Friday nights are traditionally our going out to eat night. Occasionally though we decide to pick-up take-out instead. It's a bit more difficult at this house because we are so far away from any take-out that any food is usually cold by the time we get it home. This defeats the purpose. Last Friday night we decided Chinese take-out was in order since both of us were tired so lounging around the house was more appealing that going out.
Chinese take-out is one of the few foods that can handle the traveling time to get from the nearest town of any size to our house. We ordered the Dinner for Three for $29.99 that included egg rolls, soo guy, sweet and sour chicken beef chow mein, chicken fried rice and fortune cookies. This place gives us 10% off for pick-up which is a nice bonus. The price is less expensive than if we ate out and with Chinese take-out we have left-overs that tend to warm up rather nicely. We can usually get 2 meals out of a dinner for three so in terms of price it isn't bad at all.
Where we live the red sweet and sour sauce is quite popular. This is a very thick sticky sauce with a characteristic bright orangy red colour. I haven't found a comparable product in the stores. VH® Sweet & Sour sauce comes the closest but still isn't the same. Chinese food is so easy to make at home and we often do because it is also quite quick to make. Getting Chinese take-out just gives a few more ideas of what we can try making at home.
For Your Information
- [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!
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Sunday, February 28, 2010
Friday nights are traditionally our going out to eat night. Occasionally though we decide to pick-up take-out instead. It's a bit more difficult at this house because we are so far away from any take-out that any food is usually cold by the time we get it home. This defeats the purpose. Last Friday night we decided Chinese take-out was in order since both of us were tired so lounging around the house was more appealing that going out.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Quick breads are even easier to make than muffins. They can be used for breakfast, snacking or deserts. In most cases quick bread use few ingredients most of which are basic ingredients in most pantries. The versatility of quick breads make them a must make in any kitchen.
Cinnamon Coconut Loaf
Cinnamon is one of my favourite spices so I'm always looking for new recipes using it. I came across this recipe for a cinnamon coconut loaf that just sounded like it would be really good. The recipe said that there would be a nice swirl pattern when the loaf was cut and while that didn't happen for me, the smell was heavenly. The taste was beyond being heavenly!
Cinnamon Coconut Loaf
modified from: Jean Paré, Muffins & More. Edmonton, Alberta. 1983. Pp. 47
¼c cooking oil
1 c organic sugar
1 c sour cream
1½c unbleached flour
1½tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
½ c shredded coconut
¼ c brown sugar, packed
2 tsp cinnamon
Beat eggs in a mixing bowl until frothy. Beat in oil, organic sugar and sour cream. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well then mix into wet ingredients. Stir coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and set aside. Pour half of the batter into a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle ½of the cinnamon mix over the batter. Pour the rest of the batter over top then the rest of the cinnamon mix. Use a knife to cut through the batter to give a swirling, marbled effect. Bake at 180ºC/350ºF for 1 hour or until centre come clean when poked with a toothpick. Remove from oven and let stan 10 minutes. Remove from pan then allow to continue cooling on a wire rack.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Pasta is such a versatile food! It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes so there is no end to the meal possibilities. It can be served either hot or cold with a variety of sauces, used as the main course or as a side and as a meatless meal. Pasta is easy to cook, usually boiled or baked. It is an excellent meal stretcher as well. In general sauces tend to be tomato, cream or milk, oil or butter, or gravy based. This results in a lot of possible sauces!
A béchamel sauce (white sauce) forms the basis of cheese sauces for pasta and white gravies. This is one of the easiest sauces to master. Melt about 2 tbsp of butter in a sauce pan. Slowly stir in about 2 tbsp of unbleached flour. Stir until nicely combined then continue stirring while slowly adding 2 cups of milk. Continue cooking and stirring until sauce thickens. Season with salt and peper.
I used 2 cups béchamel sauce and 1 cup roasted tomato sauce to make a blush sauce. A blush sauce is a great way to use up left-over tomato sauce that there isn't enough for a full meal. This is a unique, yet richly flavoured sauce ideal for spaghetti. As you can see the sauce is almost pink hence the name. I topped the pasta with the sauce then sautéed vegetables and served with cluster buns for an easy, tasty meatless and frugal dinner.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Brown 5 lb lean ground beef. Drain well. Divide into 4 portions. If desired you can mix in chopped onion or seasonings with each portion. Allow to cool. Spoon into vacuum freezer bags, vacuum and seal. Freeze for a ready to add meal starter.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
In the interests of this blog I sometimes have to get my husband to pick up a food item just so I can show you. Now in this case he actually has to pick up a dozen with the only stipulation he bring one home for a photoshoot. Two foods are traditional in our area for Shrove Tuesday aka Fat Tuesday aka Pancake Day. This is the day before the start of Lent so the premise is it is the last day to eat heavy until the end of Lent. Local area churches host their annual pancake dinner with many not attending making pancakes at home. The Polish community in Hamtramck, Michigan have made the pączki the icon of Fat Tuesday with popularity of this culinary delight spreading into Ohio and Ontario, Canada.
Pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar and sometimes milk to use up items forbidden for Catholics during Lent. They are jelly filled then usually topped with icing sugar and sometimes orange zest. So while they resemble jelly doughnuts they are considerably richer. The average dozen pączki contains 7,000 calories or 584 calories each.
Local bakeries and doughnut shops will start making pączki in the wee hours of the morning. By about 6 AM there will be a long line-up formed waiting very patiently for their pączki. If you aren't in the line-up you likely won't get any. They usually sell out by about 10 AM or earlier. Pictured is the cherry filled pączki my husband brought home. It didn't last long once one of our kids spotted it!
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
My husband and I have a couple of irons in the fires so to speak at the moment so needless to say things are rather hectic. A couple of days ago we had an earlier morning meeting so decided to stop on the way for breakfast. I talk a lot about pea meal bacon on this blog because not only do I make cure it from the pork loin but it is a low fat, fast cooking alternative to regular bacon. It's perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner making pea meal bacon a very versatile meat as well.
