Monday, July 21, 2014

Refrigerator Dough Doughnuts


Need a quick treat? If you have a batch of Potato Refrigerator Dough in your fridge, you can make a some raised yeast doughnuts quickly and easily! (yes, I used the words "yeast" and "easy" in the same sentence). And oh my heavens, they are good!

You still need to let these doughnuts rise, but since the your dough is already prepared ahead of time and waiting for you in the refrigerator, the hands-on time is very limited.

Doughnut Recipe (using Potato Refrigerator Dough)
  • On a floured surface, roll out 1/3 batch of the Potato Refrigerator Dough until it is 1/2 inch thick.
  • Cut with a doughnut cutter (or use a pizza cutter to cut into squares).


  • Place cut doughnuts onto a piece of lightly buttered parchment or wax paper. 
  • Loosely cover the dough with a cloth and set aside to rise until doubled in size, approximately 60 to 90 minutes.
Those "holes" look so funny!

  • Heat oil in a deep fryer to 350°F. (If you don't have a deep fryer, you can use a couple quarts of oil in a dutch oven on the stovetop)
  • Fry doughnuts in small batches until golden brown on both sides (1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side).
  • Drain, cool for several minutes and decorate.


For simplicity's sake, I just coated these in granulated sugar but you can certainly opt for powdered sugar, chocolate icing, sprinkles, etc.


The finished doughnuts are huge! Almost 4 inches across! I'm glad I didn't use my bigger doughnut cutter. I may use that one when I try to make bagels...

NOTE: I was able to squeeze out a baker's dozen (and extra doughnut holes) using my 2 3/4" doughnut cutter. It was also easier to transfer the risen doughnuts to the fryer if I had the doughnuts on individual squares of wax paper. I could pick up the doughnut using the wax paper and peel it off just before frying.

I'm also a sucker for filled doughnuts so I may just have to try making a batch of those using the Potato Refrigerator Dough.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Refrigerator Dough Cinnamon Rolls


I had never made cinnamon rolls from scratch before. They always seemed to take too much work. Previously, if I wanted cinnamon rolls, I bought a can of Grands Cinnamon Rolls, popped it open and baked. But lately, I have been trying to make more of our foods from scratch (and frankly, a can of cinnamon rolls from the store just doesn't make it into our food budget...ever). Maybe that's why I sat up and took notice when I was re-reading The Tightwad Gazette III book and came across the recipe for Potato Refrigerator Dough. The author of the book made doughnuts with the dough...and cloverleaf dinner rolls...and breadsticks...and CINNAMON ROLLS! To make a batch of cinnamon rolls so quickly...that would be wonderful!

The cinnamon roll recipe wasn't provided in the book...nor was it provided on the Betty Crocker website or in my own Betty Crocker cookbooks (where I found the cloverleaf roll instructions right next to the recipe for Potato Refrigerator Dough). So I searched online and found three different versions ( from Shalom Y'all, Take A Megabite, and cdKitchen). I decided to use a little of all three variations to make my rolls.

That very evening I made a single batch of Potato Refrigerator Dough. It would need to sit in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

The next morning, I pulled out a 1/3 portion of the dough and commenced my cinnamon roll making. In 15 minutes, I had the cinnamon rolls cut and rising in a pan. All I had left to do was to bake them.

Cinnamon Roll Recipe (using Potato Refrigerator Dough)

- Roll out 1/3 of the Potato Refrigerator Dough (recipe above) into a 12" wide rectangle 1/4" thick (will be approximately 12" x 11").
- Spread 3 TBS softened butter on the surface of the dough.
- Combine 6 TBS light brown sugar and 2 tsp. ground cinnamon. Sprinkle over butter to cover the surface.


- Starting at the 12" end, roll the dough to form an 12" long roll. Pinch the seam closed.


- Mark off 1" sections and cut into 12 slices. It is easiest to do this with dental floss. A knife tends to squish the roll down.



- Place the 12 slices into a buttered 13" x 9" baking dish, about 1" apart.

Cinnamon Rolls before rising.

- Let rise, lightly covered, for 1 to 1 1/5 hours.

Cinnamon Rolls after rising for 90 minutes in an oven with only the light bulb on.

- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Bake the cinnamon rolls for 25 to 28 minutes or until a rich golden color on top.


- Remove from the oven and drizzle with a glaze (2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 2 tsp vanilla and 3 TBS milk).


OPTIONAL - you could also sprinkle raisins or chopped nuts on top of the sugar/cinnamon layer prior to rolling up.

