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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!

Popular Posts

Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Apologies

About mid-morning I realized I had not made a blog post.  That really wasn't so bad as I reasoned that posting before lunchtime would still work.  I did have a specific recipe in mind too.  Then the weather got in the way.  I took a couple of steaks from the freezer for dinner then headed outside for a few minutes.  It was absolutely gorgeous outside so I decided to do a bit of yard work.  That turned into cutting the grass (all of it) then playing with the pressure washer (gosh, my windows are sparkling) followed by a quick bath only to realize I still had not posted.  The thing is anyone who has followed this blog has seen on multiple occasions how we grill steak.  The intended recipe with ingredients is still sitting on the counter so I will post that later this week.  In the meantime, I do apologize for not having a new and wonderful culinary dish today.

On another culinary note, oh my gosh would I ever love to have been a fly on the wall of the royal wedding feast!  I heard nothing as to her cake or dinner plans.  I would just love to know what they served right down to the last detail.  I mean every last detail...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Banana Nut Cheerios Energy Bars

We have never been much in the way of dry cereals for breakfast.  In fact I can't remember when we had dry cereal for breakfast.  When I use dry cereal it tends to be as an ingredient in baking, cereal or no-bake bars and snack mixes.  Cereal bars are easy to make, no muss, no fuss and no bake treats ideal for tucking into lunches, after school snacks, and entertaining.   I'm always on the lookout for another cereal bar recipe. 

banana nut cheerios energy bars
A few days ago I was browsing the recipes on the Life Made Delicious website when I came across a recipe for Banana Nut Cheerios Energy Bars I knew I just had to try.  I usually have plain Cheerios in the pantry but not the flavoured ones so I bought a box of the Banana Nut Cheerios specifically to try these bars.  I made two substitutions to the recipe.  Rather than use a nonstick cooking spray which I don't use to begin with I greased the baking dish with a little butter.  I used a dried fruit medley trail mix in place of the dried cranberries.  This is a mix I got from Bulk Barn that consists of raisins, currents, cranberries, papaya and dates.

The recipe gave a yield of eighteen 1" x 2"  mouthwatering bars.  This is a definite keeper recipe!  Not only are they easy and quick to make the bars are delicious.  At the same time there is room for a bit of tweaking.  I think the bars would be quite tasty with flaked coconut added and you can certainly substitute the dry fruit added as I did.  The almonds and sunflower seeds add a nice crunch while providing extra protein.  Aside of lunches and snacks these bars would be excellent for carrying along when hiking the trails!

[Disclosure: I am part of the Life Made Delicious Connector program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Leftover Pickle Juice

kitchen quick tips

Use leftover pickle juice in a marinade or create your own salad dressings.  The juice can also be used to pickle eggs or make quick refrigerator pickles.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ham and Mushroom Casserole

Ham is a rather frugal meat in that it is mainly all meat.  Even a bone in ham is cost effective as the meat can be cut from the bone then the bone used to make a ham based soup with the meat used for another dish.  That is what I did with the leftover ham from our Easter dinner.

ham and mushroom casserole
Quite often my casserole start off the same way as my soups, based on one ingredient as the inspiration.  I had a fair amount of leftover ham so ham was the inspirational ingredient in the casserole I created.  I wanted a creamy end result so turned to my favourite ingredient, condensed cream of mushroom soup.  The other ingredients just came together.  The end result was a rich, sinfully creamy casserole that got two thumbs up from my husband.

I served the casserole with quick biscuits.  These are a long time stand-by when I don't have fresh made bread.  I actually started making the quick biscuits as a newlywed.  They can be made using a homemade baking mix, regular Bisquick or Bisquick Heart Smart™ baking mix.  I discovered the Bisquick Heart Smart™ baking mix during our first trip to the vacation home.  Unlike our permanent residence where homemade mixes are the norm, it is more cost effect to use small package commercial mixes that can be used up while we are there.  We rent our vacation home out when we aren't there so can't store a lot of food.  Logistically we can only bring food home with us if we drive as we are too restricted when flying.    Anyway, back to the Bisquick Heart Smart™ baking mix.   I keep a box in the pantry at home as well.   Easy recipes for the baking mix can be found on the Life Made Delicious website and on the box .

These biscuits are ever so easy to make!  I mix about 2 cups of the baking mix with enough milk to form a moderately stiff dough that can be dropped by the spoonful onto a greased baking sheet.  I drop by the desert spoon (3 tbsp) spread about 2 inches apart.  I bake at 375ºF until golden brown.  Sometimes I stir in shredded cheese which is always a hit. 

Ham and Mushroom Casserole
by:  Garden Gnome

2 c cooked ham, diced
1 c frozen sweet peas
1½ c sautéed sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
¾ can milk
½ tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp prepared mustard
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
4 c cooked elbow macaroni

Heat oil and butter in frypan.  Sauté the mushrooms in the oil and butter until golden brown.  Remove from heat and drain.  Cook macaroni in salted, boiling water until al dente.  Drain.  Measure out 4 c into large mixing bowl.  Add remain ingredients.  Stir well to mix.  Pour into 2 qt baking dish.  Cover with tin foil.  Bake at 275ºF until warmed through and cheese starts to bubble.  Remove tin foil.  Increase temperature to 350ºF and bake until just turning golden brown on top.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Parmesan Peppered Chicken Wings

Good quality Parmesan cheese is one of those wonderful ingredients that add a lot of flavour without having to add much.   Fresh grated Parmesan cheese is just a delight!  When we were at our vacation home we discovered Parmesan chicken wings then my husband found a restaurant that serves them here on Tuesday nights.  My first attempt at  peppered Parmesan chicken was modifying homemade shake & bake coating mix.  The results were quite tasty with an extra crunch but it was not the wings my husband was after. 

parmesan peppered chicken wings
At one time chicken wings were rather inexpensive but cheap wing night has driven their price up.  I bought a little over two pounds of chicken wings, tips attached for $9.78.  This was enough for two nice sized servings for two adults.  My husband and I decided to try duplicating the peppered Parmesan chicken wings at the local restaurant.  The real problem with this plan is this particular restaurant makes them different each time and that includes all of their wings so one night you might get a really nice batch and the next one not.  From a restaurant standpoint this is not good practice.  They have also switched from fresh grated Parmesan cheese to powdered which is more cost effective for a restaurant but lacks the flavour and texture of fresh grated.

Dissecting is common in science labs but if you want to duplicate a restaurant dish at home you have to play detective and do a bit of dissecting.  The chicken wings at this restaurant are coated so we decided to coat the wings.  The Parmesan cheese and pepper are added after frying.  Getting the cheese and pepper to stick to the wings was the question but we came up with a tasty one.  These wings were absolutely amazing with a wonderful flavour, just a bit of crunch and nice tender meat.  They are a real keeper!

