A Mom's Guide to Saving on Groceries

 
 

Forget about buying pancake mix. Pancakes are easy and fun to make! Here’s my basic recipe, with add-ins listed at the end. In another section, I mentioned organization: I like to do a Rachel Ray move, and load everything into a bowl before I begin. It also keeps me from forgetting things.

Making the batter takes 5 minutes. Let it rest for 5 more, while the griddle heats, and you will be rewarded with fluffier pancakes. The only time I ever sift anything, is when I am making certain special cakes. I just throw everything together and it still works just fine.

2 eggs, beaten

½ c. yogurt, plain or vanilla (you can use sour cream, too, or in a pinch, leave it out)

¼ c. canola oil, or melted butter

3 tbsp. sugar

3 tbsp Nido dry whole milk and 1 cup water, OR 1 c. milk

With a wisk, or a fork, beat these together.

Now add in 1 c. self-rising flour, and stir just until moistened. If it’s not thick enough, add more. Too thick, add a little water. I like mine pretty thick, because when you drop blueberries or bananas in, it just holds them well.

The trick: Don’t over-mix your batter. Think biscuits.

Bake on a griddle at about 350 degrees (when water jumps around on the surface for thermostat challenged individuals). When bubbles form, and the top is a little opaque, flip it- you can peak underneath to make sure the color is good before you flip.

Here’s the thing about butter on the griddle: nonstick doesn’t need it, and just a light glaze (nearly or no oil) will work. You’ll get “perfect” pancakes this way.

Lots of butter: funny-looking pancakes that taste amazing. The butter browns, and the sugars in the batter caramelize, and the surface is splotchy. But really, really, good.

Pick your poison… Add-ins:

Fruit of any kind: blueberries, any other berries, bananas, apples

What about nuts? Spices like cinnamon or nutmeg (only grate that fresh- it’s amazing the difference it makes)… Chocolate chips.

I add flax meal to mine, and sometimes wheat germ, and oats. Quick oats will melt right in, or you can grind any kind of oats in a magic bullet to make oat flour, and substitute for some of the white flour. If you do that, add a 1/2 tsp. of baking powder with the flour.

Top with maple syrup, or something resembling it (unless you have a maple tree), or cinnamon sauce. I have to check with my mother before I give you that recipe, or she will never forgive me. It’s actually a very big deal. Forget I even mentioned it, okay?


Something cool:  If you add applesauce, or mashed bananas and cinnamon to the leftovers if you have any, you can turn those into muffins.  You can also cover and keep in the refrigerator and make more pancakes in the next couple of days.

 

 

 

 



 
 

I’m always interested in what other moms have to say about how they save money on their food bill. So, when I saw an article in MSN Money about how to save, I was intrigued. They asked for feedback, and so I gave mine- along with a whole bunch of other people. Their responses were so good, I knew you’d like to see them, too. Here they are:

MSN Money Message Board: How do YOU save on your food bill?





 
 

We have a weird new tradition in the family: Cupcake night. It all started with a conversation between us, the Cinchi Moms. Incidentally, the Cinchi-EZ-Bib started out the same way, along with a lot of other stuff. But essentially, this is how it went:

We were talking about macaroni and cheese. I mentioned to my sister, the other Cinchi Mom, that we were doing the one-pot creamy version (no fake box mix!) because I didn't want to take the time and effort to bake it. Really, that's not it. I didn't want another pan to wash. We got to talking about the yummy crunchy topping you put on top when you do the baked version, though.

"It's so not fair that everybody eats up the crunchy part before you ever get to the dish- that's my favorite part," my sister said. She was talking about the way that moms always end up with the dregs in the dish, or the burnt toast, if you will. Then, "Hey!" she said, you should put the mac and cheese in cupcake holders! That way, everybody gets the same amount." Leave it to my sister to think of something so cool...

"Yeah!" I said, "Only it's a pain in the butt to wash those pans (of course, this was what I thought of). How 'bout putting them in the paper or foil liners first?" And so it began. Mac and cheese, some with crunch topping, some not (for the persnickety ones). Individual meatloaves, mashed potatoes, reincarnated left-overs. Freeze them and pull them out when you need them.

And Cupcake night: those nights when you are too tired to cook and you have all these left-overs, which usually go over like a lead balloon. Food looks festive this way, and everyone has fun picking and choosing. Just load them into the cupcake pan and heat with foil on top, removing to brown up the tops at the end. Add some garnishes, and poof! Instant fun!

