My photo
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

For Your Information

Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.
  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!

Popular Posts

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kitchen Quick Tips - Perfect Two Crust Pie

kitchen quick tips
To prevent a soggy bottom crust, bake two crust pies close to the bottom of the oven on the lowest rack.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peameal Bacon Sub

I have often mentioned peameal bacon on this blog. Shortly after posting how to make peameal bacon aka the real Canadian bacon people started asking how to serve this cured meat. This really is a simple meat that can be sliced then pan fried or  baked whole then sliced. The slices can then be served much the same you would serve any other sliced meat. Left over slices can be warmed and used for making peameal bacon on a bun or used in casseroles and quiche.

There really are only two rules when cooking peameal bacon. First do not overcook! This is very important as overcooking will cause the peameal bacon to have a dry texture. It is even more expensive if the peameal bacon has been thin sliced. Pan fried slices should be cooked until just nicely pink with a bit of browning. Second do not season while cooking! Peameal bacon has its own unique flavour that really doesn't need any further seasoning.

peameal bacon subPeameal Bacon Sub

Submarine sandwiches remain a popular choice for lunch. Sub shops allow you to choose your toppings and bun from a standard selection. This is an ideal way to get a sandwich made the way you want it without making it yourself! However the over all cost of the sub shop sandwich is more expensive than homemade. If you like subs, make them at home to take to work or school. Quite often a microwave oven is available at either to warm your sub if you desire.

Peameal bacon can be used to make very tasty, low fat submarine sandwiches. Pictured is one of the peameal subs we enjoyed for lunch a few days ago. Fillings included romaine lettuce, peameal bacon, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, red onions and olives. I put a little mayo on the inside of the buns and used Kraft Signature aged balsamic vinaigrette as the sub dressing.

Submarine buns range in size from 6 inches to 2 feet or longer. There are specialty party sized subs available through some bakeries. The size of homemade sub buns are limited by the width of your oven. At one time sub buns were either white or whole wheat but now there is quite a large variety available. If you make your own the variety is almost endless so do experiment a bit. My basic white bread recipe lends itself nicely to making sub buns. This is a lovely recipe to tweak just a bit for different results especially when it comes to crust enhancers like sesame seeds. Most of the yeast bread recipes in the archives can also be made into sub buns as well.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Festive Spring Salad

Despite serving salads almost daily as part of our lunch and dinner few seem to be featured on this blog. Sometimes the entire meal is a salad. This really is an oversight on my part mainly because most of our salads are of the tossed greens variety that really are so simple to make no further explanation is needed. That being said even tossed salads can be interesting and refreshing. I decided to use a spring theme for dinner when the kids and second grandbaby were home for Easter.

festive spring saladFestive Spring Salad

If you look at most salad bars the offerings tend to be iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, imitation bacon bits, croutons and a limited choice of dressings. Larger salad bars also offer a limited choice of prepared salads, cottage cheese, green peppers and sunflower seeds. Some even offer fruits like melon cubes, grapes and strawberries. If you order a garden salad chances are good it comes with tomato, cucumber and onion on a bed of lettuce with a choice of dressing. Salad greens do form the basis of many salads but think outside of the box!

I love playing with colour when it comes to food presentation. The colours in this beautiful spring salad makes your mouth water in expectation. I used an iceberg and leaf lettuce blend for this salad. The toppings included English cucumber slices, red onion slices, shredded carrots, shredded red cabbage, fresh raspberries and walnut pieces. I made a raspberry vinaigrette for the dressing. It was a wonderful taste of spring!

Raspberry Vinaigrette

1 tbsp green onion, chopped
¾ c fresh raspberries
¼ c frozen apple juice concentrate
¼ c raspberry vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch sea salt
honey to taste

Place all ingredients except honey in blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Shake well.

ham dinnerHam Dinner

Putting a quick yet tasty meal together is always easy with quick starts in the freezer and fresh vegetables. I used a package of spiral ham leftovers from the freezer paired with baked potatoes, steamed asparagus, homemade bread & butter pickles and festive garden salad. The steamed asparagus was lightly buttered then garnished with sesame seeds. I like topping potatoes with sour cream or homemade yogurt but other than that the meal was rather low fat.

Ham is one of those meats that a lot of people don't think to freeze yet it is one I like keeping packets in the freezer for quick meals. Ham freezes nicely in a large piece or as slices and cubes. Since the ham is already cooked it can be used simply by thawing for sandwiches and salads or heated as the meat component for a meal. Ham pieces can also be added into soups, casseroles and egg dishes so do keep a few packages in the freezer.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Dishwashers

Frugal Kitchens 101
A dishwasher is almost an expected appliance in today's modern kitchens. They do save a lot of time but if they are not used in an eco-friendly manner they can be energy wasters. Dishwashers use electricity to operate, energy to heat the initial hot water, energy to boost water temperature to sanitize, energy to dry the dishes and water itself so there are three areas where you can save. In addition to that dishwashers use both dishwasher detergent and rinse agent giving you two further areas to save money.

Older dishwashers are not as energy efficient as newer models. If you are considering replacing your dishwasher look for the EnergyStar® qualified models such as Bosch. While these machines do boost the water temperature for sanitization via a flow though heater they save energy by not having a food grinder (quieter) and by not having a heating element for drying dishes (eco-friendly). Instead they dry by convection. To read more about our particular dishwasher and another article on dishwashers read here and here. Regardless whether you are using a high efficiency or older model dishwasher there are still ways to save more energy and money. Here's what I do:

  1. detergent: When it comes to dishwasher detergents there are three concerns: environmental, cost, ease of use. Some dishwasher detergents contain more phosphates than others and there are now no phosphate detergents available (chart here). Use a non phosphate brand of dishwasher detergent if possible. It will cost more per load but as it becomes more popular, the price will come down. Always buy dishwasher detergent on sale in a quantity to last you 3 months. Avoid powdered detergents in humid areas. Do not buy over packaged, individually wrapped dishwasher tabs. If you want to use tabs, choose the kind packaged in a dissolvable coating. These are now available in non phosphate formulas. Look for the eco-green logo. Washing soda (20 Mule Team) can be effectively substituted for dishwasher detergent for an eco-friendly alternative.

    The recommended amount for a normal load of dishes is 1 tbsp. Add an extra teaspoon for extra soiled dishes. Using more is basically wasting money. In general powdered detergent is cheaper but if you live in an area with high humidity liquid or tablets may be a better choice. Do not be tempted to buy more detergent than you can use in a 3 month period as powdered detergent loses its effectiveness over time.

  2. rinse agent: Dishwasher manufacturers usually recommend using a dishwasher rinse agent. This prevents spotting caused by small food particles redepositing on the dishes. Some manufacturers (Bosch) indicate the dishwasher should not be operated without a rinse agent even if you use a dishwasher detergent with a built in rinse agent. The brand name rinse agent was costing me 8¢ per load considerably more than the electricity cost to run the dishwasher. The noname® brand worked out to 3¢ per load. The dollar store had the same size bottle for $1 or 1¢ per load and it works just as well. So shop around especially for the rinse agent.

