Monday, September 30, 2013

Persimmon Tea Bread

Adapted from Raymond Sokolov's Fading Feast

The persimmon provides all the spice you need in this simple sweet bread.

1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup persimmon pulp*
2 cups flour
3 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soada
1/2 cup cooking oil or melted butter
3/4 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Beat together sugar, eggs, and persimmon pulp. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

3. Combine pulp mixture and dry ingredients, then stir in oil. Mix well (I alternate adding dry ingredients and oil/butter in three parts. Don't over mix). Add nuts and raisins. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake 45-50 minutes our until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

*Borrow a food mill from The Hub Tool Share to extract the pulp from the seeds and and skins.

Persimmon Waffles (AKA The Persaffle*)

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 ½-2 cups milk (or buttermilk)
½ cup (or more) persimmon pulp
2 eggs, separated
4 Tablespoons (½ stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Combine the dry ingredients, making sure there are no lumps in the baking powder.
Separate the eggs, and beat the egg whites until stiff with an electric mixer, or by hand with a whisk. Mix the yolks with the milk and persimmon. Add the melted butter to the liquid mixture, and the vanilla (if using). Stir the wet ingredients into the dry. If the mixture seems too thick to pour, add a little more milk.

Spread a ladleful or so of batter onto the waffle iron (pre-oil it if yours tends to stick) and cook until the waffle is done, usually 3-5 minutes. Check for your preference of doneness, you can leave it in longer if you like crispy outsides. Serve immediately or keep warm for a few minutes in a low oven.

Serve with pure maple syrup, melted butter & honey, jam or molasses.

Thanks to Jason Nickey for coining the term "persaffle"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Special Farmers Market Edition

I went to the Farmers Market on Saturday and got some great bargains. I want to give you a heads up on them, especially the produce that won’t last long. (Can you believe it’s Fall already?!) And don’t forget that you can exchange a dollar’s worth of food stamps for two dollars’ worth of market vouchers, so, if you have food stamps, you can get stuff at the market for half price! I know there’s probably not much left of this month’s food stamps, but you may be able to find the same things there the first weekend in October, too. I’m sure there are a lot more bargains at the Market. These are just the ones I happened to come across when I was looking for stuff for me. I was almost done before it occurred to me that there might be a column in it.

The first place I stopped was at Tom’s Produce, on the north (at least I think it’s the north – I’m terrible with directions) side of the Market, next to City Hall. He had quarter bushels of canning tomatoes (about 14 pounds) for $6, or half bushels for $12. That’s less than 50 cents a pound! Canning tomatoes are just tomatoes that aren’t quite perfect, though I had trouble finding anything wrong with most of the ones I got, except that maybe they were a bit small. I got 49 tomatoes, so they cost 12 cents each. Don’t have a need or room for 49 tomatoes at a time? Share a box with a friend.

I also got some red and green bell peppers from Tom, at 3 for $1. They were a bit larger than what I would consider an “average” bell pepper, but then I picked out the biggest ones he had. Some were a bit oddly shaped, but I didn’t see any bad spots, at least on the ones I picked.

Tom had potatoes, too, either white or red, 30 pounds for $12, or 40 cents a pound. I have no idea how this compares to supermarket prices, but it sounds good.

Tom expects to have the tomatoes and peppers for at least another couple of weeks, and potatoes for a lot longer. Subject, of course, to the weather cooperating!

The next place I stopped was the stall where I get big oddly shaped peppers for 50 cents each. They had a bunch of them again, red or green, but not yellow. These were really big and heavy, and, other than being oddly shaped, were in fine condition. The peppers I got weighed between 12 and 16 ounces, compared to about 4 ounces for an average pepper. A few of the peppers they had had small soft spots, but I just didn’t pick those peppers. This stall was, I think, in the second row of stalls from the parking lot. I didn’t see a name on the stall.

I got some big green and yellow zucchini for 75 cents each. The big zucchini work great for casseroles, soup, and omelets, which is what I use them for. Smaller ones would work better for cooking up sliced.

