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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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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wimpy's Place in Lexington, Michigan

We spent the weekend in Lexington, Michigan arriving by boat Friday afternoon.  We were planning returning home Sunday but high winds caused  8 - 9 foot waves on Lake Huron, way to big for our boat to handle so we stayed until Monday.  Lexington is a small village, very much tourist based with most activity weekends and very quiet on weekdays.  There is a range of restaurants including two fast food restaurants catering to the tourists who mainly arrive by boat. 

Wimpy's Place onion rings
Wimpy's Place is located on Huron Avenue, the only road directly up the hill from the harbor.  It is about mid-way up on the second block.  We've been there several times in the past for breakfast special that is always quite good.   This trip my husband's breakfast was good but my sunny side up eggs were undercooked with a good portion of the white still raw.  It was easily remedied but this is something to be sure to mention when ordering if you like your eggs sunny side up.

We went to Wimpy's for dinner.  Wimpy's is named after Wimpy on the PopThey have a reputation of having the best burgers in town.  We ordered Wimpy's burgers and onion rings.  The onion rings were quite good!

Wimy's Place burgers
Wimpy burgers are homemade patties fried on a grill.  The burgers are about mid-way between a Happy Meal burger and a White Castle Burger,, and closer to White Castle style slyder.  They are flattened down while frying so the patties are not perfectly round.  You can order them with fried onions and/or cheese.  They are served with a couple of dill pickle slices.  Ketchup and mustard are on the table. 

My husband liked the burgers.  They are quite similar to White Castle burgers but a bit more on the greasier side.  I wan't impressed with the burgers but in fairness I was dealing with a severe allergic reaction to the medication I was taking for an infection so that affected my stomach.  I'll try them again next trip just to see if not feeling well clouded my judgement. 

These burgers would be extremely easy to duplicate at home on a griddle or even fry pan.  I watched her making the patties.  She rolled the ground beef into about 2 - inch balls then placed the ball on the grill (flat restaurant style) and flatten it with a flipper.  The result is a oddly shaped, thin pattie.  Onions if desired,  fry along with the pattie adding extra flavour.  The pattie is placed on a smallish bun then simply served with the minimum of condiments.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peeled Garlic Cloves

It is quite surprising what you can find pre-prepped in the produce section.  In most cases these items are more expensive because of their convenience.  Some items like baby carrots (really formed from larger carrots) the nutritional content is lowered somewhat.  Pre-cut fruits like apples have preservative to prevent oxidation that you won't get when using whole apples.  I very seldom use pre-prepared fruits or vegetables at home.  When I do, it is usually baby carrots for the eye appeal. 

peeled garlic cloves
There are times that these types of pre-prepared fruits and vegetables can be quite convenient.  The first one that comes to mind is longer road trips with children, especially if crossing from Canada into the US or visa versa where some produce is prohibited from entering.  A quick stop at a grocery store after clearing customs and you can have the cooler filled with healthy snacks for the drive.

Pre-prepared fruits and vegetables can be quite convenient when doing a bulk cooking session or canning.  Normally I would not consider buying peeled garlic.  It is a new product in a couple of the grocery stores here.  I was canning last week on a very tight schedule for packing, trying to do too much while both sick and tired.  That's not a good combination!  Walmart had 250 g bags of peeled garlic flagged as a new product on sale for $1.  I bought a bag to use in my canning sessions for the week.  This saved me a fair amount of time in peeling garlic and the results were the same.  The only thing I wasn't impressed with is the garlic is from China.   I'd rather buy locally if possible and garlic grown in Ontario is available so will be looking for local peeled garlic.  Garlic is planted in the fall so will plant some this year at our new house. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The Cookie Jar

Frugal Kitchens 101

At one time a cookie jar filled with homemade cookies graced the counters of most homemakers.  Part of the fun grandchildren enjoyed was getting a delicious treat from Grandma's cookie jar.  The cookie jar was more than a cookie jar; it was a jar of homemade love from the kitchen.  Fast forward to living in the workplace and being brainwashed by the food industry that commercially prepared are superior to home cooked, the cookie jar has almost gone the way of the dinosaur.   This week's Frugal Kitchen's 101 discusses ways to make this old family tradition part of your kitchen.

  • cookie jar - A cookies jar need not be fancy or expensive, it just needs to hold cookies.   A limited range of cookie jars can be found in department stores.   Resale stores and yard sales are great sources for cookie jars.  You can get creative and make your own ceramic cookies custom painted to match your kitchen if you have access to a ceramics studio.
  • cookies -  The magic of a cookie jar is the cookies.  The great news is many homemade cookies are considerably less expensive than store bought.  Here are a few tips on keeping your cookie jar filled without taking up a lot of valuable time:
    • refrigerator cookies -  Refrigerator cookies the homemade version of commercially made cookie dough except less expensive and greater variety.  The simply cookie dough that is rolled into a tube about 2 - inch diameter.  The roll is wrapped in wax paper ready for you to use anytime you want.  The nice thing is you don't have to use the entire tube all at once, just cut into slices the desired amount.
    • freezer cookies - Most cookies freeze nicely.  Make a large batch of the desired cookie dough then divide it into what you would use for each pop-in-the-oven fresh baked cookies.  Wrap well then freeze.  Thaw in refrigerator then prepare and bake.
    • cookies in a jar - Make up several cookies in a jar for both gift giving and your own use.  The dry ingredients are layered into mason jars.  The wet ingredients are added when you are ready to make the cookies.  Almost any cookie recipe will work for this purpose and the mix is shelf stable to is a great way to stock-up your pantry.
    • bulk cookies -  Declare a cookie baking day then do a bulk baking session.  Bulk cooking and baking sessions are a great way to fill the pantry shelves and freezer. 
    • family time cookies -  Declare a family cookie morning.  Each member of the family has a part in the cooking making process.  This a great time to bond, share laughter and knowledge in a fun activity. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Moose Burgers

