It can take more time to be frugal in the kitchen, but if you can save time and money, that's a plus. Here's a way to do both.
This weekend, set aside an hour to prepare baking mixes that can be used for entrees and desserts. This way, you control the ingredients and cut back on packaging for which you pay a premium.
Making a basic dry mix that's the base for a variety of baked goods is a concept that's been around for a long time. So have one-skillet meals. But combining the two to create BakeOvers is the idea of Mary Jane Butters, founder of MaryJanesFarm magazine and Web site.
Here's her concept: After you've chopped or sliced the vegetables or fruit that you want, you saute them (3 to 5 minutes) in a large skillet (wok size) and place your dry mix on top like a pie crust. Place the skillet in the oven for 20 minutes, and when it's done, flip the contents upside down onto a plate and serve.
If you eat dairy or meat, you can add grated or cubed cheese, fish, tofu or any boned meat to the vegetables. To the fruit, you can add a layer of cream cheese.
The proportions are simple. The one-skillet rule is 4 cups fruits or vegetables, 2 tablespoons butter or oil, and quick baking mix.
The mixes can be seasoned with your favorite flavors, including chili, taco or Cajun seasonings; can be sweetened with sugar; or can be combined with nuts, dried fruit and spices.
9 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups non-fat dry milk or dried buttermilk powder (or use 3/4 cup each dry milk and buttermilk powder)
5 tablespoons double-acting baking powder
5 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
In a large bowl, combine flour, dry milk, baking powder and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in shortening until mixture looks like coarse cornmeal and shortening is evenly distributed. Store in tightly closed container in dark, cool place.
When ready to use for scones, biscuits or toppings, combine 1/4 cup water to each cup mix.
Put mix in a mixing bowl and pour cold water over the surface. With a fork, blend the two together, taking no more than 20 seconds. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and gently knead about 10 times. This gentle handling keeps the gluten asleep and makes tender biscuits.
Cut into biscuits or scones and bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
To make BakeOver topping: Shape dough into a flattened round, and with a floured rolling pin (or your fingertips), roll it out until it's 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. Saute 4 cups fruit in an ovenproof skillet with 2 tablespoons butter. Place dough atop fruit and put skillet in a preheated 425-degree oven for 20 minutes or until crust is slightly browned.
To customize baking mixes: Place 2 cups mix into quart jars or gallon zip-top bags. To each 2-cup container, add seasonings of choice, such as 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons favorite spice, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup nuts or sunflower seeds.
To make savory scones or biscuits, add 1/3 cup grated cheese, 1 teaspoon fresh herbs (or 1/3 teaspoon dried), and 1/4 cup chopped bacon or other cured meat, to 1 cup mix.
4 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
In an ovenproof skillet, saute peaches in butter and brown sugar 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place baking-mix dough over fruit. Place skillet in preheated 425-degree oven for 20 minutes.
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup baking powder
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1 cup shortening
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients; cut in shortening until crumbly. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
To prepare corn bread: In a large bowl, whisk 1 egg and 1 cup milk. Stir in 2 1/3 cups corn bread mix just until moistened (the batter will be lumpy). Pour over ingredients in skillet. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until bread tests done.
Sausage corn bread skillet
12-ounce package sausage
1/2 green pepper, chopped fine
5 green onions, sliced
2 1/3 cups cornmeal mix
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Green chilies, optional
Cayenne pepper, optional
Brown sausage in skillet; drain, then add green pepper and onions and saute 2 to 3 minutes. In a large bowl, prepare corn bread batter by combining cornmeal mix with buttermilk, eggs and melted butter. If desired, season with chilies or cayenne. Pour batter over ingredients in skillet and bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Flip onto a plate and serve.