Three other things I got were at “market price” but still a good price. One was pie pumpkins for $2 each (there were also small ones for $1). Pie pumpkins are smaller than field pumpkins, or Halloween pumpkins, and the flesh tends to be less stringy. They’re great for making pies, of course, but they’re also good in savory dishes. I use pumpkin in chili, in stew, and pumpkin soup, and in several other dishes. I’ll do a column on pumpkins before Halloween. You can also use regular Halloween pumpkins for most things, even after you have carved them up for jack-o-lanterns. And be sure to save the seeds to eat! I’ll include directions for roasting the seeds in a later column. You can use the seeds of spaghetti squash the same way you would pumpkin seeds. In fact, you can use the seeds of any of the winter squashes that way. I got some big green and yellow zucchini for 75 cents each. The big zucchini work great for casseroles, soup, and omelets, which is what I use them for. Smaller ones would work better for cooking up sliced. And finally, I got a big spaghetti squash for $3. I didn’t like spaghetti squash when I was using it as a substitute for spaghetti. It is not the same at all, even if it does look the same! But as a vegetable in its own right it’s pretty good.

The other two places I want to talk about both sell meat. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Kip and Whitney’s Marble Hill Farm and their grass-fed ground beef. Again, it’s a good price, especially if you can get it for half price by using your food stamps to get market vouchers. They also have beef soup bones for $3 a pack. The packs range between about a pound and about two pounds. You have to be really careful with soup bones. Some places sell bones with practically no meat at all on them and call them soup bones. Kip and Whitney’s soup bones are slices of the leg, with lots of meat. The leg, or shank, has very flavorful meat. It needs to be cooked “low and slow” and in liquid (like in soup!) or it will be tough. But simmered slowly, or gently braised for a long time, the meat is wonderfully soft. Kip’s stall is roughly the middle of the middle row, facing Seventh Street.

Dove Farms has a stall along the north side of the Market, a few stalls from Tom’s Produce, alongside City Hall. They sell produce and eggs, but what I’m talking about today is their grain-fed beef. They have ground beef for $3.50 a pound, ribs for $2.79 a pound, and heart, liver and tongue for $1.69 a pound. They also have the rest of the animal, but these are the inexpensive cuts that they had on Saturday. Their animals are raised almost entirely on grain, so the meat will taste and cook more like you are used to. It’s local, and they don’t use hormones or antibiotics.

Grass-fed beef like Kip and Whitney raise and grain-fed beef like you get from Dove Farms are quite different. They are both local and raised without antibiotics or hormones, but how they are fed makes a big difference in the meat. Grass-fed beef is very lean, to the point that you really need to add some fat to it. Because it is so lean, it can turn out very dry if you cook it too long or at too high a temperature. You probably want to add some chopped veggies or an egg or something to the ground beef to help make up for the lack of fat. It also tastes a bit different than grain-fed or grain-finished beef. There are some health advantages to grass-fed beef – it has more Omega 3 and less Omega 6, and more CLA, both of which are supposed to be good for you. Grain-fed or grain-finished beef, on the other hand, will taste more like you are used to. Because it has more fat, it cooks more like you are used to, too, and is less likely to turn out dry or tough. Some people flat out don’t like the taste of grass-fed beef. Other people think it tastes better than grain-fed beef. I can’t say that one is “better” than the other, or that you “should” eat one instead of the other. It’s up to you. The beef from both Dove Farms and Marble Hill Farm is better for you than what you get at the store, it’s produced locally, is raised without hormones or antibiotics, and, at least for these cuts, is cheaper than you’ll usually find in the stores. The ground beef costs more than the cheapest, fattest ground beef at the store, but it’s about the same as or cheaper than the super lean ground beef there.

I’m sure that there are other bargains at the Market, but these are things that I was looking for for me. I wasn’t looking at the prices on the rest of the food there, or at the prices at each stall for things I did buy. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they published the prices so you could comparison shop like you can with the grocery stores?) If you have time on a Saturday morning, go down and check it out. You’ll probably find some bargains of your own. And don’t forget to exchange your food stamps for market vouchers! But be quick about it. Tomatoes and peppers and zucchini and other summer produce won’t be around much longer, though fall produce is moving in. And Tom’s Produce, Marble Hill Farm, and Dove Farms won’t be at the winter market.

Instead of the usual recipes and menus, I’m going to give some ideas for preserving the wonderful summer produce.

CANNED TOMATOES – Talk to Kayte about this. I’ve seen home canned tomatoes at the Pantry, so I’ll bet she knows how to do it. It’s been years since I’ve done any home canning.

FROZEN WHOLE TOMATOES – This is the easiest way to preserve tomatoes, but you do need freezer space. Don’t expect to end up with chunks or slices of tomato after it’s cooked. It cooks down to pretty much nothing, but leaves behind its color and its tomato flavor.

