admin / February 25, 2015

The Three Stages of Homemade Yogurt


I’ve always been a fan of yogurt and not only eat it as a breakfast treat and dessert, but use it in things like breads and muffins. Good news is it’s easy to make. I have a Salton yogurt maker but I have heard that lots of people use a thermos with great results. Whatever your method here’s my basic recipe and tips I’ve found that increase the likelihood of a successful batch-

4 cups milk…I’ve tried it with all types, skim, 1% but have had the best results with whole milk

¼ cup dry milk powder

½ cup plain yogurt…once again the best type is made from whole milk

Make sure you turn on the yogurt maker before you begin making the yogurt because I’ve found the warmer it is when the mixture gets added the thicker the end product.

In a saucepan add the milk and milk powder and heat it. It’s best to babysit it. Stir it frequently so it doesn’t start to stick to the pan. Once you see bubbles starting to form around the edges of the liquid, remove it from the heat . You don’t want it to boil. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and test to make sure it’s cooled to about room temperature.

Slowly add the yogurt. A note about the yogurt. Don’t go with on a cheaper brand. Make sure it’s top of the line because it will have active cultures that are needed to make your batch of yogurt. Mix everything together and then pour into the yogurt maker.

Instructions with the machine say it takes from 4-8 hours but I’ve found about 10 hours is perfect.

Make sure to take out ½ cup of the yogurt for the next batch you make.

Once you have some homemade yogurt you can also make Greek style yogurt by draining it in a cheesecloth lined sieve over a bowl for about 24 hours. Keep the whey that separates because you can use it when you make bread.

Once you have Greek yogurt you can make frozen yogurt. Mix it with some frozen fruit put it in a baking pan and in the freezer and keep stirring it and putting it back in the freezer until it reaches the right consistency.


And while on the topic of yogurt if you don’t want to make your own yogurt one brand I stumbled upon when the store had a BOGO sale…what budget smart girl can pass on one of those, is Noosa. The tubs are bigger than most other brands too so I think you get more for your money.

If you want to give it a try, check out their Web site because they have a 55 cent coupon you can print out-

admin / February 23, 2015

It’s Meatless Monday-Roasted Root Vegetable and Lentil Salad

 Salads don’t always have to be about lettuce and this one combines slow roasted root vegetables and lentils. I admit I’m a fan of any type of lentil and use them in just about any type of recipe. One thing I hate doing is cooking them. I grew tired of babysitting them while they simmered on the stove and then have them stick to the bottom of the pan and turn into lentil mash. One day I thought why not try cooking them in the oven like I do when I make rice. The amount for this recipe is actually more than you need but they freeze well, and yes, I’ll be using more of them in upcoming Meatless Monday recipes so have them on hand.


1 ½ cups brown lentils

Salt and pepper (for both the lentils and vegetables)

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon butter or margarine…whatever is your preference

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped

4 parsnips, peeled and chopped

4 golden beets, peeled and chopped


4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar



Pre-heat oven to 375. In a large baking pan add the carrots, parsnips and beets. Sprinkle with a good amount of both salt and pepper and then drizzle with oil. Using your hands, ‘massage’ the oil and seasonings into the vegetables. Put the pan in the oven and cook the root vegetables for about 20 minutes. What you’re looking for is a lightly golden, caramelized look which brings out their flavor and sweetness.

At the same time the vegetables are cooking you can cook the lentils.

First wash them and make sure there are no bits of gravel/stones lurking in them. Put them in a large baking dish that has a lid. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper, and also both the garlic and onion powders. Add the butter and then add enough water so the lentils are covered by at least an inch of it.

Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes. Check often just to make sure the water isn’t drying out. When they’re cooked they should be soft but still remain their shape.

When both the vegetables and lentils are cooked remove the oven and let them stand for about five minutes.

To make the salad. In a large bowl add about 1 ½ cups of the cooked lentils and all the vegetables and mix together. There should be enough oil left on the vegetables to coat everything but if not you can add more.

