Sunday, December 30, 2007

It's the season..

I know, It is the height of food season, and I haven't posted anything. I've been baking my mom's butter tarts, and making homemade chocolates, and kettle corn, and basically using the holiday season as an excuse to try new recipes since I am giving most of it away as gifts. And by gifts I mean little tokens to neighbors and friend's to let them know that we care about them via large doses of rum flavored chocolates in thrift store tins decorated with ribbon.

I tried making kettle corn for the first time this month using Rachel Ray's recipe. It was fast, simple, and tasted great. I added cinnamon and nutmeg to the sugar as a little flavor twist and we think it tasted quite yummy. Oh, and did I mention inexpensive? I would say though that if you do try this recipe you need to be sure to remove it from the heat the instant the popping slows down. Sugar burns fast we found out.

My snacking on baked goods has been kept to a minimum by insisting that I have to have tea to go with it. This meant that on Christmas day at the grandparent's, I finally ate my dessert a good hour after everyone else since I sat down to eat and found that the tea was all gone and had to brew some more, and keep them from clearing my plate while I waited. But in the end, I really enjoyed that dessert, and didn't really have the opportunity to eat more after since it was all already put away.

And in other news, in spite of a months worth of eating and baking, I dug out the fabulous red dress the other day for the first time this year while looking for party clothes and discovered, to my delight, that it fits again. In fact, the only place it's even a bit snug is in the chest. This is a tailored fitted dress so it's very unforgiving and it looked great. I was so happy and planning what shoes to wear with it when I realized that I couldn't wear it to the party because it's impossible to breast feed in and the Baby would be in attendance, for several hours and I didn't relish the idea of stripping naked in the bathroom in order to feed her. (Sigh. Must get a life soon and go out with just my husband somewhere that a fabulous dress won't be terribly out of place.) I'm honestly not sure I remember where it is that grownups go to have fun without children.

In other good news, I think I am finally thinking like a thin person. I'm not counting calories or feeling guilty about certain foods, I'm just eating sensibly and spending most of my effort trying to get as much healthy food into my family and myself as possible. I try to move because it feels good and my body tells me when I've gone too long without it and my muscles get tight. And I stop when I'm no longer hungry, and have treats in frequently but habitually ritualized, as with the tea thing. I'm not focused on weight loss, or gain, but every so often I look in the mirror and think, "Wow, I look pretty good." (And now you all think I'm a narcissist, but I'm not.) I don't use a scale. I can tell by the way my pants fit if I'm losing or gaining and the measures that keep things steady are mostly instinct now, as are the healthy eating habits. (I can't serve a meal and call it done without a vegetable for instance.)

So, I guess there is a pay off at the end of all that hard work and relearning after all. Make healthy behaviours habits and add habits gradually and one day it will seem like magic, like the weight came off all by itself. If I can do it....I know you can do it too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Making the Most Of Pantry Basics-Recap

Since we're heading into the Holidays and I am shopping again instead of getting by on what's in my pantry, my meals these days don't fit the guidelines I set out for this little series. And so I've decided to end it for now.

Here is a cost analysis for the 5 days.

Day 1-$6.80 or $1.70/person

Day 2-$5.30 or $1.33/person

Day 3-$5.82 or $1.46/person

Day 4-$5.89 or $1.47/person

Day 5-$6.28 or $1.57/person

That's way less than $2 a day.

Cost per person for 5 whole days? $7.53

Spread that out over a month and it's just over $45/person.

It CAN be done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Happy Festival of Fried Foods

Yes, I know I haven't posted this past week, and I'm still not done with the week of pantry basics, but we've been celebrating Hanukkah over here. And while latkes are definitely frugal, one of my granny's favorite stories to tell before she died was all about how she didn't know what to make for dinner and only had one egg in the house and so she made latkes (potato pancakes) and every one had plenty to eat, they may not count as healthy for most people. My mother in law made some this past week though, we called them leftover latkes, and she put lentils and chicken and grated zucchini in them too and they were really good, and fairly healthy as well.

I roasted that $5 turkey I told you about last night, and I now have leftovers to last several days. Hello turkey soup, and pie, and sandwiches.

One night, while trying to think of a way to use my dry goods, and honor the fried food tradition I decided to make samosas. I used a package of spring roll wrappers that I had stashed in my freezer and combined the fillings in these two recipes.

samosa recipe how to make samosas

lentil samosas

I didn't use mango powder though, or carrots because I didn't have either of those. Next time I will roast some of the panch phoran mix seeds and add them to the filling too. I think it will taste even better.

These were a total hit. My husband asked me how long he's have to wait before I made more, my kids ate them, the Girl needed encouragement to finish the filling but she finished it, and even the neighbor kid had some with us for lunch the next day and liked them.

Right now I have two stocks going, one for turkey, one for chicken. We are having shepherd's pie from Turkey leftovers tonight, and so much soup in the weeks to come. I'll get back to you soon with an authentic, only from basics day soon.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pantry Basics-Day Five and a Bonus section on beans and gas

Well yesterday was another pantry day.

Breakfast was crock pot porridge again.

Lunch was quinoa and lentils again. I mad ethem the night before so the Gh could tak ethem for lunch as well.

I was excited to find some ground beef in the freezer that I had overlooked. If memory serves I stocked up on ground sirloin when it was $ This was about 1 pound of meat. The kids wanted noodles so I cooked up about 1 pound of noodles I got at Big Lot's for $2.50 for 3 pounds.

I added two cans of Hunt's tomato sauce, also Big Lot's $.69.can, and the GH actually seasoned it because I had to feed the very cranky baby.

I defrosted a frozen loaf of the free cheese bread. (I wrap it in foil shiny side out and put it in a warm oven, 250F or so for at least half an hour. Be sure to flip it over in the middle. It comes out all warm and moist and has that fresh baked feel.)

And we had salad made from half, or less, of the red leaf lettuce I bought at the Farmer's Market last week, some organic cauliflower($.87/lb), and some sprouts. I estimate the cost of the salad to be around $1.20 or less.

We had more than half of the sauce left over and I plan to add some beans and turn it into sloppy joe's later this week.

Sauce $3.40 halved $1.70
Noddles $.83
Salad $1.20

Total cost for dinner $3.73

I was excited about the ground beef but after a week of eating vegetarian, well, and a stomach bug this weekend that kept me from eating much of anything courtesy of my sick baby, I felt distinctly uncomfortable with all that meat in my belly last night. I was getting used to the lighter cleaner feeling that comes without it.

Now onto a very serious question. One of you, and I won't say who because I'm nice like that, has indicated that you are concerned about the amount of beans I am eating because of gas issues. I thought that might be a question for more than one person so here goes.

If you find beans make you gassy, there are a few possibilities. The most likely is that the beans you are eating were not soaked first before cooking. All seeds, and beans are seeds, have in them enzyme inhibitors. These keep them from sprouting when conditions are too dry and unfavorable, they also make beans hard to digest and make it hard to absorb nutrients. Soaking changes all of this. It convinces the seed to wake up, thus removing the enzyme inhibitors turning the carbohydrate into protein and making the whole thing more digestible. For more detail go to this article that I wrote here. If you've not been soaking your beans over night before cooking them and you find you feel uncomfortably gassy after eating them, try soaking them. This may eliminate the problem.

I don't find that beans cause any extra gassiness, I get more from too much meat. But perhaps I don't notice that much because I also eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and spinach and those can cause gas too.

The second thing to consider is whether or not you are eating those beans with red meat. I find this combination often leads to excessive gas, but I don't usually blame the beans, I blame the steak or BBQ or hamburger personally. Try eating them without meat though and see if that makes a difference.

Last, for now, I know people who swear by Beano and other digestive enzymes. Beano you put on you first bite and it helps your stomach to break down the enzymes, and others you take before your meal, like papaya enzymes. Also, other things to try are drinking juice only before you eat, not after the meal as it's easier to digest on an empty stomach than full and helps the rest of the food along. Stick to water after you start eating. Wine on the other hand makes digestion easier. This is why I try to eat salad first as well. The vegetables digest better on an empty stomach and keep things moving for the other foods. There is something to be said for the whole European idea of single foods served in individual courses in an order that is meant to aid digestion.