Parmesan Peppered Chicken Wings

2 lb chicken wings, tips attached
1 c flour
1 c fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
¼ c melted butter

Dredge the chicken wings in the flour to lightly coat.  Deep fry the wings at 375ºF until golden brown.  Drain slightly.  Place the chicken wings in a deep mixing bowl.  Drizzle the melted butter over the wings.  Toss to distribute.  Add cheese and pepper.  Toss to distribute.  Cover mixing bowl with tinfoil to lightly melt cheese.  Serve hot.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Top Ten List of Take-out Food That is Cheaper to Make at Home

Frugal Kitchens 101

Busy families often turn to take-out foods under the misguided perception that the food in inexpensive and a rather good value.  Don't get me wrong as I'm not against take-out foods.  What concerns me is not considering take-out food as part of the overall food budget.  If someone budgets $150 per week for grocery shopping then picks up take-out twice and eats lunch out daily their actual food budget is more in the line of about $225.  The problem is take-out being a spur of the moment, I'm too tired to cook thing can seriously put a huge dent in your pocketbook.  The worst part of this is there is no mental connection that take-out food really is part of your total food budget.  This week's Frugal Kitchen 101 focuses on my top ten list of take-out foods that can be made cheaper at home and quite often just as fast.

My top ten take-out foods that can be made cheaper at home are:

  1. burgers -  In general take-out burgers from fast food chain restaurants are cheaply priced but a very poor value nutritionally.  They are laden with salt, sugar and fat.  These burgers can be easily made at home not only cheaper but better in nutrition with the key secret to the burger patty is thin and frozen.  Other take-out restaurants often offer take-out burgers, usually of higher nutritional quality than the chain restaurants but they come with a higher price tag.  These burgers can be duplicated at home for less than half the cost. 
  2. hot dogs - The simple hot dog usually goes for somewhere around $1.50 and nine times out of ten it is the smell of them cooking at the hot dog cart that draws you in to buy.  Each weiner costs about 20¢, the bun 22¢ and toppings 5¢ for a total of 47¢ to make at home.
  3. soups - Soup is a rather popular take-out food especially amongst the lunch crowd who haven't realized brown bagging it is cheaper.  Take-out soup costs roughly $2.50 per bowl or higher.  Ready-to-serve commercially canned soup cost about $1.79 while homemade soup comes in at about 30¢. 
  4. salads - The average individual take-out salad costs about $2 but some are as high priced as $7.  The main ingredient in these salads is iceburg lettuce, a lettuce that is nutritionally poor and really only good for its crunch.  Toss in a couple of tomato wedges (not even a full tomato), a few pieces of cucumber and onion then a packet of chemically and fat laden salad dressing for a salad that costs about 40¢ at most in ingredients and takes less than 5 minutes to put together and yet folks will pay $2 or more.  Did you know some take-out salads contain more fat than a burger?
  5. sandwiches - Take-out sandwiches are popular with the lunch crowd as well but most are high priced in comparison to homemade.  Consider the assorted sub that costs about $5 can be made at home for about 60¢ then brought to work and warmed up just as the take-out sub. 
  6. French fries - French fries are just popular plain and simple but did you know you are getting more than you think with many take-out fries?  Sugar is added to help with that golden brown colour and then there's the salt.  A large fry will cost about $1.50 but is about the equivalent to one extra large potato or two medium.  The raw ingredient cost in that large fry is about 10¢.  Consider that potatoes are usually priced at about 99¢ to $3 per 10 lb bag that would be enough to make 20 or more servings of large portion size fries.  French fries are very easy to make at home, they taste better and they are better quality than take-out fries without all the sugar and salt.
  7. onion rings - Onion rings have to be about one of the most overpriced take-out foods there is.  A large onion ring take-out will cost about $2.  If you count the rings there is likely about 20 of them or the equivalent to 2 slices from a large onion if that.  A large onion will yield about 6 slices so the take-out serving gives you one third of a large onion.  A large onion costs about 20¢ so one third costs about 7¢.  Add in the batter that would not even cost 3¢ so the onion rings they charge $2 for costs only 10¢ in raw ingredients.  Onion rings like French fries are extremely easy to make at home.
  8. pizza - Take-out or delivery pizza may or may not be expensive as far as price.  Where we live delivery pizza costs about $30 but with specials at our vacation home costs about $20.  Large take-out pizza go a low as $9.99 but the toppings are limited.  Pizza consists of dough and toppings.  The dough is the ultra cheap ingredient coming in at a cost for homemade pizza of 32¢.  Adding in the price of sauce and toppings a homemade pizza can easily come in at under the $2 mark so even that $9.99 pizza is looking rather expensive.
  9. fried chicken - We do not buy much in the way of take-out chicken especially from the most popular chain where one of their secret coating ingredients is powdered milk that contains lactose which isn't good for those of us who are lactose intolerant.  One of our friends insists on bringing two buckets for the superbowl party.  I just about died when I found out two buckets cost just a little over $80!  Chicken has gone up in price but still making fried chicken at home either stovetop or in a deep fryer is considerably less expensive especially if the chicken is bought on sale.
  10. tacos - The most popular taco restaurant in Canada sells tacos for 99¢ which is over priced according to the lawsuit claiming the meat product used cannot even be claimed to be beef since it is only 30% beef.  While the price is cheap the quality is beyond cheap.  Other taco restaurants offering take-out are higher priced.  Even at the 99¢ price though, tacos are over priced with the raw ingredients coming in at about 40¢ and that is using 100% ground beef not a meat product.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Canadian Made - The Small Time Farmer

Goodness I guess I need to get busy making a badge or banner for my new series, Canadian Made.  Today's Canadian Made focuses on the small time Canadian farmer.  I grew up in Canadian farmland, surrounded by Canadian farmers and still live surrounded by the same.  I wouldn't have it any other way!  Here in beautiful Ontario, Canada I only have to walk about 500 yards to reach the first farmer's field.  This is small time farming at it's prime.  Many of the farmers here own 1,000 acres or less.  Livestock usually consists of what the farmers use themselves perhaps with a few extra chickens to sell the eggs.  It is their livelihood and despite all the jokes about rich farmers, most aren't.  In fact many of these small time farmers are forced to work off the land just to be able to make ends meet and it is very common for their wives to work off the land.

Winter months are quiet with little to do on the farm besides plan for the up coming growing season, work on the house and out buildings and catch-up.  Usually by now the farmers have taken to the fields, plowing then planting.  It is quite common to look out across the field to see the lights of a tractor working away close to midnight this time of year.  Next comes the fertilizing and irrigation if needed followed by the very, very busy harvest season during which time the farmer can be seen working well into the wee hours of the morning to get the crop off or meet their quota.