Friends of ours do not eat any domestic meat.  He is a avid hunter of both small and large game so that is what they eat with respect to meat.  Neither of us hunt although my husband goes to hunt camp each year basically as the comic relief, chief cook and bottle washer.  So our friend brings us in very generous offerings of his catch. 

moose burger
Moose meat can be used in many dishes that you would use beef in.  My husband made moose burgers with ground moose meat.  As with most meat based burger patties the focus is on enhancing the flavour of the meat.  The reason being is there is no point eating a burger with no flavour.   My husband is the master of tasty burger patties, know for his homemade 100% all beef for his famous burger with attitude

Moose meat is considerably leaner than beef.  It needs needs a bit of a binder to make burger patties.  My husband uses egg, a very light sprinkling of bread crumbs and seasoning.  The burgers were topped with lettuce, tomato and caramelized onions.  I served them with a very simple salad with a homemade vinaigrette dressing.  They were scrumptious!  We are officially out of moose meat but our friend goes moose hunting shortly so here's hoping they have a successful hunt!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Easy Acini de Pepe Salad

A salad does not always have to be vegetable and/or fruit based.  Most salads are very easy recipes.  While it is true that many are vegetable based, some of our favourite salads are pasta or potato based with added vegetables.  These salads include the traditional tuna fish salad and potato salad.  Pasta based salads are quite versatile as a wide range of pasta shapes lend themselves nicely as a base for salads.

acini de pepe
I made an easy acini de pepe salad to complement left over chicken breasts and grilled corn on the cob.  I cut the grilled corn on the cob off the cob then froze to see how that would affect the flavour and texture when reheated.  I must say I was quite impressed with the results so will be freezing corn that way this year.

Acini de pepe is a pasta often used in Italian wedding soup.    It gets it's name for the Italian term for peppercorns.  When cooked acini de pepe is a bit smaller than peppercorns.  I think it has a lovely mouth feel, little balls of pasta.  Acini de pepe if lovely to use as a moldable salad similar to what you would do using rice.  I cooked the acini de pepe to al denté then drained and cooled the pasta.  I stirred in an Italian viniagrette.  I molded the pasta then placed on a bed of lettuce and topped with cherry tomatoes from the garden and chopped green onion.  It was a delightful pasta based salad!

[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, August 25, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Moving Your Kitchen

kitchen quick tips

Moving your kitchen to a new home is one of the most stressful parts of any move.  Pack in a manner that the kitchen is the first room organized first.  During the move, let everyone else who is helping and/movers to continue unloading your possessions while you focus on washing kitchen cabinet then put things away as quick as possible.  Don't worry as you can always reorganize once fully moved in.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Faux Crab Salad Wraps

We are not huge sandwich eaters and never have been even when all of our kids were at home.  We like our burgers and BLTs or an occasional power sandwich.  My husband likes the occasional grilled cheese but for the most part we certainly do not eat sandwiches in the same degree as many families.  We use wraps as many would use sandwiches so I was quite happy to find Old ElPaso Smart Fiesta whole grain tortillas.

faux crab salad wrap
Tortillas are easily made at home but it is convenient to buy them pre-made.  I like that I can buy whole grain tortillas for the same price as regular tortillas.  Old ElPaso is a brand I trust so I really am glad they introduced whole grain tortillas!  I like visiting the Life Made Delicious website more easy recipes using these tortillas. 

A couple of days ago I posted about faux crab dip.  I had a half of a package of the left-over imitation crab meat to use up.  I made faux crab salad wraps for lunch.  This is one application where I do feel the imitation crab meat works quite nicely.  It has a nice texture quite suitable for wraps.  I won't be using the imitation crab meat again is because of the high sugar content since my husband has impaired glucose tolerance.  I will substitute with a firmer textured fish for these wraps.  Of note though is the way I put the wraps together.  I placed the salad filling on a lettuce lined tortilla then wrapped with the lettuce first and overwrapping with the tortilla.  This technique prevents the tortilla from getting soggy due to the filling. 

[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.]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cod Fingers

Appetizers are the meal starters that many home cooks overlook except perhaps when entertaining.  I admit that we don't have appetizers as part of our evening meal daily but we do have them a couple of times a week.  An appetizer is meant to stimulate the appetite so the serving size should be small and the choice should compliment the main course. 

cod fingers
Cod fingers are a wonderful appetizer that is quite easy to make at home.  They are served simply with a tartar or lemon sauce.  You will need one small cod fillet per person.  Cut the cod fillets into 3/4 - inch strips.  Coat with a simple beer batter.  Deep fry until golden brown.  Drain and serve with the desired sauce.  

