- 1 lb dried beans equals 58 ounces of canned beans.
For Your Information
- [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
- [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
- Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!
Pork is the remains a popular meat of choice for curing with bacon and ham being the most popular. What many don't realize is curing me...
If you recall we moved into this during the first two weeks of September of 2011, taking official legal position as homeowners on September ...
As a result of milder fall temperatures the pepper plants were still producing nicely through the mid portion of last week. The plants were...
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
An appetizer is the first impression of is to come in the meal. Eye appeal is a must with appetizers also known as hors d'oeuvres or starters. In general the heavier the meal the lighter the appetizer and the appetizer should provide a contrast to the main course. Appetizers may be hot or cold, simple or elegant providing the home cook a great creative opportunity.
Whether battered or breaded, deep fried mushrooms are very easy and inexpensive to make at home. There are a variety of batters that can be used for battered mushrooms including pancake mix. Once coated with the batter, the mushooms can be rolled in fine bread crumbs before frying if desired. We used the seafood breader mix from our last trip to our vacation home foodie finds for the batter. We did not roll the coated mushrooms in bread crumb. The mushrooms were deep fried at 375ºF (190ºC) until golden brown then drained and served with René's caesar dressing. These mouthwatering morsels were absolutely delightful!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Life has an uncanny way of getting extremely busy. Those are the times when putting a fast, easy meal on the table is a must. Many rely on fast food take-out for these types of dinners but nutritionally these foods are not good value for you food dollar and they put a nice sized dent into your pocketbook. There is another way, and that is to rely on easy to put together 15 minute and 30 minute meals.
Sausage is a delicious quick cooking meat that is rather versatile. It can be served on a bun, as is for the meat serving or cut into bite sized pieces then added to other dishes. Bulk sausage can be formed into patties or it can be browned and crumbled to add to casseroles, soups and stews. Sausage ranges in flavour from very mild to spicy and everything in between. Aside of quick cooking and flavour, sausage is inexpensive. Breakfast sausage is usually mildly seasoned and may have a maple syrup flavouring added. Despite its name breakfast sausage is not just for breakfast. I served breakfast sausage links with buttered broad egg noodles and black bean salad for a quick, easy meal that took less than 15 minutes to prepare. The black bean salad is served cold but it could easily be served warm as a topping for rice.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Quite often despite all the measures we take to keep our kitchens frugal it is very easy to overlook a very important frugal living concept. That concept is social responsibility. Two excellent videos I highly recommend that will give a rather good perspective on how your food is produced is Food Inc. and the importance of putting nutrition first Food Matters. I also encourage you to read the books Fast Food Nation and The Hundred-Year Lie. Food production is the primary human activity world wide. Yet of the foods produced 30% of that goes to food spoilage at many stages from the farmer to the grocery store to the consumer. Think about it 30% of food produce goes to spoilage yet how many people go to bed hungry each night? And that really is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to food production whether commercially or privately grown.
Food consumption cannot come without a social awareness as to the plight of those producing the food for our tables. The bottom line is if we don't support local growers so they too can feed their families our communities are weakened. The end result is the very people responsible for producing our food have to turn to social assistance paid out of our tax dollars, food banks and charitable organizations. Worse than that, small scale farmers no longer able to afford to keep their farms operating are forced out of farming, often selling the land to developers that will use it for another purpose besides growing food. On a global level, many farmers do not earn enough to feed their family as much as one meal a day. At the same time the choices we make with respect to food can harm or benefit the environment both locally and globally. It is our responsibility to be good stewards of the land, whether used directly (eg. gardening, own land) or indirectly (eg. farmland, countrysides). This really is what social responsibility is all about when it comes to food!
How can we incorporate social responsibility into our food choices while maintaining a frugal kitchen? This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses a few ways to be socially responsible while saving money:
- organic - Growing organically or buying organic produce makes good sense both in terms of your health and the environment. Organically grown produce is not contaminated with synthetic pesticide or fertilizer residues. Organic produce is labeled as certified organic or grown organically or simply organic. Certified organic produce must be the standards of the certification body. In many cases organic produce will be comparable in price to if not less expensive than produce not grown organically. Pricing is always influenced by regions so in some cases organic produce will be higher priced but in many areas it is the same price with some organic fruits and vegetables priced lower than non-organic. Packaged organic foods often are higher priced in the grocery stores but some are not.
- fair trade or ethical trade- Fair Trade and Ethical Trade are organized social movements and marketing approaches that strive to ensure those growers in developing countries receive a fair price for the crops they produce, develop local crop sustainability as well as workers receiving fair wages and descent working conditions. Look for the logo of either organization on products (eg. coffees, teas) you buy. It makes little sense that farmers are not paid enough to be able to put food on the table for their families or that workers don't earn enough money to feed their families or work in unsafe conditions. Food producers can apply to have Fair Trade or Ethical Trade certification. Once certified these food producers can display the Fair Trade or Ethical Trade logo on their products so consumers know the product meets all of those standards. Products certified as Fair Trade or Ethical Trade are competitively priced to non-certified products. They often go on sale as well and coupons may be available so the choice really is between buying a product that supports fair and ethical trade verses one that does not.