 
 

As our population grows, and the food supply chain grows accordingly, the odds are greater and greater that food will be contaminated.  Add to that, the fact that hundreds of people per day are touching the vegetables and fruits in the market before they buy them- or not.  How many people have touched that tomato before you buy it?  

Unfortunately at the moment, this is a fact of life.  So I think the real question is how do we get our fruits and vegetables clean once we buy them?

This article was very interesting:
http://www.foodpoisonblog.com/2006/05/articles/food-poisoning-information/coming-clean-on-washing-vegetables-u-of-g-food-scientist-graduate-student-have-found-an-effective-way-to-clean-your-produce/
Peroxide is safer than chlorine, and I use that on my vegetables, then rinse it off after it does its job.  It's not fool-proof, but it helps.  You can also clean with vinegar and use baking soda as a scrub. 

Beyond growing your own, I really think the best overall solution is to buy fresh fruits and vegetables locally from people you know.  Support your local growers.  The positive side to the energy crisis may be a sort of localization of the food supply.  But why not start now?



 
 

Pizza

I absolutely love making pizza at home.  First of all, I don’t think I ever want to eat another slice of pepperoni or cheese, or Hawaiian style pizza, ever.  If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about. 

Oh, there are moments when I feel like eating like a kid, but when I make my own pizza, I can literally do anything.  Half cheese, half my kind, whatever that happens to be today…  this works for me!  It works for my 17 year-old foodie son, too.  He is proof positive that kids will eventually gain an appreciation for food other than hot dogs.
 
Don’t have a pizza stone, or even a pizza pan?  Well, as I mentioned before, when I began this project, I didn’t have either of those things.  This recipe uses foil!  And I think I’ve got it down to a science now- I know it will work for you, too.  Here we go: 
 
One Large Pizza

1/3 to 1/2 of the Easy Bread Dough recipe, depending on whether you like a thin crust or a really thick, bready one.  Also, size matters… It works best at room temperature, too.  If you are in a hurry and working with refrigerated dough, work it in your hands like playdough, or with a wine bottle filled with pretty warm water (make sure your cork is tight!), and it will warm right up.

If you use it cold, the dough is easy to work with: just put it into a cold oven and put it on 400 degrees then.

Olive oil
Coarse Salt (optional)
Sauce of any sort (I’ll put some ideas at the bottom of the recipe)
Foil:  Larger than the finished pizza.  I buy the large size of heavy duty foil, so it’s big enough for anything.


Step 1:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Lay out your foil shiny side down.  The shiny side is reflective, and will brown your dough on the sides too quickly.  The frosted-looking side will absorb heat, like a pizza stone would.

Hold your dough in your hands, thumbs on top, fingers on the bottom.  Pull from the top to the bottom to form a round ball, tucking the ends into the middle of the bottom of it.  Don’t worry too much… just get it round. 

Step 2:

Place your dough on the center of the foil, no oil; just as it is.  It sticks to the foil, see, and doesn't go springing back to where it was.  This is my trick for getting the dough stretched out:  Flatten it out into a disc with your hands.  Then, using the heals of your hands, work from the center outwards.  Turn the foil, like a little turntable, so you can get all around it without being a contortionist.  Work your dough out into a circle, of the desired thickness.

Using a brush, or even your hands, coat the top with a fine layer of olive oil.  This is mostly for flavor.  Prick with a fork, all over, so you don’t get big air bubbles.

Step 3:

The coolness of this step impresses me every time I do this, even if I say so.  You now have a beautiful looking pizza on your foil, oiled up and ready to go.  But if you cook it like this it is going to stick, and that would not be good. 

So lift the foil up and fold your pizza in half, foil and all.  Then gently peel the foil away from the half on top.  Oil it up, then do the other side the same way.  Bring the second side back down, so you are right where you started: But now the bottom is oiled too.  You might need to reshape your dough a bit.   

Sometimes I sprinkle with my coarse salt here, maybe some fresh herbs and pepper.  For kid pizza, it’s probably best not to do that, though.

Step 4: 

I use a pizza peel to move my dough, but if you don’t have one, you can lift the foil up and move it that way.  Put the whole thing, foil and all, directly on the middle rack of the oven and bake until it just begins to turn golden.  About 10 minutes, but keep an eye on it… I never use a timer!  Your nose will tell you all you need to know.

Step 5:

Remove from oven, foil and all, and put your toppings on it.  Return to the oven without the foil, directly on the rack for a crisp crust.  Leave the foil out on the counter, though:  When the finished pizza comes out of the oven, you can place it right back on the foil, for cutting and serving. 

