Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Squirrel for Winter

Squirreling food is an excellent idea, especially for the homemaker short on time and money. Spending a few hours a week can safely save you hours of time and effort as well as pennies on the dollar. Here's a couple of tips to stretch your supplies while stretching your dime (I sound so American):

1. Always make extra. Always. Even if you're baking cookies, make extra dough. Wrap it in baking paper in a log shape and then some clingfilm and you have yourself pre-made cookie dough packets in the freezer ready for the time you don't want to cook... but you still want cookies. It's especially nice to do this with cookies because you can simply slice off the number of them you want and bake as needed (1 for yourself and 3 for your period). With things like meat and soup - they can make excellent portable microwavable lunch meals or even a second dinner for the family - without the effort!

2. Get into jamming! This is highly unprofitable if you decide to go Ball-jar deep and buy a bunch of new jars and a pile of fruit from the market. Does not work like that. Source your jars second hand and make sure the fruits you use are local and fresh and well priced. Try to buy them direct from your local farm and you're in business. Jarring is not hard and there are many books and recipes on the topic. Anything from strawberry jam to gourmet deli spreads to mango chutney - they last forever and make use of the prices of seasonal items. That way when you're really craving an orange in summer, you can open a homemade jar of mandarin marmalade and dig in! Cheaper than buying one orange out of season! Also consider doing this with meats.

3. Dehydrators are your friend! I've been known to make anything from raw crunchy granola bars (damn hippies!) to dried fruit leathers to jerky. Heck, I've even made Packet Vegetable Soup, without the packaging! They are a bit pricey - mine was $120, but to be honest, I bought it at a pretty snotty little designer shop, so I'm sure you can find yours cheaper. Then - use them! Constantly! There is no need to ever stop it. One rack is empty, wash it and shove something else in there. I wish I listened to my own advice. (PS: potpurri is nice when you make it yourself. Not all gross and granny-like - but actually smells nice!)

4. Try to split a cow. With a spoon. No, really - try to split a cow. A whole cow costs about $6 a kg in Australia... when the cheapest meat you can get from one is $9 a kg. Most expensive being around $32 a kg, for things like (I think?) porterhouse. This also gets you nice things like tongue and liver! Mmmm. If you get a few friends together to share in buying this cow, you may spend $200 in one hit on beef - but it should last a family of four, oh... about 6 months. This is considering you don't have a slab of beef with every meal. The meat is fresher, more delicious, incredibly cheap and stores nicely. If you organize the buying of the calf yourself, you may even be able to make a deal so that the farmer gets $5 a kilo but you charge everyone else $6 for packaging and the like - you can even make money! (but please don't get into the business of selling cows for profit unless you get proper insurance!)

5. Make deals with friends for bulk. Okay, really, the cow thing should've been under this - but I needed five things otherwise a list just looks silly. Cows are one example but friends can make deals for bulk things in general - like fruit and veg, cheese, hell - fencing supplies, if y'all need a fence. Anything can be bought in bulk for less than just buying one. Even cars. (Don't buy cars with people. That's just a terrible idea.) So look into how much you have, how much you want and how much you can pawn off onto other people. But hey, if 30 people go in on that giant storage-sized package of toilet paper from Sam's, you'd all be toilet-papered for life for probably little more than the cost of 50 rolls by themselves. So try it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

How to be efficient.

It's long since come to my attention that I am incredibly efficient. Slightly not efficient enough to realize I could've made a post about this a long time ago, but efficient enough to get around to it someday.

I figure there's only 24 hours in a day. No more. No less. That's what you get. You could make the most of it and pack a million things into that day - but if you're not efficient you might only pack half a million things because you simply didn't do it efficiently enough. Instead of trying to cram it all and not make it, why not breeze through simply because you're cooly and efficiently saved yourself the one resource you'll never get back: time.

1. When cleaning or even not, if you're going from one room to another in the house and there's things that should be in the next room, take it with you. I know it sounds simple but how many coffee mugs are in your office right now? Everytime you've gone to the kitchen and not brought all those with you to be washed have cost little bits of time!

2. When planning a trip out, try to go in order of logic and distance. Obviously if the closest thing to you is the market, you're going to do that last - because logically cold things aren't going to last your entire trip and back. But if the closest to you is, say, the feedlot, you can easily grab some chickfood on your way out and keep that in the car while you perform errands.