The life of a small time farmer is not easy.  True they get to work from home but the expenses are high and the pay is low.  They are technically self-employed meaning no government pension plan, no medical benefits, no dental benefits, no presciption coverage, and no calling in sick just because they need a me day.  The weather dictates how successful their crop will be and getting that quota is the goal because if they don't they likely won't get a contract the following year.  Despite all of the adversity, small time Canadian farmers continue their way of life to bring food to the Canadian table.  And a Canadian tradition continues...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spinach Wraps

If you recall a recent Frugal Kitchens 101 topic was Think Vegetarian.  The reason being anytime you eliminate meat from a dish you more than likely are going to be saving money.  Meat tends to be the most expensive ingredient in any dish.  While soups, stews, and casseroles stretch the amount of meat needed for a meal, eliminating meat occasionally simply saves on the cost of the meat.  Vegetarian dishes do not have to be expensive or complicated either,

spinach wraps
Just look at these gorgeous, mouthwatering spinach wraps I made.  I cannot take full credit for these as I got the idea from one of our kids who made a variety of sandwiches for their little one's birthday party that included several adults.  It is always important at these types of events to not only offer a nice variety of crudites but also meatless dishes.  Some are not eating meat for whatever reason (eg. health, personal conviction) so including meatless choices in the party menu is a good idea.

Spinach wraps are extremely easy to make.  They are quite delightful with a refreshing flavour.  You can serve then cut in half as pictured or cut into quarters for smaller appetizers.  I added the alfalfa sprouts just for that extra punch of flavour. 

Spinach Wraps

whole wheat tortillas
sliced mushrooms
baby spinach
alfalfa sprouts

There are no measurements for these wraps.  Make up as many as you want.  Spread a tortilla with hummus.  Add a single layer of baby spinach on top, followed by mushrooms and alfalfa sprouts.  Roll the wraps, pressing slightly to hold the wrap together.  Cut as desired.  Secure with a toothpick for serving.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hearty Beef and Tomato Soup

Old Man Winter just refuses to release his grip on what has been a rather long, drawn out winter.  We've had snow on and off since the first week of November and just had snow April 18 so we have been dealing with snow for about twenty-two weeks.  If anything this long winter will go down in our culinary history as the Winter of Soups.  I think I made a pot of soup for each of those weeks, sometimes twice including the four weeks we were away on our winter vacation.  This year I was a bit more adventuresome in soup making, adding ingredients or using combinations I haven't tried before.  The beauty of soup is as long as you have the basic stock you have the makings of soup!

hearty beef and tomato soup
I wrote earlier about a fundraiser one of our grandkid's school had with bean packets from the Bean Ladies.  One of the packets I bought was a simple bean mixture to be used for soup.  The next time I was at the grocery store I checked to see what kind of mixes they have.  Now I know there are a number of dried soup mixes available but I didn't want anything with seasonings, just the actual dry mix.  The intent was if I liked that combination I could make up a few jars ready to use when desired.  I bought a soup mix by Bella Tavola that consisted of green split peas, yellow split peas, long grain rice, pearl barley, alphabet pasta and red split lentils in about equal portions.  The 450 g package (about 2 cups) was 99¢.  

I made a hearty beef and tomato soup using half of the package of mix, two soup bones, carrot, parsnip, onion and seasonings.  The total cost from scratch came out to about $3.65 with the most expensive ingredient being the soup bones.  Cooking time costs for electricity would add about 70¢ for a grand total of $4.35.  The yield was 8 - 10 servings of soup so the cost per serving was 44¢ to 54¢ bring the meal when served with homemade bread well under the $1 mark.  These numbers would make any frugalista jump for joy.  Talk about a budget stretching meal!

I apologize for the quality of the picture.  This soup has a little olive oil in it that makes it very difficult to take a good picture.  Olive oil not only helps to caramelize the soup bones adding colour and flavour but makes the lycopene in the tomatoes more accessible so this is a healthier soup.  The soup was an absolute winner hands down!  I made it from scratch using soup bones but you could start with pre-made stock to shorten the prep time.  There is a lot of room to tweek as desired as well.  I think it would be excellent substituting wild rice for the long grain rice for added flavour.  The only complaint I had with this particular mixture is the pasta cooked considerably faster than the other ingredients so I wasn't pleased with the softer pasta texture.  When using a homemade mix I will omit the pasta then add it to the soup in about the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Hearty Bean and Tomato Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
2 lg soup bones
1 onion, unpeeled and quartered
1 carrot, unpeeled
1 parsnip, unpeeled
5 peppercorns
1 lg bayleaf

Heat oil in bottom of pressure cooker with lid off.  Brown the soup bones.  Add remaining ingredients.  Fill with water to the ⅔ mark.  Place lid and regulator on the pressure cooker.  Bring to pressure and cook 40 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Allow to depressurize.  Strain the stock returning stock to pot.  Cut any meat from the bones adding to stock.


1 L (4 c) chopped tomatoes
500 ml (2 c) beef stock
1 c Bella Tavola soup mix
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp onion powder
salt to taste

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a low simmer and continue cooking until barley and lentils are tender.  Serve with dinner rolls, crackers or homemade bread. 

Bon Appétit!

Garden Gnome

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Crispier Waffles

kitchen quick tips

Some waffle recipes have melted butter as an ingredient.  Butter adds moisture to the waffle that results in a soggy waffle.   For crispier waffles use oil in your batter rather than melted butter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Steak and Noodles

We have had our house on the market for the last thirteen months.  The biggest inconvenience to this is keeping the house ready to show in short notice has really cramped my cooking style.  The kitchen can't be a mess not that it ever really is and cooking odours are not always conductive to showing a house well.  We held an open house last weekend so I had popped the indoor grill cartridge into the stove.  I'm not really sure why other than it makes the stove look fancy which really doesn't matter because the stove is not included in the sale.  Following the open house we hosted games night then the next day I eyed up the very chilly weather outdoors while taking a couple of steaks from the freezer.  By dinner it was quite cold with high winds so we decided to grill the steaks indoors.  Oh my gosh, did the house ever smell scrumptious!

steak and noodles
There was a fair amount of leftover steak so Monday I divided it in half with one portion going into the freezer and the remainder for dinner.  I cut the steak into thin strips.  I used one large spanish onion cut into thin slices then cooked that in butter and olive oil until just golden.  Then I stirred in the steak slices.  While the onion mixture finished cooking I cooked broad egg noodles and peas.  The resulting meal was quite delicious, perfect for a lazy and snowy day.  I can't believe we had about two inches of snow on the ground overnight on a later April day!  It wasn't a fancy meal but it was practical.  A bit of beef gravy would have been a nice addition as well but I used the last of that from the freezer a couple of weeks ago.  At any rate, we enjoyed a lovely dinner while pondering the snow on the ground outside thinking we have more than had enough of winter!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Old Fashioned Comfort Food