My favorite part:  the cleanup- none!  No flour, no pans. 

Sauces:

Quick kid sauce:  Ketchup- squeeze it directly on the crust, add a shake of balsamic vinegar to counter the sugar in it (there is lots), and a few shakes of garlic powder (not salt) and basil.  Fresh basil if you have it, but dried works just fine.

Another quick kid sauce:  Ranch dressing.

Olive oil, coarse salt and herbs is one of my favorites.  Try olive oil, fresh thyme, pear (or apple), and crumbled bleu cheese, with coarse salt and pepper, and a bit of lemon zest- Heaven. 

Who says you can’t eat well on a budget?  The key here is to use expensive ingredients as flavoring agents, rather than making a meal of them.  Less fattening this way, too… The French have always known this secret.

Toppings:


Try to work vegetable in here, if possible. 

Ground beef, or left-over meats from other meals- already cooked. 

Seafood, like shrimp, already cooked and thawed.

I keep some turkey pepperoni around for the kids. 

Cheese:  Don’t limit yourself to mozzarella, anything goes.

I try to think of simple combinations:  bbq chicken and peppers, ground turkey or beef and cheddar, with broccoli, for example.  My kids do not look with favor on my attempts to make things healthy, so I usually have to be sneaky, and add pureed carrots to my sauce.  Sprinkle frozen chopped spinach on, right out of the bag, using it like parsley, only healthier.

EZ Pizza sauce: 

1 c. concentrated crushed tomatoes (save the rest of the can if it’s large in a jar)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp basil
1 tbsp. sugar

Pepper, other herbs to taste

Combine all in a jar and shake.  Save what you don’t use for later. 





 
 

I'm going to debunk the idea that bread is hard to make. I'm also going to debunk the idea that it takes a long time! Time is something it seems we are always pressed for. As caregivers, employees, etc., we need to be multitaskers. So what if I told you, I have someone (or something) that does all the work for me? Actually, I have two somethings. A stand mixer, and yeast.

When I make bread, folks, I break all the rules. And it works! What I discovered: yeast don't care about anything but sugar, moisture, and temperature. Salt kills microbes, making it a great preservative, but an enemy for yeast, which are living, single cell organisms. With this knowledge in hand, I set out to prove that I could make bread for my family, and not spend all day doing it.


Okay, some of what you are about to read was an accident. Well, alright, a whole bunch of accidents: forgetting my bread, killing my yeast, all kinds of stuff I do not want you to experience!

But if you mess up, just try again. You have to have a couple of failures, and if you are going to fail at anything, it might as well be bread, because sooner or later you will master it, and there isn't much that's as useful as being good at making bread.

Think of all the ways it is peppered throughout your family's diet. Now imagine not having to buy all of these things, and have them anyway, only better than storebought. There is nothing like the smell of home-baked bread!


Do you know that Subway sandwich shops bake their bread in the store for the sole purpose of having you smell it? It's true. It would be cheaper to have it ready-made, and it would still be "fresh." They want you hungry. Smelling bread does that, and makes you feel... happy! And it leaves you with the perception that all is fresh, all is well with the world. If I owned a bakery, I'd literally pipe that smell into the air with an exhaust fan.  I am absolutely not kidding- I never kid about bread.

Here's the dough:

Water: 2 cups
Sugar or honey: 2 tbsp.
Yeast: one packet of quick-rise yeast
Bread flour: I have no idea how many cups I use- it's something in the neighborhood of five.  Even if I measure precisely, the actual amount will change every time with the amount of moisture in the air- it's true!  I do know I get two or three batches from a $3 standard package of bread flour. You want bread flour for the higher protein content, or the gluten. You can use regular flour in a pinch, though there is no doubt that bread flour is better.


Salt: 1 tbsp.
Oil: 1/4 cup (
or two dollops), of canola or olive oil, depending on the use. For multipurpose, and for daily use, I go with canola. For pizza, or focaccia, I use olive, though canola works fine here, too.

Optional:

One cup of oat flour, which retains moisture, is good for you, undetectable, and makes the bread chewy. If you can't buy this, grind up oatmeal in a magic bullet or food processor until you have flour. This is how I do it. This is one of my "secret ingredients" for moist, delicious bread.

Flax Meal: 1/3 cup. Excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and great for digestion. Makes a great dough conditioner, as well.

