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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Homemade Pizza Lunchables – Store versus Homemade


My youngest daughter loves her Pizza Lunchables, she would eat them for every meal if we would let her.  I am not sure if it is the taste or just the fact she gets to construct her lunch.  Being out of them we decided to make our own.

As many discoveries are found by mistake, I found that my tortillas had a similar (but better) taste to the Lunchable “pizza crust” if I cooked them too long at low heat.  Though there are better instructions on the original post here is the recipe I used for my pizza crusts:


Lunchable Pizza Crust Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup milk

    Directions: Add dry ingredients to mixer and set to low speed.  Add wet ingredients to separate bowl, whisk briefly and slowly add wet ingredients to mixer.  If the dough is still sticky when you touch it add about a teaspoon of flour at a time until it no longer sticks to your fingers.

    Cover and let dough rest for ten minutes.  Separate into 8 equal pieces and cover and let rest for 20 minutes. 

    Use a roller to spread the dough out to about 6-7 inch circular shape.  Cook on a dry skillet on stove (or electric griddle) at medium-low heat for until sides are lightly browned on both sides and set aside.


    Lunchable Pizza Sauce recipe

    • 1 can tomato sauce
    • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp garlic salt
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 tsp sugar (more or less depending on children/adult’s tastes)

    Directions:  I give the above amounts as a baseline but pizza sauce is fun to play with and adjust by personal taste.  Be sure to include the kids to give their culinary opinions on what to add next.  Add water or let reduce to get the right constancy, of well pizza sauce.


    As for the final construction the kids should be able to figure this part.  Take a pizza crust, spread on a little sauce (preferable still hot/warm) and sprinkle on some cheese and you are done.  You can also throw it in an oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes to fully melt the cheese.

    The Contender – Store Bought

    Lunchables Pepperoni Pizza, $1.99 (contains 3 small pizzas)

    Ingredients: Pizza Crusts: Wheat Flour (Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid], Wheat Flour), Water, Soybean Oil, Glycerine, Sugar, Contains 2% or Less of: Yeast, Vital Wheat Gluten, Mono- and Diglycerides, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Carboxymethylcellulose, Datem, Calcium Propionate, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Xanthan Gum, Enzyme, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sorbic Acid.    Pizza Sauce: Water, Tomato Paste, Sugar, Contains Less than 2% of Modified Food Starch, Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Spice, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate as a Preservative, Xanthan Gum, Natural Flavor. Pasteurized Prepared Mozzarella Cheese Product: Pasteurized Part-Skim Milk, Water, Whey Protein Concentrate, Milk Protein Concentrate, Milkfat, Sodium Citrate, Salt, Sorbic Acid as a Preservative, Enzymes, Cheese Culture. Pepperoni Flavored Sausage: Pork, Water, Pepperoni (Pork, Salt, Spices, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Sodium Nitrite

    The Challenger - Homemade

    Here are the costs of making these yourself:

    Pizza Crust

    Ingredient Amount Cost
    Flour 2 cups $ 0.249
    Baking Powder 1.5 teaspoons $ 0.048
    Milk 3/4 cup $ 0.140
    Salt 1 teaspoons $ 0.007
    Vegetable Oil 2 teaspoons $ 0.017
    Total Cost   $ 0.462

    Pizza Sauce + Cheese

    Ingredient Amount Cost
    Tomato sauce 15 oz can $ 0.69
    Onion powder 1 teaspoon $ 0.043
    Garlic salt 1 teaspoon $ 0.041
    Sugar 1 teaspoon $ 0.001
    Olive oil 1 tablespoon $ 0.176
    Cheese 1/4 cup $ 0.313
    Total $ 0.951


    All together it cost $1.73 to make eight  7 inch pizzas, given the Lunchable variety contain three 5 inch pizzas, going by surface area it takes two Lunchable pizzas to equal one homemade pizza so the homemade recipe makes the equivalent of 5.33 packaged Pizza Lunchables.