Cod fingers easily double as fish sticks for children.  Now the neat thing is you can fry up beer battered cod whole fillets for the adults then make cod fingers for the kids.  This is a time you want to use individual dipping bowls too.  I find our grandkids love dipping especially when they have their own dipping bowl.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Moving

Frugal Kitchens 101

Since being newlyweds we have moved seventeen times.  It has always been very important to me that the kitchen is first in order during the move and following the move.  Delivered pizza and beer or take-out may be fine for one night, but it just does not cut it for other meals during the move.  Delivery and take-out are expensive as well as not being the healthiest choice for dining.  The way to deal with this problem is to take the actual move into consideration.  A move that is long distance needs to be considered in a different light than a short distance move.  A move that will be extended out over a number of days has a bit more leeway than one that must be done in the same day.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses a few of the ways I deal with moving:

  • long distance moves - Our major long distance move was Ontario to Alberta then back to Ontario.  We had the little ones on the more to Alberta and I was pregnant on the move back to Ontario.  There was no way we could afford a lot of eating out either move.  We relied on healthy, well packed coolers, stopping for ice and restocking as needed.  We bought an abundance of fruits and vegetables along the way stopping to wash them at public washrooms.  I know that doesn't sound very sanitary but I washed the sink first before washing the produce.  We stopped at rest areas for picnic lunches and truck stops for hot meals.  It is a good idea on long distance moves to have a bit of camping equipment like a camp stove and the basics.  Better yet if staying in motels on the move choose those with kitchenettes.  Long distance moves are just difficult to deal with due to the travel involved and the logistics of taking food but it can be done quite easily without a lot of expense.
  • short distance moves - Most of our moves have been short distance (an hour or less away).  In this case I maintain two kitchens even on a same day move.  That way anyone helping us can easily get snacks and beverages at the old and new houses. 
  • set a budget - The disruption of moving will more than likely affect your eating patterns for at least a week.  On average per person breakfast with coffee will cost $6, lunch (soup, sandwich, drink) $8 and dinner with drink and dessert $20 if eating out.  This can really add to your moving expenses but it may help save your sanity.  So it is a toss up as to how much you want to spend on take-out or restaurants.  By far if eating out during the moving adjustment period we will eat out for dinner.  So a minimum budget for us is $280 for two but I round it off to $300.  We seldom spend that because I am adamant about keeping the kitchen function on each end but it is nice to know we could if we have to.
  • restocking - When I know we are moving I go into pantry mode.  Unless I absolutely have to I won't buy any food at all.  I rely on my pantry stock.  I use the three food rule to help me reduce what is on the pantry shelves, freezers and refrigerator. 
  • timing - You can't always time your move to coincide with canning or freezing sessions and nice weather but if you can, try to do so.   If I have my druthers I like moving in early spring, past the cold weather but in time to get the garden in and before the busy canning season starts.   I was elated when the moving date was initially set at Nov 1 but then by mutual consent it was moved legally to Sep 15 with us getting the keys on Sep 1.  The problem is this is right in the midst of my busiest canning season and canning stops for nothing which means very, very busy days ahead. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grilled Maple Salmon

We eat a lot of fish, mainly locally caught bass, pickerel and perch.  However, we love cod, tuna and salmon.  I'm very picky about the quality of the fish we consume.  Salmon in particular is available as farm raised or wild.  Farm raised salmon is usually a bit cheaper but not by much.  The problem with farm raised salmon is it is often dyed to get the beautiful pink salmon colour and it lacks the deep, rich salmon flavour of wild salmon.  We always buy wild salmon with no additives even when dining out.

grilled maple salmon
Simple is always a good policy when grilling but that doesn't mean the food needs to be bland or plain.  I paired Canadian maple syrup with wild salmon on the grill.  There is just something about this pairing that works so I use it quite often.  The sweetness of the maple syrup enhances the deep salmon flavour without overpowering it.  I used maple syrup as a mop while grilling then as a finishing glaze and finally as dipping sauce.  I served the grilled maple salmon with camp style potatoes made with red onion and seasoned with garlic pepper. 

I just love salmon grilled this way.  It is absolutely delightful!  Unlike some fish, salmon does lend itself well to grilling.  It is a nice firm fish so you don't have to worry about it breaking up on the grill like some fish would.  Salmon is definitely one of my favourite grilling fish!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Faux Crab Dip

I am not a huge fan of anything imitation, faux or artificial especially when it comes to cooking.  We are in high gear preparing for our upcoming move so I'm using the pantry rule of using one thing from the pantry and one from the freezer for each meal while avoiding the sales.  This will reduce the food we will have to move but in reality we start moving in the midst of the tomato harvest so I will be canning, filling up a lot of the empty jars.  Anyway, my husband picked up two packages of imitation crab meat when it was on sale.  At a $1 a package it was worth the try so I made the first package into an imitation crab meat salad.  Yesterday I spotted the remaining package in the freezer so used half of it to make a creamy dip.

faux crab dip
I make a lot of dips for entertaining.  Much like my salad dressings they are created as I go with the ingredients written in my kitchen journal.  My base is always a combination of Miracle Whip or mayonnaise and sour cream or plain yogurt.  Those four ingredients give a nice base to build on.  From there I add vegetables, fruits, herbs, seasonings to create a unique dip for my guests.