In most of southern Ontario if you order breakfast you have a choice of meat usually sausage, ham or bacon with pea meal bacon being an extra charge. The average price for 2 eggs with pea meal bacon, home fries, toast and coffee is $6. Pictured is the breakfast I had during our recent stop which is typical of any breakfast featuring pea meal bacon, even homemade. It is a substantial meal well worth the money. The best places to looks for this value meal are truck stops, homestyle cooking restaurants and small mom & pop breakfast only cafes. The breakfast only cafes offer excellent breakfast deals usually opening about 6 AM then closing by 11 AM. Despite their limited hours they are well worth stopping at.
Monday, February 22, 2010
A well stocked pantry will result in being able to cherry pick the sales. While most grocery stores offer weekly sales but from time to time grocery stores offer special sales with even greater savings to help stretch your food dollars. Special sales include anniversary sales, dollar sales, case lot sales and special event sales such as grand openings or going out of business. For example twice a year one grocery store chain here holds a 'one dollar sale' with many items on sale for $1. Another grocery store chain holds a '$1, $2, $3 sale' with many items on sale for those prices. Today's Frugal Kitchens 101 will give a few tips for shopping the special sales.
- Don't get caught up in the hype. Check the unit prices. Some foods on for a $1 may be more expensive per unit than non-sale items.
- Shop only the sale items and be picky. An item on sale even if only for $1 is not a good value if it is something you aren't sure you will use.
- Avoid the snack type lunch kits and that type of convenience food as they are not a good value even when on sale.
- Focus on those foods that give you the best nutritional value such as fruits, vegetables, meats, lunchmeats and breads. One trick is to take only $40 cash and get the highest nutritional value you can for that money.
- If beef or pork cuts are on sale for $1 per pound put the focus of your sale dollars towards it. Be sure to check the meat aisle for other bargains. There may only be a couple of select cuts of meats on sale for $1 per lb but nearby there might unadvertised in-store meat specials.
- Quite often a few dairy items will be included in the special sale prices. Unless they can be frozen then buy only what you can use before they spoil. If the sale runs for 2 weeks then it is better to make a couple of stops to stock up rather than one depending on your needs.
- Some sundry items such as toothpaste, fabric softener and bath soap may be on sale at the special prices. Here you really do need to know your prices! A 90 ml tube of toothpaste may be on sale for $1 but the same brand only a 130 ml tube may $1 regular price at the dollar store.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
We grill year round using mainly our outdoor gas grill or one of two of our indoor grills. An indoor grill can be part of your stove as in our Jenn-Air® range or stand alone. So far I've showed how to grill T-bone steaks on the Jenn-Air® and round steak on the Charlescraft tabletop grill. I've also showed how you can use a griddle to cook cowboy steaks. Indoor grilling or even cooking steaks on the griddle presents a few problems.
Grilling by default creates smoke that is not necessarily good in the house. In addition indoor grilling creates grease splatters and indoor house odours. Tabletop grills try to minimize this by the addition of water to a tray below the grilling surface. Stove grills do not do this so you get better flavour. A fume hood or downdraft venting system is a must with stove grilling units.
Blade steaks are cut from the chuck so marinating when grilling or braising are the preferred methods for cooking. There is more fat but it is a very flavourful and economical cut of meat. Despite the fact some sources say you should not grill this cut as is without marinating we have had good luck doing so. One reason for our success is the thickness of the cut always being at least 1 - inch thick. The second reason is this is a cut we like to grill to rare or medium rare with just a light rub. The third reason is we always let the meat warm to close to room temperature before putting on the grill.
On Indoor Grill
Pictured are the blade steaks almost ready to come off the grill. The smoke arising from the steaks is pulled down and out through the downdraft system. It is surprising how much clean-up around the grill unit is necessary. This includes the wall, stove surface and anything nearby. It is also surprising how the smell of grilling steaks indoors lingers. The easy way to deal with any odours is good ventilation and immediate clean-up. Then set out a couple of bowls of white vinegar that will take care of any lingering odours.
Grilling indoors is much the same as grilling outdoors as far a doneness. The same grilling rules apply. The only real difference is the heat may be a bit more controled. Rotate the steak 45º on each side while grilling about half way through to give well defined hashmarks. Turn the steak only once during the grilling process. Grill to desired doneness then let rest before cutting.
Grilled Blade Steak
Grilled steak really does not need a lot to go with it to make a meal. We used a little Weber® Grill Creations® Gourmet Burger Seasoning® for a bit of a zipped up flavour. Served with oven baked potatoes and sautéd mushroms with a small side salad is more than enough for a meal.
Pictured is one of the grilled steaks that after its photoshoot had three quarters cut off and reserved for the follow day's dinner. When steaks are this large they make for a lovely picture but they really are too big for one serving. Left-over grilled steak is actually welcomed here as I use it in wraps, stir frys, soups and casseroles. It adds an element of flavour that you can't get from other cooking methods.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Some of my kitchen appliances have been around for so long that they have become like members of my family. I knew for quite some time or at least suspected my food processor was seeing it's last days. In preparation for this time I bought the slice/shredder attachments for my KitchenAid® stand mixer. Still when I set up the food processor the other day then heard that noise when I turned it on I was a bit shocked. It couldn't be!
The food processor is at least fifteen years old and it has served me well so I can understand it might be a little bit tired. Still it would have been nice if it had given me a bit of notice before simply failing to shred given I was prepping for our Superbowl Party. No there was just the noise!
Apparently the centre portion of the disk that holds the blades for slicing and dicing broke off (red arrow) meaning the spindle doesn't latch properly. The end result was a lot of noise and not much grating. All is not lost though as the chopping, whipping and blending portion of the food processor still works although likely not for long. It's sad to see an old kitchen friend on its last legs!