- union made - Canadian unions ensure that the factory workers in food processing plants have fair wages, fair benefits, adequate and safe working conditions, as well as representation in the event of employee/employer disputes. Union made products will be indicated on the label but there is no logo just the words. Workers in non-union plants are not protected in such a fashion. Now this one is a bit hard because some non-union workers actually have better conditions than union workers. Products from non-union food plants may be slightly less expensive. If in doubt, Google the company to find out what their employee policy is and how they treat their employees. Any substantial problems in this respect will be covered in the media as well.
- grown locally - Recently the grocery stores have been pushing the grown locally and grown close to home labels for produce. Buying locally produced produce is not only eco-friendly as it reduces the carbon footprint due to transportation, the produce tends to be less expensive because the cost of transportation is reduced. Local produce is higher in nutrition as it gets from the farmer to your table considerably faster after being harvested as opposed to imported produce that can spend days in transit losing valuable nutrition in the process. Local produce is usually less expensive than imported produce. Locally produced packaged foods may be slightly less expensive because they have lower transportation costs associated.
- produced in Canada - Canadian grown/produced foods tend to be slightly less expensive than similar imported foods. This is not always the case especially if the company is not Canadian or the company is Canadian but the parent company is not. Paying attention to where the food is actually produced (country of origin) can save a bit of money at the check-out.
- ethical treatment for animals - The ethical treatment for animals is a movement to ensure the animal is raised in a good and caring environment frees from stress, with adequate health care and at slaughter time given a humane death. The food industry doesn't market the ethical treatment for animals using these words though. The buzz words are: hormone free, grass-fed, free range, dolphin safe, farm fresh, and wild (as opposed to farm raised, eg. salmon). In many cases these buzz words are just that. Despite their cutesy commercials showing an old fashioned chicken coop with chickens happily laying eggs to be collected each day the reality is unless you buy from a local farmer who raises a small flock of chickens both your eggs and chicken is coming from large, commercial, over crowded chicken farm factories where the chickens have anything but a good life. Chickens have been breed to have larger breasts thanks to the consumer demand for boneless, skinless breast meat. The problem is these chickens are so heavy they can barely walk. A the list goes on with autricites in each sector of the livestock industry. Refuse to buy meat and poultry produced under such conditions and make your voice heard regarding why you won't buy.
- being involved - Change comes through being concerned enough to become involved. There are several ways to do this. On a local level, get to know farmers and producers. If you aren't happy with certain product packaging, write a letter to the company expressing your concerns and/or possible solution. Write your local councilman, MPP, MP and even the Prime Minister with your concerns over farming issues in your area and across Canada. Of particular concern currently is the food insecurity being faced by many Canadians so this is one area where aside of donating to the local food banks, a letter writing campaign is more than warranted. At the community level, pressure the municipal government for proactive change that supports community gardens and weekend farmer's markets. Become a member of a local service group and/or church group or similar organization that works to combat hunger. On a personal level, promote healthy eating and cooking. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or school breakfast program. Take a new cook under your wing and teach them how to cook. Offer to show other in your church group, or friends and neighbours how to preserve foods as well as supply and use a well stocked pantry. All of this gets the ball rolling and while it doesn't save money on your food costs although if you are able to lobby for changes it may, it does save at the societal level in less reliance on food banks, less social assistance and less hunger.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Cranberries are harvested in late September just in time to be available fresh here in time for the Canadian Thanksgiving, the second Monday of October. They are available as canned or frozen throughout the rest of the year. I stock up when they are available fresh for home canning a freezing. Cranberries are one of a few fruits native to North America. The vines prefer acidic, low nutrient soil conditions.
Cranberries are harvested in a rather unique manner. When the berries are ripe the fields are flooded. A beater suspended from a mobile bridge creates turbulence pulling berries off the vines allowing them to float to the surface. Workers manually move the floating cranberries to one corner of the field where they are pumped into a trailer. The berries are rinsed to remove branches and leaves then transported to the processing plant where they are unloaded into canals. The berries travel on conveyor belts through a cleaner station where workers uses brushes and water jets to remove any leaves and branches. Cranberries are loaded into bins for freezing. Those being used for juice are defrosted in hot water and mashed into a purée. Enzymes are added to break-up the pectin then pressed three to four times to extract the juice. The juice is filtered then water is evaporated to make it ten times concentrated. Berries for fresh packaging and drying are sorted manually then electronically. Those berries for fresh packaging go to the packaging department. Berries that will be dried are cut in half, seeded and pressed. They are dipped in sugar water then dried and packaged.
Here is a video showing how cranberries are harvested and processed.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
For years and it still hold true if you want to save money especially on the pantry staples, buy in bulk. In general this means buying dried beans, pastas, grains, flours, dried herbs and spices, coffee beans, sugars, loose tea, baking needs, nuts and similar types of foods. The best prices of course will be found if you go directly to the source. For example, buying flours from the flour mill will be cheaper than in the stores. It may not always be possible to go directly to the source. It may be possible to order in bulk through co-ops. There are specialty stores that sell a variety of foods in bulk and now it is possible to order online.
This style of shopping can save money in two ways. First, many foods available in the Bulk Barn and similar specialty stores are a lower price per unit because packaging has been greatly reduced. Second, this style of shopping allows you to buy just the amount of an item that you need. Let's say you want to make a dish that calls for 1 tsp of paprika yet you don't use paprika for any other cooking. If you buy paprika in the grocery store you will pay at least $3 for a small glass container only to use 1 tsp. However, at the bulk food store you can scoop out 1 tsp of paprika if desired which would cost you less than 5¢.