The snow can be blowing, the wind howling, sleet hitting the windows or so hot breathing is difficult and yet some foods comfort us.  My gosh, I think everyone has a few tried and true dishes they think of as comfort food.  These are the dishes we turn to over and over because not only are they family favourites, they are down right comfort food.  So what makes a comfort food?  In all honesty I think comfort food is any food that just makes you feel warm and cozy inside regardless of what is going on outside. 

pork chops in mushroom sauce
Boneless pork loin chops in a mushroom sauce is one of our ultimate, cold weather, comfort meals.  It is rich and creamy beyond belief!  The secret to the sauce is condensed cream of mushroom soup, one of the very few soups that I buy commercially made.  The reason being I cannot home can a version of this soup and only so much of homemade cream of mushroom soup will store in the freezer.  The lactic acid in the condensed soup and added milk along with the slow cooking method result in tender pork chops that melt in your mouth.  I often add sliced mushrooms to the sauce as well.  The pork chops pair nicely with steamed potatoes, rice or noodles.  My husband's favourite is pairing the meat and sauce with potatoes. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Think Vegetarian

Frugal Kitchens 101When it comes to finding those great vegetable sides it really pays to think vegetarian.  The reason being is vegetarian dishes add creative touches a bit outside of the norm because they are not relying on meat to make the dish.  For that reason, it is possible to find a wide variety of dishes that are strictly vegetable, grain, lentil and legume based.  There are different classifications of vegetarism with the strictest being vegan where no animal or animal product is used in cooking including honey.  Meat is generally the most expensive component of any meal.  By thinking vegetarian it is possible to liven up your meals and discover new ways to use ingredients while saving on your food dollars.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on thinking vegetarian.

There is the misconception that vegetarian dishes are boring simply because they don't include meat but that is furthest from the truth.  While vegetarian dishes avoid the use of meat, some use dairy (eg. eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese), fish or seafood depending on the degree of vegetarism.  Many of the ingredients bought in bulk are less expensive than bought in the grocery stores but this is one area where you do need to know prices as some items like rices and beans may be less expensive in the grocery store.  Here's a few tips for incorporating vegetarian dishes into your meals.

  • herbs/seasonings - Just as in meat based cooking, vegetarian cooking relies on the creative use of seasonings and herbs.  Grow fresh herbs on your windowsills and buy in dried herbs in bulk in the quanties you need.
  • think raw - Many fruits and vegetables can be enjoyed raw so take advantage of those dishes like salads and sandwiches on hot summer days.
  • beans - Dried beans come in so many varieties that it is hard to get bored with them.  Traditionally they are the ultimate frugal food but they also play a large role in vegetarian cooking.  Black beans in particular form the basis of vegetarian burgers, spreads and dips.  Dried beans cost about 90¢ per pound with one pound yielding 4 to 5 cups cooked beans making them a true budget stretching food.  Keep mung beans on hand for sprouting to be used in salads, stir fry and breads.
  • legumes - Legumes are a popular soup ingredient but can also be cooked then added to other ingredients like beans to make vegetarian burgers.
  • nuts and seeds -  Nuts are often used as a source of protein in vegetarian dishes as well as providing texture, flavour and visual appeal.  Be warned that some nuts can be quite expensive with pine nuts being quite expensive.  I paid a little over $15 for about 1 c of pine nuts!  Other nuts (eg. walnuts, pecans, almonds and peanuts) are usually quite reasonably priced. Sesame and sunflower seeds are quite inexpensive.  Some seeds (eg. alfalfa, mustard) are quite delicious when sprouted for a rich source of Vitamin C that adds both colour and texture to salads, sandwiches and breads.
  • stocks - Vegetable based soups and stews are delightful.  The stock can be vegetable (eg. made using a mixture of vegetables), tomato, or mushroom.  Flavours are built from there adding rice, legumes, beans or pasta along with chunks of vegetables if desired.  
  • soy - There are three main soy products used in vegetarian cooking.  Tofu has a soft cheese consistency and surprisingly little flavour.  It is often added to stir fry, soups or stews where it picks up the flavour of the other ingredients.  TVP (textured vegetable protein) comes in pellet form with a cooked texture similar to ground beef.  It is used mainly as a meat substitute for soups, chilis, meatloaf and burger.  Soybeans are roasted to be used as a snack. 
  • grains - Whole grains and various ground grains should be kept on hand for baking and cooking needs.  In general, all grains tend to be rather inexpensive.  By far the largest demand for grains in cooking is baking and that holds true to vegetarian cooking, with wheat being the most commonly used grain.  Bulgar, is a thick cut of wheat that is excellent for salads (eg. tabouli) or adding texture to vegetable burgers and vegetable meatloaf.  Rolled oats can be used as a cereal, for a wide variety of baked goods or to add texture to vegetable burgers.  Flax is a wonderful grain that can be used as part of a hot cereal or added to other dishes.  Of the grains, bleached white flour is the poorest nutritional value for your food dollar.  Rices are a grain as well.  Many think of vegetarian dishes using wild rice which really is not a true rice.  All rices though can be used in vegetarian cooking.  Rice is also a traditional frugal food.  It is inexpensive with white rice being the poorest value nutritionally.
  • produce - The key ingredient in many vegetarian dishes is vegetables although not always so.  Keep the costs down on produce by growing whatever you can organically.  When choosing fruits and vegetables, buy local produce when it is in season.  Shop farm stands and farmers' markets for lower priced produce.  Join a produce co-op if there is one in your area to help stretch you produce budget.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How It's Made Is Changing

My apologies for a late post today.  Back in early January I began the "How It's Made" series of posts to run on each Sunday.  While I like these posts and could easily continue, I have decided to take a different direction.    As you know this is a Canadian blog that does promote Canadian food products whenever possible.  I would like to focus on Canadian farmers and producers with a goal of sharing pictures, videos and perhaps interviews from Canadian farmers and producers each Sunday.  It is only right that as a Canadian I show my support for our local farmers and producers.  I find it absolutely amazing that we seriously could eat only foods grown and produced within a 100 mile radius of out home thanks to the wonderful farmers and food producers in our area.  The tentative name for the new series is "Canadian Made" but that may change.  The first in the new series will be posted on April 24, 2011 which is officially Easter Sunday.  I hope you enjoy the new series :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Faux Spaghetti