I made a faux crab dip using half of a package of the imitation crab meat.   The flavour was quite delicious so I can't wait to make the dip using real crab meat.  It will change the flavour and texture slightly but will still be rich and creamy.

Faux Crab Dip

1/2 pk imitation crab meat
1/3 c sour cream
1/3 c cream cheese
1/3 c Miracle Whip
1 green onion
1 tbsp red onion
1 tbsp radish
2 tbsp chopped cucumber

Place sour cream, cream cheese and Miracle Whip in food processor.  Blend until smooth.  Add in crab meat and pulse twice.  Chop vegetables fine then add to mixture and pulse twice.  Spoon into serving dish.  Refrigerate 1 hour for flavours to meld.  Serve with corn scoops or crudites. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

My New Kitchen Purchases

I have often bragged about my Jenn-Air range with the interchangeable cartridges and extra capacity oven.  Don't get me wrong as I really love that range but with the sale of this house and moving on I have decided on moving on with ranges as well.  I grew up cooking with natural gas.  That's the only thing I knew back then besides a charcoal grill.  Over the years I have learned to cook on electric, wood and a variety of other fuels.  My beloved Jenn-Air will not fit the alotted space and it's white which worked well for this kitchen but not my new kitchen.  So yesterday we went shopping and spend just a bit more than anticipated but I have a new gas range for my kitchen.  The gas range is heavy duty so I will no longer have to worry about the canner.  It is a 5 burner Whirlpool gas range of which I will talk about more once delivered and set up.  I wanted dual fuel with gas cook top and electric oven but apparently those are falling out of favour so I went with all gas.  One of my kids is taking the Jenn-Air so I can visit.  At any rate so I'm happy to be going back to natural gas cooking. Using natural gas is about a third of the price of electricity so we will be saving right off the bat.

We also bought a new dishwasher because clearly the one in the house is not what we want.  Call me a snob but the existing dishwasher had to go.  We also went with Whirlpool rather than my coveted Bosch but I have my reasons for doing so of which I will discuss when then new dishwasher is installed.  We also bought a really cute bar stool breakfast set for the kitchen and a new dining room set.  Tomorrow we get to deal with the wonderful (aka friend) salesmen for our new bedroom furniture.  That's going to take a bit more but at least we have kitchen and dining room set for the move that is in less than two weeks!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Declutter

kitchen quick tips

A no cost way to get more space and a streamlined look in your kitchen is to declutter.  Remove everything hanging on the fridge door, clear the kitchen counters off entirely and get anything that doesn't belong in the kitchen out.  Store all those small appliances in cupboards out of the way except those that are used on a daily basis.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moose Shoulder Steaks

While I am an advid fisherman neither of us hunt even though my husband goes to hunt camp each year.  If the guys are lucky we get a bit of venison for the freezer.  A friend of ours does not eat domestic meat at all.  He brings me a lovely assortment of both large and small game.  He hunts both the large and small game but I don't think he fishes much so I give him fish in return.

moose shoulder steak
Our friend brought us moose shoulder steaks, enough for a lovely dinner for two.  Moose meat is quite lean so it does need to be cooked on lower heat or braised.  The flavour is fairly close to beef without the game flavour of venison.  Unlike venison, moose meat does not require an additional fat like bacon for the mouth feel.  It can be used very much like you would beef.

My husband grilled the moose shoulder steaks to medium rare.  The steaks were served with honey glazed herbed baby carrots and camp-style potatoes.  Both carrots and potatoes were cooked on the grill.  It was a lovely and quite tasty, low fat dinner!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Baby Spinach Salad

We eat some type of salad once or twice most days so I am always looking for new salad ideas.  Last weekend we had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy a barbeque at our friend's farm.  This is one of the friends we get our beef on the hoof from so have visited numerous times.  I love their farm.  It is a gorgeous 25 acre spread.  They just put in an absolutely amazing and very natural looking babbling brook that can be enjoyed from the spacious deck or in the cute sitting area beside the brook.  They are both quite accomplished cooks.

baby spinach salad
Salads do not need to be fancy or complicated.  That is one of the beauties of salads.  At the same time salads do not need to be the same old, boring garden or Caesar salad.  Don't get me wrong as both salads are quite good but they are over served, being the salads of choice at most restaurants.

Our hosts served a very simple baby spinach salad with pear slices and a delightful maple syrup dressing.  It was a refreshing change!  The flavours paired nicely together.  This is a combination I will be experimenting with.  I have a couple of ideas to enhance the salad just a little without complicating it too much.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Strawberry Cups

We don't eat a lot of desserts, definitely not on a daily basis.  Rather desserts are more of a special event or holiday offerings.  Last week my husband and I were celebrating the sale of our house.  It has been a long time coming so we were elated.  I made an easy summer dessert to go with our meal.

strawberry cups
Strawberry Delight has always been an easy to make summer treat using either Cool Whip or fresh whipped cream.  I modified the basic strawberry delight to make strawberry cups.   They were easy to make and just a bit dressed up.

