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

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!

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Egg Noodles With Beef, Asparagus and Mushrooms

Our beef on the hoof purchase is ready for cutting which means it will be ready to picked up in a week or two.  The past couple of months we have been focusing on reducing our freezer stock in preparation for the new meat.  At the same time because of the potential move combined with the new growing season starting I have been working on reducing our pantry stock so we are doing a lot of eating from the pantry and freezer which is not a bad thing. 

egg noodles with beef, asparagus and mushrooms
Looking through the freezers I discovered the last package of stew beef, not quite enough to make my normal sized batch of stew.  I put that out for thawing then checked the fridge to see what would go with the beef.  I found a part bottle of Diana Sauce™from our last barbeque so a plan was already in motion in my mind.  I paired a sauce made with stew beef, Diana Sauce™home canned mushrooms, and fresh asparagus with broad egg noodles.  The end result was an easy, comfort, frugal meal right from the pantry.

Egg Noodles With Beef, Asparagus and Mushrooms
1 lb  stew beef
1 tbsp olive oil
¼ c water (red wine or beef stock)
about 1½ c Diana Sauce™
500 ml (2 c) jar home canned mushrooms
8 spears fresh asparagus
about 4 c of cooked egg noodles

Heat olive oil in fry pan.  Brown stew beef in the olive oil then deglaze the pan with water.  Pour the Diana Sauce™ over the meat and bring to a simmer.  Cover and let simmer about 30 minutes.  Stir in the drained mushrooms.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes on low heat.  While sauce is simmering cook and drain the egg noodles.  Toss in the asparagus pieces into the sauce.  Cover and  simmer 5 minutes on low heat then ladle over hot egg noodle.

Note: Do not over cook the asparagus.  It should retain a bright green colour and be al dente


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Easy Sanitizing

kitchen quick tips

Pour a bottle of rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle. When you are doing any meat, poultry or fish prep keep the spray bottle containing alcohol handy. Spray any drippings that get onto the counter and spray your cutting board before washing. The alcohol will denature any biologicals on contact before they can become problems in your kitchen.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sunny Orange Bread

Part of the fun of bread making is the the immense diversity of breads in and of themselves.  There are leavened (quick, yeast) breads and unleavened breads.  Breads range in flavours from sweet to savory to aromatic to plain white breads.  With a little practice there is absolutely no reason to eat a plain white bread again unless of course you want to.

sunny orange bread
As with all cooking I Iike substituting a liquid with flavour for water.  Orange juice is a great flavour booster but one that is not often thought of when baking bread.  However, orange juice makes a wonderful base flavour for a breakfast bread spread thickly with cream cheese and/or orange marmalade.

I made sunny orange bread a couple of days ago.  This bread has a lovely delightful flavour.  The orange juice gives the bread a golden tint yet does not overpower the flavour.  The sunflower seeds add a nice texture.  This bread is sure to become a family favourite!

Sunny Orange Bread

½ c orange juice
¾ c water
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp sea salt
3¼ c unbleached flour
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp orange zest (optional)
1½tsp instant yeast

Warm the water then mix in butter and honey.  Place the dry ingredients in stand mixer bowl.  Mix well on setting 1.  Continue mixing while pouring in water, butter and honey mix then pour in the orange juice.  When dough cleans sides of the mixer bowl turn mixer to setting 3 and knead until smooth and elastic.  Remove from mixer bowl.  Form into a loaf and place in buttered loaf pan.  Lightly brush butter over the loaf.  Cover with moist T-towel.  Let rise until double.  Bake at 200ºC (400ºF) until golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove from oven.  Slice with a serrated knife.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Roast Beef Dinner

Last summer I canned a few jars of tomato stock.  Tomato stock is the clear golden liquid that separates out of tomato purée.  It has a wonderful mellow tomato flavour so is ideal for adding a subtle flavour to soups, gravies, dressings and marinades.  The stock is slightly acidic so acts as a meat tenderizer as well.

roast beef dinner
I decided on a small (just under 4 lb) outside round roast cooked low and slow in the countertop roaster for dinner a couple of nights ago.  I seasoned the roast with Montreal Steak seasoning then added sliced onions and splashed on a little Worcestershire sauce.  Instead of adding a little water to the bottom of the roaster I added a 250 ml (half-pint) jar of tomato stock.  I set the roaster to 130ºC (250ºF) for about 3½ hours.  Then I removed the roast from the roaster to rest while I made the gravy.  Here's where things got a bit interesting.

The sliced roast beef was topped with creamy beef gravy then served with steamed potatoes, niblet corn,  freezer pickles and yogurt bread.  The creamy beef gravy got a lot of compliments.  It was just a bit different than plain beef gravy, quite rich and tasty.  The meat was tender, juicy and flavourful.  I really like the way the tomato stock enhanced the flavour of the meat and gravy.

Creamy Beef Gravy
There was about 2½ c tomato stock based reserve liquid from roaster.  I poured this liquid into a sauce pan then added 1 tsp Grace's browning and stirred in ½ c heavy whipping cream.  Then I brought this mixture to a low boil and stirred in a flour slurry and cooked until the gravy was thickened.  I strained the gravy before serving.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Decluttering the Kitchen

Frugal Kitchens 101

The very nature of anyone who loves to cook is they will invariably have a multitude of kitchen gadgets along with several small kitchen appliances and then some.  This is not a problem for those lucky enough to have a seemingly endless supply of kitchen storage space but let's face it most of us do not have the luxury of such space.  That means from time to time the kitchen gadgets and small appliances need to be culled to the point of keeping only what you really use.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on decluttering the kitchen. 

My kitchen storage is actually spread between the kitchen, the pantry and the 4 floor to ceiling storage cupboards in the laundry room.  The problem is I could easily stuff all storage spaces to over flowing and yet I am not a true kitchen gadget junkie by any stretch of the imagination.  I have kitchen gadgets that do the job I want (eg. manual can opener, grater, cherry pitter, and etc.) but I don't have gadgets I wouldn't use (eg. egg separator) or don't need (eg. kitchen timer).  I do however have quite the stash of spices, seasonings, teas and coffee that need an annual culling.  Still a good spring decluttering is in order.