Wheat germ: 1/2 cup .  This is the best part of the wheat, it's light, and doesn't weigh down your dough  The kids to eat it, too. At this small amount, it doesn't affect the dough, and the kids accept it.

Let's make bread!

Put warm water into your mixer bowl with the paddle attachment. It's much faster and easier this way.  Add honey or sugar, and yeast. Whisk (using a whisk or a fork) together to combine. You have to really get those yeast dissolved in the sugar and water.

Water should feel warm, slightly warmer than you are, but not hot. Until you get the hang of it, stop here and wait for bubbles, about 5 minutes. This indicates your yeast are alive and well.

Next, add the oat flour and flax, or if you are skipping those, just add about 2 cups of flour, turn on the mixer, and mix until it's like paste. Add more flour, until it gets sticky. NOW, you can add your salt, and oil- your yeast are insulated. Add more flour, until it's a dough.

Switch to the dough hook.

With the mixer on, let the hook knead the dough. If it is sticky, or not wrapped around the hook after a minute or two, add more flour, a little (like a spoon) at a time. Keep doing this until the dough is elastic and not sticky. Let knead for about ten minutes, to develop that gluten (stringy stuff) in the bread dough.

If you are using it now: just leave it in the bowl, with the dough hook still attached, cover with plastic wrap, and put a towel on top. Let rise until double, about 45 minutes. Turn on the mixer for a moment, to deflate the dough. Did you notice there were no additional bowls, no greasing, no fuss, no muss?

Use in your recipe. This makes two loaves, 4 pizzas, 12 bagels, amoung other things like pigs in blankets.

What you don't use right away: Put into a container that can handle double the volume of dough and put it covered in the refrigerator. I put a piece of plastic over the top of mine, to keep it from drying out, then put the lid on. It will rise in the refrigerator, so don't let that upset you. It will also stay good for a whole week, and be "ready when you are."


I typically use half of the dough to make a loaf of french bread, or 2 medium pizzas.  A large pizza would be about 1/3 of the dough.  Refrigerate the rest.

 
 

The best thing about bread dough is that it’s not difficult.  The coolest thing about it is that it’s alive!  Yeast are actually fungi, and we have them to thank for bread and anything fermented like wine.  There are some things to remember about yeast dough that will make everything easier for you. 

 ·    Yeast eat sugar, and they must eat to grow and multiply.  There is sugar in flour (carbohydrates) but it takes a while for the yeast to access that.  So provide sugar in the form of white or brown sugar, honey or molasses when you  mix the yeast with water.

 ·   Yeast like to be toasty, but not too hot.  You don’t want to exceed 110° F.  The easy way to do this is to use water or milk that feels warm to you.  Since you are approximately 98.6° F, water that is  somewhere between lukewarm and warm, but not hot is just right.  If you have a thermometer, use it the first couple of times until you have a feel for it.  

 ·   When you put yeasts in a cold place, they snooze.  I’m going to show you my little trick to making bread the easy and convenient way.   True pastry chefs will cringe at the stuff I get away with, but it works for me, and will work for you!  You can complicate it later if you want to. 

 ·   Salt kills yeast.  It causes cell membranes to rupture and burst, which is why it also kills bacteria and is used in preserving.  You will notice the texture of the preserved foods is changed due to this process.  Anyway, don’t add the salt (which makes the bread taste good) at the beginning, but somewhere in the middle, after the yeasts are insulated with flour.  Problem solved.*

*We have Emeril LaGasse to thank for that little tip.  He started out as a baker, and is a master.  

 ·   You really need to use bread flour.  It’s got more protein, and thus more gluten, which is the stuff that makes the dough stretchy, and causes it to hold the rise caused by the yeast.

 ·   Your life will be a zillion times easier if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook. 

·   If I had a bread machine, I’d throw it in the trash can.



 
 

Milk prices are going through the roof, just like everything else. This is a short post, directed to mothers everywhere. There is a way to save money on milk, and it requires NO COUPON CLIPPING (though that doesn't hurt!). The information is elsewhere in this blog, but I do not want you to miss it. It's important enough to have its own post:

Nido Powdered Whole Milk.

You won't find this in the powdered milk section. Oh, no, that would be too easy and logical! No, you find this in the Hispanic, or International section. Walmart has it. I'm not sure about other stores, but I predict it will be on the rise. Nestle produces this milk, believe it or not, and has never told us about it. They have been marketing it in Mexico for years.