I hope that some of those help y'all. Anyone else know something I missed? Add it to the comments.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fun with Food-Get 'em to eat sprouts

fun with food
I tell my kids that we're going to have bird's nests for lunch. Just drizzle dressing over the top.

Alternates for egg shaped foods include: almonds, grapes, brazil nuts, peanuts, etc.

The best way to get children excited about eating something is to involve them in the process. If they get to see it as a seed, and then help to rinse it and watch it grow, they are invested in enjoying that first taste. Even if they don't like it their first time, you're not likely to have to force them to take a bite. And remember, the more exposures to a food a child has, the more open they are to trying it.

Be a good eating example for your children. If they see you obviously enjoying something, and reaching for it first, they'll imitate you. Serve it with an enthusiastic smile and the expectation that they will like it, and chances are that they will.

Directions for sprouting can be found here. The same instructions work for nuts or seeds, though seeds should be grown for a few days longer, rinsing at least twice a day.

The end of Nablopomo

Well, this is post 30. Pantry basics will continue in a few days but tonight we are going to the in-laws for Shabbat, and staying until Sunday because my MIL's Birthday is tomorrow, so I won't be cooking, or at least, not from my pantry. I'm taking with me some salvaged bread and a pastry that I kept and froze for today. Oh, and a present. (Must stop blogging and finish present.)

Pantry Basics will pick up in a few days when I'm back at my pantry.

Today's lunch will be leftover rice, and leftover black beans from earlier this week.

I will give you a meal I made last week, and really liked.

I bought a wild rice mix at Big Lot's a while bag for $.70. I didn't realize it was parboiled and covered in a nasty boxed sauce powder. So I put it in a strainer and washed off all of the seasoning, but kept the dried onions. I put in in the bottom of the crock pot. I added one can of chickpeas and stirred them together. On top I put one gigantic chicken leg that I bought for $.49/pound, with the skin removed. You could use two regular chicken legs. Atop the chicken I put salt and pepper and thyme and spread this olive tapenade that we got at Trader Joe's that we didn't really like a whole lot as a tapenade. I added a tiny amount of water, about 1/2 cup and put the lid on to let it cook for 5 hours. This is the kind of crock pot recipe you want to do while at home, because the rice can burn if you leave it an extra hour or two and if you add more water, you just end up with mush. Once the chicken was cooked, I pulled the meat off the bone stirred it in with the rice and chickpeas, kept the bones for broth, and served it with a salad.

We had a dinner guest that night and there was enough for all of us, and it tasted really great.

tapenade-$.50 (I used about 1/4 of a $2 jar.)
Green Salad-$1

Total cost of meal-$3.39

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pantry Basics-Day Four and Gleaning Freegan Style

salvaged bread

I'll tell you what we ate today and how much it cost in a minute. First I'm going to tell you all about how I came to have all of these gigantic loaves of artisan bread on my table. It will make more sense perhaps if you go and read this post by No Impact Man called Teach a Man to Dumpster Dive, and Feed Him for Life. Be sure and watch the video too.

The idea of salvaged foods is hardly new to me. I shop at salvage grocery stores, I glean wild growing things, and I used to know people who collected salvage food, which is a euphemism for perfectly good food that would otherwise be tossed in a dumpster, and distribute it through food banks and shelters.

Last night I was walking the baby, and trying to get her to sleep with her cranky cold and happened to be walking past the front of Paniera (which is this great bakery restaurant chain) a little while after they closed. I saw a kid cart 4 gigantic bags to the dumpster and toss them in. Only they didn't look like garbage, they looked like bread. So I went a little bit closer and saw that there were two more bags sitting next to the door. So I asked him. "Is that bread?"


I eyed the loaves through the double layer of clear plastic bags encasing them.

"Is there anything wrong with it? Is it edible?"

"Oh yeah it's fine, we throw out bread at least three nights a week because it's a day old."

"Do you have to throw it out? Like, will you get into trouble if you don't?"

"No. We used to have someone come and pick it up. But lots of times he doesn't come."

"Well, I'll take it." I said.

And then I tried to pick up a bag of bread to carry home on the stroller and almost broke my back. It was really heavy. There was no way I could get it home.

So I grabbed a smaller bag of pastries and told him I'd be back.

I walked the 6 blocks back to our house and told the GH to grab the car and head over to get some bread. By the time he got there the place was locked up and there were no bags so he checked the dumpster and found a large bag of bread, sealed of course, sitting right on top. So he grabbed it and brought it home.

Those brown loaves in the middle are $8 loaves of bread. They are larger than a newborn, heavier too. Those baguettes are all whole wheat. This bread is made without preservatives and all of the unhealthy additives in most grocery store loaves, which is why they throw it out every few days. Think about how long bread sits on the shelves at the grocery store. Paniera is an artisan bakery that makes top quality stuff. I now have over $100 worth of gourmet bread that was baked fresh yesterday morning in my house. I put as much as would fit in the freezer. We're eating some before it goes bad, and the rest will go to family, friends, and whomever else wants it. The thing is, there were 5 other bags of food that were tossed last night, by that one store. The mind boggles to think of how much food is wasted every day across this nation.

I'm going to do some research and see if there is a place near by that would be willing to distribute it if we were to pick it up, like a Food Bank. Now I wonder what's in the trash behind the grocery store.

Okay today's menu.

Scrambled eggs-We get a dozen large for $1.19 at Trader Joe's. I used 5. $0.50
Whole grain toast-free

Breakfast $1.89

Snack-Yogurt with nectarine jam mixed in, about 1 tsp per bowl. $0.60


bread for lunch

Peanut Butter on thick slabs of bread with spinach and oranges on the side. (That combination is on purpose. The vitamin C in the oranges helps the body absorb the iron and nutrients in the spinach.) After I shot this picture I decided to add sliced bananas on top of the peanut butter.

Peanut butter-$0.40
Spinach leaves-$0.30
1 orange-$0.10
1 banana-$0.15

Total cost of lunch $0.80

For dinner I made corn tortillas, without a tortilla maker. I don't recommend it. It's time consuming and the tortillas don't hold together very well. This is my third attempt and they still aren't turning out well. I'm keeping my eyes open for a thrift store tortilla press, but no luck so far. When I consider that I can get 100 tortillas for less than 5 dollars around here and the bag of flour was about $3, this is one item that I'm not sure is worth it to make at home. Though it did taste wonderful.

I soaked black beans over night and then cooked them all day in the crockpot with onion, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, habanero sauce, and oregano.

I removed about half of the beans from the pot with a slotted spoon, sliced some mini peppers I found hanging out at the back of the fridge, and added the leftover corn from last night, sprouts, yogurt, instead of sour cream, and salsa. We had vegetarian tacos, and used up leftovers at the same time.

16 corn tortillas-$0.50
black beans cooked from dried-$0.50
corn-already added up last night

Total cost of dinner $2.60

Total cost for the day $5.89

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pantry Basics-Day Three

This morning we had porridge again.

1/2 cup hulled oats-$0.25
1/2 cup hulled barley-$0.20
1/2 cup millet$0.25
1 apple-At $0.57/pound about $0.40?

yogurt-Well it costs me less than a dollar a quart for the milk and we usually use about half a quart a day so, I'm gonna guess $.45
Breakfast $1.55

Lunch was leftovers from yesterday with some more rice and yogurt. (In India it's called curd rice.)
Let's say the one cup of rice and yogurt was an extra $1. Even though I'm positive it was less than that.

We had plans to go to a friend's house for dinner, and I was really excited not to cook today. But they had to cancel at the last minute so I was scrambling for a dinner that didn't involve soaking and cooking beans all day. I found some cans of baked beans that we had stockpiled earlier when they were on sale for $.69/can. Dinner was two cans of baked beans, more corn pone, only the GH added a can of corn kernels to it that cost $.59 and they tasted even yummier, bringing the total cost up to $1.09. Our vegetable was fresh sprouts. $.20

Total cost of dinner $2.67

Total cost of food for the day. $5.22

You may wonder what the baby's eating. I take most of our food, like the beans before I've added seasoning or the rice, and run it through a little hand operated baby food grinder. She likes yogurt and mashed up fruit too. And I flash steam green stuff to grind and feed her.

