Monday, July 28, 2014

Pears and Plums, Past Their Prime

When I was at the Hub near closing time on Friday, they had a whole bunch of badly bruised pears. So badly bruised they were dripping. Yuck! Since they wouldn’t make it to Monday, they were going to compost them, but I was sure there was something that could be done with them, so I brought them home with me. I brought home some nectarines, too, in the same condition.

I put the fruit in the fridge overnight while I tried to figure out what to do with it. I thought it was over-ripe, not just bruised, and that’s what I looked for on the internet. What to do with over-ripe pears and plums (because I thought that’s what the nectarines were until I cut into the first one).

There were several articles and posts online about using over-ripe fruit (I’ve included links to some of them below), but the most common use seems to be making jams and jellies, so that’s what I decided to do. Well, butters, actually. Pear butter and plum butter. 
Before straining pears

The pears I cut into fourths and put them, stems, seeds, peel and all, into my 4-quart slow cooker on low. I added about half a cup of water and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and left it for several hours, stirring it occasionally. I didn’t add any sugar because I figured that the over-ripe fruit was extra sweet to begin with. After about six hours, I turned it off and put it in the fridge to finish the next day.

The next day I ran the cooked pears through my China hat (known more formally as a chinois), which is an old-fashioned metal, cone-
shaped food mill.  You put something like cooked pears in it and then smush the pears through the tiny holes in the sides with a wooden cone-shaped pestle. It
Chinois or China hat

squeezes the pulp through and keeps the parts you don’t want, like the seeds and peel and stems, inside. The food mills that you can borrow from the Hub Tool Share program do the same thing. I was going to make pear butter, but decided to stop with pear sauce, instead. I added two cinnamon sticks and about a fourth of a teaspoon of almond extract but didn’t add any sugar. It turned out pretty good, considering that I rescued the pears from the compost bin!

After straining pears
There were only a few nectarines, so I cooked them on top of the stove. I did pretty much the same thing – quartered them, then put the whole fruit, including the pits and skin, into a big saucepan. I added a little bit of lemon juice and just a bit of water and cooked it over the lowest heat I could get, stirring it frequently so it wouldn’t burn. When the fruit was really soft, I fished out all of the pits, then put the pulp and skins in the blender. I processed it until it was really smooth, then put it back in the pan and cooked it some more, until it was really thick. It splattered something fierce, so I put a splatter guard over the top. It didn’t catch all of the splatters, but it helped.

Once the pear sauce and nectarine butter were done, I sterilized some jars, filled and sealed them, then processed them for 10 minutes in a water bath canner.

Pear sauce and nectarine butter

So what did I end up with? For the cost of two cinnamon sticks, a bit of almond extract and some lemon juice, I made three half pints of nectarine butter and three pints of pear sauce. The nectarine butter can be used like apple butter, though it's not as sweet. The pear sauce can be used like applesauce to make Pear Sauce Cake or Cookies or to replace some of the fat in baked goods. You can pour it over pancakes. It goes great with pork. You can eat it plain, like applesauce. Or you can make SPARKIN' PIE, so named because a girl once made it to impress her boyfriend, he proposed on the spot, and they lived happily every after.

And to think, all that yummy goodness from food that might otherwise be composted!
-Mary Anne-

Here are some resources for things to do with overripe fruit. My favorite comes from the first article - "Overripe peaches and plums can very quickly be pureed and used as a fruity filling for cakes and muffins.  Simply pour your cake mixture into the case, make a well and add the puree before baking.  The sponge will rise above the puree, encasing it and creating a rich and very fruity addition to your weekly baking repertoire." Or however often you bake at your house. 

What to do with Overripe Fruit - Culinary Arts 360

Top 10 Ways to Use Up Overripe Fruit - the kitchn

10 Things to Do With Overripe Fruit - Savvy Housekeeping

10 Ways to Use Extra or Overripe Fruits and Vegetables - The Purposeful Mom

Uses for Overripe Fruit - thrifty fun

Seven Ways to Enjoy Overripe Fruit - Divine Caroline

Delicious recipes using overripe fruit. A.K.A. kids can't complain about the "mushy part." - Cool Mom Picks

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ground Beef and Summer Veggies and the Weekly Special with Mary Anne

Kroger has regular ground beef (73% lean) for $1.99 a pound in five pound chubs. That’s $9.95 for the chub. Cherries are $1.88 a pound. A four-pound bag of sugar is 99 cents. Eckrich franks are 88 cents for 14 ounces, which I assume is eight franks. Buns are 88 cents for eight hamburger or hot dog buns. That’s 11 cents each for the franks and the buns. (It’s not particularly healthy what with the processed frank and the white flour bun, but that’s only 22 cents for a hot dog, or say 30 cents with ketchup and so on. Not bad for a summer supper – once in a while!)  Local muskmelons (which as far as I know is just another name for cantaloupe) are two for $3.00, or $1.50 each. (Kayte got one and said it was wonderful! That's what she used in her watermelon/cantaloupe/cucumber plate that she prepared on Friday.) Peaches, plums and nectarines are 99 cents a pound. You may have noticed that there aren’t many peaches at the Farmers Market this year. The long cold winter damaged the blossoms so there’s a very small crop of peaches locally. Sour cream is ten for $10.00 or $1.00 per pint (16 ounces). Yellow squash, zucchini, broccoli crowns, and green beans are all 99 cents a pound. Cherry tomatoes are two 10.5-ounce boxes for $3.00, or $1.50 per box. Cheese is two packages of 12 – 16 ounces each for $7.00, or $3.50 per package. That’s a good price if you get the 16 ounce packages. Indiana sweet corn on the cob is ten for $3.00, or 30 cents each. I didn’t see it in their ad, but when I was in the store on Thursday I saw “jumbo” seedless watermelons for $3.99 each. (I have no idea how the “seedless watermelons” for $2.49 at Aldi compare to the “jumbo seedless watermelons” for $3.99 at Kroger.) Prices are good through Wednesday, July 30.

