Monday, June 30, 2014

Fireworks and Barbecues and a Special Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

The Fourth of July is Friday, and lots of us will be barbecuing and grilling and picnicking. I thought I'd pull together some recipes you might want to consider for the festivities. I don't know what's going to be on sale, so I'll just give you a bunch of ideas but no prices or costs.

Chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs are the most common meats to cook on the grill, especially for those of us on a budget. You're on your own when it comes to cooking hamburgers and hot dogs, and I've given several recipes for grilled chicken. Here's a list of them:

Basic Grilled or Roasted Chicken Breast
Better BBQ Chicken Sauce
Cornell Chicken Barbecue Sauce (aka State Fair Chicken)
Fused Grilled Chicken
Greek or Italian Grilled Chicken

Looking for vegetarian options? We've got those, too! Do you know the story of how Mother Hubbard's Cupboard got started? It was started by two mothers, one of whom was a vegetarian who had been given tuna and pork rinds at a food pantry, and thought that there had to be a better way. While the Hub is far from a vegetarian-only pantry, vegetarianism is still supported both for those who have chosen for whatever reason not to eat meat and also as a low-cost alternative for those who do eat meat. Here are some main dish alternatives that do not include meat. They're mostly make-ahead, unfortunately, but still very good picnic fare. And you can always cook veggie burgers and similar things on the grill.

Black Bean Burgers
Eggplant Tempura (included because the picture with the recipe has Kayte cooking outside!)
Empanadas with Greens and Olives
Provencal Tart with Gruyere and Herbs
Russian Vegetable Pie
Savory Bread Pudding with Vegetables and Cheese
Quiche (the only recipes we have up so far have meat, but you can use more veggies instead of meat)

Baked beans, potato salad and macaroni salad are the usual side dishes at a picnic, and I assume you have your own recipes for those. Here are some alternatives.

Baked Beans
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Grilled Onions
Kittencal's Best Deviled Eggs
Mango Salsa
Salads -
  Beet Salad with Goat Cheese
  Coleslaw for Company
  Kale Salad
  Kim Chi - Korean Sauerkraut
  Laurel's Coleslaw
  Panzanella Bread Salad
  Russian Korean Carrot Salad
  Spicy Mexican Coleslaw
  Tomato and Cucumber Salad
  Tomato, Cucumber and Pepper Salad

By the way, have you tried a salad picnic? You can get everything done ahead of time and not have to worry about cooking at the last minute. And it's great for a potluck gathering and a great way to accommodate all the different food plans people are on - low fat, low carb, vegetarian, diabetic, low sodium, etc.

And then there's dessert. S'mores, of course. And you can take cookies and cake and fresh fruit. Watermelon for sure. Or try some COFFEE CAN ICE CREAM or GRILLED FRUIT.

Fortunately it's almost supper time, 'cuz I'm getting hungry from all this talk of food!

Have a wonderful Fourth of July, everyone. Be safe. And don't forget what it's all about. Thanks to all those who've gone before us to establish, maintain and defend this great country of ours.

Mary Anne

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Veggie Retrospective and Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Don't have time to do a full regular post with new recipes and menus and costs and all, so instead I'm going to do a retrospective of summer veggie recipes that have been published on the new blog.

Have you been to the Farmers Market recently? It's in full swing with heaps and piles and boxes and truckloads of bright, vibrant, fresh veggies. Zucchini. Summer squash. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Peppers. Eggplant. Green beans. Lettuce. Greens. And lots more. Plus the usual eggs and meat and honey and flowers and bedding plants and prepared food. And all the people and the buskers and the whole ambiance. It's wonderful. It's Bloomington.

And don't forget that you can exchange up to $18 of food stamps for twice as many Market Bucks! That means you can get the wonderful fresh veggies, meats and dairy for half price. What a deal!

But back to the specials at the grocery stores.

Marsh has family packs of ground beef for $1.99 per pound and family packs of boneless skinless chicken breasts also for $1.99 per pound. Seedless grapes are $1.99 per pound. “Colossal” Vidalia onions are 89 cents a pound. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are “buy one get one free” but they don’t say how much that first one costs. Prices are good through Wednesday, July 2.

Aldi has blueberries for 99 cents a pint and strawberries for $1.49 a pound. Seedless watermelons are $2.99 each. Avocados are 69 cents each. Peaches, nectarines and plums are all $1.98 for a two pound package, or 99 cents a pound. Prices are good through Tuesday, July 1.

Kroger has peaches for 88 cents a pound. Tomatoes on the vine, green beans, and red, orange and yellow peppers are all 99 cents a pound. Half gallons of milk are four for $5.00, or $1.25 each, or $2.50 per gallon, with a limit of four half gallons. Barbecue sauces are ten for $10.00, or $1.00 each. Cheeses are $2.99 for 12-16 ounce packages. Cottage cheese is two 24-ounce cartons for $4.00, or $2.00 each. Chicken drumsticks or thighs are 99 cents a pound. Prices are good through Wednesday, July 2.