Fruits and vegetables provide such vibrant colours in meals that it is really is quite easy to eat a rainbow.  Who can resist the tantalize yellow of fresh sweet corn with a bit of creamy yellow butter or the beautiful ruby red of fresh strawberries?  Even the plain old potato is not so plain when it comes to colour with the crispy golden brown skin of an oven baked potato playing against the creamy white flesh.  Squashes range in colour from creamy white with a deep green or yellow skin left on for cooking (eg. summer squash) to a deep, rusty orange with other shades of yellow and orange in between.  The darker orange the colour is, the more beta carotene the squash contains.

faux spaghetti using spaghetti squash

I love playing with the colours of fruits and vegetables, bringing life and vibrance to the plate.  Squash is the ideal way to add those splashes of orange.  Spaghetti squash has a wonderful medium toned yellowish orange colour.  It can be served much the same way regular spaghetti is served.  I baked the squash then plated the strands topping them with steamed baby spinach and homemade roasted Italian sauce with mushrooms.  I garnished with chopped red onion and fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  I found the spaghetti squash wept a bit more than I would have liked but some of the excess liquid could have been from the steamed spinach as well.  This excess liquid affected the appearance only and I'm sure it is something easily remedied.  It was a cheery, tasty and delicious low calorie meal.  Not only is this meal low calorie it also comes under the category of vegetarian.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spaghetti Squash

Winter and summer squash are available year round in the grocery stores however the best price is always when local squash are in season.  Squash is usually priced somewhere between 29¢ and 39¢ in season, 49¢ to 99¢ the remainder of the year.  In terms of nutrition, squash is an excellent value for your food dollars.  Not only is squash easy to prepare it is quite versatile.  Squash can be used in soups, stews, casseroles, as a side dish, in desserts and breads.  Squash seeds can be roasted for a delicious snack.

spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita pepo) is a winter squash that gets its name from the long fleshy strands that resemble spaghetti.  This squash is high in folic acid, potassium, Vitamin A and beta carotene.  It is low in calories at 42 cal per 1 cup serving in comparison to 220 cal in 1 cup of spaghetti.

Despite its appearance, spaghetti squash does not taste like spaghetti nor does it have the same texture.  The squash can be baked, steamed or microwaved.  As with all winter squashes, I prefer baking that brings out the flavour by slightly caramelizing the natural sugars.  Spaghetti squash is quite good topped with a little butter and salt or it can be topped with your choice of sauces.

To bake: Wash the squash then cut in half lengthwise.  Remove the seeds.  Place about a half inch of water in a baking dish.  Turn the squash halves upside down in the baking dish, cut side down.  Bake uncovered at 350ºF until squash is tender, about 45 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Place squash cut side up on cooling rack.  Use a fork to pull the squash strands from the shell.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Cake Flour

kitchen quick tips

Cake flour gives a more tender, delicate texture to baked goods than all-purpose flour.  If you don't have cake flour the substitution is:

  • sift together 2 tbsp cornstarch and 7/8 c all purpose flour to make 1 cup cake flour

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Panko Encrusted Pork Chops

Breading, specifically bread crumbs is often used as a coating for meats, poultry and seafood.  While I am not a huge fan of heavy coating I'm a bit partial to coconut fried shrimp and my husband's famous signature pork chops.  Panko is a Japanese style of bread crumb made from a custom baked bread that results in airy, crispy crumbs that give a delicate crunch without burning problems.  These bread crumbs are more expensive than store bought bread crumbs and considerably more expensive than homemade bread crumbs.  I paid $3.49 for a 227 g box so that is rather expensive.  This is not the type of bread crumb you would use on a regular basis but it does lend itself well to specific culinary applications so well worth keeping a box on hand. 

panko encrusted pork chopsMost applications for panko call for deep frying and believe me it really is the only bread crumb to use if you want delectable coconut fried shrimp.  I decided to use them for panko encrusted pork chops baked in the oven.  This was just an easy, quick meat serving.

I set up three bowls - one with seasoned flour, one with panko bread crumbs and dried parsley flakes, and one with beaten eggs.  Then I dipped each boneless pork loin chop into the egg mixture, then flour, then egg and finally panko mixture.  I baked at 400ºF until golden brown.

I served the panko encrusted pork chops with leftover slow cooker baked bean, home canned green beans and oven baked potatoes.  The chops were absolutely delightful!  They were moist and tender inside yet crunchy on the outside which gives me an idea for pork nuggets.  All in all I was rather pleased with the results.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

Baked beans are a family favourite.  While many buy baked beans already made in cans then doctor them up, the best baked beans are made from scratch, cooked long and slow to develop their rich flavour.  Dried navy beans are normally used for baked beans.  These beans cost about $1.89 per 900 g package or about 90¢ per pound.  One pound of dried beans is 2 cups that will give a yield of 4 to 5 cups cooked beans depending on the type of beans.  This is the equivalent of about 2½ to 3 cans (398 ml/14 oz) of prepared baked beans.  As a cost comparison the dried beans come in at a third of the price or less of prepared baked beans and they are not difficult to make.  The nice thing about homemade is you control the flavour.

slow cooker baked beans
I made a batch of slow cooker baked beans a couple of days ago.  The slow cooker is an ideal choice for the long, slow cooking required for baked beans.  It does not add as much caramelization as oven baked or the smokiness of grilled baked but it does give quite favourable results.  The beans can cook all day without the worry of checking the outdoor grill.  A slow cooker is less expensive in terms of electricity usage than the standard sized oven. 

I used my smaller 2.5 quart Rival (model 5025) for the baked beans.  It was the perfect size although the recipe could have been increased by half without a problem with respect to volume.  I developed the recipe as the end result came to mind.  The flavour was quite good.  I think next time I will add just a little browning (caramel) to heighten the flavour and deepen the colour.

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

2 c dried navy beans
1 bacon end (about 2-inch piece)
1 c ketchup
2 tbsp fancy molasses
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp dry onion flakes
 3-4 drops liquid smoke

Rinse the beans then cover with water and soak overnight or use the quick soak method.  Drain beans and pour into large saucepan.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook 1 hour until beans are tender.  Drain and pour into slow cooker.  Trim excess fat from bacon end.  Add remaining ingredients to beans, mixing well.  Set slow cooker to low.  Cook 4 to 5 hours.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Buying Incentives

Frugal Kitchens 101

Buying incentives are a normal way of manufacturers, growers and stores to get you to buy there.  The premise is if they offer you a little extra or some type of reward, you will not only buy the first time around but you may even become a repeat customer.  This is a proven method to get folks to buy.  If you shop the way we do for a large portion of our food by going to the source you will come across the baker's dozen.  A baker's dozen is thirteen meaning you pay for a dozen and get one free.  It was common in old fashioned bakeries hence it's name and it remains a common practice at many farmer's markets and roadside stands as well as mom & pop bakeries.  There are several other buying incentives for food, some of them better than others.  Today's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on food buying incentives.