3. Play upbeat music. I pretty much always have music on and it helps me want to get up and do things. Rock also works, but it makes me angrily clean. It's fun! Angry heavy metal is good for scrubbing floors and hyper happy pop is great for vacuuming.

4. Pass the buck. A chore passed onto someone else is a chore saved! Don't be a princess about it (or hell, be a princess about it if it ends up working, good on ya!) but try your best to give reasonable chores or jobs to other people. Even if it's as simple as, "While I hold this can you pass me the rag?" saves about a minute in you putting it down, grabbing a rag and coming back.

5. Think of things you can do simultaniously. Don't extend your abilities otherwise you'll have 7 unfinished things instead of 5 finished things. Can you pay your bills while you watch the market news on your superannuation fund? Can you drive and put on makeup? Don't do that. Seriously, it makes you a wanker. But, if you can cook dinner AND prepare tomorrow's breakfast, why not do that? I make my husband's lunches at the same time as dinner. I simply prepare extra and dish it up into a box with all the plates we're going to eat off and pop it in the fridge on my way to the table with dinner!

6. Make breakfast the night before. Crockpots make amazing breakfasts, I'm finding out. Omelettes. Steel cut oats. Muffins, even. Especially if you get a wall timer, you can place shorter cooked foods (like bread, which is 3 hours on high) in there and set the timer for a few hours before you wake up (make sure there's no eggs or milk in the things you do this to, however, unless you're playing a game of Risk). 4c water + 1c steel oats is an amazing warm and lush breakfast. And takes 3 minutes to prepare and cooks in your sleep! Perfect for people who are too tired to make breakfast in the morning.

7. If you're in school, download your lectures. I listen to my lectures on the way to work. So while I'm working I'm like, "Hey, did you know that the liver and human muscles make their own kind of sugar?" which is totally annoying to my coworkers but helps me learn. Kidding. They're not annoyed by it. They wear headphones. I talk to myself.

8. Write lists. Shockingly efficient. You'd think, but lists take 10 minutes to write! But... not if you write them as you go. I have a few lists. Lists of things I want someday. Lists of things that are inexpensive but would be nice to own but I've never seen and want to remind myself to get someday. Grocery lists. Lists of stuff to do that day. You may think it costs time to write - but getting dressed, getting in the car, driving to the shops and forgetting ONE ingredient to make you go all the way back saves even less time.

9. If it can be done in advance, do it. Prepare dinner in advance, do everything up to the cooking when you have some spare time and then cook it up when you're ready. Can you setup your bills to be automatically paid? That will save about an hour a week!

10. Why make one when you can make ten? If you're preparing, say, pizza dough for homemade pizzas, why on earth would you only prepare one crust? They're freezable. Prepare 10, freeze nine. You've just saved youself 9 hours of waiting for each crust! Same goes for pie crusts, tart shells... hell.. even jewellery making. After 1 or 3 things you tend to get into a 'groove' and work on them faster. If you do it all NOW, it'll save you time later.

11. TV is for the background, if it exists at all. If you want to watch your shows, great - but honestly the majority of TV you can watch and listen to without just sitting on the damn couch. Even if you *want* to sit on the couch, tidy up during commercials. You'd be surprised how those boring 5 minutes of tidying can effect a house! If I get my husband and I on a 15 minute timer, we finish the whole open-plan dining/living/kitchen area. The whole thing. And that's just 30 minutes between us. 5 minute breaks every 10 minutes? You're getting your TV AND tidying up at once! Of course you can tidy AS you watch, but I realize you don't always want to do that.

12. Learn to fidget. Not only do people who fidget weigh an everage of 5kg less than those who don't, they also tend to be more productive. You're fidgeting, you want to do something, so you get up and do it.

13. Develop a habit. No, not on crack cocaine. Honestly cocaine only works once or twice to clean the house before it becomes useless, so don't even try it. (What?!) Kidding. Well... not about trying cocaine. Just don't try that. But honestly - develop an efficiency habit. Look around your house. How does it flow? How can it be more efficient? Could you keep the coffee maker and crockpot in the same plug with a timer so they'll both be ready when you wake up? If you kept the catfood just a little closer to the bowls, how would that go?

14. Make your bed. Starting your day doing something productive sets the mood for the entire day. It really does! Make your bed, have a glass of water, eat your prepared breakfast and start your day on the right foot! From there it'll be a cake walk!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rosemary-Balsamic Strawberry Shortcake

So you went to the U-Pick like I suggested yesterday, right? And now you picked too many strawberries and you want a good recipe to use some of them up? Well good, because I just came up with this snazzy little number and I'm eager to share my success with you.

