Archive for Mrs. Not Made of Money

Tips For Freezing and Storing Your Holiday Baked Goods

Christmas cookiesOne way to make your holiday baking go better is to have a plan for freezing and storing your holiday baked goods so that you don’t have to do all the baking in one day or that you can spend a day or two baking and freeze for later. It all depends on the type of time you have available but learning to freeze and store the delicious creations will help a lot.

First, you’ll need the right suppplies to be able to freeze and store your holiday baked goods. You’ll need parchment paper, freezer safe containers, plastic zipping bags, butcher paper and spray oil. These things will help you save your baking goods properly so that they taste freshly baked on the day you enjoy them.

Some of the baked goods that freeze the best are brownies, quick breads, cookies, muffins, snack cakes, yeast breads, regular cakes, cheesecake and pies. All of these need various methods of freezing to ensure that they are still fresh and tasty when it’s time to eat them. One important tip to remember is not to freeze any of your baked good recipes that are low fat or fat free. They are best cooked and served the same day as they get dry or conversely gummy when frozen.

The hardest of the above to freeze are fully made cakes, cheesecakes and pies. These require specialty containers to ensure that they don’t get too much frost and that you also thaw them properly for best results. We’ll start with these.

Christmas Cup Cakes* Fully made cakes – If you completely frost and prepare a cake you can still freeze it. It takes a little more work, though. Use parchment paper or freezer paper oiled up really good with spray oil that is flavorless like corn oil or you can also use Crisco. Then wrap the cake tightly with the freezer paper, wrap that with plastic wrap, freeze until solid and then put the entire container into a tin or hard freezer safe box to protect it from other things in your freezer. Unwrap completely before thawing.

* Cheesecakes – These have very high moisture content, but can be frozen if you are careful. Most cheesecakes are made in a spring form pan. You can freeze directly on the spring form or you can make a round of hard cardboard (or buy one at the craft store). If using cardboard, the best way to do it is to wrap the cardboard with foil. Slide the cheesecake onto the foil-wrapped cardboard; you can spray some spray oil on it first to help remove it later. Then wrap with plastic wrap (bottom and all), spraying oil on the top layer too. Wrap with multiple layers, freeze fully, and then place in a harder container to protect. Unwrap completely to thaw in refrigerator. When almost completely thawed, put back on spring form bottom or other serving platter for serving. For fruit-covered cheesecake, make that at the time of serving for added freshness.

* Pies – Freezing cream pies does not work very well, so use these instructions for fruit pies and make creamed pies closer to the time of serving. You can freeze pie crusts in their tins and bake from frozen. To freeze a fully baked fruit pie, place it in the freezer uncovered, freeze, and then pop it in a freezer bag. To serve, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or thaw on the counter for three to five hours. Break open the seal so that the moisture from freezing can escape to avoid a mushy crust. You can freeze unbaked pie crust the same way. Just unwrap, slit the crust, and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 Fahrenheit and bake for 45 more minutes.

The other items mentioned above can be frozen very easily just by first bringing to room temperature, then starting in the refrigerator. Finally wrap with freezer paper or parchment paper, and then pop into a freezer bag. You can freeze these items for six months. To thaw, just take out and put on the counter. Or for anything with eggs in it, start in the refrigerator.

Other Tips for Freezing Your Holiday Baked Goods

* Cookie dough – The great thing about cookie dough is that it can be frozen and saved for up to six months. You can make a lot of dough, separate it up into “serving” sizes and freeze in a long bar to chop into the right size for baking. You can also save in balls for cookies like peanut butter cookies that are supposed to start as balls. Thaw, and then process as usual. Always unwrap fully before thawing.

* Raw yeast dough – Shape the dough after the first rise into the shape you will bake it in. A ball for a roll, three balls for a clover roll, a log for a bread loaf, and so forth. Shape the dough, freeze on a pan in the freezer, then pop into freezer bags. You can also wrap the dough in parchment or freezer paper, then pop into a larger freezer bag to keep more in one bag. To prepare, thaw in the prepared baking pan that you want to cook the bread in. It will rise as it thaws. You can start in the fridge the night before or you can do it within 3 to 5 hours the day of. It’s up to you. Bake as usual according to your instructions.