It is funny that I'm sentimental over losing the food processor for grating and slicing. It isn't like I don't have a lot of shredding options ranging from the KitchenAid® attachments (electrical) to several mechanical means of shredding. So I should not be mourning the loss of the food processor for this purpose yet I am. It has been such a faithful, dependable performer in my kitchen. How could it leave me in the lurch like this?
I have not decided whether I will buy another food processor yet. Basically between my stand mixer, blender, knives and shredders there is no real need. I have looked at the KitcheAid® Pro food processor but haven't made a decision yet. I think I will try going without a food processor for a couple of weeks to see if I really miss not having one.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Friday nights were always homemade pizza or fish when the kids were home unless we were heading out camping. We did a lot of camping when the kids were home. Now the kids have gone we traded the trailer for a boat and most Friday nights we eat out. Some of the very best spots to eat we have discovered through word of mouth or shear luck. Franks Swissel Inn is one of those that was recommended to us years ago. We stopped once and now stop whenever we get a chance!
Franks Swissel Inn
Franks Swissel Inn is located at 4985 24th Avenue in Fort Gratiot, Michigan. The very non-descript building is set back from the road so unless you knew it was there it would be very easy to drive on by. This little place really is a small, locals pub with some of the best food you will taste. It does get quite busy around the dinner hour. If you time your visit for about 7:00 PM the place will be rather full and it is a small place however once seated you can enjoy your meal while waiting for live entertainment featuring local bands. If you stay long enough the Mayor of Lakeshore usually puts in an appearance. He is a really likable bloke!
Franks is known for its large portion sizes especially their famous ribs and there is always a nightly drink special. There is a dinner special each night as well with Friday's being all you can eat perch. The only downside to Franks is as the evening progresses the second hand smoke level increases as their ventilation system isn't the best. However, Michigan is putting through a smoking ban in public places so that will likely change and in fact we did not notice any smoke (something we are both very sensitive to) during our recent visit.
My husband ordered the walleye dinner ($7.95). This is fresh Great Lakes walleye that had been lightly battered and fried. It came with French fries, dinner roll and cole slaw. The portion size of the flakey, tender walleye was generous.
I ordered the chicken dinner ($7.95) which is one of their signature dishes. It features a half of chicken fried to a crispy golden brown. The meal came with French fries, coleslaw and dinner roll. I ordered mashed potatoes in place of the fries and they sent both out at no extra charge so my husband had a few extra fries.
Fried chicken is so easy to make at home. One of my favourite methods is buttermilk fried chicken but there are so many variations of homemade fried chicken that you can have a lot of fun trying various recipes. The key thing with any fried chicken is you want a nice crispy coating with moist, tender and juicy meat inside.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
M&M® Meat Shops is Canada's largest specialty frozen food chains. The chain was founded in 1980 in Kitchener, Ontario by Mac Voisin and Mark Nowak. The stores can now be found across Canada. Most M&M® stores can be found in smaller strip malls. The stores are quite small and I do mean small. When you walk in the door there will be a long counter with a row of upright freezer behind it. On the other wall there will be a few shelves over bunker style freezers. Most of these stores are mom and pop operated with perhaps at most one employee. M&M® specializes in flash frozen meat that along with other offerings have made them quite popular for pre-made appetizers and desserts for entertaining, steaks for grilling and single serving meals.
The majority of the meats at M&M® are boxed. Instructions for cooking the product via various means is printed on the box. Other meats and fish are cryovac packaged. About 98% of products offered are frozen. Some store offer small samples of a product they are trying to sell but not very often.
I don't shop a lot at M&M® for a few reasons. First it tends to be considerably more expensive than even the grocery store. It really is on the convenience end of foods so there isn't of lot that we can use. However we occasionally buy a dessert or pick up a couple of boxes of extras for just in case when hosting larger get togethers like the honey garlic chicken wings my husband picked up for Superbowl Sunday. Two things I really l really like there is their salmon (steaks or fillets) and their oriental vegetable mix with the miniature corn in it.
In the Box
Unless the food is cryovac sealed (steaks) or bagged (vegetables) it comes in plastic bags inside cardboard boxes or individual serving sized containers with a heavy plastic lid similar to the seals found on yogurts. The food in the bag has been flash frozen. What I don't like abough this packaging system aside of the box is the air in the thin plastic bag. This food is not packaged for long term storage.
This box that didn't get used for Superbowl Sunday cost $9.99 and contained 22 - 28 pieces of honey garlic chicken wings with instructions on how to cook from the frozen state using oven, barbecue or microwave. I decided to use the oven. It was as simple as opening the bag, arranging onto a Silpat® lined baking sheet and baking according to the instructions.
Recall these wings were bought as a back-up for our Superbowl Party but weren't needed so I used them the next day for dinner. After hosting a larger event that involves several dishes/trays coming out over a 12 hour period an easier dinner is welcomed.
I put potatoes in to bake about 15 minutes before the chicken. The chicken wings were ready in 25 minutes with turning them mid way through heating. The wings came out nice especially for being frozen. They weren't as sticky as a fresh glazed sauce but they certainly would meat the need if you had a house full of guests and needed extra.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Every once in awhile you come across a recipe that becomes an instant family favourite. I have a old strawberry graphic covered binder where I started putting these recipes as a newlywed. Every entry in hand written and the lined paper is now yellowed. This is the cookbook that is reached for most often in our house. Here is a great, easy to make recipe from this cherished cookbook.
This is a recipe I have had since being a newlywed but have no idea where it came from. It's one of those recipes that are so easy to make and so well liked that I make a batch fairly often. The nice thing is mudpies go over well for any event. Everyone loves them! They are a nice cookie to make during the summer as the cook time is only 2 minutes with no baking involved. I should also mention this recipe uses basic pantry ingredients so it is easy to make anytime.
source: Garden Gnome
½ c milk
½ c butter
6 tbsp cocoa
2 c organic sugar
3 c quick cooking oatmeal
1 c shredded coconut
Mix oatmeal and coconut together in large mixing bowl. Place the remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Mix then heat to boiling, cook 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Pour into the oatmeal mixture. Mix well. Drop by the spoonfull onto wax paper. Let cool.