Oh, you will not believe how well these flavors go together!


Shortcake Biscuits:
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sugar (vanilla sugar, if you have some!)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup very cold butter, cubed
Generous 1/2 cup half-and-half (plus extra for brushing)

Strawberry Filling:
3 cups strawberries, trimmed and halved
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

Good-quality vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toss all the dry ingredients for the biscuits into your food processor and mix them up, or do it by hand in a bowl. Cut in the butter, pulsing with the food processor or crumbling into the flour mix with your fingers, until it resembles a coarse meal. Slowly add the half-and-half, and pulse or combine until it's just blended in (the dough will still be crumbly).

Pat the dough into a ball, giving it a little knead if it's not holding together, and roll it out to about an inch thick. Use a glass or biscuit cutter to cut out large rounds; brush them with a little half-and-half, and bake them for 20 minutes or until done.

Meanwhile, mix the strawberries with the honey, balsamic, and rosemary. Set aside for at least half an hour or so. When the biscuits are done, set them aside too and let them cool.

When everything's ready, split a shortcake biscuit in half and top the bottom half with the strawberry mixture. Set the top half of the biscuit on top, spoon a little extra strawberry love around the plate, and top the whole shebang with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Enjoy on the porch and relish the feel of a summer evening.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tight-Arse Tuesdays: U-Pick

I'm heading out in a little while today to pick strawberries with a friend, and I thought - what better frugal tip for a Tight-Arse Tuesday?

'Tis the season for U-Picks, and you'll find them within 30 minutes of your location, I can almost guarantee it. If you've never done it before, it's a great way to get out in the sunshine, and teach your kids (if you have them) about nature and food. Sometimes you bring your own container, sometimes they have containers for you; once you get to the farm, just start picking until you've got more fresh-picked fruit than you know what to do with.

Strawberries are common at U-Picks, as are blueberries, tree fruits, and sometimes grapes. I've occasionally seen vegetable U-Picks but it seems to be mainly a fruit thing. Start looking for a U-Pick farm near you at PickYourOwn.org.

Of course you'll want to enjoy a lot of your fruit in its freshness, but make sure you pick extra for preserving. Homemade jams and jellies are SUPER easy, and freezing is even easier! Wouldn't it be great to toss some of your frozen strawberries into a smoothie or some fruit bread later this winter, and have the flavor transport you back to that beautiful day in June when you laughed in the sun as you picked them?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Crock-Pot Super Easy White Bread

A friend of mine was making bread in a crockpot lately and telling me about it. I listened to her and went, "Aha! Here's an idea I can steal for my blog!" Luckily, I don't think she she reads this so hopefully she'll never know I stole her idea.

Whole Wheat & Oat Crockpot Bread
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4c warm water
1c warm milk (I used hazlenut milk)
1/2c rolled oats
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 egg
1/4c wheat germ
2 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

Combine yeast and water in bowl and let sit ten minutes until foamy. While this is happening, place the empty crockpot on high to preheat. Find a metal or glass pan that fits into your crockpot and will hold a small loaf of bread and still cover the top.

Combine all ingredients into foamy yeast mixture. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Turn dough into pan and cover loosely with foil.

Pour 1/2 c water in slow cooker. Cover with a piece of foil.

Place bowl on watered foil in crockpot and bake on high for 3 hours.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tight-Arse Tuesdays: Ribs!

Maybe I'm just Southern, but I love ribs. I don't do pig, but beef ribs and buffalo ribs feature in our house on a regular basis, and why not? They're flavorful, easy to cook, extremely filling, and very cheap - usually the cheapest meat on the animal!

They have a reputation for being hard to make, which is completely undeserved. They're time-intensive, sure, but almost all of that time is passive time. In my opinion, the best way to cook ribs is by braising them. Since they're such a fatty cut, all they need is some liquid and time to really bring out all that nice beefy flavor and soften them up a bit. And that takes next to nothing out of you! You get to serve up a delicious old-fashioned dinner that looks like you spent all evening on it, but really you were soaking in a bubble bath while time did the work. Ssh. I won't tell.

