Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thirsty Thursday: Things to Do with Club Soda

The Frugal Hostess loves a cocktail. Boy, does she. Same is true for beer and wine. She doesn’t remember much about her best cocktail experiences, so she’s quite certain they were lovely.

However, there are times when a ride on the wagon is most appropriate. Should you decide to take such a ride, TFH suggests club soda served a variety of ways: with a squeeze of fresh orange; several drops of homemade grenadine (coming soon to Make It Yourself Monday); ginger beer; or key lime juice. And should you be left with any club soda once you’re back on the sauce, you can use it up in one of the following ways.


Substitute club soda for the liquid called for in the recipe, and revel in the lightest and most fluffy pancakes you’ve ever had. (And you know how TFH feels about pancakes; The Frugal Husband makes his Famous Weekend Pancakes every weekend based on her non-stop whining.)


Use club soda to water your indoor and outdoor plants. The minerals are said to help them grow. (The word “said” is used here because TFH has no idea if this is true or not, based on her inability to keep a houseplant green, even if it were made from green plastic.)


If you love oysters but find shucking them to be a near-impossible chore, try soaking them in club soda before you shuck. The oysters won't exactly jump out of their shells, but they will be much easier to open. (Untested theory, FYI. But TFH plans to get right on this as soon as an R shows up in the month.)


Soak your diamonds, rubies, and emeralds in club soda to make them sparkle. Drop jewels in a glass of club soda, and let them sit overnight. (Skip this for pearls, darlings).

Photo by Rodrigo Paoletti

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Poopy Diaper Invitation

Yesterday, The Frugal Hostess encouraged you to host a baby shower and gave you several ideas. Her favorite was obviously the Gross-Out Baby Shower, and, if you missed it, you better go back. Here are the directions for creating the sublime Poopy Diaper Invitation.

First, make a diaper template using a stupid old spreadsheet from work or some other scratch paper. TFH free-handed this one, because she's an edgy girl. If you'd like a template, email frugalhostess [at] gmail [dot] com.  UPDATE: templates and instructions are now available here.

Second, fold a piece of white card stock in half and cut off one inch. You are probably safer using a paper-cutter here for straightness, but don't over-value straightness. You know, with paper or with people....

Third, use your template to cut a diaper out of the newly trimmed white card stock. Trace with a pencil or just cut around the design.

Fourth, and this is an optional step, cut a contrasting color for the inside of the diaper. This just makes it look a little more cool when it's closed. The Frugal Hostess used buff, but you could do pink or blue, too.
Fifth, get your template back out and trace the front of the diaper on some brown card stock. This is to make sure that your insert can't be seen when the invitation is closed. TFH made two in case she screwed one up, which she totally did.

Sixth, cut out the shape you traced, then cut a curvy shape out of it to resemble, well, you know, poop. But lovely, clean, cartoon poop. TFH tried two different shapes, and the one with the most curves looked and worked much better. This needs to be done free-hand to match the way your diaper came out when you cut it, but you can email for a template if you want to risk it. Test the shape to make sure that you can't see it when you close the invitation.

Seventh, write out what you want the invitation to say (TFH suggests using the template you cut out of scratch paper, since the size is close), then write it on your shape using a white or silver pen.
Eighth, select something to use as the "diaper pin." The Frugal Hostess thought about cutting one out of gray or silver paper. She also looked at ribbon, wire, a safety pin, and this random piece of copper wire. But, in the end, a fancy-shaped paper clip won out because it looked the best.
And that, Gentle Readers, is how you cook up a Poopy Diaper Invitation....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Baby Showers

The Frugal Hostess loves babies. In fact, she considers herself something of a baby whisperer. She has hosted many a baby shower in her day, and now she’s going to help with yours.

First, some notes on etiquette. (What? You know TFH is old-fashioned. In some ways. Namely, the ways that don’t exclude frequent dropping of the f-bomb.) Please don’t host your own baby shower. That is so extra tacky and random that The Frugal Hostess is struck speechless. If you are hosting a shower for a friend or co-worker, please ask her who she’d like to invite. And, at the risk of stirring up some controversy, don’t hold a surprise shower for a pregnant lady. Who knows what this will cause….

