Broiled Grapefruit (and an Easter Egg!)


Today, we’ve arrived at the very last recipe in the Breakfast section of “Good and Cheap.” And … this post contains an Easter Egg!


Broiled Grapefruit
A little brown sugar, a tiny bit of salt, and a whole lot of yummy

You’ll find Broiled Grapefruit on page 16 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at and on page 18 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
It doesn’t get any simpler than this: one grapefruit,two teaspoons of brown sugar and a pinch of salt. I used a ruby grapefruit and I think that was a good choice.

How Did it Taste?
These are good. They are very good. The caramelized brown sugar and just a hint of salt elevates the humble grapefruit into something quite sophisticated. The heat of the broiler also causes the fruit to puff up a little and become quite juicy. Needless to say, I liked these a lot.

Let’s Do The Math
A grapefruit currently sells for $1.49 at Save-On Foods in my hometown of Edmonton, and two teaspoons of brown sugar cost me 3 cents. I considered half a grapefruit to be one serving, so this recipes rings in at 76 cents per serving.

And Now … the Easter Egg!
In geek-speak an “Easter Egg” is a surprise bonus hidden in a DVD, computer program or video game.

Although it’s not exactly hidden, this Easter Egg is a surprise bonus recipe for a double-layer Rice Krispie Cake. It’s easy to make and a lot of fun. The original version of this recipe used Betty Crocker tinned frosting and was decorated with a whole variety of candies. Admittedly, this approach wasn’t overly economical, and also left me with a big pile of extra candy.

So, in the names of frugality and creativity, I’ve re-jigged it to something that looks good, is still decadent, but doesn’t cost as much.

A 700 gram box of Rice Krispies and two 400 gram bags of marshmallows will get you two Rice Krispie cakes. Frosted and decorated, they’ll cost you $10.28 each and serve at least eight. That’s $1.29 per serving.


Rice Krispie Cake, all dolled up with M&M candies
My very own version of an electronic Easter Egg

Rice Krispie Cake

Part 1 — Create the layers
Ingredients per layer:
1/4 cup of butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups miniature marshmallows
5 cups Rice Krispies

  1. Melt the butter in a good-sized pan over medium-low heat and add the vanilla and marshmallows.
  2. Allow the marshmallows to melt, stirring occasionally (and watching that they don’t start to burn to the bottom of your pan.)
  3. When all of the marshmallows have melted, take the pan off the heat, and stir in the Rice Krispies, one cup at a time.
  4. Let the mixture stand while you generously grease an 8″ round cake pan.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the greased cake pan. When everything is in the pan, use your hands to pack down the mixture and spread it out to the edges, making sure that the top surface is flat. (If you find that the mixture is sticking to your hands, give it a few more minutes to cool.)
  6. Once you’re done, put the pan aside and let it set for 20 minutes. About 15 minutes in, you can start the next layer.
  7. After 20 minutes, invert the pan over a plate and tap the bottom. If you’ve greased the pan well, the layer should pretty much pop right out. If you’re getting resistance, try running a knife around the edge of the pan.
  8. Repeat Step 1 to Step 6 for the second layer.
  9. While the second layer is cooling, you can make the frosting.

Part 2: Frosting, Assembling and Decorating
Ingredients for frosting the full cake:
1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
2 cups of icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
About a tablespoon of milk or cream
One bag of Easter-themed M&M candies

  1. If you have a mixer, use it. Everything goes a lot faster and the end product is light and fluffy. If you don’t have a mixer, cream the butter by hand until the color lightens.
  2. Add the icing sugar, a cup at a time. Beat each cup in until smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla and beat.
  4. Add the milk and beat.
  5. Check the consistency. Too stiff to spread nicely? Add a little more milk. Too runny? Add a little more icing sugar.
  6. When the frosting is ready, put a few small dollops around the center of a plate.
  7. Take your first layer of cake and center it on the plate. Apply a little pressure to help the frosting glue it down.
  8. Spread a layer of frosting on the top of the first layer. You can use a little less than half your recipe.
  9. Now, center the second layer of the cake over the first. (Because of the way cake pans are shaped, it likely won’t be a perfect fit. Don’t sweat this.)
  10. Using the rest of the frosting, ice the top of the second layer.
  11. Now, you can take the M&M candies and decorate the top. I made stripes, but I’m willing to bet that you can be even more creative!

And that’s it. If you make a Rice Krispie cake, I would love to see a picture of it. Thank you for reading all the way down to here, and a very Happy Easter to you all!

Banana Pancakes

Hello and Happy Daylight Savings Time!

