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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

When doctors and nutritionists point to the healthiness of the “Mediterranean diet,” too many people think, “Oh, I can eat lasagna loaded with cheese and meat and be healthy.”  I do believe that there are times for lasagna, but I know that even made with whole grains and organic products or even spinach that it’s still not health food.  Still, people from the Mediterranean do know how to eat to live.  To celebrate the start of fall, we had a great Italian soup made with fresh garden ingredients:  minestrone.  I served it with crostini with pesto and garnished it with some petite Italian turkey meatballs, but you could leave those out and go entirely vegetarian instead.

Minestrone is health in a bowl if you make it properly.  I started by cooking some navy beans with garlic and a parmesan rind until the beans were al dente.

trombetta squash

  • 1-2 cups cannellini or navy beans, cooked
  • 1/2-1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-4 cups fresh, seeded tomatoes (retain and use juice) or diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

Cannellini beans are more traditional, but the navy beans substitute just fine.  You can easily find canned cannellini beans too.  My next step was to sauté a small diced onion while I diced a carrot and minced a stalk of celery.  Then I sautéed the carrot and celery alongside the onion.  As the trio begin to cook, add a clove of minced garlic.  Next add 2-4 cups fresh or  quality canned, chopped tomatoes, seeded but with juice retained and added to the soup.  If you have any good zucchini, as we did, cut it into chunks and toss it in.  Add back in the beans with any remaining cooking liquid.  Add up to 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth.  Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

I served petite turkey meatballs on top of the minestrone.

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 pound ground turkey (or lamb, beef, or chicken)
  • 2-4 tablespoons whole-grain bread crumbs
  • splash of broth sufficient for forming meatballs

I minced 1/4 cup onion and sautéed it in olive oil until the onion took on a little color.  I added a clove of minced garlic just long enough for the garlic to get the harsh flavor out.  Then I mixed the onion and garlic with about 2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil), about a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed, a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt, and 1/3 pound ground turkey.  Add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs.  Mix and add a splash of minestrone broth or chicken broth.  Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form petite meatballs and cook in olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.

Minestrone

Serve minestrone in a broad bowl, placing meatballs on top, and garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and chiffonaded fresh basil.  Add whole-grain crostini to work with the beans to increase the protein.

Fall makes me crave warm, healthy soups.  Do you crave soup as temperatures drop?  What’s your family’s favorite fall soup?

Copyright 2010 Ozark Homesteader.

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This summer while visiting my dad, I had a chance to go to the heart of cast iron cookware in the United States:  the Lodge Outlet in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee.  (No, I do not have a relationship of any kind with Lodge; I just like their American-made, last-several-lifetimes products.) The Lodge Outlet is located on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.  It’s right where Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia come together.  Its location no doubt was influenced by its proximity to the Tennessee River and the iron-producing region of the South that stretches from Chattanooga to Birmingham.  Lodge has been manufacturing here for more than a century, and Lodge’s products will last for centuries if you take care of them, making them some of the most eco-friendly housewares available.

The outlet has cast iron galore!

And the outlet has accessories, like walnut chargers.

And they carry a lot of enameled cast iron now too, although I think it’s made in China instead of in the US like everything else in the outlet.  I love the colors, but I try to avoid Chinese products.

Except I may not be able to resist this casserole dish.  Resisting, resisting . . . .

The outlet room is less pretty (thus no photo), but it’s my absolute favorite, because everything is at a really good price.  It’s tempting, and you know you’re getting a good deal.  And then your cart will start to look like this:

And you may start to worry about whether you’re buying too much, but then you see this sign:

Great!  I’ll keep shopping.  And then you get to the check-out counter and discover if you spend six more dollars, you’ll get twenty dollars worth of merchandise for free.  And you do.  And then your cart looks like this:

I’m not a “shopper” by nature, but I have a really hard time restraining myself at the Lodge Outlet.

Some of the things I bought are for gifts, like these 2-and 3-quart Dutch ovens, which will be wedding gifts.  They were half price but aren’t seconds; Lodge is just changing the design slightly.  I love the idea of giving an enduring gift like a Dutch oven to a couple who likes to cook and eat; they can pass it down to their children and their children’s grandchildren.

I bought some things to keep too–shhhhhhhh.  Don’t tell Mr. Homesteader.  I’ve already used them around him, but I don’t think he’s recognized that they’re new.  Check out this great Dutch oven or skillet lid that doubles as a skillet itself but will also fit in the toaster oven, so I can make my deep-dish whole-grain pizza in the summer without heating up the whole house. Of course, I also really like small cast iron for when you’re not cooking for a whole crew.  Check out my papa bear lid/skillet with my new baby skillet and lid.I have used this little fry pan so many times since I brought it home.