  • baker's dozen - Essentially you buy a dozen and get one free.  This is a common practice when buying corn at roadside stands.  The main caveat is to know the current going price for any produce where this special may be offered so you aren't inadvertently paying a higher price for thirteen than you would for twelve.
  • the prize - A prize in the package was first started by Cracker Jacks then spread to other foods.  During the Great Depression it was common to offer by today's standards some rather nice prizes for buying the product.  Now, prizes are still included in Red Rose Tea in the form of collectible porcelain figurines and before discounting these some of the earlier figurines bring in a rather pretty penny for their antique value.  By far the heaviest users of prizes in the box are the cereal manufacturers.  In most cases the prize is just a gimmic and you are paying for it in the price of the product.
  • the free offer - Some manufacturers use free offers as a buying incentive.  Usually you have to collect a certain number of the require proofs of purchase (eg. UPC codes).  Since this is an offer over and above the cost of the product some can end up being rather good deals basically for the price of the samp to send in the proofs of purchase.
  • BOGO - This acronym stands for buy one get one free.  It is a common grocery store technique that is also used by manufacturers.  In this case it is important to know the regular price of the item and if it is an item that goes on sale often the regular sale price in order to determine whether the BOGO price is a good deal.
  • coupons - Coupons have long been a manufacturer's way to get consumers to buy their product as well as try new products.  There are several problem with coupons though.  First they tend to be for brand name products that are often still more expensive even with the coupon discount than similar generic products.  Second, coupons tend to be for heavily processed foods that a significantly higher priced than the whole foods.  For example a store bought cake mix with coupon off may end up costing 99¢ but the ingredients from scratch total less than 20¢ meaning even with the coupon you pay 79¢ for the packaging.
  • in store specials - Along with advertised sales many grocery stores have in store specials that aren't advertised.  In most cases these are rather decent savings.  For example last year one of the grocery stores had an in store special on 50 lb bags of potatoes for $3.99 when the going rate at that time was $7.99.  Another time one of the stores had a whole frozen salmon about 20 inches long as an in store special for $2.  In store specials tend to be very much being at the right place at the right time.  This is one reason why $10 to $20 of your grocery store budget per shopping trip should be set aside to take advantage of these types of specials that are always an excellent deal.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How It's Made - Canadian Dairy Farmer

It always amazes me how out of touch with food production many urban dwellers really are.  One of our kids is a primary grade teacher.  Do you know if you ask a child in grade 2 (age 7) where apples come from the first response is the grocery store.  Some of these children have never been to a farm and have no concept as to where their food actually comes from.  Even parents don't think of the farmers who put food on their table.  There is a very good message circulating along the countryside, throughout communities and on lie.  That message is "If you ate today, thank a farmer!"

The plight of Canadian farmers echos what is being seen globally.  Many of our friends and family are farmers - full fledged, that's how they make their living farmers.  One of the biggest problems is their children do not want to stay on the farm when they get older so there is that drain.  Many farmers simply can no longer make a living by farming alone so they and/or their spouse must work off the farms as well.  Farmers are self-employed lacking the employment benefits like CPP, UI, prescription coverage, dental coverage, incidental medial coverage, and retirement plans.  Young folk going into farming as a way of life are few and far between.

I found this great video of a young couple starting out as dairy farmers in 2004.   It is refreshing to hear their optimism.  It is now 2011 so I would be very curious whether they are still dairy farming but with the cards stacked against them it is doubtful.  Dairy farming is an expensive operation and as with any farming endeavor there are risks but it is possible to make a living.  Part of that is due to the price of milk being controlled by the Dairy Board so Canadian dairy farmers are guaranteed a fair price for the milk they produce. 

Dairy cattle produce milk only during lactation so they are artificially inseminated yearly for 6 years.  The newborn calf suckles a couple of days then goes to another paddock to be raised.  A milking cow will produce about 35 L of milk per day for 10 to 12 months.  Associated costs include feed, vet bill, transportation, abattoir, bedding, barn heating/electricity, equipment as well as costs for maintaining equipment.  In addition to that, a dairy farmer cannot simply pick up to go on vacation as the cows need daily attention.  At best a family member or hired hand can help out.  Think of all the dairy you use on a regular basis all possible from the dedication of Canadian dairy farmers, then say a word of thanks!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Chicken with Mushroom Fried Rice

There are four Chinese restaurants within about 40 minutes of us, each with their own unique style.  That is something I appreciate because even though it is Chinese it isn't all the same.  We usually get Chinese take-out at our favourite restaurant two or three times a year and eat in at the other two once a year.  The furthest from us has a rather interesting menu with a couple of sides unique to them.  This restaurant is not one we would go out of our way to go to but when in the area take-out is in order.  Most of their dishes have almonds and I've noticed that almonds play a large role in a lot of their dishes.  My husband stopped for take-out there a couple of days ago. 

chicken with mushroom fried rice
Chinese take-out is expensive coming in at about $50 per order for a dinner for three plus extras.  However, it usually gives us two meals each plus a bit of leftovers for another meal.  With respect to other take-out, Chines take-out despite the initial cost tends to be the more fugal choice sine all of it reheats nicely.

There was a bit of mushroom fried rice left over so we sautéed boneless, skinless chicken breast strips to a golden brown.  Then we tossed in the mushroom fried rice to create a new creation with lots of flavour.   This was an easy, peasy meal at it's finest taking about 15 minutes to put together.

Mushroom fried rice is extremely easy to make and there really are no measurements.  Start with mushroom slices then sautée them in butter until nicely browned.  Stir in the desired amount of cooked rice along with about a cup of cubed cooked carrots and sweet peas.  Add just enough chicken stock to give a nice, creamy texture.  I think cooking the rice in chicken stock boosts the flavour as well for this dish. 

Friday, April 08, 2011

Beef and Barley Soup

Old Man Winter is not letting go of his chilly grasp just yet.  In fact we encountered rather ugly roads with heavy slush and freezing rains coming home from the kids this past weekend.  As a result I'm still in soup making mode.  Soups are just so easy to make and they are one dish where you can let your creativity run wild.  Basically anything goes with soups as long as you have a stock or broth and one or more vegetables then one or more of optional ingredients like meat or poultry, grains, lentils, dried beans or noodles.

beef and barley soup
Barley is a rather underused grain in our home and yet is it very easy to cook.  It goes quite nicely in a soup especially anything beef based.  I made a delicious beef and barley soup a couple of nights ago.  Unlike a lot of my beef soups I added tomato paste to the stock for a zesty flavour. 