Next, if you are the guest of honor, remember these rules. Get a gift for the hostess(es). Be understanding when she asks you to limit the guest count; she’s not made of money. Remember that your registry, like traffic signals in Italy, is a suggestion rather than a law – people can get you whatever they want, and they really don’t have to get you anything, so take whatever you get and like it. As a wise man once said, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

Finally, all parties must remember that the arrival of a new life into the world is a miraculous, beautiful thing. Marking the occasion should be joyful and fun, not another hash mark to add to the Great Scoreboard of Life. So what if the guest of honor will never get you a baby gift or throw you a reciprocal shower?

Now that the lecturing is over, on to the party. There are all kinds of wonderful themes for baby showers, and hosting one is fun because you can indulge your love of tiny socks or whatever without looking like a freak. Here are a few to think about:

Miniature Baby Shower: Serve miniature versions of the mom-to-be’s favorite foods, like sliders, soup in shot glasses, and cupcakes. Use dollhouse furniture for centerpieces, and send out invitations on miniature cards (you’ll have to tuck these into normal envelopes to mail, but whatevs.)

Library Baby Shower: The Frugal Hostess did this one for a pregnant book-lover. Send the invitations on cards made from children’s books, and ask guests to bring a favorite book to start the baby’s library. Stack old children’s books (bought for cheap at a thrift store) as centerpieces, running pieces of pastel ribbon through the pages and across the table. Place vases of flowers atop each stack. For games, have guests match characters up with book titles. And for your menu, serve items inspired by children’s books, like green eggs and ham. TFH held this party in the restaurant above a famous indie book store, but it’s just as cool at home.

Monochromatic Baby Shower: For some reason, The Frugal Hostess finds monochromatic color schemes extremely soothing. For example, her clothes are lined up in order of color, so that her closet is a fabric rainbow. Thus, the all-pink, all-blue, or, for those parents who want a surprise, the all-white baby shower. Pink showers could serve ham finger sandwiches, pink champagne and lemonade, cupcakes with pink frosting, watermelon, radicchio salad, and radishes with sea salt. Blue showers could do sliders with blue cheese, arugula and walnut salad with blueberry vinaigrette, blue corn tortilla chips and salsa, and stuffed Peruvian blue potatoes. White menu ideas would include a mashed potato bar, clam chowder, marshmallows (roast your own is fun), white bean dip with white tortilla chips, and white pizza. Obviously, the décor matches the color you pick. Think beyond flowers by using scarves, paper, or Christmas ornaments in the correct colors.

OK, OK, these are good ideas, but The Frugal Hostess has one more for you. This is especially good if you and most of the guests are single girls unlikely to want or have babies in the next year. And the guest of honor must be very cool and have a great sense of humor. Or you must secretly hate her. It is elegantly named The Gross-Out Baby Shower. Here’s what you do:

Invitations: Make folded diapers from white card stock. On the inside, cut brown paper to fit, and write the details in white or silver ink. (Pictures and detailed instructions for this coming soon. It’s harder to describe in words than it is to make.) UPDATE: Complete templates and instructions available here.

Food: Split pea soup served in glass containers or baby food jars; cocktail wienies in sauce; veggies and ranch dip; milk punch served in baby bottles; and chocolate mousse.

1. Diaper Sniffing – Get six real disposable diapers and six different candy bars. Unwrap candy, place in diapers, and microwave for 30-60 seconds (you want a slight melt, not full-on runny). Guests must sniff each diaper to guess which kind of candy bar is in it. So gross!
2. Baby Food Tasting – Get six or so jars of different flavors of baby food. This works best if two are yellow, two are green, etc. Pull off the labels or cover them with your own (you can cut up brown paper bags for this so they aren’t see-through). Each guest gets a tasting spoon and has to guess what flavor is contained in each jar. Yuck!
3. Pinata – Get a piñata in the shape of a baby. Fill it with brown and yellow candy. Just kidding, this is even too disgusting for The Gross-Out Baby Shower.