I was going to make bread tomorrow, but I suddenly have more artisan style whole grain and fancy bread options than I have storage space. More on that later.

Also, in the interests of full disclosure, the GH feels pained when he feels that his children aren't getting enough fresh fruit and vegetables so he went out today and purchased the sale items at our indoor farmer's market store, called Henry's. The banana's were $.39/lb, as were the organic rolled oats, so he stocked up on those big time so I can make muesli again. He got some apples at $.77/lbs and two bags of spinach for $3, and 20 oranges for $2. So the kids also had a banana each and an orange each today. Add $.60 to that total to accurately reflect snacking.

Honestly, it takes longer to write about what i cook each day than it does to actually do it, so please don't think it's a lot of work. The key is just to plan ahead. Think about tomorrow today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pantry Basics-Day Two

Breakfast this morning was crock pot porridge. I added an apple to the basic recipe. We also had yogurt and some really nice persimmons that the GH brought home from his parent's house. I guess they came from a neighbor.

I totally forgot that I had to think about lunch, since we don't have any easy protein, like cheese or peanut butter on hand. I cooked up some quinoa in chicken broth and while that was cooking I fast boiled some brown lentils. When both were cooked I drained the lentils and stirred them into the quinoa with salt, pepper, and ground cumin.

1/2 cups quinoa $0.50
chicken broth-made from leftover chicken
3/4 cup lentils $0.40

It tastes especially good with my husband's own special blend of apple cider vinegar, with a dash of cayenne, salt, ground mustard, minced fresh garlic, thyme, oregano, and a little bit of sugar drizzled over the top. He makes it a jarful at a time and we just keep eating it. Apple cider vinegar is supposed to be good for colds and metabolism as well as digestion. Cayenne has health and immunity boosting abilities and has been shown to help in weight loss. Oregano is an anti-bacterial, okay it's good for you, and delicious. You get the idea.

apple cider vinegar-$0.70/jar we used less than a quarter of it.

Cost of lunch $1

Before leaving for the library I put some black eyed peas, 3 cups, in the crock pot with water and salt.
On the way home we passed the farmer's market and I needed something green and fresh. (The sprouts I started won't be ready until tomorrow at the earliest.) I spent $4 and came home with a shopping bag full of kale and lettuce and 5 limes.

Tonight for dinner I tried to recreate something my friend from India gave me once, I think I came pretty close.

I started with a spice blend called Panch Phoran. You can get it at Cost Plus, or in bulk at an Indian grocery store. It's a spice blend containing mustard, cumin, fennel, nigella and fenugreek seeds.

1 tbsp vegetable oil-negligible
1 tbsp panch phoran- $0.30
1/2 onion, chopped fine $0.20
1 tsp minced garlic-$0.05
6-7 cups cooked black eyed peas $1.50

Heat the oil in a skillet and roast the spices for two or three minutes. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic. Continue stirring and cooking until the onions are cooked through. Add the beans and fry about 5 minutes more. Serve with rice, and yogurt. (My friend also added a lot of chili which made this really spicy. I didn't this time because I wanted the kids to eat it.)

I chopped up a few stalks of kale and tossed them with apple cider vinegar, honey and olive oil. My kids asked for seconds. I guess that starving them continues to work. :)

Two kale stalks $0.20
1 1/2 cups rice-$0.40
1/4 cup homemade yogurt $0.15

Total cost for dinner $2.80

Lunch and dinner for 4 $3.80

I'm too tired to figure out breakfast today. Baby's teething and has a cold, Maybe tomorrow I'll have the energy to do a cost analysis on our porridge.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Making meals with dry goods and pantry basics-A week, or more, of pantry scraping

It's going to be a tight month for us, really tight. The GH's line work has always been affected by season, and this year more than usual. (That means it's been a while since we've seen a paycheck and it may be even longer before one appears. Such is the lot of the self-employed. Especially when some clients don't pay on time. Sigh.) Plus there are two little girls with birthdays in December, and lots of holiday related things. I'll be hand making a lot of gifts from materials I already have stashed, I already have some gifts tucked away. And, I'm spending as little as possible on groceries. I've been talking a lot lately about how little you have to spend to eat real food that's good for you. Now it's time to put my money, or lack of it, where my mouth is. Literally.

A quick look through my kitchen give me this list of things to work with:
lentils-red and green lots
10 pounds jasmine rice
5 pounds red rice
1 pounds black rice
1-2 pounds sticky rice
1 bag dry black beans
1/2 back pinto beans
lots of tiny little white beans
1 pound of black eyed peas
whole oats
a huge bag of textured vegetable protein (Made with soy flour)
whole wheat flour
white flour
fresh ground flour
wheat berries
3 sweet potatoes
4 onions
condiments and crushed garlic
chicken broth
rice stick
spring roll wrappers
maseca-Flour for corn tortillas
alfalfa seeds
zesty salad mix sprouting seeds
One 12 pound turkey in the freezer. Purchased for $5 on sale.
Several chicken legs, $0.49/lb. I have a rain check for more when I run out.
2 whole chickens (These were free because we butchered them ourselves for the GH's parents when they stopped laying. They are old and tough and will take some unusual measures to render edible.)
Frozen edamame
frozen green beans
frozen cranberries
2 eggs
2 quarts of yogurt
half a large box of powdered skim milk
frozen seafood stock
stockpiled baking items, chocolate chips, nuts, icing, etc.
almost out of honey
a little bit of sugar
a lot of tea
1 loaf of bread
maple syrup
canola oil
and many condiments and spices.

I still have a few apples left, I stocked up when they went on sale for $0.57/pound a few weeks ago.

Still growing in my pots,
garlic chives
mint (Not thriving)

As you can see, I do have quite a lot stockpiled that I can work with. I am going to try and not buy anything fresh and see how long I can go this way. I will eventually need to get honey for bread. And I can't imagine I'll be able to avoid buying eggs for long. I'll be making a sourdough starter so I don't need to worry when I run out of yeast. I really wish we weren't out of peanut butter. I read that you can make yogurt out of powdered milk and no one can tell the difference, but I haven't tried it yet. I'll be testing that out when we run out of yogurt.

So, are you wondering what we ate today?

Lunch was rice with an egg stirred in toward the end of cooking. We call it yellow rice. And edamame, (Soy beans). The kids ate it. It all depends on the sauce. I let them dip it in kecap manis. I suppose starving them helps too. And by starving them I mean feeding them yogurt for breakfast, and sprouted almonds, and dates, and apples, and toast.

For dinner I bought something. I spent $1 on a ham hock to make navy bean soup. Actually I spent $3 for 3 because that's how they were packaged. I'll put the other 2 in the freezer for another time.

1 lb dried navy beans (These were free actually, my friend gave them to me when she moved away, but for the sake of conversation...) shall we say $1?
ham hock $1
one onion $0.40

Soak the beans for several hours, then put in the crock pot with the ham hock and a lot of water. Cook on low overnight. At lunch time or so, chop the onion and add it to the crock pot along with 2 tsp minced garlic and some bay leaves. An hour before serving I fished the bones out with a slotted spoon, picked the meat off and added it back into the soup. I'm deciding if there is another broth in the bones still, I think there might be. At the end I also added salt, pepper, old bay spice, thyme, parsley, etc.

So the soup cost $2.40. There is more than half left, which I put in the freezer for another day,

Cost of main course $1.20

To go with it I made Indian Corn Pone, following the recipe in the More with Less cookbook.

1 cup corn meal $0.15 (I got the large bag at Big Lot's for $2.)
1/2 tsp salt-negligible
1 tsp baking powder-negligible

2 tbsp fat-I used canola oil $0.10
3/4 cup powdered milk $0.25
1/2 cup water.

Stir together in order and let sit for a bit so the cornmeal has a chance to soften. Using a table spoon drop spoonfuls into a hot greased skillet and flatten with a spatula. Flip when the bottom is golden and cook until both sides are golden. Serve immediately.

So, the side dish with extra protein cost $0.50.

We also had some fresh springs of parsley for the vegetable. Free from the planter.