Yield: about 2 dozen
Monday, February 15, 2010
Today's supermarkets are filled with an amazing variety of foods. Many people are so used to going into the grocery store and filling their cart putting blind trust into the food manufacturers. Did you know what is in your food can hurt you! It's true. Chemical residues, preservatives, additives in your foods as well as food packaging can cause harm. Notice that some of these nasties can be found in various combinations with other food nasties so you are getting more than a double whammy in that food product. For example a cake mix could contain alloxan, high fructose corn syrup and tartrazin with each acting alone or in combination to have a variety of negative effect on the human body. You won't be able to elimate these ingredients entirely especially if you eat out but you will be able to greatly reduce your exposure. It is imparative to read that ingredient list on any food product you buy. If at all possible it is best to avoid if at all possible or minimize your exposure to the following:
- white flour - White flour has been chemically bleached using chloride oxide. When combined with whatever proteins are still left in the flour chloride oxide produces alloxan, a poison that has been used to produce diabetes in laboratory animals. Unbleached flour does not have any alloxan so is healthier for you than white flour yet it tastes and costs the same as white flour. In addition to the chemical residue, white flour has been stripped of most of it's nutritive value so is a poor value for your food dollar. A better choice is whole whole wheat, multi-grain or rye flours. Many products now list if a product is made with unbleached flour so it is getting easier to choose products making your purchase decision easier. Avoid all commercially prepared baked products made with white flour which is not as difficult as it sounds given there are so many alternatives. Aside of that where you will run into white flour is the fast food industry specifically in the buns which of course can be eliminated from your diet entirely or at the very least greatly reduced.
- preservatives - Avoid as many food preservatives as possible as in many cases little is known about their long term side effects on the human body. One particular preservative to avoid is sodium benzoate that is often used to preserve citrus juice concentrate (eg. RealLemon®). When combined with heat in acidic conditions sodium benzoate converts to benzene, a known carcinogen. Do not use any lemon juice containing this preservative for home canning when acidifying tomato products but rather use a preservative free lemon juice. When using lemon juice for other purposes use fresh squeezed lemon juice or preservative free lemon juice. Avoiding preservatives is as easy as using fresh produce or substituting frozen fruits and vegetables for canned if buying store bought and buying preservative free products. The number of commercially prepared preservative free products grows almost daily so finding a substitute is getting easier. Make your own mixes using whole foods for a low cost, preservative free alternative. Preserving foods at home (canning, freezing, drying) eliminates preservatives as well.
- high fructose corn syrup - It is almost impossible to find a store bought product that does not have corn in it or influencing it to some degree. The problem is severe corn allergies are increasing and some corn products such as high fructose corn syrup which is increasing dramatically in store bought products has been implicated in triggering ADD/ADHD. Surprisingly high fructose corn syrup can even be found in products such as multi-grain breads that are supposed to be healthier for you. High fructose corn syrup should be avoided if at all possible by making your own products like breads, ketchup, pasta sauces, mixes and anything else that would contain high fructose corn syrup. An alternative to making your own is to buy health conscious products that do not use high fructose corn syrup in their products. Look for products that use maple syrup, honey or molasses as sweeteners rather than high fructose corn syrup.
- BPA (bisphenol-A) - BPA is widely used in baby and water bottles as well as in the mandatory plastic lining of all food cans used in North America. he FDA (US) declared BPA in use since the 1960's to be safein 2008 safe but is now concerned about the safety of BPA so this chemical has had a good 50 years to do considerable damage "on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children" (from linked article). The problem is any commercially canned food has small amounts of BPA in it from the coating due to leaching during the canning process. Avoid BPA by using commercially prepared foods in jars, home canning or using frozen foods instead. The lids on glass jars both commercial and those used for home canning also have this coating but there is less chance of leaching into the food.
- food colourings/flavourings - Many commercially prepared foods contain artifical food colourings and/or flavourings. Tartrazin a synthetic yellow azo dye (E102) (FD&C Yellow #5) is used in a wide range of commercially prepared food products from Mountain Dew to jams, jellies, corn chips, soups, cake mixes, pickles and so much more. This artificial dye causes the most allergic and intolerance reactions of all the azo dyes. It is particularly problematic for asthmatics and those with an aspirin intolerance. The mixture of tartrazin and sodium benzoate in foods has been indicated as a cause of increased hyperactivity in children. Allura red AC (E129) (FD&C Red #40) is a synthetic orange/red food dye that when combined with sodium benzoate has also been implicated in in increased hyperactivity in children. Products with artificial dyes can be avoided and in many cases there are substitutions that use natural dyes instead. When using any food dye or flavouring in home cooking or baking look for the natural colour and flavour alternatives.
- municiple water - Those using municiple water are treated with chlorine and/or fluoride. Studies have shown that by-products of chlorination are associated with increased cancer risks. High doses of fluoride can be toxic but in lower doses "fluoride may increase the risk of cancer, bone weakening, and other serious health problems". Invest in a good water filter that will remove both chlorine and fluoride from water used for drinking, cooking and for pets.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
I have made several stuffed meatloafs over the years. It starts with a simple idea of how to present the same foods in a bit of a different way. I like using stuffings because when cut the meatloaf reveals a surprise. The nice thing is a wide variety of stuffings can be uses like a potato mixture in the vegetable stuffed meatloaf. This time I had an idea using sticky rice so proceeded to cook the rice then construct the meatloaf.
This meatloaf idea worked perfectly in my mind but was a nightmare to execute! I made the rice then realized it had to be cooled before using as a layer but sticky rice sticks together so spreading while cooled wouldn't work. The solution was to spread the hot rice on a Silpat® baking sheet, press into a layer then let cool. Once the rice was cooled I set about creating my layers of prepared meatloaf, spinach, cheese and rice on a sheet of wax paper. Rolling the loaf proved to be a two person, rather frustating ordeal!