Here's a one-dish meal recipe that is super, super flexible. Add a salad if you want (I did). I didn't measure most of this so I'm not putting measurements here - just try a little bit of this and that. Feel free to substitute other root vegetables, or add some sturdy greens like kale or collards when you add the other veg.


Beef Ribs (about ¾ lb per person; the bone weighs it down)
1 Tbsp olive oil
Handful of mushrooms (dried is fine)
Spoonful of tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, halved
Chili powder (chipotle if you have it)
Fresh rosemary
Salt & pepper
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Onion, chopped
Potatoes, diced
Carrots, sliced thick
1 Tbsp corn starch, potato starch, or arrowroot powder

Heat some water to boiling.

Heat the olive oil in a sturdy pot with a lid (use your cast-iron Dutch oven here if you have one). Brown the ribs, then pour in enough boiling water to mostly cover them. It's okay if the tips curve out of the water. And be careful doing this, since it's going to send up a huge steam cloud.

Throw in the mushrooms, and everything else but the veggies and starch/arrowroot. Give it a quick stir, then cover the pot and turn the heat to medium-low. Let it simmer for an hour if you've only got a couple of ribs in there, or 90 minutes if you have several. Meanwhile, pour a glass of wine and retire to a bubble bath.

When the timer goes off, have your husband, older child, or the next-door neighbor add the veggies to the pot and put the cover back on. They can add some more water if there's not enough to almost cover the veggies and meat. Sip your wine, finish your bath, and go slip into something comfy.

20 minutes after the veggies were added, remove them with a slotted spoon, along with the meat. Discard the mushrooms if they were dried (they will be tough, but they'll have flavored the broth nicely). Turn the heat all the way up on the liquid left in the pot, and dissolve the starch or arrowroot in a little bit of water. Stir that into the remaining liquid; let it boil for a minute until it thickens slightly. Spoon this sauce over the ribs and veggies. Serve immediately.

And don't forget to save the rib bones for later! They add excellent flavor to soups, stews, and beans. Unless you have a dog, of course, in which case rib night is fun for the whole family.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Silverbeet Chips

I have really weird issues with vitamin a. I suck at getting it. People recommended kale chips to me as a fun flavour-packed way to supplement my dietary habits.

In Australia, Kale is hard to find. Not agressively so, but it's not necessarially at the grocery stores and I didn't want to drive too far just to try kale chips. I figured, hey, silverbeet is related to kale so I grabbed that.

1 bunch silverbeet, spines removed
1 tbsp salt
1/4c rice bran oil

Combine oil and salt in bowl. You want quite a bit of salt to get a 'chippy' flavour but you can have less if you need. Dredge silverbeet in oil/salt mixture and place on drying racks. Dry on low for 6 hours for a more chewy chip or high for 4 hours for a more crispy one.

It's really delicious. I quite enjoy these. I am now getting all the nutrients I need. Thank you silverbeet! *gold star*

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How to make your own bathbombs!!

My never fail recipe for bathbombs is as follows!

1c bicarbonate soda
1/2c citric acid
1/2c cocoa butter
fragrance or essential oils
witch hazel
colour (food colour works here)

Combine dry ingredients in bowl. Using a cheese grater, grate cocoa butter into bowl as well. Combine with hands. Pour 5-10 drops of EO into the mixture, combine again. Combine witch hazel with colour in spray bottle. Generously spritz powder while combining with free hand. Continue until dough holds it's shape when squeezed. Press into moulds. I like to wait an hour or so because I'm pretty much guaranteed the bomb won't crack. Makes roughly 20 baths worth (or 4 stars, each point being a bath).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Easy delicious homemade poptarts?!

Oh man, Poptarts. I remember those things from America. They were nasty! I always liked the Toaster's Strudel better. I was sipping peppermint tea on my porch thinking longingly back to my past of the little sweet toaster pastries with more instructions than a nuclear missile (why IS that?). I thought of being a child and running with a Pop-tart in my hand towards my friends.

I lied.

Honestly, I just had way too much jam and preserves from the last few weeks of being inundated with fruit that I wanted to beat that smug look off my neighbour's face. You know the one. The one that INSISTS packaged food is the best and homemade cannot compare. I can hardly blame the woman - she is clearly suffering from brain trauma due to malnutrition since she doesn't know what food tastes like.