I couldn't believe how easy it was!

The cinnamon rolls smelled fantastic while they were baking (The Boy commented that it smelled "like a hotel breakfast" in the house). By the time the rolls came out of the oven and were iced, I was ready to dig in. They were SO. GOOD. I unashamedly ate three of them.




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Potato Refrigerator Dough - My New "Go-To" Recipe

Have you ever dreamed you had a yeast dough that comes together in less than half an hour, rises in the fridge overnight and lasts up to 5 days? What if you could take that one dough ball, split it into two, three or even four sections and make a whole list of baked goods from it? The dough does exist and has for at least 60 years. Except I only just learned about it a couple years ago and only began taking advantage of its goodness within the past week. It's Potato Refrigerator Dough.

The recipe and some of its different preparation variations can be found below, but first a little background...

A while ago, after we began our debt-free journey, I was browsing the thrift store book section and scored all three Tightwad Gazette books for about $5.


The Tightwad Gazette was a subscription based newsletter written by Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced decision) and available in the 1990's. For those of us who weren't early newsletter subscribers, there are the Tightwad Gazette books which are made up of a large percentage of the newsletter articles. There are three volumes, The Tightwad Gazette, The Tightwad Gazette II and The Tightwad Gazette III. The three Tightwad Gazette volumes can occasionally be found in secondhand book stores or thrift stores, or you can purchase The Complete Tightwad Gazette which is a compilation of all three volumes.

I read each of those books cover to cover. While some of the information is dated (mortgages and salaries were usually much lower and interest rates were much higher in the 90's), the bulk of the information found in these books teaches practical ways to live a frugal life and can help just about anyone save LOTS of money (and the more money I can save, the faster we get out of debt).

In The Tightwad Gazette III (page 19), Amy Dacyczyn mentions a recipe for Betty Crocker Refrigerator Dough which apparently appears in all pre-1986 versions of the Betty Crocker Cookbook along with different baking variations for using the dough.


I have both a 1973 version (page 72, called "Potato Refrigerator Dough" with seven baking variations) and a reprinted copy of the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook (page 114, called "Favorite Refrigerator Dough" with two baking variations). Nowadays, you can also find the recipe online at the Betty Crocker website (called Make Ahead Potato Bread Dough).

As with a great many things, it took me a long time to get around to try out this recipe. After reading through the Tightwad Gazette books again recently, I decided it was time to see if I could make use of this "All-Purpose" Refrigerator Dough. I'm pretty certain it was the thought of freshly made cinnamon rolls that ultimately spurred me to action.

The recipe requires unseasoned mashed potatoes. Apparently, you can use mashed potato flakes for this and measure out exactly how much you would need for the recipe, but I don't usually have instant potatoes on hand. I peeled and boiled 6 medium sized russet potatoes, drained them (saving the potato water) and put them through my potato ricer to make sure I had lump-free mashed potatoes.


I wound up with just over 5 cups of mashed potatoes. One cup was set aside for immediate use in the recipe. The remaining potatoes were measured out into 1 cup portions for later use. I intended to make this recipe over and over again and didn't want to have to make mashed potatoes every time.

Mashed potatoes (and shortening, mayo, peanut butter, icing, etc) can be easily measured with a plunger style adjustable measuring cup. Mr. LH and I would constantly see an adjustable measuring cup used on America's Test Kitchen and I would practically drool over it every time. Mr. LH took notice and this OXO Adjustable Measuring Cup was part of my Mother's Day present this year. I love it!

You simply drop the base to your desired measuring line, fill with your ingredient...

Measuring 2/3 cup of shortening.

And then push the measured ingredient out.

Dispensing the 2/3 cup of shortening.

You can use it for liquids and dry ingredients as well, but I just use it for those messy, sticky, semi-solid harder-to-measure ingredients. It worked perfectly for measuring out the mashed potatoes in this recipe!

The first time I made this recipe, I hand mixed it. The second time, I used my mixer. It was much easier!

Betty Crocker Potato Refrigerator Dough
  • 1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp yeast)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water or potato water (105 to 115°F)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup lukewarm UNSEASONED mashed potatoes*
  • 6 1/2 to 7 cups all-purpose flour** 
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Mix in sugar, salt, shortening, eggs, mashed potatoes and 4 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. I generally use 6 to 6 1/2 cups of flour total. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover bowl tightly; refrigerate at least 8 hours. Can be stored in refrigerator at 45 degrees or below up to 5 days. Keep covered.

