She makes soups, shepherd’s pies, stews, and pot pie.

Make a pie crust from scratch. It doesn’t matter if it tears,you are not cooking for television. Get it in the pan the best way you can and use your fingers to push the torn edges together.  Crying won’t make it better, just get ‘er done.

Filling:  Here is where you get to be creative.  Use your leftovers.  You can use:
diced, cooked meat
boiled eggs, chopped
mashed potatoes
cooked vegetables

Choose a combination that looks good to you. I don’t like rice and beans in pot pies, you might.  Fish and potatoes go well together, though that’s not my favorite, either (I prefer leftover fish used in croquettes).

Mix your filling along with a bit of leftover gravy, soup, or white sauce, depending on the consistency.
If it’s soupy, you want to add thickener- mashed potatoes, potato flakes, a bit of cornstarch.
If it’s thick, that’s probably fine, or you can thin it with a bit of more watery vegetables (green beans, cooked carrots, squashes, or a spoonful of brandy or white wine)

This is a trial and error recipe. It’s an art, not a science.

Top with pie crust, bake until hot in the center and the crust is golden.

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Layered Crockpot Beef

One pound of ground beef
4 Tablespoons diced, cooked bacon
2 small diced onions
2 small cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt and pepper
1 1/3 cups uncooked rice.
1 can corn, drained, or a little over a cup and a half of frozen corn (or cauliflower)
1 cup chopped bell peppers

Crumble ground beef evenly over bottom of the crockpot.
Sprinkle with bacon bits and onion.
In small bowl, mix Tomato sauce, water, and spices.  Pour half over the beef and onion.
Sprinkle rice, and then corn, evenly over the top.
Pour the rest of the tomato sauce mixture evenly over the top.
Spread chopped peppers over this.
Cover, cook on low at least 5 hours.

For once a month cooking, layer this is an ice cream bucket or other container that fits in the crockpot, only layer it *backwards (ending with the ground beef).  Freeze.
The day before you want it, put the ice cream bucket in the fridge to defrost. Run warm water over if you need to, and gently slide it out of the bucket into the crockpot- hence, the reversed layers. (easy does it, don’t break the crockpot). Cook on low about 8 hours if still frozen.

This is a decent one dish meal. If you like sides, bread and butter and fruit would be good, or a nice leafy green salad with roasted beets.

P.S. For a ‘what’s in your hand’ version we substituted the vegetables we had in the fridge for the corn and peppers- options include Carrots, turnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, and diced bok choy stems.

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Ground Beef Enchiladas

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 of medium onion
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon fiesta chile powder
a can mild green jalepeno peppers, or use spicier version if you prefer
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces freshly grated cheese
corn tortillas (you could try it with these, but we’ll be using store-bought)
Brown the beef with onion and spices.
Drain, reserving fat for the enchilada sauce.
Reserve meat mixture.
Make sauce, mix about a 1/3 a cup with beef mixture.
Warm tortillas.
Grease bottom of an 9 inch baking dish, spoon very thin layer of sauce into pan.
Spoon about 1/4 cup of beef mixture along the tortilla, just below the center. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of cheese, roll, place in dish, seam side down. Repeat.
Pour remaining sauce over top, sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400, 20 minutes.
Serve with chips, shredded lettuce, beans, rice, quacamole, sour cream, depending on what you have.
Variations: Add beans to the meat.
Replace meat with beans.
Make a casserole instead- like lasagna layers- tortilla, meat, cheese, sauce, tortilla, meat, cheese,sauce, ending with cheese.  Bake as above.
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