Posts tagged ‘vancouver’

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.

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.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Like many out there, I live on a budget, and often from paycheck to paycheck. It’s easy to see that you can save money by cooking at home, but that often takes quite a bit of leg work and most of us don’t have that kind of time.

To be truly efficient in the kitchen one must be dedicated. I’ve realized over the years that in order to live a less stressful life, I need to be more organized. While I was working full-time I struggled with things like meal planning and shopping on a budget. To be consistent with that is difficult so I looked for short cuts.

Meal plans are great, and I love the idea of going onto a website and finding it all in one place, but then the question becomes where do I buy all of the stuff and how much is it going to cost? Sometimes they say ‘budget’, but that is only if you have a fully stocked cupboard. While many of them are directed to American Consumers and might not apply to us up here, I’ve yet to find one that I could use and that featured recipes my family would enjoy.

So I’ve decided to create my own meal plan, partly to help me stay organized, but also to offer anyone out there, a map through a really handy cook book. One that features real, simple, tasty food for those of us who might not have a huge food budget.

With my meal plan you will get a shopping list of all the things you should need. I might leave out small things like salt, ketchup etc, as those are items that we stock up on.

Take some time to go through the front section of the cook book regarding your pantry. Before a shop it’s a good idea to pull out or check out what you have so that you’re not spending money you don’t need to, but also to ensure that nothing can be thrown out and to remind yourself of what you need to use before it goes bad.

Every time I go into my fridge and see vegetables going bad or throwing out left overs I hear my mother say something about the starving children in Africa in the back of my mind. I hate to waste food, and if at all possible we use left overs some way, some how.

The shopping list contains most of the items you will need to create 3 meals per day for 3-4 people. The prices you will see are current prices from The Real Canadian Superstore. I find that this is the most efficient place for me to shop, the prices are near to the best you will find and for most of their products the quality is decent, if not quite good.

I did a poll once on my Facebook asking where people liked to shop. The consensus was that Superstore was great for dry, canned, hygiene and household products, while Save-on-Foods was cheaper for pharmacy items and had a better quality meat selection. Safeway had the best service etc, etc.

I choose to do the bulk of my shopping at Superstore to save myself both time and effort. If the meat is not the greatest quality, I’ll opt for a roast that I can season and shred for sandwiches or ground beef I can turn into a chili or stew. Use what’s available and in your price range and play with spices. See our Tools of the Trade section for more on spice racks.

The only exception to my Superstore purchases would be my vegetables. I like to support my local economy and find that most local, family run green grocers have a great selection of fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and very inexpensive. For $25.00 I can purchase the fruits and vegetables that we will need for a 14 day period. I would greatly suggest sourcing one out in your area, this will reduce your budget, support your town and give you great tasting seasonal greens for your meals.

So check out our first Meal Plan and Shopping list and get ready for Karen’s Shredded Pork Donairs.