Next add the rice vinegar (you can also use balsamic too) and mix everything together. Give a final taste test and add more salt and pepper or vinegar if you like.

You can top this with some feta cheese too and I like to serve it with some homemade pita bread.

Serves 4.


admin / February 19, 2015

Worn Just Once…yes, really

I know most of us don’t think spring is on its way because it’s so cold, but the calendar says it is and that means budget smart girls everywhere are planning weddings. For anyone who’s ever been a bride or a parent of a bride to be, the cost of some items might make you say, that’s how much? Before you know the budget’s gone by the wayside and things are spiraling out of control.

So with that in mind I checked out some sites that I hope will help you find some bargains.

And if you’ve already been the bride and want to make some money selling your gown or other wedding items most of these sites allow you to do just that. This time around you can say this dress was worn just once and truly mean it-


And don’t forget to check out Etsy who have lots of vendors selling wedding related items-


admin / February 12, 2015

Getting Ready to Garden


Winter can be a frustrating time for us avid gardeners. This year I’m determined not to let cold weather (and fingers crossed, another late spring), hinder my attempts to get a vegetable garden planted.

Many years ago I was freelancing for a local magazine and got assigned the topic of what gardeners can do while they can’t get outside. My editor arranged for me to meet with the head designer at a very upscale gardening store. I went in there thinking I’d come out with lots of tips I could pass along to readers when in fact I came away with just one. Pick up some gardening books and use them to plan ahead. I mumbled all the way back to my car thinking that wasn’t really good advice but recently it’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

Pull out your gardening books or head to the library, and start planning what you want to do this spring and summer. It saves time and money and yes, you can dream big too.

And one tip I’ve learned over the last year, don’t leave it to the last minute to buy your gardening supplies, like seeds and seed starting materials. I’ve done that and everything was sold out.

The other day when I was at the DIY store all the seed packages were 30% off so I thought I’d get a head start and at least decide what I what to grow. I’ve decided to go adventurous with things like melon and parsnips which I’ve been warned are one of the hardest to germinate but my motto’s go for it.

My research has led me to some sites I thought I’d share with you-


This site gives you month by month tips on what chores need tackling-

A basic garden planting guide-


Thinking of a makeover

I just found this and will definitely be signing up for the class. Best thing is it’s free!

And these two sites have tips for starting seeds indoors which is must for many of them, and essential if like me you live in an area with a short growing season-

Whenever I have time I tune into Hallmark’s Home and Family show and one of my favorite segments is when Shirley Bovshow, also known as the Foodie Gardner, offers her tips on all things gardening. She has a great Web site too with lots of info and you can sign up to get all her posts, many of which are based on her TV segments should you miss an episode-


If anyone has any tips on gardening related topics, like seed starting, growing your own veggies or ways to save money in the garden, feel free to leave a comment. Also if you’re a gardening expert or know someone who is and they’d like to be interviewed on the site, contact me or tweet @budgetsmartgirl

admin / February 9, 2015

It’s Meatless Monday-Chunky Vegetable and Black Bean Chili



When the weather turns extra cold there’s nothing better than a bowl of something hot and spicy. Chili always seems to fit the bill this time of year. In my latest venture into the world of the vegetarian variety, I kept the vegetables in large pieces, added some mushrooms for more depth of flavor. Final taste boost was a can of black beans. When you top it with sour cream, cheese, chopped avocado, salsa, and then pair it with brown rice, it’s a quick and easy Meatless Monday supper.


1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 onion, peeled and chopped into ½ inch pieces

3 carrots peeled and chopped into ¼ inch pieces

1 ½ cups roughly chopped mushrooms

Salt and pepper

1 14 ounce can fire roasted chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon each garlic and onion powder

1 teaspoon oregano

1 tablespoon chili powder (more or less depending on your heat tolerance)

Water-I pour it into the empty can of chopped tomatoes and it’s just about the right amount



In a large pan and over medium high heat, heat the oil and then add the onions, carrots, and mushrooms.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about five minutes until they begin to soften and turn slightly golden brown.