Sounds like fun! Stay tuned for instructions and pictures, and feel free to subscribe while you’re at it so you don’t miss a thing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Make It Yourself Monday: Crackers

One of TFH’s most favorite things to snack on is Cheez-Its. Yep, that’s right; she loves the neon-orange, distinctly non-gourmet squares of glory and could eat them every day. She also loves their cousins, Pepperidge Farms Goldfish, Cheese Nips, and, in small doses, Cheetos. This may all stem from her childhood, which was studded by occasional “snack dinners” comprised of cheese and crackers and other delicious little hors d’oeuvres. Cheese and crackers and hors d’ oeuvres dinners remain in TFH’s top five, and Cheez-Its are like a shortcut version of them.

The Frugal Hostess started her attempt to recreate her favorite snacks about three years ago, after she read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. For some reason, that book – which describes Kingsolver’s year-long experiment in eating locally – hit just the right note at just the right time. The Frugal Hostess and The Frugal Husband made major changes, and The Frugal Kitchen was transformed from ordinary to organic (and soon to the crazy local/organic/chemical-free/homemade extremism that precipitates Make It Yourself Monday). The struggle continues – there’s no way TFH is giving up bacon, for real – but major progress has been made.

So, TFH tried (still trying, BTW) to cut out corn chemicals, processed foods, and other icky-ness from her diet. But what to do about Cheez-its? And where does the cheese go without any crackers?

First, she tried a recipe that called itself a recipe for cheese crackers. The Frugal Hostess isn’t exactly sure where it came from – somewhere on the interwebs. These crackers are not exactly cheesy, nothing even remotely close to Cheez-Its, but still OK. The Frugal Hostess made a few modifications to the recipe and offers it below for your enjoyment.

Next, The Frugal Hostess tried the recipe in Karen Solomon’s “Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It.” Listen, TFH knows she talks about this book a lot, but it is awesome, and you should buy it. This recipe works with no modifications and produces delicious crackers that remind you of Saltines in flavor but are thicker, denser, and better. Solomon also offers some variations, including one with cheese, which are no doubt also good. But of course, TFH is stubborn and self-righteous, so she found it necessary to make an unsuggested modification.

So, finally, TFH substituted half the white flour in the recipe with whole wheat. In many recipes (including chocolate chip cookies and pizza dough), you can do this with no problem, and you just add nutritional value. The Frugal Hostess assumed this would be the case with these crackers. Well, you’ve heard the cliché about assuming – it makes your crackers taste like ass. Such was the case with this recipe modification. The resulting crackers had a decent flavor, but they were really dry and too crumbly. Kind of like crackers made of delicious dirt.

The Frugal Hostess continues her hunt for a Cheez-It alternative but offers this recipe as an option until such time as the real deal is found.


½ cup butter

1 ½ cup sifted white flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups grated cheddar

Dash of cayenne pepper

¼ - ½ cup skim milk


1. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl. If you’re using a stand mixer, just mix it together with that.

2. Cut in butter.

3. Blend in grated cheese.

4. Use the milk to wet the dough enough to stick together.

5. Shape into rolls, 1-2 inches in diameter.

6. Chill rolls for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

7. Slice rolls into ¼ inch thick disks.

8. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes.

9. Cool and store for as long as four weeks. Uncooked dough can be frozen for several months.

photo by doortoriver

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thirsty Thursday: Four Summer Drinks

The Frugal Hostess is in pain. She's been to the doctor and is taking medicine, but sometimes the only cure is a delicious beverage. While none of these drinks is particularly frugal, they are all unique and should ease your pain.

Arnold Palmeroski

Fill a tall glass with ice (crushed is good).
Add 2oz. iced tea flavored vodka.
Fill rest of glass with lemonade.
Garnish with thinly sliced lemon wheel and straw.

True Bloody Mary
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
Add 2oz. vodka.
Fill rest of shaker with Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix (TFH realizes this is totally cheap of her, but this mix is better than anything anyone ever makes from scratch. And, no kidding, there are maybe four things she would say that about).
Add several dashes of Tabasco.
Pour into a tall glass, and garnish with a jalapeno ring, pickled okra, and a piece of bacon (seriously, tastes awesome!).

