Posts tagged ‘cooking’

The Search For Allergy Friendly Foods

Over the course of the past few months, my boyfriend and I have been weeding out foods that aren’t working for us. We both seem to have food allergies, and without going and getting tested for the whole kit and caboodle, we’ve simply kept track of what we eat and how we feel afterwards.

We’ve narrowed out the following foods, much to my chagrin:

  • Beef
  • Processed ham, possibly all pork
  • Cheese
  • Pea’s (Ask my mother, I’ve been “claiming” to be allergic to pea’s since I visited my grandmother at 6 years old)

While this may not seem to be a lot, it was still a bit of a lifestyle change as beef and pork are two of the cheaper meats, and the ones I grew up with as a child. Almost every year, my family would purchase a quarter of a cow, and we would receive a large package of a variety of cuts of meat. This was common for our area, as in the heart of farm country; butchers featured fantastic prices on beef due to its abundance.

So, as much as I love the Better Homes and Garden’s Budget Cook Book, I was running out of recipes for Chicken and Fish, and decided to branch out. I picked up the Cheap. Fast. Good! Cook book by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross.

This book has a ton of great tips and recipes, my next meal plan features all of their recipes and although we haven’t had many yet, what I have tried is quite tasty.

Advertisements

The beauty of No-Recipe Recipies

Nothing is more chaotic than real life, take mine for instance. Starting a small business is crazy, so much of your time is eaten up by one aspect of the business or another; while I’m not complaining (having work is better than no work), I’ve had to rework my life once more.

The key for me is flexibility, yes some days I want to get creative and build beautiful, tasty meals from one of my cook books, however the reality is that sometimes I don’t have the time to think that far ahead. In times such as this, I fall back on the no-recipe recipies, to make fast, affordable meals that don’t stress me out.

Last night while battling the computer gods, I decided on grilled chicken ceasar sandwiches. By grilling the SuperStore no-name Chicken breasts on my new grill, and adding cesar dressing, parmesan and grilled onions with a side of asparagus cooked in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan, I was able to eat a tasty, some what healthy meal in under 30 minutes.

If anything, not having a recipe inspires me to be creative. So the next time you’re strapped for time and don’t know what to cook, open up your pantry and experiment with what you have inside. It doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive or time consuming, you just have to use your imagination.

Those who can’t do….get take out

So, I am bad for getting consumed in one aspect of my life and not focusing on all of the others. It’s times like this I find we eat out, or badly more often….of course this is usually the time we can least afford it. I know there are things I can do to make dinner easier, but that usually involves an initial sacrifice to the Time Gods, which easily enables me to procrastinate.

However, today I took the time to make that sacrifice, and I’m sure tomorrow I will be grateful.

On today’s menu was Chicken Alfredo Pot Pie on page 200. I’ve now made this pie twice, once right after my last post, and then again today. Both times I doubled the recipe prepared to make two pies. However I realized that the Pillsbury pie crust I purchased may say 2, however that means the bottom and top of one pie.

Having the bottom and top on this particular pie makes it a breeze to put onto plates. Using the ready-made pastry is easy and stress free, which is nice because I’m usually so worked up by the prospect of overworking the dough, that I overwork the dough.

I opted for the Classico Roasted Red pepper Alfredo, much to my families delight, it was a bold flavour that worked well with the Sage. However I did add the McCormick’s garlic and herb seasoning to the Chicken as it was cooking. The only other change that I made was to add fresh garlic and diced onions to the chicken as it was cooking. Personally, if I have onions, I through them in.

The end result was a hearty, veggie filled pie that we all loved. Carrots, broccoli and cauliflower were a nice change from the standard meat pie veggies like peas and corn. The pie took all of 20 minutes to make and 12 minutes to cook, couple this with an extra for the freezer, or my parents and you have my new favourite save-time-during-the-week-dinner.

So for all of you busy ladies and gents out there who greet hump-day with a bag of McDonald’s, try putting this gem in your freezer and let me know how it works for you!