It’s not only cute; it works well!

I can have a perfect over-easy fried egg on buttered toast in about 4 minutes, and I can come up with 4 minutes on all but my busiest work mornings!

The lid that fits the little skillet also fits this nifty little pot with legs.  I picked up two of them as my freebees, but I wish now I’d gotten more.  They’ll be perfect for making individual servings of the chili-cheese-cornbread bake this fall and winter.

Imagine lifting the lids on little bread puddings in these tiny cauldrons!

I also got two more of these wonderful cast-iron plates that work for fajitas, for starting fish on the stove top and then finishing in the oven, and for smaller versions of my thinner-crust whole-grain pizza.  I think these “plates” are indispensable, especially with the walnut charger, which makes it so easy to go from oven or stovetop to table.

And ultimately I could not entirely resist the enamelware.  I bought this trivet.  My kitchen is white with red accents, so this trivet is perfect!

And I got a couple of more things that were neither wedding gifts nor for me.  They’re a gift for one of you, my dear readers.  And they weren’t on sale or from the seconds area, but that’s okay, because months ago I said that a camping Dutch oven would be my first giveaway.  Watch for me to post it tonight or tomorrow morning!  I didn’t want readers to miss it in this long post.

Do you have a favorite outlet for an American-made product that warms the cockles of your heart?  Have you ever been to the Lodge Outlet?

If you want to know more about using Dutch ovens, check out this recent cook-off, this beginner’s recipe, and this roasted chicken recipe.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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The USDA has declared August 1-7 as National Farmers Market Week for 2010.  The USDA started charting farmers markets in 1994.  Since then, farmers markets nationwide have grown steadily.  The USDA will let you search for farmers markets in your area here.

The first farmers market I attended regularly was the huge one around the state square in Madison, Wisconsin.  My favorite vendor was a Quaker man and wife team who made muffins.  I’d buy a half dozen muffins a week and eat one each day except Saturday.  My favorite was pumpkin chocolate chip, which had a perfect blend of spices and used chocolate mini-chips before I saw them widely in stores.  I’d usually get 4 pumpkin chocolate chip and then two other different muffins for variety.  Of course, the Madison farmers market is also where I learned how to cook an acorn squash.  And I absolutely loved being able to sample my way around the capitol, trying cheese the whole way.  And being able to afford all the great vegetables, fruit, and dairy products was wonderful too, since I was a poor graduate student on a very tight budget.  With no offense to any other farmers markets where I’ve shopped, Madison remains my favorite because it was sooooooo huge!

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by visiting a farmers market!  Where is your favorite farmers market?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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My 83-year-old mother-in-law is visiting this week, and it’s been a real lesson in how folks used to do things versus how they do today.  She has talked a lot about what it was like growing up in rural Arkansas as tenant farmers in the 20s, 30s, and early 1940s.  Some of her brothers and sisters weren’t able to finish high school or even 8th grade because her father needed them in the fields.  They ate a lot of beans and cornbread.  And she didn’t know you could buy a loaf of bread already made until she was in her late teens.

Several times since she got here, she’s commented, “If you keep feeding me like this, I may never leave.”  You see, after being raised on home-cooked meals, which we have most nights, she got out of that habit after my husband’s father died several years ago.  And even more recently, splitting time between my two sisters-in-law’s homes, she has become accustomed to “supper from a bag.”  When I asked her what she meant, she replied, “Oh, you know, McDonald’s or something.  I’m going to have to re-learn how to eat out of a bag when I go back there.”

I reminded her that we live a dozen miles or more from the nearest fast food, and that by the time I go pick something up, it’s not fast anymore.  Our local groceries don’t carry those pre-roasted little chickens nor the pick-up-and-bake pizzas.  We can’t get anything delivered here–except Lou Malnati’s (and, no, they aren’t paying me; we just splurge on their pizza packages  about once a year when they go on sale.) Our really good meals are also a lot cheaper than take-out.  Tonight, for example, we had wild salmon simply grilled with a butter-dill sauce, corn on the cob, and an old-fashioned squash casserole (for my mother-in-law), all for much less than a bag of burgers would have cost.  It also took me about the time to make everything from scratch that it would have to get the infamous, unhealthy bag.  And I got to stay here and chat with my mother-in-law and husband and drink a little wine while I cooked.

