What’s for Dinner? — Thrifty Friday

I’ve posted articles here and there before including recipes, but that was before cooking became an integral part of my day. Since embarking on married life on January 3rd of this year, I have transferred my efforts from cooking-for-fun to cooking-to-feed-my-husband-and-myself-on-a-budget. I’ve determined there are three primary goals I strive for when cooking a meal. It must be thrifty, tasty, and healthy. Two out of three is fairly simple to accomplish, but the trifecta? That is a prize worthy of pursuit. (Aside: Satisfying is another important component, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…) (Skip to recipe for Banana Cinnamon Bagels…)

Trifectionism (not a word, but very fun to type) thus far, has led me on many adventures from roasting a whole chicken, to making my own bagels. It also often requires me to break out the calculator, tally the damage, and hunt for deals in the local grocers’ weekly ads. I realize that this (like reading great books) is incredibly time consuming, and so, for your convenience, I am chronicling my quest here. You’ll know the time a project takes, the money it costs, and the level of effort (read: disaster) it involves.

Also, please note: I realize from my own time spent scouring the internet for instruction on thrifty-ness that a single solution does not work for everyone. I have a good deal of time on my hands as a full time, childless housewife. You may not, so don’t bother if you don’t think my recipe will work for you. My grocery store may be running a special on chicken this week and yours has ground beef on sale. Good! Above all, make use of your resources. For instance, I like to use honey in my baking projects because I am blessed with in-laws who keep bees. Your in-laws are probably slightly more sane–but if you’ve got a network of friends and relatives, trading resources and being neighborly goes a long way to bless everyone involved.

In the interest of honesty, I confess that bagels are not what’s for dinner tonight… we’re going to try some lovely creamy tomato sauce on pasta… but a bagel with peanut butter on it could definitely be lunch, depending on how active you are. I originally pulled this recipe it from a Red Star bread cook book, but have since tweaked it enough that I like to think of it as my own.

Banana Cinnamon Bagels
Makes: 9ish store-sized bagels, but you can stretch it to a dozen if you don’t mind them smaller
Takes: 30 minutes active work, 2ish hours total
Totals: ~$1.25, or $0.14/bagel (my total is more like $1.04, but that’s because I use free honey)

Ingredients:
3 cups flour ($0.41)
1 1/2 tsp. salt ($0.03)
3/4 cup warm water (sort of free)
2 tbsp. oil ($0.05)
1 ripe, mashed banana ($0.11)
3 1/2 tbsp. sugar, divided ($0.22)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional, $0.06)
0.25 oz yeast ($0.32)
1 egg ($0.10)

Directions:
Mix 1 1/2 cups of flour with salt and yeast. Add warm water (~120*F… too much hotter and you’ll kill your yeast), banana, oil, and 2 1/2 tblsp. sugar; mix well. Add egg and mix some more. At this point you’ll have a very goopey sort of batter, to which you’ll gradually add the remaining flour (another 1 1/2 cups)

Now the dough should still be sticky, so make sure to flour your hands thoroughly before dumping the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneading until elastic, about 5 minutes. Then, stick it in a greased bowl, cover it with a towel, leave it in a warmish place, and forget about it for the next hour while it rises. (This gives you time for clean up, a load of laundry, and a brief moment to contemplate something deep, if you’re feeling ambitious.)

When you come back, preheat your oven to 375*F and set a big pot of water on the stove to boil. Take the last bit of sugar (1 tbsp.) and throw that into your boiling water. Back to the dough–punch it down and divide into thirds. Take each third and divide THOSE into thirds. Take the bitty third and roll it into a ball, then push a whole through the middle with your thumbs and pull it gently to widen. You have a raw bagel!

By the time you’re done doing this with all your bagels, the water ought to be boiling. Drop a few bagels at a time into the boiling water (they puff up, so plan accordingly) and leave them in for 1.5 minutes on each side. Place them on a baking sheet once they’ve been boiled and bake them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. (If you feel like using another egg, you can whisk just the white and brush it on top of the bagel so it browns up nicely.)

Bottom line:
Admittedly, it takes a bit of effort, but once you’ve done it a couple of times you can fly through it and move on to other things quickly. The results are fairly delicious, and the nutrition is as follows (according to myfitnesspal):

BananaBagels

Happy Friday, and happy thrifting!

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