Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tired of Boring Green Beans?

One of the things that seems really popular among my clients is to pour bacon grease and crumbled bacon over their green beans. This makes the health conscious part of me cringe. However, bacon bits or crumbles without the bacon grease works very nicely. Here's some other quick and easy ideas to add some interest to your beans.
Add some mushrooms, peppers, water chestnuts, green onions and/or chopped onion.
Add some salsa
Toss cooked beans with a tablespoon or two of Parmesan cheese
Saute with onions, mushrooms, celery and/or peppers
Simmer in cream with mushrooms and/or onions
Toss with a little bit of sour cream and chives
Toss with sauteed or toasted almonds
Cook with a crushed clove of garlic
Add fresh thyme, basil or parsley
Add a dash or two of Worcestershire or soy sauce
Saute with one or two seeded and chopped tomatoes
Cook with a small can of diced or stewed tomatoes
Sprinkle with lemon juice
Sprinkle with crushed red peppers

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Here's an Idea

One of my readers, Molly, sent in this idea I haven't tried it, I don't cook at home enough but this is basically how it goes:

Deb , a Mennonite friend introduced me to Mennonite stew what we do is we take a butter dish and put it in the freezer when we have left overs just a small amount we put them into the dish in the freezer when the dish is full i defrost it put it in a casserole dish and bake at the end i cover the top with shredded cheese. Most things will work in this as long as it isn't too soupie. The casserole is always different and I haven't had a bad one yet. The dish might have several different types of meat and veggies in it and it eliminates almost all waste of food.Molly : O )

Coleslaw Scramble

My veggie scramble can involve a lot of preparation that some people may not be up to first thing in the morning. You could, of course, do it the night before if you can plan that far ahead (something I'm not really good at), so I've tried this the other day and it's a fast and easy alternative to get more veggies into a meal that is traditionally devoid of them.

The recipe is based on two eggs for one person, you can of course make it for any number of people by increasing the ingredients.

2 eggs
about a 1/4 cup of fresh coleslaw blend (the one I used had broccoli and cauliflower "hearts" as well as the cabbage) you can adjust the amount to suit your own tastes
Green onion sliced or small amount diced onion
Shredded cheese

Spray pan with cooking spray. Saute onion and coleslaw blend until just tender
Beat eggs and add to vegetables. Right before eggs are done sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Of course, you could add any of the ingredients listed for the veggie scramble too. Once again it's a great way to use up leftover meat or vegetables from the night before

Freezing Onions and Peppers

A lot of veggies take some preparation and blanching to freeze, but all you need to do for onions and peppers is clean, chop and freeze. I use a lot of both in my cooking and having them ready to use can save a lot of time. You don't have to do large batches (unless you've found a really good bargain), there's been times I've used half a pepper for a recipe and froze the rest.

Doing it this way keeps them from sticking together in one big clump so you can remove the quantity needed. The procedure is fairly simple:

1. Peel onions and clean and seed the peppers
2. Slice or dice them as you would for different recipes
3. Spread out on a cookie sheet
4. Place in freezer until frozen
5. Then place in bag or container and return to freezer until needed

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mom's Garden Goulash

My father was a farmer stuck in the suburbs. Every year he would dig up over half the backyard and plant a garden. This garden was always very prolific and we ate a lot of fresh garden veggies in the summer. Certain vegetables would all start ripening at the same time and it became a race to freeze or use all of them up. Many of the neighbors would hide when they would see my dad or mom coming with yet more zucchini, tomatoes, peppers or eggplant. So my mom would chop them all up, fry them all together and called it goulash. I have since learned that it has a more fancy french name, ratatouille. This is my version which probably can't be called ratatouille because of the changes I made so I'll stick to mom's original name and give her credit. Here's my version.

1 large potato, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 zucchini or yellow squash halved lengthwise and sliced
1/2 green pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 red pepper, coarsely chopped
1 or 2 med. tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 med onion coarsely chopped
1 or 2 stalks of celery sliced
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

In a microwave safe dish cover the potatoes with water and microwave for about 5 minutes and drain. You want them not quite done. Spray large frying pan with cooking spray, add onions, pepper and celery and saute until tender. Add potatoes and zucchini and continue until both are almost done. Add tomatoes and parsley. Saute another two minutes or so.

Use a small eggplant instead of, or as well as the zucchini

You can add oregano and/or basil as well as the parsley

You can also add leftover veggies at the end just long enough to heat them.