While shopping in the specialty bulk food stores can save you a significant amount of money they can also cost you more than what you would normally pay. The first problem is there really is no way to tell how much you are buying. Scooping the item really is all guestimation so there is the tendency to spend a bit more than anticipated. The second problem is the temptation to buy certain items you normally would not (eg. bulk candies). The third problem is some foods are not cheaper in the bulk food stores. In particular I noticed dried bean prices during my last trip to the Bulk Barn. A 500 g (1.02 lb) bag of roman beans cost $1.89 at No Frills and at the Bulk Barn they were $1.79 so 10¢ per lb cheaper but black eyed at No Frills were $2.19 for a 900 g (1.98 lb bag) or $1.10 per lb while they were $1.79 per lb at the Bulk Barn or 69¢ per lb more. This really becomes a case of knowing unit prices in the grocery stores to be sure you are actually getting the item cheaper at the bulk food store. The easiest way to do this is use a price book so you can easily check to be sure you are buying at the cheapest source.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Pork is the remains a popular meat of choice for curing with bacon and ham being the most popular. What many don't realize is curing meats at home is not as difficult as it would appear. Curing meats at home is extremely easy and quite low cost. By curing it yourself you can save substantial money if you can get the uncured meat on sale. If you indulge in a smoker you can expand to making cured, smoked meats as well. I recently experimented with cottage roll as a pork cut I would like to cure at home.
Mom's Cottage Roll
1 cottage roll (about 4 kg)
1 large onion
4 - 5 peppercorns
4 medium potatoes
2 large carrots
½ small rutabaga
1 medium wedge cabbage
Place the cottage roll, bay leaf, onion and peppercorns in stock pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 1 hour adding water if necessary to keep meat covered with water. Cut vegetables into bite sized pieces. Pour vegetables into stock pot. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender. Remove meat from stock pot. Cut mesh from meat and slice for serving. Serve the vegetables on the side. Reserve stock and any remaining vegetables for soup made with some of the meat.
I served the cottage roll with the vegetables on the side. A small garden salad and dinner rolls completed the meal. I was quite pleased with the results of this one pot meal. Cottage roll is now on my list of meats to cure at home just as soon as I can find a good sale on pork shoulder roasts!
Thursday, March 24, 2011
For light fluffy rice, rinse the raw grains to remove surface starch then cook. When your rice is cooked, remove from heat. Remove the lid and cover with a clean T-towel then replace the lid. Allow the rice to sit off the heat for 10 minutes. The T-towel will soak up steam preventing sticky rice.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
As mentioned in previous posts, beans are considered an extremely frugal food with high nutritional value for your food dollar. While frugalistas recommend eating beans at least three times a week, we don't. We average about once a week. Dried beans are the best value coming in at about 90¢ per pound for store bought packaged beans depending on the size of package and variety of bean. A one pound package of beans will yield 4 to 5 cups of beans or about 2 to 3 (14 oz) cans of beans that would cost at best 69¢ per can or $1.38 to $2.07. Dried beans are as easy to cook as pasta they just take a bit longer so nix those cans that aren't eco-friendly and save some money cooking beans from scratch. If you home can, consider canning a couple of batches for the convenience of ready to use.
Black beans have a rich, earthy flavour that makes them quite lovely for salads and dips. This tasty salad is ever so easy to make. I garnished the salad with a dab of sour cream and sprinkling of green onions. It made for a colourful presentation.
Easy Black Bean Salad
1 c dried black beans*
1 c niblet corn
1 c salsa
Rinse and check beans for stones. Place in saucepan and cover with water to about an inch above the beans. Bring to a boil then boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit 1 hour. Drain and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Cook beans until tender, about 40 minutes. Drain and cool. Cook niblet corn, drain and cool. Stir beans, corn and salsa together. Chill. Garnish with a dab of sour cream and green onion slices.
* 1 c dried beans = 2½ c cooked beans
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
One of the nice things about cooking is you don't have to re-invent the wheel. Keep in mind that a recipe is just a starting point. It isn't written in stone. A substitution here, addition there or tweak of the seasonings in an old stand-by dish can change the dish just enough to make an entirely new dish. Most home cooks alter recipes either as a result of need (eg. out of an ingredient) or desire (eg. don't care for an ingredient). I like altering recipes and dishes just to see what I can come up with.
Monday, March 21, 2011
In many frugal circles when questioned how to reduce food costs, the top recommendation is to eat more beans. Beans are nutritious, inexpensive, tasty, filling and quite versatile. Beans really are one of the easier foods to cook as well and the store well for extended periods of time. You can cook them on the stovetop then finish off in the oven or slow cooker for many bean dishes or fully cook them by either desired method. There is a large number of bean varieties, each with their own texture and flavour so there is no need to get bored eating the same variety of beans. Today's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on beans and why they should be a staple in your frugal pantry.
- nutrition - Beans are very nutritious so on a cost per ounce you are getting a lot of nutrition for a very small amount of money. They are high in fiber and protein, low in fat and sodium, and contain no cholesterol. In short, beans are good for you!