  3. loading: Rinsing your dish ware is unnecessary but do scrap them. Under or over loading a dishwasher costs you money. An under loaded dishwasher wastes electricity, detergent and rinse agent. An overloaded dishwasher can result in improperly cleaning the dishes resulting in having to rewash, also another waste of energy. Load your dishwasher according to your manufacturer's recommendations. Most manual can be found online if you do not have one for your machine. When you are loading ensure nothing interferes with the sprayer arms. Smaller items need to be secured in either the cutlery baskets provided in the dishwasher or a similar removable basket meant to wash baby bottle nipples. These can be found in the baby section for about $5.

    Certain items do not belong in the dishwasher. Wash these items by hand. Your good knives should be hand washed as the blade may get nicked or bent in the dishwasher. Non-stick coated bake ware or pans can be damaged by the harsh chemical environment of the dishwasher. Any labels on jars you want to recycle should be removed before putting them in the dishwasher. The glue can cause problems by gunking up dishwasher parts and the label itself can breakdown plugging both filters and sprayer arms. Plastic water bottles or other plastics that may contain BPA should not be washed in the dishwasher as this can cause the BPA to leach out of the plastic. Do not wash disposable foil pans in the dishwasher and beware that aluminum pots washed in the dishwasher will discolour. Do not wash cast iron pans in the dishwasher as this will strip the seasoning that makes them non-stick as well as cause rusting. Some people have reported cooking food in their dishwasher and washing things like baseball hats. Don't do this!

  4. operating: If you are in an area with tiered electric charges run the dishwasher when the rates are the lowest. In most cases quick wash or rinse are not necessary. Run on regular cycle only. Heavily soiled pots, pans or dishes can be soaked in the sink then washed in the next dishwasher run. If your dishwasher has a dry cycle, turn it off. Set the dishwasher to air dry. It will take a bit longer for the dishes to dry but won't use any electricity.

  5. cleaning: It is imperative for proper cleaning that your dishwasher is cleaned on a regular basis. Spray arms should be checked for any blockages and the blockage removed using tweezers. Keep the door seals squeaky clean as failure could lead to costly water leakage. Do not use chlorine bleach in your dishwasher even if it is stained from washing tomato products. This applies to plastic interiors mainly. Chlorine bleach can cause premature failure of valves and seals on dishwashers. Your dishwasher should be run empty on regular wash using either a special dishwasher cleaner or 1 cup or vinegar or 2 tbsp citric acid every other month. If you have hard water, do this once a month.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Family Beef Pot Pie

If you have been following this blog you will have already read several posts regarding homemade soups. The reason being homemade soups are one of the most frugal meals you can make. A soup can easily be turned into a thick, stew consistency simply by adding a thickener. The thicken "stoup" as Rachel Ray would call a soup that eats like a stew, can then be used as the basis of a casserole. A thicken stew-like consistency can be used as the filling for meat pies. This allows you a lot of creative leeway when it comes to making meat pies!

family beef pot pieFamily Beef Pot Pie

Meat pies consist of either one crust or two crust pies with meat and/or vegetable filling with the consistency of a thick stew. For a two crust meat pie I recommend my Favourite Pie Crust. This dough freezes nicely either formed into shells, rolled or ready to roll. If you are making a one crust meat pie you can also use the same pie crust recipe or you can cheat a bit by using a pre-made puff pastry dough found in the freezer section of your grocery store. Do keep a few packages of puffy pastry on hand as it is a very versatile dough that can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes. While I have made puff pastry from scratch it is one convenience food that I recommend buying pre-made simply because making homemade puff pastry is a bit more tedious and time consuming than making a standard pastry dough. If you would like to try making your own you can try this method.

Pictured is the family sized beef pot pie I made a few nights ago using puff pastry for the top crust. I should have used a smaller casserole dish but wanted to use up all of the filling. Using a smaller casserole dish would have given an even, rolled edge around the pot pie something that is desirable. This is something I will avoid the next time simply for the visual effect.

beef pot pieBeef Pot Pie

Pictured is the cut pot pie. The crust serves as a substitute for bread in this meal. It is nice and flaky, perfect for this purpose. I used a ground beef filling for this pot pie.

Two thing I look for in any stew or stew based filling aside of flavour is texture and colour. In general corn, carrots and green beans pop on the background of meat, potatoes, mushrooms and gravy. Here's how I made the filling:

Method: Brown two pounds extra lean ground beef. Wash and steam unpeeled potato pieces. Sautée portebello mushrooms in butter. Place browned ground beef in large mixing bow. Stir in cooked potato pieces and mushrooms. Stir in 1 - 500 ml jar home canned green beans or equivalent. Stir in about two cups of frozen corn niblets. Pour about 3 cups homemade gravy oven the mixture and stir in. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish. Cover with puff pastry. Bake at 180ºC (350ºF) until the crust is golden brown and filling bubbles.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Goose Sausage Appetizer

After being away for two weeks so I could great our new grandbaby's entrance into the world, I arrived home late afternoon with just enough time to get things ready for entertaining a larger event that evening. I enjoy entertaining as well as trying new foods so I don't always follow the Golden Rule of Entertaining. The reason I can get away with this is for some events we host especially the monthly get together is two fold. I know the group (20 - 30 guests) that come to these regular get togethers so have fine tuned what they like and don't like. I know which ones do not consume alcohol, how they like their coffee and even if they don't like a particular ingredient. Another reason I can get away with this is I make sure there are alternative offerings including two versions of some things with an ingredient missing (eg. onions) that I know some do not like.

goose sausage appetizerGoose Sausage Appetizer

One of our friends (and family) seldom eats domestic meats but rather the majority of the meats they eat is wild game. A lot of the wild game is from his successful hunts. He always brings some of his great wild game creations to these events. I never know what he is bringing so I try to be flexible.

This time he brought wild goose sausage. I was amazed at the colour that had overtones of burgundy. Oh my gosh was this sausage ever good! It was mildly seasoned with a deep, rich flavour. I made a tray using the goose sausage, English cucumbers and mini toasts topped with herb & garlic cream cheese. The sausage was a huge hit!