Total cost of dinner for 4 people $1.90

Except for the cornmeal, I'm basing this on regular prices, not sales. Imagine if I got it on sale.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cinnamon Sticks are a Fun Snack

Are your kids bugging you for dessert, again? Are you wandering around your kitchen feeling snacky and wanting to put something in your mouth but you're not really hungry? Have you ever tried a cinnamon bark?

Cinnamon sticks are those things that usually come as a garnish for fancy apple cider or hot chocolate drinks. What they are made of is rolled up cinnamon bark. It's the same substance that you have ground up in a jar in your spice cupboard. Cinnamon is just the bark from a particular tree.

So, if you like cinnamon, try taking one of these little sticks or whole pieces and chewing on it for a while. It tastes good, and has the added benefit of regulating your metabolism. This in turn helps to curb your cravings, as well as the really strong flavor. The calories in cinnamon bark are negligible so it's a great thing to have on hand if you are trying to curb a snack addiction too.

My kids think I'm so generous when I let them have a whole cinnamon stick to themselves!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

How to Make Soup Broth

One of the simplest ways to make the most of your meat dishes, and leftovers, is to turn it all into soup. But I don't want to assume that everyone knows how to do this so I'll lay it out step by step.

Take the bones from your meal, be they turkey, chicken, ham, or beef, or even shrimp shells or fish heads. Save the drippings from when you roast and bake as well. (Pour the fat off, or skim it off once it cools.) Put them in a large stockpot, or crock pot. Cover with water.

Simmer on low heat for at least 8 hours. If you are using a stock pot make sure you add more water every few hours so it doesn't dry out and burn. The longer you simmer, the stronger the flavor in your soup stock.

Once the broth is to your liking, remove it from heat and pour into another pot or bowl through a strainer. Once the bones have cooled a little, you can sort through them for meat scraps and add them to the broth. You'd be surprised how much meat can be there.

Discard the bones and use the broth in you favorite soup recipe. Add chopped vegetables, potatoes, meat, rice, beans, barley, whatever you have in the fridge that should be used soon.

TIP: When making soup add things according to their cooking time. If you add dry beans and carrots at the same time, the carrots will be mush long before the beans are cooked through. Wait to add the carrots until the beans are almost all the way cooked. The same goes for everything else.

Variations: To give your broth more flavor, you can add a quartered onion, crushed garlic cloves, chopped celery, crushed chilies, shrimp shells, whatever you want, and add it to the stock when you are cooking it. This adds more flavor. Keep in mind that you will discard these with the bones.

Vegetable soup: Use onions, celery, carrots, turnips, leeks, etc., to make broth. You can puree them all together after in a blender to make a really tasty creamy vegetable soup, or drain and keep the broth only.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Trader Joe's vs Big Lot's, the face off continues

My hubby and I have a little running competition going. I find the best deals I can at Big Lot's and through the fliers. He then likes to try and prove how much cheaper it is at Trader Joe's.

The last time I was at Big Lot's I picked up a bag of Ghirardelli's chocolate chips for $2.50. I figured I could stock up for baking, and I found some nuts for 3$ a bag which are normally $6.
Now, I know that Big Lot's is a salvage store so the nuts weren't likely to be fresh, but I figured it would work out fine for baking.

The first thing the GH says when he sees them on the counter, "How come you got those there? Their cheaper at Trader Joe's, and better quality."

The next time he comes home with a larger bag of chocolate chips, milk and dark chocolate that he paid $1.69 a bag for, each. The nuts were more though.

I guess you could call that a tie. But the Trader Joe's Chocolate chips taste better, and so do the nuts.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Shepherd's Pie From Turkey Leftovers

Well, I'm tired, and stuffed. Here is a reprint of last year's leftover solution.

While I'm thinking about it, here's the simplest ever remake of turkey dinner leftovers. Take leftover turkey and gravy and combine, add leftover vegetables, and spices that you like, garlic, salt, pepper, herbs, red pepper, hot sauce, Mrs. Dash, turmeric even if you like, whatever tastes good, put in a baking dish, spread the leftover mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle with your favorite cheese and bake in the oven until the top browns. There you have turkey shepherd's pie, which even leftovers hater's will eat, because it's a new dish.
You can even assemble this as you are cleaning up from the feast. Then tomorrow, when the last thing you want to do is start cooking, you can just pop it into the oven and make a salad and use up the leftover rolls. :)

We always go for a walk after our big turkey meal. Before dessert. It keeps you from feeling quite so comatose in the evening.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We have already finished the first leg of our Turkey binge. Tomorrow will be another.

There is a tradition in the Jewish calender before Passover of gathering food and making sure that all of the poor in the community have enough to celebrate the feast also. In our family we tend to go out and find them and bring them home for dinner. In years past we've had a couple who were expecting their first baby and living out of their car join us, and the generous outpouring of our friends on that day made it possible for them to stay in a motel for several months before and after the birth of their little baby. We almost always have a large, multicultural gathering, some people who have never celebrated thanksgiving before, and the Menu is usually eclectic and exotic. I'm looking forward to Indian food tomorrow.

I hope your gatherings with family and friends are full of joy and gratitude.

I wish you all peace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A cool gift idea

Am I the only one freaked out by all the new info on polyurethanes leaching from plastic bottles. From what I''ve read, if the little number on the bottom of the bottle is a 1, 2, 3. 6, or 7, you could be getting dangerous cancer and birth defect causing chemicals from your bottled water, and water bottle, yes, even the Nalgenes. So I when to check my bottle that was supposed to be this great okay to drink from plastic and guess what. It's slowly poisoning me after all.

That's why I'm finally making the switch to metal. I LOVE the water bottles made by SIGG. They are so pretty. They have cool designs. They're made in Switzerland, not China.

Every one needs to drink water right? Why not out of a personalized bottle that is virtually indestructible and will last for year and years, provided they don't lose it. (The only way I know to break the things is to put them in the freezer with water in them, even if you only fill them halfway and leave the lid off. That's how I destroyed my husband's bottle. The one he's had longer than he's known me. The one that he has carried with him on every single trip he's ever taken to South East Asia. Basically I destroyed all of his souvenirs of almost a decade by wrecking that thing. Gulp.)

But he's getting a new one. I'm telling our family who ask to get us all one of these this year. And people on my list may just find something similar in their box as well.


ps. If you can't afford a cool little bottle. You could always
just use a glass jar with a screw top lid, or a glass bottle, which is what I am currently using. Just don't drop it by accident.

Monday, November 19, 2007

How to Revive wilted lettuce

I just have time for a quick tip today.

Sometimes salad greens and herbs start to wilt before we have a chance to use them. Often, if you submerge them in a bowl of ice water for a little while they become crisp again and ready to use.

(This doesn't work for greens that are very wilted. I usually chop those up in the blender and add them to soups and sauces.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gluten Free Pie Crust and and Spiced Apple Tart

My mom invented this crust recipe for my SIL who is gluten intolerant. It works for cheesecakes and pumpkin pies, but my favorite is this Apple Tart recipe.


1 1/2 cups ground nuts (I usually just grind pecans in the blender, or almonds.)

1/4 cup sugar

3 tbsp melted butter

Combine ingredients and press into pie shell. Add filling and bake.

Spiced Apple Tart Filling

3-4 Medium Apples

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cardamom

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

Peel and slice the apples thin. Combine the rest of the ingredients and toss into the apples until evenly coated. Put apples in pie shell and bake in the oven at 350F for approximately 20 minutes or until apples are soft and crust is browned. If the crust starts to brown before the apples cook, cover it with tinfoil and bake until done.

Then eat it warm with ice cream. MMMMMM!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Cure for Ignorance?

Now that we're finished with turkey a la Carrien, I want to go back to the discussion generated by this post from last week, No Money, No Problem.

There were some great comments and ideas so check them out.

This comment from Michelle Smiles has been rattling around in my brain since then.