Strawberry Cups
1 box strawberry jello
2 c water
2 cup Cool Whip Lite
6 strawberries mashed
1⅓ c Oreo cookie crumbs
2 tbsp butter
¼ c granulated sugar

Prepare the jello as per instructions on the box.  Let jello set up.  Mix with Cool Whip then stir in the mashed strawberries.  Refrigerate.  Mix cookie crumbs, butter and sugar together.  Press into muffin tins covering the bottom then partially up the sides to form a cup.  Bake at 350ºF for 5 minutes.  Cool.  Fill with the strawberry mixture.  Chill until firm.  Carefully pop the cups out of the muffin tins.  Garnish with sliced strawberries.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Stainless Steel

kitchen quick tips
Buff your stainless steel cookware and other stainless steel kitchen items to a sparkly finish by wiping with a soft cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grilled Corn on the Cob

We use our outdoor grill almost daily during the hot weather but also enjoy grilling outdoors year round.  The outdoor grill can be used very much like an oven so it is quite versatile.  Much like an oven the entire entée, bread and some desserts can be made on the grill.

corn on the cob on the grill
The most common method of cooking corn on the cob is in a large pot of boiling water.  The problem with this method is it leaches out both flavour and nutrients.  Corn lends itself nicely to grilling.  Grilling keeps the flavour and nutrients where you want them.

Grilling is perfect for cook larger amounts of corn without dealing with larger pots.  It is more economical in terms of energy usage because water is not being heated.  Grilled corn is cooked in the husk.  In order to allow the corn to cook properly the unhusked cobs of corn needs to be soaked for at least ten minutes.  This prevents the husks from burning too much as well as providing moisture to help with the cooking.  Essentially the corn is steamed while taking on a slight smokiness from the grill.

ready to husk grilled corn on the cob
The corn is grilled until the outer leaves of the husk are darkened, about 10 minutes.  Turn the corn cobs often to prevent excessive cooking on one side.  Don't let the look fool you as this will be some of the best corn on the cob you have ever ate.  Use tongs to remove the cobs from the grill.  Use caution when removing the husks and silk.  Both will come off easily but the cobs will be quite hot. 

This is organically grown, pesticide free corn on the cob grown by a family almost within walking distance of our house.  It is $4 per dozen which is about par for the local corn prices whether it is organic or not.  I have not found much of a price difference in buying local, organic produce when compared to produce grown using pesticides.  In fact, in some cases the local, organic produce is less expensive than that in the grocery stores that has not been organically grown.

grilled corn on the cob with pork tenderloin
We had a grilled entrée consisting of grilled pork tenderloin, grilled corn on the cob and foil grilled potatoes.  As you can see the corn on the cob comes out mouthwatering, cooked to perfection.  The flavour is amazing!  While the husks become quite dark there are seldom any grill marks on the finished corn. As mentioned this is some of the best corn on the cob you will ever taste!

Grilling corn on the cob has become my favourite way to cook it.  The results are absolutely delicious!  I freeze corn each year.  The standard method is to blanch, cool then freeze.  I usually freeze about ten dozen ears of corn using the blanching method.  I was so impressed with the results of grilled corn that I now do up two to three dozen ears of corn on the grill for freezing. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

One of the local grocery stores had pork tenderloin on sale.  Pork tenderloin is not a large cut of meat but at an average of one and a half pounds it is a nice size for four servings.   This is a lovely, tender but very low fat cut of meat.  I cook pork tenderloin using various methods and I occasionally cure it.  I find it is best cooked as a chunk rather than slicing before cooking however, I have used pork tenderloin cut before cooking in dishes like stir fry. 

grilled pork tenderloin
Pork tenderloin cooks nicely on the grill providing it is cooked low and slow to prevent drying out.  I like using indirect heat on the grill.  Once the tenderloin has nice grill marks, I add the desired sauce if using a sauce as I did when cooking these two gorgeous pork tenderloins.  When using a tomato based sauce or any sauce containing sugar as a mop it is important to apply about 15 minutes before the meat is cooked to the desired doneness.  That will allow a nice caramelization of the sauce without charring. 

I served the grilled pork tenderloin with steamed potatoes, grilled corn on the cob and a side salad.  It was a tasty yet easy summer meal.  Pork tenderloin cooked this way is simply delicious.  It reheats nicely as well. 