As part of my spring kitchen decluttering I remove/cull:

  • any gadget I am not using or haven't used over the past year - If the gadget is one that I may use only for canning then it goes to the pantry.  If it is a gadget simply not being used it goes into the donate box.
  • any appliance I'm not using or haven't used over the past year -  I don't tend to buy any small kitchen appliance that I won't use.  However, sometimes buying a new appliance ends up replace a couple of appliances.  This was the case with my KitchenAid stand mixer with attachments that replaced my breadmachine, handheld mixer and a dying food processor.  So one appliance in, three appliances out.
  • appliances or gadgets that need replacing - In most cases any culling here applies to a broken gadget (eg. broken cheese grater).  Occasionally a small kitchen appliance that can't be fix needs to be replaced but that really doesn't happen often.
  • plasticware - I have very little plasticware to begin with but it tends to mulitple somehow.  We can't recycle plastic food tubs so I save those  for use in the garden.  During the spring declutting all these containers are taken to the garage for easier garden access.  Any plasticware missing lids also goes to the garage for garden use. 
  • the silverware drawer - I have enough stainless steel cutlery to service 50 people.  Part is for daily use with the rest in a seperate cutlery tray for entertaining purposes.  What ends up happening is the entertaining cutlery tends to migrate to the main silverware drawer.  I don't have a kitchen junk drawer so little things like elastics and corks tend to accumulate in a small section of the silverware drawer divider so I move those to the appropriate drawers in the laundry room. 
  • spices/seasonings - I go through both spice and seasoning cupboards.  Some need replacing and others are at the end of their usefulness.  I like to organize the cupboard with large container spices and seasonings in alphabetal order.  As the small spice and seasoning cupboard is being  organized I do an updated inventory list of the contents.
Bon Appétit!


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yogurt Bread

I've been making most of our breads for quite some time and while I have the family favourite recipes, I'm always looking for a new bread recipe to try.  I made yogurt bread a couple of years ago and it quickly moved right into the family favourite bread recipes.  It has good texture and flavour that is sure to please!

yogurt bread
I make a lot of yogurt because we use a lot of yogurt not only for eating as is but for making dips, cooking and baking.  Yogurt is a great tenderizer for meats but it really shines in baked goods.  It adds a subtle flavour that really falls under secret ingredient in that it is not a distinctive flavour but rather the flavour notes that make the dish If you love crusty style bread with a moist, fluffy inside you are going to love this yogurt bread!  It is a good dinner bread as well as being a great sandwich bread.

Yogurt Bread

1⅓ c plain yogurt
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
3¼ c unbleached flour
1½ tsp instant yeast

Mix dry ingredients together in stand mixer bowl on setting 1.  Pour in yogurt.  Mix until dough cleans side of bowl.  Turn mixer to setting 3 and knead until smooth and elastic.  Remove from mixer bowl.  Form into a loaf and place in buttered loaf pan.  Lightly brush butter over the loaf.  Cover with moist T-towel.  Let rise until double.  Bake at 200ºC (400ºF) until golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove from oven.  Slice with a serrated knife. 


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Video Recipe: Leek & Potato Soup

From time to time I like to find good cooking videos to share with you.  These videos must meet my criteria as a home cook.  I look for videos using locally produced, in season produce with recipes that can easily be duplicated in the home kitchen without using a lot of fancy kitchen equipment or expensive ingredients.  I stumbled upon Chef Keith Snow's videos on YouTube while searching for videos for my gardening blog.  Chef Keith is the chef on the television show Harvest Eating dedicated to seasonal eating and author of Harvest Eating Cookbook.  I love his philosophy that if your second-grader can't read it you don't want to eat it when it comes for food ingredients.   Chef Keith is delightful with his down home, unpretentious, home cooking style.  Here Chef Keith shows how to make leek & potato soup which is very close to the way I make potato & leek soup



There is the misconception that making soup is time consuming or even difficult when in fact that is furthest from the truth.  The best part about making soups is as Chef Michael Smith so eloquently puts, it's cooking without a recipe.  Keep a few jars of homemade chicken stock or other homemade stock on hand. Then with a few vegetables and a little seasoning you have the makings of a tasty soup that can be ready for serving in a half hour or less.  You can stir in pasta, rice, barley, lentils, meat, fish and so much more.  There's no need to every have a boring bowl of soup when you make your own.  I recommend using a stick blender (immersion blender) for smooth soups.  You can use a blender or food processor but a stick blender is a lot easier and less to clean-up.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Marmalade-Glazed Chicken Thighs

Oh my gosh, I get inspiration for recipes from so many sources including recipe books and magazines.  One thing you won't find in any of my recipe books or magazines is dog ears.  I honestly think that is so disrespectful!  What you will find ind several and I do mean several post-it note flags of the recipes I want to try.  When I'm looking for something a bit different I'll check out one of the flagged recipes then go from there.

marmalade glazed chicken thighs
So it was a couple of days ago when I wanted something just a little different but not radically different for dinner.  I found a great grill recipe that would use up a bit of marmalade.  It turned very cold so I thought grilling outdoors would not be quite as appealing and cleaning the indoor grill of a sugar based marinade was not quite on my idea of clean-up.  This is one area where indoor and outdoor grills differ.  Sugar based marinades make a huge mess on indoor grills that need to be cleaned off taking extra time and effort whereas this can simply be burned off on an outdoor grill.

Pictured is the marmalade-glazed chicken I made.  It was supposed to be grilled but I baked it instead.  I also used bone in, skin on chicken thighs so really the only thing left of the actual recipe was the marinade itself and I changed that as well.  The end result was flavourful, tender chicken paired with steamed in season Ontario asparagus and baked red potatoes.  It was a delightful, simple meal with a lot of flavour.

Marmalade-Glazed Chicken Thighs
source:  inspired from Canadian Living, August 2009, Pp. 59.

