Tag Archives: frugal living

Master Recipe: Reductions

Wait! Don’t let the word ‘reduction’ scare you away, it’s one of the easiest techniques to mater and will help you create deeply flavorful sauces for all kinds of dishes.

You simply start with a seasoned liquid, anything from balsamic vinegar to broth, boil it down to a fraction of its volume, and you’re done! What you will have is a concentrated sauce that’s naturally thick and redolent with flavor.

master recipe:
1) Sauté 1/4 cup chopped onion, green onion, and/or celery, plus 1 teaspoon ginger and/or garlic (optional) in 1 to 2 tablespoons oil or butter over medium-low heat until golden brown.
2) Add 1 cup broth, wine, or fruit or vegetable juice, plus fresh or dried herbs (sprigs work well) and/or spices.
3) Boil mixture, uncovered, until syrupy and reduced by at least half.
4) Strain, and discard solids.

Here’s a few reductions to get you started:

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 leek, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 and 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup dry sherry
6 whole peppercorns
4 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves

To make Demi~Glace: Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leek, carrot, and celery; sauté 10 minutes. Stir in flour; cook 2 minutes, or until flour begins to brown. Add tomato paste, garlic, broth, wine, and sherry and simmer 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool 30 minutes. Strain mixture through sieve, and discard solids.
**Demi-glace is a classic French brown sauce with hundreds of uses, it can be spooned over roasted-vegetable dishes or used to flavor soups.**

Balsamic~Agave Drizzle
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 and 1/2 teaspoon agave
3 allspice berries
3 whole peppercorns
1 sprig fresh rosemary

To make Balsamic~Agave Drizzle: Bring vinegar, 1 tablespoon agave, allspice, peppercorns, and rosemary sprig to a boil in small saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes, or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove rosemary sprig and spices; stir in remaining 1 and 1/2 teaspoon agave.
**Gastrique is a culinary term for the reduced balsamic sauce, it can be drizzled it over parsnip fritters.**

Lemongrass~Orange Reduction
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 and 1/2 tablespoons tamari

To make Lemongrass~Orange Reduction: Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and pepper; sauté 3 minutes. Whisk in juice, broth, and tamari. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
**This bright citrus sauce makes a tasty topping for roasted squash.**

master recipe:
1) Combine 1 cup juice, wine, or balsamic vinegar
and 2 to 8 tablespoons agave, sugar, or maple syrup in small saucepan.
2) Add herbs (rosemary, thyme, lavender, and lemony
herbs are good choices) and/or spices (cinnamon,
nutmeg, cloves, vanilla).
3) Boil mixture, watching it closely to prevent
scorching, until syrupy and reduced by at least half.
(Sweet reductions will thicken as they cool.)
4) Strain, and discard solids.

Spiced Zinfandel Syrup with Fruit Compote
3 cups dry red wine
1/3 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
16 whole pitted prunes or dried plums
16 whole dried figs
16 whole dried pitted apricots
1/4 cup dried pitted cherries

Bring wine, 1 cup water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean to a boil in large saucepan. Add prunes, figs, apricots, and cherries, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 1 hour. Cool. Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean, and chill 3 hours.

Other Master Recipe Posts:

{Source: Vegetarian Times, October 2012}

Sunflower Seed Butter {homemade, vegan}

Have you ever had Sunflower seed butter? Who ever thought of this is a genius!

My kids’ school offers this delightful spread instead of peanut butter since it seems so many kids are allergic these days. My kids love sunflower seed butter and will often choose it for their lunches at school and have requested that we buy some to have at home as well.

I thought it may be difficult to find in our local grocery store since we live in a very small town, but lo and behold, I was able to find it. But holy cow, is it expensive! I took a peek at the ingredients list and thought to myself that I could probably make sunflower seed butter at home easily and for much cheaper!

I could not find any unsalted or un-roasted seeds in this particular store so I went ahead and bought the roasted and salted kind. All this means is that I won’t be adding any salt when combining the ingredients. I also happened to find small packets of vanilla sugar and picked those up as well. You could just as easily use plain sugar and vanilla extract. Two ingredients and I was well on my way to homemade sunflower seed butter!

seeds and sugar collage
Ingredients: Makes about 1/2 cup sunflower butter


  • 1 cup sunflower seeds (I used roasted and salted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla sugar


**Notes: You can use plain sunflower seeds and simply add salt to taste. You can also use 1-2 teaspoons cane sugar and 1 teaspoons vanilla extract in place of the vanilla sugar.**

Sunflower Butter Collage


  • Add 1 cup sunflower seeds into a food processor and blend. Scrape down sides from time to time to ensure all the seeds get blended. This will take some time, mine took about 5-10 minutes, however, I have a very small food processor so if you have a larger more powerful one, this will likely go much quicker.
  • Once a smooth buttery consistency is reached add up to 2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar (or cane sugar plus vanilla extract). Blend until well combined.
  • Transfer sunflower seed butter to a glass jar with a lid.
  • Enjoy on toast or straight from a spoon!