Monday, August 08, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Special Diets

Frugal Kitchens 101

There are two major categories of special diets - medically recommended and self-imposed.  The first involves diet modification to control or improve a specific health condition or to prevent an adverse reaction (eg. allergy, food sensitivity).  The second category ranges from caloric intake, purposely trying to lose weight, and eating disorders.  I personally do not and never have believed in dieting fir weight control.  If you eat a balanced diet free of or avoiding extra sugar, fat, salt, and food additives in combination with portion control AND moderate physical activity there should never be a reason for dietary control under the second category.  From time to time it may be necessary to follow a medically recommended diet as a result of hereditary or specific health condition.  Currently my husband is following the recommended diet for impaired glucose intolerance (medically supervised) while I am following the diet recommended for my blood type (experimental with medical approval).  In both cases the dietary changes are not drastic but they are altering the way we are eating hence affecting our food budget.  Now in reality any diet that restricts any food or reduces portion size is going to save money unless it involves special foods.  In general eating extra fruits and vegetables according to the recent stats will cost you about $350 extra per year BUT there are a lot of ways to offset this cost.  When following a special diet:

  • education - This goes without saying but you really do need to educate yourself, your condition and why you have been recommended to go on a special diet.  Go to a dietician if necessary.  Your doctor can arrange that for you and I do highly recommend it.  This is a free service available through health care in Canada.  They will meet with you as often as possible and even give you free menu guidelines and recipes.  Follow Health Canada's Food Guide and print off a copy to hang on in your kitchen as a reminder.  I particularly like the new plate model they are using!  It's easy to understand and follow.  Following Canada's Food Guide as part of a healthy diet can actually save you money on your food budget. 
  • avoidance - There are foods that should be avoided even in a normal diet including excess sugar, salt, preservatives, additives and artificial anything.  Some individuals need to take it a step further by avoiding a certain food or ingredient entirely.  Read the label!  In my opinion though there are certain foods manufactured specifically for caloric control control that should be avoided.  It is better to use a little butter (natural) than margarine (manufactured).  It is better to use less organic sugar, honey, or molasses or substitute the herb stevia for sweeting rather than use expensive artificial sweeteners.  I personally would avoid any product with the word diet on the label because these products use asparatame a known neurotoxin and suspected carcinogen/hepatocytic agent.  I would avoid any product that has no fat on the label because the human body needs a certain amount of fat to function properly.  The manufacturers are smart in that they know the current buzz word or phrase to use on the packaging so avoid the buzzes.  All of the buzz products tend to be heavily processed as well so avoiding them saves you money as well.
  • dietary supplementation - This includes vitamins, enzymes and herbal products.  Using dietary supplementation may be recommended by your doctor or a personal choice.  They can be costly. For that reason use them only if necessary.   A word to the wise, get advice with dietary supplementation.  Read the scientific literature, talk to your doctor and/or dietician AND listen to your body.
  • special dietary products - Some special dietary products such as gluten free flours and gluten free thickeners can be bought in bulk at the bulk food stores,  specialty food stores (eg. health food stores).
  • infant formula and meal replacement drinks - These can be expensive but do go on sale from time to time.  If you or a family member needs to use infant formula or meal replacement drinks, contact the manufacturer for free samples and coupons to help lessen the cost of these products.  Your dietician may be able to direct you to programs available to help save on the costs of these products as well.
  • whole foods - In most cases any special diet can easily take advantage of whole foods (eg. fruits, vegetables, flours, etc) so the same applies as it does for normal grocery shopping.  Shop the perimeter of the store, avoid processed foods, shop the sales.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Spaghettini Bolognese

Spaghetti has always been one of my favourite dishes to order when dining out followed by steak or fish so depending on where we are dining, it tends to be one of those three entrée choices for me.  Oh, don't me wrong as I do like to discover different entrées, it's just that those are my favourites.  Besides within the three categories there is a wide variety to discover.  During our recent visit to Niagara Falls we ate at East Side Mario's on Fallsview Ave.  This is a chain restaurant specializing in Italian food.  The food is average and reasonably priced.  The restaurant is kid friendly but our service was below average.  That could have been due to the holiday weekend however, if anything a holiday weekend is the time to shine as it is a wonderful opportunity to impress new guests gaining repeat customers.

I ordered the Spaghettini Bolognese with the all-you-can-eat soup or salad and garlic homeloaf ($14.99).  Bolognese sauce originated in Bologna, Italy.  It is a meat-based sauce with a small amount of tomato concentrate.  It is not a heavy, aromatic sauce like spaghetti with meat sauce.

The East Side Mario's version was borderline bland.  It was mixed with cooked spaghetti (not spaghettini) topped with chunks of cooked tomato.  The waiter added fresh ground Parmesan cheese.  It was a nice but not spectacular dish.  Spaghettini bolognese is an easy dish to duplicate at home.  The nice thing about a bolognese sauce is it takes few ingredients.  You could easily base it on condensed soup if desired. 
amounts of celery, carrot and onion. Prosciutto, mortadella, or porcini fresh mushrooms when in season may be added to the ragù to further enrich the sauce. Milk is frequently used in the early stages of cooking to render the meat flavours more delicate but cream is very rare in the everyday recipe and only a very little would be used. According to Marcella Hazan in "The Classic Italian Cookbook", the longer Ragù alla Bolognese cooks the better; a 5- or 6-hour simmer is not unusual.[2]

The people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous ragù with freshly made tagliatelle (tagliatelle alla bolognese) and their traditionally green lasagne. It should be noted that the Italians do not pair Ragù alla Bolognese with the pasta shape spaghetti. Wider shaped pasta are thought to hold up to the heavy sauce better.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Italian Wedding Soup

Niagara Falls being a tourist area offers ample dining attractions.  We ate at East Side Mario's on Fallsview Ave in Niagara Falls during our recent visit.   East Side Mario's is a chain restaurant featuring Italian cuisine.  The average entrée costs under $20 but includes soup or salad (all you can eat) as well as fresh baked bread.  The atmosphere is quite lovely.  During our visit we found the food to be average and the service lacking.