Planning ahead for cooking at home takes a little time when you first start doing it, but the longer you do it, the easier it gets. I try to think of creative meals while I’m walking, showering, whatever.  I bought a little blackboard at a craft store and put magnetic strips on the back, so I can keep it on my fridge.  I take it down and write out menus based on what we have in the garden and the freezer and fridge.  It makes it easy for my husband at a glance to see what I’ve got planned for my cooking nights, and I don’t lose track of good ideas or food that we need to eat.

If you eat out of the bag more often than not, why?  Have you considered making more home-cooked meals?  (I’ll bet if you’re reading this blog, you have!)

If you cook most of your meals at home, what inspires you?  How do you manage it?  Do you have a simple planning system?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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If you’re trying to live frugally, try buying a whole chicken.  A whole chicken has not only meat but the makings of wonderful stock, and the sum of its parts and the stock are worth much, much more than you’ll pay for the whole bird.  This is one of the ways that we afford to buy local, organic chickens.

Making Your Own Chicken Stock

To make your own stock, you can roast the chicken whole or do as I did recently and cut it into pieces and parts for different meals.  Then boil the carcass with aromatics like onions, garlic, celery, and herbs for an incredible stock to form the basis of soup and gravy–all for much, much less than stock-in-a-box and much tastier!  The meat left on the carcass after you break down the chicken into breast, wings, and leg quarters will make superb soup meat.  Take a few minutes really to pick the bones clean after you boil the carcass.  Your pets will also love getting a piece of gristle to gnaw on!  Just be sure not to give them poultry bones, which can splinter and choke them.

On a recent night we had stacked bean enchiladas on corn tortillas, but the star of the dinner was chicken tortilla soup, in essence a soup made of chicken leftovers and a handful of other ingredients.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • half a chopped onion
  • 1/2 – 1 sweet pepper, chopped
  • optional:  chile peppers, seeded and chopped (we used 5 jalapeno peppers, but then again we like heat)
  • oregano, dried or fresh finely chopped
  • chicken picked from a boiled or roasted carcass (or 1/2-3/4 cup shredded chicken from another source)
  • about a quart of chicken stock
  • cup of fresh chopped tomatoes OR can of diced tomatoes, drained  (I used canned and drank the juice.)
  • handful of corn (frozen if you don’t have fresh)
  • crushed tortilla chips (as in the bits left in the bottom of the bag)

Saute the onion.  Add the peppers and let cook a few minutes.  Add the oregano, chicken, and chicken stock.  Simmer to let flavors combine.  Add the chopped tomato or drained tomato and corn.  Stir to combine.  Heat through and serve with garnishes.

Garnish:

  • tortillas, slivered and toasted (spray with a little oil before toasting), or tortilla chips, crushed
  • grated cheese
  • cilantro
  • sour cream or plain yogurt.

Enjoy!

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Today, after a few days away from the homestead, I picked a bounty of English peas.  They were mighty tasty, even though all I did was a 1950s simmer in salted water with garlic and herbs.The only problem I see with a bounty of English peas is the apparent waste of the pods that are left after you shell.  After reading that Darina Allen makes the ordinarily inedible pods into a pureed soup, I decided to use mine for a frugal pea-pod pesto for scallops.

The process is too simple to write it as a recipe.  I had two or more cups of fresh English pea pods, peas removed.  I started by sauteing crushed garlic in a little butter and olive oil.  Then I added a little water to keep the garlic from burning  plus the pods and the juice of half a fresh lemon and let everything steam.  Next I pureed them.  Then I strained them and added a little potato flour (about 2 teaspoons), a little milk (a splash), and about 1/4 ounce parmesan cheese and brought the mixture to a simmer to thicken it.  I spooned it over scallops that I sauteed in butter and olive oil with sherry to deglaze the pan.  I had visions of a bright green sauce, but that’s not really what I got.  It was still tasty, and I’ll bet your pea haters will love it if you don’t confess the sauce’s origins.  Here the scallops and pea-pod pesto are pictured with a baked potato, a pile of peas, and a salad of red romaine lettuce with diced figs, olives, and toasted slivered almonds.

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Unwed Mother on My Porch

We get a lot of strays around here.  When we can, we rescue them and find them homes.  Tonight I have finally met a beautiful little tabby that has been getting progressively closer to the house.  We thought it was odd that my very territorial male cat had not forced this new tabby off our male cat’s range, but tonight I found out why.  Although our male cat was fixed as a kitten, he still knows the difference between male and female, and I think he may even be chivalrous. The little tabby is pregnant.  Depending on how many kittens she’s carrying, she may be very pregnant.  What makes me saddest is that there’s every indication that, at some time in her life, she belonged to someone.  Did she get lost?  Did a mean parent kick her out when she got pregnant?   Did a family in financial distress look for a likely place to abandon her?