IGA has chicken drumsticks and thighs for 99 cents a pound. Vidalia onions are 89 cents a pound. Zucchini and yellow squash are $1.49 per pound. Corn on the cob is six ears for $2.00, or 33 cents an ear. Prices are good through Sunday, June 29.

When the first of the summer veggies come out, I usually want to just savor each one individually for its uniqueness. But pretty soon I'm looking for more ways to incorporate them into my menus. That's what these recipes are for, after you've had the first green beans just plain or with butter, or the first tomatoes with just a dash of balsamic vinegar, or the first zucchini lightly sauteed with a touch of dill. I hope some of these will make it onto your roster of go-to summer recipes.

By the way, did you know that there's an index of sorts to the recipes on the blog? I say "of sorts" because the blog is still a work in process as we move posts from the old site to the blog and try to get everything linked everywhere it should be. Bear with us! But anyway, to get to the index, start by clicking on the COOK icon right under the picture of the carrots and all, which will take you to a list of broad categories - FOOD PRESERVATION, PASTA, VEGGIES & SALADS, etc. And a link to get you to all of my columns, too! Click on the VEGGIES AND SALADS link and it will take you to a list of - you guessed it - recipes for veggies and salads. All of these recipes are on that list along with lots more, and more will be added almost every week as we find more recipes to post and as we finish migrating recipes from the old site. Or you can enter the ingredient you want in the search box and find your recipes that way.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Mary Anne

PS - Turns out that trying to pick my favorite old summer veggie recipes is a lot like picking my favorite child! (Well, not that I have any kids to pick my favorite from, but you get the picture.) So I've just listed all of the recipes for cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini and summer squash. Some are mine, some Kayte and others posted. Enjoy!

Creamy Gazpacho
Cucumber Salads
Easy Greek Yogurt Cucumber Sauce
Panzanella Bread Salad
Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Tomato, Cucumber and Pepper Salad

Easiest Eggplant and Sausage Casserole
Eggplant Casserole
Eggplant Chili
Eggplant Tempura
Sichuan-Style Eggplant
Simplified Moussaka

Cheesy Beef and Green Beans
Green Beans Almondine
Savory Bread Pudding with Vegetables and Cheese

Crock Pot Ratatouille
Fajita Salad
Italian Sausage and Peppers
Panzanella Bread Salad
Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Smoked Sausage and Peppers
Stir-Fried Italian Sausage and Peppers
Tomato, Cucumber and Pepper Salad
Unstuffed Peppers

Crock Pot Ratatouille
Eggplant Casserole
Panzanella Bread Salad
Provencal Tart with Gruyere and Herbs
Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Tomato Bread
Tomato, Cucumber and Pepper Salad
Tomato Salads
Tomato Soup Three Ways

Chicken and Vegetables
Crock Pot Ratatouille
Italian Sausage and Zucchini
Microwaved Summer Squash with Garlic and Dill
Sausage Squash Casserole
Savory Bread Pudding with Vegetables and Cheese
Taco Summer Squash Casserole
Veggie Manicotte with Tofu Ricotta
Zucchini and Carrots
Zucchini Spice Bread

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nightmares of Bindweed

When I first started working in the Hub gardens, I was unfamiliar with bindweed. As the weeks progressed, I heard numerous cautionary tales about this common vining plant, but we were so busy planting that the weeds were largely overlooked and bindweed remained just a mythological garden villain. Until… IT FLOWERED.

Once it flowered, it could no longer be ignored. While I was foolishly mooning over what I saw as beautiful Morning Glory−like flowers, the more seasoned gardeners saw it for what it was…. a garden emergency! Bindweed is an aggressive self-seeder and the appearance of these flowers means the bindweed is well on its way to doing just that. Since bindweed is so very difficult to eradicate due to its extreme hardiness and extensive root system (reaching up to 20ft!), it is very important to pull the plant before it gets to this point. Since the roots reach so deep, it is impossible to pull the plant without breakage, and broken bindweed root will simply propagate more bindweed! With this in mind, you can surely imagine what tilling a plot of bindweed would do. The tiller will chop up the bindweed root well enough, but that’s the last thing you want to do! Tilling a plot of bindweed will just lead to more bindweed. A truly vicious cycle!
What I once saw as just your average garden weed became Garden Enemy #1. Everywhere I looked: BINDWEED – choking the strawberries, climbing the fence, stalking the raspberry bushes and, I swear, even making a grab for my feet! Those once “beautiful” white flowers began haunting me, and I began diving for white moths in midair, mistaking them for airborne bindweed flowers! I may have briefly lost my mind but I had found my calling: bindweed eradication.
Pulling the top growth is the first step in ridding yourself of this prolific weed. Though, keep in mind that doing this just once won’t enough to get rid of it – remember those broken roots will simply produce more bindweed! Eventually though, removing the top growth will starve the plant because without the green leaves to soak up sunshine, it will be unable to photosynthesize. But even without top growth, bindweed can survive on its stored energy for quite some time. Laying down a barrier such as cardboard over the thoroughly weeded area and topping it with mulch will further hamper bindweed’s aggressive spread. It is also crucial to keep your pulled bindweed out of the compost, where it would certainly set roots and begin the vicious cycle again. Bag it up in a trash bag and get rid of it with your other waste.
 Granted, it will take a few years of fierce vigilance for this method to work. And while that may seem daunting, I can personally testify that battling bindweed can be quite a cathartic experience…and surprisingly addicting. And while after a long day of bindweed pulling you may feel like you’ve got it under control, don’t let your guard down… because the bindweed’ll getcha if you don’t watch out! -Erika Wheeler, Garden Intern

