Friday, July 27, 2007

Stuff I've been doing

I hinted that I was working on something a while back and so I am ready to unveil my brand new project. It is very new and still needs some tweaking, but you can check out my food column for hubpages at I will be adding a lot of articles there over the next few months and getting a little more specific about some things than I do here, like Shopping for Strawberries and Storing Strawberries and an Easy Strawberry Dessert Recipe.

Here is a pick of my boy eating breakfast.

To find out How to Make Perfect Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes click on the link.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Trifle Inspired Fruit Salad

I made this pretty dish on the weekend and the whole time I was wishing I had a camera so that I could show it to you. But I didn't. We did however buy one today, so you can expect illustrated posts in the days to come.


cherries-pitted and sliced in half

nectarines-cut into pieces

green grapes-halved

red grapes-halved

Strawberries-sliced or quartered

Mango-cut into pieces


1 quart plain yogurt


In a clear glass trifle dish layer the fruit as follows.

Cherries then a scoop or two of yogurt. Sprinkle cinnamon on the yogurt.

Next the nectarines. Then more yogurt and cinnamon.

Continue in this fashion with an eye to alternating colors until all the fruit and yogurt is in the bowl. I served this for dinner one night with cheese toast. (Cheddar and Jack on sourdough.) This would be great for a brunch with French toast, or a light lunch, or even dessert.

Variations: You can use whatever fruit you want that is in season, except for citrus which will cause the yogurt to curdle.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Light summer meal, sweet salad, bread, and cheese

Several leaves of organic red leaf lettuce and green leaf lettuce-torn into medium sized pieces $0.25

2/3 cup of finely sliced organic purple cabbage. $0.05

1/2 organic cucumber quartered and sliced. $0.25

2 sprigs organic flat leaf parsley from patio herb garden-only the leaves. Free

One large nectarine cut into chunks $0.75

1/2 cup almonds-toasted thanks to Genoa's comment

less than 1/4 cup of Annie's Low-Fat Raspberry Vinaigrette $0.30

Combine in a salad bowl. Total cost $1.60

Serve with slices of crusty artisan sourdough made with whole wheat organic flour $1.00

Add some slices of cheese $0.50

Cold water with a twist of lime $0.10

And some grapes for dessert. $0.40

Cost for entire meal $3.60

That's what we had for dinner tonight after walking all the way to and from the farmer's market yesterday.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Foraging, Seed Collecting, Bulk buying and Dollar Store Bargains

Here are a few inexpensive and somewhat unconventional methods of getting real food on the table.

The first is foraging. That is going for walks and picking up for free what nature provides. The most obvious is wild berry picking, almost every green area in north has some form of
native edible species. Rose hips, saskatoons, black berries, fiddle heads, mushrooms (Be careful), dandelion greens (Still considered a delicacy in many places. The first time I ate them was at a fancy restaurant in a salad.) and everyone who has a lawn has those growing, they are good for you and free as a bonus. Here in CA we have avocado groves and oranges and lemons and limes and pomegranates. It's criminal to take fruit from someones trees, but ground fall is legally fair game. My father in law takes an empty backpack with him when he goes for walks near his home and comes back with avocados, oranges, and loquats that he spotted while walking. He's also made friends with some other neighbors and gets himself lettuce and picking privileges on some of their trees. When I lived in Kelowna I would wander through the orchards and take home fallen apples and those were the best tasting apples I've ever had.
I found this handy list a while back when my children found mushrooms and wanted to know if they were edible. It's a list of dozens of foraging and ethnobotany sites.

Second is the fact that bulk buying is cheaper and that whole grains are healthier. Ordering in bulk on line and getting your own grain grinder to make flour can save you a lot of money in the long run, and you never run out of flour. Or if you live in the grain belt take a short trip to your local farmer or grain elevator and find out if you can purchase it there. Let your fingers do the walking. My in-laws, when Y2K was in the air even got an electric grinder that could be converted to run off of a bicycle in case they ever didn't have electricity. There are also several things that don't require a mill that are cheaper in bulk. Information on storage, use, and sources of bulk foods is readily available. I liked this place the rest of the site was fun to read as well, and this.