- inexpensive - Commercially canned beans cost about 89¢ for a 14 oz (398 ml can). This measures out to just under 2 cups at a cost of 6¢ per ounce. Dry navy bean cost about $1.79 for a 900 g (1.98 lb) bag or about 90¢ per lb. One pound of dried beans (2 cups) gives a yield of 4 to 5 cups of cooked beans depending on the bean. At a 4 - 5 cup yield you get 32 - 40 oz of beans at 2¢ to 3¢ per ounce or roughly half the cost of commercially canned beans.
- convenience - Commercially canned beans are already cooked so need only to be heated for serving. While commercially canned beans are quite inexpensive they should be avoided for several reasons. The cans are lined with plastisol containing BPA, a problematic hormone mimicing chemical with negative implications for brain development. Cans have a high energy cost as far as manufacturing and are not recyclable in all communities so they end up in the landfill making them a pour choice of packaging for trying to be eco-friendly. Commercially canned beans are often high in sodium, may contain high fructose corn syrup (implicated in ADD/ADHD) and lacking in flavour. Dried beans can be home canned for the convenience without the problems of commercially canned beans. Cooked beans also freeze nicely so you can cook up a large batch then freeze in portions sizes for later use.
- versatility - Beans can be used as: a side dish, casserole featuring mainly beans, a meat substitute, dips, spreads, in soups and the list goes on. They can even be mashed and added to breads and muffins to increase the nutritional value. Whole beans can be added to meat based dishes (eg. chili) to maximize the protein content while reducing the amount of most costly meat. Cooked beans can be mashed then mixed in with meat as an extender for burgers and meatloafs or seasoned as used as a complete meat substitute (eg. veggie burgers). Cooked beans pair nicely with rice, another very frugal food choice. Here the beans are usually seasoned then served as a topping on the rice. Dried beans can also be sprouted for a rich source of Vitamin C. Bean sprouts are used in many Asian dishes but can also be added to breads and muffins to increase the nutritional value. Dried beans can also be planted in the garden where they will yield fresh eating as well as beans for drying.
- variety - There are many variety of beans ranging in size from quite small (eg. turtle, azuki, mung) to rather large (eg. lima beans). They come in a wide range of colours as well - reds, greens, blacks, whites, browns, yellows, mottled, speckled and two-tone colours. Some varieties may only be available in certain regions. For example, while I can get several bean varieties here I had not seen the small red bean used for red beans and rice until I went to an area where this dish is quite popular. There I found an abundance of the small red beans and yet no mung beans were to be found. Different beans have different flavours. Depending on the bean the flavour is mild, sweet, earthy, nutty, buttery, or slightly bitter.
- cooking - Ideally beans should be soaked overnight but if you forget there is a quick soak method by simply covering with water then bringing to a boil, remove from heat and let sit 1 hour. Drain then cover with fresh water and simmer until tender, 30 to 80 minutes depending on the bean. They can be can then be finished off in the oven or slow cooker if making a longer cooked. However, beans can also be cooked directly in the slow cooker after the soaking period making them even easier to cook but the cook time is about 12 hours on low. You could set them up to cook overnight in the slow cooker if desired or if you are an early riser put them on at 5 AM to be cooked in time for dinner. Beans that will be home canned do not need to be cooked first. Some are even omitting the soak period but I find I get better results using a quick soak for home canned beans. They actually cook in the jar during the canning process.
- storing beans - Surprisingly dried beans will keep well for 5 years or more. Some have reported 10 year old dried beans being a little tougher but still quite edible. Proper storage will not affect sprouting potential. That makes dried beans a frugal must have in your pantry. Once cooked beans can be kept in airtight contains for up to 3 days in the refrigerator so you could easily make beans for dinner Sunday night then use the leftovers in other dishes
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Wieners aka hot dogs are an extremely well liked processed meat. They are literally German sausages in a roll introduced to North America by German immigrants. As early as 1860, hot dogs were being sold from carts which remains a popular venue on city streets today. In addition to hot dog carts, hot dog stands can be found at most events (eg. county fairs) and many sporting events have hot dog sellers coming right to your seat. Have you ever wondered how hot dogs are made?
Hot dogs start with ground pork and beef trimmings that are mainly muscle tissue. Ground chicken trimmings are added along with food starch, salt and flavourings. Not mentioned in the video, other ingredients like milk solids and preservatives may be added to the mixture. The mixture is sprayed with water as it blends. Clear corn syrup is added for a hint of sweetness then the mixture goes through a chopping machine to form a fine emulsion. The mixture is pumped into cellulose casing and the resulting links are placed on racks. The links are given a liquid smoke shower to add flavour then the links are baked. The links are drenched in cold, salty water for cooling. The black strip on the casing indicated the hot dogs are ready for packaging. The casing is removed and the links are then packaged.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
A month ago yesterday I injured my leg quite badly while getting into a friend's truck after a fish fry. We go to several fish fries over the winter months to help support the community and service clubs. It's a nice way to enjoy a great meal while socializing a bit. My husband wanted to go to a fish fry last night hosted by a local service club. The thing is the healing has been a very long, drawn out process with my leg still looking quite ugly as if I have a second knee. The haematoma measures 4 cm wide and is raised about 2.5 cm with considerable bruising and swelling, painful to walk on. Mobility is still an issue so I really wasn't too anxious to go to a fish fry or anywhere else for that matter. My husband thought getting out of the house would be a good idea so after a bit of discussion I agreed. What the heck! I tend to have a bit of a rubber arm when food is involved :)
The dinner was fried walleye with wild rice, home style fried potato wedges, corn bread and cole slaw. The fish was absolutely delightful, perfectly cooked. The wild rice side consisted of wild rice, red pepper, mushroom, onions and bacon pieces. It was good but both my friend and I thought it was missing a base note. I can't quite put my finger on it but will be experimenting this weekend with wild rice. With the ingredients it should have been quite tasty so this should be a rather fun experiment. I really liked the home style fried potato wedges. These are easy to make at home by cutting a potato into quarters or sixths then deep frying the wedges. The corn muffins were a really nice change from the standard dinner rolls offered at these types of events.
