I think it appropriate my first post carry a recipe from Amy Dycyzyn, author of the Tightwad Gazette. For anyone who doesn't know, this was a newsletter that you subscribed to in the 90's - and it arrived in your physical mail box! Before internet, this gal had the common sense to share secrets on how to live happily on less and make the most of what you had. She has been an inspiration to me over the years, as her books contain articles on both the philosophy and the how-to's of being frugal. These articles I re-read often, mostly to feel less alone when as I calculate the cost of baking soda versus baking powder, or am washing cracker crumbs out of plastic sandwich bags.
Back to the recipe! MUFFINS! Muffins are the perfect frugal food. They use basic ingredients, you can add ANYTHING to them, really, and have it turn out tasty - well, within reason. But how many other recipes can you throw in chocolate, fruits, vegetables, AND bread crumbs in, and have it still be a treat? Also, they are finger food, portable, keep well, can be frozen... Muffins are magic.
The Original Muffin Recipe, Amy Dycyzyn, Tightwad Gazette II:
Quantities listed are for a single batch of [approx] 12 muffins. To make muffins, combine dry ingredients, and then mix in wet ingredients until just combined; the batter should be lumpy. Grease muffin tin and fill cups two thirds full. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 F (200 C) degrees for approximately 20 minutes.
2 to 2-1/2 cups grain
1 cup milk (or other liquid)
Up to 1/4 cup fat
Up to 1/2 cup sweetener
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Up to 1-1/2 cups additions
Grain: Use 2 to 2-1/2 cups of white flour. Or substitute oatmeal, cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, rye flour, or flake cereal for 1 cup of the white flour. Or substitute 1 cup leftover cooked oatmeal, rice, or cornmeal for 1/2 cup of the white flour and decrease liquid to 1/2 cup.
Milk: Use 1 cup. Or substitute buttermilk or sour milk (add a tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup milk). Or substitute fruit juice for part or all of the milk.
Fat: Use 1/4 cup vegetable oil or 4 Tsp. melted butter or margarine. Or substitute crunchy or regular peanut butter for part or all of the fat. The fat can be reduced or omitted with fair results if using a wet addition.
Egg: Use 1 egg. Or substitute 1 heaping Tsp. of soy flour and 1 Tsp. of water. If using a cooked grain, separate the egg, add the yolk to the batter, beat the white until stiff, and fold into the batter.
Sweetener: Use between 2 Tsp. and 1/2 cup sugar. Or substitute up to 3/4 cup brown sugar. Or substitute up to 1/2 cup honey or molasses, and decrease milk to 3/4 cup.
Baking Powder: Use 2 tsp. If using whole or cooked grains or more than 1 cup of additions, increase to 3 tsp. If using buttermilk or sour milk, decrease to 1 tsp. and add 1/2 tsp. baking soda.
Salt: Use 1/2 tsp., or omit if you have a salt-restricted diet. The following ingredients are optional. Additions can be used in any combination, up to 1-1/2 cups total. If using more than 1 cup of wet additions decrease the milk to 1/2 cup.
Dry Additions: Nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, coconut, etc.
Wet Additions: Pumpkin puree, applesauce, mashed, cooked sweet potato, mashed banana, mashed cooked carrot, etc. If using 1/2 cup drained, canned fruit or thawed shredded zucchini, substitute the syrup or zucchini liquid for all or part of the milk.
Spices: Use spices that complement the additions such as 1 tsp. cinnamon with 1/4 tsp. nutmeg or cloves. Try 2 tsp. grated orange or lemon peel.
Jellies and Jam: Fill cups half full with a plain batter. Add 1 tsp. jam or jelly and top with 2 more Tsp. batter
Non-sweet Combinations: Use only 2 Tsp. sugar and no fruit. Add combinations of the following: 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 2 Tsp. grated onion, 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, 2 Tsp. parmesan cheese.
Additional note Per Amy Dycyzyn, Tightwad Gazette III:=Instead of whipping egg whites to offset heaviness, place cooked grains, along with other scraps and misc. items into the blender along with whatever wet ingredients you are mixing up.- broken cookies, bread crusts, bananas, pastry scraps, fruit bits. add to dry ingredients, and adjust to get consistency. The blending seems to whip the eggs well enough and mix in the harder drier ingredients to make an easy bake.
Additional notes, Jessica M, Financial Edges: My muffins turned out pretty damn good even with my laziness / cheapness applied:
-I crushed up stale cereal and put the crumbs in as 'dry ingredient'.
-I use silicone muffin liners, so I didn't grease anything
-I just used 2 tsp baking soda instead of baking powder or powder/soda mix- the muffins appear to have plumped up decent regardless.
-I threw in all ingredients and mixed until 'mixed', by which time the batter was pretty smooth. I do recommend mixin dry ingredients, then wet, as I had one muffin with a dense spot of baking powder - yech.
-I made some muffins before I added the ground up cereal to the batter- prior to adding cereal, the batter was really wet and hard to work with. I recommend having something dry/powdered to add to the batter to keep it manageable.
-With the dry cereal I appear to have made more muffins than the recipe accounted for - or I make smaller muffins than some. I fill my muffin tins about half or less full.
One last shout out for Tightwad Gazette!
I highly recommend you watch thrift stores or see if your local library has a copy to borrow so you can read it yourself. While the author retired the newsletter prior to 2000, the spirit of her newsletters and the books made from them is alive in things like The Tightwad Gazette Fan Club on facebook. I am trying to figure out how to reach Amy herself for permissions to 'reprint' her recipe here, but this is too useful to not give out in some fashion. If you know a faster way to reach Amy, let me know - and if Amy sees this and wants it taken down, she can email email@example.com