Category Archives: Food

More Food Musings

Because of the frugal food analysis, I also got down the seed box.

I got discouraged with our veggie garden a couple of years ago, I planted 4 tomato plants (at a cost of $8 each for mid-size, organic, yellow tomato plants) and something ate two of the plants down to the ground. We got 4  fully ripe tomatoes from the other 2 plants and about 4 smaller green ones before the season ended. Tomatoes for $4 each just didn’t seem worth the effort, right?

So last year I just let the garden go. We had a wonderful crop of weeds.

I remembered what I wanted from my garden tonight, even with the farm food, and that is grow things I can’t really get enough variety or quantity from the farm: greens, beans and not red tomatoes.

So I started looking at seeds at my favorite supplier and got down the seed box. Which, because I haven’t planted a garden in two years of any size was chock-a-block full of seeds, some as far back as 2010! I put 52 seed packets in the trash can with seeds in them and 2 empty packets, which I’d kept for some reason.

garden bed

(Image isn’t mine but from images.google.com .)

No seeds in the box are from last year, most are from 2016. This means I’ll spend weeks testing seeds and more will get trashed. But that’s good because it will make me do another cull BEFORE I order seed! (I thought I’d culled the box last year when I moved it. Apparently not, I just put the lid on the box and put it away untouched.)

So, today I took 2 bags of books to the dump’s swap shop and tossed 52 seed packets.

We have been working hard on figuring out what’s next for the house: what we want and how to do it. One thing we decided we wanted is prohibitively expensive, unless DH builds it and even then it’s not cheap. That got tabled and we decided he should work more on the other projects. The big DIY project uses jigging and the company which sells that has a sale or two each year. We decided to try and buy the jigs on sale and maybe that’s it this year and tackle the project itself, materials and hardware, next year.

Things are selling at the antique store, which is really nice, since I only have 3 more weeks in that booth! On the other hand, I don’t think anything has sold in the new book booth, but I need to redo things a bit before that will happen I guess?

 

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Frugal Food, New Ideas

Two or three things.

  • Because of the government craziness, I decided I would buy $10 (on non paycheck weeks) or $20 (on paycheck weeks) of shelf-stable food and donate it to our food pantry. Even with food stamps still being given out, there’s about 50,000+ new people and their families who might need those resources. There’s no way the system can just absorb that much without extraordinary help. This is what I came up with that I can do.
  • Because of that, I’ve been working hard at trying to figure how I can use what we already have, in new ways:

I went through the entire list of veggies, etc. available from the farm in 2018 and figured out what I’d do with all of them. This has been an on-going issue. I end up with green slime in my fridge every year and tossed  veggies and I hate that!

The answer? Use/designate what you want to use fresh for a week. Have a plan in place to deal with the overage of any extra and deal with it, so you start fresh each week. I have done some of that previously, but hadn’t done it EVERY WEEK, which is my new idea. I did it with greens at the beginning of last season, so I started winter with a jar of dried “savory” greens.

I also tried to make piecrust, with the typical result, that is, that it didn’t work as planned. What do you do with this ball of dough with a stick of butter in it? DH came up with an answer for that one, he made a loaf of brioche. Worked fine! (I will try pie crust again, sometime.)

Last week I bought some fresh flat-leaf parsley and thyme. I used most of the thyme in a chicken dish last night, yummy and no left overs. But there was extra thyme. It got dried this morning and will be added to the spice bottle.

Because I have no recipes which actually use my dried greens — I have a pot of soup:  dried greens, potato, celery, leek, and stock simmering for lunch. (I’ve been just sprinkling a little in soups or stews and always had to toss about 1/2 a jar or more in the spring.)

veggies

(Not sure where this image came from, but it is NOT mine. It’s an image I’ve used before here, but I am not laying claim to it.)

I generated a list, by week of products from the farm, and how to put  any extras aside. This is ingredients rather than finished meals, like OAMC.