I'm sorry I don't have a recipe for the goose sauce but would recommend The Hunter's Game Cookbook (1978) by Jacqueline E. Knight for wild game recipes. I will be posting a few venison recipes from this book as I try them. I'm hoping to get a few game birds later this year too so will post any recipes. I finally found a place where I can buy moose meat so do watch for that recipe as well.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Cooking on Griddle Revisited

I have been steadily going through the freezers cooking at least one thing from the freezer for each dinner in preparation for the arrival of our bulk beef purchase this coming weekend. The cow goes to the abattoir on Thursday so with any luck we will be able to pick it up Saturday morning. Now, the biggest problem me being away for 2 weeks I am really juggling to free up freezer space. I cooked up the last of the Cowboy steaks in the freezer. I previously posted on Cowboy Steaks (here and here).

griddle cowboy steaksCooking on Griddle

Cooking cowboy steaks on the griddle was nothing new. What I did for these steaks was a bit different. I decided to cook the entire meal on the griddle. In order to do this on the griddle the food was actually cooked almost in reverse order to what you would expect.

I prepared the vegetable side first that consisted of portabello mushrooms, zucchini and red onions on the griddle set to 180ºC (350ºF) and a little extra virgin olive oil (1). Once the vegetables started caramelize I added sliced baked potatoes and the steak (2). The steak was cooked to medium rare just when the vegetables were ready.

What really impresses me about using a griddle to cook a full meal is anyone can do it. It does not matter if you live in an apartment or it's the middle of winter you can have close to the taste of grilling without the smoke of an indoor grill. I have two indoor grills, one a stove cartridge and the other a tabletop model. Smoke is controlled on the stove by using the downdraft whereas smoke is controlled on the tabletop by adding water to the bottom reservoir. The griddle is different. You won't get anything more in the way of smoke than you would using large skillets. You have a bit more temperature control and less clean-up using the griddle.

Cowboy SteaksCowboy Steak Dinner

The griddle cooked meal came out perfectly! I really liked the way the potatoes crisped up just a bit. The vegetables were nicely caramelized and the steak wonderful. I added fresh sliced tomatoes that enhanced the flavour of the meal.

Cooking on an indoor griddle offers a few new possibilities. It will not replace an outdoor or indoor grill but it does do a nice job without much in the way of smoke. I think the best meats for this purpose are boneless, skinless chicken breast or lean boneless pork chops or lean boneless steak. I wouldn't suggest using any cuts of meat with bone in. I would recommend choosing vegetables like mushrooms, onions and zucchini instead of harder root vegetables unless they are pre-cooked and just need warming through with a little caramelization. Add a fresh vegetable side like a salad to round out the meal.

Enjoy!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2009


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kitchen Quick Tips - Burnt on Food


Burnt on food on the bottoms on non-stick pans can easily be removed by liberally sprinkling the burnt on food with baking soda, cover with about a half inch of water, bring to a boil then turn off the heat an let sit until the liquid is cool. Pour out the liquid. The burnt on food can now easily be removed with a spatula.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bulk Barn (Mississauga, Ontario)

Today is Earth Day 2009 so I thought it would be appropriate to share a bit more about one source for bulk food purchasing, the Bulk Barn®. If you recall I spoke of this bulk food store in a Frugal Kitchens 101 post recently (Buying in Bulk). During my recent visit to the we stopped at a Bulk Barn located at 3035 Argentia Road in Mississauga, ON on one of our morning shopping excursions. Trust me I don't need an excuse to shop at a Bulk Barn!

Bulk Barn Mississauga OntarioBulk Barn

Bulk Barn is a chain of 120 stores across select Canadian provinces (ON, NB, NS, PE, NL, MB, QC, SK) that sells over 4,000 products. The stores are quite visible with their bright yellow and red signage. This colour scheme continues throughout the store interior. The vast majority of the foods sold in the Bulk Barn are in covered bins that the consumer scoops out the desired amount with provided scoops, ladles or tongs. Thin plastic bags, smaller spice bags and food grade plastic tubs with lids are available for your selections. Unfortunately you cannot bring in your own containers to put the food in due to health and safety issues but you can bring cloth shopping bags to carry your purchases home rather than using the heavy plastic grocery bags provided. Small white bread clip style tags are provided along with pencils to mark your purchases. This is important when you get your purchase home as some of the products such as flours look very similar. In addition to food, the Bulk Barn offers an extensive line of dietary supplements, packaged teas, organic boxed foods, bird seed, limited pet foods, non-toxic household cleaners and all natural bar soaps. They are also the place to shop for cake and candy supplies.

My Purchases

The Bulk Barn saves you money in three ways. The stores are smaller, compact stores with lower overhead. I don't think I've ever seen more than 3 or 4 employees at any given time in any of the stores I've been in. The vast majority of foods aren't packaged so you aren't paying for that either. Finally and most importantly you are buying what you need, not some pre-determined amount. For example you need ½ tsp of a particular spice for a dish you are trying. If you bought this spice in a regular grocery store you would be forced to buy it in an expensive glass bottle paying upwards of $4 for about 30 - 40 g depending on the spice. If you are buying for this reason and you don't know if you will ever use that spice again, it becomes a waste of money. If you buy 1 tsp of the same spice at Bulk Barn you will pay a few pennies and have enough to make 2 of the dishes allowing you to experiment with the flavour.

My purchases are pictured. Surprisingly I did not buy all that much other than a few herbs and spices I needed to restock a bit. My total bill came to $21.47 and while it doesn't look like I got a lot, I did. I'll go through what I bought and what I paid so you can compare these prices to what you would pay in a regular grocery store.

Bulk Barn receiptReceipt

I apologize that the receipt image is a bit small. I'm going to explain the receipt as item, (price per kg), amount bought and total price paid. On the receipt you will notice that 66¢ was paid between GST and PST, something residents of Ontario pay on most purchases. Of my purchases one was a spur of the moment mini Easter cookie cutter set. These adorable little cookie cutters will be used to make homemade animal style crackers for the grandkids and for cutting vegetable/cheese garnishes.

Here's what I bought:

  • ground mace ($33.39/kg), 0.065 kg, $2.17
  • ground allspice ($18.85/kg), 0.030 kg, $0.57
  • ground thyme ($9.45/kg), 0.065 kg, $0.61
  • ground oregano ($12.45/kg) 0.055 kg, $0.68
  • ground sage ($14.97/kg) 0.065, $0.97
  • ground nutmeg ($21.80/kg), 0.055, $1.20
  • Merckens light moulding chocolate ($8.62/kg), 0.55 kg, $4,74
  • Easter mini cookie cutters $3.99
  • vanilla beans $4.79
  • sesame smaps (3/$1.09), $1.09
You will notice I bought some ground herbs I also grow however, if you have been following this blog you will know I've been in the process of re-establishing our herb garden after our move here. To give you a rough idea of how much of each herb or spice I bought, it was about a 1 cup each. To give you a comparison this would be about the equivalent of 2 to 3 glass bottle containers depending on the spice in the grocery store. So if you consider I spent $6.20 on bulk herbs and spices. Had I bought the same amount in the grocery store at an average of $3 per bottle I would have spent* $36 to $54 if not a bit more total. That is a considerable savings! At the same time I reduced packaging by not buying something packaged in little glass jars or little metal tins. True in many areas these are recyclable but in a lot of areas they aren't so they end up in landfills. Reducing packaging is an eco-friendly thing to do that save both money and the environment. Savings can be found on a lot of the bulk products sold at the Bulk Barn but again you do need to know your prices. What is nice is they do carry a lot of dried products (specialty flours, snacks and etc) that a lot of regular grocery stores do not carry.