Italian wedding soup
My husband ordered the Italian wedding soup rather than salad as a starter.  Italian wedding soup is an Italian-American consisting of green vegetables, meat and pasta, quite often spinach, endive, escarole, cabbage, lettuce, or kale in a chicken based broth.  It is popular in the United States.  The meat is usually in the form of small meatballs.

The term wedding soup is derived from the mistransation of minestra mariata, the term for married soup.  However, the term married soup actually means green vegetables and meat go well together.  There are ready-to-serve cans of Italian wedding soup on the market but in all honesty, this is an extremely easy soup to make from scratch.  The soup does freeze nicely and if you are a home canner, it could be canned for convenience without all the added preservatives as well as believe it or not high fructose corn syrup. 

Friday, August 05, 2011

Exciting News!

If you have been following this blog for awhile you will know we bought a vacation home in the sunny south last March.  Within days of buying it we put our primary residence here in Canada on the market.  The primary goal of selling our home and moving to another home was two fold with being closer to family and friends that will watch our home while we are away.  Our goal is to spend three to four months of the year at our vacation home, something that is not practical in our current rural location.  I am please to announce after sixteen long months our home is officially SOLD and today we signed the final paper for the purchase of our new home.  The new house is actually larger than our current house AND the kitchen is larger as well.  I will have a full and I do mean large bedroom sized room for my pantry.  We have made arrangements with the sellers to move in three weeks before the official closing date so have plenty of time for cleaning, painting and moving the smaller personal possessions.  The larger furniture and appliance will be moved closer to but not on the closing date.  Now let me tell you a bit about my new kitchen and a few goodies on the property.

There are three peach (? apricot) trees, a pear tree and grape vines!  There are a few perennial herbs as well as an established garden area that I will be turning into my traditional square foot raised beds.  The kitchen has a marble floor that I thought was black from our first walk though but turns out to be a dark brown so that changes me colour scheme of black, grey and white with burgundy accents.  The countertop and back splash is tile.  The painted areas are taupe.  The cabinets are oak and their three year old fridge stays so we will have two full sized refrigerators, both Whirlpool.  The built-in dishwasher stays as well.  Unfortunately it is not a Bosch so will be replaced as soon as we move in.  There is a gorgeous deck off the patio doors perfect for dining in the nicer weather.  My husband has talked of turning this deck into a solarium open year round to the kitchen.  There is also a deck off the pool that is suitable for dining pool-side.  We have already purchased a new dual fuel grill still in the crate for the new house since we are not taking our old and quickly aging gas grill.  The new grill is charcoal on one side and propane on the other so watch for more discussion on that after our move.  I am currently shopping for a dual fuel kitchen range even though we are bringing our Jenn-Air slide-in range with us.  I want a gas cooktop with electric convection oven.  There is an outdoor fire pit that we are a bit iffy on but plenty of room for my coveted smoker and with a bit of luck wood fired oven. 

Now you know why I've been a bit slack in posting the last couple of days.  My gosh things have been a whirlwind of activity here with the sale since the buyer wanted a home inspection (3 hours) and then was here later the same day for another hour before waiving all conditions.  The following day we went through the house we are buying again, my husband had to pick up the boat to bring it back to our slip and we had company.  Last night I drifted off to sleep organizing my new kitchen and pantry in my mind :)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Dishwasher

kitchen quick tips

Keep your dishwasher operating smoothly by cleaning the filter then run the empty dishwasher on the short cycle with a cup of vinegar or two tablespoons of citric acid each month.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Coco's in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Canada

I have been fascinated with cooking outdoors as long as I can remember.  My Mom had a clunky old charcoal grill that whe would wheel out once in awhile.  After she got sick, the grill never came out.  One of the first purchases we made as newlyweds was a hibachi followed quickly by a charcoal grill just like my Mom's.  I fondly remember our first propane grill, every grill we've had since then, and learning to cooking on an open fire while camping. There really isn't a fuel I haven't used when cooking outdoors.  Our outdoor grill is used year round despite the weather.

Coco's in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
We stopped at Coco's in Niagara Fall, Ontario Canada.  Coco's is located at 5339 Murray Street, one block from Fallsview Blvd towards the Falls.  This unique restaurant specialized in wood fired pizza and lamb.  The tantalizing smell of the smokey fire is enough to draw you to the restaurant from a couple of blocks away.  You just can't get better flavour than from a wood fire!  It has two large and quite amazing wood fired pizza ovens as part of their pizza bars.  They are spectacular.  They also have a large, custom made wood fired pit for barbecuing lamb.  The main draw really is eating outdoors on one of their patios while being enveloped in the wonderful smokey atmosphere created by the wood burning ovens and grill.

lamb on the grill
We love pig roasts and up to the last couple of years we were able to rent a pig roaster.  Well, renting pig roasters for whatever reason is not possible anymore.  I want a pig roaster!  It is really the only way to do a pig. 