While I keep a lot of home canned stocks on hand and use a lot of stocks in cooking I often make soups right from scratch.  That is I make the stock first usually using a pressure cooker than I finish off the soup on the stovetop or in the slow cooker.  This allows me the greatest level of creativity to take the soup in which ever direction desired.

Beef and Barley Soup

2 beef soup bones
1 medium onion
1 carrot
1 parsnip
1 stalk celery

Wash but do not peel vegetables.  Cut carrots, parsnip and celery into 3-inch pieces.  Cut unpeeled onion into quarters.  Place vegetables and soup bones in 6 L pressure cooker.  Fill with water to the  ⅔ mark on the pressure cooker.  Secure the lid.  Place on high heat to bring to pressure.  Reduce heat to just the point where the pressure cooker maintains pressure.  Cook for 40 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to de-pressurize.

Add 1 lb stew beef and about 2 c of water.  Bring pressure cooker to pressure then cook 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let de-pressurize.  Remove meat pieces and any meat from the bones.  Cut meat pieces into bite size and place in slow cooker.  Strain the stock mixture pouring stained stock into slow cooker.


1 bay leaf
6 oz tomato paste
⅔ c barley (soaked using quick method)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Cook in slow cooker on high 2 hours.  Sauté a half pound of sliced mushrooms in butter.  Drain and stir into soup.  Add 2 cups frozen peas.  Continue cooking on high 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaf and serve.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Turning White Sugar Into Brown

kitchen quick tips

If you need brown sugar for a recipe but you are out, the substitutions are:

  • light brown sugar - 1 c granulated sugar mixed with 1 tbsp molasses
  • dark brown sugar - 1 c granulated sugar mixed with 2 tbsp molasses

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Second Attempt at Homemade Taco Shells

Taco Bell was one of the very few fast food restaurants I would indulge in for the tacos but it's on my hit list of never to eat at again restaurants so I am on a quest to make homemade tacos from scratch.  That means I want everything made from scratch including the shell and the seasoning.  This quest is all about creating the perfect taco!  During our last vacation I bought a tortilla press and masa harina.  My first attempt at making tortillas was encouraging.  With a bit of tweaking I should be able to get as good as if not better than store bought tortillas.  Tortillas can be formed into salad bowls and taco shells.  I was a bit disappointed in the first taco shells I made so was on to plan B.

taco shell maker
Google is an amazing tool that saves an awful lot of leg work.  I made a note to check for some type of taco form the next time I was at a kitchen specialty shop.  Being rather impatient I did a search to find that such a character does exist then went onto eBay and purchased one.

The taco shell maker I bought is really a simply designed tool meant to get the perfectly shaped taco shell.  Now some would question why I would want to make my own taco shells since they are quite inexpensive.  The reason is quite simple in that I am after the fresh flavour of homemade.  Saving a bit of money on the cost of taco shells by making homemade is just an added bonus.  Making taco shells one at a time likely is not practical for a larger family but it works for our needs.  I'm sure there are taco shell formers available that will make more than one at a time.

using taco shell maker
Pictured is the taco shell maker in use.  I put a fresh made tortilla shell into the form then proceeded to fry it in the deep fryer.  Here I ran into my first problem.  The depth of my deep fryer does not allow the loaded taco shell maker to be fully immersed so the shell cooks all at once.  This is not a huge problem as it only takes a few seconds to fry on each side.  The second problem is the actual design of the taco shell maker that when flipped over to fry the other side leaves a gap of unfried tortilla at the handle side.  It is impossible to get this portion into the oil given the design.  The alternative is to use an open pot of oil on the stove deep enough that the entire form can be submersed.  While this is an option, it is not one I'm overly warm to since heating oil on the stove is more of a safety risk than using a temperature controlled deep fryer. 

homemade tacos
There has been progress in my journey towards making homemade taco shells.   The end result were delicious homemade beef tacos.  The homemade taco shells were quite good but they are not the same texture as store bought taco shells.  Masa harina is quite a fine grind so the resulting taco shells are smoother and crispier than store bought.  I'm looking for a homemade taco shell closer in texture to store bought.  To my way of thinking using a corn meal mixture should give me what I'm looking for.  Corn meal is a bit coarser so I will be experimenting with that for the next batch of taco shells.  I will also try making them just a bit thicker as the ones made with the masa harina were a bit difficult to work with.  They kept tearing on me.  I also did not like that the shells made with masa harina had jagged edges.  While this doesn't affect the flavour it is an aesthetics thing.  So back to the drawing board for my next attempt that will hopefully be closer to what I'm after.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Old Fashioned Sponge Toffee

Each year just before Christmas my Mom made a batch of old fashioned pull toffee.  I was able to help with the pulling once the candy cooled enough for my small hands to handle.  It's the only candy my Mom ever made.  I recall she tried making fudge a few times but it never worked so she gave up.  I started candy making while still at home and have continued to make different candies over the years.  Most of the candy I make is for special occasions  and gift giving. 

Candy making is a lot of fun as you can easily make candies you can't buy in the grocery stores.  Homemade candies are inexpensive to make.  They are sure to delight!  Aside from working with hot sugar that can give a very nasty burn, the biggest problem in candy making is the weather.  It is best to make candy on a dry, low humidity day as high humidity will cause the candy to fail.  The reason being the sugar absorbs the moisture from the air which causes the candy to set up improperly.  Other than those two factors, candy making is quite easy to do.

old fashioned sponge toffee
When I was growing up we had two tiny variety stores in our very small town of less than 2,000 people.  My friends and I knew who made all the great homemade candy but the variety stores had candy that wasn't homemade.  One of my favourites was old fashioned sponge toffee.  This crispy delight was meant to be broke into uneven pieces to be enjoyed.  If I was careless and didn't wrap the left over chunk well, by next morning it would be nothing more than a thick, gooey syrup.

Old fashioned sponge toffee gets its name from its appearance that resembles a sponge.  The candy is hard and brittle yet melts in your mouth.  I have seen sponge toffee presented with melted chocolate for dipping but it is delightfully yummy without the chocolate!

Old Fashioned Sponge Toffee

1 c granulated sugar
1 c corn syrup
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp baking soda

Combine sugar, corn syrup and white vinegar in a large sauce pan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved then continue to cook on medium to 300ºF (hard crack stage).  Remove from heat and quickly stir in the baking soda.  Pour the frothy mixture into a buttered pan.  Allow to cool then break into pieces.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Eat A Rainbow

Frugal Kitchens 101

One key factor in a frugal kitchen is getting the best nutritional value for your food dollars.  When it comes to fruits and vegetables quite often a lower nutritional value option is chosen for the convenience factor or simply because it is mistakenly thought that the product is a healthy choice.  When it comes to produce the frugal choice with respect to nutrition is locally grown, in season produce.  A few days ago I came across a rather interesting nutritional concept, eat a rainbow.  The colours of the rainbow are red, orange, green, blue, yellow, and purple.  Missing are white, brown, and black.   So let's ponder first in terms of foods why white, brown and black foods are nutritionally not as good of a food value as those vibrantly coloured foods.