Gingerbread Men* Fully cooked cookies – You can also freeze fully cooked cookies. Find a round freezer save container and put a single layer of fully cooled cookies in the bottom, top with parchment paper, adding layers until the container is full, topping again with parchment, and then sealing the container. To thaw, just remove cookies to a serving platter and let thaw for about 2 or 3 hours the day you want to enjoy them.

* Quick breads or muffins – Fully cool the bread or muffins after baking, then wrap tightly in freezer paper, parchment paper, or foil. Then wrap with plastic wrap tightly and put inside a freezer bag. The extra steps will ensure that your bread is moist and delicious after thawing. To thaw, unwrap and thaw on the counter for 2 to 3 hours, or in the fridge overnight. Wrapping in foil is especially good with coffee cake. You can thaw in the foil, then toss in the oven to warm.

Freezing your holiday baked goods and storing them for later is a great idea because you can bake just a little at a time, or have a quick bread baking day, a cookie dough mixing and freezing day and so forth. Most of these items will still taste fresh with proper storage for up to three months, some for six months. If you have extra freezer space, this gives you quite a long time to prepare for your holiday baking.

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Tips For Staying On Budget This Christmas Shopping Season

red and white christmas presents with bows by treeThe holiday shopping season is in full swing. The stores are full of Christmas music, shiny decorations, and bling of every kind at the endcaps….all with the goal of getting you to spend, spend, spend. It’s so easy to give into temptation! While I’m not perfect when resisting temptations (who is?) there are a few little tricks I use to keep myself on track with my budget:

Shop on a Full Stomach
I’ve noticed if I go shopping when I’m hungry I can be more easily swayed by budget temptations. At my SuperTarget, the smell of the Starbucks Coffee usually beckons me and if that doesn’t get me the freshly popped popcorn will. Anyway, I make sure to have a snack before I head out and hit the stores.

Leave the Kids at Home
Likewise, the kids are huge budget distractors! They usually do not accompany me when I am Christmas shopping unless I am shopping for Mr. Not Made of Money. Then we go with a list in hand, they help me hunt for the items on the list, and they know the budget amount we are aiming for.

Set A Christmas Budget Amount
We decide in advance how much money we are going to spend for the holiday season and then we stick to it. Part of this involves tracking our money as we spend it, so we know how much there is left.

Avoid The Credit Card Trap
I use my credit card but keep track of how much we’ve spent so I don’t go over budget. When the bill arrives, it is paid in full. If you don’t trust yourself to keep your credit card purchases in budget, then switch to cash. Don’t let yourself go into the new year with additional debt.

Book in Advance
We don’t usually travel far during the holidays but if we did we would book our reservations well in advance. Shop around online and compare airfares and hotel room fees.

Compile A List Of Prospective Gifts
I always go Christmas shopping with a list in hand…it gives me a sense of direction. Even if I don’t have a specific item on the list, I have people’s names and a budgeted amount listed.

Shop Online
Especially for the children’s gifts, I’ve found that I scored the best prices online this year. Nearly everything had free shipping because it was either a special being offered, or I searched for a promotional code before I purchased.

Plan for The Unexpected
Invariably, there is bound to be one or two gifts we neglected to purchase. I always make sure to have a few generic gifts on hand (homemade jar gifts, inexpensive kid’s game, etc.) to cover those last minute gifts.

Apple Pie Spice Muffins – Dairy Free!

Dairy Free Apple Pie Spice MuffinWith Fall in the air, it’s a perfect time for baking!   I’ve been making these muffins for many years now, and originally got the recipe when cooking for a milk allergic child.  Notice that the recipe is dairy free! You won’t miss the milk in the recipe though – These little muffins are so good to eat and a snap to make.  I like to bake double or triple batches and then freeze some of them for later.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons apple pie spice
1 Egg
1-1/2 cups of water
1/3 cup canola oil

Preparation: In a large mixing bowl thoroughly combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and apple pie spice. Then add the egg, water and canola oil and stir until the batter is well combined. I like to make my muffins large size, so this mix makes 12 large muffins. I also like to use the paper liners but if you used a cooking spray and a nonstick muffin tin that should work fine too. Bake the muffins at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. I usually start checking the muffins at the 15 minute mark to see if they are done. You’ll need to make your own time adjustments according to your own oven but usually 20 minutes is the most amount of time you’ll need. Enjoy these muffins for breakfast, as a snack, or as part of “breakfast for dinner.”