**Store sunflower butter in fridge for up to 2 months. Do not freeze!**

Homemade Veggie Wash

Should you wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them? I know I do!

There are several reasons why you should take the time to wash your fruits and veggies before eating them.

To begin with, unless your fruits and vegetables are organic, they grew up in fields covered in pesticides and herbicides. Although the pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables are considered to be at safe levels for human consumption, do you really want those extra chemicals on your food? Once your fruits and vegetables were ready for harvest, they were handled by several different pairs of hands in the fields and orchards, then in the warehouses, and finally again in your grocery store. Bacteria such as ListeriaSalmonella and E. coli may all be lurking on your produce, whether they are organically grown or conventionally grown. These bacteria all cause food-borne illness and need to be washed away.¹

Maybe you only buy organic fruits and veggies, so you don’t believe there’s a need to wash your produce, well think again!

Organic fruits and vegetables may not be grown with pesticides, but they’re still susceptible to “pesticide drift,” which is what happens when the wind blows chemicals from a nearby conventional field. Pesticide contamination can also happen during packaging, since many produce companies use the same warehouses to package both organic and non-organic produce.

But the biggest reason to wash your fruits and vegetables is to get rid of germs, according to Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group

But I’m eating an orange/banana/cantaloupe you say, there’s a peel on it, I don’t need to wash that! Wait, do I?

The fact is, yes you should even wash produce that have inedible peels such as bananas and oranges. The reason is this: As you peel them, your hands can get contaminants — such as pesticides or bacteria — on them, and this could transfer to the fruit inside. Another thing to remember is that you should wash produce immediately before serving (rather than before you put it away), because washing produce can actually shorten the shelf life of the product.³


Mix ingredients listed below then pour in clean spray bottle. Spritz on fresh produce generously. Sit for 5 minutes then rinse off well.


1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
2 TBS baking soda
2 TBS lemon juice

Note: Make sure to first combine ingredients in deep container since there will be some fizzing action.

Still not sure about the right way to wash fruits and veggies? Read this article from Huffington Post.

Check out my homemade detergent and dishwasher “recipes” as well.

¹ About.com
² The Kitchn
³ The Fun Times Guide

Kitchen Scraps Homemade Vegetable Broth

I eat a lot of veggies, it’s kinda what us veg*ns do, and therefore I have a lot of vegetable scraps. I also like to use veggie broth when I cook, either because the recipe calls for it, or to add nutritional value to things like pasta, rice, and other grains. Sure, I love Rapunzel bouillon cubes as much as any other vegan, and yes, it’s convenient to buy a box of veggie broth in the store from time to time, but with as much broth as I use, the cost quickly adds up.

Solution? Make my own vegetable broth with all the vegetable scraps I accumulate when cooking or even from making salads.

Here’s what you do; every time you have any kind of vegetable scraps place them in a reseal able plastic bag and either store in your fridge or your freezer, depending on how long it will take you to collect about 4-6 cups of scraps, and when you plan on making your broth. About a week is the longest I would keep the scraps in the fridge, I put mine in the freezer.

You can pretty much save any veggie for the broth as long as it’s not rotten or moldy. Here are some suggestions:

Veggies You Should Save:

Onions, carrots, celery, garlic (I leave the peel on but do give the clove a good whack before adding to the pot), leeks, scallions,fennel, chard, green beans, pea pods, zucchini and other squash, bell peppers, winter squash skins, and herbs like dill, thyme, parsley, cilantro and basil.

Veggies You May Want to Save:

Potatoes; Potatoes seem like they would be a great thing for stocks, but they release starch and thicken the stock — not to mention they make it cloudy and look very unappetizing, even though it will taste fine. Potato peels, on the other hand, are just fine. Parsnips, eggplant, mushrooms, lettuce, asparagus, corn cobs~I don’t use these myself, and am not sure of the end result if you choose to use them.

Veggies You May Want to Skip:

Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, artichokes.