* * *

Ah, the plot thickens.  There are *two* stray tabbies out there tonight.  And one is the male we’ve been seeing for a few months.  He fears us.  She doesn’t.  And they seem to know each other.  Is he the daddy? a littermate?  both?

* * *

One of the first duties of having a pet today is spaying or neutering.  If you can’t afford to “fix” your pet, then you probably can’t afford the costs of a pet from month to month.  Your duty to your pet continues for the duration of its life.  Please, prevent unwanted kittens, and do your best to find your pet a “forever home” if you can no longer keep it.  It is so cruel to dump a pet who has been accustomed to being indoors–perhaps even more cruel than euthanizing her.  We’ll try to do our best for these two orphan cats, if they hang around.

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We’re still polishing off the wonderful pasture-raised turkey that I got from Falling Sky Farm for Thanksgiving.  You may remember that we ate a lot of turkey eat fresh then, but I also broke it down enough immediately to freeze some in various serving sizes.  Today I’m going to use about four ounces of the turkey along with wild rice and vegetables to make a hearty, healthy entree soup that’s perfect for these frugal economic times.  I’m serving it with acorn squash, roasted and stuffed with apples, cranberries, and walnuts, for an extra kick of healthy flavor to round out the meal.  This soup and acorn squash meets the old Southern standard of “meat and three” in an unusual form, and most of the ingredients came from our land or a nearby farm.  With just 4 ounces of turkey in the whole soup, you are getting most of your protein from the frugal, healthy combination of wild rice and beans, but no one will miss a pile of meat in this meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 thin pat butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • shaft (white) portion of a leek, cut in half lengthwise to clean out the grit and then sliced across the shaft (or 1/2 sweet yellow onion)–Save the tougher leaves for a recipe you’ll puree.
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/3 cup diced celery (basically a rib)
  • 1/3 cup wild rice
  • twig (about 5 inches long, leaves attached) or two of fresh rosemary (Don’t have fresh?  use 1  teaspoon of dried rosemary.)
  • four or  more  leaves of fresh sage  (Don’t have fresh?  Use 1 teaspoon of rubbed sage.)
  • optional:  1 or 2 hot peppers, sliced thinly
  • 4 ounces of cooked turkey (about a 1/3-1/2 cup)–Yes, you could use diced chicken, even fresh, as long as you add it in the soup when you start the rice and increase your herb quantity.
  • 1/2-1 cup pole beans (a.k.a. green beans), cut into bite-sized pieces–I used a mix of green and wax (yellow) beans
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by prepping your leeks. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, like a 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven.  Add the leeks, stir, and start to caramelize.  Dice the carrots.  Add those too.  Dice the celery.  Add it too. By now your leeks will be caramelized sufficiently.  Add the wild rice and a cup and a half of water and stir.Yes, that’s the wild rice–actually not rice but a grass seed.  It’s got a nutty flavor. Now lay the rosemary twig and sage on the top.  Do not stir in; we’re going to take them out later.  (Of course, stir them in if you used dried herbs.) Simmer over low heat for about 40 minutes.  Take out the herbs if you used fresh.  Add the turkey, beans, and optional chiles with 2-3 cups more water and about 1 teaspoon salt.  Be forewarned:  the rice is already cooked, but it is a very thirsty grain.  It will keep soaking up liquid, but we’ve made this soup flavorful enough that you can safely keep adding water.  Add salt and pepper to taste as needed.

makes 5-6 cups of soup

Serve this simple, comforting soup with a hearty vegetable side like our acorn squash halves stuffed with diced apples, cranberries, and walnuts seasoned with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Do you have questions about wild rice?  Do you have a favorite wild rice recipe you’d like to share?  Join the discussion in the comments section!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Tweets and short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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I made the mistake last week while I was house-bound after surgery of sending my husband to the local health food store to pick up some things that we needed.  He came home with a few things that we almost never eat. I’m guessing he was thinking, “Hey, these are at the health food store, so they must be okay!” Among the “treats” were two bags of processed snacks, one a bag of Barbara’s baked jalapeno cheese puffs and the other a bag of Kettle’s “fully loaded baked potato” potato chips (fried, not baked).  The cheese puffs were okay but not addicting.  The potato chips didn’t taste that good, but I didn’t want to stop eating them.  I looked at the ingredients and discovered why.