Aldi has sweet onions, two pounds for 69 cents, or 35 cents a pound. I usually stock up on yellow onions when they’re three pounds for 99 cents, or 33 cents a pound. Same price. Corn on the cob is four ears for 99 cents, or 25 cents each. Seedless watermelon are $2.49 each. (I have no idea how the “seedless watermelons” for $2.49 at Aldi compare to the “jumbo seedless watermelons” for $3.99 at Kroger.) Mushrooms are 99 cents for 8 ounces. Zucchini (the smallish regular size ones, not the big ones like you can get at the Farmers Market) are three for $1.49, or 50 cents each. Green peppers are also $1.49 for a three pack. Organic baby carrots are 99 cents a pound, which isn’t a bad price even for conventional baby carrots. Ground turkey is $5.99 for a three pound chub, or $2.00 a pound. Plain non-fat yogurt is $1.69 a quart (32 ounces). Prices are good through Tuesday, July 29. They weren’t advertised, but the last few times I’ve been to Aldi milk was $1.69 a gallon and eggs were $1.19 a dozen.

I’ll go with the ground beef this week. Fortunately vegetables are cheap and can be used to stretch the meat. Hurray for the Farmers Market! (And don’t forget to double your food stamps with Market Bucks!) And while we’re talking about the Farmers Market and doubling food stamps and ground beef, the Market Bucks you get in exchange for your food stamps can be used to buy meat, too, which makes ground beef there about the same price as at Kroger. The one place I remember looking had ground beef for $5.50 a pound, or $2.25 with the 2-for1 Market Bucks. And you can probably find it cheaper than that at other stalls.

Zucchini (Or is it zucchinis? It sure sounds wrong with the s on the end, but that’s what the dictionary I looked at said was correct. I’ll go with what sounds right.) abound these days. They’re one of those bland foods that you can add quite a bit of because it doesn’t have much flavor of its own, as long as it’s fixed with other foods that do have a lot of flavor. That works best with grated zucchini, which sort of disappears. Do you remember the BZM (BASIC ZUCCHINI MIXTURE) I talked about last week? Recipes are available at the Hub near the zucchini, in case you didn’t get it last week. You can use the big zucchini that are so cheap this time of year, make up a batch or two of BZM and freeze it in two or three cup portions and use them all year long. Like in BZM-MHC ZUCCHINI MEATLOAF. It’s just a basic meatloaf except you add some BZM to it. You don’t even notice the zucchini. A big loaf of it costs about $5.10 and makes six good servings at 85 cents each, or $3.40 for four servings. Add CARROT SALAD or COLESLAW for about $1.00 each for four servings and an ear of corn apiece for another $1.00 and you’ve got a big meal for only about $5.40 per person. Depending on the size of the watermelons, you might be able to squeeze out watermelon for everyone. If not, make ORANGE MILK SHAKES (about 50 cents if you make a double batch and give everyone about a cup and half each, or you can give them more if you add some ice and make it into a smoothie) or ORANGE ICE POPS (25 cents for a whole batch of them. How many it makes depends on how big you make them. If you don’t have popsicle molds, just use small paper cups and popsicle sticks.)

The zucchini in ZUCCHINI AND GROUND BEEFCASSEROLE is cut into ¼” dice, so it doesn’t disappear like the grated zucchini, but the pieces are small enough to soak up all the flavor. Assuming that you use one large zucchini (they seem to be pretty much 75 cents each regardless of size at the Farmers Market), it should cost about $3.45. Serve it over half a head of lettuce with a cup each of shredded cheddar and sour cream (1/4 cup each per serving) for a total cost of $5.40. Half a cantaloupe at 75 cents would bring the meal to $6.15, or just over my goal of $1.50 per person. Or serve WATERMELON ICE POPS or homemade vanilla yogurt to keep it under $1.50. (Just add a bit of sweetener and about a teaspoon of vanilla extract to a quart of HOMEMADE YOGURT.) Not that you really need a dessert, of course. You could save that extra 60 cents and use it another day, instead. I’m just trying to show you how much food you can get for $1.50 per person.

When I was at the Hub on Tuesday (Did you go to the Hub Family Lunch? What a delicious bunch of food! And a lot of it came from things they had grown in the various gardens.), they had beautiful carrots with fresh feathery tops. When I saw the recipe for CARROT AND GROUND BEEF SKILLET, and especially the description of the little truly-baby carrots the author gets from her local farmer (about the size of her finger), it reminded me of those carrots. Not in size, of course, but in the fresh crisp sweetness of them. Actually, it seems a shame to use those Hub carrots in cooking; they should be savored raw and plain and fresh. Just buy some at the store. It won’t be as good as using the super-fresh carrots, but a lot more practical. A batch of this should cost about $4.75, assuming that you have to buy the green onions. If you happen to have some in your garden that need to be thinned anyway, you’ll save $1.00, and it will only cost about $3.75. But I’ll assume that you’re going to be buying them. You shouldn’t need much to go with it. How about a seedless cucumber (50 cents at the Market last Saturday) in either sour cream or vinegar and oil? Or some fresh fruit – maybe a couple of peaches diced and added to HOMEMADE YOGURT? Two peaches and a quart (4 cups) of yogurt and you’re still under $6.00. Or the cucumbers for a total of about $5.50. You can’t have both, unfortunately. But you could have the cucumbers and either ORANGE ICE POPS or WATERMELON ICE POPS and stay under $6.00.