To use, punch down dough; divide dough into four, three or two parts depending on which recipe you will use it for. (see recipe variations below)

 *Instant mashed potatoes can be used for the mashed potatoes...just don't season it.

**If using self-rising flour, omit salt. You can substitute up to 3 cups of whole wheat flour.




The first time I made this dough, I used it all within 2 days. I made cinnamon rolls, hot dog buns and doughnuts. The day I used the last bit of dough, I made more. When that batch was ready, I made more hot dog buns and some hamburger buns and more cinnamon rolls. Now I have a third batch in the works and have plans for all of it.

There are so many ways to use this refrigerator dough. Aside from those goodies I have already made, the dough will produce dinner rolls or calzones. Transform it into pizza crust or monkey bread. You name it! No wonder it's considered "all-purpose"!

There are some variations scattered about online and I keep coming up with some ideas myself. As I make something, I'll write a post about it in more detail and link to it from here.

Using Your Potato Refrigerator Dough

Cinnamon Rolls:
 - Roll out 1/3 of the Potato Refrigerator Dough (recipe above) into a 12" wide rectangle 1/4" thick (will be approximately 12" x 11").
- Spread 3 TBS butter on the surface of the dough.
- Combine 6 TBS light brown sugar and 2 tsp. ground cinnamon. Sprinkle over butter to cover the surface.
- Starting at the 12" end, roll the dough to form an 12" long roll. Pinch the seam closed.
- Mark off 1 " sections and cut into 12 slices (it is easiest to do this with dental floss).
- Place the 12 slices into a buttered 13" x 9" baking dish, about 1" apart.
- Let rise, lightly covered, for 1 to 1 1/5 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Bake the cinnamon rolls for 25 to 28 minutes or until a rich golden color on top.
- Remove from the oven and drizzle with a glaze (2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tsp vanilla and 3 TBS milk).
OPTIONAL - you could also sprinkle raisins or chopped nuts on top of the sugar/cinnamon layer prior to rolling up. Read More >

Doughnuts:
- Roll out 1/3 of the Potato Refrigerator Dough (recipe above) until it is 1/2 inch thick.
- Cut with a doughnut cutter (or use a pizza cutter to cut into squares).
- Place cut doughnuts onto a piece of lightly buttered parchment or wax paper.
- Loosely cover the dough with a cloth and set aside to rise until doubled in size, approximately 60 to 90 minutes.
- Heat oil in a deep fryer to 350°F. (If you don't have a deep fryer, you can use a couple quarts of oil in a dutch oven on the stovetop)
- Fry doughnuts in small batches until golden brown on both sides.
- Drain, sprinkle with sugar or add icing or glaze.
I was able to squeeze out a baker's dozen (and extra doughnut holes) using my 2 3/4" doughnut cutter. Use a biscuit cutter (no hole) to make filled doughnuts.

Hamburger Buns:
- Divide 1/3 of the Potato Refrigerator Dough (recipe above) into 8 equal parts.
- Shape each part into smooth ball on lightly floured surface then flatten to about 1/2 inch (this should make your dough rounds approximately 3" across).
- Place about 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheet (or use a silicone mat on the baking sheet).
- Loosely cover the dough with a cloth and set aside to rise until doubled in size, approximately 60 to 90 minutes.
- Heat oven to 350°F.
- Brush buns egg wash then sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional).
- Bake until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Makes 8 hamburger buns.

Hot Dog Buns:
- Divide 1/3 of the Potato Refrigerator Dough (recipe above) into 8 equal parts.
- Shape each part into a rope approximately 6" long on lightly floured surface.
- Place about 1 - 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet (or use a silicone mat on the baking sheet).
- Loosely cover the dough with a cloth and set aside to rise until doubled in size, approximately 60 to 90 minutes.
- Heat oven to 350°F.
- Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Makes 8 large hot dog buns perfect for bun length dogs, brats and smoked sausages.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Movie Entertainment On A Budget

We're not big TV watchers, though admittedly, we've watched a lot more television since we moved to Colorado. I guess it's because our digital antenna picks up a lot more stations in Metro Denver than it did in rural North Carolina. But we have never paid for television service. No cable, no satellite tv, no Food Network, ESPN, History Channel, Cartoon Network, Boomerang or Nickelodeon. There never seemed to be a need. I want my family to watch LESS television, not MORE. Though I never miss a chance to watch HGTV when we're on vacation somewhere with cable tv. We mainly stick to movies.