The filling kept breaking through the meat layer. Then the wax paper started sticking. We finally got the loaf into a baking dish and fixed the break throughs as best as possible. I baked the meatloaf at 200ºC/400ºF until cooked through, about 45 minutes. Surprisingly the resulting meat loaf did not look too bad. There was one break-out (red arrow) so the meatloaf wasn't picture perfect but that doesn't really matter if the end result is good tasting food.
Rice Stuffed Meatloaf
My original plan for this meatloaf was a well defined spiral pattern. I was disappointed when the loaf first came out of the oven but cutting revealed a fairly well defined swirl so I was happy with that outcome. This meatloaf cut like a dream with nice clean lines. I used shredded mozzarella cheese left-over from Superbowl Sunday that didn't give the contrast that orange cheddar would have. I liked the way the spinach came out.
Despite not being the most perfect picture food the meatloaf was very tasty! The sticky rice really added to the texture so this will be something I will try again. I already have another plan in the making so watch for another stuffed meatloaf coming soon.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
If you have been following this blog you will already know I do a lot of canning and as such there are a fair number of canning recipes on this blog. What it not as apparent is how I use all my home canned products. One reason for this is a lot of them are used much the same as you would commercially canned foods. In essence home canned foods only differ from commercially canned in that they don't have a artificial colourants or flavourings, they don't have preservatives and since they are canned in jars there is a lot less chance of having BPA residues in the food. All metal cans used in North America have a plastic coating containing BPA that does leach into the food during the processing. Home canned foods are in glass jars with only the lid having this plastic coating but when properly canned food should not come into contact with the lid.
Apple Dessert Pizza
I can a few types of apple pie fillings each year. The method of canning does not change but the apple variety and seasonings used do. This puts a convenient, ready to use product in my pantry.
After Superbowl Sunday I was left with a couple of packages of Greek style (pocketless) pitas to use up. I use these to make thicker sandwich wraps in the summer. One of my kids gave me the idea of using them for quick pizzas that have become a huge hit at our larger get togethers. I usually make two types, one with sauce and cheese and the other with melted butter and garlic. I decided to do something a little different this time.
I used the pitas as the crust for dessert pizza. This is really easy to make. I used about a cup of home canned apple pie filling that had a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg to spread over the pittas then topped with a generous topping of mozzarella cheese. I baked at 180ºC/350ºF until the chesses was bubbly with just a hint of browning. It was a quick, easy dessert using something from the pantry as well as left-overs from the party.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Muffins are so easy to make! They are usually made using basic pantry shelf ingredients The only real work is measuring the ingredients that takes next to no time, mixing then scooping into muffin tins and popping in the oven. Most muffins take about 20 minutes to cook so a batch could easily go in the oven in about 5 minutes time in the morning giving you enough time to shower and dress before being greeted with fresh, piping hot muffins from the oven! Muffins are the ideal grab and go food as well as being perfect for lunch boxes and after school snacks. Oh and did I mention they are extremely inexpensive to make?
Apple Streusel Muffins
I have have been making a lot of muffins the past few weeks. They are just so nice to enjoy with a hot cup of coffee for breakfast. My muffin cookbook is getting a good workout! The apple streusel muffin recipe caught my eye. Not only did the recipe include fruit of which I just happened to have an apple to use up but also a lovely sounding topping. This recipe certainly did not disappoint!
Apple Steusel Muffins
modified from: Jean Paré Company's Coming, Muffins & More, 1983. Pp. 9.
½ c packed brown sugar
¼ c unbleached flour
¼ c softened butter
1½ c unbleached flour
½ c organic sugar
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
¼ c milk
¼ c vegetable oil
¾ c shredded, unpeeled apple
Mix the first three ingredients together until crumbly and set aside. Combine dry ingredients together in mixing bowl. Beat the egg, milk and oil together in a separate bowl. Fold in the shredded apple. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients in and stir until just moistened. Fill prepared muffin tins ¾ full. Top with the brown sugar topping. Bake at 200ºC/400ºF for 20 - 25 minutes or until centre is clean when pricked with a toothpick.
Yield: 12 muffins
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Store potatoes in a cool, dark, dry and well ventilated area. Do not refrigerate as this will cause some of the starch to convert to sugar. Do not store where potatoes will be exposed to light as this will cause the turn green and become bitter.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Quite often the starts of a casserole is inspired by an ingredient that catches my eye when I'm in the pantry. One of my purchases in my recent foodie finds was Nishiki rice. This is a new medium grain rice variety that is ideal for sushi. As things sometimes happens with foodies, I was pouring the rice into a mason jar for vacuum sealing when a strong craving for sticky rice came over me. I was off on another tangent. I set up the rice maker to make 3 cups then waited patiently for my sticky rice. When the rice was cooked I scooped out a cup, added a pat of butter and just a dash of salt. While I was eating my delicious little snack I got a what if moment for using up the rest of the sticky rice. Here's what I came up with.
Turkey and Mushroom Pie
Sticky rice is called sticky because the higher starch content causes it to stick together, a rather desirable trait when making sushi. Based on that same principle I reasoned that sticky rice could be shaped into a crust then filled. I decided to use left-over turkey from the freezer in keeping with using something from the freezer daily. The end result was a lovely, casserole type dish that had a lot of flavour!
Turkey and Mushroom Pie
recipe by: Garden Gnome
2 c cooked sushi rice
3 tbsp butter
2 c cooked turkey
½ small onion
½ c frozen peas
½ tsp garlic/onion seasoning
½ tsp Old Bay Seasoning
2 cans condensed mushroom soup
⅓ c milk
1 c sliced sautéed mushrooms
Cook the sushi rice. Mix 2 tbsp of the butter with the rice while still warm then press into glass pie plate. Set aside. Chop the onion then caramelize in the remaining butter. Remove from heat and drain. Sautée mushroom slices in a little butter. Remove from heat and set aside. Cut turkey into bite sized pieces. Pour turkey pieces into mixing bowl then stir in onions, seasonings, soup and milk. Stir in peas last. Pour the filling into the prepared rice shell. Top with sautéed mushrooms. Bake at 180ºC/350ºC until centre is hot. Remove from oven. Serve.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Despite loving to travel and eat out I am very much a home cook. One of the first things I want to do after being away from home for more than a couple of days is to get back into the kitchen for some home cooking. Quite often I try to duplicate a dish we enjoyed while away. We arrived home mid week the last extended road trip so I was anxious to be back in the kitchen but those plans were thwarted. We were invited out on the Friday to an all-you-can eat fried perch and frog leg dinner. Now we just couldn't say no to that delicious invite!