Eggplant (another of those words that I don’t know whether to add an “s” to) is not nearly as prolific as zucchini, but it’s widely available at the Farmers Market now. (Kayte said they should be getting lots of it from the Hoosier Hills gardens later this summer.) They were running 75 cents to a dollar each on Saturday. It seemed to depend in part on the size but also on the vendor. If you have time, check around for the best deal. The original recipe for EGGPLANT AND GROUND BEEF CASSEROLE called for slicing four medium eggplants, sautéing them in butter, and then layering them with the meat sauce. Using one big eggplant, dicing it and combining it with the sauce makes the casserole a lot quicker and easier to make. It’s not as pretty, but lots, lots easier. The cost of $4.60 leaves room in the budget for a pound and a half of green beans or broocoli.

The final recipe, TURKEY LOAF, is meatloaf with ground turkey instead of ground beef. Since it’s on sale for the same price, I thought I’d include it. The problem is that with all the veggies in it, it costs $5.15 for a loaf. You can either go with four big slices and just have a simple salad or a pile of buttered zucchini to go with it, or you can get six smaller slices out of it. With six slices, four servings are just $3.90 and you can have a salad and/or ZUCCHINI AND CARROTS and/or some fruit for dessert. Any two out of three should keep it under $6.00.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cool as a Cucumber

It’s true, you know. Cucumbers really are cool. Up to 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding air, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Though I’m not sure why they care…

Anyway, it’s hot and cucumbers are cool and plentiful so it seems like a good time to talk about cool ways to enjoy them. Cool and easy ways to enjoy them. Starting with CUCUMBER WATER. With cucumber, lemon, mint and fresh ginger (or any combination of these), it’s a refreshing way to get in the extra water you need on these hot summer days. And ladies, it helps beat the summertime bloat,too!

Gazpacho has been described as a salad that you drink and frequently has tomatoes, onion, and other vegetables in addition to cucumbers. CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP WITH MINT & YOGURT is less complicated than a lot of recipes. In fact, the blog where I found the recipe says you can make it in less than three minutes! While I don’t know about that, it is quick and easy. Just be sure to include at least an hour for the soup to chill. I’ve seen recipes that say to serve it in a bowl sitting inside a bowl of ice to be sure that it is ice cold when eaten. You don’t need to go that far. Just chill it well and serve it as soon as it comes out of the fridge.

Pickle making is usually a long, involved process. Trust Rachael Ray to come up with QUICK PICKLES that can be made in 15 minutes! They’re dills, with just a hint of sweetness.

And finally, CUCUMBER ICE POPS, with lime and chili. I’m giving you the original recipe, but the site where I found the recipe suggests cutting back either on the amount of chili or the type. I agree.

Stay cool!

Mary Anne

Friday, July 18, 2014

Vegetarian Zucchini and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

IGA has cabbage for 59 cents a pound and corn three ears for $1.00. Prices are good through Sunday, July 20.

Marsh has pork chops for $1.69 per pound, good through Wednesday, July 22.

Kroger has bacon twelve ounces for $1.99, or $2.67 per pound. Nectarines, peaches, and red and black plums are all 99 cents a pound. Tomatoes on the vine are 88 cents a pound. Whole medium pineapples are 99 cents each. Prices are good through next Wednesday, July 22.

Aldi has blueberries for 99 cents a pint and strawberries for 99 cents a pound. Watermelon are $2.49 each. Ground turkey is $1.69 per pound. Prices are good through Tuesday, July 22.

Produce, meat and dairy are “half off” if you exchange your food stamps for Market Bucks. Up to $18.00 of food stamp benefits can be exchanged for up to $36 of Market Bucks, which are good dollar for dollar for produce, meat, dairy, and some plants. Get your Market Bucks inside City Hall.

I don't usually do anything vegetarian, but there’s nothing inspiring in the grocery ads again this week, and zucchini is out in full force at the Farmers Market and at the Hub, so I’m going to stick with zucchini this week. I’ll still give you recipes and menus that stay at or under $1.50 per person for a full meal, but I’ll build them around zucchini instead of meat. And they still won’t rely on bread or rice or potatoes or pasta or noodles or beans other “fillers” of that sort. Don’t forget to check out all the zucchini and summer squash recipes already posted, too.