  1. Greens
  2. Herbs & Spices
  3. Stew/Soup Veggies and Greens
  4. Stewed Tomatoes
  5. A few dried Veggies
  6. At least one herbal tea mix

I’ve done this before, but not consistently. I don’t think I’ll put aside enough to get us through winter, but that’s the idea. And, of course, in the spring, there will be hardly anything left.

I’m out of farm greens, onions and celery. I have 2 more leeks. The carrots I’d put in the fridge are gone. That’s week 3 of 12.

Anyway, that’s my new idea. Have a plan in place to deal with any unused food, and get that done.

What do you do to avoid feeding your trashcan?

 

The Primal Shift

Yesterday was pepper day! I made salsa, put peppers on a ristra, made stuffed peppers for dinner and the freezer, and roasted red peppers for future batches of my version of “tomato” soup.


This morning I’ve been dealing with dried herbs. The farm has PYO herbs and they bunch them occasionally. I use a LOT of parsley, thyme, mixed basils, and rosemary. I make a winter tea from spearmint/lemon balm. Today I went through all the herbs/spices:

  • I have enough/too much thyme. I’ll offer some to friends.
  • I need more parsley.
  • I need more lemon balm/spearmint for tea.

The rest of it I left alone.

If I don’t do this at this time of year, what happens is that around Feb.  I run out of parsley and tea. I object to paying retail for parsley, (Remember this?) so….


This reminded me that I also need a “cube” of pine shavings for the root cellar crates. I’ve tried sand (too heavy) and newspaper (too messy) so this year I’ll try wood shavings. I need to sterilize the crates. They’ve been empty all summer, but weren’t sterilized, as I knew it’d be months before they were put back to use.


There’s also the annual replacing older foods to make room. The last 3C or so of my 2017 winter tea mix is in the compost bucket, for example. The current bottle of thyme will join it soon.

Part of this is having enough parsley, winter tea, thyme, tarragon, etc. Where previously I would have kept all of anything, whether it was likely I’d ever use it, or not? These days I send a email to friends & neighbors asking if they want the extras. If I get no takers, the compost heap gets another donation.

pantry storage

It’s also time to beef up the canned goods. I’m pleased to say that we used all the canned and dried meats I had set aside and the canned veggie shelf has 2 cans of butter beans (used for bean soup), a can of garbonzos (hummus) and 3 cans of chopped chilis. That’s it! Getting to where the flow of pantry items made sense was one goal I had a couple of years ago. We had things we’d stored for years and hadn’t used. We had stuff neither of us liked, because it had been cheap. After three years of work, I’m pleased to say that my pantry at the end of summer has very little in it! More pasta than anything else, and not a huge amount of that. Previously, I had so much food that it was in the attic, under the sink, etc. and wasted mostly!

Still, there is something about the process of getting ready for winter I love. Much of it I hate because I loathe the idea of winter itself. But when I know I have a little food set aside to use midwinter it’s pleasing. It appeals to the frugalista in me, but it also hits a much deeper level.

 

Convertible Tomatoes

My job today is to pick up food, specifically non-red tomatoes (seconds) at the farm so I can make a large batch of stewed tomatoes to freeze. (I really need to learn to can some day!)

Why stewed tomatoes? What I make the most with tomatoes is marinara or chili. I have other favorites: a tomato-potato-cheese casserole and a tomato-potato soup. (The casserole is from the Vegetarian Epicure #2; the soup from Joy of Cooking.)

I was trying to find a common base to freeze, rather than making separate batches, like last year. It seemed that what I was describing was old-fashioned stewed tomatoes.  If I freeze cooked tomatoes with onion, bell pepper, a little basil, and parsley, I can add pesto, garlic, etc. for marinara or add chilis or salsa verde for chili or other Mexican food.  I  can use the mix for marinara, chili, or the tomato-potato dishes. Win!