I will say that I think some of the issue, especially for those in the lower income brackets, is often lack of knowledge. They don't know HOW to eat well. They don't know how to bake their own bread, cook dried beans, use fresh produce in dishes their children will actually eat. Their parents often fed them mac & cheese and twinkies so that is all they know. I used to work in a women's shelter and would have loved to have had someone come in and teach the ladies those things - nutrition on a budget. (And the staff - working at a shelter pays poorly and often the staff doesn't know how to do those things either.)
One of the things I am trying to do with this blog is be the kind of resource that will help with this problem. I'm learning as I go to make that easier for people. I'm trying to keep posts shorter now, and clearly labeled for content and categories so that it will be easier for people to find what they are looking for, and the information they need. Any helpful suggestions would be most appreciated.

I've tried volunteering for WIC to teach moms some frugal and healthy tricks but the combination of my lack of Spanish and scheduling has kept something like that from happening so far.

What I was thinking today was to take it a step further this holiday season. Many of us donate to food banks and the like to help out those less fortunate. Lots of the stuff that is donated isn't all that great nutritionally because it's mostly dry goods, and processed snacks because they don't go bad. A lot of times, people wouldn't know what to do with wheat berries or dry beans that I would most want to give, so here's what I'm thinking. I want all of you to tell me your favorite, most accessible frugal and healthy cookbook. And you favorite recipe in it. Let's get a list going. And then how about if each of us bought one, or two, or three, (sometimes these books are only a few dollars on Amazon), and included them in our food donation. We could even bookmark a favorite recipe and include all of the needed ingredients and package it all together so that whoever got it could make it right away. Or, if you can't afford a book, what about compiling the ingredients for one healthy recipe and slipping the recipe in with the package written out by hand with a note?

That's what I plan to do this year anyway.

So, here are two of my favorite frugal books. Two of you already mentioned More With Less, which is a very comprehensive resource. Amazon's best price right now is $9.

For moms of younger children, my absolute favorite is this very thick tome called super baby food. It has everything. How to make healthy food fun for kids, how to make baby food, how to decorate birthday cakes, how to make bread, how to make yogurt, how to make sprouts, how to make play dough. If you can only give one book to mothers of small children, I highly recommend this one. It's worth every penny. And right now you can get a copy for just over $5.

So, now it's your turn.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Black Rice Pudding with Mangoes and Thai Iced Tea

Okay, I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this, but Thai iced tea is really not good for you. It's got artificial colors in it. And if you drink it the way they do in Thailand, you mix it with sweetened condensed milk and drink it over ice. The north American version is slightly better, you have it with half and half, or whole milk. But don't by any means think this drink is good for you, or that you should have it every day. I have it a few times a year, when we make fancy Thai meal.
end disclaimer.

Thai Iced Tea

For Thai Iced tea:

Thai iced tea mix

sweetened condensed milk

Brew the tea in boiling water for at least 10 minutes to get really strong flavor. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer to remove all of the leaves. Let it cool and then set it in the fridge to chill. Serve over ice with sweetened condensed milk to taste, stir together and drink. If you want to use cream instead it's fun to pour it in on top of the tea and let it sit in layers until your guests stir it together. The Thai iced tea you get in restaurants is usually 1/3 cream.

For an appetizer:

shrimp crackers

These little crackers are raw and you have to fry them yourself in oil before serving. Their puffy and have a nice texture, and again shouldn't be eaten all the time, just on special occasions.

For dessert: Black Rice pudding with mango

purple sticky rice/ or black glutinous rice

fresh ginger

palm or brown sugar

coconut milk 240mL

coconut cream 120mL

diced mango


Rinse and drain the rice. Put 1 cup rice in a heavy saucepan with 2 1/2 cups of water and 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger. Bring to a boil. Cover, and lower the heat simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the rice is soft.

Stir in 3/4 cup of palm sugar, or brown sugar if you can't find palm sugar, and 1 cup of coconut milk. Simmer another 10 minutes. Cool to room temp and serve with diced mango and a drizzle of coconut cream over the top. Serves 4 unless you're like me and use tiny bowls.

This concludes the menu for Thai Turkey dinner. Our own favorite family turkey dinner. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thai Spring Roll Salad with Peanut Sauce Dressing

This is the salad to go with the Thai Turkey Dinner. The shopping list is here in yesterday's post.

But here it is again so you don't have to go looking.

1 pound large prawns-peeled

Napa Cabbage

Green leaf lettuce

Mung bean sprouts




Thai Basil

For the dressing,

1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter

1 tbsp peanut oil

1/4 cup onion, finely diced

1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced

1 garlic clove, diced

1 tbsp fish sauce

3/4 cup Chicken stock

1 tsp Red Curry Paste

1 1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce

8-12 limes, juiced


It's best to make the dressing ahead, it refrigerates quite well for a day or two and only needs to be returned to room temperature to pour.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat. Saute the onion, ginger and garlic for 1 minute until soft.

Add the fish sauce, chicken stock, curry paste, hoisin sauce and lime juice. Simmer on medium heat until the chicken stock is warm. Turn off the heat and whisk in the peanut butter until it is melted. You only want the peanut butter to be warm enough to mix, you don't want to cook or it will turn into a greasy lump. Learn from my mistake, don't do this.

You want it to be thin enough to pour so if it is still too thick whisk in some more water or broth. It with thicken when cool, but pour again when brought back to room temperature.

For the salad:

Rough cut the cabbage, tear the butter leaf lettuce. and shred the carrot. Add the bean sprouts, and leaves from the basil, mint, and cilantro. You can't really over do the fresh herbs, they are what makes this salad so very interesting.

As I mentioned yesterday, you will flash cook the prawns in the turkey gravy and let cool. (If you aren't making Thai turkey, you can substitute tom yum paste, red curry, tamarind water, and kecap manis for a shrimp marinade.) When you are ready to serve the salad scatter the prawns on top and either serve with dressing on the side, or stir it all in before serving. That is all. Prepare to listen to every one enjoy their salad.

Tomorrow, dessert of black rice pudding, and how to make Thai iced tea.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thai Turkey Dinner-Shopping list, turkey recipe, pineapple fried rice recipe

As promised, here is part one of how to make a Thai Turkey Dinner. I started with the complete shopping list, and found some of the more exotic items for you online. So I've done all the hard work. :) Below the shopping list is the Turkey recipe and order of preparation for the rest of the meal.

You will need:

For the Turkey

one small turkey- less than 10 lbs is best, for a larger bird you will want to marinate an extra 24 hours but the flavor still won't be as intense.

*Tom Yum paste

lemon grass (Lots, 10 stalks or so)

kaffir lime leaves

galangaal root

Thai red chili

(the lime leaves, galangaal, and chili are all in this handy little fresh mailer package from Amazon, with extra lemon grass. I didn't even know you could get this until today.)

tamarind paste

toasted sesame oil

fish sauce

brown sugar

garlic cloves

For the salad:

Napa Cabbage

1 pound large prawns-peeled

Green leaf lettuce

Mung bean sprouts




Thai Basil

For the dressing,

12 oz natural chunky peanut butter

peanut oil


fresh ginger

1 garlic clove (You already have this for the turkey)

fish sauce (You already have this for the Turkey)

Chicken stock

Red Curry Paste

hoisin sauce

8-12 limes

For the Rice:

brown jasmine rice

dried wood ear mushrooms

green onions

For the rice variation:

1 onion

4 garlic cloves

1 pineapple

For Thai Iced tea:

Thai iced tea mix

sweetened condensed milk

For an appetizer:

shrimp crackers

For dessert: Black Rice pudding with mango

purple sticky rice/ or black rice

fresh ginger

palm or brown sugar

coconut milk 240mL

coconut cream 120mL

diced mango

To make the Turkey:

If frozen thaw in time to marinate for a day before hand.

Make tamarind water:
Put 3-4 tbsp dried tamarind pulp in a bowl and add 1/2 cup of hot water. Let it it soak for about 20 minutes, stir it to break up the lumps. When the pulp is soft strain it through a fine sieve, keeping the liquid. Press on the pulp to get out all of the liquid. Keep the water, toss the pulp.

To the tamarind water add

2 cups tom yum paste

1/3 cup sesame oil

1/2 cup fish sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar or kecap manis

Stir together. This is your marinade.

Put the turkey in a large pot, or clean plastic bag and pour the marinade in. Marinate over night and longer the larger your turkey is. Turn often.