Friday, March 18, 2011
A couple of days ago I wrote about the fundraiser beans I bought to support our grandchild's school. Many frugalistas advise that if you aren't eating beans at least three times a week you aren't being frugal enough. Beans are a very inexpensive, budget stretching food yet healthy and nutritious. They are high in fiber and protein. Their texture makes them a perfect substitute or extender for meat as well. In addition to eating beans as a side or part of another dish, beans can be easily sprouted for a rich source of Vitamin C. Bean sprouts are delicious in salads and stir fry. Properly stored dried beans will keep 5 years or longer making them the ideal pantry food.
The sausage bean casserole was quite easy to make but would not fall under the category of one pot cooking since both the beans and sausage had to be cooked before adding to the slow cooker. I used an Italian hot sausage that gave a nice flavour. I also omitted the peppers. The overall dish was quite thick, nice and chunky similar to a chili. This is dish is one that I will be making again. I already have a couple of tweaks in mind like adding niblet corn.
As promised here is the total cost analysis for the dish. The cost for the meal was $5.50 (mix), $2.17 (Italian hot sausage), about $1.25 additional ingredients and 44¢ electricity for a total of $9.34 for 6 to 8 servings. This works out to a cost of $1.17 to $1.56 per serving depending on serving size. The same dish used with bagged beans bought in the grocery stores would reduce the cost of the bean mix to about $2 (roughly $2 per lb or less) which would reduce the cost per serving to 73¢ - 97¢ making this a very frugal dish. Further savings are possible by buying beans at a bulk food store like Bulk Barn. The number of servings could be increased by using the bean casserole as a topping for plain rice.
Mom's Sausage Bean Casserole
source: modified from The Bean Ladies
1 585g package bean casserole mix
½ lb sausage of your choice
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1 c water
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dry mustard
¼ c ketchup
3 tbsp molasses
salt & pepper to taste
Soak the bean mixture overnight. Drain. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook beans until tender, about 1 hour. Drain and rinse. Pour into slow cooker. Cook sausages, onions, peppers and garlic in fry pan. Cut the sausages into bit sized pieces. Pour sausage mixture into slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir well. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
When browning thick cut fish fillets (eg. cod loin) in the fry pan for baking in the oven, they will dry out before browning occurs. Sprinkle a little sugar on each side for nice golden brown crust. Sear on each side then finish in oven at 425ºF to finish cooking through.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Years ago when I was knee high to a grass hopper school fundraisers meant selling almond chocolate bars. That's the only kind offered which was a shame given some folks don't like nuts in their chocolate bars. We our kids were in school the fundraiser was also selling chocolate bars and chocolate covered almonds. At that time we lived in an urban area with if I remember correctly nine elementary schools and one secondary school. That meant we got hit quite often with kids selling chocolate bars. How can you say no to such a worthy cause. The real problem is and especially in these trying economic times and quickly rising food costs many simply to not want to spend their food dollars on chocolate covered almonds or chocolate bars. The schools have recognized this problem and are now looking at other food items that people are more interested in buying.
I bought the chuckwagon chili (5-7 servings), homestyle hearty bean soup (8-10 servings), lickety-split pea soup (4-6 servings)and Mom's sausage bean casserole (6-8 servings). Each package has the recipe on the front. All of the packets have some type of meat (eg. sausage, pork hocks, ground beef) ranging from ½ to 1½ lb as an additional ingredient along with a couple of standard pantry items. A couple of the mixes have a seasoning packet included. Even when factoring in the higher cost of the bean mix and the additional ingredients, the result is still on the frugal side. I will discuss the total costs for each mix as I make them. I made the Mom's sausage bean casserole on yesterday so watch for the discussion on that this coming Friday.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Pasta is a fun addition to any dish. It is available in so many shapes, texture, sizes and now colours. While a large portion of pastas are wheat based with high quality pastas using durum wheat semolina, rice based pastas are also available. Various colours are derive from the addition of spinach (green), tomato (orangish red), whole wheat (brown), buckwheat (brown) and beets (purplish red). Low-carb pastas are available as well although they have a bad reputation for poor taste.
Meatballs with Nidi Capellini
6 c homemade beef stock
1 c homemade tomato stock
1½ lb lean ground beef
¼ c milk
½ tsp garlic pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
½ lb sliced white mushrooms
½ tsp browning
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste
2 nidi capellini per person
2 green onions
3 - 4 chopped home canned (or store bought) whole tomatoes
Mix garlic pepper into ground beef then pour in milk and mix well. Form into 1 - inch diameter meatballs. Heat olive oil in fry pan then add meatballs. Cook until well browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meatballs to slow cooker. Add butter to reserve liquid in fry pan and add mushrooms. Cook until caramelized. Pour mushrooms over meatballs. Pour in stocks then add browning, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf. Turn slow cooker to high and cook for 2 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook nidi capellini to al dente in boiling salted water. Remove nidi capellini with wide slotted spoon allowing it to drain in the spoon. Place two nidi capellini per person in shallow soup bowl. Spoon about 2 tbsp chopped tomatoes over the nidi capellini. Ladle soup mixture over the pasta and tomatoes. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions.