FROZEN DICED TOMATOES – Easier than canning them, but, again, you do need freezer space. 

OVEN DRIED TOMATOES – Have you seen the price for sun-dried tomatoes in the stores? They’re way too expensive for me. Oven dried tomatoes work just as well. They have a really intense tomato taste and collapse down so they take up practically no space. Most recipes say to dry plum or Roma type tomatoes, because they are less juicy than regular tomatoes and also because they are smaller. Regular tomatoes work fine, too, though they don’t get as dry. These are incredibly easy to make, and take almost no preparation time. They just need a long time by themselves in the oven.

FROZEN DICED PEPPERS – Easy to do, but like frozen peppers are best used in cooking. They're not much good for salads and eating raw.

ROASTED RED PEPPERS – Like sun dried tomatoes, commercial roasted red peppers are expensive. Fortunately, they’re also easy to make. It’s usually red peppers that are roasted, but you can use any color, including green. Use them in any recipe calling for roasted peppers, or for pimentos. Or add them to scrambled eggs or omelets, or to soups or casseroles, or any time you want a mild pepper flavor and some color.

ZUCCHINI – Zucchini doesn’t freeze or dry very well. It has too much water in it to dry, and if you freeze it you end up with a little bit of zucchini and whole bunch of water. It’s fine for putting in soups, but that’s about it. To freeze, either slice or shred it, and put it in plastic freezer bags. Refrigerate until cold, then freeze. To use, just dump the zucchini out of the bag into the soup.

PUMPKIN AND SPAGHETTI SQUASH – Pumpkin and spaghetti squash are winter squash, and store well. Wash them and let them dry thoroughly, then put them on newspapers on a shelf. Be sure they don’t touch each other. You should be able to keep them in a cool place for at least a few months.

Chicken Leg Quarters and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

There are no great sales on meat this week, so we’ll have to stick with my old standby, the 10-pound bags of chicken leg quarters at Walmart. They usually run $5.90 for the 10 pounds, so it’s 59 cents a pound. More about this in a minute, but first a few other things that are on sale this week.

Aldi has onions, 99 cents for a 3-pound bag. That’s a fabulous price! They have them at this price every few months, and I usually try to get enough to last me until the next time they go on sale. They also have cabbage for 99 cents, but the ads don’t say how much the cabbage weighs, so there’s no way to tell whether it’s a good price or not, without actually seeing them.

Marsh has pork shoulder steaks for $1.69 per pound, and Kroger has boneless pork loin for $1.87 per pound. I gave pork recipes the last three weeks, so I’ll skip them this week. Don’t forget that you can slice the pork loin into boneless pork chops, and you can cook the pork shoulder steaks (one of my very favorite cuts!) as you would pork chops.

But back to the chicken. Walmart almost always has the 10-pound bags for $5.90, or 59 cents a pound. A 10-pound bag usually has 10 leg quarters. Each leg quarter can be cut into three pieces, a thigh, a drumstick, and a bit of back. Just to give a bit of comparison in case you’re not up on chicken prices, Aldi’s regular price for a whole frozen chicken is 89 cents a pound, and Marsh has family packs of drumsticks or thighs on sale this week for $1.29 a pound. It’s well worth taking the time to cut up the leg quarters. It takes a bit of practice, but once you know how to do it, it goes quickly.

A leg quarter yields about a cup of cooked meat.

Be sure to save your bones after you’ve cooked your chicken. They can be made into bone-broth, which is a very flavorful and nutritious broth that can be used to make soups. I freeze it in pint containers, then take out a container or two whenever I want to make soup. You can also freeze the broth in ice cube trays, then put the cubes of frozen broth in a plastic bag. Measure your ice cube trays; one cube is probably between 2 tablespoons and a fourth of a cup.

About the easiest way to cook the chicken legs, and the way I fix them most often, is to just make ROASTED CHICKEN LEG QUARTERS. It’s easy, good, and cheap.  The skin gets all crisp and yummy and is best eaten immediately, before it loses its crispness. To jazz it up a bit, you can use other seasonings instead of just salt and pepper. Here are a few possibilities. Or use your favorite seasoning or seasoning blend.
            Onion salt and pepper
            Salt and lemon pepper seasoning
            Onion powder, salt and pepper
            Chicken BBQ rub
            Poultry seasoning
            Jerk seasoning
Assuming that each person gets a whole leg quarter, this should cost just over 60 cents per serving, depending on the seasonings.