Eggplant Parmesan is a classic Italian dish that uses eggplant instead of meat. You can do the same thing with zucchini, too, as in this recipe for ZUCCHINI PARMESAN. The zucchini is breaded, but it’s baked instead of fried, which makes it a lot easier and less messy. And less time spent over a hot stove, too! The flavor of the marinara sauce is critical to this recipe, so either use a good (and therefore more expensive) sauce or doctor up a cheap sauce with an onion and garlic sautéed in oil and added to the sauce. You might need to add some Italian Herbs, too. Assuming you use a can of Hunt’s pasta sauce ($1.00 a can several places), an onion and two cloves of garlic to make the sauce, and you make your own breadcrumbs, a batch of this will run about $5.75. The recipe says it makes six servings, though, so each serving would cost just under $1.00, and my usual four servings would run about $4.00. That leaves room in the budget for a big salad of lettuce and fresh tomatoes with a simple vinaigrette dressing and some fresh fruit for dessert. Say a mixture of fresh pineapple and fresh strawberries.
An article appeared at (the online branch of The Philadelphia Enquirer) with the title “The Zucchini Wars. Has Your Kitchen Been Overrun by the Summer Squash? Don’t Despair. Here Are 50 Ways to Bring the Vegetable Invasion Under Control.” I think the author must have been being paid by the word. Anyway, the idea behind the 50 ways is to grate the zucchini and sauté it in butter with some onion and garlic, and then use the “BZM(BASIC ZUCCHINI MIXTURE) in 50 different ways. The author says that you need the onion and garlic even if you’re going to put the zucchini in something like a cake, because otherwise the zucchini slurps up all of the flavor of the other ingredients and doesn’t leave any flavor for you. He swears that you won’t taste the onion or garlic in zucchini cake or zucchini bread. Don’t know about that. I haven’t tried them. But it is OK for the onion and garlic to come through in ZUCCHINI MINESTRONE. A batch of the BZM will run about $2.00, so each cup of the BZM will run about 25 cents. A batch of the Minestrone will cost about $4.00 and will make four really big servings. Serve it with Deviled Eggs (use your own recipe) and some fresh fruit. How about combining blueberries and peaches this time? Don’t forget to save the liquid that you drain from the zucchini and add it to soups, stews and so forth when you need some liquid, or cook your rice or pasta in it.

Finally, GRILLED ZUCCHINI PIZZAS. I’m giving you the basic recipe – just pizza sauce and cheese – but you could add other toppings. A few slices of pepperoni, some chopped green pepper or onion, sausage, olives, whatever. Left plain, a batch will cost about $3.00 and will make 8 to 12 slices, depending on the size of your zucchini. You use slices of zucchini as the base of the pizzas, you see, instead of the usual pizza crust. Serve with a big salad and fresh fruit. I have no idea where I got the recipe or I’d tell you and give them credit.

Budget Lunches - Lunch for under $1.00 per person

(To keep my menus under the average food stamp benefit received in Indiana of about $4.15 per person per day, I figure $1.00 for breakfast, $1.25 for lunch, and $1.50 for supper. However, things don't always work out as planned - a meal costs more than you budget for, or you have to buy a big jar of something and you don't use it all up that month. That's where my Budge Lunches and Budget Breakfasts come in. Each week I give either a breakfast or lunch recipe (or menu, if applicable) that costs no more than 50 cents for breakfast or $1.00 for lunch. That gives you a little bit of wiggle room for those unexpected costs.)

This week I'm giving a lunch menu. COTTAGE CHEESE ZUCCHINI PANCAKES are similar to Potato Pancakes or Latkes, but with grated zucchini instead of grated potatoes. Actually, they use BZM, or BASIC ZUCCHINI MIXTURE, which is a make-ahead mixture of slightly cooked and drained grated zucchini. A batch of pancakes costs about $1.70 and makes four servings of three to four pancakes each. Top with applesauce and serve with COLESLAW or top with half a cup each of whipped cream and strawberries or blueberries per person. Either way, lunch will be less than $1.00 per person. To make it even cheaper, use YOGURT instead of the whipped cream, and bring the cost down to about 75 cents per person.


Mary Anne

Monday, July 14, 2014

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

After much searching for a sandwich bread that would be soft yet nutritious, I found this recipe on a website called The Fresh Loaf. I think the texture and crumb are just what I was looking for. The dough can also be nicely worked up into individual soup rolls. 
Recipe from Ben Chaffee
Makes 2 loaves (8-1/2" by 5-1/2")
2-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup water
2-1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup brown sugar (can interchange honey or molasses 1:1 for brown sugar)
3 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter (Other fats, such as vegetable oil or shortening, can be used 1:1 for the butter)
3 cups (374 g) stirred whole-wheat flour
5 cups (663 g) stirred all-purpose white flour

       Soften active dry yeast in 1/4 cup warm water (110°)
       Combine hot water, sugar, salt, and butter in a separate bowl; cool to lukewarm.
       Stir in all of the whole-wheat flour, 1 cup of the white flour; beat well. Stir in softened yeast. Add enough of remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough.(about 2.5 more cups) Turn out on lightly floured surface; knead till smooth and satiny (10 to 12 minutes), adding extra flour if it gets too sticky.
       Shape dough in a ball; place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. 
       Cover; let rise in warm place till double (about 1-1/2 hours). Punch down (or fold). Cut in two portions; shape each in smooth ball. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
Shape into loaves. Place the dough on counter. Press out large bubbles and gently form each dough ball into a rectangle. Ensure the shortest side of the rectangle is approximately the longest size of your loaf pan (8-1/2"). Roll up the dough. Pinch the seam closed. Tuck open sides down and under. 
Place them in greased 8-1/2" by 5 2-1/2" loaf pans. Cover with a damp towel. Let rise till double (about 1-1/4 hours).

8.       Bake 375° for 45 minutes. When tapped, the bottoms of the loaves should have an almost hollow sound. Cover with foil last 20 minutes, if necessary.

Rice Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

12 to 15 patty pan squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic
fresh herbs of your choice, if available (thyme, sage, basil, oregano…all good choices!), finely chopped
1 carrot, grated or finely diced (optional)
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth, low sodium
1 cup white or brown rice (if using brown rice, use ¼ cup more broth)
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese plus more for sprinkling
1 cup chopped fresh spinach, about 3 ounces

Boil squash until just fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size. Heat oven to 350 F. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray or brush with oil.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan or saute pan over medium heat. Add the green onions, carrot (if using), herbs and garlic, then cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth to the onion and garlic mixture and bring to a boil. Add the rice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until rice is tender (may take longer with brown rice). Stir in the 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and spinach, take off heat.