There was a small salad bar with limited offerings but I just have to have a salad with dinner. I ended up getting iceberg lettuce with red onions topped with French dressing, a couple of croutons and a light sprinkling of bacon bits with a few celery sticks on the side. I know it wasn't much in the way of salads but you don't always need a fancy salad with a lot of ingredients to satisfy the salad craving. Sometimes simple is better when it comes to salad.
This really is a bad time of year where we live to get good salads. Fresh produce has to be shipped in. Most of it has little flavour and/or nutrition but it is better than nothing especially when eating out.
Frog legs are something I have not cooked at home and that isn't because I don't want to. I love frog legs! Contrary to the common they taste like chicken, they don't. I have not found frog legs in the stores in our area. I do know you can catch fresh bullfrogs to use for frog legs and believe me one of these days I am going to simply because I really do want to make them at home. I'm sure my husband will be thrilled helping me catch bullfrogs. It will be right up on his list of priorities as fishing is and trust me fishing is beat out by just about everything in life. He leaves the fishing to me. Back to bullfrogs, I do have a nearby pond I'm going to checkout this summer and in the meantime will be making a few phone calls to round up a source for frog legs.
Frog legs are lightly breaded or coated then deep-fried much the same as chicken. They have a distinctive taste and texture with each leg having about as much meat as a chicken wing with tip. The flavour is delicate enough that stronger seasonings will overpower the taste and come to think about it I've never had frog legs that were highly seasoned. The texture is almost what I would call al dente definitely with just a bit of resistance when bit but followed by almost a melt in your mouth. It's not quite seafood and not quite poultry but somewhere in between, so quite unique in both texture and flavour.
Monday, February 08, 2010
A good portion of the meat we buy is bought on the hoof then cut, wrapped and frozen by the abattoir. The meat comes packaged in butcher's wrap which is a heavy pinky tan paper coated with wax on one side. Any meat we buy from the butcher shop is wrapped in the same paper suitable for short term storage or freeezing. However, when we buy boxed meats (eg. burger patties, pork kabobs) they come in a box that is lined with a sheet of plastic wrap that comes up and over the meat. Once opened the plastic can be tightened down but is not enough to prevent freezer burn. Store bought meats present another problem. Some ground meats come in tubes that can be frozen as is but others come on foam trays with flimsy plastic wrap protecting the meat. In addition this chicken from the farmer or store bought usually comes in plastic bags. Store bought meats and poultry presents a problem when storing in the freezer because the packaging is only meant for short term storage.
When you buy fresh meat or poultry at the store you should do the following when you get home:
- Refrigerate it immediatly.
- Cryovac (vacuum sealed) fresh meats (eg. hams, roasts, bacon) can be froze as is without a problem.
- If you are planning on freezing the meat for later use, remove it from store packaging unless it is vacuum sealed. Store meat packaging is meant for short term storage only. Dry with a paper towel. If special cutting, do so then. Package into vacuum sealer bags in meal sized portions then vacuum seal. Air is the enemy in the freezer as it causes freezer burn. Vaccum sealing eliminates the air so the product keep longer. An alternative to vacuum sealer bags is to use the freezer zipper bags and remove as much air as possible before closing.
- Any cryovac (vacuum sealed) frozen meats can go into the freezer as is. Ground meat in tubes can also be frozen as is.
- Any frozen meats such as burger patties, bulk bacon and boxed meets should be divided into meal sized servings then vacuum sealed. Aside of better protection against freezer burn they take up less room this way.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
This past winter I feel like I could easily pass for The Soup Nazi on Cramer verses Cramer. The soup pot aka pressure cooker here has been in high gear with homemade soups being made a couple of times a week. The fact that I can put a great homemade soup from scratch on the table in under an hour is very appealing. More appealing is simply by changing out a few ingredients I can end up with a totally different soup so while we have had a lot of soup this winter all have be different.
Beef soup bones (1) are one of my favourite starters for homemade soup. There is just enough meat on them for the resulting soup. Soup bones are packed full of flavour and they are very inexpensive. This soup started with the soup bones, a carrot, celery and chunk of onion with enough water to fill the pressure cooker 2/3 full (3). After 30 minutes in the pressure cooker the meat was falling apart and the stock rich (4). I removed the bones then removed the meat and set aside then strained the stock. Additional ingredients (2) were tomato stock, beef stock, a bay leaf, browning, Worcestershire Sauce, tomato powder, carrot powder, diced carrots, frozen peas, celery, and alphabet pasta. I was going to add corn but decided not to after the picture was taken.
The two key ingredients in this soup that really made the flavour was the tomato stock and the tomato powder! Both added a depth of flavour that took this soup well beyond a regular beef based soup. Of course any kid or kid-at-heart would love scooping up the alphabet pasta. This really was a gorgeous soup!
Pictured is the alphabet soup in a porcelain bow with platinum detailing. I seriously have 6 complete set of dishware, one homemade, and extra odd pieces. Now before you say that is a lot of dishware unless I absolutely have to I prefer to serve my guests on real dishware not paper or plastic. As an aside, I have enough dishware and cutlery to serve comfortably 36. The red and black set are are daily dishware so you really don't get to see a lot of the other dishware except when I want a change for some reason. Of this set, the cappuccino cups and saucers get used the most. I like the contrast of the soup against the platinum although I don't like the reflective glare.