Canning Season is Here

Canning is a great way to take control of the foods we eat. When you process fruits and vegetables yourself, you know where they come from, and what has been added to them. You can avoid excess sugar and unwanted preservatives, and still enjoy safe and tasty home-cooked products. In the winter time it’s satisfying and comforting to go your own kitchen cabinet for beautifully preserved, locally grown, summer foods. The process of canning is also interesting and fun to do with a partner or friend.

We offer three canning workshops at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard each year, and will also offer demonstrations at the Saturday Farmer's Market in July and September. But if you have some produce that needs to be put up, you probably can't wait until our later summer workshops and demos. Here's the basics to get you started, and some links to recipes and methods. 
Canning is a process of preserving food by heating it to destroy unwanted micro-organisms and sealing it into a jar, to keep oxygen out. Some organisms can survive heating to boiling temperature, and an oxygen free environment. However, these organisms cannot survive in a high acid environment. So, to safely can foods using boiling water, you need to create a high acid environment inside the jar. To can products that are not high in acid, you need to heat the contents beyond boiling temperature, using a pressure canner.
The boiling water method is the one to use for canning tomatoes. Boiling water canning is only safe for preserving high-acid foods, such as most fruits, tomatoes (with added lemon juice) or foods with added acid such as pickles, catsup, salsa and chutney. Any time a low acid food is added to the product to be canned (such as onions, cucumbers or peppers) lemon juice or vinegar must be added (and a trusted canning recipe followed) in order to safely can with the boiling water method. Otherwise, you need to use a pressure canner 
It is easy to get started canning. You need a few special items, but most of them are inexpensive or easy to find second-hand. Consider going in on equipment with a neighbor, relative or friend, to reduce the initial investment. (You can also borrow them from our Tool Share program). For step by step instructions, see the Tomato Canning instructions.
You will need:
  • ball jars, designed for canning, these can be used over and over 
  • a canning bath (large enamel pot with a rack inside to hold the jars) or a large stock pot with some sort of rack 
  • flat lids designed for canning jars (these MUST be new. Do not reuse these) 
  • screw-on metal bands to go over the lids (these can be reused, and should be removed once the sealed jar has cooled) 
  • a jar lifter 
  • a canning funnel 
  • a clean small cloth 
  • ladle, spoon, knife and other basic utensils for prepping the food 
    Always be sure to follow trusted canning recipes closely. This is not the place to experiment, especially when it comes to the amount of vinegar or lemon juice required in a recipe. Tweaking spices to your own tastes is fine, just be sure keep the ratio of added acid to product consistent with a recipe designed for boiling water bath canning. Get your hands on a good canning book such as the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, or Putting Food By, and use that as your reference guide. County Extension websites (such as Purdue’s) are also great sources for trustworthy, detailed information on canning all sorts of foods. 
    Our goal is to empower you to get started canning, and to feel confident about preserving food safely at home. It is not difficult, just a bit time consuming. It is so satisfying, and at times even exciting, you may discover a new hobby! 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Chicken Legs, Fruit Salad, and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

IGA has peaches for 99 cents a pound. Corn on the cob is six ears for $2.00, or 33 cents an ear. Vidalia onions are 79 cents a pound, or a three pound bag for $2.29, which is 76 cents a pound. Prices are good through Sunday, June 22.

Aldi has lots of fruit on sale. Mangos are 39 cents each again. Peaches, plums, nectarines and grapes are all $1.98 for a two pound package, or 99 cents a pound. Honeydew melons are 99 cents each. Pineapples are $1.49 each and cantaloupes are $1.89 each. Prices are good through next Tuesday, June 24.

Kroger has boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs for $1.99 a pound. Four half gallons of milk are $5.00, or $1.25 each, or $2.50 per gallon. Cream cheese is $1.00 for 8 ounces. Eggs are two dozen for $3.00, or $1.50 per dozen. Prices are good through next Wednesday, June 25.

It’s back to chicken again. I hope you’re stocking up as much as you can on other meats when they’re on sale! It’s hard to do on a tight budget, but it can make a big difference and provide variety in the future.