2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
⅓ tsp dry rosemary
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp orange marmalade

8 chicken thighs

Warm the marmalade to melt.  Wisk in the other ingredients.  Place the chicken wings in a baking pan.  Pour the marinade over then lightly brush to even out with a silicone brush.  Let sit 30 minutes.  Bake covered at 350ºF until chicken is cooked through about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and serve as desired.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Popcorn

kitchen quick tips

Give up that chemically laden microwave popcorn for real popcorn popped on the stove. All you need is a pan with a lid. It less than the time of microwave popcorn you will have fresh popcorn that you can top with healthy toppings or eat plain. You will be saving money while getting a healthier product.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My New Panini Grill

My husband surprised me with a new panini grill last Friday evening!  We've had electric sandwich makers in the past meant as a substitute for cast iron sandwich makers for use on a campfire.  They electrical sandwich makers were inexpensive ones that did not last well.  After the last one went I decided to go back to my trusty fry pans.  From time to time I mentioned getting a panini press but never acted on it because the beds on most models were family sized not couple sized.  Well apparently this one was on sale that met what I wanted so he bought it.

panini press
A panini grill differs from a regular sandwich maker in several ways.  There are no pre-determined compartments to limit the resulting sandwich.   A floating hinge allows you to grill thicker sandwiches.  The lid is quite heavy to give different results that a regular sandwich maker, more of a pressing action.  A panini grill  gives beautiful, distinctive grill marks on the outside of the sandwich without the use of butter reducing fat content.   It also presses the sandwich more than a sandwich maker would. 

This panini press (grill) is made by Toastess International.  It has a smaller bed size for making two sandwiches at a time rather than four just perfect for two people.  Watch for a lot of great sandwiches coming from my new panini grill.  Here's one to get your mouth watering.

classic panini sandwich
The first panini sandwiches to come out of the panini grill were the classic turkey and ham with Swiss cheese panini.  Notice the deeper grill marks from the press.  To make a panini sandwich all you have to do is put the filling between two slices of bread and pop it onto the panini grill.  There is no need to butter the outsides of the sandwich.  Now that doesn't sound like a lot but if an average grilled sandwich used 1 tbsp of butter on the outside, using a panini grill eliminates 1 tbsp of butter right off the bat!  The end result is a sandwich that is hot a juicy on the inside without all the extra fat on the outside.  It is a very different result than that of a sandwich maker. 


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Husband Brought Home Take-out Burgers

Take-out Burgers
April 16, 2010

Since becoming empty nesters Friday night has gone from family night to date night unless one or more of the kids are home.  So most Friday nights we eat out.  Last week was one given the week we had, my husband surprised me with bringing take-out home with him.  He stopped at a burger place we haven't been to in ages!

This burger place has a small eat in area but their popularity is the drive-in so you can eat right in the comforts of your car.  It is family owned and operated.  They hand make their burger patties from scratch using 100% Canadian beef when the burger is ordered.  Their burgers are referred to as culinary burgers.  The buns are not regular, run of the mill buns either.  Their coleslaw is freshly made on site and the fries are fresh cut.  This is about as close to home cooking as you can get without cooking it yourself.  Pictured on the left is the deluxe burger with 2 burger patties and cheese.  To the right is the Large Marge with a full 1 lb pattie and a rather humorous story as to how the burger came to be. 

PS. My husband also brought home a kitchen surprise but that will be tomorrow's post.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Small Kitchen Appliances

Frugal Kitchens 101

Looking back on my culinary adventures over the years I can honestly say I wish I knew then what I know now.  There are so many small kitchen appliances out there that end up being used a couple of times then are discarded.  While they are waiting to be discarded they take up valuable storage space.  What a waste!  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 is my list of small kitchen appliances that I've used and my views on them.  I will qualify my list in that I prefer multi-purpose small appliances and don't like small electrical appliances sitting on my countertop.

  • breadmaker/bread machine - This single use appliance is quite useful but takes up valuable counter space.  It's great to use just on dough setting then bake in the oven.  It really limits how much bread you can make at one time.  I no longer use a breadmaker.
  • electric can opener - I've had three electric can openers all totally worthless!  In hind sight I should have bought a good quality manual model like I now have rather than waste my time and money on electric models. 
  • electric knife - I've seen them, used them but have never had one and don't feel a need for one.
  • stand mixer - A stand mixer with attachments is one of the most frugal purchases I made.  My only regret is I did not buy one sooner.
  • yogurt maker - I have a very old, individual 5 c yogurt maker that I love.  It sees regular use and saves me money plus it was bought used for about $1 so has been and continues to be a very frugal choice.
  • toaster - We went through 2 then went without never missing it but now have one that sits in a cupboard until needed.
  • toaster oven - This is one of those appliances that takes up room on a countertop with little payback.  I had a used one to try out but didn't like it and have no desire for one.
  • rice maker - This is one of my must have appliances.  I get good, consistent results every time.
  • slow cooker  - I have 3 slow cookers used mainly for entertaining and bulk cooking.  They are still a frugal choice even though they don't get a lot of use.
  • countertop roaster - I have a 6.5 qt countertop roaster that sees a lot of use.  It does a wonderful job without heating the kitchen.  I absolutely love mine.
  • food processor - I have a dying food processor that has served me well.  I have no plans to replace it when it finally dies although I did by extra attachments for my stand mixer to take over the food processor's role.
  • countertop grill - I've had 3 of these units and still have one even though I have the grill cartridge for my stove.  These units are good for additional grill space when entertaining but also for those who can't grill outdoors.  Despite having both indoor and outdoor grill capabilities the countertop grill still sees use.
  • large surface flat griddle - We thought this would be an appliance we would not use yet it gets a lot of use and not just for breakfast foods!  This is one very well worth appliance.
  • blender - This is a must have even though the use is not consistent.  
  • percolator - We have a circa 1960's percolator bought used for about $2 in use daily.  It makes awesome coffee!
  • coffee grinder - We love our coffees so a coffee grinder is a must have.  
  • espresso maker - In our household this is a must have!  I can make all kinds of fancy coffees at home whenever I want without paying those high prices at the coffee shops.
  • deep fryer - We are now on our fifth deep fryer if my calculations are right.  This time we bought a self filtering, stainless steel model that should last considerably longer than the cheaper ones.
  • vacuum food saver - Hands down this is one of my most frugal small appliances.  It saves on food storage both dried and frozen extending the life of those foods.  
  • stick blender - At first I did not embrace this kitchen appliance but  it is now a valuable appliance in my kitchen for soup and sauce making.
  • electric kettle - I did not use an electric kettle until about 4 years ago.  It is invaluable when canning much quicker than a kettle on a burner.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cheese Lace Salad Bowl