We all have my sweet little mama to thank for this. She enjoys shopping, and peruses the aisles at the grocery store like the jewelry counter at Saks, reading labels, and finding new things. Nido milk is one of those discoveries she insisted (thereby insuring my reluctance) that I try. Finally, I did... Now, it saves my behind every month! Learning to listen to your mother is, apparently, a skill that is developed with age... not that I’m that old, mind you.

I always buy 3 cans at least, but I think I will start buying more because once my secret is out, I have a feeling it may become hard to find.

One added plus for those that have to schlep their groceries on foot or by bus: it's lightweight!

Use this little treasure to replace milk in cooking, and for everything but drinking. Kids can tell the difference if you try to serve it up by the glass (but it's light years better than that nonfat dry milk goo). It's great for emergencies, though, and if you run out of milk, just add a little chocolate syrup or powder, and they will scarf it up. You have to be wiley, when you are a mother. :)

**NOTE: This is NOT infant formula, and should not be used as such. If you are having trouble with buying infant formula for your baby, go to your local WIC office, which can cover the cost. They help with other staples as well, and your local food stamp program may be able to help too.


Don't let pride stand in your way- everyone hits a bump in the road at one point or another.  If life was easy all the time, I don't think we'd appreciate it as much...


 
 

Whipping up a dinner-in-a-box… With no box!

If this recipe doesn’t freak you out, you are going to do fine with this .  I use the term recipe loosely, because I’m going to give you approximate measurements.  Some things, like baked goods, require more precise measuring.  But dinner should not.  When I’m cooking, there generally isn’t any measuring at all.  For you, I measured, to give you a framework to start.  Let’s just jump in!

With these one-pan pasta recipes, you literally simulate the results of one of those dinner-in-a-box mixes.  With one exception: when you make this recipe, you have enough to feed the entire family, usually for less than the price of one box of prepared mix.  And with no preservatives or additives.  

We are going to use the starch in the pasta water to thicken our sauces.  Simple as that.  Additionally, we are going to customize the recipe to suit your family’s tastes, and any dietary restrictions, because you are in control of what is in that pan.


Pasta “Alfredo”

Alfredo sauce is basically, butter, cheese, and cream.  And it’s all about those things, in perfect proportion.  This pasta sauce is really quite lean for a cream sauce, and can be skinnied up a bit more if you like.  Interestingly enough, once it cools, it remains creamy, and makes a perfect pasta salad base.  

PASTA:  1 lb of any kind.   My favorite is radiatore, but linguine or fettucine are wonderful, too.  Your favorite will work just fine!

WATER:  Fill a large pot with water, add 2 Tsp. salt, and a dollop of olive oil.

MILK:  9 TBSP dried  whole milk powder.  Use whole milk, or it will be too thin.  I use a product called Nido, found in the Hispanic section.

SPICES:  Approximately 1 tsp. of each one (then add more to taste if necessary).  Garlic or garlic powder, basil, sage, thyme or any other herb your family likes.  Keep it simple: one or two compatible herbs.  I like garlic and basil, and it’s a hit with the kids.  Lemon zest (grated peel) and thyme is also spectacularUse fresh herbs if you can get them (if you grow them, they're practically free).

BUTTER:  3 TBSP.+/-
Butter is for taste, as well as binding with the starch so the sauce is smooth and velvety. 

CHEESE: 1 Cup
I use the shredded Italian Blend cheese as a rule, which has 5 great cheeses in it.  You can always shred your own, and the blend is up to you.  You can add more or less to suit your own tastes and dietary restrictions.  A trick: hard cheeses are more fatty than soft, but much more flavorful.  This means you can use less and get good flavor.


* As a foodie, I would never do this to Parmesano Reggiano.  I'd just eat it!  But you can always us an inexpensive domestic parmesan and grate it yourself.


MEAT (optional):  This sauce tastes wonderful with chicken, beef, or fish.  You can use any left-over grilled, roasted, poached or pan-seared meat.  Slice or chop while your pasta is boiling.


How to:
Bring salted water with oil to a rolling boil, add pasta and cook until done.  With these, you want to get almost to “al dente,” which means, “to the bite.”  Traditionally pasta is always cooked until just barely done, so it will absorb the delicious sauce.  Ours is going to cook in the sauce a bit, hence leaving it a tad undercooked.


As an aside, this is the perfect time to get your vegetable dish going, while you are waiting for the pasta to do its thing.  