Monday, March 14, 2011
The grocery stores are filled with all types of convenience foods meant to save you time but they certainly don't save you money! My gosh, I was thumbing through the grocery store flyers and noticed a ready made, uncooked 1 kg tray of home style meatloaf for $7.99. Have we really become so pressed for time that the 5 minutes it takes to combine the ingredients for meatloaf can't be spared? Honestly, that same week extra lean ground beef was on for $3.28 per kg. The extra ingredients added to meat loaf certainly would not come to $4.71 and it is very doubtful the pre-made uncooked meatloaf would have been made with extra lean ground beef. So the price of convenience essentially cost $4.71 for someone to mix up meatloaf to be taken home and cooked. For close to the same price you could by 2 kg of lean ground beef, make two meatloafs (one for that night, one for the freezer) and still saved money plus you would have a ready meal in the freezer. I find it unbelievable that some folks will pay this price for convenience and yet if the grocery stores are any indication, they do! This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses the price of convenience.
There are really two types of convenience foods. The first category is the frugal take-out, pre-made from the deli or freezer section and the other really isn't frugal at all. Shopping smart and stretching your food dollar means not paying for someone to do what you can do yourself. Here are a few types of convenience foods that really are not frugal:
- pre-made fresh foods - These include: vegetable trays, salads, meat mixtures (eg. meatloaf), fruit and dip trays, and that type of thing. These really are not a frugal choice but in all cases you will pay a higher price for them than if you made them yourself. You really are paying for someone to do the work for you. In addition to paying extra you are exposing yourself to a higher risk for contamination that can cause food borne illness.
- pre-made cooked foods - In some cases deli foods like rotisserie chicken is less expensive than buying a whole chicken and cooking it yourself. This does not happen very often and in fact the deli rotisserie chicken has been one exception to the rule that homemade is cheaper.
- pre-made freezer doughs and pastry crusts - In most cases homemade is cheaper. The two exceptions are phyllo dough and puff pastry. However, a homemade short version of puff pastry is less expensive to make than store bought and just as good. You can easily make a large batch of bread, pastry or cookie dough then freeze it for later use at a fraction of the cost of store bought.
- artisan breads - A loaf of bakery artisan bread can go as high as $6 per loaf. These types of breads with a little practice can easily be made at home for under a $1 per loaf.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
One of the most widely used condiments is tomato ketchup. As a home canner I make and can home made tomato ketchup. However, most people buy ketchup with the most popular brand being Heinz. Heinz has been making ketchup since 1876! Years ago I worked one summer in the lab of a tomato processing facility. Well actually they also processed beets, asparagus and cucumbers as they came into season but the bulk of their work force was needed for the local tomato harvest. Tomatoes arrive at the processing facility from local farmers in huge tomato wagons. [Relatives grow tomatoes commercially for the processing plants which is where I get my hampers of tomatoes from each year.]
Tomato ketchup starts with a base of tomato paste that is made at the tomato processing facility. From there the tomato paste is passed on to the tomato ketchup lines in another area of the same facility. Tomato ketchup consists of tomato paste, white vinegar, sugar, salt and seasonings. If you look at the ingredients on a Heinz ketchup bottle, liquid sugar is listed. This is now high fructose corn syrup which explains why it is harder for a home canner to duplicate the flavour and texture of Heinz ketchup.
Here is a video I found showing how Heinz tomato ketchup is made and bottled from the tomato paste stage. The tomato paste has undergone laboratory testing prior to going to the ketchup lines. Quality control is important for ketchup not only from a safety aspect but also to be sure the ketchup meets taste and thickness requirements. Heinz ketchup is made to a thickness so that the velocity measures at 10 cm of flow in 10 seconds. This is known as the 10 cm rule. The blue bag in the video is their secret blend of seasonings.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Last week, George Weston Ltd. owner of Weston Foods (bakery) and Loblaw (retail) announced that they will be increasing prices by 5% effective April 1, 2011 to offset the rising commodity prices. Weston Foods provides a substantial amount of baked goods (eg. breads, buns, etc.) while Loblaw Companies Limited is the parent company to several grocery store chains (eg. No Frills, Real Canadian Super Store, Loblaws, and several others across Canada). We all have heard rumours of increasing food costs so this announcement comes as no surprise. Ralph Robinson, president of Weston Foods Canada indicated in the announcement that this is only the beginning of rising food costs. What many fail to realize though is inflation will hit the convenience and packaged foods the hardest. While raw and whole foods will seen price increases the greatest price increases will be seen in foods like mixes, canned foods, freezer meals, cookies, dry cereals, boxed foods and those types of things.