Cheese is one of my favourite foods.  In fact it's more like a food group :) 

making cheese lace
I discovered cheese lace quite some time ago.  It is extremely easy to make and most hard cheeses can be used so there are endless possibilities for flavour.  I used an aged cheddar for the cheese lace bowls.  For a lacier effect you can stir a about 1 tsp flour into the shredded cheese before placing on baking sheet or spread the plain shredded cheese apart more.   Cheese lace can be left as rounds, formed into bowls, formed into smaller cracker sized rounds or broken to be used as a salad topping.  Since most of the oil has been removed, cheese lace is low fat yet packs a lot of flavour.

Method:  Spread shredded cheese in a circle on a Silpat (1).  Bake at 350ºF until melted, edges are golden and centre firming (2).  Carefully transfer the cheese lace to cover the inverted bottom of a glass (3).  If you want a slightly more compact bowl light press the cheese lace closer to the glass as it cools.  Once cooled remove from the glass.  Set on a paper towl and place a wadded up piece of paper towel in the lace bowl to absorb any additional oil (4).  Fill as desired just before serving. 

cheese lace salad bowl
I like using cheese lace bowls as edible salad bowls.  They make such a lovely presentation!  Cheese lace bowls would also be suitable for serving cheese cubes or shorter breadsticks.  If using for salad, do not add any salad dressing until served.

I filled each cheese lace bowl with leaf lettuce, cucumber slices, green onion, green pepper and mushroom slices sprinkled with sunflower seeds.  The salads were topped with  simple vinaigrette then served with grilled Oktoberfest sausages. 


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pork Loin (5) - Pork Kabobs

One of the things I learns a long time ago about cooking is plans change.  I had cut the tip of the pork loin into strips fully intending to make ground pork.  My husband came home took one look at the pork strips then declared it was a good grilling day. So the strips that were supposed to be ground ended up being kabobs.

marinating meat and vegetables
Diana Sauce® (Canada only) makes a line of barbeque sauces and marinades.  It is one of the very few commercial sauces that I buy.  I marinated the strips in Diana Marinade Teriyaki marinade then echoed that flavour by marinating zucchini, mushrooms and red onions in the same marinade.  Once the meat and vegetables were marinated they were threaded onto soaked wooden skewers.

pork kabobs on the grill
We have metal skewers but I prefer using wooden ones.  The metal gets hot then radiates that heat to the inside of the meat and vegetables causing them to cook faster than desired.  I soak the wooden skewers in water for a couple of hours before using.  This prevents them from burning before the food is cooked.

The kabobs were grilled on medium until the vegetables were tender and the meat cooked through.  Note that technically the meat should have been threaded onto the skewers ribbon style but my husband has his own style sometimes.  We put the meat on before the vegetable by about 5 minutes.

pork kabob meal
We grilled enough meat for 3 strips each for dinner with left-overs for my husband's lunch the following day.  This is slightly less meat than a full pork loin chop.  Grilled vegetables are always a delight and our second favourite way of cooking next to steamed.  We paired the meat and vegetables with grilled tomato slices topped with EVOO, sea salt, pepper and mozzarella cheese.  Both meat and vegetables were pleasantly flavoured by the Terikayi marinade so this will be another Diana product I add to my list of keepers.  It was a simple, low prep meal that was quite tasty!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Pork Loin (4) - Freezer Packages

Continuing with the pork loin purchase and how I used it, this post will show how I put some up for future use.  Part of my pantry/freezer management style is to view those resources as being a bank.  That means constant small deposits that add up for those times when I need a larger withdrawl.  When I come across a good sale such as this pork loin, some will be used immediately while the rest will go into the freezer or even be canned.

This was a good sized pork loin at 8.57 lb.  While it would have been easy enough to use up this piece of meat over a one week period I chose to cure 2 lb of it for use the following week and use up about 2 lb for fresh eating leaving the remainder for the freezer.  I cut the loin into six 1-inch loin chops which gave seven nice pieces including the end piece.  I cut the end piece into cubes knowing this would be just the right amount to add to vegetables as a pasta or rice topping.  The end result was enough for four meals for two people.  In total about 4 lbs of the pork loin or half of it went into the freezer.
I prefer using a FoodSaver vacuum sealer for sealing any meats or other foods I put into the freezer for longer term storage.  I do not use the brand name bags though.  Rather I buy mine online at a fraction of the cost for what I feel is better quality bags.  I am not affiliated with this source but you can email me for details where to buy. 

Vacuum sealing prevents freezer burn and allows the food to be kept for a longer period of time.  It is possible to vacuum seal meats in a marinade so when they are thawed they are ready for cooking.  In most cases I vacuum seal without a marinade to give myself more options when the meat is thawed.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Cracking Eggs

kitchen quick tips

Always crack your eggs over a separate bowl. That way if an egg is bad it will not contaminate the other ingredients and you won't waste the other ingredients by adding a bad egg.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pork Loin (3) - Grilled Pork Loin Chops

If you recall I'm doing a series of posts on what I did with a pork loin bought on sale at a reasonably good price.  A pork loin can be stretched into several meals making it a rather frugal choice of meat.  At the same time pork loin is lower in fat that other cuts or pork making it a heart healthy choice.

I cut three 1 - inch thick slices from the pork loin to grill for dinner that night.  We like this thickness as it keeps the meat from drying out especially when grilling.  The end result is a nice, moist grilled pork loin.