Only slightly more complicated, because you have to think about it early enough to make the marinade, is LEMON LEGS. The drippings are great poured over cooked broccoli, zucchini, summer squash, green beans, or other veggies and serve as a side dish. Do not eat the unused marinade without bringing it to a boil first! Assuming that each person gets one leg quarter, this should run about 80 cents per serving, not counting the vegetables. A big zucchini at the Farmers Market would cost about 75 cents and would serve at least three people, so there’s another 25 cents a serving. If you slice a couple of carrots on the diagonal and cook them along with the zucchini, it looks much nicer and would make four servings, at about 25 cents per serving, or $1.05 per serving with the chicken, and the servings are quite generous. Or get one of the big, oddly shaped red bell peppers at the Farmers Market and cook it with the zucchini, and make a CARROT SALAD out of the carrots. A full recipe of LEMON LEGS, a big zucchini cooked with a red bell pepper, and a batch of CARROT SALAD would cost about $5.20, or about $1.31 for each of four servings.

Or you can cook the chicken and the vegetables together in a one-dish meal, as in the aptly named CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES. The original recipe just called for broccoli and squash, but the pepper adds a nice bit of color. A thinly sliced carrot would do the same thing. One of the stalls at the Farmers Market has big but oddly shaped yellow and red bell peppers for 50 cents each. I get extras, dice them, then spread them out on a cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours. Then I put the diced peppers in plastic bags and freeze them for use the rest of the year. A few tablespoons of red or yellow pepper really makes a difference in the appearance of a dish.These quantities make four really big servings, for about $1.35 each. The servings are big enough that nothing else is needed. If you decide to make more servings out of it, increase the frozen broccoli (98 cents a pound at Walmart) and add a salad or some fresh fruit. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Basic Quiche

6 eggs
2 cups cream or milk
1-2 teaspoons mustard (optional)
2 cups shredded cheese (8 ounces)

Put eggs, milk and mustard in blender and blend for at least a minute. Two or three is better. Add half the cheese and blend for another minute or so. Add the rest of the cheese and blend again. Pour into a 9x9 or 8x8 baking dish. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. It will probably puff up and may fall, either before you take it out or after. That’s normal. Makes four to eight servings, depending on what you’re going to serve with it. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

If you’re going to add meat or vegetables, they need to be cooked and well drained. Put the meat and veggies in the baking dish and spread them around evenly. Pour on the egg mixture (to which you’ve added any other herbs or seasonings), then spread out the meat and veggies again if necessary. Bake as usual.

Good combinations:
Broccoli with cheddar or Swiss
Spinach with feta and parmesan
Hamburger with cheddar
Onion and green pepper with mozzarella
Italian sausage with mozzarella and parmesan
Breakfast sausage with onion, pepper, mushrooms and Swiss
Bacon, onion, mushrooms and Swiss
Use any leftover cooked vegetables and whatever kind of cheese sounds good with them.
Leftover chili (drained so it’s really thick) and cheddar

Cauliflower with cheddar

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Salad

Lettuce, torn in bite size pieces
Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Mayonnaise or other salad dressing

How you assemble the salad is up to you. For the prettiest presentation, put the lettuce in the bottom of a big salad bowl, then the tomatoes, and top with the bacon. Serve the dressing on the side. The problem with this is that the bacon all gets eaten first and the plain lettuce is left. I usually toss the lettuce, tomatoes and bacon, then add the mayo and toss again. It’s not nearly as pretty, but it’s easier to get that BLT combination.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pork, Ground Beef, and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Here’s a little bit about me and my recipes and meal ideas. For various health reasons, I eat very low carb. This means no grains of any kind (no flour, pasta, ramen, rice, bread, noodles, corn, etc.), no sugar of any kind (no sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, etc.), no potatoes, and no low fat foods (they usually add sugar and starch when they take out the fat). In other words, none of the foods that are typically used to create inexpensive meals. Instead, I eat meat, vegetables, eggs, and dairy. By shopping the sales and knowing what’s cheapest where, I am able to eat this way and still keep my food costs fairly low.

