Too Thrifty Chicks

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Tidbit Tuesday: The Power of Pesto

It’s time for another installment in the Thrifty Cooking Series and today’s topic is pesto. Yes that deliciously flavored green slurry that makes certain Italian dishes taste so yummy — pesto. For a long time, when the Thrifty Chicks thought “pesto” we immediately thought “pasta”. But we are here to help you change how you think about this flavor-filled rock star and how it can bring more than your pasta dishes to life.

Around the same time we started cooking nearly every meal we’ve eaten since we started Operation Do Better, we began making our own pesto. Don’t get us wrong, the jarred stuff is delicious and convenient. But for the size, usually less than 7 ounces, and our money, pesto is pricey. When we read the ingredients on a jar, we were surprised at how simple the ingredients were.

Aside from the preservative ingredients that give jarred pesto its shelf-life, pesto is nothing more than parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil, basil, or some other kind of green herb, garlic and some kind of nut, usually pine nuts. Blend them in a food processor and Presto! Pesto! There also are tons of other ingredients you can use to make pesto and plenty of recipes on the Internet to help you do it.IMG_3951

For our recipe we substituted pine nuts with walnuts because they were cheaper. We bought a rather large bag of walnuts from Trader Joe’s and it’s lasted us about six months. We keep the walnuts in the refrigerator so that the oil in the nuts doesn’t get rancid. We usually buy the biggest container of basil we can find and make a rather big batch.  We preserve our pesto, without preservatives, by freezing it in an ice tray with a layer of olive oil on top. The stuff keeps in the freezer, without getting freezer burned, for a pretty long time. We never leave it in the freezer longer than a month because we use the stuff in so many of our dishes.

When in doubt, add pesto

Pasta: Of course we use pesto very traditionally in pasta dishes, but the way we use it is probably a little different. We occasionally use it as a stand alone sauce, but often times we use it to add flavor to store bought white and red pasta sauce. We’ll soon be making our own pasta sauces, but we’ll likely still add pesto because we really love the flavor.

Fish/Shrimp: We discovered this summer that pesto is great on fish and shrimp. Slather it on skewered pieces of shrimp and salmon, grill or bake.  Not only is it delicious, but it keeps seafood from drying out in that cooking process. What you’ll have is succulent morsels of seafood that will disappear from plates.

Mayo replacement: During a recent tubbing adventure, our girl Sunny S. whipped out these mini-sandwiches with pesto, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. All served on mini-whole wheat bagels.  And she blew our entire minds! They were that good. The pesto was the delicious glue that held these bad boys together. And when you think about it, pesto would make a pretty awesome replacement in many of the salads and sandwiches that call for mayo. A new twist on potato and macaroni salad, you say? Why certainly!

Pizza: We like making homemade pizza more than we like ordering it out. The act of flavoring IMG_3771our dough and deciding what kinds of toppings we want to add to our pizza really is an ever-evolving thing at our house. We have put pesto in our dough and we certainly have made it the primary sauce on top of our pizza and mixed it in store-bought sauce.  It is delicious. Period.

If you’re bored with what’s on your plate and what it taste like, give pesto a chance. We don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.

— R & R


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Tidbit Tuesday: Homemade Laundry Detergent

We are always looking for ways to save money. Always. So when our friend Bridget M. told us about making her own dishwashing detergent we immediately wanted to give it a try. When we went looking for a recipe for dishwasher detergent we stumbled upon a blog post from happymoneysaver.com that had a recipe for laundry detergent.

We were big fans of the new Tide detergent pods that look like dishwasher pods, but not fans of the price, especially since we kept forgetting to take a coupon to the store and were running out of detergent when it was not on sale.

IMG_5325When the post for the homemade detergent promised that the recipe, which could be made with about $20 in ingredients, would last for about a year, we were sold. Most of the ingredients for homemade detergent can be found at your local supermarket or Walmart. Just look on the lowest shelf in the cleaning supply or laundry detergent aisle.

You can get some of the supplies at Target, but we were unable to find all of them there. If you are one-stop shopper, Walmart likely is your best bet for finding all the ingredients you need in one place.

IMG_5323When we initially attempted the recipe we used Ivory soap, because we couldn’t find the soap recommended in the post, or flaked-soap. It was an EPIC FAIL. Putting soap in your food processor is not the business, and in fact, is not what the instructions call for doing. Reading is clearly fundamental.  We encourage you to not waste your time with trying to grind up Ivory soap and hunt down some flaked-soap like Zote.  It will be so much easier to mix. Trust us,

We have been using our homemade laundry detergent for about four months and all of our clothes look and smell fresh and clean. And by all, we mean our stinky running clothes (not that we’ve been running so much this year) too.

IMG_5348But we do have a confession: Our first batch of detergent has not lasted a year and it is totally our fault. See what had happened was…we use more than the recommended amount of per load. The recommended amount is just a couple of tablespoons per load. We use a scoop that came with the Oxi-Clean and sometime, Ricks even uses two scoops. ::Kanye shrug:: Looking at our pictures and happymoneysaver.com’s photos, it didn’t seem that we’d made 18 lbs. of detergent. We could be wrong, since we didn’t weigh it. Again…::Kanye shrug::

IMG_5311The ingredients are inexpensive enough that even if we made it three or four times a year, we would still come out ahead in the laundry game.  When we consider the time and effort it would cost us to clip coupons, diligently wait for sales and then not forget the coupons at the house on sale day and have to turn around and  drive back home to get them? Nawl. Just…nawl.

This project is Too Thrifty Chicks approved. It’s easy, cheap and works. Try it.

– R&R