One of these slices is enough meat for a serving.  We used each had one for dinner with one left-over for my husband's lunch the following day.  If you recall I am making his heavier meal for lunch so he can eat lighter at our regular dinner hour due to the temporary change in his normal schedule. 
I decided to marinate the pork loin chops for something a bit different.  The marinate was a simple olive oil and apple cider vinegar base with honey mustard and a couple of pinches of Herbs de Provence.  I let the chops marinate for 2 hours.  They could have been left longer to develop a bit more flavour but as it was the end result was quite good.

Marinades are a great way to spark up meats while tenderizing them.  Essentially a marinade is composed of three elements - acid, oil, flavour.  For this reason any home made vinaigrette will serve as a marinade.  Think out side of the box though.  The acid component can be vinegar, citric juice, buttermilk, fruit or tomato based.  Oil can be any vegetable oil of your choice but usually extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is used as it imparts flavour and is a healthier oil.  There are so many ways of getting flavour into a marinade ranging from various fruits and vegetables, herbs, seasonings, mustards and sweeteners so get creative!

The pork chops were grilled on medium direct heat on the outdoor grill.  I served them with steamed red potatoes, tomatoes and cucumber slices on a bed of green leaf lettuce and Old Fashioned Chili Sauce as a condiment.  It was a delicious, easy, low cost meal!

In hind sight,  chili sauce itself could have served as a marinade as well although it does make a better condiment.  It would be interesting to try using the chili sauce as a marinade as it does have a wonderful flavour that goes so nicely with pork.   I think I would blend it and add a bit of EVOO to use as a marinade. 


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pork Loin (2) - Peameal Bacon

If you recall a few days ago I bought a pork loin so instead of making one extremely long post on what I did with the pork loin I decided to break it down into a few posts.  Anyone following this blog will know one of the first things I do when I get a pork loin is to cut a piece for making peameal bacon.  Peameal bacon is a true Canadian delicacy, one we enjoy on a fairly regular basis not only for breakfast but as a low fat, fast cooking dinner meat. 

middle cut of pork loin
I cure my own peameal bacon made from pork loin bought on sale.  Even full priced pork loin is cheaper than store bought peameal bacon so curing it is still cost effective.  When making peameal bacon it is important to use a kitchen scale as the amount of cure is dependent on the weight of the meat.

The middle section of the pork loin came out to just a little over 2 pounds.  How's that for guestimating?  I find this is a nice size for a chunk of peameal bacon as it is the ideal size for baking.  When sliced this will be enough bacon for 4 - 6 people for breakfast or 2 servings for dinner with left-overs.

salt cure added
Cured meats hold a certain mystic about them.  Many see the ham, bacon, corned beef and other cured meats as something difficult to make themselves.  However, curing meat is one of the easiest things to do.  There are two types of cure, brining and dry cure.  Brining uses a salt solution with or without additional seasonings.  The meat soaks in the solution for a given period of time to cure.  Then it is removed, rinsed and ready to use.  Dry curing uses the curing salt and for some meats (eg. peameal bacon) sugar is added.  The meat is placed in a zipper style freezer bag then the dry cure is poured onto both sides and rubbed in.  The meat is then refrigerated for the required number of days, turning at least once daily.  Once the meat has cured, it is soaked in plain water for 15 to 20 minutes to remove excess salt then any additional coating is added (eg. cornmeal for peameal bacon).

I use Morton Tender Quick for curing meats.  This is a nice product that gives good results.  It is a mixture of the curing salts and sugars meant for fast cure.  You should be able to find it in the baking aisle of the grocery store with the other salts.  Cured meat is not cooked as a result of the curing so it must be cooked prior to consumption.  Cured meats have a characteristic pink or red colouring when cooked.  The meat will be pink throughout on meat with a full cure.  Once the meat has been cured it can then be smoked but that is another topic that I will go into greater detail as I do a bit of smoking so watch for that topic coming soon.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Kitchen Cleaners

Frugal Kitchens 101

In addition to food and all things food related a good portion of the kitchen dollar is spent towards kitchen cleaners.  The manufacturers through slick advertising have convinced us we need all these fancy products to clean in the kitchen when that simply is not the case.  Not only are these cleaners expensive they pollute our indoor air reducing air quality and increasing respiratory problems.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 addresses the issue of kitchen cleansers.

Here are the cleaners I use in my kitchen along with how they are used.  All are effective and inexpensive.  Notice the first three are foods found in most kitchens. 