Key Lime Cocktail
Fill shaker with ice and add 1oz key lime juice, 2oz vanilla vodka (or 1½oz vodka and ½oz vanilla), and a splash of half-and-half. Pour into a martini glass rimmed with crushed up graham crackers.

Fruit Cooler (non-alcoholic)
Mix together and pour over crushed ice 2oz pineapple juice, 2oz orange juice, and 2oz apple juice.
Slice two strawberries and float in drink. Variation: fill glass half full and fill remainder with club soda. Add a squeeze of lime. Another variation: freeze into popsicles.

Drink up!

photo by slushpup

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Make It Yourself Monday: Beauty Products

When The Frugal Hostess suggested a homemade body scrub as part of Miss Georgia Sugar's rehabilitation for Frugallazy, it got her thinking about other beauty products that can be made at home. When she forgets herself at parties, TFH can (uh, somewhat frequently, much to her shame) be found railing about the need to detoxify one's life, so today's ideas nicely tie those ideas together.

[While the narrative suggests that a paragraph or two about detoxifying one's life should go here, The Frugal Hostess has kindly put them at the bottom of the post. That way, she can GO OFF without disrupting your flow. Ommm.]

So, here are some fun beauty products/treatments/concepts to try at home. Any of these could be adapted for a hostess or birthday gift, and you could use several of them for a Girls' Spa Night In. One of our readers, Madame Quist, is hosting just such a party sometime soon, and The Frugal Hostess can't wait to hear about it.

Sugar Scrub:
Put one-third of a cup of sugar in a bowl. Pour a tablespoon of almond or canola oil over the sugar, mixing together. (If you end up using canola oil, you may want to drop in a good-smelling essential oil or some vanilla extract, just to take the fish fry ambiance out of the scrub.) In the shower, scoop some out and rub it on your skin. Presto - exfoliating, moisturizing body scrub. You can do the same thing with salt, if that's what you have. (As usual, TFH reminds you that her measurements are approximate, so don't be afraid to change them. If she ever publishes something that requires very exact measuring skills, TFH will be sure to both call her sister for help and let you know.)

Person Brine Bath Soak:
So, you know how brining meat, especially The Frugal Husband's most excellent pork chops (pictured), makes the meat more tender, moist, and flavorful? Well, this recipe assumes that the same is true for people. So, whip up a batch of Person Brine and feel your muscles get tender, moist, and flavorful. Wait - maybe "relax" is what TFH means. In a hot bath, dissolve two cups each of sugar and salt, along with some cloves (the spice, not the annoying psuedo-intellectual's cigarette) and a drizzle or two of honey. You can also use this recipe for brining a turkey, FYI.

Leftover Egg Mask:

Many dessert recipes call for either just an egg white or just an egg yolk. Rather than tossing whichever one you didn't use to make custard, save it and apply to your face for a mask. Both are purportedly good for treating acne - the whites tighten your skin and the yolks address scarring via Vitamin A. Who knows, but The Frugal Hostess thinks it's better than wasting half an egg.

Homemade Shampoo:
Don't laugh at her, but The Frugal Hostess uses this homemade shampoo all the time. It works well, feels great, and alleviates any guilt about buying chemical-filled plastic bottles of low self-esteem. Fill a clean jar with a cup of liquid Castille soap. Dr. Bronner's is the most famous, available at fine grocers everywhere; and Trader Joe's makes a store-brand version. Add two tablespoons of oil, with almond or sesame oil being preferred. But, truly, any kind is totally fine for your hair. Sprinkle in a few drops of essential oil, shake like hell, and, voila, shampoo. You'll have to shake it every time you use it. In the summer, TFH adds peppermint, which adds a cooling tingle and refreshing scent. In the winter, you might like tea tree oil, which is helpful for dandruff or dry scalp. Feel free to substitute another essential oil for a different fragrance - try coconut, orange, or even citronella if you'd like to remind people of their favorite bug spray. An important note: the container will undoubtedly get slippery in the shower. In fact, The Frugal Husband recently insisted that TFH switch to plastic. No worries; find some of those plastic squeeze bottles that you use for sauce, ketchup, mustard, etc. at the thrift store, or recycle an old shampoo bottle.