If losing an hour of sleep has left you feeling grumpy, today’s recipe should help. Seriously, who doesn’t love pancakes on a weekend morning? And these are some good pancakes…


Banana Pancakes, with a side of bacon
Perfect antidote to the annoyance of Daylight Savings Time,
and pretty much anything else that bugs you

You won’t find Banana Pancakes in the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at but it’s on page 12 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
The ingredients for this recipe are quite basic — staples that you’ll find in most kitchens. It helps if the bananas that go into the batter are a little over-ripe. They mash up a lot more easily.

Because it was on sale, I bought a package of low-sodium bacon to go with my pancakes. There’s a point in the recipe where you let the batter rest for 10 or 15 minutes, which turns out to be the perfect time slot in which to cook the bacon. I then used the bacon fat to cook the pancakes, which I think added to the flavour.

How Did it Taste?
Delicious! The blend of the savoury bacon and the bananas was marvellous. The pancakes aren’t overly sweet and they capably handled the standard additions of butter and syrup. Like the Baklava Oatmeal recipe, this is something you could make for weekend guests and be proud to serve up. 

Even if you don’t opt to fry your pancakes in bacon fat, I think that the saltiness of butter would also be a great flavour booster.  

Show Me the Money
Start to finish, banana pancakes and bacon took exactly an hour to cook up. (Remembering that I stopped to fiddle around weighing ingredients so that my costing is accurate. In all likelihood, you’ll be able to cook these up much quicker.)

One other note about this recipe. Because I’m single and didn’t want to be eating leftover pancakes for days and days and days, I actually tried quartering the recipe. It worked perfectly, which added to my already glowing impression of “Good and Cheap” as a spectacularly versatile cookbook.

The total cost was $1.34, and the bacon added another $1.49. The full recipe should serve four, but those are pretty generous servings. Technically, I got one brunch and one breakfast out of my $2.83, which I thought was a heck of a deal.

Food Shopping Tip
This isn’t really a tip, but my annoyance at paying $2+ for a small package of fresh herbs has finally gotten the better of me. This weekend, I planted small pots of basil, rosemary and dill. The seeds average about $1.89 per package, so if this actually works, there should be some tidy little savings as well as the freshest possible herbs added to my cooking. Once they’re sprouted and actually look like something (besides pots of dirt), I’ll post some photos.

And that’s all for today! This coming week will bring us into baking territory, with scones and muffins. Until then, have a great weekend and get a little extra sleep — you’ll feel better about this whole Daylight Savings Time thing in a couple of days.


Chocolate Oatmeal

In early February, I did an interview with Isabelle Gallant of CBC, talking about this project. I’m happy to say that it aired on Monday of last week, and you can have a listen here. (I start at the 9:02 mark.)
Chocolate Oatmeal

Chocolate Oatmeal, garnished with chocolate chips
Good Decadent and cheap

Today, Library Life Hack is proud to present the last of seven oatmeal recipes found in “Good and Cheap”. This one doesn’t actually appear in the PDF version of the cookbook (which is a free download at but you can find it on page 10 of the print edition.

Ingredient Notes
I used regular rolled oats instead of quick oats. Beyond that, the ingredients for this recipe are all basic kitchen staples: sugar, milk and cocoa powder.

How Did it Taste?
Pretty darn good. I wasn’t sure about the idea of chocolate for breakfast, but the ingredients work together really well
. The cocoa powder gives the oatmeal a dark chocolate flavour, but without any bitterness. And don’t worry about it being too sweet — I actually added some honey to mine. I wouldn’t be making this recipe every day, but it would be a lovely treat on the weekend with a big mug of fresh coffee.

Let’s Do the Math
This is very easy to make. You just whisk together the non-oatmeal ingredients, put everything together in a pan and turn on the heat. Poof! In about ten minutes, your breakfast is ready. And a cheap breakfast it is, weighing in at just 61 cents per serving.

Frugal Food Tip
This is a little story called “How I Fell In Love With Citrus Zest*”.

Last week, I cooked with citrus zest three times. I used orange zest twice as I test-drove the Baklava Oatmeal recipe, and lemon zest once making Creamy Zucchini Fettuccine (which you’ll find in the Dinner section of “Good and Cheap”: page 86 of the print version and page 89 of the PDF).

In the past, I’ve used zest in the odd recipe, but always considered it to be a fussy, pretentious add-on. However, my “Good and Cheap” cooking adventures have caused me to look at zest in a whole different light.

Lemon zest added a wonderful flavour to the savoury fettuccine dish, making it taste quite sophisticated (if that makes any sense). And the orange zest punched the Baklava Oatmeal into another class of breakfast food altogether.

Then it dawned on me that it’s essentially free! I mean, the oranges I zested last week are still completely intact, and wound up as part of my lunch this week. It’s like getting two uses out of the same piece of fruit. Now I want to see if I can find a way to sneak some lime and grapefruit zest into my meals. (If you have any suggestions, by all means, send me a note at librarylifehack [at]

*Just in case this is an unfamiliar term, zest is the thin colored layer of peel on citrus fruits.