On the day off, follow the instructions for length of cooking based on size of bird. Place the turkey breast down in a large roasting pan. We always roast birds with the breast down so the the juices run into instead of out of the breast and keep it moist. (Trick from my grandma). Inside stuff crushed garlic cloves, kaffir limes leaves, lots of sliced lemon grass, sliced galangaal root, and whole Thai chilies. This is all for flavor, you won't eat any of it.
Pour all of the marinade into the pan as well, don't worry if the bird sits in it a little, that's good. I don't generally baste at all, but with this one we baste once about half way through cooking and keep it tented with foil the rest of the time until 20 minutes or so before we take it out. Cook it on the lowest possible heat, say 250, until it is cooked all the way through, usually 3-4 hours. (Think slow cooker.) Another grandma trick, the turkey is done when you can shake hands with it. The leg moves easily when you try to move it. This turkey will not dry out if you over cook it a bit, so err on the side of done.

Once the turkey is cooked remove it from the oven and place on a board. Tent it with the foil and let it rest. This turkey usually falls apart it's so moist and doesn't usually need to be carved, but you can try. There should be a lot of drippings in the bottom which is great. You will need it for other things.

Brown rice with Wood ear mushrooms

Now start cooking your rice. This takes a while so be ready to go as soon as the Turkey is done, or steal some drippings while it's still in the oven. Break up the wood ear mushrooms into small pieces and add to the dry rice. Then cook the rice according to package directions, but one third of your liquid will be the drippings from the turkey. More if you like really intense flavor.

Slice the green onions and stir into the rice when it is done. Garnish with some fresh cilantro and serve. This is the easy version and it's tasty.

Pineapple fried rice variation

For a variation that is fun turn this into a variation of pineapple fried rice. Cut a pineapple in half and hollow out the shells. Cube the pineapple flesh.

In a wok over high heat stir fry 1 chopped onion until it's soft. Add 4 minced garlic cloves, and stir fry for half a minute then throw in the pineapple and rice from the cooker, as prepared above. Add salt and pepper to taste, and fish sauce with a bit of sugar if it's too dry. Stir in the sliced green onions and cilantro leaves and serve the rice in the hollowed out pineapple shells.

Preparing the prawns for the salad and making gravy

You will want to make gravy from the remaining turkey drippings while the rice is cooking.

In a heavy saucepan, simmer the drippings. In a bowl stir together 1/4 cup of cornstarch and one cup of cold water until the cornstarch is fully dissolved. As you pour the cornstarch mixture into the drippings, use your other hands to rapidly stir them together with a whisk. Pour slowly, stir like crazy, until it's all combined and smooth. Continue stirring until it starts to bubble. As soon the gravy is bubbling, throw the raw prawns into the pan for 2-3 minutes until they turn bright red. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Let them chill and keep them in the fridge until it's time to serve the salad. These will go with the salad, which I'll tell you how to make tomorrow. The sauce for the salad can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. The salad greens can also be partially assembled in the morning, or whenever you like on the day of.

*(I just spent a loong time trying to find online the Tom Yum paste that we use that doesn't have shrimp or msg in it. However, I can't remember the brand name and I don't have a jar in the fridge right now. The one on Amazon, I have used before and it tastes right, but it has MSG in it too. You could grab the basic ingredients, Lemon grass, onion garlic, galangaal, lime leaves, Thai red chilies, red curry paste, and blend them all in a mortar and pestle, or food processor and fry them in oil and then store in a jar in the fridge. )

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More with Less Cookbook is Still in Print

So I did a little search and here it is. The More With Less Cookbook is still available on Amazon. There is a lot of good stuff in there for you to look at, hundreds of recipes and lots of information as well. You may never come back here again. No, come back, I didn't mean that.....but this book is a great resource, just saying.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thai Turkey Dinner

Four years ago I had just given birth to my daughter and spent most of the holidays laying on the couch and watching other people take care of my house, and kitchen. The Genius Husband, who is a fabulous cook, and quite the foodie commandeered the preparation of the tiny turkey I had procured earlier. What followed was the best tasting, and most unique turkey dinner I had ever had. It tasted so good that our new menu for Thai Turkey has become a yearly event. If you are bored with turkey, or never really liked it much to begin with, and you are cooking for people who won't hang you for mixing it up a little bit, you'll like this. I will be posting recipes to go with this menu for the next few days, starting with the turkey and a shopping list. You'll need an Asian supply store.

The Menu

Thai turkey, turkey marinated and roasted in Thai seasonings until they caramelize.

Spring roll and prawn salad

Brown rice and mushroom pilaf

Black rice pudding with mangoes for dessert

When you eat turkey several times in a few short weeks, this is a refreshing variation on an old, old, theme.

Those of you who mentioned more for less haven't been sneaking glances at my reading pile have you? I've got an original copy that I inherited from the GH's grandmother this summer that I'm perusing. I grew up in the large shadow cast by this book, and my Mennonite grandma. Now I finally have my own copy.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

No Money? No Problem *Update

***I've added on to this subject over here. I have an idea that I think might help. Check out A Cure for Ignorance?

Every so often I get comments from people that have one recurring theme. They tell me all about how little money they have to spend on food per month, the stretched budget, the cost of fresh produce and conclude that they are just too poor to eat healthy. I think this is a lousy excuse.

You may not be able to afford the $6 a bottle pure fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, but that's hardly an excuse to buy Kool-aid. You may not be able to afford top quality steaks and organic free range chicken, but you don't have to eat potato chips and candy just because they're cheap.

Nowhere else in the world are the poor so overweight, and so undernourished. There is an epidemic of over eating in the US, but very little of what is eaten is real food. Take for example peasant food in eastern Africa. It centers around teff, a highly nutritious hardy grain, and lentils, full of fiber and protein. In addition to this are locally available vegetables. All other things being equal, I would venture that a person eating this diet would be a good deal healthier than the North American peasant diet of mac and cheese and Twinkies.

In India the poor live on lentils, beans and Basmati rice, yogurt, cabbage, spinach, and soft cheese. If there is more money they also eat flat bread made with butter and flour. Their candies and desserts often have lentils ground up and mixed in with them. Even though it's fatty, it's still healthier than here.

The world over people exist solely on rice and beans, vegetables, and the occasional meat dish. This, modern science tells us, is the best way for our bodies to eat.

Now, take a look at your local stores. Bulk grains and beans are about the lowest priced things at the store. Making anything at home from scratch and raw ingredients is cheaper and healthier than buying it pre-made. Now if we consider that the produce in season is usually $1 or less per pound, and that your average family size bag of chips is 1-2 dollars it seems to me that if you can afford to buy junk food, you can afford to eat vegetables. (Of course, this means you have to let go of the idea of eating strawberries year round in exchange for leeks and cabbage, not perhaps as exciting, but excellent nutrition.) If you can afford to buy Mac and cheese, you can afford to eat beans and rice. If you can afford to buy Kool-aid you can drink water and herbal tea instead. Going further, if you can afford to buy milk a few times a month, you can afford to make your own yogurt. If you can afford to buy breakfast cereal, you can afford to purchase the ingredients to make muesli and granola. If you can afford to buy loaves of bread, you can afford to purchase whole wheat flour and make your own. One bag of whole wheat flour costs less than a standard loaf of bread, and makes 10-20 loaves. Then, if you purchase a grain grinder and pay for wheat berries in bulk and grind it fresh, about $0.25/lb you can pay for that grinder in about a year with the money you've saved on bread.

Seed for sprouting is very inexpensive. One package of organic seeds is less than $3 and produces crop after crop of healthy nutritious sprouts. Sprouts are one of the most densely nutritious things you can eat. They are easy to make, with simple homemade equipment and only take a few days. People with limited means have little excuse for not having adequate nutrition when sprouting is such a simple means to add value to your diet.

Instead of focusing on what you can't afford to buy, spend your energy imagining what you can purchase, and what you can make. The need for frugality is rather an opportunity for creativity than an excuse to spend what extra you have available on things that have no nutritional value at all. And yes, every one deserves a treat from time to time. If you can't afford to purchase high quality treats, consider making your own from scratch. This is cheaper and makes for lovely memories for your family as well.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Help with menu planning

I've been looking at the free menus over at They look really great, If figuring out what to make for dinner every night is a chore, and finding recipes and coordinating shopping lists is a headache, you may really enjoy this service.

