Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nifty Thrifty Broccoli: My kids are split on liking broccoli. I have found a way to get the one hold out child to eat his broccoli and like it. From a recently purchased large bunch of broccoli, I was able to make one meal and one side dish. The florets were used to make cream of broccoli soup, and the chunky stalks were peeled, cut into thin strips (julienne cut), sauteed in a few teaspoons of olive oil to which a clove of fresh pressed garlic was added. As soon as the broccoli strips were crisp tender, they got a little splash of soy sauce and cooked for another minute. They in no way taste like broccoli. Nathan now enjoys his 'green beans' and I dare you to tell him otherwise;)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Enriched flour bleached (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, cocoa processed with alkali, corn syrup, leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), corn starch, modified corn starch, propylene glycol monoesters of fatty acids, salt, distilled monoglycerides, dicalcium phosphate, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, artificial flavor, nonfat milk.

This is the ingredient list from the last box of store bought boxed food in my pantry. Any guesses?

This past week we had a little visitor enter our home. He took up residence in my freshly cleaned out pantry. I'm happy all of the grains/nuts/dried fruits, etc. were stored in mason jars. His demise was not too messy .. but a little tricky to extricate. I had to deal with the task at hand after coming face to face with two beady eyes early one morning (eeeeeeeeeeek). His visit made throwing out any remaining opened boxes of processed foods a relief to toss out without guilt.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How'd you like a black eye .....

.....pea recipe?

Normally not one to succumb to supermarket checkout line magazines, this one caught my eye a few weeks ago. After briefly skimming through the recipes ... I put it back on the rack as hubby had already paid for our goods. Next time at the store, I took a little more time giving it my approval ... then succumbed. I can honestly say, this is one well written piece .. with good 'clean' food recipes and easy to understand articles about clean eating. With a name like 'Clean Eating' magazine ... what else would you expect. I checked out their website and found some easy to follow recipes ... if you're a gardener ... and put away some provisions for the winter ... most of the ingredients are probably in your pantry/freezer/root cellar.

Black Eyed Peas and Brown Rice

These are the ingredients:

• 4 cups cooked, cold, long-grain brown rice
• 1¼ cups water
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 celery stalks, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
• 3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
• 1 butternut squash, about 1lb, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
• 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
• ½ tsp hot pepper sauce

but for directions and a view of the finished dish click here. Not one smidgen of butter or oil .. and yet it was very satisfying. My family gave this one a big thumbs up!

I cut this recipe in 1/2 and it made 5-6 servings

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Poor Man's Hummus

I like hummus but can't always fork over $ for the cost of the tahini (sesame seed paste). Yesterday while rummaging through the pantry I came across a package of past their prime garbanzo beans. What the heck ... cooked 'em up and they were a little flat tasting. Being frugal ... what to do? Aah ... marinate them ... this solved the problem. The recipe below produced a good tasting, tangy-lemony, lower fat version of traditional hummus ... and didn't cost an arm and a leg.

1 -2 cups drained marinated garbanzo beans*
buttermilk or thinned out plain yogurt
a clove or two of garlic
favorite flavorings: herbs, cayenne pepper, etc.

Place the drained beans in a blender. Add a little buttermilk (start with 1/4 to 1/2 cup) and blend to smooth paste. Add more buttermilk if it's too thick for a dip. Add additional flavorings and blend again. Serve with tortilla chips, veggie sticks .. or use as a sandwich spread.

*to marinate garbanzo beans use either canned or home cooked beans. Using a pint size jar, fill it 1/4 with apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of olive oil, two tablespoons water, your favorite dried herb (I used a pinch of tarragon), 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp sugar. With lid on .. shake well. Add about two inches of drained beans and add a lemon slice. Fill up the jar with additional drained beans and place a lemon slice on top. If more liquid is needed ... just add a little more water. Put on the lid and shake well. Refrigerate overnight. Ready to eat or make into hummus the following day. From a one pound bag I made up almost four full jars of marinated beans this way. Three went into the freezer (allow about one inch of head space in the jar if you freeze the extra beans).

Photo credit and to read more about beans in general visit here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hubby's question to God: "Why do things good for you taste bad .. and bad things taste good?"

This type of reasoning makes me want to slap him aside the head ;) We were raised on pretty much the same mid 20th century diet; canned veggies, frozen veggies smothered in butter sauce, hamburger helper, tuna noodle casserole, not much fast food, but quick meals made from cans and boxes in the pantry. Cheap, over processed food, typical for that era.