Time to drain, BUT DON’T GET RID OF ALL THE WATER.  When I drain the pasta, I use a colander, in case any bits fall out of the pan, but I do not try to measure the drained water.  That would make it complicated, and I don’t do complicated in every day life.  You want to drain just enough water that it is nearly level with the pasta.  There should be pasta sticking out of the water, by about ¼”.

Now, add your milk powder directly to the water, which should be approximately (no worrying allowed) 3 cups, along with the butter, and your spices and stir.  The water should now look like milk.  If it looks thin, you may need more milk powder.  On the spices, I do not measure, but you might want to the first time.  The idea is to shake them directly into the pot, though.  Easy, remember?  Garlic is important to this dish.  You’ll want about two chopped up cloves of garlic (you can add to the water in the beginning to cook it if you want to), or ½ to 1 tsp. garlic powder (NOT garlic salt).  Add other spices to taste.  DO NOT ADD SALT YET.  There was some in the water and there is salt in the cheese.  There's even salt in the milk (naturally).

At this point, your sauce is going to look like milk, and be just as runny, so don’t panic!  Bring it to a simmer.  The sauce will thicken up once it cooks just a bit (about 3-5 minutes).  Thickened sauce will still be a bit thin, but will coat your spoon.  Now add your cheese, let it melt in, and taste it.  What does it need?  More basil? How about the salt?  Adjust accordingly.  Throw in your meat, and you are done.  Sauce will continue to thicken as it sets, mainly because the pasta will continue to absorb the water in it.  Want it to be even creamier?  Add a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, or a splash of half and half.  

As mentioned earlier, this pasta recipe makes a terrific pasta salad.  You don’t have to do anything at all to it except let it cool, but you could add vegetables and or beans (including the green beans or spinach left over from dinner) for a balanced salad/meal.  I don’t add the creamy stuff at the end of the pasta, but might add a smidgeon to a salad.  What I mean to say, is that you will do it your way, according to your taste. 









 
 

How a tiny bit of chemical know-how can put the fun back into cooking!


 Cooking happens through chemistry, but it’s not hard, and doesn’t have to be complicated.  Ever watch “Good Eats” with Alton Brown?  I highly recommend it as a very enjoyable show on The Food Network.   Of course, you could just watch the show on TV!  Even if you don't like cooking shows, you'll like this one, trust me.  

Alton is a mad scientist, a showman, and a good Southern boy.  Above all, he’s a fabulous cook!  I have to say that he might cringe a little at my laissez-faire treatment of some recipes.  He is nothing if not a perfectionist, while I’m… not.  So I hope he will forgive me, but I’m mostly into shortcuts.   I think he will, because I just watched him make a smoker from a cardboard box.  


 Cool stuff: 

·   Roux-  Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?  This is equal parts butter  (or another fat) and flour.  That’s all.  You melt the fat, add the flour, and cook for a minute or so.  After that, it starts changing color, “carmelizing.”  The darker the roux, the stronger the taste, and the less thickening power it has.  Thickening is the major point of a roux, but as it gets darker, it gets nuttier, more complex, and adds flavor to sauces.

**A tip from a chef friend, Nestor Ramires, keep some roux in the refrigerator, and you'll have an instant thickener any time you need it!
 
Ok, that was the most complicated, so relax!  

·   Self-rising flour:  If you add liquid to this, then put it in the oven, it will rise.  Add eggs, and it will rise more.  Cool, huh?  Say goodbye to pancake mix.

 ·   Pasta water:  Pasta water is delicious, has vitamins from the pasta, and, guess what, folks?  It has tons of starch from the pasta, as well.  Say goodbye to pasta dinner mixes.  You don’t need them anymore.

 ·   Powdered whole or nonfat milk:  This is a lifesaver in sauces, soups, and breads, as I can add it to the water.  No more “scalded” milk (a hassle which takes time, and makes me wash yet another pan).  Add to the afore-mentioned pasta water, and you get the beginnings of a cream sauce.  I’ll show you the right way, and my quicker, wrong (but oh-so-easy) way.

 ·   Yeast:  Nothing new here.  Yeast are magical all by themselves.  You add water to a package of yeast, and the little guys wake up, and start eating.  This causes them to multiply, and party, all the while expelling great amounts of carbon dioxide.  They make lots of little bubbles, which gives you rise.  More on that in the Dough section.

 ·   Leavening:  baking powder, baking soda, and eggs make things rise. 

 Oils and fats, including milk, make things moist.  Eggs work this way, too, due to the fat in the egg yolk.  These items perform multiple functions, but for now, we'll keep it simple.