A 10 lb (25 kg or 25000 g) bag of potatoes averages $3.99 during the winter months for a cost of 0.00015¢ per gram. The ready made hash browns come in at 0.003¢ per gram so right away it is easy to see they are more expensive than raw potatoes. The ingredient in raw potatoes is potato. The ingredients in the pre-made hash browns are potatoes, vegetable oil, salt, corn starch, dextrose (a sugar) and sodium phosphate (a preservation and another source of salt). Nutritionally, the pre-made hash browns are a nightmare and even worse if you sprinkle with salt the way the fast food restaurants do. In terms of convenience, raw potatoes need to be shredded then pan fried. From start to finish homemade hash browns will take about 15 minutes. The pre-made hash brown patties can be oven baked, heated in the microwave or deep fried. In my taste test experiment with this product, I got the best results deep frying but how many people want to set up their deep fryer for breakfast? In terms of taste the best hash browns were homemade from scratch. Clearly the winner in this experiment was the homemade hash browns made with raw potatoes.
If you really want to save money on your food dollars and minimize the impact of the rising costs of food, you have to think along these lines. Each and every time you eliminate a convenience food or replace it with a homemade version, so will not only be saving money but you will be getting a nutritionally superior food. The homemade version will be free of excess salt, sugar and preservatives. More importantly it is less expensive. You will find this to be true for the majority of store bought convenience foods as well.
Friday, March 11, 2011
We eat a lot of beef and nothing goes better with beef than mushrooms! By far the mushrooms we consume the most of are the common white mushrooms bought directly from the mushroom farm. Our next favourite mushroom is the portobello mushroom. Looking through Cook's Thesaurus there are a lot more mushrooms for us to discover! Now that I'm back on my feet discovering different mushroom varieties is on my culinary to-do list.
The steaks were seared to medium rare once the mushrooms were sautéed. The mushrooms and small amount of liquid was poured over the steaks. The steaks were served with mashed potatoes for a simple yet tasty meal.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
I spent some quality time with my doctor yesterday which translated into a reason to treat myself. The good news is I'm off the crutches but still not very mobile. She's keeping a close eye on the progress and while I won't be doing a jig anytime soon, I am happy to be able to hobble around on my own two feet. I made a pit stop at Bulk Barn then decided to stop to have dinner with the guys before heading home.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Last Saturday evening in the midst of a horrid winter storm we well, actually my husband hosted the guys game night. Normally I take care of most of the hostess duties but as mentioned previously I'm not very mobile at the moment. The first to arrive was one of our friends who owns a grocery store franchise. They are undergoing a store remodel and found a box of canning jars that were not going to be used so he brought them down to me. These are the really cute, squatty, wide mouth Elegant mason jars part of Bernardin's Collection Elite line. There are nineteen boxes each with four 250 ml jars for a total of 76 jars! I am doing the happy dance, all be it on one leg, but still dancing for joy!
Until now I only had four of these adorable jars. I guarded them something fierce since the cute jars tend to develop legs. Regular mason jars and even extras find their way back home but the cute jars continue to wander about. I reserved these four jars for mango chutney. Now that I have all the new jars, I won't have to worry so much. I'm already making a list of what I want to fill them with. A few filled jars will make their way to our friends as a thank-you for the very generous gift.
Monday, March 07, 2011
Over the past year or so there have been rumours of food shortages combined with rising food costs. In some cases the price increase were quite noticeable (eg. chicken now $1 per lb cheapest compared to the previous 69¢ per lb cheapest) but in other cases it has been a bit more hidden (eg. slightly smaller package with slightly higher price). Despite reports of certain food shortages with the currently reported one being sugar, there have been no signs of food shortages here. Yet the World Food Bank has declared food costs at an all time high with dire predictions they are going to get worse. Food shortages are expected due to adverse local and global growing conditions that will affect the availability of some foods. This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 addresses a few issues with the rising costs of food and how you can create a bit of a buffer against them.
- stay informed - In this day and age it is easty to stay informed with respect to food availability and predicted shortages.
- ignore the fear mongering - Back during the y2K scare there was a lot of fear mongering centred around not only food availability but the availability of essential services and the collapse of our monetary system. In the end all this did was cause wide spread stockpiling often unorganized that resulted in an increase of food spoilage. Fear mongering creates temporary, local food shortages like we are currently seeing in some areas with sugar. The reason this happens is folks panic then over buy that product creating empty spots in the stores which feed into the panic of others who heard there may be a shortage. A vicious circle is created. The best reaction is to stay calm and do not panic.
- act accordingly but systematically - Once of the best defenses you have against food inflation is a well stocked pantry. Ideally your pantry will be stocked with a 6 month to 1 year supply of foods necessary to sustain your family. Your pantry stores should be constantly added to and rotated. Cherry pick the sales to build your pantry supplies. For example, pastas and a limited variety of condensed soups have been on sale here so the focus is replenishing the pantry with these foods.
- stock the instants - This is a good time to stock a few valuable instants in your pantry to be used in emergencies. These include: powdered honey, powdered milks, powdered peanut butter, powdered eggs, and powdered cheeses.
- stock the basics - Focus on the whole ingredients like flours as well rather than packaged foods. If buying canned foods get those that can go towards making a dish rather than the convenience canned foods (eg. canned pasta or stews). This makes the food stock a bit more versatile for later use.
- move towards self sufficiency - It is not too late to learn a few basic skills to help ensure your food security. Topping the list is growing as much produce as you can as well as raising rabbits and backyard chickens where permitted. Learn to preserve foods (canning, drying, freezing) as well as cure meats (extremely easy and cheap to do). Fishing, hunting, trapping and foraging are all good skills to learn if possible to help ensure your food security.