Add the onion and garlic powders, oregano and chili powder and cook a further five minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and then the water and bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer for about five minutes and then stir in the black beans.

Cook for another five minutes, adding more water if necessary.

Taste test and add more salt if necessary.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

admin / February 5, 2015

Five Must Have Ingredients (that save time and money)

All weeks seem busy but last week for some reason was hectic. Although I love to be in the kitchen, some days even I hate the thought of going in there to cook dinner. I’m gradually coming up with some shortcuts. I wasn’t thinking about saving money as I put them into practice but now I realize some can shave off a few pennies here and there-

Flavored Mashed Potatoes

When I make bangers and mash (that’s sausages and mashed potatoes in non Brit speak), I always like to serve caramelized onions on top of the potatoes. However, last week, the thought of peeling, slicing and then cooking onions had little appeal. So as I was mashing the potatoes and grabbed the pepper I spotted a good alternative…onion powder. About a tablespoon to one pound of potatoes added as you begin mashing them and you have a nasty side dish that’s saves both time and money.

Fire Roasted Tomatoes

While I do buy regular canned tomatoes for things like soups and sauces, my  preference is now for the fire-roasted variety. You can even get them with things like basil and garlic added. Yes, they cost more but when they’re on sale, stock up because they take any dish up a notch or two. My favorite quick recipe, salsa. No more cutting tomatoes, use these for a smoky salsa that is perfect with chips or piled on quesadillas.

Canned Peas

All the food trend articles I’ve been reading have one thing in common and that’s talk about pea protein. If you’re looking for a super quick side dish, canned peas can’t be beat. One variety I especially like is the Wild Oats brand at Walmart. They’re organic, have a great flavor and seem cheaper than any of the other organic lines.

Broccoli Slaw

I learned this short cut when broccoli was pricey, the frozen kind seemed to be all stalks and I opted to buy bags of the pre-made broccoli slaw. A great side dish…I even add blue cheese. However, last week I found another good use for it. Saute the mix in some oil, add lots of pepper, some salt and two or three good shakes of soy sauce and cook until the veggies are just wilting and turning brown. This makes a wonderful quick side dish and if you have any leftover, perfect in sandwiches.

Jam Tarts

My cooking teacher always made us make this treat if we had any leftover pastry. It’s the jam tart and it makes the ideal snack or even dessert. Line a muffin pan with pastry. I like to cook the pastry for a few minutes at around 350 degrees. Next add a couple of tablespoons of jam and put back in the oven for about 8-10 minutes or until the pastry’s set and the jam is bubbling.


admin / February 2, 2015

It’s Meatless Monday-Summer Inspired Tofu ‘Steak’ with Pasta



About this time of the year I begin craving something that reminds me of summer. I thought about a salad but then came up with these tofu ‘steaks’ that are topped with a combination of ingredients that makes you think warm summer day. I used the topping for a sauce for the pasta so the flavor carried throughout the whole recipe. Something that I think is essential for vegetarian cooking. I used thin spaghetti but any pasta would work. As an added bonus use the topping for a sandwich filling on toasted bread.


1 14 ounce package extra firm tofu

Salt, pepper, garlic powder


8 ounces thin spaghetti

½ cup pitted olives

2 tablespoons capers

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil

1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar



Prepare tofu following the usual recipe of freezing it, letting it thaw, and then boiling it for ten minutes. Drain well, and then cut into 8 slices and dredge it both sides with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

In a skillet and over medium high heat, heat about two tablespoons oil and saute tofu steaks on each side for about 2 minutes or until they’re slightly golden brown. Set to one side.

Put the olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning and vinegar in a food processor and pulse until everything is chopped and well-blended.

Spread each tofu steak with about half a cup of the mixture, reserving the remaining ¼ cup for the pasta.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve about ¼ cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta, add the olive mixture and reserved pasta water making sure all the pasta gets coated. Serve in a large bowl topped with the tofu steaks.

Serve immediately and top with shredded cheese if you like.

Serves 4.

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