The Kettle chips had the key mix of ingredients, combining salty with sweet and flavor enhancers, to make you keep reaching in the bag.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t add sugar or maltodextrin (processed in your body as glucose) or autolyzed yeast extract (MSG under a deceptive name) to my loaded baked potato.  Do you add these things to your baked potato?  Do you add citric acid?  Me neither.  Put these ingredients together with salt and starch, though, and you have a perfect blend of flavors–salty, sweet, sour–that will have you and your children reaching into the bag over and over again until you break the cycle by stepping away from the bag and cleansing your palate.

Americans weights have increased dramatically since 1960–25 pounds on average, the difference between fit and fat.  Part of that increase is due to our sedentary lifestyles compared to earlier generations who were less dependent on cars and television, computers, and electronic games, but another big part of it is due to food flavor engineering.  Old-fashioned french fries taste good because they are starch, fat, and salt.  Add the sweet-sour ketchup, and you’ve got a mouth party.  McDonald’s puts together the favor party in advance by adding ingredients like sugar to the fries themselves.  So do many of the companies that make fries for your freezer.  Look back at the potato chips you can’t put down; any chip starts with the potential for overeating, but enjoy it with a sweet drink or put weird ingredients like sugar in it, and you’ll end up eating too much.  The same is true for processed salad dressings.  Hidden Valley Ranch, for example, includes not only MSG but also significant sugar.  No wonder it’s become the dip of choice for kids.

If you want to keep your family healthy, keep the processed foods to a limit in your house.  If you do have to buy processed foods every once in a while, read the label and avoid products with that lethal combination of sugar, salt, flavor enhancers, and sour.  Go for products that have no more than two of the four.  For example, salty baked Kettle chips have no sugar (although they do have yeast extract, another flavor enhancer variation on MSG).  Be aware too that making homemade products like ranch dressing without nasty, addictive stuff and with better flavor overall is really, really easy–just mayonnaise, buttermilk or kefir, and garlic powder and other spices to taste–and much cheaper than the store-bought products.

Truth in Labeling has provided a great list of other names for MSG, and I found a decent list of sugar naming games at IVillage.  Print out these lists and stick them with your shopping list, along with the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of foods with high pesticide levels.  Eliminate these foods from your family’s food, and you’ll have a healthier, slimmer family.

Update:  My husband read this post.  He says I asked for chips to eat with a sandwich.  I have no memory of the incident, but, then again, I was on pain medication.  Honey, see, I ‘fessed up! Please go to the store for me again some day.

Have you found weird ingredients like sugar in savory food or any of the many forms of MSG that you didn’t know were in the foods your family eats?  Share a comment!

Copyright 201o Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full link and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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Cole slaw has the refreshing flavor of summer, but the cabbage that makes up most of cole slaw is primarily a winter vegetable here (although I do get it to keep growing all summer with careful planting placement).  On warmer winter days, cole slaw with pulled chicken barbeque feels like a summer picnic, although slaw is plenty tasty as part of a good vegetarian meal too.  The colors can be bright enough to attract the pickiest kids.  Cole slaw can also be incredibly frugal.  And the fresh veggies are really healthy–just keep the dressing light!I made this cole slaw from all-local, organic vegetables either from our own garden (the peppers via the freezer) or from Conway Locally Grown.  You can vary quantities and ingredients depending on what you have on hand, but this slaw contains

  • thinly sliced green cabbage
  • thinly sliced red cabbage
  • grated carrots
  • grated colorful radish
  • thinly sliced roasted red pepper

I find that it’s easiest to slice the cabbage thinly if I begin by cutting a wedge out of the head and then cutting off the wedge instead of the whole head.

The dressing is what really changes slaw’s flavor.  I like to make mine with leftover pickle juice.  For a frugal, delicious sweet, sour, creamy dressing, I use mayonnaise mixed with bread-and-butter pickle juice.  You could use any sweet pickle juice.  If you are serving the slaw with salmon, try using dill pickle juice.  It won’t be sweet, but it’ll be tasty.  (You may want to increase the ratio of carrots to increase sweetness.)  If you want an Asian flavor, try using pickled ginger juice.  Here’s the basic measurements I use as a foundation.  You may want to add a little more of one of the ingredients after you taste the mix.

  • 1 tablespoon real mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon pickle juice

Start light with the dressing.  You can always add more later!  Enjoy.  My husband likes to put his slaw on barbeque sandwiches.  You might like it that way too.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2010.  Short excerpts with full links to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome!

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