- change your eating habits - Now is the time to move away from heavily processed foods that will see the greatest increase in costs towards raw and homecooked foods.
Sunday, March 06, 2011
We buy raw, unpasteurized honey from a local beekeepers. The first beekeeper had hives outside town limits but he extracted honey in a garage turned shop within walking distance from us. The honey went into huge white plastic drums with a spigot. The kids were thrilled to be able to put their mason jar up to the spigot to get the golden sweetness. I've bought raw honey directly from the beekeepers ever since.
Raw honey is a wonderful natural sweetener that has health benefits as well that gets its colour and flavour from the type of flower the bees collected the pollen. In spring the honey is a pale golden because the bees are feeding on clover but as the summer turns to fall the bees collect honey different flowers. The honey collected becomes darker and stronger flavoured from spring to late fall. For example buckwheat honey is a deep amber and strongly flavoured. Some honey is very regional and rare like sourwood honey harvested high in the southern Appalachian Mountains for only a few days each fall. It is best to use raw honey collected locally as there is less chance to develop an allergic reaction. Raw honey should not be given to children under the age of one due to their underdeveloped immune system and botulism risk.
Pasteurized honey is a blend of honey collected that has been heated to high temperatures to destroy Clostridium botulinum spores that produce the toxin causing botulism. However, high heat degrades the flavour of the honey so it does not have the subtle flavour nuances and colour variation that raw honey does. I find it very much lacking in flavour. High heat also destroys the natural enzymes and pro-biotics in the honey making this form of honey nutritionally deficient and lacking in the natural health benefits raw honey has.
The method of honey collection has changed little since the removable wooden frames were developed by an American beekeeper in 1851. The beekeeper calms the bees with smoke then removes the beeswax and honey filled frames. The frames are placed in the uncapping machine to remove the caps. The rest of the cap is manually removed by scrapping. The frames are then placed in the honey extractor where they are spun to force the honey out. The honey is filtered to remove any remaining wax. This liquid honey is then bottled. Extra honey is stored chilled then heated to 130ºF to return it to liquid for bottling as needed. Some of the honey combs are cut into blocks to be sold as is. This really is a delight! The wax is edible. The beeswax liner from the frame is used to make beeswax candles while filtered wax is sold as chunks for candle making and cosmetics. Here's a great video I found to show the process.
Saturday, March 05, 2011
My husband brought home Chinese take-out from our favourite Chinese restaurant last night. This restaurant is quite good. They offer a 10% discount on pick-up orders of $22 or more. We usually order the regular dinner for three ($29.95). Along with our regular order he also got sweet and sour shrimp and won ton soup.
Many Chinese dishes are relatively easy to make at home and we often do. One of the key ingredients for chow mein and eggrolls is bean sprouts. Sprouts take about 4 days to harvest so planning ahead is necessary for making Chinese dishes requiring sprouts at home. I will post a few of our homemade Chinese dishes as I make them. Do watch for the homemade fortune cookies as well. I'm sure you will like those!
Friday, March 04, 2011
Last month we were able to take advantage of whole chickens on sale. Whole chickens have been on the high priced side in recent years. I was quite happy to cook three whole chickens while putting the other three in the freezer. I'm looking forward to rotisserie chicken on the outdoor grill!
This is a no measure casserole in that I just add what amounts look right and fit the size of the casserole dish. This casserole had roasted chicken, home canned mushrooms, niblet corn, condensed mushroom soup, milk and garlic pepper. We had about half of the small casserole for dinner with enough leftovers for two lunches the following day.
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
How is that title for alliteration? I have written a few times about fish fries on this blog. These small, volunteer run events are run as fund raisers for the organization hosting the fish fry. Fish fries are always a lot of fun. They are very much a social event usually with the same people attending each time. They are a nice way to enjoy eating out while providing community support.
Due to an injury that night I find myself still on crutches which means no cooking. What this really means is boredom is starting to set in as I haven't been able to do much especially in the kitchen. Don't worry though as I still have plenty of cooking to write about until I'm back in my kitchen. In the meantime I going through recipe books looking for new recipes to try.
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Stews like soups, chili and chowders originated as a frugal way to stretch a little meat and vegetables during the long winter months. While the type of meat varied the vegetables used were those that kept nicely in the root cellar. Typically these vegetables were carrots, winter squash, potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, and cabbage.
I made a typical beef stew in the slow cooker. I browned the stew beef in a little olive oil and Montreal steak seasoning then poured that into the slow cooker complete with the liquid. Next I added prepared carrots, potatoes, onion, water, and bayleaf. I programmed the slow cooker for 7 hours on low. About two hours before the cooking time was up I stirred in corn niblets followed by sliced mushtooms about an hour later. Finally I added Worcestershire sauce, a cornstarch slurry to let the juices thicken in the last fifteen minute and set the slowcooker on high.
The following day my husband took the leftover biscuits and stew to the office to share with one of our kids. There small batch of stew was enough for six healthy sized serving.
dumplings on the bottom yet biscuit-like on the top. It was a lovely, homemade meal perfect for a do nothing day!
The nice thing about both dinners was low prep that could be done sitting down and they were since pot dishes. This was very much appreciated since I'm still on crutches. It's times like this that all the home canning I do comes in handy. However, we are getting the freezers ready for our annual purchase so need to work on using the meat in them up.