Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cool Evenings Call for Warm Soup

We are fortunate at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard to have our produce shelves regularly stocked with some of the finest food on earth. During the growing season here in Indiana, we regularly receive fresh veggies from our own Hub Gardens, as well as donations from the gardens of our neighbors and friends.  The supplier of the majority of our food, Hoosier Hills Food Bank, also maintains a large garden, though I like to refer to it as a small farm. Their gardens at Detmer Park feature long rows of expertly managed crops of cabbages, beets, tomatoes, kale, radishes, eggplant...and it comes to us clean and organized, in large, black pop-up crates. I feel so proud to offer this high quality food to our pantry patrons, knowing it was grown without chemicals, less than 4 miles away, and harvested the same morning it appears on our shelves.

This week gorgeous bouquets of rainbow chard graced our produce cart, and we had the chance to share with our patrons a delicious soup I had just discovered in Deborah Madison's latest book Vegetable Literacy. A smooth and creamy green soup, spiked with sharp hints of cumin and lime seemed just the right thing for these cool autumnal days. Our patrons enjoyed samples as they passed through the pantry, and you can find the recipe here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Real Men Do Eat Quiche! and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Aldi has grape tomatoes for 99 cents a pint and cauliflower for $1.29 a head. Don’t know how big the heads are. Red and green grapes are $1.78 for two pounds, or 89 cents a pound. 85% lean beef burgers are $8.99 for three pounds, or $3.00 a pound.

Marsh has ground chuck for $2.99 a pound in the family pack and bacon for $2.99 a pound. There’s a limit of two pounds of bacon, which isn’t surprising since that’s a great price.

Kroger has eggs for $1.25 a dozen (four dozen for $5.00). Cheese is three packages for $10.00, or $3.33 per package. The packages range from twelve to sixteen ounces. That’s $4.44 a pound for the twelve ounce packages or $3.33 for the sixteen ounce. It’s an ok price for the twelve ounce and a good price for the sixteen ounce. Broccoli crowns, Bartlett pears, romaine, red and green leaf lettuce, and tomatoes on the vine are all 99 cents a pound.

I wasn’t really checking prices at the Farmers Market on Saturday, but here are a few of the prices that I noticed. Some vendors had tomatoes for $1.00 a pound, and they went up from there. Zucchini were 75 cents each (I got a great big one at that price). Seedless cukes were 40 cents each. Eggplant was $1.00 each. Huge heads of cabbage were $3.00 each.

Don’t forget that you can exchange your food stamps for Market Bucks, which basically means you can buy produce, dairy, eggs and meat for half price.

Bacon and eggs are both on sale this week. Let’s work with that.

The problem with bacon is that it cooks down so much. It never really seems like a protein source; it’s not satisfying like meat usually is. It’s more of a flavoring. It does have a lot of flavor, though. You can take advantage of that by using all of the bacon. Save the bacon grease and use it later to fry or scramble eggs, use it to cook the onion and pepper for a Denver omelet, or use it pretty much any time you need oil to cook something. It adds a great flavor.

BLTs are great summertime food, when the tomatoes are garden fresh. When you don’t eat bread, you make BLTS’s instead. That’s Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Salads. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Just bacon, lettuce and tomato with a mayo dressing. And very good. A pound of bacon, a head of lettuce, a pound and a half of tomatoes, and a cup of mayo will run $6.03. You shouldn’t need anywhere near a cup of mayo, though, so it should stay under $6.00 for four big main dish salads. You can get other salad dressings for about the same price.

I like breakfast food any time of the day. Not cold cereal, but real food. Omelets or quiche or scrambled eggs. Things like that. I make a lot of quiche because it’s good, it’s easy, and it’s cheap. Well, the basic quiche is, though it can get pricey depending on what you put in it. My BASIC QUICHE recipe calls for six eggs, half a pound of cheese, and two cups of cream or milk. Using half and half, it comes to $3.35 and makes anywhere from four to eight servings. Let’s call it four. You could stop with this basic quiche (a blob of mustard is good in it and practically free) or you can start adding extras. A pound of broccoli would bring it to $4.35, leaving plenty of room for a lettuce and tomato salad while staying under $6.00. Or make six servings at 75 cents per serving ($2.90 for four servings) and add some grapes, too.

One of my favorite main dish salads is a big CABBAGE SALAD. I’ve talked about them before, and probably every time I do I give a different recipe. That’s because it’s so versatile. The base is cabbage and onion in a mayo dressing, but then I add eggs and/or cheese and/or meat of some kind (bacon, smoked sausage, ham, etc.) and/or sunflower seeds. Half of one of the huge heads of Farmers Market cabbage is plenty for four big servings. Add a third of a pound of bacon, half a pound of cheese, and six hard-boiled eggs and you’ve got a wonderful supper for four for under six dollars. Worried about all the cholesterol in that salad? One of the great things about eating low carb like I do is that you don’t have to worry about cholesterol. (There’s a lot of research that says that cholesterol is not an issue for most people who eat a low carb diet. If you are concerned about it, you should of course talk to your own health care provider.)