  • baking soda - Baking soda can be used as an abrasive to clean and shine most surfaces without scratching.  It deodorizes at the same time.  If I have a pot with burnt on food, I pour baking soda onto the food then cover with a little water and bring it to a boil.  Then I turn off the heat and let sit 15 minutes.  The burt food lifts right off with no scrubbing needed.  I use a modified method for glass casserole pans with burnt on food by sprinkling in baking soda then covering with boiling water.  A small bowl of baking soda will absorb odours in the fridge or kitchen. 
  • vinegar - Vinegar is one of my favourite cleaners.  I use a 1:1 vinegar to water solution in a spray bottle to clean windows and for damp mopping the kitchen floor.  It brings a sparkle to glass, chrome and ceramic tile while deodorizing.  I put a cup of white vinegar in a bowl to neutralize kitchen cooking odours like fish.  Vinegar also neutralizes the smell of paint when painting.  Vinegar has natural antibiotic properties so is great for wiping down countertops and other surfaces where germs can be an issue.
  • lemons/lemon juice - Lemons are natural room deodorizers.  If a room needs freshening I put a few lemons in a bowl.  A cut lemon will freshen a garbage disposal as well.  Lemon juice is great for cleaning metals and removing stains.
  • rubbing alcohol (50% ethanol) -  I buy rubbing alcohol at the dollar store then pour it into a spray bottle.  Rubbing alcohol is ideal for cleaning any shiny surfaces in the kitchen.  It is the perfect aseptic cleanser because it kills virtually all biologicals on contact.  It is low odour and dries quickly.  I use rubbing alcohol in the kitchen for shining stainless steel, chrome surfaces, countertops and windows.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser - When I first bought a small package of Mr. Clean Magic erasers I was beyond being skeptical.  I discovered these things do work as promised.  I bought an 8 pk at Sam's Club a couple of years ago and still have 5 unused and 2 used so they are more than cost effective and they work!  I use one in the kitchen for removing any marks on the countertops or in the sink. 
  • household ammonia - Household ammonia is an excellent degreaser that makes surfaces squeaky clean.  The main problem with household ammonia is the smell so I tend to use this cleaner only on the toughest jobs and as a heavy duty cleaner for spring and fall cleaning.  A small bottle of household ammonia will last me a couple of years or more.  If a surface is really grungy which rarely happens I will use full strength but other than than I dilute in a spray bottle 1:100 household ammonia to water.  This is strong enough to get any grease off without being over powering.
  • Simple Green -  Simple Green is a commercial non-toxic, eco-friendly, all purpose cleanser.  The beauty of this cleaner is it comes concentrated in a 1 gal (3.78 L) jug for about $9.  From there I make up various strengths of solutions for cleaning - full strength, 1:1, 1:10. 1:30 depending on the cleaning chore.  In the kitchen the strength I use most is 1:10.  It is my prefered degreaser as well.  A one gallon jug of concentrated Simple Green last me a little over 2 years so that isn't a bad price.
  • dish soap - There is a lot of hype about dish soaps and what they can offer.  I prefer Sunlight liquid dish soap.  It is the best value for my money for washing those kitchen items that don't go in the dishwasher.  Sunlight is a Canadian brand that just works well and quite often goes on sale.
  • dishwasher detergent - I have a Bosch SHE44C02UC dishwasher.  The manufacturer indicates that powdered dishwasher detergent is preferable to liquid.  I tried the Cascade tabs but they left a residue from the plastic used.  I bough a big box of Cascade powdered dishwasher detergent to find out it does expire and with our weather humidity is an issure.  I switched to Member's Mark Gel (192 oz, $7.68, Sam's Club) that is considerably cheaper and works just as well.  I don't have to worry about the humidity issues with powdered or the eco-unfriendly higher phosphate levels of the tabs plus I can adjust the amount used as needed.   
  • rinse agent - Bosh are high end dishwashers when in comes to energy efficiency.  The down side is because of the drying mechanism they must have rinse agent.  I found the machine to be using a lot of rinse agent at a cost of about 10¢ per load for brand name.  I found a Canadian made rinse agent at the dollar store, same size as the brand name ($3.99)  and even cheaper than the store brand ($2.79).  At $1 per 8.5 oz (250 ml) bottle the cost of operation has gone from 5¢ per load to 1¢ per load and I'm getting the same great results.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pork Loin (1) - Equipment and Prepping

We went to Sam's Club a couple of days ago and you know I always have to check out the meat counter for a good deal.  This year the deals have been very much pork related.  I can't remember a year where we have eaten so much pork and that's with us buying a pig on the hoof!  I spotted a pork loin and while it was not the rock bottom prices we have been paying I bought it anyways.  Over the next few posts I will chronicle what I did with this pork loin in series with the posts numbered as (X).  This is the first of the series.

pork loin
The pork loin came in at 8.57 lb for $1.77 per lb for a total of $15.17.  I gathered the equipment needed for putting up this pork loin (1).  Equipment included kitchen scales, curing salt, sugar, KitchenAid stand mixer, FoodSaver vacuum sealer, vacuum sealer bags and miscellaneous equipment.   I slit one end of the package to drain out any liquid/blood (2).  I use a 50% ethanol solution (3) to clean up any splatters or liquid spills.  This solution immediately denatures any biological components that could contaminate other foods and surfaces in the kitchen.  Once the meat was drained, I placed in on a large cutting board.  Note that there is a thick end and narrow end to the pork loin (4).  This helps determine what the pork loin will be used for if not cooking whole.
 
pork loin cut
I had fairly definite plans as to what I wanted to use the pork loin for.  I cut the pork loin into 3 sections - tip, middle and butt end.  I planned on using the tip for ground pork, the middle for peameal bacon and the largest portion for for boneless pork chops.  When cut this way it would result in 9 meals for 2 plus left-overs at cost of $1.68 for the meat for 2.  Left-overs of course would increase the number of meals per pork loin so over all I felt this was a good deal.

I decided to break what I did with the pork loin into 4 posts.  Watch for pork loin (2) the post following thing week's Frugal Kitchens 101.  The topic will be a recap of making peameal bacon.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Low Brow Gourmet Mac & Cheese with Jello Parfait

As many of you know I keep a very well stocked pantry.  Part of responsible pantry management is rotating foods before they have a chance to spoil.  Some of my pantry stock is emergency preparedness items that normally would not be used unless absolutely necessary.  However, these stocks still need to be rotated to prevent spoilage.  Spring is an ideal time to go through the pantry ensuring lesser used items like emergency preparedness items are rotated.

easy mac & cheese
Velveeta cheese is the only processed cheese I keep on hand.  The main reason for this is Velveeta cheese is shelf stable until opened making it an ideal cheese product for emergency preparedness.  A couple of nights ago I came up with a really quick, easy, low brow mac & cheese to use up left over ham, fresh asparagus and some of the Velveeta.  This would be a great 30 minute meal anytime of the year.

Low Brow Gourmet Mac & Cheese

3 c cooked elbow macaroni
1 c diced cooked ham
1 c raw asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces
1½ c Velveeta cheese

Prepare ham and asparagus.  Cut about a 3-inch piece of Velveeta into cubes.  Cook the macaroni until al dente then drain.  Stir in ham, cheese and asparagus.  Put the lid on the pot and place on burner.  Let sit 5 minutes then stir.  Let sit 10 minutes more, give a good stir then serve.

jello parfait
Jello is part of my regular pantry stock as well as my emergency preparedness supplies.  Jello is one of those versatile items to keep in the pantry not only for quick desserts but also to use as a drink when ill.  I decided to make a quick jello parfait that while quite easy to make looked a bit on the fancy side.  Low brow gourmet at its best!