So rather than making 4 different recipes this year, I intend to make one. (Last year I froze batches of marinara and chili base with both red and non-red tomatoes: 2 recipes, 2 different ways.) With my much smaller freezer area, I don’t have room! I ran out of non-red tomatoes sometime in Januray.

I needed a different solution and this is it! A dozen quarts of stewed tomatoes in the pantry would greatly help, but as I said, I don’t can . . . .

stewed tomatoes

As usual the image isn’t mine. Genius Kitchen via images.google.com .

“Almost Instant” Chili from Fresh Ingredients

I dream about “bowls of red,” that is, slow simmered, meaty chili made with abundant quantities of traditional tomatoes. I grew up in So. Cal., so chili has always been part of what I eat by preference.

Except. I cannot eat red tomatoes in quantity any more. It isn’t worth the 3 in the morning gut ache, even when I make it myself. The result of this is that I make many “chilis” using salsa verde as the base, which I like. But it’s not the same.

Today was farm day and I was fairly conservative about the different items I got, in most cases I got more than 1 item. (You’re allowed so many items a week, this season, it has been 8 all year.) They had quantities of non-red, greenhouse tomatoes, so I got 4 lbs of tomatoes, or 2 items worth.

This was also the first PYO for peppers — jalpenos, so I got some of those too.

I put this together from what I had acquired today or already had on hand.

Take 4 large non-red greenhouse tomatoes, wash them and cut off any hard core or other not so great spots. Put the tomatoes into a sauce pan with a little oil and smash them down with a potato smasher. Simmer.

Stem, seed and then slice a med-lg jalapeno, add that to the tomatoes and keep cooking. In a small frypan, put in a little oil again, and cut up a fresh bulb onion in largish pieces. Saute the onion, add chili powder. Cook til almost cooked through but not quite. Add the onions to the still simmering tomatoes. Put 1/2 lb ground beef in the fry pan, add about 1T cumin and cook to crumbles (cooked not crusty). Add the leaves of about 1/2 bunch cilantro. Cook until well wilted. Add the meat/cilantro to the tomato mixture.

Pull some of the liquid from the pan, put it in another bowl and add about 1T flour, stir til smooth, return it to the tomatoes. Taste. Add beef demiglace to add richness, about 2t.

Serve with generous amounts of grated cheddar cheese.

This is acceptable  chili, but not an outstanding one. It would have been better for adding the meat and letting the entire thing simmer for an hour or so, but that didn’t happen. It’s closer to a “bowl of red” than I’ve had in more than a year, so I’ll take it! (The left overs, the next day, were better because the flavors had blended.)

NOTE: This is seasoned as it is because: I love cumin and my husband loves cilantro. I also like more salt than he does. He likes a lot more pepper than I do, so we add salt and pepper ourselves and I don’t cook with it.

Rainy Day “Almost Instant” Chicken Soup

It was pouring earlier today. Not a day I want to drive to a farm or go pick my own at the farm either, — so no farm today.

That’s a  problem only because I was planning dinner from the farm, as I usually do the days I go. Digging through the freezer, I found a package of chicken bones, $4.33 worth at $2.75 a pound. That’s approx 1.57 lbs of bones and meat. There were 3 backs in the package.

So I started a pot of water boiling and plop in the brick of frozen chicken. Skim the worst of it off in a few minutes. Separate the pieces when I can. Keep simmering. After an hour, I’m pretty sure the meat is cooked, I pull the first back from the pot. Cut off the tail, fat and skin and then scrape the remaining  meat off.

I use a tool for this I’ve never seen/heard anyone else talk about for this purpose. I use a pickle fork, like this one:

pickle forkj

The little barbs on the end make shredding the small bits of meat as I scrape it from the bone really easy. That means I don’t have to CHOP the meat. Most of it is so small I’d have to do that minimally anyway, but the pickle fork pretty much guarantees that I don’t need to.