Right before Mr. LH and I started working with our bare bones budget, we started using Redbox (love it!). However, our new ultra-scrawny-no-room-for-anything budget left...well...no room for anything. Not even a $1 a night movie rental (which, I noticed, has gone up a smidgen). So, we started using our free movie resources exclusively. FREE always fits into the budget!

I don't know WHAT kept us from doing this more often before.

The Library:
We have re-discovered the movie section at the library. There seems to be a much better selection during the week than on weekends. I kept thinking the library had some pretty slim pickings in their DVD collection until I learned we could go online to the library website, log in using our library cards and place a hold on certain titles to pick up once they were available. It gave us a much larger selection to choose from (I also took full advantage of this when it came to reserving certain book titles).

Sometimes there is a waiting list for new releases and popular movies and we have to wait longer for them. The library would send us an email when our movie was ready for pick-up and we had 5 days in which to get it before it was offered to the next person on the waiting list. I am impatiently awaiting our turn for a library copy of Saving Mr. Banks. There are 33 people in front of me.

Since movies can be checked out for 7 days, we try to go to the library about once a week. If I know something is especially popular, I try to be courteous and get it back to the library earlier so the next person in line can watch it sooner.

School:
Mr. LH also started borrowing movies from his school's library and since he was gifted a blu-ray player for his birthday a couple years ago, he could select newer titles as well since the film school started acquiring only Blu-ray versions.

Home:
We have quite an extensive movie library at home - two-thirds being G or PG - as well as a surprisingly large collection of a few older television show seasons: MASH, Little House on the Prairie, Hogan's Heroes, Columbo, Macgyver and even Ultraman. These always come in handy when we can't seem to find anything else to watch.

Public Television:
And never underestimate the entertainment value in public television.  I'm talking about PBS...and Create TV. Countless shows about cooking, home improvement, crafts and sewing. The "Pickles" developed a liking for the Antiques Roadshow and several cooking shows.

Friends & Neighbors:
Trade movies with friends and neighbors (and remember to return them, too!).

Throughout the summer, we have at least 5 new library movies a week to watch which really helps keep the early morning and late night "boredom" away for the "Pickles".

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course, if you've budgeted for it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using Redbox. I was very tempted a time or two to get Saving Mr. Banks from Redbox instead of waiting for the library copy. We tend to use Redbox now only as a trade or an incentive for the "Pickles". "Trade in 100 pieces of Halloween candy for one Redbox movie rental"...that sort of thing. Although I haven't tried it, I found a place that offers codes for free overnight Redbox rentals.

The same goes for movie theaters. We go to them, but only on birthdays when it was requested as a gift


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Because we are still paying off debt, we chose to not set up an "entertainment fund" as part of our budget. We have set up a "gift fund" that we contribute to monthly to cover birthdays and Christmas. If someone wants dinner out or a trip to the movie theater for their birthday, it comes out of the "gift fund" but we still make it a matinee show and limit purchases from the concession stand to popcorn and water (take a drink mix or flavor drops with you in your purse if you have to have something other than water).


Monday, July 14, 2014

DIY Tin Can Lanterns


There are some crafts that stay on my brain and refuse to go away. "Tin Can Lanterns" is one of those crafts. I also seemed to constantly have trouble getting everything to come together so I could make them.

I knew I had to collect cans, so I started with that. Before I knew it, I had cans overflowing my recycle bin.


But then it was winter. I hadn't planned to make these indoors so I decided to wait until Spring.

When Spring came, it was raining...and snowing...and raining again. Then it was the end of the school year so I had other things to do. Then I didn't have a pattern ready.

Then one day, I ran out of excuses. I froze water in a can, printed out my pattern, attached it to the can, walked outside with my can, a hammer and a finishing nail and started punching holes.


Before I knew it, I was done and ready to move on to the next one!


Yes, it was messy. Yes, it was pretty rough looking (it WAS my first one) and I still had to paint it, but the hard part was done!

So stop making excuses! Here are some helpful tips for making your own Tin Can Lanterns...

Finding Patterns:

You can search the internet and find all sorts of patterns for Tin Can Punch Patterns.

There is also a nice selection on Pinterest for inspiration (Pin-spiration?).

I found several nice stencils available for download at saltree.net. This Old House also had a few simple fall themed stencils available. I created a few wrap-around patterns myself.

You can, of course, simply trace an object or draw a pattern directly onto your can with a permanent marker. This is the easiest, fastest and least messy method. If you plan to paint your can later, the paint will cover up any marks made with your marker.