    The Decision…


    Store bought


    Price   image   image   image   image   image
    Taste   image   image      image   image   image   image   image 
    Difficulty   image     image   image 

    As far as cost goes it was much cheaper to to homemade on this one.  For only $1.73 I was able to create the equivalent of 5.33 packaged Lunchables which would have cost $10.61 to buy in the store.

    I used both my daughters a a judge for taste on this one.  My oldest daughter said 5 stars for homemade and one star for store bought.  My youngest daughter (who is very partial to Lunchables) stated that this was a little better.  So giving homemade another win.

    Though we only had one leftover pizza crust for our family of four, these easily could be added to a school lunch using a nice partitioned Tupperware, to not only save money but also creating less waste.

  • Thursday, December 24, 2009

    Sausage Bread Recipe



    This recipe has been a Christmas morning tradition in our family for several years now.  We simply prepare this the night before and put in the oven in the morning while the kids are opening presents.  Great with a glass of orange juice

    Sausage Bread Recipe


    • 1 lb loaf of bread dough (I prefer fresh, though frozen is also good
    • 1 lb sausage
    • 1 egg
    • 3/4 teaspoon basil
    • 3/4 teaspoon oregano
    • 1-1/2 cup shredded jack cheese (we also like pre shredded “Italian Cheese” blend)
    • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese


    • Brown sausage stirring frequently to ensure meat crumbles into small pieces.  Remove as much fat as possible (too much fat can make bottom of bread greasy.
    • Let cooked sausage cool and add basil, oregano, cheese, and egg and mix thoroughly.
    • On floured surface roll out bread dough to about 1/4 in rectangle.  The original recipe says to fill with sausage and create into a jelly roll (donut shape).  Though we normally just make into a regular loaf.  The down side is you get a couple ends pieces with little or no sausage, but also gives a couple pieces of plain white bread for our youngest daughter who only likes sausage in link form.
    • Either way you make it, place it on a cookie sheet and add 1/2 inch slashes every 1.5 inches or so and add egg wash (1 egg + tablespoon water beaten) with pastry brush if you want a harder outside crust or skip if you want a softer one (our personal preference)


    • Cover with plastic wrap and let rise (about 30 minutes) and bake at 350F for 30 minutes and enjoy.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Chocolate cake recipe – Store versus homemade

    My wife made the mistake of mentioning that my daughter and I should bake something for some company that would be coming over in a little over an hour.  Not knowing what to bake I passed the decision to my 5 year old who immediately proclaimed we should make chocolate cake.  Not having any chocolate cake mix nor frosting in the house this seemed like a great opportunity for a Store versus homemade challenge.

    Given I have never actually made a cake without my trusty Duncan Hines cake mix I went to the Internet and found what looked like a good recipe for a moist chocolate cake.


    Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe

    Ingredients (Cake)

    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup boiling water


    • Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
    • Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
    • Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.



    Perfectly Chocolate Frosting Recipe

    Ingredients (Frosting)

    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
    • 2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
    • 3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/3 cup milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Directions (theirs)

    Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

    Directions (mine)

    Add all ingredients to bowl and mix until it looks like frosting.

    The Contenders – Store Bought

    Duncan Hines Chocolate Cake Mix, $2.25

    Ingredients: Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Corn Syrup, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Corn Starch, Modified Corn Starch, Contains 1% or Less of: Salt, Propylene Glycol Mono and Diesters of Fatty Acids, Distilled Monoglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor.

    Pillsbury Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting, $1.99 for 16 oz container.

    Ingredients: Sugar, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Palm Oil, Wheat Starch, Contains 2% or Less of: Mono and Diglycerides, Cellulose Gel, Salt, Corn Starch, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Artificial and Natural Flavor, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Whey. Freshness Preserved by Potassium Sorbate and BHT.

    So I can make the cake for a total of $4.24 using the store bought items, plus $0.24 for the vegetable and oil that needs to be added bringing the grand total to $4.48.