Cut part of the tops off of a squash and scoop out some of the insides, being careful not to break through the sides or bottom of the squash. Mound some of the rice mixture onto the squash using a spoon or cookie scoop. Repeat with remaining squash and arrange in the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle each stuffed squash lightly with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little more Parmesan cheese over the squash. You can top off the mixture with the stem end of the squash, like a hat, if you like. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until hot.

Don't Throw That Away!

“Waste not, want not.” It’s an old fashioned idea, isn’t it? It really doesn’t have a place in today’s throw-away society. Or does it? Mother Hubbard sure thinks it does! Minimizing waste is even part of the Hub’s Vision Statement.

Minimizing waste shows up in practice, too. The Hub composts, and even collects compostables from a couple of local restaurants. They hold classes in composting. (Have you seen Jessica Sobocinski’s post about her experiences with composting? It’s great.) I’ve talked repeatedly about saving bones to make BONE BROTH and saving chicken skin to make CHICKEN CHIPS OR GRIBENES and I’ve given directions for ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS, too. Domestic Diva Barbara has demonstrated making yogurt with slightly old milk and kim-chi with past-their-prime veggies. The Tool Share program lends out driers and canners so you can dry and can extra fruits and veggies and has classes on food preservation. There was even a class last month on wild edibles (a.k.a. weeds).

In the summer, with all the fresh produce that's available, there tends to be even more vegetable waste than the rest of the year. It's a great time for adding to your compost pile. It's also a great time for finding alternative uses for parts of the fruits and vegetables that you usually toss. So, in the spirit of self-sufficiency, economy and sustainability, here are some recipes for using things that might otherwise be tossed out.

Did you know that there’s only about three-quarters of a cup of corn kernels on an ear of corn? The rest is the husk, the silk (not much of that) and, of course, the cob. I don’t have recipes for the husks (though I think they’re used in tamales) or the silk, but I do have a recipe for the cobs. CORN COB JELLY. I’ve never made it myself, but it’s supposed to taste like honey. Wildflower honey, to be exact, according to some.

There’s a lot of waste with a watermelon, too, what with the thick rind and all. The solution? WATERMELON PICKLES. They’re a lot of work, though, if you make it according to the traditional recipe, or at least the recipe I got in the 70s from Toni, an old Iowa farm girl.They're also very sweet - some recipes call them Candied Watermelon Rind.  Or you could make EASY PICKLED WATERMELON RIND, which are lots easier and much less sweet, though they only keep about 10 days in the fridge. And if you’ve got an old-fashioned watermelon with lots of black seeds, you can make ROASTED WATERMELON SEEDS, which are a popular snack in the Middle East. You can do the same thing with seeds from cantaloupe, honeydew and other melons, too. For that matter, you should be able to make pickles from other kinds of melons, too, though most rinds aren’t as thick as watermelon rind.

Somewhat similar to the Watermelon Pickles are RED HOT CUCUMBERS, that Toni, who would be in her 90s today, used to make. They use the huge overgrown cucumbers that get overlooked in the garden and suddenly appear way bigger than you want to use in a salad. They're crunchy and sweet and cinnamony and spicy and pretty. A lot like the spiced apple rings that used to be used as garnish, especially at Christmas. I can't find Toni's recipe, but I know it took several days. The recipe I'm giving here is one I found online and only takes two days. You can use overgrown zucchini instead of the cucumbers if that's what you happen to have. Just be sure, with either the cucumbers or the zucchini, that they'll fit in your canning jar if you want to keep them in rings.

Looking over this, I see an awful lot of sugar added to the throw away items, so, with the exception of the watermelon seeds, they're not exactly cheap. They are cheaper, though, than if you had to go out and buy the cucumbers or apples or whatever to make pickles out of. And they're something different. And they're easy (fiddly, perhaps, but easy) and good. So why not give them a try?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

It's Yogurt Time, Folks!

With milk and fruit on sale this week, and free yogurt starter at the HUB (It’s part of the Tool Share program, between 12:30 and 5:30 Monday through Friday, and available to the general public for a small membership fee - more about it soon.) it’s time to make some yogurt! A quart of commercial plain yogurt costs anywhere from $2.00 to $4.00, or more. That same quart of homemade plain yogurt costs just 47 cents if you buy your milk at Kroger this week (through next Wednesday, July 16) for $1.88 a gallon. And those tiny little cups that occasionally go on sale for 39 cents each but are usually more like 50 cents or more? They cost just 7 cents to make!

Don’t like plain yogurt? No problem. Add a cup of blueberries to a quart of plain yogurt for a total cost of just 97 cents for 5 cups of fruit yogurt. Or a cup of chopped peaches for the same total cost of 97 cents. That’s just 15 cents for one of those little 5-ounce cups!

Not only are you saving beaucoup bucks, but you’re getting real fruit and real milk and no preservatives, additives or other things you can’t pronounce!

Check here for our recipes for PLAIN YOGURT, HONEYDEW SMOOTHIE, STRAWBERRY & BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE DELUXE, or make your own smoothie with your choice of fruit and maybe a little bit of sugar or other sweetener. A few drops of almond extract is good with most berries and stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, etc.) and so is a light sprinkling of nutmeg. Pour yogurt into a small paper cup and stick a popsicle stick into it for a yogurt ice pop. Pour it into a graham cracker pie crust for a refrigerator pie. (Especially good if you fold in some whipped cream and a bit more sugar!)