White foods can be both good and bad nutritionally.  On the good side there is milks, yogurts, potatoes, mushrooms, parsnips, some fish, seafood and white onions but even these some of these have a bit of negative like high fat or high carbohydrate content associated with them.  On the bad side for white foods is most are heavily processed (eg. flours, sugars, rice) to the point there really is little nutritional value left.  In addition to that because of the processing there can be carcinogenic residues left behind in the foods.  Good brown foods include lentils, dried beans, brown rice, honey, nuts and grains.  Nutritionally poor brown foods to avoid are dried cereals, some baked goods and deep fried foods.  In general black foods are restricted to charred foods that have carcinogenic residues from the cooking process.  In contrast to these foods, there is very little negative to say about the vibrant, rainbow coloured foods.  All are high in vitamins, minerals and fibre.  In particular:

  • red - These include tomatoes, berries, apples beets, pomegrantes, cherries, grapes, cranberries, red onions, some dried beans and watermelon.  Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a beneficial antioxidant.  Strawderries and raspberries are rich in anthocyanins that are cancer fighting antioxidants that also help protect against heart disease.  Cranberries contain compounds that prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract, preventing infections.  Red peppers contain lutein and zeaxanthin both of which lower the risk of macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness in older adults.  Kidney, small red and turtle beans are rich in fibre.
  • orange - These include carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, peaches, cantalope, squash, oranges and pumpkin.  Orange fruits are rich in Vitamin C while orange vegetables are rich in carotenoids.  Both provide protection against a number of diseases. 
  • green - These include leafy greens like lettuces, brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, avacados, asparagus, green beans, mung beans, seaweeds and peas as well as many fresh herbs.  Dark leafy greans are rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C.  Spinach is rich in Vitamin K which plays a critical role in normal blog clotting.  It is also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin.  Seaweeds are rich in iodine.  Mung beans can be sprouted for a rich source of Vitamin C.  Many herbs have medicinal qualities in addition to their culinary qualities.
  • blue - Blueberries are about the only blue food occuring in nature.  They are rich in antioxidants and anthocyanins, lowering the risk of heat attack as well as fighting cancer.
  • yellow - These include lemons, some squashes, yellow potatoes, yellow onions, some edible flowers, yellow beans, and some berries.  They are rich in Vitamin C and carotenoids.
  • purple - For the most part this includes concord grapes, red cabbage, berries, nori (a type of seaweed), and eggplant.  Purple foods are rich in antioxidants.   Concord grapes are rich in anthocyanins that help lower the risk of heart attack. 
Bon Appétit!

Garden Gnome

Sunday, April 03, 2011

How Its Made - Orange Juice From Grove to Table

Many start their day with sunny, bright flavour of orange juice. Most of the orange juice consumed in North America comes from oranges grown in orange groves in Florida aka the sunshine state.  Oranges grow best in good soil with plenty of sunshine and lots of rain.  To ensure the oranges are ripe for harvesting the water content is analyzed for the sugar content on the Brix scale.  When the sugar content reaches 10% the oranges are ready for harvesting.  The oranges are harvested using a continuous canopy shaker.  The oranges are shipped to the processing plant where they are washed then sized ready for juice extraction.  Pulp is added back into the juice then the juice is packaged into cartons ready for shipping out to the grocery stores.  Here is a video  showing the process.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Venison Stew

My husband goes to hunt camp each year not for the actual hunting as he doesn't hunt but for the guys get away.  They always have a great time.  Any catch is split amongst the guys wanting venison so that's a nice bonus for me.  Venison is a lean red meat that can be used in place of beef for most dishes.  What little fat there is has a poor mouth feel so it is best to serve venison piping hot as well as add a bit of other fat to the dish.  Usually pork fat (eg. bacon, ground pork) is added to venison dishes.

venison stew
One of our friends is an avid hunter to the point he and his wife very, very seldom ever eat domestic meat.  He hunts large and small game but as far as I know he doesn't fish which is a bit odd but hey, I fish and don't hunt.    Anyway, he always brings us wild game (eg. moose, deer, goose, turkey) ready for cooking or brings dishes he has prepared with wild game.  Now this hunter knows how to cook wild game!

Last Saturday night we had a get together and he brought a slow cooker full of venison stew.  It was absolutely delicious.  Being rather curious I listened for comments, chuckling a little under my breath at hearing him tell another guest that there was no recipe "I just cooked it".  You know some of the best meals come from just cooking it!  From appearances the stew was a simple on consisting of venison, mushrooms, carrots, onions and potatoes in a rich gravy but this stew had a secret ingredient that gave it a bit of pizzazz.  The secret ingredient, well not so secret anymore was hot peppers!  He didn't specify what hot peppers but I suspect red jalapeno.  The hot peppers added an amazing flavour without overpowering heat.  I will be experimenting adding hot peppers to my stew once my garden starts producing.  I think hot banana peppers would work nicely so this should be an interesting experiment!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Farfalle with Mushroom Sauce

Pasta comes in such a wide range of shapes and sizes it is impossible not to have a bit of fun with it.  Pasta is frequently served with some type of sauce that can vary from oil to tomato to meat or seafood based to cream based.  Any type of sauce really is fair game for pastas though.  The various shapes of pastas are designed to hold onto and trap all the delicious sauces possible.  Nooks, crannies, ridges and openings help to ensure you get a yummy mingling of sauce and pasta in every bite!

farfalle with mushroom sauce
Farfalle commonly called bow tie pasta gets its name from the distinctive shape that resembles a gentleman's bow tie or for the kiddies, butterflies.  It is available medium and small sizes.  This pasta is best with tomato or cream based sauces.

The only commercially canned soups I buy are those I cannot home can.  Essentially, this is the cream based soups and of those available, cream of mushroom soup is the one I buy a lot of.  Yet I don't use it as a soup.  Condensed cream of mushroom soup is the perfect base for sauces.  The lactic acid along with any added milk helps to tenderize meats cooked in the sauce as well.  It is a good base for pork, stew beef, cheaper cuts of beef and chicken.

I sautéed sliced fresh mushrooms in a little butter then stirred in browned ground beef, condensed mushroom soup, garlic pepper and milk then let the mixture simmer to thicken.  I spooned the hot meat sauce over cooked bow tie pasta, sprinkled with parsley then topped with chopped tomatoes and green onions.  It took less than 30 minutes to prepare making this a keeper dish.  The end result was a delicious creamy, meaty pasta dish full of flavour sure to please.