CHICKEN IN LIME calls for two limes, but they can run anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar each! (They’re 79 cents each this week at Kroger.) Nice if you can afford them, but bottled lime juice will do instead. Figure on about 2 tablespoons of juice per lime. To get the most juice out of your lime, you can nuke it for about 25 seconds (let it cool before juicing it), roll it hard under your palm on the counter, and/or use a juicer or a reamer. Or, if you don’t have a juicer or reamer, nuke it and/or roll it and then cut it and squeeze it to get out as much juice as possible, then scrape it with a spoon to get out every last drop. And don’t forget to grate off the zest before you juice it. The grated zest freezes beautifully. A batch of CHICKEN IN LIME costs about $3.50. Serve it with ZUCCHINI AND CARROTS and give everyone a couple of fresh plums for dessert for a $6.00 meal.

GALLETTO MARINARA is basically just chicken in spaghetti sauce. You can use canned or jarred sauce. Just pick a basic tomato sauce, not a meat sauce or a cheese sauce. You can often find a 24 ounce can of Hunt’s for $1.00, and that’s what I’m assuming you’re using. You could fancy it up a bit if you wanted to by sautéing some onions and garlic in a bit of oil, then adding the can of sauce and some extra basil and oregano and cooking it for five minutes or so, but you don’t need to. Using Hunt’s sauce, this will cost about $4.25. Serve with a simple salad of half a head of lettuce and an oil and vinegar dressing for another dollar and finish it off with half a cantaloupe for a total of just about exactly $6.00.

And finally, a fusion of cultures – chicken marinated in a mixture of Italian dressing and teriyaki sauce, then grilled. FUSED GRILLED CHICKEN will cost about $3.40, or less if you make your own Italian dressing and/or teriyaki sauce. Slice a big zucchini (a pound or more) and throw it on the grill, too, and for dessert serve each person a cup of HOMEMADE YOGURT topped with about half a cup of chopped peaches. Total cost – almost exactly $6.00.

Of course, the best thing to do with this week’s sales is to make a huge fruit salad. Three-fourths of a pound of peaches, three-fourths of a pound of plums, and half a honeydew melon, all cut into bite-size pieces and mixed together, makes over six cups of salad, or over a cup and a half per person. Put a cup of cottage cheese in each of six big bowls, divide the fruit salad evenly among the bowls and sprinkle each bowl with a fourth of a cup of sliced almonds, and you’ve got a light, delicious supper that’s perfect for a hot summer evening. It comes to just over $6.00, but if you short each serving by a tablespoon of cottage cheese you’ll get the cost down below $6.00. HOMEMADE YOGURT instead of cottage cheese will bring the cost down by about $2.50, to just $3.50 or about 90 cents per person. 

50 Cent Breakfasts

A honeydew melon for 99 cents is a bargain, assuming it’s of reasonable size. A large honeydew contains about eight cups of melon balls; a small one about 6 cups. That’s about 12.5 cents a cup from a large melon or about 17 cents a cup from a small one. At either price, it fits right into a budget breakfast. A HONEYDEW SMOOTHIE, for example, only costs about 45 cents for two servings of not quite two cups each, or about 22-1/2 cents per serving. Using HOMEMADE YOGURT is key to keeping the price down. Commercial yogurt will add another 35 cents or more, or about 20 cents per serving.

If you’ve planned far enough in advance, you can make a FROZEN HONEYDEW SMOOTHIE. Prepare the melon chunks and put them in a single layer, not touching, on a cookie sheet. Freeze, then transfer the frozen chunks to a plastic bag and keep in freezer until you want to make the smoothies. If you’ve got room in the freezer, prepare and freeze a bunch of cantaloupe and honeydew chunks to use in smoothies later, when they’re not on sale. Two servings of between a cup and half and two cups will cost about 70 cents, or about 35 cents each.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hub Gardens at One Year

tomatoes thrive on our sunny patio
at the entrance to the food pantry
a row of cabbages in one of our garden beds
featuring soil built from sheet mulching

It's like a dream come true here at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard.  We've always wanted to share our community gardens with all of the folks using our food pantry services. Our three community gardens at Crestmont, Butler Park and Banneker Community Center have always been open and accessible to everyone, but sometimes seeing is believing. It can be challenging to convey the beauty and convenience of growing food right outside your door...unless...well, you have some food growing right outside your door!

from old washing machine basins to leaky wheel
barrows, many everyday objects can be
repurposed into planters
compost bins made from repurposed shipping pallets

Since moving into our new space last June, our on-site gardens have gone from zero to abundant in just twelve short months. Designed to showcase a number of methods of growing food in small spaces, the Hub garden site includes raised beds, window boxes, found-object container gardening, straw bale gardening, a food forest, herb spiral, perennial beds, lasagne/sheet mulched beds, and STRAWBERRIES! With an emphasis on keeping costs down and conserving resources, our gardens feature compost bins made from re-purposed wooden pallets, rain barrels, a low-tech irrigation system and plenty of mulch (straw, leaves, wood chips...).