Their are many menus to choose from including crockpot, low carb, heart healthy, gluten free, frugal, low fat and sodium, and vegetarian. Leanne truly is the dinner diva it seems and what I've seen are really excellent ideas and healthy menus. The cost for a year is minimal enough that I'm tempted to sign up myself, and I like menu planning.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Make Fresh Salsa at Home

There are probably as many salsa recipes as there are salsa lovers and there are no hard and fast rules as to how to make it. Salsa is after all the Spanish word for sauce, and there are lots of different ways to make sauce. This recipe is a fairly standard staple of the Baja peninsula and sticks to the main ideas of salsa, which is to use what you have on hand. All of the ingredients in this salsa can be grown locally my own kitchen garden. Or traded for something from my neighbor’s tree.


Fresh tomatoes
Garlic bulbs
Green onion
Chili peppers
Lime juice

The way to make this varies depending on what you like the most. If you want it spicy, add more chili, if you love the taste of cilantro and lime the most, add more of them. I usually use about one chili pepper for 8 tomatoes, 3 bulbs of garlic, 4 green onions, one handful of cilantro, and the juice of one lime. There are two options for preparation as well. If you like your salsa runny you can just throw all of the ingredients into the blender or food processor and you are done, almost instant salsa. If you are like my husband and don’t like it runny but don’t like it too chunky you have some chopping to do.

Dice the tomatoes. A very sharp knife helps this process. Crush the garlic and chop the green onion and the chili as fine as you can. You can use only the cilantro leaves or chop the stems as well. Add the lime juice and let it sit in the fridge for 15 minutes or more to let all of the flavors mix together. Enjoy with tortilla chips, on burritos and tacos, and in been dip.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Favorite Foods

Indulge me, I have to post today, but I don't have time to upload the pictures to go with the recipe I had planned to share. I was feeling a little bit homesick, like cold snowy Canada homesick, homemade cookies and grandma's chicken dinner homesick. I'm planning on making my mom's butter tarts this year for the first time. Because they're my favorite holiday recipe and I want to share it with my kids. One bite transports me to every new year in my memory.

So I want to hear from you. What's your favorite holiday food. What evokes memories of people living and passed, and the warm memories of families together.

I've already told you mine, add to that baked apples over a winter fire.

I'm fascinated by the way food speaks to our hearts as well as our stomachs, how certain scents feel like home, or take us to far away exotic places, or bring back memories of a special occasion.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tea, make it a part of your diet, and your holiday treats

My mother's family is Irish, my dad's, British and Irish. I come from a long line of tea drinkers, a looong line. My mother used to have travel tea cups that coordinated with her wardrobe. If anything happens in her family it's accompanied by the brewing of a strong pot of tea and sitting down at the table. My father's parents like to take their tea very seriously, cream first, then tea, always with the silver, never pour the cream from the carton, always from the pretty cream pitcher. You get the idea.

The reason I bring it up is that tea can be a big help to those who want to curb some automatic eating habits. For example, my grandparents always have tea after dinner, with dessert. There is something about a hot cup of tea that makes people slow down, and pay attention, and eat less. There is something about waiting for the water to boil, and the tea to brew, before sitting down with a pretty plate of dessert that keeps me anyway from gorging myself.

The prospect of the combination keeps me from sneaking extra before hand, and keeps me from sneaking extra after. If I'm thinking about a hot cup of tea and the perfect little cookie, or piece of pie, it actually stops me from tasting it before hand and helps me to keep sweets for only that occasion. Good china helps to create that sense of occasion, as does an uncluttered pretty table. By creating these moments with our food, the atmosphere, the heightened awareness, we can bring ourselves out of the habit of eating at random, grazing while standing, and into a ritualistic enjoyment of our food that keeps us from over eating or mindless snacking. I find that the more I plan what I am going to eat, the more attention I give to menus and shopping and preparation, the less I eat. It's a strange paradox, but anticipation works to keep me from eating on the go or the first moment I feel hungry because I want to wait to enjoy the meal I have planned. This goes for planned snack food too.

So as the holiday season moves closer and those once a year treats start appearing on your table, and sometimes around your middle try this. When someone gives you a box of chocolates, don't open it up and pass it around just yet, or leave it sitting on a credenza so you can pop one in your mouth every time you have occasion to pass. Put it away in a drawer, or cupboard, and save it for after a meal. Brew a steaming cup of tea, the choices are endless you'll find one you like, and put on or two little tastes on pretty plates. Eat slowly, savor the tea, your family and friends around you, and enjoy those treats. And then put them away again, until you have another occasion to enjoy a cup of tea. Or ask for gourmet tea blends, or coffee if you don't like tea, instead of baked treats and chocolates. And enjoy savoring this almost guilt free indulgence year round.

For a middle of the day visit with family, take another tip from the British and add to your tea, sandwiches, and other finger foods that have some protein in them and are good for you to balance out the sugar. Plan to eat more lightly at supper to make up for it.

Here are some of my favorite homemade blends:

Lavender Earl Grey

1 cup hood quality Earl Grey Blend loose tea

2 tsp lavender flowers

Combine and store in an airtight jar. To brew, pour boiling water into a pot with the tea. About 1 tbsp to 1-2 cups water.

Ginger and Fennel Roiboos

This tea is wonderful on a chilly night. The fennel seed is naturally sweet so I find it doesn't need any thing extra. Roiboos (South African red tea) is very high in antioxidants, one of the highest sources in the world.

4-5 slices ginger root

1 tbsp fennel seeds

4 whole cloves

1/4 cup roiboos leaves

Combine, keep in fridge unless the ginger you are using is dried. I fresh cut the ginger before each brewing and keep the rest together in a jar.

Steep in hot water for at least 5 minutes before serving. Try this with dates and mandarin oranges, two winter delights that are fun to eat and set the table with. And perhaps one chocolate truffle too once in a while.

With indulgences like these in store, it almost makes me look forward to colder weather.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Lasagna is one of those great dishes that over delivers every time. Put in a little bit of work in the afternoon, and come dinner times you have this bubbly delicious feast that makes every one happy. I like to serve lasagna when we're entertaining because, unlike most of the things I cook, it doesn't involve any last minute rushing around. I can prepare it in the morning, or the night before, and just slip it into the oven before our guests arrive. A quick salad is all I need to put together before we can sit down to eat, and I'm free to spend time with people instead of running around in the kitchen.

This version of the classic that I made last night is my favorite by far. There was no time to take a picture, it was eaten too quickly, so enjoy.


One box lasagna noodles

2 large spicy sausages (I used Cajun style andouille, but I'm sure spicy Italian would work out just fine.)

1 tsp minced garlic

2 15 oz cans Trader Joe's Organic tomato sauce

2 tbsp basil pesto

1 1/2 tsp honey

basil flakes

balsamic vinegar

fresh ground pepper

32 oz small curd cottage cheese

2-3 cups grated mozzarella

Fill a large pot with cold water and set it on the stove top to boil. Add about 1 tbsp course sea salt.

If the sausage is raw, start by squeezing it out of it's tube and into a cast iron skillet. If it is cooked, chop it up and throw it into a blender. Pulse on grind until it's cut into tiny pieces. Then add it to the skillet. Once the sausage is cooked, or warmed through, drain any fat. Add the garlic and stir for a minute. Add the tomato sauce, pesto, honey, a quick dash of basil and a splash or two of vinegar. Simmer together for 15-30 minutes so that the flavors have time to blend together. Don't forget the fresh ground pepper as well. Now, taste your sauce. If it needs salt, or anything else, add it now. I like for the flavors in lasagna sauce to be more intense because all of that cheese can make it bland sometimes.

While the sauce is simmering, add the lasagna noodles to the boiling water, one at a time so they don't stick together. Stir gently until the noodles are soft but still firm, drain water and begin immediately to layer lasagna.