**Note, believe it or not, I did take photos…..however I must remember to delete old photo’s off or it won’t save the ones I take…(Slaps forehead with the palm of her hand)**

A little spice making pork oh-so nice

Tex-Mex Pork and Corn Soup

There is something therapeutic in cooking for me. Perhaps its the 1950’s housewife in me, or just my overwhelming urge to feed people. Saturday was no different for me. This is one of my big cooking days, although it was not as big as others, it was quite productive and satisfying in the end.

On the table for this night was the Tex-Mex Pork and Corn Soup found on page . I really enjoyed this soup, not only eating it, but learning to make it. Although, as would be expected I changed it little, it was fun, easy and a new way to serve up pork. The more that I try to steer away from red meat’s, I find myself grateful for soups that allow me to prepare for the week ahead and it’s lunches.

To accompany our soup, I made one of my all time favourites from childhood, Corn Meal Muffins. I pulled a recipe off the internet, however I was not happy with it. So I will not share it with you today and while I continue looking for one that I like, please feel free to send me your recipes, should you wish to share.

Now the recipe called for Pork Tenderloin, however I’m sure it’s no surprise by now that I bought a pork roast that fit into my budget. This took longer to cut up, as there was more fat than would be on tenderloin (I believe it’s said to be the leanest cut of pork), however it really paid off. I managed to put aside the fatty bits to spice up my dog’s dinner for a few days, and the pork pieces were moist and lovely.

While the recipe didn’t call for any spices on the meat, which you cook up first, I chose to add a little of the No-salt McCormick Garlic and Herb Seasoning that I have as a staple in my kitchen. Then once those were cooked, I took the onion, corn (they said frozen, I used a can) , added frozen carrots that were nearing freezer burn, and tossed them together with two cloves of garlic diced. The smell was heavenly.

The recipe called for 14 oz of chicken broth. I had one of those tetra packs of Campbell chicken broth so I poured that and one 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with spices together in a pot. The recipe only calls for a tomato or two, however I thought this could help me stretch a meal that served 5 into at least 8, and I seem to have succeeded.

In order to keep the Tex-Mex feel and not end up with a tomato soup, I added double the amount of salsa, and twice as much Cilantro. The end result was a rich, full-bodied soup that was filling, colourful and a perfect complement to the corn meal muffins.

****Tip of the day: Did you know that Coriander and Cilantro are the same plant??? I didn’t, my cooking Guru informed me yesterday that Cilantro is the name for the leaves of the Coriander plant, and we use the seeds to make Coriander spice.****

Chili-Cheese Hoagies-The Karen edition

I live with a man who for years has been asking me to make sloppy joes…….However our biggest issues is that I’m a bit more discerning than your average bear, and that can of ‘Sloppy Joe’ mix, is not on my list of acceptable dinner alternatives. I can’t for the life of me find a Sloppy Joe recipe that I like, so on Friday after shopping I decided to try the Chili-Cheese Hoagies recipe found on Pg: 92 of our Budget Cooking Bible.

Now not unlike every recipe that I touch, I did change a few things. Instead of French-Style buns, I chose Kaisers. I prefer these buns, not only for their taste but also because nearly every store is bound to have a great price on this standard bakery bun. They were easy to hollow out as the recipe suggested, and held up to their end of the sandwich bargain quite well.

I started by chopping green onions, one medium sized onion, half of a green pepper, a small bunch of Cilantro and 2 cloves of garlic. Then, as per the recipe, I cooked all but the cilantro with the ground beef in a large skillet until the ground beef was brown. After removing the fat, buying extra lean ground beef helps with this step, I dumped in my can of tomatoes and stirred the cilantro in.

Forgive my blurry pictures...I'm a writer not a photographer

I let this cook down for probably between 30-45 minutes on medium heat. This gave me time to make two batches of oatmeal chocolate cookies, and hollow out the buns. Cookies always get me extra brownie points with my man….however I’ve learned to cook twice as much as you tell him you have and hide the difference, otherwise they will all be sacrificed to the video game gods. In the end they came together quite nicely, next time I’ll do them as open-faced sandwiches with a salad or fresh veggies. My boyfriend tells me that they were spicy and the cheese held it together nicely. I chose to replace the cumin with chili flakes that I picked up from the dollar store of all places, which really seemed to pay off. I liked the bite that they had, and they were filling, one sandwich later, I was stuffed…we had cookies and milk for desert and settled down for a night of Mad Men.