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Each year we support a local charity during their fund raiser where they sell case lots of meats like kabobs, sausages and hamburger patties. A portion of the cost of every box sold goes directly to the charity. We usually spend $100 which gives about 4 boxes of meat. Part of last year's purchase included pork kabobs.
The pork kabobs are unseasoned lean pork on skewers. They would be ideal on the indoor or outdoor grill. Plain pork kabobs lend themselves nicely to marinating so in terms of flavour they are quite versatile. I really wanted to used these up as our new pork and beef will be ready within the next month or so. That means emptying down the freezers. We also have started a renovation project so I took a bit of an easy way to prepare the pork kabobs.
I placed the kabobs on a bed of Sweet Bay Ray's honey barbeque sauce in a baking dish then covered with more sauce. Then I covered the baking dish and let sit in the refrigerator for 3 hours before baking at 180ºC until cooked through and sauce was slight caramelized.
Baked Pork Kabobs
The baked pork kabobs came out nice and tender with a lovely flavour. Sweet Baby Ray's honey barbeque sauce has a sweet, tangy and slightly smokey flavour. I had opened the bottle for the ranch pizza yesterday so will be making a couple more dishes to use up the bottle. In general I like to use up any opened, commercially prepared sauces within 5 to 7 days.
I served the pork kabobs with baked potatoes, peas and tomato slices. It was a simple yet tasty meal that allowed us to continue working on our current rennovation project while it cooked. This actually is a huge plus as it is amazing how much can be done in the short period of time a meal is cooking in the background. By the time clean-up for the evening was finished the meal was ready for serving :)
Friday, February 05, 2010
Homemade pizza is one of those family favourites I've been making since being a newlywed. Back in those days the sauce was usually tomato based and the toppings were simple. I didn't grow up with fast food and while our little village had a small restaurant I think about the only pizza you could get was frozen pizza from the grocery store. I was in my teens when a Pizza Delight opened up so was amazed at being able to order a pizza, pick-up only. Gosh did they ever have some really neat combinations! I can still remember the first time I had a Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple. It was love at first bite. They even made dessert pizzas! Unfortunately they didn't last long as the population simply wasn't big enough for them to turn a profit but they did open my eyes to the possibilities so by the time we had kids, family pizza night became quite interesting. I'd make the dough and the kids would choose how to top their own piece of pizza. Fast forward to now and thanks to the creativity and adventurous nature of our kids we have experienced some rather interesting gourmet style pizzas.
Fresh From Oven
A couple of nights ago I decided to make pizza using my favourite pizza dough recipe. This dough makes a thick, deep dish style crust. I divided the dough in half to make two 12-inch pizzas. The first pizza was topped with homemade pizza sauce, ham, pepperoni, sautéed mushrooms and mozarella cheese. I decided to get a bit creative for the second pizza.
I used Sweet Baby Ray's honey barbeque sauce then topped with sautéed mushrooms, green peppers, red onions, shredded cooked turkey and mozzarella cheese. Oh now this pizza really did come out quite lovely! I must say this is one of the more unique ways I have come up with for using leftover turkey.
Ranch Pizza Slices
The ranch pizza was aptly named from the resulting flavours and the dressing used. I got the idea from a pizza we had at the kids that came with a spiral of ranch dressing on top and more ranch dressing for dipping. The Sweet Baby Ray's honey barbeque sauce added a deep, rich, slightly smoky flavour that paired nicely with the turkey. I drizzled the cut pizza slices with 3 Cheese Ranch dressing over the slices. The additional cheese layer in the ranch dressing really added to the overall flavour of the pizza. The end result was a great tasting pizza with a gourmet flavour!
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I am always on the look-out for foodie items I can't find easily at home. It isn't surprising that a few foodie extras get tossed into the shopping cart as well especially if I find them for a good price. I'm always excited when I find something that comes highly recommended or something I saw on the food channel that I want to try.
Recent Foodie Finds
Pictured are a few of the foodie purchases I made on this road trip. I honestly don't think you can have too many rice varieties. I discovered Calrose rice a few years ago. This is a medium grain rice 'radiation-bred' grown in California. In comparison to plain long grain rice ($6.99 for 8 kg/18 lb) Calrose is about triple the price ($7.69 for 2.26 kg/5 lb). However, it has a lovely flavour and texture suitable for sushi rice. Nishiki is a new variety of medium grain milled rice also suitable for sushi and stir fry. Other purchases included organic sugar, flavourings, bouillon, a glass pie plate, meat tenderizer and a few more items I've likely already posted about in the past. Some of the items in this purchase deserve a bit further comment.
I make a lot of my own stocks so bouillon is not an item I use a lot of still it is good to have on hand especially as part of your dry storage. The biggest problem with bouillon is always the salt content. However a newer product called Better Than Bouillon is now available and it comes highly recommended. Better Than Bouillon does not contain MSG, yeast extract or artificial flavours and is gluten free. Unlike my brand Aurora used for homemade dry mixes the first ingredient is not salt so that is a huge plus. The down side is once opened Better Than Bouillon must be refrigerated so it cannot be used as a replacement for Aurora. The jar I bought is shelf stable until at least 10/08/2011 so still suitable as a pantry product. It would be an ideal substitute in the even I ever run out of homemade stock. In comparison to Aurora ($3.99/454 g) Better Than Bouillon is more expensive at $4.79 for 227 g that will mak 9.5 quarts of broth. Aurora is Canadian made while Better Than Bouillon is American made and I have not seen this product in Canadian grocery stores yet. You can order Better Than Bouillon online, minum purchase of $15 with UPS shipping (ground, select, air).
