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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This and that: Prom, frugal-style and Gluten-free Brownie Bites

This . . . Prom, frugal-style

I guess they do look a bit alike.
Someone asked them the other day if they were sisters. Ya think?

I was talking with my sister on the phone the other day. She has a son and two step-sons, no daughters. Her girlfriends, who do have daughters, were telling her that prom was a huge expense these days. Dresses can run several hundred dollars. Professional hair stylists and make-up artists are hired. Jewelry and shoes are purchased just for the event. You get the picture. Anyways, my sister was asking me if prom was expensive for our two daughters. Oh, did I ever get a laugh out of that. I hadn't really thought about staying within a budget for prom. We just did prom the way we do most things, frugal-style.

So, this is prom, frugal-style.

One daughter wore a dress that she had sewn for herself last summer. She wore sandals and a pair of my pantyhose. She used a gift card (Christmas present from her brother) to buy some costume jewelry. She borrowed my electric curlers, and used a touch of her own lip gloss.

My other daughter went to Value Village (thrift shop) on 50% off day, and spent a whopping $5 for a dress. She, too, wore sandals, but chose to go bare-legged. She borrowed a bit of eye-liner, used her own mascara and lip gloss (my girls are not into make-up yet). She wore earrings that I gave to her for her birthday and a necklace that belonged to my mom as a girl.

Tickets were $25 per student. My daughters' school does prom really cool, I think. Everyone comes single, so that it doesn't feel like a couples-only thing. Then, for the price of the ticket, they provide a catered dinner, karaoke, talent competition, video dance games and dancing. It's a very fun night, and not at all pricey.

Anyway, I just had to laugh a bit, when my sister asked if prom was expensive for us. We weren't trying to do this frugally. It just turned out that way.

And that . . .

Now, for the other thing on my list today -- the recipe for Gluten-free Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites.

Basically I've just adjusted my regular brownie recipe. As these are strictly for me (sorry, I don't share my chocolate), I make them how I like them, less sweet and more chocolate. This recipe makes 12 mini-muffin size brownie bites. I've made these with both home-ground rice flour and commercial rice flour. The commercial ones are definitely smoother. But in a pinch, I'm happy to have the grain-ier home-ground ones as well. My brownie bites are not chewy, but closer to torte-like.

1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup gluten-free flour blend (brown rice flour, millet flour and xanthan or guar gum -- my blend is here, if you need an approximation, use 2 tablespoons rice flour, 2 tablespoons millet flour, 1/16th teaspoon xanthan or guar gum)
3/8 cup cocoa powder

In a small bowl, beat together egg, sugar, salt and vanilla, until light. 

Add melted butter. Continue beating until thoroughly blended.

Mix in GF flour blend and cocoa powder.

Place cupcake papers into a mini muffin tin. I also like to spray the papers with non-stick cooking spray, so that not a speck of the brownies stick to the paper (I take my chocolate seriously, and don't want any wasted). This is probably not totally necessary. But it's what I do.

We all know why we really make brownies, to eat the batter, right? Brownie batter is one of the best kitchen creations, IMO. But, unless you're going to eat all that batter today, you might as well bake some of these up.  So, scoop a spoonful of the batter into each muffin section.

I have no self-control -- I ate one right away, before I could get a picture
these are done cake-style, btw

Bake at 350 degrees F, for 12-13 minutes for gooey brownies, or 14 minutes for cake brownies. The cake brownies are still dense, due to the extra cocoa powder, not light and airy, as some cake-like brownies can be.

Store in a covered container. I've enjoyed these a week after baking, but never later than that. They don't last any longer with me around!


  1. Can I ask why you make your brownies in a cupcake pan?

    1. Hi Lech,
      Given your comments from yesterday, I'm guessing that you've had the experience of GF baked goods falling apart/crumbling easily. Although maybe teff flour is different in that way. Do baked goods made with teff flour hold together any better than using say rice or millet flour? Anyways, the bites keep each brownie in one piece. Plus there's the added bonus of built-in portion control! Something I seem to need, A LOT!

  2. Lili-
    Love how you stay on track and focused. Your daughters are darling!
    Happy Wednesday!

    1. Thank you, Jemma.
      I hope you have a wonderful day, as well!

  3. Glad to know you're getting in your chocolate!

    Your daughters look lovely. I'm glad to hear that, at least in some places, prom is still a fun evening in dressier clothes than normal and not an over-the-top experience. Your girls went to a private school, right? It's probably easier to keep the experience under control (activity-wise and budget-wise) in that setting. And I'm guessing they had more fun than the kids who shelled out hundreds!

    1. Hi Kris,
      Nobody (and no thing) separates me from my chocolate!

      Yes, it's a very small private school (7 graduating seniors this year). For the most part, the school keeps in mind that parents are already paying quite a lot for tuition, and these extras can add up. Plus I think they like to make extra activities affordable to everyone in the school.

      Sometimes a large public school has a large geographic area that they draw their students from. Some students may be substantially better off than others. So it's sad to see a school put on a huge, super-expensive activity that may be priced out of reach for some families.

      My girls did have a really fun time.

    2. That sounds like our school district. We have a few upper middle class families, lots of middle class, but a fair amount of families who struggle financially.

      Thanks for the oven version of the brownies! When it's cold outside I LIKE the oven going! :)

  4. Lili, your post today inspired me to try your microwave brownies (the gluten variety). My son walked in as I was mixing them up--his quote--"Mmm! Mom's making something chocolately!" My daughter says these are better than what I usually make (I confess I typically use a mix as I have been unhappy with most of the recipes I've tried ... until today!). Next thing I'm trying will be the mini-pizzas on bread for a fun lunch. Oh, and I made your rhubarb muffins a few weeks ago--yum! You have great recipes.

    1. Those brownies are the most requested item by my son's friends each week, out of everything that either I or my girls have baked. And what's kind of funny is it was just a recipe that was in a booklet that came with our microwave 26 years ago, not some famous chef/baker.

      And just so you know, you can also bake them in a regular oven at 350 degrees, until done, I think about 20 minutes. If baked in a regular oven they tend to be slightly chewier, and hold together for cutting into bars, slightly better than the microwave version.

      I'm glad that you and your kids are enjoying them!

  5. What a sane way to do prom! I think the "singles only" approach should be adopted nation-wide. It would certainly make the event more fun and less of a social judgment of who is "cool enough."

    1. Hi Cat,
      I agree. The other problem that I experienced with prom being a date-thing, was I didn't always really want to spend the entire evening with the guy I went with. 6 or 7 hours can be an incredibly long time to spend with someone that you like, but you don't LIKE!

  6. Thank you for the prom picture! You must have smiled, seeing them naturally adopt the family frugal ways and not pressuring mom to buy stuff for them! That bodes well for the future.

    1. Hi anexacting,
      It was really kind of funny, as I just hadn't given it much thought until my sister asked about the expense. I don't know what I would have done if they'd put on theatrics and said, "Mom, I HAVE to have this new Vera Wang dress. I'll be the laugh of the Prom without it!" Sometimes, the apple just does not fall far from the tree at all. I hope they can continue to manage money well, in their adulthood. It would set them up for a life free of financial worries and strife if they can.

  7. I agree with the others. Your school does prom sanely. A lot of the expense comes from dinner out before the dance and renting a limo so you don't have to worry about the kids driving.

    I sewed the dress I wore to the prom also.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      That's nice to hear that you sewed your prom dress, too. My mom sewed mine, but I sewed all the formals I wore to dances while in college. The daughter that likes to sew is already talking about clothes she wishes to sew before classes begin at their university in fall.


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