Deep Conditioning Treatments:
Wet your hair but don't wash it. Squeeze out all of the excess water, and pull hair back in a bun or ponytail (or comb back short hair). Starting at the hairline, massage a small amount of almond oil at a time into your scalp, covering the whole head. Then, pour a teaspoon or so into your hands and rub them together. Smooth your oil-covered hands over your hair, paying particular attention to the ends. Wrap in a scarf or towel, and let sit for at least two hours and preferably overnight.
OR, if you didn't want to put your leftover yolk on your face, you can mix it with two tablespoons of oil (any old oil will do) and apply it to your hair in a similar fashion for a deep conditioning situation.
OR, if you are getting ready to go on a diet (which The Frugal Hostess strongly discourages) and need to clear out temptations, spread mayonnaise on your head the same way to deep condition. Caution: this may make you hungry.

OK, here's the speech about detoxifying your life, so stop reading here if you aren't into that.

YOU HAVE GOT TO WATCH WHAT YOU PUT ON YOUR SKIN!!!!! Whoops, The Frugal Hostess did not mean to get all alarmist, but she feels very strongly about this. Your skin is your body's biggest organ and first defense. According to some reports, as many as 95% of your beauty products contain chemicals that are linked to cancer. Holy crap, right? Here's a good link to the most dangerous personal care ingredients.

WE'RE A BUNCH OF GREEDY BASTARDS! QUIT BUYING STUFF!!!!! Whew, that one was especially exhausting. All TFH is trying to say is, while it's not as easy to make stuff yourself and recycle your jars - not just in the recycling bin but actually reusing them in your day-to-day life - it's also not that hard. If the various reports about the planet's coming exploding-freak-out-implosion are true (jeez, even if they are only one-third true) it only makes sense to get yourself under control now, before necessity forces you to. So, in terms of beauty products, this means that you can make your own shampoo and put it in the same bottle instead of buying a new bottle every two weeks. Now, The Frugal Hostess understands that she has a lot more free time than some, what with being self-employed and barren and all, but she urges you to pick one little thing to stop buying and start making yourself.

Love you!!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


When her friend, Miss Georgia Sugar (pictured below), asked The Frugal Hostess for help treating a dread disease, TFH knew she had to jump in. The disease is childrenitus frugalitation preventionistis, and there is at least one related strain: worktoomuchia frugalitation preventionistis. Both are interchangeably known by the street name Frugallazy. This scourge typically first strikes women in their 20s or 30s and most men at birth and/or puberty.

Symptoms include:
- Genetic replication resulting in one or more offspring.
- Constant and repeated compulsive need to cash pay checks, resulting in related repetitive appearances at a job.
- Exhaustion related to one of the above symptoms.
- Extreme over-consumption of shelter publications such as Elle Decor, Home and Garden, and Architectural Digest. (May also manifest as watching the same episode of any show on HGTV more than 12 times.)
- Irrational loathing of at least one Food Network personality.
- Unrealistic belief that Sundays contain enough hours to complete all of the projects the sufferer has in mind.

Sound familiar? Well, turn that frown upside-down, because The Frugal Hostess has the cure. Try one of these starter projects and see if your Frugallazy doesn't clear itself up in a flash!

Problem: I need to make cookies from scratch for my kid's class, but I have Frugallazy.
Solution: Don't! Wow, don't you feel better already? Or, you can employ a strategy TFH read about in a great book (title? fleeting...memory...gone....). The protagonist was too busy to make homemade baked goods for her child's class, so she bought some cookies and "distressed" them - broke some, jacked up the frosting, etc. to make them look homemade. Or, you can buy a bag of Chips Ahoy and a tub of chocolate icing. Spread the icing on the cookies and make little sandwiches. Half-assed, yes, but still pretty rad.

Problem: I want to have a party but my Frugallazy makes me not willing/able to be all theme-tastic.
Solution: Have the easiest party in the world. Here's the menu/shopping list: one can of mixed nuts; one jar of country olives; three hunks of cheese; and one box of crackers (TFH recommends the most delicious cracker in all the land - Triscuits. TFH does not recommend grody old Wheat Thins. Just sayin'). If you're feeling ambitious, add one package of pate; one container of cherry tomatoes; one bunch of grapes; and 12 miniature chocolate cupcakes. Invite eight friends to each bring a bottle of wine from a different country, and call it a wine-tasting party. OMG, The Frugal Hostess is starving.