Clean up was phenomenally easy….here, all clean and put away, you will find all the dishes I used to cook this dinner.

The Art of Shopping

Navigating the Grocery Jungle

I’m probably one of a few women who dislikes shopping. While I enjoy new things, I’m too overwhelmed by the shopping experience. I don’t enjoy crowds; and because I am cautious with my money I like to take my time, making me a self-conscious shopper.

So I created some rules for successful grocery shopping. What makes a successful grocery trip? If I leave the store in a relatively short period of time, not ready to tear my hair out, within or under budget, without forgetting a critical item, I consider myself successful.

Rule 1: The early bird survives the experience.

Early mornings are my favourite time to shop. Any time before 9am you should have shorter line-ups, a quieter store, fully stocked shelves, and none of those people who suddenly stop in front of you expecting that you can see their break lights.

Rule 2: Preparation = Success

As with most things in life it’s always best to go prepared. My shopping list is written in a purse sized, spiral bound note-book which is easy to carry and sturdy enough to write on. I have my list on one side and an adding column on the other and a mechanical pencil. Without a list you run the risk of forgetting something or overspending, it is also handy to have on hand for comparison shopping and your household budget.

Rule 3: Who says you would never use math in real life

When counting I round-up to the nearest dollar and add between $15-$30 to my total to account for the taxes. This just helps me to be sure that I am staying within my budget and won’t be surprised by the total when I get to the till. I also like to refer back to these when I’m planning my shopping list so I can budget accurately.

Rule 4: Don’t be rash, use cash

When budget shopping if you have a tendency to over spend, I recommend that you take what you want in cash, and leave all cards behind. With credit or debit cards it’s so easy to ‘forget’ your budget, and nothing is more embarrassing than to realize that you have gone overboard when you get to the till.

Rule 5: Eat first, shop later

Shopping on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster, trust me. Instead of following your list, you will be tempted by the pre-manufactured dinners, junk food and boxed meals. These are filled with preservatives and while they may be great time savers they are not really worth the money. If you mix some low quality items like these with meats and fresh vegetables they aren’t so bad, but all in all I vote NO.

Rule 6: I used to hate to shop alone

I have a girlfriend who will not go shopping unless her boyfriend goes with her. She dislikes shopping and likes to have him for both company and someone to help her carry heavy items. I learned not to long ago that I prefer to shop alone, if my boyfriend comes with me he does nothing but push the cart and sigh, oh, and ask if we are done yet. I like to take my time, I like to follow my list and I like to be able to back track if I forget something without having to hear about it.

To all of those stressed out mom’s dealing with crying kids in the cereal aisle, buddy up with another mom and take turns shopping, you will be so much more relaxed, and at the end of the day that is so much more important than being Super-Mom.

Rule 7: One is the nicest number

While I like to support local economy and shop at local small businesses, I have to admit that one large shop will save you more time and money than a few or many small shops. Some times it will be cheaper to visit more than one store, but most often than not if you are shopping at multiple stores quality is your main concern.

If you like the one stop shop then I suggest the Real Canadian Superstore. While the produce and meats are not as high quality as Save On Foods or IGA, you will have more options, and a better price point on just about everything. Coupled with the fact that they deal with everything from clothing, health and beauty, home and garden, books, office and automotive supplies, grocery and pet items, you can’t find a better selection anywhere.

Rule 8: Grab you headphones let’s party!

Shopping doesn’t need to be a dreaded event, I like to take my mp3 player with me. I have an upbeat shopping play list that helps me to make this chore fun and relaxing. Give your self a break from the house. If you are prepared, shopping will be a breeze and you can go for a walk, listen to some music and enjoy some time out of the house.

Bon Voyage!

Slowcooker, j’adore

Check out our Tools of the Trade for our new page on slow cookers. More to follow!

GOOD MORNING WORLD!