The average food stamp (SNAP) benefit per person in Indiana in 2012 was $132.46, or about $4.40 per day. This is my target when I present my recipes and menus. I’m figuring on $1.50 each for lunch and supper, and about $1.00 for breakfast. The other 40 cents is theoretically used for stocking up on things that are on sale or that you only need a little of at a time, like a bottle of oil. Most of my menus range between $1.00 and $1.50 per serving, for an entire meal. This is using the most recent prices I have for all of the ingredients – the sales prices if there are any, or other actual current prices. This does sometimes involve going to several stores to get the cheapest prices. With the exception of things on sale, I usually shop at Walmart, Aldi and the Farmers Market. You may be able to get some of the things I use at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, or other food pantries. My costs assume that you have to buy everything. You may be able to get food at the Farmers Market for half price by converting food stamps to market vouchers. I assume that you are paying full price.

Sorting through all of the recipes online to find the cheapest good recipes that don’t use grains, sugars or potatoes is time-consuming. I love to cook and to look up new recipes, so I have a lot of recipes already. I hope you find this column helpful.

                                                                                                Mary Anne

Another week with pork on sale. Which is fine with me, because pork is my favorite meat. There are so many different things to do with it. However, it seems more suited to colder weather – fall and winter – than to the heat we’ve had the past few days. I’m really looking forward to the cooler temperatures they’re predicting for this weekend!

Back to the specials. Marsh has combination packs of pork Center Rib Chops, Country Style Ribs and Sirloin Roast for $1.28 per pound, which is a fantastic price! Two problems with it – first, the packs average 10 to 13 pounds, which may be more than you have room for; and second, you have to spend at least $25 on other foods there in order to get this price. Marsh’s everyday prices tend to be higher than at Walmart or Aldi, so you need to consider that in the price of the meat. I’m figuring that when you buy other things at the higher prices in order to get the great price on the meat, the meat’s really going to run you about $1.50 per pound. That’s probably a bit high, but it’s an easy number to work with. And it’s still a great price.

There are a few other good deals this week. Marsh has canned vegetables for 39 cents a can. Fresh are best, of course, but canned are certainly handy to have on hand, especially in the winter when fresh isn’t available. This is 10 cents a can cheaper than Aldi’s regular price, and about 20 cents a can less than the regular price elsewhere. Marsh also has onions on sale, three 3-pound bags for $5, or $1.67 per bag. While not a great price, it’s more than 50 cents less per bag than I’ve been able to find lately. Onions keep quite a while, so I’ll be stocking up on them. They also have collard, turnip and mustard greens for 88 cents a bunch. How good a price this is depends on how big the bunches are. They do go well with the pork, though. Be sure to look into the fuel savings, too. They’re advertising 5 cents a gallon off if you spend $25 or more with your Marsh card, which may help to offset the $25 of other purchases you need to get the pork. “Some exclusions apply.”

Aldi has baby carrots for 69 cents a pound, which is a good price for baby carrots. They usually have whole carrots for $1.29 for two pounds, which is 65 cents a pound. But the baby carrots are more fun to eat, and kids especially prefer them to the big kind. Grape tomatoes there are 99 cents for a pint package, and grapes are 89 cents a pound. Avocados are 69 cents each. Aldi and Kroger both have fresh broccoli for 99 cents a pound. Kroger has 18 eggs for $1.89, which comes out to about $1.25 per dozen, if you buy at least 5 qualifying items. Cream cheese is 99 cents for 8-ounce package on the same deal.

Kroger has 73/27 ground beef for $1.87 per pound. This is less than ground beef usually costs, but I want to let you know about another place to get ground beef. Kip and Whitney Schlegel of Marble Hill Farm raise grass fed beef. No grains at all. Grass fed beef has lots of health benefits. While they are not certified organic, the animals are not given hormones or antibiotics, and Kip hasn’t used sprays or artificial fertilizer since he’s owned the farm. Kip’s ground beef is usually $5 per pound, but he reduces the price if you buy more at one time. For example, it’s $4 per pound if you buy 10 1-lb packages. That’s still a lot more than $1.87 per pound, but it’s much leaner (I usually have to add some fat when I cook it) so it doesn’t cook down as much as the fatter meat. And if you get food stamps and you buy it at the Farmers Market, you can use the double vouchers ($2 in Farmers Market vouchers for each $1 in food stamps), so you’re really only paying $2 per pound. I talked to them at the Farmers Market about the vouchers, and they said that they have enough money in the double voucher program to be able to offer them through the winter and possibly into next spring. But if you want Kip’s ground beef, you’ll need to get it soon, because he’s not at the winter market. Other vendors at the Market also offer bulk deals and also have very good meat. Kip just happens to be the one I usually buy my ground beef from. If you see some meat you want from another vendor, be sure to ask if they give discounts on bulk purchases. It never hurts to ask. And all the vendors there take the vouchers, so, if you have food stamps, you’re really paying half price for all the meat. Up to the limit of $36 of vouchers for $18 of food stamps.