a perennial bed lines the front of the building.
also in view: rain barrels and a new picnic table
permaculture inspired herb spiral built during a Hub workshop

Garden interns hand out seeds, plants and gardening tips from our patio, and lead folks into the garden to learn about growing food at home or to take home samples of freshly picked fruits and vegetables. Pantry patrons have picked strawberries, harvested spinach, peas, herbs and other greens, and youth groups have toured, tasted planted and harvested.

a view of the irrigation system and our new sign inviting
folks to join us in the garden
Window boxes constructed by eagle Scouts
line the ramp railing, and host edibles
such as this trailing squash vine

MHC's Garden Coordinator Kendra Brewer, remarked at a recent garden workday "The Hub garden is now where we hoped it would be in our first year. It's a real garden now."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ground Beef (and a few raspberries), and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Yogurt, blueberries and almonds -
50 cents

IGA has pineapples for 99 cents each. Tomatoes on the vine are 99 cents a pound. Vidalia onions are 79 cents a pound. And seedless watermelons are $3.89 each.

Aldi has 2-packs of tomatoes for 89 cents, but I don’t know how big those tomatoes are. Blueberries are 99 cents a pint. Strawberries are $1.49 per pound. Regular (73% lean) ground beef is $10.99 for a 5-pound chub, or $2.20 per pound. “Super Dog” hot dogs are $5.99 for a 5-pound package, or $1.20 per pound. Barbecue sauces are 99 cents for 18 ounces. Yellow mustard is 69 cents for 20 ounces. Pickle relish is $1.29 for 16 ounces. Salad dressings are $1.39 for 16 ounces.

Kroger has hot dog and hamburger buns for $1.00 for a package of 8 buns. Milk is two gallons for $5.00, or $2.50 per gallon, limit of two, and only through Sunday the 15th. Cheese is $3.79 for 12- to 16-ounce packages, which is a good price for the 16 ounce packages. Cottage cheese is two pints for $3.00, or $1.50 per pint, or 16 ounces. That’s $2.25 for 24 ounces, which is the size carton I usually of cottage cheese coming in. Ice cream is $1.88 for 48 ounces, or about six ups, but only through Sunday the 15th. Boneless chicken thighs are $1.99 per pound. Raspberries are 97 cents for 6 ounces, or about a cup. Green beans are 99 cents a pound. Cucumbers are two for $1.00, or 50 cents each. Corn on the cob is 10 ears for $3.00, or 30 cents an ear.

There are some pretty good prices here, but I’m having trouble putting them together into menus. I’ll be mostly working with the ground beef for $2.20 in the 5-pound chubs.

A bit of background material, since we’re dealing with a 5-pound chub of ground beef here, and have to keep to around a quarter to a third of pound per person per meal in order to keep the cost of the meal down.

First, a pound of 73% lean ground beef should yield about a cup and a half of cooked meat, assuming that the fat and juices have been drained off and nothing (onions, etc.) has been added. (Thanks to for this info!)

Second, a five pound chub of ground beef is a lot! And since we need to keep it to about a quarter to a third of a pound per person to keep the cost down to where we want it, it will last for several meals. So what do you do with it? Here are some ways to cook large quantities of ground beef (or ground turkey) without spending hours over a hot skillet – in the CROCK POT, in the OVEN, and in WATER. Of course, you can divide the ground beef into 1- or 2-pound packages before it’s cooked, too, but it’s handy to have the cooked meat on hand when you’re running late or you don’t feel like cooking it. Or you can make a whole bunch of hamburger patties, spread them on a cookie sheet to freeze, then stack them in a freezer bag with waxed paper between the patties and freeze them. The waxed paper makes it easier to separate them later, and freezing them first makes them stack flat, which also makes it easier to separate them.

But now to some recipes and menus.

Let’s start with your basic grilled hamburgers. If you make them a quarter of a pound each (do you remember when Quarter Pounders came out and everyone thought they were huge?), the patty itself will cost 55 cents each. I assume you’ll want a bun around that, for about 15 cents, plus another 10 cents or so for the pickles, ketchup, mustard, onion, and lettuce. That brings us to 80 cents for the hamburgers, and another 10 to 20 cents if you want some fresh tomato in it. Let’s skip the tomato, shall we? Unless you can slice it paper thin like they do at the fast food joints. An ear of GRILLED CORN ON THE COB for 30 cents, some COLESLAW or LAUREL’S COLESLAW for 20 cents, and fresh pineapple (about a fifth of a pineapple per person), and it comes to right at $1.50 per person. Or you can have tomato on your burger and skip the pineapple. Or skip the bun and have both the tomato and the pineapple.