I’ve done two of the backs (the 3rd is cooling while I write this) and I have a cereal bowl of chicken shreds, ready to go back into the soup with carrots, celery, onion, potato, and more seasoning. Pretty much just before I serve it, I’ll add some chopped red pepper and peas. (I put some rosemary and peppercorns in the water with the chicken.)

I expect I’ll need to add some better than bullion (demiglace) to actually have flavorful stock, I don’t have time to simmer this down, skim it, chill it, remove the fat, season it and then make soup. If I was making rich stock, I should have at least put the bones back in! I’m not for two reasons: I skimmed the marrow out earlier and I don’t have time to chill it to remove excess fat. I did skim off most of the excess fat too.

This isn’t really instant soup. It will have cooked 3- 3.5 hours by the time we eat dinner. However, compared to traditional from scratch, home-made stock with fresh veggies added? Yep, it qualifies as “almost instant”!

Yield: 10C broth (NOT stock!) and 2C meat shreds, about .36 a cup (10 c broth + 2c meat = 12C, $4.33/12 = approx .36 a cup. Does not include fuel, other veggies, herbs, water, demiglace, Our typical serving is 1.5C (the size of our soup crocks). If you figure everything else costs 3x the amount of the broth/chicken, then it’s .36  + .18 +1.62. Or, it’s $2.16 a serving. Certainly cheaper than any organic broth, meat, veggie combination you can buy!)

Not Sugar Snaps!

Friday night in the midst of the heat wave, I made a double batch of rice. We had steamed veggies & rice for dinner that night, and the idea was that we’d have fried rice the next night.

Except we went out instead.

The farm didn’t have peas this week, like I expected them to, so we had no snow peas. I really wanted snow peas!

DH loves scallions in fried rice. To me? Any onion will do, we have summer bulb onions and baby leeks, but he wanted scallions.

The answer was obvious, go to the market, which we did. DH stayed in the car and I went in for scallions, snow peas and maybe ice cream or sorbet (we were low). I found the scallions easily enough. Found packages of sugar snap peas, which that wasn’t what I wanted. Eventually, I found a small display of snow peas.

But the tags over the counter said, “Sugar Snap Peas, $7.99/bag” there were bagged Sugar Snap Peas on this counter too. And the other sign with a price for peas on it said, “Sugar Snap Peas, $4.99/lb”. Except there were no loose Sugar Snap Peas there, and no price for the Snow Peas which were?

So I go to the customer service desk. The lady there pages someone from produce. Ends up it’s the only person in produce and they don’t have a price list. End result? I got some snow peas in a bag, went to the frozen food section to get a box if the price was too high. No frozen snow peas. Okay. So I grab a bag of regular Birdseye frozen peas, just in case.

Get to the checker. Tell her “They’re SNOW PEAS!” except she doesn’t have a price for those in the computer or on her list. So, they charged me .80 for my small bag of snow peas (which showed up on the receipt and her computer as Sugar Snap Peas) and I got the bag of frozen peas too.

Then DH made fried rice. And you know what? He forgot to use them, so I still didn’t get my snow peas!

IT’S A PLOT I TELL YOU A PLOT!!! (smirk)

Just so you know, this is a snow pea:

snow pea

See how it’s flat and you can see the peas through it? It’s a traditional, oriental pea. Wiki article here.

This is a Sugar Snap Pea:

sugar snap pea

Snap pea article here.  Snap peas are modern, you’ll find if you read the article.

Both peas are eaten pods and all. I like Sugar Snap Peas, but not in stir fry, because they take longer to cook and I like the taste of Snow Peas better. No real reason, I just do.

There are 3 basic types of peas btw, the two above and English or shelling peas. Those have more fibrous pods and usually people don’t eat the pods. There is a traditional English soup which uses the pods and mint (I’ve also seen lettuce). You can find a recipes for that by searching for “pea pod soup.”

I never, ever thought I’d write a blog about peas, more, I never thought I’d have a reason to!