You really do need to prepare for a shopping trip to the Bulk Barn. Like any shopping trip you really will want some kind of a list but with the savings give yourself a bit of leeway to try a couple of new things as well. For example what I saved on the herbs and spices was more than enough to splurge on a couple of extras like the vanilla beans and cookie cutters.

* calculation - 6 kinds of hers/spices x number of bottles x average price per bottle


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tortellini Soup

Soups are one of the most versatile and frugal dishes you can make. They can be used as the main course or a starter for lunch or dinner. Soups can also be used as an ingredient in other dishes, especially quick assembled casseroles. Creamed soups in particular are ideal for forming the basis for sauces. If that isn't enough to convince you to make homemade soups consider that they are an ideal way to make a little meat go a long way as well as using up those little bits of left overs. Soups are extremely easy to make from scratch. You don't even need a recipe! Some of the best soups simply start out as an idea and evolve from there.

tortillini soupTortellini Soup

The kids have been telling me for some time about a wonderful homemade tortellini soup they make. I know they have tweaked it from the original idea and like many soups it changes with what ingredients they have on hand. We enjoyed this hearty and flavourful soup for one of the dinners during my recent stay with them. Simply changing the vegetables or tortellini filling can make a difference in the outcome.

Method: There are no real measurements for this soup. Place about 12 medium sized peeled tomatoes in crockpot. Add about 3 cups of water or chicken stock, about a pound of ground chicken and one bay leaf. Set the crockpot to medium. Allow to cook for about 2 hours. Break up the tomatoes and meat. Add enough water or chicken stock to bring the liquid level to just under the ¾ mark. Pour in about 2 cups frozen cheese tortellini and 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables. Cover and continue cooking until tortellini is hot to centre.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The Stove

My apologies for a later post today.

Frugal Kitchens 101

Earth Day will be celebrated this Wednesday (April 22, 2009). In keeping with that theme I will discuss the stove and ways you can save. Simply cooking from scratch at home can save you a considerable amount of money. However, using your stove in an effective eco-friendly manner can save you more money in terms of energy usage. The key ways in which a stove can be used to save money are: fuel usage, stove design, repairs/maintenance, cleaning, cooking and/or baking.

  1. Fuel:

    In general there are four fuel sources for kitchen stoves: wood, natural gas, propane and electricity. Each fuel choice has both pros and cons. Wood and electricity in particular can be from sustainable resources making an eco-friendly choice over natural gas and propane. In many cases you may or may not have a choice in what fuel you can use. The choice may be restricted by availability and/or kitchen design. If you have use the least expensive fuel possible. For example our kitchen is setup to use either natural gas or electricity. Natural gas has the pro of being able to quickly adjust the burner temperature but it is only about 40% as efficient as electric burners. Electricity in our area is currently less expensive than natural gas, is a more efficient fuel for stovetop cooking and is a renewable resource so for us electricity is the eco-friendly choice.

  2. Stove Design:

    Some stove designs by default are more energy efficient than others. The current rage is smoothtop stoves. Some of these have dual size elements in one giving greater versatility. In general the smoothtop stoves are more energy efficient than coil burners. If you use large stock pots or do a lot of canning you will have to check with the manufacturer with respect to weight and size issue that has the potential to damage the stovetop. Another problem is the newer radiant elements cycle creating a problem when trying to keep a pressure cooker or canner at pressure. Electric ovens are more expensive to operate than natural gas (20¢ vs 18¢ per hour) but electric ovens give better results than natural gas according to professional chefs. Ideally the best designed eco-friendly stove would be dual fuel with the ability to change some features as desired or even have a combination of features built-in.

    Our stove is a Jenn-Air® that is quite customizable so I have the benefits of using coil for heavy duty cooking, smoothtop energy saving radiant burners for normal cooking. In hindsight we should have bought the stove as dual fuel. However being able to pick and choose the most efficient burners to use is a real plus. Look for similar options when buying a stove so you customize to your needs.

  3. Repairs:

    A kitchen stove represents a larger dollar outlay and some stoves can be quite costly so when buying a stove you really do have to be concerned about potential repairs.
    A well maintained stove should have a lifespan of at least 20 years. Choose a reputable manufacturer that will service the stove for parts for at least 10 years. Some manufacturers have used parts that really are only minor to repair but are no longer produced because the sub-manufacturer went out of business. What this means to use as a consumer if the main manufacturer did not have the foresight to stock a part that either later proves to be problematic or easily breaks then you may be out. If the part becomes obsolete pre-maturely and there is no substitute it means your beautiful appliance ends up in a landfill which is not eco-friendly. So do your homework before buying.

    There are now several online sites specializing in regular parts for larger household appliances as well a some of the more difficult parts. In some cases there may be some common repair parts you will want to buy to have on hand just in case. This really depends on your stove and whether the repair is a DIY. In the case of our stove, repair parts are readily available and we do have a couple of common parts on hand. What I like about our stove is most of the repairs are DIY saving those costly service calls. Again, do your homework before buying your stove.

  4. Cleaning:

    Keeping your stove clean is one easy way to improve it's energy efficiency. Dirty drip trays, dirty burners and dirty ovens cost you money! It also reduces the risks for flash fires so keeping your stove clean is really a safety issue too. Spills should be wiped up as the occur being careful not to touch the hot burner that could cause you to burn yourself or the cloth to catch fire. Once the element is fully cooled, wipe down coil burners using a solution of ammonia and hot water that will remove any grease from the burner. Do the same thing for natural gas or propane stoves on the burner and raised burner grate. If your stove has a grill unit, it can be washed with the same solution. Drip pans are designed not only to catch drips but also reflect heat back up towards your pan increasing the energy efficiency. They should be kept clean to function as they should. Drip pans should be washed with the same ammonia solution if lightly soiled. If there has been an overflow, clean up the drip pan before it has a chance to burn. Note: Do not use aluminum foil or foil drip tray liners. Both can create problems with your stove and in some cases present a fire hazard. Do not use an ammonia solution on smoothtop ranges. Use mild detergent and water or for deeper cleaning use a razor blade to remove burnt on food and a non-abrasive cleanser meant for smoothtop ranges. Manufacturers usually recommend one or more brands. Some are more expensive than others so do shop around, buy on sale and use sparingly.