Problem: I have to buy a baby gift for this girl at work but my Frugallazy is flaring up.
Solution: If the gift is given pre-birth of baby, throw together a pampering gift for the mom. Put sugar, almond or canola oil (an oil that smells good or doesn't smell at all), and vanilla extract or a good-smelling essential oil into a small jar (rub off the salsa label, lazy). Shake it up, and you have all-natural, non-toxic body scrub! If the gift is post-birth, partner with her partner to plan a night on the town, wherein the partner pays, and you babysit! Or, fill your small jar with pureed organic carrots, and call it baby food!

Problem: I need a hostess gift for this dinner thing, and my Frugallazy is getting in the way.
Solution: Bring the hostess three books you have already read, with a ribbon tied around them if you can muster up the strength. While this isn't exactly a gift, its bounty will distract, and it will be appreciated. Also vehemently compliment every dish and every thing in her house, which will make up for the ribbon that you were, after all, too slack to tie around the three books.

Look. You're cured!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Make It Yourself Monday on Tuesday: Booze Treats

The Frugal Hostess had a busy weekend, so busy that she forgot to post this yesterday! So, please enjoy a special Tuesday edition of Make It Yourself Monday.
Fair Reader, you may remember that The Frugal Hostess mentioned making vanilla and vinegar for holiday gifts. This, along with comments from reader Liza's, set TFH off on a bender of booze-making. Here are some of the things she made:
1. Vanilla: Nothing could be easier. Buy the cheapest vodka you can find. Pour some out into a jar. Shove in a bunch of vanilla beans. [Vanilla beans are expensive, but this is the cheapest place to get them - only $20 per pound!] Use a funnel to fill the bottle up with as much as you can of the vodka you poured out. Stick in basement or back of closet for a few months (four to six). Decant into little bottles, make cool labels, and give as gifts. This is really the best vanilla you will ever taste.
2. Vinegar: Save all of the dregs of your bottles of red wine. TFH understands that you usually drink all of your wine and doesn't blame you. However, you might try pouring half a cup into a jar for a few weeks (days? You wino!). When you have a good amount, cover the top with a coffee filter, paper towel, or piece of cheesecloth and hide in basement or dark closet. After six months, you will have vinegar. Please note that you won't want to add more wine after you've started, as it will prolong the amount of time it takes to vinegar-ize. Just keep saving the wine in a different container, and start a new vinegar when you have enough. A jar or crock with a spout is good for making vinegar, since you can use the spout to pour off what you need. Also, The Frugal Mother recommends filtering one's vinegar through a coffee filter, but The Frugal Hostess is just rebellious enough to have ignored that advice. This is another thing that is cool to bottle and give as gifts.
3. Limoncello and other infused boozes: Also super easy. TFH followed a recipe for the limoncello and then modified it to make other stuff. It will be ready in about six more weeks, so stay tuned for an update. Essentially, you put your flavoring agent (lemon zest, leftover limes food-processed to death, and dried apricots are currently brewing) into a jar of cheap, nasty vodka. Let these sit for two weeks, shaking daily. After that, make simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar boiled into a syrup), and add to vodka that has been drained of flavoring agent. You can also add flavors to the simple syrup, such as lemon juice for the limoncello. Time will tell if this turns out to taste good!
4. Ginger beer: Beer is a stupid name for this, in The Frugal Hostess's humble opinion. It is non-alcoholic and has no bubbles. In fact, it tastes sort of like poison until you mix it up, at which point is turns delicious. But TFH gets ahead of herself. Peel a bunch of fresh ginger. This is supposedly an easy thing to grow, but TFH hasn't tried yet, so she bought about two pounds of it. Once peeled, cut into uniform pieces (you know, just so they'll fit in the Cuisinart; don't kill yourself over it). Put in food processor with one cup of water and process like crazy. Then, and this is the messy/annoying part, scoop the pulp into a mesh sieve positioned over a bowl. Using a plastic scraper or spoon, press down on the pulp to push out all the juice, which is - strangely enough - bright yellow! It smells so good, too. You should do this two or three more times (process with cup of water, squeeze out juice). You'll get a lot more juice than you expect, so have a large container for it. (TFH filled a handle-sized vodka bottle and a large jar.) Add one cup of fresh lime juice and three cups of sugar, then shake it up. You're done! However, it will be very strong, so here is TFH's recommendation for consuming. Fill a tall glass with crushed ice. Pour in a quarter cup of ginger beer, and add two ounces of dark rum. Stir, then fill the rest of the glass with soda water. Garnish with a lime. Enjoy!