Coco's had the most amazing roaster set-up.  Granted they were roasting a lamb rather than a pig but I hear they roast pig as well.   I think I got enough pictures to duplicate it.  The roaster was about six feet long, stainless steel, wood fired and equipped with a rotisserie spit.  There was a drip pan which is something not normally used with pig roasters.  This set-up gives me a good idea as to how to set-up  a roaster at our new house. 

Coco's has two wood fired pizza ovens, one for each of their pizza bars.  These were quite elabourate with colourful ceramic tile designs on the outside.  I'm not kidding, I would love to have one of these!  I am going to be looking online for building plans.  I think this design would be great for baking bread in as well. 

Wood fire imparts a unique flavour to any food being cooked.  You can bet we will be incorporating outdoor wood cooking into our new home even if we can't go a large as this outdoor wood fired oven.  Watch for that adventure coming soon as our house is officially SOLD!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Margaritaville in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada has long been one of our favourite weekend get-away destinations.  We particularly love visiting Niagara Falls during the winter months.  Niagara Falls is impressive anytime but it takes on a whole new persona with the frozen mist in January. 

Margaritavile in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
My husband is a mega huge Jimmy Buffet fan!  That translates into enjoying the Jimmy Buffet restaurant chain, Margaritaville to enjoy great food while listening to great music whenever we get the chance.  Margaritaville in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada is located on the corner Murray Street and Fallsview Blvd, less than a 5 minute walk from the casino.

Margaritaville is a wonderful place to while away a bit of time.  Their service is excellent, their food is quite good and the atmosphere is...well...Jimmy Buffet!  There is a bar, lower main dining area, a rooftop patio, an outdoor patio and gift shop.  

Niagara Falls is very much a tourist area which is reflected in restaurants available as well as the price per meal.  Expect to pay $25 or more per person for dinner in most restaurants.  Appetizers are in the $12 plus price range for any restaurant within walking distance of the Falls.  Many of the restaurants have outdoor eating areas, some with entertainment.  Most of them are 'kid friendly' with kids' menus and colouring pages.  The outdoor patios provide a great people watching spot while relaxing with drinks, pub grub style food or the main meal.  Be warned that during the warm summer months there will be waiting times at all of the restaurants near the Falls.

seafood quesadilla
We stopped at Margaritaville shortly after arriving in Niagara Falls then meeting up with our friend with young daughter.  We ordered drinks, appetizers and I had a Caesar salad.  My husband had the seafood quesadilla ($12.25) consisting of tortilla shells stuffed with a shrimp, scallops and crab with a creamy spinach three cheese filling served on a bed of fresh tortilla chips, sour cream and guacamole.  I really liked the presentation!

The sour cream and guacamole was formed using a scoop.  The quesadilla was topped with colourful pieces of red pepper and green onion.  This would be a very easy dish to duplicate at home.  I tasted the filling so have a bit of a guideline to work with for a clone recipe.  I would omit the hard tortilla bed even though it does add visual appeal or I would leave them but add a side of salsa.  I will be experimenting with this dish as I think it would be excellent for our vacation home menu.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Kitchen Quick Tips - Organizing Shelf Stable Food

kitchen quick tips

Always place new purchases (eg. canned food etc.) at the back of your pantry shelves forcing older foods to the front so you use them up before they expire.

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Baby Food

Frugal Kitchens 101

I'm a mother and now a grandmother.  The food industry would have you believe and my gosh they do work hard at it, that babies and toddlers need special food.  In fact and because they are so concerned that parents cannot possibly feed their infants and toddlers properly have come out with a whole line of baby and toddler foods.  I'm sorry but I have never bought into their theories and I'm proud to say our kids did not either.  The biggest problem is these convenience baby food products are extremely expensive.  Not only that they actually taste for lack of a better word, gross.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses ways you can save on baby food.

  • milk vs formula -  If at all possible, breast feed.  It's cheap, convenient and meant for human babies.  It is the healthiest choice.  Sometimes breast feeding is not possible so formula may be needed.  Contact the recommended formula manufacturer for a welcome gift as well as ongoing coupons.  Some will even send you a free canister of formula each month.  When baby is ready to move along to milk, go to a 2% milk for the fat content needed for proper brain development.  Whole milk unless recommended is a bit too fatty and skim milk does not have enough fat.
  • make-your-own - Our kids all went from breast feeding to eating from the table without specially prepared commercial baby food.  You don't need special equipment other than a fork to do a bit manual mashing. You can easily make any baby food using a standard blender as well if you want to go a bit finer.  If you really want there are hand-held grinders to use when eating out or away from home. 
  • make ahead -  Homemade prepared babyfood can easily be frozen in individual serving sizes.  Frozen portions travel nicely to be warmed when you get to your destination.  Don't buy special equipment.  An ice cube tray or muffin tins works nicely for portion control. 
  • avoid some foods - This is the time to introduce your baby or toddler to a wide variety of foods.  However, some foods should be avoided.  Beans and cruciforms (eg. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts) are harder to digest and can cause gas so should be avoided.   High fat foods should be avoided as well.   Raw honey should be avoided until age 1 because the immune system cannot is not strong enough to deal with a very slight chance of botulism.  I recommend avoiding any food that has artifical anything in it or anything with HFCS as an ingredient.