**You can use beet root scraps and onion skins but be aware that they will make your stock either a deep red or a deep brown so you may want to skip them.**

Making the Stock

  1. Place roughly 4-6 cups of scraps in an 8 quart stock pot. Add 2-3 bay leaves and a few peppercorns (I used a melange because I had it and was feeling fancy, but black is fine).
  2. Cover it all with cold water then bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer uncovered for about an hour. Any more than an hour and the flavor will begin to deteriorate.
  3. Strain vegetables using a fine mesh strainer or a colander and giving them a press to make sure you get all the broth. Let cool then pour into clean containers or freezer bags. Let cool completely in the fridge and then freeze, or store for up to five days in the fridge.

For the broth in the photos I used carrots, celery, onion (yellow, white and red, skins and all!), garlic (see note above), parsley, basil and rosemary stems.

Do It Yourself Dishwasher Detergent

Remember when I showed you how to make laundry detergent? I told you then that I also make my own dishwasher detergent, so that’s what I’m going to share with you today. This is super easy and quick to make.

What you will need; Borax, Baking Soda, Citric Acid and White Vinegar


In a bowl combine;

  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Baking Soda
  • 1/4 cup Citric Acid

Stir it up and put in a container with a lid. Use 2 tablespoons per load of dishes. Add a splash of vinegar to each load as a rinse agent, if desired. That’s it!


This detergent will clump because of the citric acid. Here are a few ways to make it clump less;

  • Add a tsp of rice to the detergent to help absorb moisture.
  • After combining ingredients, leave mixture out and stir several times each day for a day or two.
  • Add 1/2 tsp. citric acid separately to each dishwasher load rather than adding it to the detergent.

Now let’s check out how much money we’re saving by making our own detergent.

Borax ($3.38 for a 4 lbs., 12 oz. box), Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda ($3.24 for a 3 lbs., 7 oz. box) Citric Acid ($4.99 for a 7 oz. jar), 1 gallon of White Vinegar $1.79

Using 2 tablespoons per load of dishes, I can get about 18 loads per batch of detergent that I make, that’s equal to $0.05 per load!

  • White Vinegar as a Rinse Agent 1 gallon solution – $1.79 – 1 fill = $0.06 per fill

Do you make your own dishwasher detergent? Or laundry detergent? Tell me in the comments!

Do It Yourself Laundry Detergent

I’m always looking for ways to save money. I also try to reduce, reuse, recycle as much as possible. I’ve always felt that it is important to keep the earth clean for future generations and to conserve natural resources. So when I found a “recipe” for homemade laundry detergent I knew I wanted to try it! I’ve been making my own laundry detergent now for close to a year and don’t regret my decision for a minute. Not only am I saving money and reducing landfill waste, it’s also been great for my oldest daughter’s psoriasis. I was paying for laundry soap without added perfumes, etc. Now I make my own! I’ve seen homemade detergents that you can add scents too, but I really prefer the mild soapy smell of the one I make!

It’s super easy to make and all the “ingredients” can be found at your local store.  I live in a small, rural town and both the local Wal-Mart and Tops carry all the necessary things I need.

Borax ($3.38 for a 4 lbs., 12 oz. box), Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda ($3.24 for a 3 lbs., 7 oz. box) and Fels-Naptha ($0.97 for 5.5 oz)

I also bought a box grater (less than $10)  to use only for grating soap and a 5 gallon bucket with a lid ($2.00 at Dollar General)

A 5 gallon batch of laundry detergent will last my family between 4-6 weeks.


  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 1 cup Fels-Naptha Bar soap, grated
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 quart (4 cups) boiling water


  • Boil water, once it’s boiling, add grated soap a bit at a time and stir until dissolved. I stir the entire time to ensure that there are no soap clumps, it won’t hurt the end product if there are any however. Also, adding soap to boiling water causes LOTS of foaming up and it can boil over really quick! This step will make your house smell soapy fresh!
  • Fill the 5 gallon bucket halfway with hot water.
  • Add the Borax and Super Washing Soda and stir well.
  • Stir in the melted soap mix.
  • Mix very well, then fill the rest of the bucket with more hot water
  • Put on lid and you’re DONE!

I usually wait to use the laundry detergent until the next day. It will form a gel in this time. You could probably use it right away if you needed to though. I use about 1/3 cup per load.

So how much am I paying per load of laundry?

It costs me about $1.31 to make 5 gallons of laundry detergent.

Using 1/3 cup per load, I can get about 240 loads out of a 5 gallon batch=less than $0.005 per load!

The box of Borax has 9.5 cups in it, the Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda has 6.875 cups in it, and the bar of Fels-Naptha will make 2 cups of grated soap.

I also make my own dishwasher detergent, stay tuned!