The "Ha-ha I'm Better Than You" Easy Peasy Wheat Poptarts

2 sticks (1c) of butter, chilled and cubed into small pieces
1 1/2c wheat flour
1 1/2c self raising
1 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Small bowl ice water

Place butter, salt, sugar and flours in Kitchen Aid or food processor. Blitz until the little pieces resemble wet sand. Keep on low while pouring cold water a tablespoon at a time into the dough until it begins to stick together. Roll onto floured surface into equal sized disks. Refridgerate for an hour.

Flour surface of table. Measure out ten to twelve balls from each disk (use one disk at a time, the colder and more last minute, the better). Roll each ball until large rectangle. Place jam on one of the short sides, away from the edges. Fold dough over and press with fork. Place in pan, wash with eggs and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake at 200c/400F for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tight-Arse Tuesdays - Counter Clockwise People Spend More - Wut?

How is this article for a wealth of consumer knowledge? Basically stating all the little nasty supermarket tricks for getting you to spend more on crap you don't need. It's true - supermarkets organize their shelves by sticking it to your pocket book. It's why the candy is on child's eye level and why fruit and veg is on the left. Is it? I bet it fuckin' is.

Why? Because, apparently, it's natural human condition to drift to the right when shopping. Oddly enough, I drift to the left. Score. I save $2 per trip on average according to studies. Considering I go nearly every day, simply veering to the left saves me $730 a year. So... go left ya heathens!

When you enter a big supermarket fresh fruit and veg is the first shopping zone. Although it’s not logical to have squashable fruit and veggies as the first items to pack into your trolley, this department is deliberately located to give the supermarket a positive image of being fresh and healthy.

People who use the fresh food areas also tend to spend more money in the store overall.

By setting up different “marketplace” areas, our minds are tricked into thinking we’ve visited several different stores rather than a single big shop. Each of these areas has different lighting, floor coverings and sometimes individual counters for service (such as a deli). “It’s all about creating a market-like feel,” says Harrison. “Areas such as the bakery, apart from smelling good, give the impression the supermarket is trustworthy; it’s like they’re saying, ‘you can trust us because we make stuff ’.”

That's right folks. Ever notice that? Bet ya didn't. But look, the deli counter is so shiny and has these awesome more expensive tiles hanging around it the rest of the market... so it looks nicer and more inviting. Ignore that's where the expensive shit is, eh? I did notice yesterday that the cheese in there was $2 a kg more than the cheese outside of it, even though my husband was CONVINCED deli-cheese was cheaper. Also - chicken is $1 a kilo more in there, too. Same chicken, LESS packaging. Nice.

Basically: the word 'special' induces some idea that, hey, maybe you're not like everyone else, the market puts longer-choice-making items in less busy areas, we're a bunch of suckers and, hey look, bright colours make you like us!

Thank heavens for the tips at the bottom of the article, which I will re-iterate using my own words so I can fool you just like the supermarkets. You're buyin' it.

Take a list. You will ALWAYS buy more without one. Be specific. I accidentally put "cheese" on the list instead of specifying. Now I have 4 different exotic cheeses in my fridge besides what I normally use. I got it in the deli section. Damn.

Take a calculator. Look at price per kilo/pound. IN EVERYTHING. Funny.. how 6 rolls of toilet paper are $3... but 24 rolls are $13. Which one is ACTUALLY cheaper?

Don't shop with your spouse. They make worse decisions than you.

If you shop at a big supermarket, only do it for large trips. Smaller trips put the mindset of "While I'm here I might as well..." buy crap you don't need.

Don't buy the bigger one JUST because it says so unless you have a plan for it. If I am jarring tomato sauces, by golly I'll by the two kilos of tomatoes for $2 instead of $1.90 for 1.5kg. However, if I'm not - there's 500g more tomatoes I have no fuckin' plans for. Only buy in bulk when you know what you're gonna DO with that bulk. Otherwise - chicken food. Fuck.

Eat before you shop. You'd think this one would be a motivator. "You mean to shop my arse off, I have to eat a meal?" Why do more people not DO this? But no.. ya go hungry. Pft. An excuse to eat. Take it.

Eye-level is where your eyes are. Look lower or higher for bargains, where taller and shorter people's eyes are.

Don't buy shit at the ends of isles. It's where the rip-offs are.

Stuff that goes together is placed together to tempt you to buy. It's why the hot cocoa powder is next to the damn coffee and why the jams are near the bread. 'cause you're a sucker.

All the crap you NEED will be furthest away from you possible to entice you. Don't fall for the trap. It's the same trap women's boobs use to cause earthquakes.