I forgot to mention community gardens last time. There are several cities that allow public land, to be used as garden for urban dwellers. You usually have to apply for a plot and wait for one to be assigned. Also, when gardening in colder climates with shorter growing seasons you can start your seeds inside which is cheaper than buying bedding plants. Also learning how to harvest seeds in the fall keeps you from needing to purchase seeds more than once, and you can trade them for other varieties as well. This is also very political as big seed companies are making seeds that only produce one season so that growers need to buy seeds every year and are lobbying governments to make seed harvesting and exchanging illegal in an attempt to make the world dependent on them for food and drive prices up. Harvesting and trading seeds these days amounts to a political protest.

The last thing that I'd like to mention today for those who can't afford to buy fresh produce is to check the clearance bins at your local Whole Foods type store or fruit stand. You will usually find things that are about to turn and haven't yet, they'll be organic and good quality but overripe or soft and need to be used right away and so they'll be deeply discounted. My children love it when I find strawberries on clearance, they almost always become popsicles and smoothies. Bags of tomatoes become homemade tomato sauce and soup, apples turn into pie and sauce, peaches can be eaten write away and then cut and frozen or canned. Mushy peppers are roasted peeled and pureed for adding to soups and sauces. Potatoes become soup, Much can also be done with a food dehydrator, and one that works without heat is better because more nutrients are left alive.

I thought I was done and then I remembered that I have whole wheat egg noodles in my cupboard that I paid $0.40 for at family sized bag Big Lots. Most of the stuff at the dollar store and Big Lots is crap, but not all of it so it's worth stopping by to look for things. Take your label reading skills with you and practice saying no firmly before taking your children along. Explain to them what you are looking for and why. They can turn out to be good at spotting things worth getting and you are teaching them valuable skills as well. And no matter how cheap it is don't buy Kool-Aide unless you need an inexpensive die for yarn or crafts.

For more ideas on life on a budget including meals here are a couple of places I visit often. Meridith at Like Merchant Ships had a cooking contest a while ago with another blogger on how cheaply they could make dinner. They called it the Iron Chef Mom. She also has a frugal blogroll that links to several others doing the same. The New Homemaker has articles covering every home related subject including gardening, cooking, and making ends meet. They have just published a recipe book of crock pot cookery as well for only $7.95.

Navajo Fry Bread

I got this recipe directly from the women at the boarding school at the Navajo Nation.

6 cups flour (White Whole Wheat)

6 tsp baking powder

Approx. 1--2 cups warm water

Mix together flour and baking powder. Slowly add water a bit at a time until you have a workable dough, not sticky, just pliable. Using a 1/4 or 1/3 cup measure scoop out a ball of dough and roll it until smooth. Continue until all the dough is formed into small balls. Cover the dough and let sit for 20 minutes. Fill a large frying pan with canola or vegetable oil about one inch deep. Heat the oil over medium heat. While the oil is heating take up a ball of dough and gently flatten it between the palms of your hands. Holding it between the heel of your hands flip it back and forth across the heel of one hand and then the other, turning it continuously until it has stretched out into a larger circle. (Think small pizza crust. If this proves too hard you can use a roller but you will lose some of the lightness and be careful not to roll it too thin.) Once the oil is hot slide the stretched fry bread into the pan. It will rise in the pan and get bubbly, once the bottom is firm and a bit golden flip it and cook the other side. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt immediately after it's cooked. Continue until all the bread is cooked. Once you get good at tossing you can get the next few done while the first are cooking and have them ready. The oil can be poured out into a jar and reused for other batches.