I have a different question .. not to God .. but to hubby: "Why didn't your taste buds develop past the mid century?" ;)

Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

This is a formula for good tasting buttermilk dressing. It will last in the refrigerator at least a week unless it's inhaled ... it's so much better than bottled or even the little packets you make at home.

Take equal parts of mayo and buttermilk. You can use low fat if you wish. Add the following seasonings to taste: Salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice (just a little splash), a bit of lemon zest, favorite herbs such as fresh or dried parsley, thyme, a clove of pressed garlic or sprinkle of garlic powder, etc. Whisk together and chill. Serve on a nice crisp green salad or use as a veggie dip.

If you can't use a formula, then here's a recipe:

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
1/2 cup Hellman's or Best Foods Mayo
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4-1/2 tsp. sea salt (to taste)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp fresh parsley or thyme (if you use dried, use 1/2 tsp.)
1 small clove garlic, pressed .. or small dash of garlic powder

whisk all of the above ingredients in a bowl, chill for a few minutes in the refrigerator to let flavors meld. Lasts for about a week in the refrigerator.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Soup of the week:

A good way to use up small amounts of veggies that might otherwise wilt and get tossed out is to incorporate them into a basic potato soup recipe as shown below. If you have some broccoli, celery, turnips, etc. these can be switched out for part of the potatoes. You can substitute a little cheese for the butter and add your favorite herbs making a completely different tasting soup. Who says soup has to come out of a can. It can be very economical to make your own from items you might already have. Learning to cook with what is on hand is a very thrifty skill to develop. You don't need to follow recipes exactly .. just learn how to switch things up and you will save time and money in the kitchen.

Potato Soup

6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into two inch cubes
1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
1-1/2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups milk
2 T. butter
2 pieces of bacon cooked crisp and crumbled (optional)

Place potatoes and onion in a 6 quart sauce pan. Just barely cover with water, add salt & pepper, and bring to a boil for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Using a hand held potato masher or a stick blender, mash/puree the soup leaving it slightly lumpy. Add the milk and butter. Cook for another five minutes over med-low heat stirring often. Add the bacon if desired.

stove image from here

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hubby was approached by a co-worker that raises (egg) laying hens. They are free-range, not given hormones or antibiotics ... fed a vegetarian diet. I can now get fresh eggs each week for $2.00 a dozen. A very good thrifty find!

I am eagerly waiting for spring to get here so I can gather some dandelion greens to make some tea. For some reason ... I'm craving it and probably need to detox.

This week I've been tweaking recipes to make them healthier. It's not that hard to substitute whole grain flour for some of the white flour .. add frozen huckleberries to freshly poured waffle batter, use sunflower oil instead of butter, etc. Tonight I peeled a large yam, cut it into French fry sized pieces, drizzled just a bit of EVOO on top with a sprinkle of seasoned sea salt ... roasted at 400F on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes ... Nathan thought they were carrots (because I told him to eat his carrots ... he's now a fan).

I just finished up my last few sprays of 'non-stick' cooking oil last week. That is a product I will not purchase again. In its place I will use just a tiny bit of cooking oil and apply it to a pan or hot waffle iron with the use of my silicone pastry brush. I tried it this morning and it works great.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

This year I'm going to set a goal of drastically reducing the amount of ready made pantry items I purchase. Obviously, there are staples such as flour, milk, eggs, olive oil, etc. that I can not make myself. But gone will be ready made crackers, cereals, cookies ... and much more. I have been practicing this goal for the past three or four months. Even with the holidays, I found ways to cut back ... less baking, making recipes from scratch (just where did that phrase originate?;) And I will take planting my garden more seriously with great planning strategy to produce more in the space I have plotted. This will be my third year of planting a veggie garden ... still a novice ... but with a better grip on what is involved. Below is a list of practices I hope to employ:

  • never take my hungry children grocery shopping
  • take my own reusable grocery bags WITH me instead of leaving them at home or in the car trunk
  • grow, can, preserve, freeze enough food to last from summer to summer
  • purchase no out of season ... grown out of country produce
  • buy local and organic when possible
  • buy only local farm meats (Thanks to watching the movie Food, Inc.;)
  • use my crock pot more often
  • plant only open pollinated, organic, heirloom veggie seeds
  • use no toxic products in the garden or for cleaning purposes
This should be a good start for the new year.