Overall: Baaaa. Because I'm a sheep that's fallen for ALL of this. Shops don't WANT to sell you what's best for you or your pocket book because that's not profitable. Don't trust them. They're evil consumerist warlords bent on pilphering every last penny from your bank and leaving you with ill-made and waxed foods. Shop smartly, don't fall for their crap (YOU DA WO/MAN!) and stick it to them, saving your money for other things. Like lollies. I mean. Not like lollies.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Make-Your-Own Monday: Freezer Pot Pie (but cuter!)

I made these the other day and had some requests for the recipe, so I'm sharing it here. I really seem to have a pie fetish going on these days; it seems like all I'm posting about lately is pie! Rest assured we do eat other foods in this house. But I love savory pies for a lot of reasons, and small individual-size pies are perfect for a quick portable meal. I used to buy them at the store many years ago, but quit buying them because they were loaded with sodium and trans fats and G-d knows what else... good thing we can make them ourselves!

I got this idea the other day when I felt like baking at a friend's house, and my friend didn't have a pie plate but she did have a muffin tin. Pot pies are awesome, but how much cooler would it be to have muffin-sized pot pies? It took a bit more time to roll out each crust individually, line the muffin tins, and assemble each small pie individually... but the little pies, once cooled, went to the freezer beautifully and held up great in the microwave. I zapped a frozen one for about 4 minutes to see how it would do, and the crust was still nice and flaky. So these are cute little quickie meals later - I also thought these would be good for kids' lunchboxes as well as take-to-work lunches for adults.

Use a storebought pie crust if you want, or use this one (with a tablespoon of cider vinegar added in), or try my gluten-free perfect pie crust. And the filling can be whatever you want - my chicken pot pie filling (over at my other blog) is always good. For my project the other day, I adapted the chicken recipe to use veggies and tofu instead since my friend is a pesco-vegetarian; I also made the tuna pot pies in the picture above, and I'll give you that recipe now. (I adapted it from this one.)


Crust for TWO double-crust pies
4 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
6 Tbsp flour (any flour, wheat or gluten-free is fine)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp garlic powder *
1 tsp paprika *
1/4 tsp chili powder *
Sprig fresh thyme, leaves only (optional)
2 cups milk
2 cans sustainable, water-packed tuna, drained and flaked
2 heaping cups fresh or frozen veggies (I used corn, peas, and a carrot)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (optional, I left it out but will include it next time)

Beaten egg for brushing on crust (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Melt the butter in a big saucepan and saute the onion over medium-low until it softens up. Sprinkle in the flour, a tablespoon at a time, blending it in with a fork after each addition. Cook another minute until you have a paste, adding in your salt and pepper and other seasonings. (*I did not measure my seasonings, so this really just means season to taste with whatever herbs and spices you have handy.)

Stirring with your fork, slowly pour the milk in, whisking it up to blend it with the flour. Make sure you get the lumps out so it's nice and smooth. Keep stirring it for a few more minutes until it simmers and thickens up like white gravy. At that point, stir in everything else except, duh, the pie crust. Shut off the heat and let the filling sit aside while you roll out the crust.

Take about a fourth of the crust and roll it out thin. Using a bowl as a cutter or a guide, cut circles out of the crust and line the muffin tin, making sure that the crust sits against the bottom and walls of each cup. Leave a bit hanging over the edges of each cup, trim up the rest, and keep rolling up your trimmings with additional dough until you've got the tin lined up.

Now gently spoon the filling into the muffin cups. You should have just enough filling for a dozen muffin pies - go ahead and pile them up, it's okay if the filling mounds up a little higher than the muffin cup. That's what the top crust is for. Once the pies are all filled, roll out the rest of the crust and use a glass or another smaller guide to cut circles for the top crust. Lay each circle on top of each pie, pinch around the edges to seal, and trim off the excess. Brush with a little beaten egg if you want a golden crust, then use the tip of a sharp knife to poke a few holes in the top. Bake for 30 minutes.

When the muffin pies are done, carefully run a butter knife around the outside edges if you need to loosen them up, and gently move them to a plate. You can also hold a large plate upside-down over the pan and carefully flip the pan over so the muffins slide out upside-down. Let them cool a bit, eat one right away, and let the rest come to room temperature before you wrap them up individually and pop 'em in the freezer or fridge.

This will make you 12 regular-sized muffins or 6 of those big ones.