Mmm-mmm.! Cool, delicious, cheap and good for you! An unbeatable combination!

Mary Anne

PS - Homemade yogurt is lots cheaper than commercial at just about any milk price. Take a look below and see how much your yogurt will cost at different milk prices.

                               Cost of Homemade Yogurt at Various Milk Prices 
 Price per   Cost per  Cost per  Cost per   5 oz with 
 Gallon of   Quart of  8 oz Cup  5 oz Cup   50 cents 
 Milk   Yogurt  of Yogurt  of Yogurt   fruit/qt. 
       1.88        0.47        0.12        0.07
       2.00        0.50        0.13        0.08
       2.25        0.56        0.14        0.09 0.17         
       2.50        0.63        0.16        0.10 0.18         
       2.75        0.69        0.17        0.11
       3.00        0.75        0.19        0.12 0.20         
1 cup of blueberries this week or 1 cup of chopped peaches  = 50 cents - 7/11/14

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pork Loin and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Finally! Some good prices! Kroger did the best this week, with good prices on produce, meat and dairy. I’ll get to the grocery store ads in just a sec, but don’t forget to get your Market Bucks for the Farmers Market and buy your produce there for half price! Applies to those with food stamps only.

Kroger has blueberries for 99 cents a pint. Peaches, plums and nectarines are all 99 cents a pound. Four pounds of strawberries are $4.99, or $1.25 per pound; smaller boxes cost more per pound. Bananas are 39 cents a pound. Sweet corn is 10 ears for $3.00, or 30 cents an ear. It’s Indiana sweet corn. Zucchini and yellow squash are 99 cents a pound. Milk is $1.88 a gallon, limit two. Eggs are $1.29 a dozen. Kroger “singles” (processed cheese) is $1.99 for 16 slices, but it doesn’t say how big the slices are. Chicken of the Sea canned tuna is 69 cents for a 5-oz can. Boneless pork loin is $1.77 per pound, limit two packages. Prices are good through next Wednesday, July 16.

Marsh has boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.99 per pound. 9-ounce smoked sausage is four for $5.00, or $1.25 each. Prices are good through next Wednesday, July 16.

IGA has peaches for 99 cents a pound. Tomatoes on the vine are $1.49 a pound. Cabbage is 49 cents a pound. Salad dressings are 99 cents for a 16-ounce bottle. Hamburger and hotdog buns are 99 cents for a package of eight. Ground chuck is $2.99 a pound in packs of three or more pounds. Prices are good through Sunday, July 13.

Aldi has blueberries for 99 cents a pint (two cups or about 12 ounces). Red grapes, peaches, plums and nectarines are all $1.98 for a 2-pound package, or 99 cents a pound. Mangos are 39 cents each and avocados are 69 cents each. Cherries are $1.99 a pound. Bone in chicken thighs are 89 cents a pound in packs of three pounds or more. Prices are good through next Tuesday, July 15.

By the way, here are some equivalent measurements for some of this week’s produce. A “medium” tomato weighs about 6 ounces half a cup of finely diced tomato, or about a cup of chopped tomato, or about one and a quarter cups of sliced tomato. (There’s about a tablespoon of tomato in a cherry tomato, which weighs about one ounce.) A pint (two cups) of blueberries is about 12 ounces. A “medium” peach weighs about 3 to 4 ounces. You get about two-thirds of a cup of chopped peaches or three-fourths of a cup of sliced peaches from one peach. That’s about two and half cups of either chopped or sliced peaches per pound. These are all from .

With pork loin for $1.77 a pound at Kroger, let’s see what we can do with that this week. I don’t think I’ve talked about pork loin in a long time. Check out pork loin and pork chop recipes here and here, or find a list of all the pork recipes under the MEAT heading here.

You can either cook pork loin as roasts or you can slice it up (or have it sliced up) as chops. You’ve heard of pork loin chops? That’s just the pork loin that’s been cut into slices. The loin that’s on sale is boneless, so you’ll end up with boneless chops. You can use a recipe that calls for bone-in pork chops, but the cooking time will be a bit different. Of course, you can also cut it up into cubes or chunks if that’s what your recipe calls for

A bit of quick math. A pound and a half is 24 ounces, or six ounces each for four servings. That’s plenty; in fact, the nutrition gurus would tell you that you only need 3 ounces. (I can’t help but wonder how much they really eat themselves.) If you’re like me, when you cook a two pound roast when you only need a pound and a half, it’s all likely to be eaten. Ask the butcher if he’ll cut the package into one or more one and a half pound roasts and the rest into roughly six ounce chops. If he won’t, or if you forget, you can do it yourself, but the butcher may be more accurate about the weights and will probably be better at cutting chops that are of uniform thickness.

CUBAN PORK is sort of like Mexican  carnitas, or at least like some recipes I have seen for carnitas. The cubes of pork are cooked in a mixture of fat and liquid (sour orange juice in this case, or a mixture of orange juice and lime juice), and then they fry in the fat when the liquid has simmered off. They end up crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. A batch costs about a bit less than $4.00 if you use orange juice and lime juice. Add corn on the cob and coleslaw (either your recipes or one of ours) and it comes to just $6.00.