I've been using organic sugar for quite some time. I like organic sugar because it is less refined than white sugar so has a unique flavour beyond just sweetness. Florida Crystals® is now producing USDA certified organic sugar that is also certified carbon free. In order to earn the carbon free certification the products' carbon emissions must be offset by the company's production of renewable energy. This results in a lower carbon footprint that helps to reduce our use of fossil fuels. Why should this matter? Every eco-friendly thing we can do on a personal level ultimately helps. So look for the new certified carbon free logo when you shop for eco-friendly purchases. In terms of cost a 907 g (2 lb) bag of organic sugar cost me $4. I would guess this is about twice the cost of regular white sugar. However, this price is well within the costs of other sweeteners like maple syrup, local honey, molasses and stevia.
When it comes to candy making LorAnne Gourmet Oils are highly recommended. These are highly concentrated flavourings that are 4 times stronger than extracts. They are used for candy making and baking. Each bottle is 3.7 ml (.125 fl oz or 1 dram). The amount used of course depends on the recipe. During the holiday season a larger variety of these oils are stocked in the baking section of department stores. After the holiday season they are often marked down significantly as in this case at 70% off. Now you have to check each flavour label especially if you want to avoid artificial flavours and colourants. In this case the cherry contains both artificial colour and flavour, the butterscotch contains artificial flavour but natural colour and the orange oil is all natural.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
A bit of research prior to a road trip will help uncover some of the must stop at eateries. A great way to find out about these restaurants is by asking the locals. Another way to find restaurants worth stopping at is through online forums and reviews. Sometimes you get luckyEither way
I usually make a no bake cheesecake, mini cheesecake delights or mini cheesecakes but not baked cheesecakes. Perhaps I should clarify that to say I have successfully make a baked cheesecake. I'm determined to master the finer art of making baked cheesecakes. The Cheesecake Factory gets rave reviews of making the best cheesecakes there are so I was quite excited to have the opportunity to visit one during our road trip. Thanks to this stop I am now quite inspired at trying baked cheesecakes again so watch for those results coming soon.
The Cheesecake Factory
The Cheesecake Factory has several locations throughout the United States. We visited the location at 5799 N. Bayshore Drive in Glendale, Wisconsin. The Cheesecake Factory offers eat in dining, a bar and bakery and a catering service. The atmosphere is quite pleasant leaning on the elegant side. Their menu is available online although there are no prices included. Cheesecake can be bought online for home delivery as well. Shipping is by FedEx is additional and only to US destinations except for New Mexico, some Alaskan zip codes, colleges/universities or hospitals. Be warned they are on the pricey side at upwards of $50 for a 10-inch.
We did not eat in the restaurant but rather bought individual slices of cheesecake at an average of $7 per slice. Each slice along with whipped cream on the side is packaged into a clam box. For cheesecake lovers this is a must stop! There are so many flavours to choose from ranging from plain to Godiva chocolate and everything in between. It's enough to make you drool in anticipation.
The most notable thing about The Cheesecake Factory cheesecakes is the silky smoothness. The texture is just a delight! I now know what to strive for in my baked cheesecakes. Let the experiments begin!
Monday, February 01, 2010
Many frugalistas know the benefits of shopping the warehouse club store such as Sam's Club and Costco's. However others not understanding the concept of paying a membership so they can shop in a store have voiced concerns that they should not have to pay to shop. At the same time there is a preconceived notion that the only foods you can buy at club stores are in huge packages that they would never be able to use. Today's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on warehouse club shopping and why it is a frugal way to shop.
We discovered warehouse club shopping at a place called Pace. At that time you had to be a business owener or a member of certain unions. We signed up. Our kids were little so we only made 2 trips to the US per year for major restocking. Even back then we saved a substantial amount of money. Pace was taken over by Sam's Club and even though the kids are now grown we still shop at Sam's in the US. Costco's is a similar warehouse store with stores in the US as well. They were also in Ontario, Canada for a few years but pulled their stores out of Canada in 2009. There has not been a year that we have not recouped the cost of our membership as well as realizing substantial savings above the membership costs. Here are a few of our tips for saving money by shopping at warehouse club stores.
- Always check your local food sales flyers before shopping at a warehouse store. Many grocery stores have their flyers online and you can search for product pricing online for both Sam's and Costco's.
- You need to know your prices! A case of 8 cans of brand name green beans may work out to 80¢ per can. If you are a Canadian shopping in the US you have to factor in the exchange rate as well. No Frills puts brand name green beans on for 59¢ each for the same sized can so that means pass on the 8 pk at Sam's. On the other hand a 1 kg bag of icing sugar costs about $2.49 here while a 3.18 kg at Sam's cost $4.58 US or about $1 per kg cheaper so worth buying.
- Most of the products will be brand name and the number of brands will be limited. For example if they have green beans it will be only Del Monte and they may only offer a couple of brands of dishwasher detergent. They tend to stock only those brands they can get at the best price which is passed onto their consumers. For this reason if you see something at a good savings stock up right there and then as you may not find it there again.
- In general - Large containers of dried seasonings, herbs and spice blends are cheaper than in the grocery stores. Things like Worcestershire Sauce, Frank's Hot Sauce and Soy Sauce come in either large jugs or large 2 pk bottles at a good savings. Institutional sized containers of pretzels, pickles and multi-pack boxes of chocolate bars are also a good deal. However, my experience has been the institutional sized ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and Miracle Whip® are actually cheaper at the grocery stores than at Sam's. Milk, butter, cream cheese are considerably cheaper than Canadian prices but not necessarily cheaper than US grocery stores so beware with these. Hard cheeses are cheaper with a better selection of quality cheeses. Meats can be a good deal as can some bakery products but again you really need to know your prices. Cereals may be a good deal but again know your prices.
- Non-edible kitchen items are available ranging from cleaning products to cutlery, pots & pans, small kitchen appliances and restaurant supply items. The bar towels (25 pk for $10.59) is an excellent deal if you need a low cost tea-towels. I love these especially for canning. The restaurant grade cutlerly is ideal if you need a larger place setting. It comes in a 32 pk of each but quite inexpensive which is an easy way to get a 32 place setting if you need it. In particular Sam's carries a nice selection of recipe books well worth checking out. They also sell professional grade appliances but you need to go online to check for those then have one ordered into your closest store.