    Ovens present a special case. To work efficiently and prevent flash fires ovens must be kept clean! Wipe up any spills after using the oven. This keeps major cleaning to a minimum. Ideally you should clean your oven thoroughly on a monthly basis depending on usage. Did you know that using the self cleaning feature on your stove is actually cheaper and more eco-friendly than using chemical oven cleaners? Well, it is! Oven cleaners use harsh chemicals that pollute your indoor air quality and put toxic chemicals into landfills. These fumes can affect those with breathing problems as well as pets. Aerosol containers of oven spray are even worse!

    One aerosol can of oven cleaner will cost about $5 for one cleaning. It will pollute your indoor air and add to the landfill. Running the self-clean cycle 3 hr will cost you about $1 depending on your electricity rates. It doesn't pollute your indoor air, it doesn't add to the landfill and the electricity is renewable.

  5. Cooking:

    This is one of the most effective ways to save energy. It goes without saying to use lids while cooking and to use the right size burner. We've been told both over and over! Both do save money but you can do a lot more. Use good stainless steel cooking vessels with with heavy core bottoms and tight fitting lids. Choose cooking vessels with flat bottoms for best heat conduction.

    Choose an eco-friendly cooking method! Reduce the temperature to just the point that gives you the desired results. Boiling vegetables even potatoes takes considerably more energy than steaming them and steaming gives better results! Use a pressure cooker. A one pot meal in a slow cooker will take 6 - 8 hrs, one in the oven will take 3 hours BUT the same meal cooked in a pressure cooker on the stovetop will take 40 minutes. The pressure cooker will save you both time and money! If using radiant burners, turn them off about 5 minutes or so before the food is finished cooking. They take awhile to cool down so use the residual heat to continue cooking without it costing you anything. Don't overcook foods! Not only does it waste electricity it can render the food unappetizing as well or worse you burn it and toss it which is a total waste on so many levels.

    All the rules for cooking with electricity apply to using natural gas. Natural gas is less efficient than electricity so make sure the burner is turned up only high enough to slightly under the diameter of the pot. Turn burner off immediately. In areas where there are spiders always check for spider webs if the burner hasn't been used for awhile. Clean the burner orifice occasionally with a pipe cleaner to remove any residues.

  6. Baking/Roasting:

    I really should have put this under using the oven. A very common tendency is to use the oven to bake one or two smaller items when in fact something else could be cooking at the same time using the same energy. The extra food can always be packaged up to use as quick starts. For example if you are baking 4 potatoes for dinner, bake an extra 4 to be used for either twice baked potatoes or baked potato soup. Stagger baked foods to take advantage of the pre-heated oven so as one dish is coming out another is going in. For example say you are having homemade bread and lasagne for dinner. Bake the bread first then pop the lasagne in the oven. Just before serve put the bread back into the oven to warm. If your oven is convection use it for longer baked foods and reduce the temperature by 25ºF. Again do not over bake or roast. Use a meat thermometer to be sure meats are cooked to a safe temperature yet not over cooked.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Second Cup (Guelph, Ontario)

One evening while I was staying with the kids awaiting the birth of youngest grandbaby, we went for ice cream after dinner. Oldest grandbaby has just discovered ice cream cones. It is quite funny watching her try to master the finer art of ice cream cone eating! I'm not a big ice cream fan so the kids stopped at a Second Cup so I could get my cappuccino fix. Cappuccino is currently my favourite morning drink!

Second Cup CoffeeSecond Cup

Second Cup is gourmet style coffee shop located at 369 Gordon Street in Guelph. There is ample off road parking in the lot beside the corner coffee shop. This was my first visit to a Second Cup so of course I was comparing it to Tim Hortons® and Country Style Donuts (originally only in Ontario, Canada). Country Style grinds the beans fresh for each pot of coffee so you are always assured of a great cup of coffee! Their cappuccino is quite good.

Second Cup offers a wide variety of coffees, teas and specialty drinks. The overall atmosphere was warm and cosy with lots of wood. There smaller wooden tables and wood chairs for enjoying your purchases in the coffee shop. I ordered my cappuccino to go and bought two boxes of flavoured teas.

organic tea Second CupSecond Cup Teas

Like many coffee shops, Second Cup also sells coffees and teas you can take home. On this trip their 20 bag size of selected teas were on sale buy one, get one free. The non-sale price was $5.95 which is a higher price than many other teas but not as expensive as some organic teas. Well that was a deal I couldn't pass up so I chose the cherry flavoured organic green tea while the kids chose the deluxe assortment of teas. The assortment included 4 tea bags each of caffeine-free peppermint herbal tea, vanilla créme black tea, Chai blact tea, caffeine-free orange mango herbal tea and Chinese green tea. I exchanged 5 of my cherry flavoured bags for one each of the other flavours when we got home.

I tried a cup of the cherry flavoured tea later that night. It has a nice cherry smell but just a hint of flavour. It is a pleasant tea for those who enjoy flavoured teas. This tea just has that little bit of difference to make it enjoyable.

tea potsTeapots & Tea

Every time I see someone casually pour hot water over a tea bag in a cup I shudder. The only way to get a good cup of tea is to steep it! This is one reason I seldom order tea when out unless I am sure it comes in a small teapot meant for steeping.

I have three teapots but use only two of them on a regular basis. My favourite teapot is a cup and teapot combo. The teapot holds about 2½ cups of tea just perfect for morning tea. The larger pot keeps 8 cups of tea hot. When I make tea, I always warm the teapot first. Then I bring cold, filtered water to a full boil. I empty the warm water from the teapot, add either teabags or filled tea ball then pour the boiling water over and cover the teapot. After steeping 3 to 5 minutes, I pour a cup of steaming tea ready to enjoy.

By far my two favourite teas are Red Rose® (orange pekoe) and Early Grey but I also enjoy Jasmine, green tea and several herbal teas. I also prefer loose tea and a tea ball to using tea bags. I like storing tea bags and loose tea in older mason jars that are no longer approved for canning. These jars keep the tea fresher and prevent any humidity issues.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homemade Chicken Burgers

One of life's little pleasures is watching your grown children do things their own way. Our kids all grew up with family, cooking and food so are true foodies. What I like about visiting the kids is getting a new perspective on food or a new way to use a familiar ingredient. I like that I'm always learning new tricks and techniques simply by watching what and how the kids cook it.

breaded chicken pattiesBreaded Chicken Patties

The kids picked up pre-formed breaded chicken breasts patties at Maple Lodge Farms. This is not a product that I am very familiar with. They were preformed patties of chicken breasts that were breaded. Cooking was as easy as putting the frozen patties on the grill (medium heat) then grilling just until well defined grill marks formed. The patties were turned and left until well defined grill marks formed on that side.

Pictured are the chicken patties after grilling showing the lovely grill marks. The patties could easily be warmed on an indoor grill, in a skillet or in the oven. Each will give slightly different results with the outdoor grill giving the most flavour. It ads that hint of smokiness to the patties.

chicken burgersChicken Burgers

The chicken patties were perfect for chicken burgers. Now these are not the kind of chicken burgers you would get at a fast food restaurant even though they started with pre-formed breaded patties. I was quite surprised! Toppings included lettuce, mayonnaise and cheese. The chicken burgers were served with a side of Kettle Cooked Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar potato chips. This made for a lovely, yet easy to prepare meal.