Pork and blueberries is a trendy combination, and with blueberries on sale again this week (99 cents a pint at both Kroger and Aldi) as well as the pork loin at Kroger, it seems like I should include a recipe. Personally, though, I’d rather eat my blueberries on their own. Not that I have anything against blueberries and pork, but if I have just a limited number of blueberries (aka a limited budget), I’d rather have them separately. I almost decided not to include a recipe, because most of the recipes I found either called for frozen blueberries or else frozen blueberries would work just as well. No point wasting fresh blueberries when frozen ones will do. But then I found this recipe for GRILLED PORK CHOPS WITH BLUEBERRY SALSA and decided it was worthy of fresh blueberries. (The BLUEBERRY SALSA should be good with chicken or turkey, too.) I had to guess at the price of some of the ingredients, but I think the pork chops and salsa will come to something like $5.40, which doesn’t leave much room for anything else. I’m going to include corn on the cob (grilled if you’re grilling the pork chops, boiled or nuked if you’re not) anyway, which brings the total to about $6.60, which is a bit higher than I like. Make my 50 Cent Breakfast (below) or another of my BUDGET BREAKFASTS and it will bring the total cost for the day back down to where it belongs. 

If you’re looking to cook the pork loin as a roast, try HERB ROASTED PORK LOIN. I don’t know whether it would work to use fresh herbs, but it seems a shame to use dried ones this time of year. (Do you grow your own? They’re easy to grow. I have a small planter with a variety of herbs that I move outside in the summer and inside in the winter.) Anyway, there’s practically no cost to this other than the pork itself, which will run about $2.65. Let’s call it an even $3.00, with the garlic and oil. (Don’t forget that it’s usually cheaper to buy herbs and spices in bulk at Bloomingfoods rather than in the little jars at the grocery store.) Serve it with ZUCCHINI/TOMATOTOSS ($1.40) and twelve ounces of peaches (about a cup and a half) mixed with a cup and a half of blueberries (total cost of the peaches and blueberries - $1.50) and have a summery meal for four for less than $6.00.

50 Cent Breakfasts

With milk on sale for $1.88 a gallon, a cup of milk (and thus a cup of yogurt) costs 12 cents. A pound of peaches (99 cents) makes about two and a half cups of chopped peaches at 25 cents for a little more than half cup. So a cup of yogurt and a bit more than half a cup of peaches costs less than 40 cents, even if you decide to sprinkle a bit of sugar on it. Or you can make a PEACH SMOOTHIE for about 45 cents.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name...

…still tastes as sweet!

Roses have been used as food and medicine for centuries – like at least back to First Century Greece. Rose petals and rose hips were collected and eaten in Britain during WWII because of the food shortages there. The hips especially are high in several vitamins, especially Vitamin C. But the best thing about them is the taste. Different varieties of roses used to have different scents and thus different flavors, but the modern hybridized roses tend to all smell and taste alike and have much less odor and flavor than the old ones. Another example of progress. Sigh.

Whatever roses you use, be sure that they haven’t been sprayed. Most roses have been well doused with pesticides, which you probably don’t want to eat. Wild roses, too, may have been sprayed with various chemicals and may have absorbed gas fumes if they are near a road or highway.

When my family moved to Idaho, our house had lots of roses out back, and I made rose petal jam and jelly the first summer. We didn’t much like the jam; we found the texture of the rose petals unpleasant. But the WILD ROSE PETAL JELLY was good. The recipe called for wild roses, but we just used the ones in the backyard.

ROSE WATER is used in many Middle Eastern and Indian recipes. You can buy it, but it’s easy to make yourself. Rose Water is an ingredient in the following recipes.

HONEY AND ROSE COOLER is a refreshing and cooling drink, perfect for a hot summer day. For an elegant (and yes, definitely girly!) afternoon snack, serve it with ROSEWATER COOKIES and ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES. Maybe for an engagement party or a shower?

The most unusual recipe I found is for ROSE PETAL PESTO. I don’t have a problem with roses and basil, or even with roses and cheese. But roses and garlic? I’ll leave that one to you. Let me know if you try it and what you think.

Roses can be used in other ways, too. Rose Hip Tea can be made by pouring boiling water over crushed rose hips and letting it steep. A few rose petals can be added to lemonade or to salads. Rose petals can be added to honey or to butter or can be crystalized and used to decorate cakes, cookies, etc. You can find recipes for these and other delicacies online by googling rose recipes.

Don't forget to take time to smell - and taste! - the roses!

Mary Anne

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chicken Breasts and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Before I get to the sales at the stores, a quick reminder for those of you who use food stamps. Don't forget that you can exchange up to $18.00 of food stamps each week for up to $36 of Market Bucks to use for fruit, vegetables, meat, etc. at the Farmers Market. You're getting the Market goods at half price. A wonderful deal!

Aldi has lots of fresh fruit on sale again this week. Strawberries are $1.49 a pound and blueberries are 99 cents a pint. Mangos are 39 cents each and seedless watermelons are $2.99 each. Cherries are new this week at $1.99 per pound. Five-pound chubs of regular (73% lean) hamburger are $10.99, or $2.20 per pound. Feta crumbles are $1.99 for 4 ounces. Kalamata olives are $2.79 for 6 ounces. “New low prices” include canola oil for $2.49 for 48 ounces, vegetable oil for $2.29 and corn oil for $2.59, both also 48 ounces. Steak sauce is 95 cents for 10 ounces. Heavy whipping cream is $1.79 per pint. Nonfat yogurt is $1.69 for 32 ounces, or one quart. Canned salmon is $2.39 for 14.75 ounces. Salad dressings are $1.29 for 16 ounces. Ketchup is $1.29 for 38 ounces. Prices are good through Tuesday, July 8.

Marsh has Oscar Meyer franks at buy one get one free, but don’t know how much that first one costs. Seedless watermelons (average 10 – 12 pounds) are $2.98 each. Prices are good through Wednesday, July 9.