Ginger beer recipe modified from "Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It" by Karen Solomon.
Photos by The Frugal Hostess.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday FREAK-OUT! Substitutes

The Frugal Hostess knows what it's like to freak out. She once forgot she was hosting an Oscar party until about two hours before the guests were arriving. It was a difficult time in her life. Really. OK, OK, give her a break - she's suffered enough. Thus, Friday FREAK OUT! Every Friday, The Frugal Hostess will provide you with tips on how to deal with last-minute nonsense without freaking out.

Today's Friday FREAK OUT! is about not having the right ingredients for a recipe. Has that ever happened to you? You could swear you read the whole thing before you started cooking, but you're suddenly at step 13 and missing a key item. Never fear! Your handy guide to recipe substitutions is here!

Allspice (1 teas.): ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ ginger, & ¼ cloves

Baking Powder (1 teas.): ¼ teaspoon baking soda plus ½ teaspoon cream of tartar or ¼ teaspoon baking soda plus ½ cup buttermilk (decrease liquid in recipe by ½ cup)

Bread Crumbs: equivalent amount of cracker crumbs or ground oats

Brown Sugar (1 cup): ¾ cup granulated sugar plus ¼ cup of molasses

Buttermilk (1 cup): out of 1 cup of milk, replace 1 tablespoon with lemon juice
Cake Flour (1 cup): out of 1 cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons

Cocoa (1/4 cup): 1 square unsweetened chocolate

Corn Syrup (1 cup): ¼ cup white sugar plus 1/3 cup water or 1 cup honey

Egg: ¼ cup silken tofu pureed or 3 tablespoons mayonnaise or half a banana mashed with ½ teaspoon baking powder

Evaporated Milk (1 cup): 1 cup light cream

Lemon Juice (1 teas.): half a teaspoon of white wine vinegar

Heavy Cream (1 cup): 2/3 cup milk plus 1/3 cup melted butter (wow!)

Sour Cream (1 cup): 1 cup plain yogurt or 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough cream to make 1 cup or ¾ cup buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup butter

If you would like a refrigerator magnet of these recipe substitutions, leave a comment for The Frugal Hostess, and she will make you one!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Exploding Brunch, Part Two

In case you missed it, you can read the first part of "The Exploding Brunch" here.

OK, where were we? Oh yes, The Frugal Hostess spent a giant amount of time on decorations and has thus not even told you what earns this brunch its name. Why is the brunch Exploding?

Ah, Fair Readers, it's all about the menu. Just as the Fourth of July is filled with the sounds of exploding fireworks overhead, your guests' mouths will be filled with the tastes of exploding taste sensations.


Pop Rocktails

Spinach Salad with Poached Egg

Potato Nests with Caviar

Melon Fruit Kabobs

Chocolate Eclairs

Get it? Everything either explodes in your mouth (Pop Rocks, caviar) or has something hidden inside that will explode out! Like fire works!!!! On the Fourth of July! The Exploding Brunch!!!!!! Yes!

Ahem. The Frugal Hostess will now tell you how to do this menu. But only partially. She's really an ideas person, more than a chef. So, you know, take these recipes with a grain of salt. HA! Did you get.... Um, OK, no more Grandpa-esque puns. On with the show....

Spinach Salad with Poached Egg: TFH has no idea how to poach an egg, so you're on your own there. Just make sure that yolk is runny so it explodes when you cut it. If you're more comfortable with fried eggs, that would also be delicious with this.