If you want to duplicate this meal at home look for pre-formed chicken patties made with chicken breasts free of any fillers or preservatives. An alternative is to bread your own chicken patties using plain or seasoned breading mix like homemade shake & bake. To make homemade chicken patties use a mallet to pound boneless, skinless chicken pieces into half inch thick pieces. Bread then grill.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Grandma's Chicken Soup

Sometimes Grandma just steps in and says let's do this and that was the case while staying at the home of oldest grandbaby. The kids made homemade chicken wings with chicken wings purchased from Maple Lodge Farms that needed their tips cut off. Grandma (aka me) suggested that we keep the tips to make soup the next day. Now chicken tips have a lot of flavour but not much meat. Had I been home I would have tossed the tips into the freezer for stock making day.

chicken soupGrandma's Chicken Soup

One thing I do excel at is making stocks and that is likely because I've made stock so often it really is second nature. My basic method for making stock is in the archives here. A good stock is all that is needed to make an inexpensive yet mouthwatering soup!

Quite often when I set off to make a homemade soup I really don't have a firm idea in my mind as to what I want the soup to be. In this case I knew I wanted to use the wing tips for stock so the basic flavour was going to be chicken. I wanted to add pasta of some sort because grandbaby loves pasta but I didn't want it being a plain chicken noodle soup. So I went rummaging through the cupboards and freezer. The end result was a nice hardy, low cost soup that had a lot of flavour.

Method: Once the stock was made and strained, I added 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts and simmered until they were cooked. I removed the meat and cut into smaller pieces then returned to the pot. I stirred in medium-thin egg noodles and cooked to al dente before adding a couple of cup of frozen vegetable mix, fresh green onion slices and dried parsley.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kitchen Quick Tips - Keeping Rice White


Add two or three drops of lemon juice to the water while cooking rice to keep it brilliant white when cooked.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grilled Greek Pork Chops

I've mentioned several times on this blog that all of our kids (including spouses) are quite accomplished when it comes to cooking so it is always a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to enjoy their cooking. As you know I spent a couple of weeks at the home of oldest grandbaby awaiting the birth of youngest grandbaby. That meant a new spin on food so I came home with a few great ideas!

grilled Greek pork chopsGrilled Greek Pork Chops

The kids made a lovely grilled Greek pork chop dinner. It really was quite good! The pork chops were marinated then grilled and served with spinach, basmati rice and Greek pitas with tazaki sauce. The marinade added a nice flavour without being over powering.

Greek pitas is pocketless flat bread. To prepare for this dish, brush each pita with melted butter and sprinkle with a little garlic salt. Bake until warmed through. Cut each pita into 8 wedges. Serve with tazaki sauce.

Marinade

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp dried oregano flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

Wisk ingredients together. Place 4 pork chops in container with lid. Pour the marinade over the pork chops. Cover and put in refrigerator for a couple of hours turning occasionally. Remove the pork chops from the marinade and grill.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Scores® Chicken & Ribs (Mississauga, Ontario)

While awaiting the arrival of newest grandbaby we girls (oldest grandbaby, Mommy and Grandma) had to amuse ourselves during the day. Mornings proved to be a good time to get a little exercise and do a bit of shopping. We stopped for lunch one day at Scores® Chicken & Ribs located at 2967 Argential Road in Mississauga, Ontario.

Scores® Chicken & Ribs is a restaurant specializing in chicken and ribs. There are three locations in Ontario, Canada (Brampton, Missassauga, Kanata) and 21 locations in Québec. Scores® offers a delivery service as well.

The restaurant looks anything but a fast food restaurant. The dining room nicely decorated with comfortable, cozy yet quiet elegance. It is kid friendly in that highchairs are available and there is a kid's menu. The children's menu is rather impressive with a good selection of meals for $3.99. The waitress brings a colouring page and crayons to help entertain young ones while they wait for their meal. It might have been our timing but we did find the wait time not only for the food but also waiting to pay which was a bit excessive (over 15 minutes given the restaurant wasn't busy) made it a bit more challenging to keep a toddler entertained.

Scores® is a bit more expensive than some sit-down restaurants however, the atmosphere is quite enjoyable and the food . We paid $54 for two adults and a toddler so I do think that is expensive for lunch. It still would be a restaurant I would go to again and I do think it would be a great place for us to go as a family with all of our kids. Each dinner would average $20 including a non-alcoholic drink. Appetizers would be separate as would alcoholic drinks so that puts this restaurant in the price range of Red Lobster and similar style restaurants.

The soup &salad bar (1) was quite substantial! It included two soups, salad greens, a good assortment of salad tops and dressings, a few prepared salads and fresh fruits. The all-you-can-eat salad bar can be purchased separated as a meal for or as part of the meals for an additional charge.

Mommy to be had the Santa Barbara grilled chicken (2). A plump chicken breast was topped with honey garlic sauce, Canadian cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, sliced grilled onions and Pico de Gallo served with a side of seasoned rice, gravy and dinner roll.

I had the Chicken Baked tortilla rolls filled with rotisserie chicken and ancho chipotle cream cheese topped with fresh salsa and melted cheese. The 6 rolls were served with fresh diced marinated tomatoes and sour cream. This was classified as a starter but for lunch there was more than enough! (3)

Grandbaby ordered a pogo stick (4) with fries from the children's menu. This really was too much food for a toddler since the salad bar was included. The small salad plate Mommy fixed got a lot more attention than the fries. There's something about kids choosing their own food sometimes that makes them want to eat it. The pogo stick was partially eaten.

We left the restaurant and made our way back to the kids' house. Grandbaby was exhausted and since transferring to her bed doesn't work all that well we kept pointing out things of interest to keep the drooping eyes open. Looking back on our meals the baked tortilla rolls will be the most likely meal I will try duplicating at home. I really liked the flavour and presentation.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - General Bulk Buying Tips

Frugal Kitchens 101
Last week I discussed how bulk buying could save you money as well as the types of places to shop at for your bulk food purchases. Today I will share some general bulk food buying tips to help make your experience enjoyable.