IGA has boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders for $1.69 a pound, which is the lowest I can remember seeing in a long time. Corn on the cob is 5 ears for $1.00. BBQ sauces are 99 cents for 18 ounces. Frozen veggies are 10 for $10.00 or $1.00 each, for 12 – 16 ounce bags. That’s a good price for 16 ounce and ok for 12 ounce. Kraft cheeses are $5.00 for 3 packs, or $1.67 each, which is good for the 8 ounce packs and not so good for the 5 ounce packs. Tomatoes on the vine are $1.47 per pound. Prices are good through Sunday, July 6.

Kroger has 8 packs of hamburger and hotdog buns for $1.00. Cheeses are $2.99 for 12 to 16 ounces, which is good at 16 ounces and ok at 12 ounces. Sour cream and dip are $1.00 pint (16 ounces). Ice cream is $1.98 for 48 ounces (a quart and a half) but that may just be through Sunday. The ad wasn’t clear about that. Regular (73% lean) ground beef in packages of three or more pounds is $1.99 per pound. Again, that may be just through Sunday. Eckrich hot dogs are 89 cents a pound. Ground turkey is $2.50 a pound. Oscar Meyer franks are $1.50 per pound. Green beans are 99 cents a pound. Cherries are $1.88 per pound. Red, orange or yellow bell peppers are 99 cents a pound. I’m guessing that’s somewhere around 50 cents each, but it depends of course on the size. Prices are good through Wednesday, July 9.

Rats! Kroger did it again. I try to get as much as possible done on Wednesday (especially when the Hub is closed on Friday), but that means that I have to select my meat before seeing the Kroger ad. I probably would have gone with their ground beef for $1.99 a pound if I’d known they had it for sale. Oh well. I just talked about ground beef a couple of weeks ago, and anyway, you can still get it at that price and have it for hamburgers on the Fourth. Buy some extra at that price, too, if you possibly can, so you can eat it later in the month and get some variety then. Ground beef recipes are under the Meat heading of the Other Recipes page.

So, since I didn’t know about the ground beef, it’s chicken breasts this week. Which is fine since I found a whole bunch of new chicken recipes recently. Don’t forget the links to chicken recipes on the special Fourth of July post, too, and the complete list of chicken recipes under Other Recipes.

Speaking of the special Fourth of July post, be sure to check it out if you haven’t already done so. It’s got links to all of the picnic-type food that’s been posted on the new blog so far.

bánh mi is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich which includes meats and vegetables. (Here’s a site with a bit of info about the bánh mi.) Since I’m not doing bread, I’ve changed it to a GRILLED CHICKEN BANH MI SALAD by serving it on a bed of lettuce instead of between two slices of bread. I’m using grilled chicken breast, since chicken breast is the featured meat this week, but other meats can be used instead. And if you don’t have a grill, go ahead and season the chicken and then cook it in a skillet instead. It comes to right about $6.00 for four big servings of salad, though I had to estimate on some of the ingredients. I tried to err on the side of higher costs. Unfortunately, this doesn’t leave room in the budget for anything else. If you can squeeze it in, some fresh fruit would go well with this. A two cup serving of watermelon would run about 20 cents. Or serve WATERMELON ICE POPS for dessert for less than 10 cents per serving.

A traditional ingredient in bánh mi is do chua, or pickled daikon radish and carrots. I haven’t included it in this recipe because the recipe I’m copying from doesn’t use it. Here’s a link for a recipe for do chua  in case you want to try it for yourself. Daikon is available at the farmers market, though I’m not sure if this is the right season for it.

Summer, tomatoes, basil and grilled chicken all seem to go together, don’t they? BASIL AND TOMATO STUFFED CHICKEN is another take on that combination. This makes four servings at a cost of about $4.70. Add some GARLIC CORN ON THE COB and MINT WATERMELON SALAD for a summery dinner at a tad under $6.00.

Seems like there have been a lot of recipes lately that call for cooking on a grill, and not everyone has one or knows how to use it. So this final recipe is cooked on the stove top instead. CHICKEN LAZONE has a rich buttery cream sauce that would be good over rice or noodles or something starchy like that. Instead, buy a big zucchini at the Farmers Market and grate it coarsely. You want pretty big pieces – bigger than grains of cooked rice – but not too big. Maybe about the size of a piece of macaroni cut in half lengthwise? Put the grated zucchini in a bowl, cover it, and nuke it for a couple of minutes. It should still have some bite to it. Serve that alongside the chicken to sop up the sauce and, if there isn’t enough sauce, add some butter. Add some color to the plate with some sliced tomatoes.

The CHICKEN LAZONE will cost about $3.40. You should be able to get an overgrown zucchini at the Farmers Market for $1.00. A pound of tomatoes on the vine is $1.49, which brings the total to $5.90. By the way, when I say an overgrown zucchini, I mean it. Not baseball bat size, but bigger than normal. They aren’t much good for slicing that way because the seeds are too big, but grated or julienned (cut into matchsticks) they’re fine. And the farmers are usually glad to get rid of them and price them cheap.

50 Cent Budget Breakfasts

This week’s STRAWBERRY & BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE DELUXE uses plain milk instead of yogurt. You could use yogurt if you wanted to but you might need to add a bit more sugar. For a special summer treat pour the smoothie into popsicle molds (or small paper cups), stick in popsicle sticks, and freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Send the kids outside to eat them! This makes two smoothies of not quite 2 cups each, for a total cost of $1.00, or 50 cents each.


Mary Anne