Monday, October 29, 2018

Quick Comfort Food: Ramen Noodles

Yes, they're cheap and yes, they're not the healthiest option as they come. You can do things with them, though! What makes them salty, i.e., unhealthy, is the seasoning packet, but you don't have to use all of that, or any of it, depending.

They can be used as a base for a wide variety of soups or casseroles and since they cook up fast, you can add precooked (as in leftovers) food to them and have a meal in a few short minutes.

Ramen noodles plus chopped chicken and some leftover vegetables and there you go. Or ramen noodles, the last sausage patty and a scrambled egg... or how about ramen noodles, cut up hotdogs or ham and cheese sauce?

My new favorite at the moment (I still have a cold!) is ramen noodles cooked with peas then I added a scrambled an egg and cooked it like egg drop soup. I added a little extra water to it and I didn't use a whole packet of seasoning (chicken flavor).

Not bad for a few pennies. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Easy dandelion fritters

Stretch your food budget and have fun! Now is the time of year to make dandelion fritters and make them a part of your meal. You can use tempura batter or make your own:
1 cup whole wheat or white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Mix all ingredients together and add just enough cold water to make a pancake consistency batter.
This will make enough for about two cups of fresh dandelion blossom fritters.
Using scissors, trim the bottom of the blossoms of as much green as you can without cutting into the blossom because it will fall apart. IF you do and you're left with a pile of dandelion petals, use them anyway. Toss them into the batter along with the whole blossoms, coat and cook them in medium hot oil until they are lightly brown.
Cheap treat and so good for you!
Don't use dandelions from anywhere it has been sprayed.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Time to use that pumpkin

Of course there are pumpkin pies and I hope that you make your own for the holidays. One pumpkin will make a table full of pumpkin pies, though! What to do with the rest of it?

How about some quick and easy pumpkin soup? It's better than it sounds and it's very healthy.

For every two cups of pureed pumpkin, you will need one cup of chicken broth. If you don't have any that you've frozen from boiling the carcass of a chicken, you can make some with bouillon. Onion and bacon are the other two ingredients.

2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped onion (more or less)
4 slices bacon, cut into quarter inch pieces.

Add broth to pumpkin and bring it to a simmer. Meantime, cook the bacon and onions together until the bacon is done but not crispy and the onions are translucent.

Add the bacon and onions, scraping the pan and it's fat, too,  to the pumpkin mixture and let it simmer another two or three minutes to bring out the flavor.

Taste and if needed, you can add a little salt. If you use turkey bacon, you will need to add some ham flavoring, or at the least, liquid smoke.

That's all there is to it. With toasted or crusty bread, it makes a much more filling meal than you might think. And it tastes good!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Buy pumpkins at the source and save

October is the month for pumpkins! The cheapest way to get a lot of yummy pumpkin is NOT to buy it canned on sale. If you haven't grown your own or can get a free one somewhere (neighbors gardens?), here's how to get the best pumpkin for the lowest price. Best sources are first.

From your garden. Or the garden of friends or family. This is the freshest and definitely the right price, even if you trade a neighbor for something else.

Pumpkin patches. If you live anywhere near a farming area, you should be able to find a pumpkin patch. Plan on spending some time there, take the kids and make a real outing of it. Many pumpkin patches have squash and gourds, too, and some have activities for the kids as well as adults. The prices are great. I have bought them for as low as three for a dollar.

Farmer's markets. Fresh pumpkin straight from the fields are found in farmer's markets, but be sure you're buying from a grower/producer. Some markets allow anyone to sell, so people buy food from wholesale grocer markets and present them as farm grown. The prices at farmer's markets vary a lot, so know yours and know if the pumpkin is worth it to you.

Grocery store. As a last resort, buy a fresh pumpkin from a grocery or other store. They may look expensive compared to a pumpkin patch, but it's cheaper than canned pumpkin.

Once you get the pumpkin and are through using it as a decoration, cut it open and scoop out the seeds. Clean the stringy part from them and soak them in salt water overnight, then toast in a slow oven of about 250 degrees.

Bake the rest of the pumpkin and puree or chunk it to cook or bake with or freeze it for Thanksgiving pumpkin pies. You will never taste canned pumpkin as good or as cheap!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wasted Food From Field to Refrigerator

It's certainly not the first time I've talked about this, but maybe it's time to review it. Food prices keep going up and incomes don't necessarily keep up with them. Some people have found themselves with limited funds to buy food, at least temporarily, while not able to take advantage of government food programs for various reasons.

If that's you, or you know someone who is in that position, there is hope. In the USA, food is hardly scarce and much of it is wasted, from the grower to the consumer and at all  points in between.

If you live in or near a rural area, it's possible to glean after the harvest. Today's huge machines are inefficient harvesters and leave as much as one third of the produce in the field. Simply ask the farmer. Some will allow it while some won't.

Transportation from field to processing plants often means onions, potatoes and other hardy crops scattered along the road. All you have to do is stop and pick it up.