In a 9x113 baking pan lay out 3 whole noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread a thin layer of sauce over the noodles. Stir the cottage cheese and then spread a thin layer above the sauce. Place another three noodles over the cottage cheese and continue in the same fashion, first sauce then cottage cheese followed by noodles. On the top layer, spread the remaining sauce and then sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the whole pan.

Bake in an oven at 375 F for about 45 minutes or until the cheese on top bubbles and browns. Serve with your favorite sides, especially Caesar salad.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Homemade Bread

Stephanie put me in touch with this wonderful looking blog a while back. It's really fun to read, and I bet the recipes taste good too. These people take bread seriously.

The thing about homemade bread is, no matter what the recipe, you are unlikely to encounter nearly as many additives as in standard store bought loaves. I've not seen a bread recipe that calls for corn syrup, but it's in every whole wheat loaf I look at at my local store. If you make your own bread with whole grains that makes it even better.

Once you get in the habit of making bread, like everything else, it's not really that hard, or time consuming. I have this really nifty, really expensive mixer that actually can knead bread. Since I started making bread once a week, I often don't even bother getting it out. It takes about the same amount of time to mix it by hand as it does to get the mixer out of the cupboard, and then wash it and put it away afterwards. So take a look. I plan to try the whole grain recipe soon.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Soak Your Nuts: Healthier Protein with Sprouted Seeds

I wrote this article a while back as an assignment for a whole foods supplier. Only they never paid me, or got back to me, or published it, and I think they never actually launched the web portal I was writing for. So I'm publishing it here for the benefit of you my dear readers, and because I don't want them to publish it any more after being so unprofessional. I have of course edited out all references to said company and their products for obvious reasons. I actually tried this with almonds they were really good, I liked the texture. so here you go

Soak Your Nuts: Healthier Protein with Sprouted Seeds

Most everyone knows that nuts are good for you. They are an excellent protein alternative for those who are trying to eat less meat and they are packed full of nutrients and heart healthy monounsaturated fats that our bodies need. One of nature’s power foods, certain varieties of raw nuts are high in vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc, to name just a few. Nuts are also packed with protein and extremely portable. They are a staple energy food that humans have relied on for thousands of years. So the next time you are looking to increase the nutrient content of your breakfast, snack food, salad, health drink or even dinner, raw nuts should be one of the first things you think of. But how can you know if you are getting all of the touted benefits of raw nuts from what you may find available on your grocery store shelves? Did you know that it’s possible to make this natural super food even better?

Sadly most of the “raw” nuts sold in North American stores are far from fresh, and far from raw. A standard practice in the shelling of Brazil nuts for example is to soak them in water for 1-2 days and then boil them for 5 minutes to soften the shell which makes machine or hand cracking easier. The heat from the boiling kills the nut and by the time it has reached grocery store shelves it is not only no longer alive and no longer raw, it can be full of rancid oils as well, which are toxic for your body.

Raw nuts are as much a living food as salad greens or sprouts. Nuts are seeds. The whole food goodness that makes them such a wonderful addition to your diet is because of their properties as viable seed. For a seed, or nut, to be viable it must, given the proper conditions, be able to sprout and grow into another plant. To find nuts that are fresh and alive, search for nuts that are advertised for sprouting, or purchase local varieties, the kind sold in small batches at farmer’s markets. That way you can ask how the nuts are processed. I once bought 3 pounds of organic in the shell walnuts for $5 at a stone soup festival in the park. Failing that, buy nuts in the shell, and shell them while you watch TV at night, or while you’re talking on the phone.

Sprouting is a mini miracle when it comes to boosting the health benefits of seeds, nuts and grain. When a seed is soaked and begins to sprout it wakes up, in a manner of speaking, and releases the nutrients that are locked inside. Dormant seeds have in them something called enzyme inhibitors, which stop enzyme reactions. This keeps them from going bad longer, or sprouting in unfavorable conditions, but it also makes them difficult to digest. Once a seed is sprouted the enzyme inhibitors are gone and the nutrients are readily available as well as the beneficial enzymes. Sprouted seeds also increase in protein while decreasing in carbohydrates as the seed uses the carbohydrate energy stored inside to grow. Soaking also breaks down the glutens and hard to digest proteins into smaller and easier to digest components. Sprouted nuts become even more delicious and good for you than raw nuts. Sprouted peanuts are especially addictive.

Sprouting is a very simple process and has such great health benefits that it is worth trying.

Here is a simple sprouting method that can be done with readily available items from your own kitchen.

Equipment: Begin with a glass jar and a clean tea towel or cheesecloth. It’s a good idea to sterilize these first in boiling water with a bit of food safe hydrogen peroxide, or grape fruit seed extract.

Step 1) Rinse and Soak Place nuts in the jar and fill it with water. Only use enough nuts to fill about 1/3 of the jar. Sprouts need room to grow. Rinse the nuts two or three times and drain with a colander. Once the nuts are rinsed fill the remainder of the jar with cool clean water. Tie the tea towel or cheesecloth over the top of the jar with an elastic band, or piece of string, or a canning jar ring. Keep the jar out of direct sunlight and allow the nuts to soak. Most nuts should soak for 4-12 hours before draining. Do not soak them for too long or they will rot instead of sprout

Step 2) Drain After 12 hours drain the water. You can prop the jar at an angle upside down to allow all of the water to drain completely. The towel or cheesecloth will hold your sprouts inside. Once the nuts have soaked they are already awake and free of enzyme inhibitors. You can eat them now, or you can allow them to sprout longer. You should taste your sprouts every time you rinse them so you know what way you like them.

Step 3) Rinse If you choose to let them sprout longer, rinse and drain every 8 hours or so. Unlike some types of seeds, sprouted nuts will not develop a long shoot. They swell rather than sprout and only produce a little bulge at one end rather than a root.

Sprouted nuts can be eaten all by themselves as a snack food, or they can be added to salads, stir fried, and included in many other recipes.

Specific information on sprouting nuts was gleaned from The Sprout People article Sprouting 101 ( and from Thomas E. Billings’ article Sprouting: A Brief Overview (

Information on Brazil nut processing is from Thomas E. Billings’ excellent article entitled WHAT A RAW-FOODER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT NUTS (

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Thai Style Curried Tuna with Soba Noodles

You know, the right combination of ingredients can turn the most basic of things into something interesting. Take for instance the lowly can of tuna. I love tuna, and tuna salad, and tuna melts, but sometimes it’s fun to do something completely different with it. Take a little jaunt to the Asian foods section of your grocery store, or go a little farther to an Asian supermarket and you will find everything you need for this tasty variation.


1 Can tuna

1 tsp Thai Green Curry

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 limes

Kecap Manis (Dark sweet soy sauce)

Soy sauce

Coconut milk

2 packages of fresh soba noodles

In a cast iron skillet heat the sesame oil. Add the green curry and stir for a few minutes until it starts to sizzle. Drop the garlic in and stir fry until it starts to smell really good, about one minute. Add the tuna and continue to stir. Once the tuna started to brown a little bit, squeeze the juice of one lime into the pan to deglaze.

Add about 1 tbsp of the Kecap Manis and a splash of soy sauce. Stir until warm and then add 1 tbsp of the coconut milk. Into the same pan, gently add the Soba noodles and let them warm a little, as they warm they will soften and be easier to stir. I love Soba noodles, they are made from barley flour which contains 2-3 times the same protein as an equal quantity of rice and is often higher in minerals such as potassium and calcium as well.

If you want it wetter you can add more coconut milk and lime juice, curry etc. Add more of the kecap manis to sweeten if it's too spicy, less if you like a little heat. Once the noodles are warm it is ready to serve.

***Add some strips of red pepper and baby corn and sliced green onions if you'd like some vegetables in the dish just before you add the noodles.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Roasted Yam and Onion Soup

I made this recipe for Roasted Yam and Onion Soup the other day and it was FANTASTIC! I could have eaten bowl full after bowl full all night long.

I roasted the onions along with the yams, and then sliced them and sauteed per instructions. And I didn't add any cream or milk, it didn't need it at all. The only drawback to this soup is that it has no protein in it at all. So I would have it as a first course in a larger meal and pair it with roast chicken or well, anything really, it's so yummy.

I like that it makes use of winter vegetables also.
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