On to the recipes. You could use the meat in this week’s pork packages in any of the recipes I’ve given the past two weeks, so I’ll just give one new pork recipe today, . I’ll also give a couple of recipes for ground beef. One thing you should be aware of – grass fed beef tastes a bit different than commercial beef, and because it’s so lean it cooks a bit differently.

Mustard and apples both go well with pork, alone or in combination, as in MUSTARDY PORK CHOPS WITH APPLES AND ONIONS. This comes to about $3.25 for the whole batch and makes four servings, so it’s about 80 cents per serving. You’ll need another vegetable to go with this. Broccoli would be good, either the fresh broccoli at 99 cents a pound at Aldi and Kroger, or frozen broccoli for 98 cents a pound at Walmart. The fresh is better, but the frozen is more convenient. A carrot or two, sliced on the diagonal, and cooked with the broccoli, tastes good and adds some color. (You could slice the carrots straight across, but it looks fancier on the diagonal.) Or make ROASTED CABBAGE to go with it. 

Serve the cabbage with the pork chops, and put the sauce over both. With cabbage at 59 cents a pound, this comes to between 85 cents and $1.15 for the whole batch, or about 25 cents a serving for four servings. The whole meal, then, is about $1.05 per serving. You could do something similar, but easier, but coarsely shredding the cabbage and putting it into the pan with the apple and onion, instead of roasting it. It should cook in about the same amount of time.

And now to ground beef. Or hamburger. I use the terms interchangeably. You probably have lots of recipes of your own, but these may be a bit different. A few words first about grass fed beef, in case you chose to try Kip’s. Grass-fed beef tastes a bit different, so you might want to start by using it in a dish with other strong flavors, so the hamburger isn’t the predominate flavor. Because it is so lean, it also cooks a bit differently. You generally want to cook it at a lower temperature, and you’ll want to add something to add extra moisture to make up for the missing fat. Here are some suggestions for cooking withgrass-fed beef

Here’s a tip if you buy the three pound chubs at Kroger. I haven’t tried it, but I read that you can go ahead and freeze the whole thing instead of dividing it up into smaller packages. When you want to cook it, just dump it in a pot of boiling water and periodically chop it up with a spoon or spatula to separate it. It won’t brown, but it will cook through and can be used in any recipe that calls for cooked ground beef. Save the water you cooked it in to make soup.

As I’ve said before, I really like going to the Farmers Market, especially in the summer with all the wonderful produce. I usually come back with more than I need. One of my favorite ways to use it is in UNSTUFFED PEPPERS. I really like stuffed peppers – except for the peppers themselves! So instead of making a filling and putting it in peppers, I chop up the peppers and put them in the filling. It’s amazingly versatile. I usually use hamburger (or sometimes sausage or a combination of the two), plus onions, peppers and tomatoes, and zucchini and/or yellow squash. Or maybe some eggplant. It all depends on what I end up with when I go to make it. How much I use of each depends on the size of the veggie. It can also be seasoned in many ways. I use a basic taco seasoning a lot of times, or just add some chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic powder. Or Italian seasoning. Or I tried some Moroccan seasoning I put together one time, and it turned out really good with that, too. Here’s the basic recipe.

Using Kroger’s ground beef, and veggies from the Farmers Market, this would cost about $4.00, or $1.00 per serving for four servings. A big zucchini is usually 75 cents, and sometimes the bigger ones are actually cheaper than the smaller ones. Because the veggies all cook together, the big zucchinis work just as well as smaller ones and are cheaper. I usually get large but oddly shaped red and yellow bell peppers for 50 cents each at one of the stalls. And “ugly” tomatoes, or seconds, for half price at another stall. Coleslaw would be good with this, or a green salad. Or use this to make a Taco Salad, by putting it on a bed of lettuce and adding some grated cheddar and a dollop of sour cream, with maybe a bit of diced fresh tomato. Any of these menus should cost less than $1.50 per person.