Serve topped with these beans, shredded lettuce, and shredded cheese. These are great for serving large crowds, very inexpensive to make and filling.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


When societies were largely agrarian and most people lived in a rural setting getting real food was no problem at all, except for drought and flood and infestations of course. The point being that at one point the entire occupation of mankind was largely to do with food production and most of it was produced at home. While that is largely impossible these days there are still some ideas that can be reclaimed to fit real food into a modern setting while on a budget.

For starters, everything can be made from scratch. It's not all that hard for most items once you try it a few times and become good at it. If you try the first time and decide that that was just far too time intensive and difficult and give up, you aren't giving yourself the time to get better. When I was a newlywed we traveled to the Navajo Nations Reserve with a relief organization just before Christmas. We took food and coal and individually gift wrapped stuffed animals for every child at a boarding school there. The Navajo Nation is the largest and poorest reservation in the US. They largely still live in traditional round houses with dirt floor and wood fires. Anyway they fed us lunch one day. It was a simple meal of Navajo fry bread with pinto beans and cheese and lettuce on top. It was amazing, I feel in love with it and I begged for the recipe. They of course all looked at me strangely and said, "You crazy woman we don't have a recipe we learned from our mothers who learned from their grandmother's who learned from their grandmother's. We can't just write it down, but we'll show you how." Maybe they just looked like they were saying that in their head, but they did let me join them in the kitchen and watch.

The dough is pretty simple, but the way they flopped it between the heels of their hands to make these perfect circles that were thinner in the center than at the edge was not so simple. I tried, I tried again, I was terrible. I finally got one to look sort of right. They were flipping out a piece every 30 seconds I think while I struggled to get the feel of it. I tried again when we came home. The first batch was a total flop, the second barely better. Every few months I would pull out the, now lost, grease stained scrap of paper that I had scribbled the proportions on and tried again. One day a few years back I made a batch of fry bread and suddenly realized that I had finished the whole thing in very little time. In my excitement I called my husband at work to tell him, thus confirming for him for life that he did in fact marry a total nerd. Of all of the things I have tried, that was one of the hardest, but now if I have a large group of friends coming over for dinner I can baked up this bean recipe in the crock pot at a total cost of $3 for the beans onion, garlic and tomato. I can make up the fry bread just before people arrive and grate cheese and cut lettuce. Total cost $6 for flour, oil, lettuce, and cheese, and 15-30 of our closest friends are stuffed and happy and excited about the interesting food as well. For dessert I can just make some more and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on them.

We all know that baking from scratch is cheaper, and usually better, We just have a hard time fitting it into our days because we're so busy. I know some people who have a baking day and do all of their baking for the week on that day. Mine is Friday. There are others who not only plan their meals but set aside three hours one day to prep all of the meals for the entire week, thus eliminating chopping and measuring from their daily schedule. My mom has done something like this for years. When I was getting ready for the baby's arrival I put together crock pot recipes and combined all of the ingredients ahead of time and froze them so all I had to do was put the combined ingredients into the crock pot in the morning and dinner would take care of itself.

I said I'd tell you what I do if I want to spend less on food so here it is. We eat soup, stew, lentils, rice, and beans. I make powdered milk biscuits (And channel Garrison Keillor the whole time I'm doing it) to supplement the simple meal of Lentil Barley Soup and salad. We eat porridge for breakfast, instead of commercial cereal. We eat eggs and toast for dinner. Basically we eat peasant food, and it's amazingly good for us.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I love it when my internet service is down. I use the time in productive and creative ways and never once run over to the computer to check and see if I can access my mail yet, not once. NOT! But I have service again, you probably didn't even notice I was gone, and guess what I saw all over the place when it came back.


Think how rich I could be right now if I had trademarked Real Food. Their idea of real food is only slightly divergent from mine and it looks like it could be fun. Except for the part where I mostly dislike mayonnaise so Helman's isn't likely to have approached me as a sponsor.

More on Real Food on a budget coming, I hope, later today.
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