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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chickpeas, Another Mini Cheesecake and Tips on Buying Meat in Bulk

This entry is going to be all over the place because that is really how things are going in the kitchen right now. Health problems are causing a few limitations and at the same time we are working on the kitchen renovation. The prep work is finished and the cabinet restorer arrives tomorrow. We are picking up the sink and ceramic tile tomorrow night so everything is a go. If the restorer doesn't work as expected we have a cabinet maker who will make new cabinet doors for us.

So cooking has been rather laid back here. I canned a few jars of black beans and chickpeas today. It will be the last canning until after the countertops are tiled. Krissi from Cooks Academy asked me to post some entries on buying meat in bulk. My tips for buying meat in bulk follows the blurbs on today's cooking ventures. This is a longer entry with a lot of information.

Black Beans & Chickpeas

My husband discovered he liked black beans during our recent trip to Florida. I decided to take advantage of that and can up a few jars. To fill the bottom layer of the canner, I added in some chickpeas. Both will be a convenient product on my pantry shelves.

Method: [I used the quick soak method for the black beans and chickpeas.] Rinse the beans then cover with water. Bring to a boil and let boil 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit at least one hour. Spoon the beans using a slotted spoon into hot, sterilized jars until the jars are half full. Pour boiling water over the bean leaving 1 - inch headspace. Wipe rim. Process at 10 lb pressure 75 minutes for 500 ml (pints) or 90 minutes for 1 L (quarts) at altitudes to 1,000 ft above sea level. For higher altitudes follow the chart here.

Tacos

You really can't get much easier than tacos for dinner. Normally we turn the fixings into taco salad but tonight decided to make tacos instead. I used pre-made white corn taco shells. The meat was boiled then seasoned unlike the normal frying for taco salad. Boiling gives a bit drier texture suitable for taco shells.

Method: Place the ground beef into a saucepan with strainer. Cover with water and bring to a boil, breaking up the meat as it cooks. When fully browned remove from heat and drain. Return to pot with a little of the juice, chopped onions and taco seasoning to taste. Heat thoroughly. Drain any liquid before filling taco shells.

Toppings: homemade salsa, shredded mesclun mix, tomatoes, green onions, onions, jalapeno peppers, sliced olives, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese

Mini Cheesecakes (2)

I stumbled upon a recipe for mine cheesecakes using vanilla cookies. I would have pulled out the digital and took a picture of the recipe, something I do quite often, but this seemed pretty basic and something I could adapt to my regular no cook cheesecake recipe. I used blueberry jam for the final topping.

Mini Cheesecakes

12 paper cupcake liners
12 vanilla waffers
2 - 8oz packages cream cheese
1 c granulated sugar
2 c CoolWhip
fruit topping

Line each cupcake holder with a paper. Place one vanilla waffer in the bottom of each. Blend the cream cheese, sugar and CoolWhip with a stand mixer. Spoon the mixture evenly over the waffers. Dab a generous teaspoon of your favourite topping on the filling.

Tips on Buying Meats in Bulk
(by request)

The vast majority of the meats we eat have been bought in bulk. Bulk means:

  • sales/family packages bought in multitude
  • butcher shop packages - 50 lb at a time or similar
  • whole/half/quarter - bought through a butcher shop or directly from the farmer
In this context we use 99% the third option and 1% the first option although we have considered the second option.

Why?: If I buy directly from the farmer, I know the farming practices, how the meat was handled and in many cases can see the cow(pig) raised from a calf (piglett). Price per pound is always cheaper.

Finding a Source (aka farmers): One of the best ways to find a reputable farmer selling good meat is word of mouth. So if your friends or family has had a good experience with a bulk meat purchase they will have no problem recommending who to go to. We live in a rural area where we are fortunate to have a rather wide social network. Word of who to avoid buying from for whatever reason spreads like wildfire. In larger communities this may not be the case but always talk around. Ask at local butcher shops. Check the local Yellow Pages. If you are considering buying from Farmer Brown ask if he has any referrals. Talk directly to the farmer before ever committing to buy.

Choosing a Source: This gets complicated depending on where you live. Ideally you want grass fed beef because it it lower in fat and calories while being higher in Omega-3. But location matters. We live in Ontario so that means if we get a cow early spring it has more than likely been grain fed. The reason being during the winter what grass there is is covered with snow. If we get a cow in the fall it is grass fed knowing the farmers we deal with so we normally like to buy our bulk beef in the fall. Be sure to ask the farming practices such as the use of growth hormones. Visit the farm and look around. The number one thing to look for is cleanliness.

Considerations: The price is per pound plus a cutting and wrapping fee. Generally you pay the farmer directly for the cow/pig. He gets the cow/pig to the abattoir who will then cut to your specifications. Once out of the farmer's hands it is your responsibility. You need to know what these are. For example my some of my cutting specifications are:

beef:
  • hamburg - 1 lb packages
  • 3-5 lb roasts
  • 1" thick steaks
  • keep soup bones
pork
  • 1" thick pork chops, 2 per package
  • side bacon (not cured)
You need to know if you want the soup bones, tongue, heart and etc. Then you pay a separate fee for cutting to the abattoir. Once your cutting choices have been made the only thing left is picking up the meat. A quarter of beef will weigh 200 lb or better. That's a lot of weight. You will need boxes as they normally aren't supplied. I recommend smaller boxes to keep the weight down as you are transferring from car to house.

That should cover the basics but if you have anything on this topic that needs clarifying or even just questions, leave a comment and I will do my best to answer.

Tips for Buying Eggs in Bulk

Again, it is important to find a farmer who practices good husbandry. The key consideration with chickens for eggs is whether they are free range or grain fed. Free range chickens produce eggs with a deeper flavour and beautiful yellow yolk. Grain fed chickens produce lighter coloured yolks that lack the depth of flavour, Fresh from the farmer eggs regardless whether free range or grain fed will always taste better than store bought. The best deals are in flats of 2.5 dozen.


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