And that’s all for today. Tune in near the end of the week for Breakfast Quinoa!


Baklava Oatmeal

In early February, I did an interview with Isabelle Gallant of CBC, talking about this project. I’m happy to say that it aired on Monday of last week, and you can have a listen here. (I start at the 9:02 mark.)
Baklava Oatmeal

Baklava Oatmeal
Bringing the humble oat to a whole new plane of existence

So here we are, at Recipe #6 in the Oatmeal Chronicles. You can find this one on page 30 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at or on page 10 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
This time, I decided to step out a little and use regular rolled oats instead of quick oats. I also bought crushed walnuts because they were on sale in the bulk section at Save-On Foods — and considerably cheaper than the almonds that the recipe calls for. (My logic was that every baklava I’d ever eaten included walnuts, so I didn’t think I was committing a culinary faux pas.)

How Did it Taste?
Wow. This one is amazing. If you were looking for an oatmeal recipe to serve to weekend house guests (or anyone else you wanted to impress with your mad breakfast cooking skills), Baklava Oatmeal is your go-to. I loved the blend of the flavours, and the large flake rolled oats are much chewier (and truthfully, less gluey) than quick oats. I still like Coconut and Lime Oatmeal for its simplicity, but Baklava is my new favourite. This is oatmeal on a whole different plane of existence.

I have to say that I will probably not be going back to quick oats, now that I’ve experienced large flake. Isabelle Gallant (who is also the voice of The Little Red Kitchen blog) suggested that I try out a 50/50 blend of large flake and steel-cut as well. Isn’t cooking fun? Always something new to experiment with.

Show Me the Money
Zesting an  orange means that there’s a little more work involved in this recipe, and it took about 8 minutes to cook the large flake oats (as opposed to 2 minutes for quick oats). Start to finish, the prep and cooking time was 22 minutes, and the total cost per serving was 88 cents. A bargain for very classy breakfast!

Food Shopping Tip
It’s nothing new, but I’m going to talk about one of the commandments of frugalistas everywhere: Thou Shalt Always Check the Bill.

Last Sunday night, I bought groceries for the coming week. I was a little surprised at the total, but reminded myself that we’re still living in The Time of Really Expensive Produce in my hometown of Edmonton.

When I got home, however, I decided take a closer look and found a $10.95 charge for half a kilo of bulk trail mix. Since I hadn’t bought any trail mix, I knew something was wrong. I checked through item by item and discovered that the half kilo of apples I’d bought were nowhere on the receipt.

In short, I’d just paid $10.95 for three apples.

Now, obviously this was a keying error. It was a simple matter to go back to the grocery store with the apples, show them what had happened, and get a refund. But it does reinforce the idea that it’s not a bad practice to check your receipts if something seems a little off.

And that’s all for today! Next week will bring us the last of the oatmeal recipes and then we’ll move on to some exciting territory that includes muffins, pancakes and grapefruits. Have a great weekend!

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Happy Monday! After a short detour, today’s post brings us back to the wonderful world of oatmeal, with No. 5 in a seven-part set of recipe reviews.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, artfully arranged

As I mentioned above, the breakfast chapter of “Good and Cheap” has seven different oatmeal recipes. You can find this particular one on page 31 of the PDF version (a free download at or on page 10 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
The ingredients were about as basic as you can get. (I was lucky enough to find the apple juice on sale for 99 cents.) I chose not to cook the apple slices and sprinkled a little brown sugar on top of the finished product.

How Did it Taste?
Very good! I was expecting the apple juice to make the oatmeal cloyingly sweet, but it actually had a nice little tang to it, and the slices are a good healthy addition. This is now my second favourite recipe in the oatmeal series. (I still like Coconut and Lime the best.)

Let’s Do the Math
Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal was quick and easy to cook, taking about 10 minutes altogether. And the total cost of ingredients came to just 89 cents per serving.

Green Onions

I call this photo “Onions at Sunrise”
(This is what they looked like after about two week’s growing time)

Frugal Food Tip
This tip has nothing whatsoever to do with oatmeal, but I thought it was worth telling you about just the same. Thanks to a very clever co-worker, I’ve learned that it’s possible to re-grow green onions. Even in the middle of winter!

Step One involves cutting off all of the green part and some of the white part (and presumably eating it). Next, put the remainder of the white part in a glass of water and put the glass in a windowsill. Change the water daily, and new shoots will start appearing within a couple of days.

I must admit that I was skeptical about this actually working in February, especially in my chilly kitchen window. But my little onions are on their third sprouting and growing enthusiastically. Now, is that cool or what?

That’s all for today! Check back soon for the sixth installment in the oatmeal chronicles and have a great week!