Jello Parfait

1 box jello
1 c boiling water
1 c ice water
1½c Cool Whip
2 marichino cherries

Make the jello as normal.  Place 2 tall glass cappiccino mugs on an angle in a bowl that will suport that angle.  Use a turkey baster to place about a half cup of plain jello into the mugs.  Place the mugs in the refrigerator to set up.  Place the remaining jello in the fridge to set up.  When the remaining jellow is set up blend in 1¼c of the Cool Whip.  Spoon this over the plain jello in the mugs.  Top with remaining Cool whip and a cherry.


Friday, April 09, 2010

Glazed Rolled Ham

We spent the first two days of the long Easter weekend visiting our kids and grandbabies. Easter Sunday was spent at home enjoying the beautiful, unseasonably warm spring days. We left the evening meal open for those who wanted to stop by.

rolled hamGlazed Rolled Ham

I chose a small rolled ham for dinner roasted in the countertop roaster. As it cooked I basted an apple jelly glaze over the ham. The glaze consisted of 4 oz of apple jelly mixed with 2 oz of Pepsi (cola drink). Rolled hams are a good value in that they are full meat with very little fat and no bone. Despite their smaller size they do slice up to a larger number of servings. Left-overs can be thin sliced or cubed then frozen for later use on sandwiches or salads. Left-overs can also be slightly thicker sliced then pan fried the following morning to go along with eggs, home fries and toast.

glazed rolled ham dinnerThe Dinner

We had been on the go almost full tilt for over two days so I really relied on KISS for this meal. While the ham was cooking we were able to enjoy the sparkling water and sun's kisses. As the ham neared completion I put Arborio rice on to cook in the rice cooker. Unless cooking Arborio rice for another purpose I like cooking it in turkey or chicken stock with 1 tbsp of butter. This gives a rich, creamy texture that holds nicely together for plating and lending itself nicely to forming. I added a side of home canned green beans. These were Blue Lake, a lovely canning variety.

glazed rolled ham dinner left-oversLeft-Overs

I mentioned in a previous post that with my husband's current schedule he is eating a heavier meal at lunch followed by a lighter meal for dinner. I've taken advantage of this by making dinners-to-go for him using left-overs. What is nice about these meals is they can be reheated as is in their container the following day or they can be froze for later reheating as a homemade tv dinner.

This dinner-to-go included slices of the glazed rolled ham with a little of the glaze and left-over Arborio rice. When it comes to these types of meals it is important to add a bit of moisture that will prevent drying out as the food reheats. In this case the glaze would keep the meat moist while a little extra butter would keep the rice moist. Extra stock or topping the rice with glaze would work as well but most of that would be absorbed before the rice was reheated.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Baking

kitchen quick tips
Have you ever wondered why some recipes call for both baking powder and baking soda? Baking powder causes the batter to rise while baking soda keeps the baked goods soft.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Eat The Weeds: Episode: 114: Cast Iron and Pig Weed

Awhile back one of the Frugal Kitchens 101 topics was foraging. Foraging is an excellent way to extend your food dollar while increasing the variety of foods you eat. I came across an wonderful video series on YouTube by Green Deane of Eat the Weeds. I highly recommend these videos if you are interested in learning more about foraging. Foraging involves cooking some of your foraged goodies.

The topic of pots and pans hasn't been discussed in great detail here although I have talked about some of the pots and pans I prefer. I will go into greater detail in future posts. A cast iron fry pan and dutch oven are a couple of the best cookware pieces you can possibly have in your kitchen. The great thing is you don't have to spend a lot of money on cast iron just a bit of inginuity and time seasoning to get one of the best non-stick performers possible. Here is one of his videos that shows how to rehabilitate a rusty cast iron pan into a useful pan that can be used for generations if properly cared for. Once he has seasoned the cast iron pan he shows how to cook pig weed, a common garden weed here in Ontario as well as elsewhere.



Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Grilled Leg of Lamb

In many areas of the world lamb is the meat of choice however here except for in the spring, lamb tends to be rather expensive. While I have eaten lamb in restaurants other than grilling the occasional lamb chops I have very little experience cooking lamb. Well that is about to change! We visited the grandbabies over the Easter weekend enjoying the beautiful spring weather with grill out at each of their homes. Parents to the Little Miss grilled three meats for our Easter feast. Oh my this was some very good eating! I am going shopping this week for a leg of lamb just to try duplicating it myself.

marinated leg of lambMarinated

The lamb was marinated overnight in an oil based marinade. Like many home cooks the marinade was made up on the fly using ingredients that would enhance the flavour of the ham while tenderizing it a bit. I noted that the leg had been pierced to allow the marinade to penetrate to the inner core. I've seen this method used as well as the injection method. I was impressed enought that I bought a marinade injector syringe the last shopping trip so will have to get that out to use when I cook my leg of lamb. Once the leg of lamb was marinated it was transfered to a baking sheet for grilling. The marinade was used for basting.

On the Grill

Pictured are the three pieces of meat that went towards the Easter feast. A spiral ham is on the top rack, the leg of lamb is to the back of the baking pan and the rib roast is to the front of the baking pan. The lamb and rib roast was seared on high, direct heat on the grill then the temperature was reduced to low, indirect heat for the meats to cook about 5 hours. To the right there is the hickory wood smoking chips that added a light, smokey flavour to the meat as it cooked slowly. All of the meat was tender and quite flavourful.

I love seeing how our kids take something that I have done for ages to a new level. The grill is my favourite piece of summer time cooking equipment. It's used not only for grilling but as an oven and slow roaster during the hot weather. Watching how this meat was cooked using a different method than I use has given me a few ideas to experiment with. I have wood smoking chips and leg of lamb on my shopping list for our next trip!