Fresh green beans are wonderful, but I have to admit that canned are cheaper and easier. You can use either in CHEESY BEEF AND GREEN BEANSYou could even use frozen, though I never use them. I think they have an off taste. A lot of people must like them, though, or they wouldn't sell them. Using the ground beef from Kroger, the canned green beans from Marsh and tomato sauce and cheese from Aldi (I know – that’s a lot of different stores to have to go to), the total cost of this is about $4.20, or $1.05 per serving for four servings. Coleslaw would go well with this, or a green salad, or some of the baby carrots from Aldi. You should be able to find a side dish or two to go with this and still keep the price below $1.50 per serving. If you use Kip’s ground beef and can get it with the double food stamp vouchers, it would add about 3 cents per serving. Paying full price for Kip’s ground beef would add about 53 cents per serving. 

Mustardy Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

(from Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach)

Lard, drippings or oil
4 boneless pork chops, about 1-1/2 lbs total, salted and peppered
1 large onion sliced
1 apple, peeled and slivered to the same width as the onion slices
2 T mustard (Dijon or grainy)
2 T cider vinegar
1/4 c apple cider, water, or apple juice

Put the lard in a large skillet with a lid. Brown the pork chops, about 4 minutes each side. Remove them from the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add a bit more lard, if necessary, and then the onions  and apples. Cook about 5 to 7 minutes, or until they have wilted.

Add the mustard, vinegar and cider to the pan and scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Boil for about 1 minute. Return the pork chops to the pan and nestle them among the apple and onion. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook another 5 minutes, or until the pork chops are tender. If the pan sauce is too liquidy, remove the chops and boil the sauce for a minute or two until thickened.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Raw Tomato Sauce

(from a recipe in How to Cook Everything: Quick Cooking, by Mark Bittman, 2003)

2 c cored and roughly chopped ripe tomatoes
2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, smashed (but still whole so you can take it out)
1/4 to 1/2 c roughly minced fresh basil leaves (not dried!)

Place the tomatoes, oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and half the basil in a wide bowl. Mash together well, using a fork or potato masher, but do not use a blender or food processor. They’ll puree it instead of mashing it. If serving over pasta, add some of the cooking water from the pasta to thin it and heat it up a bit. Otherwise, use it as is like salsa.

Tomato and Zucchini Salad

(based on a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook, 1997)

1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 T sliced green onion
1 t snipped fresh basil
2 T Italian salad dressing
2 T crumbled feta or shredded mozzarella

Combine everything but the cheese and toss well. Top with cheese.

Zucchini, Tomato and Swiss Cheese Pie

(based on a recipe in Quick Vegetarian Pleasures, by Jeanne Lemlin, 1992)

1 T butter, divided
¼ c bread crumbs
1-1/2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 t fennel seed, crushed
1/4 t salt
3 eggs
1/3 c milk
4 oz grated or sliced Swiss cheese
3 T grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Use half a tablespoon of butter to grease a pie pan, then sprinkle the bread crumbs over the bottom and sides.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute 10 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes and saute 5 minutes. Increase heat to high and mix in the zucchini, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Cook until the zucchini is barely tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool 5 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then the zucchini mixture. Pour half of the egg/veggie mixture into the pie pan, top with the Swiss cheese, then pour the rest of the egg/veggie mixture. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese and dot with the remaining half tablespoon of butter.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Cheese Topped Grilled Tomatoes

(Quick Cooking Jul/Aug 2003)

8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
3/4 t salt
1/4 c dry bread crumbs
1/2 c crumbled blue cheese or shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c grated onion
2 T butter, melted

Sprinkle cut side of tomatoes with salt, bread crumbs, cheese and onion. Drizzle with butter. Grill, covered, over indirect medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fauxpotato Salad

(adpted from Dana Carpender’s Every Calorie Counts Cookbook)

1/2 head cauliflower (4 - 6 cups prepared raw cauliflower)
1/2 c mayo
1-1/2 T cider vinegar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t sugar or equivalent sweetener
1/2 t pepper
1 c diced celery
1 c chopped onion
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

Trim the very bottom of the cauliflower stem and cut off the leaves. Chop the rest (including the stem) into roughly 1/2" pieces - about the size you'd cut potatoes if you were making potato salad. Put the cauliflower in a microwaveable dish, add a couple of tablespoons of water, and cover. (Don't have a cover for your dish? Most dishes these days are microwaveable. I just use one of my Corelle plates as a cover.) Nuke on high for about 10 minutes. It should be tender but not mushy. When it's done, uncover it so it doesn't continue to cook. Cool slightly, then drain thoroughly.

Combine the mayo, vinegar, salt, splenda and pepper in a small bowl.