My aunt’s friend, Toni, was a great cook. She was also a recipe collector. I think she had even more cookbooks than I do, and that’s saying something! Toni also had a drawer full of recipes she had clipped from the paper, from magazines, from fliers, from friends, and from just about anyone who published, printed or shared recipes. When she died, I was allowed to take whatever recipes I wanted from her drawer. CABBAGE GOULASH is one of the recipes I took from her drawer. I have no idea where she got it. It’s good, though, and so I’m sharing it with you. Using all ground beef instead of half sausage, it comes to just about exactly $6.00, and you get four big servings. That doesn’t leave any room for something to go with it, though, so we’ll have to go over $1.50 per serving. Some carrot sticks would be good with it and wouldn’t cost very much. Be sure to get carrots and cut them into sticks yourself. The “baby carrots” usually cost more than twice as much and, for some reason, seem to disappear faster.

The secret to budget meals built around ground beef is, of course, to add lots of cheaper ingredients to get the bulk you want without the cost of the ground beef. HAMBURGER QUICHE uses eggs, cheese and milk as those extra ingredients. If I were making it, I’d use whipping cream instead of milk, and I’ll give the cost both ways. Using milk, a whole quiche would be about $3.25. With whipping cream, it would be about $3.65. Let’s assume you’re using milk. The quiche would be a great breakfast on its own (and well within the $1.00 per person that I assume, though well over the budget breakfast of 50 cents per person), but it’s not enough for supper. You could serve ice cream and fresh raspberries (one cup of ice cream and a fourth of a package, or a fourth of a cup, of raspberries per person) for another $2.25, which would bring the total to $5.90, or just under $1.50 per person. Or you could make your own YOGURT and serve that with the raspberries for $1.70, and have coleslaw, too, for a total of $6.15, which is just slightly more than $1.50 per person. The raspberries are the expensive part of these options, at 97 cents a carton, so you might want to skip them altogether. I’ve included them because that’s a great price and it’s good to splurge occasionally. Blueberries are 99 cents a pint, so you could have half a cup of them instead of the quarter of a cup of raspberries. Without the raspberries, you could have plain ice cream for dessert (a splurge, but the quiche is pretty light and you might have complaints from the rest of the family about having eggs for supper) and sliced tomatoes to go with the quiche. Arrange the tomatoes nicely on a lettuce leaf and the plate will look a lot fuller. A pound of tomatoes, divided among four of you, will keep the cost to just under $6.00, or under $1.50 per person.

Have you had a chance to attend one of the DOMESTIC DIVA’s demonstrations at the Hub? She demonstrates ways to make cheap, healthy food on Fridays, from noon to about 1:30 or 2:00. Check them out if you have a chance. Her demo of YOGURT making was a big hit a few weeks ago.

Budget Breakfast – Breakfast for 50 Cents per Person

HOMEMADE YOGURT makes a great budget breakfast, and you’ll probably be hearing a lot about it – in smoothies, by itself, or with fruit. Milk is $2.50 a gallon this week, or 16 cents a cup. A cup of plain homemade yogurt is 16 cents, too. Kroger has raspberries 97 cents for 6 ounces this week, or 24 cents for a fourth of a carton. (That’s not very many, but a few go a long way, taste-wise.) That’s 40 cents so far. You could add a few drops of almond extract and a bit of sugar. Or about a tablespoon and a half of sliced almonds. Or you could add half a cup of blueberries for the same price as the raspberries. That's what's pictured at the top of the post. A huge (more than a cup and a half!) breakfast of yogurt, fresh blueberries, and sliced almonds. Yummm!

Herb Gardening with the Hub

This June, the Hub offered our annual Herb Gardening workshop.  We were thrilled to show off the many herbs on site at MHC, and to offer participants cuttings of oregano, pineapple sage, thyme, and mint, as well as divisions of our comfrey and chive plants to grow at home.  We covered the basics of planting, tending and propagating herbs, as well as discussing the many uses of garden herbs.  Here are some of the highlights from the workshop:

Cooking with Herbs
We started the class with a tasting of pesto pasta, one of our favorite Hub meals using fresh herbs from the garden.  See our pesto recipes here.  We talked about the many delicious uses of herbs we can grow and cook with, and a few participants had attended our recent Pie for Dinner workshop, and were excited to grow Herbs de Provence to bake the Provencal Tart with Gruyere and Herbs.  The Herbs de Provence mix includes basil, fennel seed, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, summer savory, and thyme, all herbs that grow well in our part of Indiana.    

Growing Herbs
Herbs are a great entry point to gardening, and most of the class participants were interested in starting small containers of herbs either on a windowsill or on a porch.  We discussed the basics of container gardening, including offering adequate drainage, sun exposure, and watering.  See our container gardening handout here.  We also discussed the plant families of common herbs, and their growing habits and needs.  We discussed the growing habits of mint family plants in particular, as all the cuttings participants were bringing home were from the mint family.  One tip that was a workshop favorite was to save eggshells and spent coffee grounds to add to herb containers and offer plants a nutrient boost.

Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard Garden Tour
We took a tour around the Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard garden, identifying herbs and talking about their growing needs and uses.  We took a longer look at the MHC Herb Spiral, a permaculture inspired planting design that offers multiple microclimates for herbs.   The Hub garden has a wide variety of herbs, from cooking herbs like rosemary and tarragon to those used medicinally like calendula and comfrey.  Comfrey is one of our favorite herbs at MHC.  We grow it in all 4 of our community gardens and use it as a mulch or ferment it into a fertilizer.  Join us during our open garden volunteer hours to learn more about the Hub’s herbs and their essential role in our community gardens.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pocket Full of Greens

Our annual Pie for Dinner workshop focusses on savory pies and related pie-like dishes such as tarts, quiches, fritatas, shepherd's pie and empanadas. One of my favorites in this category is a recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Empanadas with Greens and Olives is a delicious way to pack a whole lot of nutrient-dense greens into a grab-and-go pocket that fits in the palm of your hand. The pastry is a simple pie dough, with paprika mixed in with flour. For added depth of flavor, try smoked paprika. Enjoy!


Friday, June 6, 2014

Chicken Thighs, and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

It’s getting harder and harder to come up with complete suppers for $1.50 per person. I’m still shooting for that, and I’m still going to focus on supper, but I’m going to include either one breakfast or one lunch meal each week, too. I call it supper, because that’s what we called the evening meal when I was growing up and that’s what I still call it today. “Dinner” to me is a special meal that can be served either at noon or at night, like Thanksgiving Dinner or Christmas Dinner or sometimes a special dinner when there’s company. But for just the family, it’s supper.

The average food stamp benefit in Indiana in 2014, after the 5.5% cut the end of 2013, is about $4.15 per person per day, or $125.00 for the month. “They” usually put that in terms of just under $1.40 per meal, but that seems silly to me. The way most of us eat in America, the meals just don’t cost the same. Instead, I figure $1.50 for supper, $1.25 for lunch, and $1.00 for breakfast. That comes to $112.50 for the month. The extra $12.50 is to cover the cost of things that you have to buy more of than you need that month, like the whole jar of mayo when you only need part of a jar.

I’m going to shoot for no more than 50 cents per person for breakfast and no more than $1.00 per person for lunch, which would leave some extra for supper when there just isn’t anything on sale. Or for a snack some days, if you’re so inclined. At least to start with, I’m going to stick with not including breads and other starches, like I do for supper. That means I won’t say to just eat a bowl of oatmeal, or a peanut butter sandwich. You already know that you can eat cheap meals that way. My breakfasts and lunches will be eggs, meat, cheese, veggies, and sometimes other dairy and/or fruit.

But, since I do still rely on the sales – such as they are! – for my recipes and menus, here they are.

First of all, don’t forget the Farmers Market, especially if you have Food Stamps! You can double your Food Stamps by converting up to $18 a week of them into Market Bucks. You get two Market Bucks for each Food Stamp dollar, up to a total of Market Bucks per week. Then you can use the Market Bucks to shop anywhere at either the main Saturday market or the Tuesday market. Food at the Farmers Market isn’t cheap when compared with grocery store food, but it is healthier, supports the local producers and is better for the environment. And the Market Bucks makes the Farmers Market prices competitive with the conventionally produced, less fresh and frequently shipped thousands of miles food you buy at the grocery stores.

Aldi has mangos for 39 cents each, multi-colored peppers for 50 cents each in the three packs ($1.49 per pack), Tomatoes on the Vine for 99 cents for 24 ounces, or about 65 cents a pound, and blueberries for $1.49 per pint. These prices are good through Tuesday, June 10.

Marsh has chicken drumsticks or thighs for 87 cents a pound in the family packs. There’s more meat on a thigh (less waste) but there’s something extra satisfying about gnawing on a drumstick. I guess the kid in me still hasn’t grown up. Sour cream is $1.39 a pint after a 50 cent ecoupon. Prices are good through Wednesday, June 11.

Kroger has Roma tomatoes for 99 cents a pound, limes for 79 cents each, and two bunches of cilantro for 99 cents. Eggplant and English cucumbers (the long skinny “seedless” kind) are 99 cents each. Prices are good through Wednesday, June 11.

IGA has whole boneless pork loin for $1.99 per pound, and they’ll cut and package it for free. There’s a limit of two “with additional purchase” but it doesn’t say how much that additional purchase has to be. The special on pork is only good through Saturday, June 7. They also have salad dressings four for $5.00, or $1.25. This price is good through Sunday, June 8.

This week’s supper recipes and menus will feature the chicken thighs for 87 cents a pound from Marsh. Two average thighs, including bone and skin, run about three-quarters of a pound, or twelve ounces, according to something I read online, which would be three pounds for a family of four. They vary considerably in size, though. I’m going to figure on about a pound of raw chicken thighs, with bone and skin, per person. That should be between two and three thighs and something over a cup of boneless skinless cooked chicken. However, I’m also going to give myself some leeway because I’ll be figuring the costs based on four pounds of chicken instead of three.