Sorting and processing leads to more waste. There used to be a brand name pickle place near here that set out barrels where they dumped cucumbers that were too large or misshapen for their operation. There was nothing wrong with the cucumbers and the barrels were conveniently located. A potato processing plant would fill the back of any truck with rejects (too big, too small, too misshapen).

At the grocery store, produce is sorted daily and blemished or less than fresh items are boxed up and thrown away. There is often nothing wrong with the food at all. Smaller grocery stores will sometimes give you these boxes "for your rabbits (or chickens, etc.)"

And at home: Do you waste food? Do leftovers go in the garbage? Does food stay in the refrigerator until it's past safe to use? Do you stick it in the freezer then forget about it until you clean out the freezer, then throw it out?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Grandma's Pinto Beans

Grandma (my Mom) cooked on a wood stove for most of her life. A very common meal was pinto beans, fried potatoes, corn bread, home made cottage cheese and wild greens, all washed down with sweet iced tea. It makes my mouth water even now.

When soaked in water or cooked, pinto beans swell to two to three times their size, so keep that in mind when deciding how many to prepare. It takes several hours to cook them, but how long depends on your altitude and the age of the beans. High altitudes can mean cooking them all day, while if you're close to sea level, they will be done in a couple of hours.

If you buy pinto beans from a local regular grocery store, the chances are that they are at least a year old and often older than that. They will be fine once cooked, but they will take longer to cook than fresh beans. If you can buy pinto beans from a farmer, do it! Also, most of the time, organic pinto beans are fresh, at least within a year of being picked, and of better quality than grocery store beans. The price isn't that much higher, so they're well worth a few cents more. If you have a choice, look for bright, clear colors and beans that are pleasantly firm but not rock hard. Those are the freshest.

Here's what you'll need:

Ham, ham hocks, bacon or turkey equivalent with smoked seasoning

Look through the beans and remove any stray rocks or seeds and any shriveled beans or any that have black spots or are deep brown. Broken beans are fine. Rinse them thoroughly, then put them into a large pot. Cover them with cold water, making sure there are at least three inches of water above the beans, then bring them to a boil. Turn off the heat, check the water level and let them set overnight. You won't have to refrigerate them; just leave them in the water in the pot.

In the morning, drain off the soak water (use it in the garden or to water house plants) and replace it with cold, fresh water. Put the pinto beans back on the stove, bring to a good, rolling boil, then turn down the heat until they are at a brisk simmer. Put a lid on the pot and let them cook, but keep an eye on them and replace water as it's needed.

When the pinto beans are about half way done, add seasoning meat. Bacon, ham hocks or pieces of ham have some salt in them so don't add them too early in the cooking process or the beans will be tough no matter how long you cook them. Don't add salt at all until the beans are done.

When everything seems cooked and tender, let it cook another half hour or so. At this point, add salt to taste and Mom's secret ingredient: A tablespoon of sugar. If you let the beans set another 15 to 20 mminutes before serving, so much the better. You can put the cornbread in the oven and when it's done, the beans will be ready.

Serve with cornbread, fried potatoes or hashbrowns and cooked greens of your choice. Radishes and green onions go well with pinto beans cooked this way.

How to eat leftover pinto beans

Pinto beans are even better the second day, but second helpings can be dressed up. too.

First, add cornbread to the beans, with plenty of the soup. Add chopped raw onions if you like. You can also add ketchup with or without the cornbread and onions.

If your family doesn't want to eat beans again, they freeze very well. Just make sure to have enough liquid to cover them.

You can also make refried beans with them. Sautee onion and garlic in a skillet (cast iron if you have it), then add drained beans, mash lightly and heat through.


Pinto beans are low on the glycemic scale and are a good source of fiber. They provide a variety of minerals, including manganese, magnesium and potassium, are also a good source of several vitamins, including folate and Vitamin K. If you eat cornbread or another type of corn with pinto beans, you are providing your body with a complete protein.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Breaded tomatoes your way

Tomatoes are in abundance this time of year, whether you grow them yourself or buy them from the grocery store. If you find yourself with tomatoes that you can't use up, breaded tomatoes is the perfect answer. Breaded tomatoes are so good, they're worth buying a few extra for.

Making them is simple enough and you can easily adjust the "recipe" to suit yourself. Here are the basics

Peel two or three tomatoes, either by plunging them in boiling water for a minute then in cold water and slipping the skins or by peeling them with a knife. Using the boiling water method will save more of the tomato.

Put the tomatoes into a large saucepan and add about a quarter inch of water; just enough to keep them from burning when they first start to cook.

Add whatever spices and seasonings you prefer: Onions, garlic and oregano, or cilantro, chili powder and onions or try sage and minced celery. Whatever your preferences are, add a little salt, smash the tomatoes with a potato masher or a fork and mix everything together.

Simmer for a quarter to a half hour, then add stale bread, torn in small pieces. Add enough bread to soak up the liquid without making it dry.

That's all there is to it. You can make it so many ways that you can have it often if you have a glut of tomatoes from the garden.