Combine the cooled and drained cauliflower, celery and onion in a big mixing bowl. Add the dressing and stir well. Make sure everything is coated with the dressing. Gently fold in the chopped eggs. Chill until serving time.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Salad in a Jar

(The basic idea is all over the internet and in cookbooks. This is copied from

1-4 tablespoons salad dressing
Mix of raw and cooked vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, cheese, and other salad ingredients
Salad greens 
Wide-mouth canning jars with tight-fitting lids (pint jars for side salads, quart jars for individual meal-sized salads, 2-quart jars (or larger) for multiple servings)
Salad Dressing: Pour 1 to 4 tablespoons of your favorite salad dressing in the bottom of the jar. Adjust the amount of dressing depending on the size of the salad you are making and your personal preference.
Hard Vegetables: Next, add any hard chopped vegetables you're including in your salad, like carrots, cucumbers, red and green peppers, cooked beets, and fennel.
Beans, Grains, and Pasta: Next, add any beans, grains, and/or pasta, like chickpeas, black beans, cooked barley, cooked rice, and pasta corkscrews.
Cheese and Proteins: If you'll be eating the salad within the day, add a layer of diced or crumbled cheese and proteins like tuna fish, diced (cooked) chicken, hardboiled eggs, or cubed tofu. If you're making salads ahead to eat throughout the week, wait to add these ingredients until the day you're planning to eat the salad and add them on top of the jar.
Softer Vegetables and Fruits: Next, add any soft vegetables or fruits, like avocados, tomatoes, diced strawberries, or dried apricots. If you're making salads ahead to eat throughout the week, wait to add these ingredients until the day you're planning to eat the salad and add them to the top of the jar.
Nuts, Seeds, and Lighter Grains: Next, add any nuts or seeds, like almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds. If you're making a salad with lighter, more absorbent grains like quinoa or millet, add them in this layer instead of with the beans.
Salad Greens: Last but not least, fill the rest of the jar with salad greens. Use your hands to tear them into bite-sized pieces. It's fine to pack them into the jar fairly compactly.
Storing the salad: Screw the lid on the jar and refrigerate for up to 5 days. If you're including any cheese, proteins, or soft fruits and vegetables, add these to the top of the jar the morning you plan to eat your salad.
Tossing and eating the salad: When ready to eat, unscrew the lid and shake the salad into the bowl. The action of shaking the salad into the bowl is usually enough to mix the salad with the dressing. If not, toss gently with a fork until coated.

Cauliflower and Egg Salad

2 c cauliflower florets
2 – 4 hardboiled eggs, chopped
1/4 c ranch dressing
1/4 c sunflower seeds (optional)

Combine everything and mix well.

Caesar Dressing

(based on a recipe in The Sunset Vegetable Cook Book, 1973)

3/4 c olive oil or salad oil
6 T lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
6 to 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
3/4 t pepper
1-1/2 t Worcestershire sauce

Stir everything together in a small bowl. It's not really Caesar dressing without the anchovies, but you can leave them out if you don't have them.

Caesar Style Salad

(based on a recipe in The Sunset Vegetable Cook Book, 1973)

1 small bunch broccoli (about 1 lb)
1 small head cauliflower (about 1 lb)
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 small green or red bell pepper, seeded and diced
CAESAR DRESSING or 1 c commercial Caesar dressing
3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

Cut flowerets off broccoli stalks, then cut flowerets into bite-size pieces.  Trim and discard base of stalks; peel stalks and cut diagonally into slices.  Cut cauliflower into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, combine veggies, add dressing and mix well. Add Parmesan right before serving. Will keep a couple of days dressed, but add the cheese at the last minute.

Packable Chicken Salad

(based on a recipe in The Carbohydrate Addict’s Cookbook)

2 c cooked chicken, in bite size pieces
2 c sliced celery
1/2 c bean sprouts, optional
2 T mayo
1 T teriyaki sauce
1 t Dijon mustard
2 T lemon juice (optional)

Combine chicken, celery and bean sprouts in a large bowl. Combine mayo, teriyaki sauce, mustard and lemon juice in a small bowl and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Mix well. Makes two servings of about 2 cups each.

Packable Pork Salad

(based on a recipe in The Carbohydrate Addict’s Cookbook)

2 c cooked pork roast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 c diced celery
1 c diced cauliflower
1 T Dijon mustard
3 T mayo

Combine all ingredients and stir well. Makes two servings of two cups each. Needs to be refrigerated, but it lasts a day or two after the dressing is added.