The first recipe, GARLIC LIME CHICKEN, combines garlic, lime juice and herbs to make a tangy marinade. Chances are you have everything but the lime juice and the coriander (and the chicken, of course) on hand. Get the lime juice in the bottle, like ReaLemon, only lime. There should be a store brand that’s cheaper the ReaLemon brand. Either one will be cheaper than fresh lime juice, which would of course be best. Kroger has fresh limes on sale this week for 75 cents each, and there’s about two tablespoons of juice in a medium lime. That means that it would take about four limes, or $3.00, to get the half cup of juice that the recipe calls for. (That’s according to, by the way, a site I use a lot. It usually doesn’t make a lot of difference how many cups or tablespoons or ounces in a piece of produce, but sometimes it does, like here where we’re relying on the lime juice for a big part of the flavor. Or when I’m trying to figure out how many cups of cabbage I’ll get from “half a medium head of cabbage” – which is four cups of shredded cabbage, or eight cups from a medium head which is two pounds. In case you’re wondering.)

The chicken is going to cost about $4.80, which only leaves $1.20 for the rest of the meal. A can of green beans is 49 cents at Aldi, and half a head of lettuce is 55 cents, also at Aldi, the last time I checked. Two tablespoons of salad dressing per person, or half a cup total, is 35 cents at Aldi. That comes to a total of about $6.20, which is just a bit more than my goal of $1.50 per person, or $6.00 for a family of four. But then the chicken thighs will probably run a bit less than eight ounces each, so there should be a small savings there. It should come in at right about $6.00.

Mark Bittman is perhaps best known for his How to Cook Everything: 2000 Simple Recipes for Good Food. It’s a huge book – 1056 pages, and the shipping weight, according to Amazon, is 4.6 pounds! The next recipe, DEVILED CHICKEN OR PORK CHOPS, comes from a smaller cookbook, his The Best Recipes in the World, which is only 768 pages, with a shipping weight of only 3.9 pounds. The original recipe calls for EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), but pure olive oil is cheaper and I can’t tell the difference. If you have EVOO and you want to use it, I’m sure Mark Bittman (and Rachael Ray) would approve.

The olive oil and mustard will run about 50 cents, and the chicken will run between $2.60 and $3.50. Let’s say $3.00 for the chicken, bringing the total cost of the dish to $3.50. How about an ear of corn each ($1.34 at IGA through Sunday, or $1.49 at Aldi through Tuesday), to go with it, and MANGO SALSA, which, with mangos and cilantro on sale, should be about $1.00. Total cost for the meal – right at $6.00, or $1.50 per person.

Have you ever read those articles in women’s magazines about dishes you can whip up from things you always have in your pantry, fridge and freezer? I don’t know whose pantry, fridge and freezer they’ve been looking in, but it seems like there are a lot things that “everyone” has that I don’t have, and sometimes never have had. Anyway, The $21 Challenge is a lot like those articles. The idea behind the book and the website is that most of us have enough bits and pieces in our pantries, fridges and freezers to feed our families for a week with just $21 and some creativity. They give several recipes using those things that “we all” have on hand, including this recipe for FRENCH ONION CHICKEN. The original recipe calls for a packet of Onion Soup mix, and you can use a packet if you have one. Or you can make your own for a fraction of the cost of the commercial mix. Don’t forget that you can buy most herbs and spices a lot more cheaply by buying tiny dabs of them from Bloomingfoods than by buying the cans or jars at the grocery stores.

Using four pounds of chicken thighs (don’t forget to save the skin to make CHICKEN CHIPS) and homemade Onion Soup Mix, a batch of this will cost about $4.75. Serve it with COLESLAW for another 20 cents per person, or 80 cents. And you’ve got the tomatoes and onion that the chicken cooked in that you can serve as a hot vegetable. You might want to add another can of tomatoes to the sauce and cook it just long enough to heat it through. You may need it, and then again you may not. If you do, it will cost another 59 cents (at Aldi) and bring the total to about $6.15, or to right about $6.00 if your chicken thighs are bit less than 8 ounces each.

Budget Breakfast – Breakfast for 50 Cents per Person

And now for the inexpensive breakfast. I’ll keep it really simple since this is the first week. Three eggs scrambled in 2 teaspoons of butter comes to within fractions of a penny of 50 cents and is a filling and nutritious breakfast. Eggs are supposed to be cheaper during the summer, but it sure hasn’t happened this year. They were 79 cents a dozen at Aldi around Easter (admittedly, they were on sale then) and they’re $1.69 a dozen now. Almost double. They’re still a good source of protein and lots of other nutrients, though, and they’re very flexible. I go through a lot of them.