  1. plan ahead - Quite often you will have to drive out of your way to get to a good bulk food source. If you are planning on going to a poultry processing plant factory outlet find out their hours ahead of time and plot the trip to maximize the trip to include other bulk food sources stops on your route. Print out a map with the route clearly marked along with each stop. Don't forget to bring a list of what you want at each stop. Plan so frozen foods are picked up on your last stop if possible.
  2. containers - When picking up meat from abattoirs and butcher shops bring sturdy cardboard boxes or re-usable plastic bins. If you are bringing large quantities of frozen meats home in warmer months bring an old heavy comforter to cover the boxes of meat. This will act as an insulator. When shopping farmer's markets, farm stands and U-picks bring your own bags. When shopping U-picks bring your own picking containers. They will weigh the container before picking then again after picking. I find a heavy plastic food grade pail is good for this purpose.
  3. miscellaneous supplies - I have been known to entirely fill the back seat, the trunk, the back floor, the passenger floor and passenger seat when making a bulk shopping trip on my own especially if I make a stop at a nursery or two. That means seat and floor protection is a must! I use old blankets, towels and large yard rubbish bags to protect both the seats and floor inside the car.
  4. personal prep - You will likely be getting in and out of your vehicle several times in one bulk food gathering trip. Wear comfortable clothing you don't mind getting soiled. Trust me tomato hamper are not clean and you can't lift one without getting dirty. If going to a U-pick use sun block and cover your arms and legs with long, light fabric clothing to protect against sun and insects. Bring a large brimmed hat. Shoes should be comfortable running shoes (sneakers) not sandles for these types of trips. Bring two or three bottles of water in refillable water bottles and a lunch if you will be most of the day.
  5. timing - Try to time things so you are picking up frozen foods last and do any U-pick before adding any fresh plants to your purchases. Remember all that food has to be put away when you get home so do make your return so late that you are exhausted. When you get home try to work in an organized fashion. Put freezer and perishables away first but remember you can likely put them away as is then divide down or process later.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter! 2009


Here's a few previously posted recipes from Mom's Cafe Home Cooking archives that are perfect for celebrating Easter: Simple Glazed Ham, Marbled Eggs, Hot Cross Buns, Hard Boiled Eggs, Deviled Eggs, Scalloped Potatoes and Asparagus & Ham Brunch Bread.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Maple Lodge Farms (Brampton, Ontario)

In the last Frugal Kitchens 101 (here) I mentioned buying poultry in bulk at a poultry processing plant in their factory outlet store. While I was visiting the kids waiting the arrival of newest grandbaby, we went to Maple Lodge Farms located at 8301 Winston Churchill Blvd in Brampton, Ontario. This processing plant specializes in chicken products including fresh, frozen and processed chicken products. Buying chicken this way is a totally different shopping experience.

The entire perimeter of Maple Lodge Farms is fenced with the exception of the guarded entrance. The security guard hand you a current flyer of the prices and from there you proceed to the small parking lot just in front of the large Maple Lodge Farms building. The building as pictured is impressive in size. Attached to the building just barely visible (white lean to) is the entry point for the live chickens. Immediately upon opening your vehicle doors you will be hit with a strangely sicky, sweet smell that only a poultry processing plant has. It is a mixture of the smell of live chickens, freshly processed chickens and almost a hint of barbeque sauce. It can be a borderline offensive smell so be prepared. Just to the left of the lowest window starting at the lower level (barely visible) is the entrance to where you order the poultry you want. Go through the entrance and straight up the long flight of stairs. Note: where you order is not wheelchair accessible.

The ordering desk consists of one long wall to the left with information on Maple Lodge Farms nicely presented in a glass display case (1). To the right is a refrigerated meat counter about 10 feet long displaying smaller packaged foods you can also purchase (2). At the end is a glass door not accessible to the public that lists any specials of the day (3). The entire aisle space is about 4 foot by 13 foot so there isn't a lot of room but it is efficient. Behind the counter are staff ready to take your order. It really is handy to know what you want before you get to this point. After you give your order from the flyer, door specials and make any purchases from the display counter, you pay for your purchases then make your way back down the long staircase and wait beside your car for a employee to bring your purchases to you. Chicken other than that from the display case comes in sealed cardboard boxes. The employee will wheel them to your car and load them for you. It's that easy!

While you are waiting for your order, it is quite likely you will see one or more truck loads of fresh chickens entering the plant for processing (5). These are large tractor trails with the trailer filled end to end and bottom to top with chickens. The trailers are ventilated on the sides and roof including fans that operate when the trailer is not in motion. Pull down tarps protect the chickens from inclimate weather and during transport during winter months. Each load transports about 12,200 birds. That's a lot of chicken!

The Maple Lodge Farms trucks (6) can't be missed on the highways and you may even see them delivering to your favourite grocery store. Visiting a facility like Maple Lodge Farms really reinforces just how far our food travels. It is important to understand that any food product travels an average 2414 km (1,500 miles) from farmer to table. Quite often this means ground travel by large trucks but other forms of transport including rail, plane, cargo ships and fishing boats are also used depending on the food. The trucks may pick up their load directly at the farm or at a holding yard where the animals or produce have been trucked to. Once processed the meat, poultry, fish or produce is then transported to either a food distribution centre where it will be further ditributed or directly to various grocery stores. From there this food will then be transported by the consumer to their home. All this travel has an impact on the cost of the food which is one reason buying locally produced food is the cheapest solution. However, buying directly from a factory outlet store such as Maple Lodge Farms still saves you money even though the chickens were trucked into the processing plant.

The cost to get the product from the plant to the grocery store is eliminated so that is reflected in the price per kilogram (pound). Packaging costs are reduced because you are buying larger quantities packaged in one large plastic bag inside a plain (aka inexpensive) cardboard box. Again the reduced packaging costs is reflected in the cost per kilogram (pound). Finally, you are eliminating any overhead costs the grocery store charges to cover the normal operation of the store while making a profit over cost of product. Essentially you are cutting out the middleman so that in itself saves you a considerable amount of money.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Kitchen Quick Tips - Entertaining



The golden rule for entertaining is to always serve something you have made before. This is never the time to try out and new dish!


Monday, April 06, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Buying in Bulk

Frugal Kitchens 101
I have often mentioned buying foods in bulk on this blog but what does that really mean and how can buying in bulk save you money? Many folks think buying in bulk means buying huge boxes of dried cereal or case lots of commercially canned foods. Often they equate bulk buy as shopping at a warehouse store such as Sam's Club® or Costco's®. While this type of food shopping does fall somewhat into the category of buying foods in bulk, it is not what I consider bulk buying. With that being said these types of stores can be a good source for certain bulk food purchases of which I will explain further. True bulk food buying to me often means going to the source. Since this usually means a special trip enough has to be purchased to warrant the trip so in general.

Certain foods are better than others for bulk food purchases. These include seasonings, spices, dried herbs, grains, dried pastas, sugars and flours. Most meats, fish, poultry as well as many fruits and vegetables can be purchased in bulk providing you have the storage space (pantry, freezer). When you buy in bulk be prepared to buy larger (in general) amounts of that food usually 20 lb or more at a time. It will be a larger cash outlay on the surface but per unit price will be the cheapest. So where can you buy bulk foods?