Monday, April 05, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Edible & Organic Servingware

Frugal Kitchens 101
Coming up with a different presentation for foods can be a bit tricky but not if you turn to using the food itself as part of the presentation. This is a fun way to use parts of the food that would normally be discarded to the compost bin. While some food parts mentioned could also be used to create other foods (eg. candied citrus slices, watermelon pickles) for the most part these are going to be the peelings and outer shells you would not normally consume. This week's Frugal Kitchen 101 focuses on some of these edible and non-edible organic servingware for a fun presentation that costs you nothing other than creativity.

  1. oranges - Cut an orange in half the scoop out the contents to form 2 shells. Place on small plate. Fill the orange shells with orange parfait, orange jello or orange sherbert. If using sherbert garnish then serve immediately. If using parfait or jello return to refrigerator to set well then garnish just before serving.
  2. coconuts - One classic use for whole coconuts is as a large beverage holder. Carefully cut or saw the top off a husked coconut. Pour off any coconut milk. Fill with drink of choice just before serving. Place the coconut uncut end down into small bowl to prevent tipping while filling. Add a long straw and fancy drink umbrella.
  3. cucumber - Cut an English (seedless) cucumber into 1 - inch pieces. Hollow out the inside so only a half inch of cucumber remains. Fill with prepared tuna fish salad. Serve as an appetizer. Cut an English cucumber into 2 - inch pieces removing inside except for half inch. Fill with vegetable dip for individual serving sized vegetable dips. Cut an English cucumber into 4 - inch pieces removing inside except for half inch. Chill well then fill with summer cocktail.
  4. melons - Just about any melon can be carved into a lovely basket for holding melon balls or cubes. The simplest design is cut in half to form 2 serving bowls. Form your balls or cube, add grapes and strawberries then fill each bowl. Get a bit fancier by shaping into a basket with handle or even use a design for a higher end look. Chill bowl well before filling with fruit mixture.
  5. peppers - Sweet peppers are ideal for stuffing that can be served either hot or cold.
  6. tomatoes - Cut a small tomato in half. Hollow out just the inner portion (seeds) leaving the outer thick portion. Fill with herbed feta cheese then garnish as the centre for indiviual side salads.
  7. breads - Yeast breads make great serving bowls for dips and stews.
  8. cheese - Melt cheese into lace then form over a cup to form a bowl. When cooled fill with salad greens just before serving.
  9. tortilla shells - Not only can tortilla shells be used as wraps they can be fried and formed for tacos or as a bowl for salads.
  10. potatoes - Bake potatoes as normal. Split in half then scoop out the insides. Set this aside to add other ingredients to for twice baked potatoes or if making potato skins use the potato flesh for mashed potatoes, soups or potato bread.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Food or Shelter

It is not often that I set aside blog space here for a I pride myself in presenting the best food that I can on this blog. Yes it is home made and yes in many cases it is frugal. In fact I quite often give you the actual numbers to help decide if the dish is a frugal choice for you and frugality is a common theme for this blog. What I haven't gone into is the fact that in Canada alone over 1 million people daily have to choose between putting food on their table or a roof over their heads. As a Canadian food blogger I find this number staggering and appalling. I would ethically be remiss to not mention this growing problem.

In many ways I honestly do believe part of the answer lies with the people themselves. During war times Victory Gardens were encouraged and even seen as a civic duty. Urban gardening is very much in the news recently. It is surprising how much food can be grown in a very small amount of space in containers. It is surprising the vast amounts of foods that can be foraged. In some Canadian municipalities it is now legal to have backyard chickens with certain restrictions but just look at that potential! My husband's Grandma always had rabbits something that is legal throughout most Canadian municipalities. Rabbits are great for roasting and the stew pot! Somewhere along the line some Canadians have realized it is easier to rely on handouts than fend for themselves and that is a downright shame when there are so many ways to alleviate the problem without turning to handouts . Here is a video clip of the ads being shown on Canadian television stressing this problem.



Friday, April 02, 2010

Pan Fried Pork Steak with Rustic Mashed Potatoes

We are undergoing a lot of major changes what with the house up for sale and at the same time knowing a half of beef will be ready shortly. We've arranged to have the beef stored until after our move if all goes according to plan. I have one primary goal in mind - reduce our freezer stock to as low as possible. That goal is followed with eating what we can from the pantry because moving empty jars is a lot easier than full jars of food. I've been trying to use one item from the freezer and one or more items from the pantry for each evening meal. So far that strategy has been working so we are starting to see a good reduction in the freezers.

pan fried pork steakPan Fried Pork Steak

My husband is currently working fairly long days which is normal for this time of year. What I've been doing is making a dinner style meal for his lunch then a lighter meal for the actual dinner hour so he doesn't have a full tummy when heading to bed early. A couple of nights ago I pulled the last 2 pork steaks from the freezer and decided to pan fry them.

I pan fried until caramelized on both sides, seasoned with garlic pepper then poured in a half jar (250 ml/1 c) turkey stock and added a few onion pieces and added a lid. I let this simmer to form a nice sauce. While the meat was simmering I put potato cubes on to steam for rustic mashed potatoes.

Rustic mashed potatoes method: Steam about 10 washed unpeeled potatoes cut into cubes. Remove from steamer and place in stand mixer bowl. Pour in 250 ml/1 cup turkey stock, 1 tsp roasted garlic, 4 oz cream cheese, 1 tbsp butter. Beat until blended but still a bit chunky.

Hubby's Lunch

I have several reusable divided plates that I use for making lunches. A few of them can be used in the freezer as well for homemade tv style dinners. Pictured is my husband's pan fried pork steak with rustic mashed potatoes for tomorrow's lunch. It's a simple meal yet substantial one.

Divided plates with covers are great for lunch bags so they see a fair amount of use here. They come in so many styles and shapes now. Most of them are leak proof so can be used for a variety of meals and can be used in the microwave to reheat easily.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Tomato Paste

kitchen quick tips

Quite often a recipe will call for 1 tbsp of tomato paste. The problem is you have to open a 4 oz tin of tomato paste to get that 1 tbsp then you are left wondering what to do with the rest. Spoon the remaining tomato paste into an ice cube tray. When frozen pop out the frozen cubes for ready to use amounts of tomato paste. Place in a zipper style freezer bag for use as needed.