This and a slice of buttered bread would be all we had for dinner but it can also be a side sish.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jenny's Pasta Sauce

My daughter, Jenny, hates spaghetti. It goes back to a childhood... ummm... incident that we won't go into right now, ok???
Anyway, her husband and sons love spaghetti so she had to compromise. According to her, as long as there's a lot of "stuff" in the sauce she can somehow manage to eat it. Although the ingredients vary (she is her mothers daughter you know) this is the basic recipe:

Jenny's Pasta Sauce

1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 lb ground beef or bulk Italian Sausage or 1/2 lb of each
1 medium onion chopped
1 medium pepper (color doesn't matter) seeded and chopped
2 or 3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small zucchini or yellow squash halved and sliced
1 small can mushrooms or equivilent fresh
1 or 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes

Saute onions, garlic, pepper and celery until onions are almost clear, brown meat, add squash, mushrooms, stewed tomatoes and jar of spaghetti sauce. Sometimes she doubles or even triples the recipe and freezes it. This way it's ready whenever the family wants spaghetti.

She tells me my youngest grandson picks out the squash so sometimes she chops it up very small so he won't know whats in there. She also sometimes uses mashed up cooked carrots to add an extra shot of veggies to it. She says she just uses whatever she has at the time so like many of my recipes this one can be very flexible. (She also says she doesn't use celery but I like it so I'm leaving it in there)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Veggie Scramble

I work as a live-in caregiver for the elderly and one of the problems we have is getting them to eat enough veggies and fruit. I made this for a client this morning and she loved it!
This recipe is one of the many reasons I have for saving even small bits of leftovers. I'm going to tell you what I used this morning and then give other suggestions so you can create your own unique veggie scrambles.
For two people I used:
3 eggs, if you add enough other stuff you can cut down on the amount of eggs you use
Some leftover broccoli and carrots, cooked
1/2 stalk chopped celery
small amount of green peppers and onions, diced
1/2 small tomato, diced
small handful of shredded cheese
Spray your skillet with cooking spray.
Saute celery, green peppers and onions lightly
Beat and add eggs, broccoli and carrots and scramble
When the eggs are almost done add the cheese and tomatoes
Now all you need is a slice of whole wheat toast with a little bit of jam to make a great breakfast
You don't need to add everything that I did, the only really necessary thing is the eggs. Now for other things you can throw in there to make your scramble unique
Any leftover veggies
Small amount leftover meat
Leftover potatoes diced or microwave a small potato and dice
grated carrots
Small amount of zucchini or yellow squash, diced
Crumbled bacon or diced sausage
I'll add more as I go. Please leave a comment and let me know what combinations you have tried.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Waste not.........

One of the best ways to save money is to use what you buy. This may seem simple but many people don't do this. They buy more than they can use before things go bad, or simply change their mind about making that special dish they were going to make. Leftovers often get thrown away or shoved to the back of the fridge. Making a meal plan is often a way to avoid this. You need to plan for leftovers and work them in to your plan. The plan should be a guideline, if you say your going to have meatloaf on Tuesday(yes I have a hangup about meatloaf) you can change your mind and make burgers, or make it on Wednesday.
You can write it down any way you would like, I prefer to make it look like a weekly calender. check your fridge, freezer and cabinets and plan as many of your meals from what you already have. Make sure anything that may be going bad soon is used up. That gives you a better idea of what you need.
The next thing I do is check the ads papers for the local grocery store and see whats on sale that you can work into your plan. If you plan it right you won't often have to pay full price for most things. I'll talk about buying extra and stocking up another time. What we are talking about now has more to do with perishables. If you know that you will only need enough lettuce (for example) to make salad for two meals your a lot less likely to buy too much and have to throw it away.
Using your leftovers often takes a little thinking ahead. It's better if you only make enough for the one meal your cooking but in most families this is a little unrealistic. So if your having chicken Tuesday night, you might want to tentatively plan chicken salad sandwiches for lunches. (Yes, this may take a little bit more work). I'll be giving you a lot of ideas to use leftovers as we go along.

Getting Started

I've had this blog set up for some time now. I've written a hundred articles for it in my head and never got around to actually typing them out.
My intention is not just to give you recipes but to show you how to eat better, pay less, add nutrition, use leftovers and in general have a little more fun cooking.
I used to hate to cook until I realized that the so-called rules (like Captain Jack Sparrow would say) were more like guidelines. Of course, when it comes to food safety, there are rules. But when it comes to what goes into, say a meatloaf or anything else, well, they really are just guidelines. Cooking can be a very creative effort and doing it on a tight budget can be even more creative.