    The Challenger - Homemade

    Here are the costs the cake yourself:

    Chocolate Cake

    Ingredient Amount Cost
    Sugar 2 cups $ 0.640
    Flour 1.75 cups $ 0.218
    Baking Cocoa .75 cup $ 0.797
    Baking Powder 1.5 teaspoons $ 0.048
    Baking Soda 1.5 teaspoons $ 0.013
    Salt 1 teaspoon $ 0.007
    Eggs 2 eggs $ 0.265
    Milk 1 cup $ 0.187
    Vegetable Oil 1/2 cup $ 0.210
    Vanilla Extract 2 teaspoons $ 0.055
    Water 1 cup $ -
    Total Cost $ 1.717


    Chocolate Frosting

    Ingredient Amount Cost
    Butter 1/2 cup $ 0.531
    Baking Cocoa 2/3 cup $ 0.708
    Powdered Sugar 3 cups $ 0.676
    Milk 1/3 cup $ 0.062
    Vanilla Extract 1 teaspoon $ 0.028
    Total Cost $ 2.004


    All together it cost $3.72 to make the cake from scratch.

    The Decision…


    Store bought


    Price   image   image   image
    Taste   image   image      image   image   image   image   image 
    Difficulty   image     image   image 

    There was now comparison in the taste the homemade cake was way better than the ones we have been making from the boxes.  There were some obvious extra ingredients to add but nothing too complicated in the preparation (throw ingredients and let mix)  When it comes to price the homemade version was 83% of the price or $0.76 less.  Maybe to just put the nail in the coffin the homemade version was actually 33% larger than the box variety.  Though I had my doubts that this would be homemade’s first loss looks like it is going 5-0 with this one.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Frozen mini pancakes – Store versus homemade


    My kids love pancakes, I am more than happy to make them from scratch on the weekends but on the busy school mornings the frozen variety is our only option.  This past weekend, we had quite a bit of extra pancake batter so decided to take a stab at making some of my own frozen pancakes.

    As you may think, cooking these are pretty self explanatory.  The only thing you need to remember is to keep the pancakes a uniform size (1 inch diameter seems like a good target) otherwise you could end up with some cold or very hot pancakes when you reheat depending on the size.


    I then placed the pancakes into a freezer bag ad left them in the refrigerator unsealed for a couple hours with the idea of getting their core temperature down while also letting some of the moisture leave so when freezing I do not end up with a large frozen pancake blob. 

    Last I spread out the frozen pancakes with as few layers as possible to avoid too many pancakes from sticking together.

    Once frozen, take 6-7 mini pancakes and place on the outside edge of a plate and microwave for 60 seconds.

    The Contender – Store Bought

    The competition: Krusteaz Miniature Pancakes - 15 Oz, $2.50 for 12 frozen mini pancakes.

    Ingredients: Water, Enriched Bleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folate), Whey, Sugar, Dextrose, Soy Flour, Canola or Soybean Oil (Contributes Trivial Amount of Trans Fat), Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Salt, Artificial Butter Flavor (Contains Dairy), Palmitate (Vitamin A), Niacin, Vitamin B12, Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin, Thiamin Hydrochloride, Reduced Iron, Folate, Soy Lecithin, Eggs.

    The Challenger - Homemade

    I am planning on buying some buttermilk and making pancakes from scratch, but this time I was limited to good old “Baking Mix”

    Here are the costs of making the pancakes yourself:

    Ingredient Amount Cost
    Baking Mix 1 cup $ 0.289
    Milk 1/2 cup $ 0.093
    Egg 1 egg $ 0.133
    Vegetable Oil 1 teaspoon $ 0.009
    Electricity Stove (15 minutes) $ 0.003

    So for only $ 0.53 you can make your own frozen mini pancakes.  Now there is a little effort in cracking an egg and mixing and cooking for a few minutes but for 20% of the price this is pretty low effort, even better if you just make a little extra when making fresh pancakes.

    The Decision…


    Store bought


    Price   image   image   image   image
    Taste   image   image      image   image   image 
    Difficulty   image     image   image 

    The price was not even close here and according to my kids (who tried them out this morning before school) the homemade ones tasted much better.  So yet again homemade is the winner