Spinach – one handful per guest
Pound of bacon – one slice per guest
Package of mushrooms
Croutons or bread to make croutons
Dijon mustard
Balsamic vinegar*
White wine vinegar*
Dry mustard - optional
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
*Honestly, any vinegar is fine; use what you have.


1. Wash and DRY the spinach. Seriously, dry it. You can layer it with a paper towel to soak up some water in the bowl while you're doing the rest of the steps.
2. Fry some bacon, about one strip for each person plus four extra strips in case you eat too much while you're cooking. Chop coarsely, and toss in the bowl.
3. Slice about two mushrooms per person, and sprinkle those in.
4. Add croutons. You can use the kind in the box, or you can easily make these yourself out of stale bread. (Stay tuned for instructions on an upcoming Make It Yourself Monday.)
5. Make dressing. Put into a jar one heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard + two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar + two tablespoons of white wine vinegar + salt & pepper + sprinkle of dry mustard + tablespoon of honey + half a cup of olive oil. Shake, shake, shake. (See cautionary note here.)
6. Toss all ingredients, and plate. Top with poached or fried egg. Voila - explosive!

Potato Nests with Caviar: You could also do this with frozen hash browns or with halved fully-cooked new potatoes. Those Peruvian blue/purple potatoes would look really cool for Independence Day.


2 medium-large potatoes
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Black pepper
Small container of sour cream or two little cups of plain yogurt
Little jar of caviar, red for Fourth of July
A 24-cup mini muffin tin


1. Boil potatoes until partially cooked. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. When cool, peel the potatoes and coarsely grate them. Toss the shredded potatoes to evenly distribute the cooked and uncooked shreds.
3. Grease the muffin tin cups with melted butter. Line the cups with shredded potatoes. If there are extra potato shreds, don’t worry.
4. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes. Season with pepper.
5. Using a table knife, remove the potato nests. Fill with a spoon full of sour cream or yogurt and top with caviar. Put two or three on each plate.

Melon Fruit Skewers: OK, so this doesn't really explode, per se, but The Frugal Hostess firmly believes that brunch isn't brunch without fresh fruit.


Star fruit (OK, so star fruit isn’t the most organic, local, or frugal thing in the world, but it would look cool for this. If you’d rather not, use honeydew melon or apple slices)
One metal skewer


1. Cut the watermelon into the largest whole slabs you can, about ¾ inch think. Maybe an inch. You may need to test it out, since different melons have higher or lower water content. Cut the slabs with a circle cookie cutter, about 1½ or 2 inches in diameter. You need two or three per person.
2. Cut the star fruit into relatively thick slices. If you want to use another fruit, cut it into slices that are thick enough to cut with a star-shaped cookie cutter.
3. Using the steel skewer, pierce each piece of fruit where you plan to thread it onto the chopstick. (You’re making a guide hole).
4. Thread the fruit onto the chopstick in this order: grape, star, circle, grape, star, circle, grape. Add more as needed, but that usually fills up a chopstick. Put it on the side of the plate.

Chocolate Eclairs: There is no way in hell that The Frugal Hostess would make homemade eclairs for the Fourth of July. Are you insane? Go buy some.

And, the piece de resistance, Pop Rocktails!!!!!

1 ½ oz vanilla vodka (or, 1oz vodka, ½ oz vanilla extract)
½ oz Chambord
1oz pineapple juice
Pop Rocks
Martini or red wine glass

1. Mix vodka, Chambord, and pineapple juice in cocktail shaker or pitcher full of ice.
2. Squeeze in the juice of ¼ of a lemon per drink. Set aside peels.
3. Shake or stir vigorously.
4. Squeeze lemon juice onto shallow plate.
5. Open packages of Pop Rocks and pour onto another shallow plate.
6. Dip glass rims into juice, then Pop Rocks. Please note: it is ridiculously difficult to get the Pop Rocks to stick. If you come up with a good method, please comment!!!
7. Garnish by floating a twist of lemon peel in the drink.

Happy Fourth of July!

photos: Seph Swain, idealisms, DeusXFlorida, Saquan Stimpson