  1. meats - The direct source for buying domestic meats (beef, lamb, pork) and poultry is from the farmer. This is often referred to as buying meat on the hoof. The price per kilogram (pound) applies to the entire purchase and in most cases you will pay cutting and wrapping fees but the overall price is always cheaper than meat bought in the store. The quality is better because it is fresher. An alternative to direct purchasing is buying through an abattoir where you will pay a slightly higher price per kilogram (pound) but it will still be cheaper than meat bought in a grocery store. If you don't have direct access or an abattoir, check with your local butcher shop where you can buy in meat in bulk. Quite often they have meat packages (eg. so many kg roast, ground meat, steak etc for a certain price) and these do tend to go on sale.

    Game meats (moose, venison, bear) can really save you money on your meat costs but for a fair comparison factor in all costs to get that meat. You might be surprised that it ends up costing more per kg (lb) than you thought and it might be more expensive than store bought meats. In general unless you know a hunter buying game meats in bulk will be rather difficult.

    Poultry is cheapest bought directly from the farmer. If you can't buy that way check for a meat processing plant or poultry processing plant in your area. Quite often they have factory outlets where you can buy poultry already cleaned, packaged and frozen. While I was staying with the kids we went to one they frequent so watch for a post on that. When you go through the guard gate they give you a flyer with the current prices. You then place your order and a worker brings the boxes to your car. It is considerably cheaper than buying poultry in the grocery store.

    The fresher the fish the better so caught by yourself is always going to give you better and cheaper results but since we are talking about buying in bulk, the best place to buy fish in bulk is a fishery. These will invariably be located on a waterway where the fishing boats can easily unload fresh caught fish. This is where you will find the lowest price per kg (lb). We are lucky to be close to several fisheries! If you don't have a fishery nearby look for a fish market.

  2. produce - The cheapest source for buying is the grower. Quite often growers will have a small stand and they have no problem selling in bulk at a considerably cheaper price than in the grocery stores (eg. hamper of tomatoes, 5/8 bushel goes for $8 here compared to $1.49/lb in the grocery store). Check orchard stores, farm stands and U-picks for great produce deals. Surprisingly some organic orchard stores are cheaper than in the grocery store. Produce that is not grown in your area (eg. citrus in northern areas) can often be purchased per case through food distributors. Do call before heading to a food distributor as some are not open to the public. If you are forced into buying your produce from the grocery store buy on sale and ask the owner/manager if they can give you a better price if you buy a large amount. Look for a mushroom farm in your area to save on the costs of those as well.

  3. seasonings/herbs - Buying seasonings and herbs in bulk makes good sense not only because they are cheaper but because you can buy what you need. We have a couple of Bulk Barns in our area. This type of shopping is different because everything is in covered bins and you scoop out the amount you want. This is ideal for seasonings and herbs.

  4. grains - Grains can be purchased for the cheapest price per kg (lb) at graineries or flour mills. Be prepared to buy in larger quantities of 100 lb bags although some will allow you to buy smaller amounts. If you are not near either of these, check your local grocery store or warehouse style store. You should be able to find white flour, whole wheat flour and white rice in large packages (10 lb or larger).
I'm sure you have seen the institutional sized containers of pickles, condiments, fruits and vegetables. These may or may not be cheaper than smaller sizes so make sure you shop the unit price. Buying industrial sizes is one area of bulk buying that you really do need to know your family's food usage! It is not recommended to re-can or freeze these products either so only buy what you will use. Unless you are planning a large get together or you have a large family industrial sized containers of brown beans, cheese sauce, any vegetable or fruit is likely going to go to waste before you use it up. However, large sized containers of pickles, olives, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise or MiracleWhip® have longer shelves lives so may be a cost saver for you.

It is now possible to order foods in bulk online. This is an ideal way of getting the foods you want or can't find locally shipped to your door. You do need to shop through a reputable online store so do a bit of homework before buying. You will need to know local unit prices if available so you can tell if you are getting a good deal. You will need to add the shipping costs into the overall price per unit for the food you purchase. Some online stores will wave shipping costs if you buy a certain amount so that is something to consider. It is seriously amazing what foods you can buy online. Many cheese factories and fisheries have online stores where you can buy in bulk. Keep in mind if you do order perishables online they are generally shipped overnight in special packaging and someone must be home when the food arrives. But you can save a lot of money this way! I paid $2 per large scallop for my husband's birthday dinner then I found Digby scallops online with overnight shipping that worked out to a total price of $1 per scallop and they would have been a lot fresher. Most seafood will be cheaper but it many cases it is being able to find a product you can't buy locally so then you will want to buy in bulk.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Ham Panini

As many of you know I was away the past two weeks at the home of oldest grandbaby awaiting the arrival of youngest and our third grandbaby (picture here). Now it should be a given when two foodies and a budding foodie get together there is going to be a lot of good food! My husband drove me half-way where we met the kids and stopped in at Red Lobster. Then they took me the rest of the journey to there house much to the delight of oldest grandbaby. So it was two whole weeks of food fun, some of which I will share with you.

Ham Panini

I first posted about panini at Christmas time (here press is a counter top small appliance that grills sandwiches as well as other foods. It has a ridged grill plate on the bottom with a ridged grill plate on the heavy top. Don't confuse a ). The kids have a panini press so I was convinced I needed one but still haven't gone shopping. Anyway, a paninipanini press with a sandwich maker as a panini press has the weight to it that a sandwich maker does not. What is really nice is you can make a lovely panini sandwich without using any butter or margarine so that makes for a lower fat sandwich. At the same time the sandwich is just lovely to look at with the perfectly golden bread accented with grill marks.

We used aged cheddar cheese, ham, prosciutto, lettuce, tomato and red onion. It was a lovely sandwich with a lot of flavour! Just look at those mouthwatering grill marks. Don't you agree it is a lovely sandwich?

I think there are three very important elements to a good panini:

  1. oblong bread slices - Oblong slices just give beautiful eye appeal! You really want that because it sets the panini apart from a typical grilled sandwich. I'm rather fond of French bread or sourdough.
  2. fresh ingredients - This really is a given! If possible cut any vegetables just before adding to the sandwich.
  3. good quality cheese - Honestly good quality cheese is a must! It adds lots of flavour so you can use less to reduce the fat. Some of our favourites are Asiago, Swiss, Aged Cheddar and Fresh mozzarella but even a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese goes a long way.
Once you have the ingredients it is as simple as assembling then putting the sandwiches into the pre-heated panini press. Lower the lid, letting the weight press the sandwich while grilling. Remove when the grill marks are golden and well defined.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Baby Update

Baby Aiden entered the world at 10:18 AM weighing in at 9 lb 3 oz and 23 inches long.


Baby (1)

Update:  For those interested the kids went to the hospital about 3:45 AM.  The baby is on it's way so depending on how it goes it could be a long day.  I will post when baby arrives!

Enjoy!