Filler:

It seems most people agree the easiest way to fill your can (to avoid bends and dents in the metal from banging with the hammer and nail) is to fill the empty can with ice and then freeze it solid. This helps the can retain its shape.

The first can I tried this in had a little bulge at the bottom where the ice pushed against it as it froze.


I was able to bang it back into place with a hammer after my pattern was punched out but the bottom was still a little warped looking.

For the next can , I tried this tip that I found by a reader in some comments on inhabitat.com and it worked:
To prevent bulges at the bottom, put a bit of water (half an inch or so) in the cans and freeze. Then fill it the rest of the way and refreeze. The bit you put in first will freeze without bulging out the bottom and keep the rest from pushing against it later.
WikiHow also suggests filling the tin can up to 3/4 of its length with sand before filling with water. I didn't have any sand on hand at the time so I didn't try this.

Some suggestions for making your own tin can lanterns:

  • Start at the top of the design and work your way around before moving down the pattern. That way, in case you have to stop in the middle of the project (for kids, pets, phone, dinner, etc) you can just put the can back in the freezer and not have melted water pouring out of the lower holes.
  • If you are using water to fill you can, you will have a wet mess. This is not an ideal indoor activity unless you have a lot of towels and don't mind ice chips and water on your floor.
  • Although it is not ideal, it may be less messy to do this activity outdoors in the middle of freezing temperatures. Again, not ideal, but your water will take longer to melt and may actually stay somewhat frozen.
  • Paper templates WILL get wet. A wet template will also tear or just start to fall apart. Even covering the entire template with packing tape won't stop it from happening (I tried). Expect it to happen. Then you won't be TOO upset when it does happen. In fact, the more elaborate the pattern, the longer it takes to punch out and the more I would recommend drawing the pattern directly onto the can.
Pattern drawn directly on the can

The "+" was made using a flat head screwdriver.

  • Try the pattern using different tools. Different sized nails, screws, screwdrivers, chisels and ice picks will all give you a different looking hole punch. This Broncos Logo was made with a flat head screwdriver (except for the "eye" which was made with a nail): 


  • Bigger holes make for a brighter light. You will need lots of tiny nail holes to equal a few large nail holes or one large screwdriver hole.
  • If you plan to add a hanger to your can, punch holes for the hanger with something large (like a Phillips screwdriver) before you punch any other holes. These will be on opposite sides of the very top of the can just below the rim. I found it easier to make a starter hole with a nail and finish the hole with a screwdriver.
  • If you are painting your can, stuff paper towels or crumpled paper into your can before spray painting the outside.
  • Fill the base of the cans with sand to hold your votive candle or tea light steady. For this reason, I kept the patterns a little higher up from the base so sand won't leak out the bottom. You can also place a clear glass votive candle holder in each can but this is entirely optional.
  • Don't try to do too many in one day. I got 2 done the first day. Only 2. If you have several people making them, you may only need one day to make all the cans you require. If it's just you pounding away at the cans, give yourself a lot of time.
More Ideas For Tin Punched Cans:

The internet is full of inspiration for Tin Can Lanterns. Here is a handful of them. Note: I've tried to give proper credit for photos but original sources can be hard to find at times.

1. Make several cans with hangers and hang them around your patio area. (This would be fabulous for a rustic wedding!)

Outdoor Lighting
(photo source: Design Sponge)

2. Make a hanger for your can out of pretty beads!

Beaded Handle/Hanger for Tin Can Lanterns
(photo source: All About You)

3. Group several sizes together for table decorations.

4. Paint the cans multiple colors on the outside...

July 4th Luminaries
(photo and idea source: Karen at Crafts For All Seasons)

5. Paint a bright color on the inside and a dark or black color on the outside. (The cans in the photo are actually lined with paper and painted gold)

DIY Tin Can Table Numbers
(photo and idea source: 100 Layer Cake)


6. Forgo the candle. Make the can design upside down.  Punch a hole in the base of the can and use the cans as "light covers" for outdoor Christmas lights.

Tin Can Garden Lights
(photo source: bystephanielynn.com - originally from Viva Terra)


7. Leave the outside unpainted and allow them to weather for a rusty, rustic look.

Jack-O-Lantern made from a recycled gallon paint can (this is adorable!)
(photo source: Fun In The Making)

8. Turn a large can into an awesome lamp shade!

Tin Can Lamp Shade
(photo source: Mariposa Avenue on Etsy)

9. Attach the punched tin can lanterns to the tops of stakes and place around sidewalks or patios (poor man's solar lighting).

Landscape Lighting
(photo and idea source: All You)





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