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WND – Spicy Roasted Potatoes

April 24, 2008

My mother asked me an interesting question the other day: Is it cheaper to make pancakes with Bisquick than it is to make them from scratch?

I cook from scratch (a) because I like cooking; (b) because I’m inherently distrustful of the preservatives they use to extend shelf life; and (c) because it honestly doesn’t take any longer to make pancake batter from scratch than it does to use Bisquick. And okay, (d) because there’s a part of me that feels superior for doing it, although I usually manage to not actually say that.

My mother was reading an article about the rising cost of groceries in the US, and the problems that’s causing in conjunction with the failing economy. What struck her was the picture that accompanied the article of a woman with a shopping cart piled full of Bisquick and cake mixes. If you are pinching your pennies and cutting back on meat and other luxuries on your shopping list, are you compounding the problem by relying on mixes rather than making your own?

We, or at least I, tend to assume that while a mix may be faster it is in the end more expensive to use. But is this really true? I was curious so I did a cost comparison on Bisquick pancakes and biscuits, and brownie and cake mix versus from scratch recipes for the same. I’ll spare you the math, but the results were interesting. It should be noted that I didn’t factor in the costs of baking soda, baking powder, or salt. This isn’t because they aren’t factors, but because figuring out how many teaspoons there are in standard container was beyond me. I used the Boston prices for supplies from my local Stop ‘n’ Shop. Food prices will vary by region, but will presumably be roughly proportionate for all the ingredients.

What I found is that it’s cheaper to use Bisquick for pancakes, but not for biscuits, but that the price difference wasn’t significant in either case. What was startling was how big a price difference there was for the brownies and cake. It is cheaper, by a factor of about a half, to make brownies or cake from a mix than it to make them from scratch.

Pancakes –
Bisquick = $1.23/recipe
From scratch = $1.66/recipe

Biscuits –
Bisquick = $1.48/recipe
From scratch = $1.22/recipe

Brownies –
Mix = $2.26/recipe
From scratch = $4.90/recipe

Chocolate Cake (9” layer cake & frosting) –
Mix = $4.70/recipe
From scratch = $9.14/recipe

Healthwise Bisquick probably isn’t any worse for you than using ingredients from your fridge. It uses dextrose instead of sugar, and has soybean and flaxseed oil in it, but other than that it’s pretty much just flour and leaveners which is what’s in a biscuit recipe. The brownie and cake mixes probably are worse for you. The ingredients list on the boxes are full of words I can’t pronounce and I don’t understand, but I suspect are stabilizers and preservatives and added flavorings. On the other hand, if you’re on a budget the mix is definitely the way to go for your birthday cake.

I’m not going to stop making biscuits from scratch because I like my biscuit recipe. I still don’t understand the point of making pancakes with Bisquick because it’s not any faster or any harder to make them from scratch, and I do think they taste better. And, I’m not going to start making cake from a mix, because while it might be cheaper it’s not as chocolaty and if I’m going to eat cake and frosting I want the maximum bang for my calories.

On the other hand, I might start using cost as a justification for making brownies from a mix. On the other hand, I have very few moral issues about brownies that only take 10 minutes to mix together when it’s 9pm on a Friday night and I really want some chocolate, so perhaps not.

As it happens none of this has much to do with Dinner this week, it would have been more appropriate for Dinner last week when I was actually baking a cake, but I had other things to say about that.

This week I was struck with inspiration to make Spicy Roasted Potatoes only to realize with chagrin that despite the fact that I created the recipe and used to make it all the time, I could no longer remember what was in it. I had to email Jes to ask her what was in them because I think the last time I made them she was still living in Boston, which is about five apartments and two cities ago for her. The moral of the story? I should write things down.


Breaded Chicken
(like chicken fingers, only with thin sliced chicken breasts)
Spicy Roasted Potatoes
Green Beans
Spinach Salad with Strawberries

Spicy Roasted Potatoes

1 potato per person
I use baking potatoes, but any kind of potato you like to roast will do.

Slice the potato in half lengthwise, and then into wedges. Frankly, any shape you want to cut your potatoes into will do as long as they’re all more or less the same size, but I like the wedges for this recipe. I also leave the skin on my potatoes because I like the skin, but if you don’t like the skin it won’t alter the recipe to peel them.

Place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle generously with:
Cinnamon
Ginger
Salt
Pepper

Sprinkle abstemiously with:
Cayenne Pepper (unless you’re fond of taking off the roof of your mouth)
All Spice

Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat evenly.

Roast in a 425-450 oven for about 45 minutes, turning once to crisp both sides.

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5 comments

  1. Interesting post on price comparisons. I expect the reason that cake or brownie mixes are cheaper than making them from scratch is that your chocolate cakes and your brownies are made with far higher quality chocolate than in the mixes. Also I suspect that the mixes use high fructose corn syrup for sweetening as opposed to sugar. The HFC is both cheaper than sugar (the reason that producers use it) and not good for you. It is one of the common suspects in the “why is the world getting so obese” question. I also have wondered for a long time what sins the word “dextrose” covers up, i.e., is it another term for HFCs.


  2. […] There are a thousand and six ways to season these super easy roasted potatoes. I (and everyone else I know) really love Petra’s original but I’ll let her talk about those. […]


  3. […] Recipes previously given: Chicken fingers Applesauce Spicy Roasted Potatoes […]


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  5. […] previously given: Spicy Roasted Potatoes (my entry titles have clearly gotten more imaginative/obscure in the past few years – see below […]



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