For more recipes using eggs in a starring role, check out the after Easter blog post and the EGGS category under the Cook tab.

Eggs keep in the fridge for a long time. I’ve kept them up to three months and they were still fine. Use your own judgment, but remember that the date stamped doesn’t mean that you need to use them by that date or toss them.

Eat well!

Mary Anne

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tomatoes - Red, Ripe and Juicy

Summer’s over. Doesn’t seem possible, but so it is. Highs in the 60s later this week? Yikes!

There are still tomatoes at the Farmers Market, though, and on the tomato plant in my garden. Might as well take advantage of them while we can!

We’re getting to the end of the picnic/BBQ/grilling season, too. CHEESE TOPPED GRILLED TOMATOES, with blue cheese and bread crumbs, is a great way to celebrate both the end of the picnics and BBQs and of the tomatoes.

ZUCCHINI, TOMATO AND SWISS CHEESE PIE is a quiche sort of thing, with veggies, eggs, milk and cheese. Eat it for breakfast or with a salad for lunch or a light supper. Or, for another take on zucchini and tomatoes, try TOMATO AND ZUCCHINI SALAD, topped with feta or mozzarella.

If the only pasta sauce you’ve had came out of a can, even it was doctored up with meat and herbs, you’re in for a real treat with RAW TOMATO SAUCE. Just garlic, olive oil, fresh basil (not dried!), and the very freshest and ripest of summer’s best tomatoes. Yumm!

In a couple of weeks I’ll talk about what to do with green tomatoes, but let’s enjoy them vine-ripened as long as possible.

---Mary Anne---

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fall is Falling! and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Summer finally arrived – briefly – and now it’s back to cooler weather again tomorrow. I have to admit the idea of cool and less humid is very appealing. I love Fall weather – cool nights and brisk days and blue skies. And have you noticed that the leaves are starting to fall already?

What makes it official, though, that it’s almost fall is that Marsh has pumpkins for sale. Honest! Already! It’s one thing for them to be at the Farmers Market, but on sale at a grocery store? Don’t worry, though. I’m not going to be talking about how to cook them today, though there are some recipes here for things to do with pumpkins that don’t involve making pumpkin pie…

Marsh has pie pumpkins for $1.99 each. These are smaller than field or jack-o-lantern pumpkins and better for making pies or using in other dishes. Gala apples and Bartlett pears are $1.29 a pound. Family packs of boneless skinless chicken breasts are $1.88 a pound, as are pork chops. Milk is $2.99 a gallon, but if you buy five of a various things you can get a dollar off of each of them, bringing the price down to $1.99 a gallon.

Kroger has broccoli crowns, Roma tomatoes, and romaine and red and green leaf lettuce for 99 cents a pound. Two heads of cauliflower or celery are $3.00, or $1.50 each. Iceberg lettuce is 99 cents a head. Bone-in turkey breast is $1.29 a pound and chicken wings are $1.99 a pound. Milk is $2.69 a gallon. Cottage cheese is $2.29 for 24 ounces and cheese is $3.79 for twelve to sixteen ounces.

Aldi has green and red grapes $1.98 for two pounds, or 99 cents a pound. Navel oranges are $2.49 for three pounds, or 83 cents a pound. Avocados are 49 cents each. 32-ounces of non-fat Greek yogurt is $3.89.

And there’s still lots of great produce available at the Farmers Market. If you receive Food Stamps, don’t forget that you can exchange up to $18 of food stamps for up to $36 of Market Bucks, effectively getting your produce, meat, eggs, and dairy for half-price.

It’s way too early to be thinking about Thanksgiving turkeys, either, though turkey breast is on sale this week. That’s ok, though – just the turkey breast. I can handle that all year long. And better to be talking about it now than closer to the big day.  If you think about it, turkey is just another kind of meat. It’s really the side dishes that make it seem Thanksgiving-y. So let’s steer clear of candied sweet potatoes and green bean casserole and pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce for now, shall we?

I did some looking around online, and came up with an average size turkey breast is between 4 and 8 pound and that you should buy about half a pound of turkey per person. SLOW COOKER TURKEY BREAST calls for a six-pound turkey, so that falls right in there, and should make about twelve servings, or three meals for four people each. Each serving will cost about 70 cents a serving, or $2.80 for four servings. A bit less if you make your own ONION SOUP MIX, a bit more if you a commercial mix. Don’t throw out the cooking liquid when you cook the turkey breast! It makes a great soup.

Let’s start with hot sliced turkey, broccoli, and CARROT SALAD. The turkey is $2.80, a pound and a half of broccoli is $1.50, and the Carrot Salad is $1.30, for a total of $5.60 for four servings, or $1.40 per serving.

The second meal will also be sliced turkey breast, either hot or cold, with FAUXPOTATO SALAD and sliced tomatoes. (What on earth is Fauxpotato Salad? It’s just potato salad made with cauliflower instead of potatoes. Sound strange? Well, remember that I don’t eat potatoes. Oddly enough, cauliflower makes a pretty good substitute. You could make your own potato salad, but at least try your recipe once with cauliflower instead of potatoes!) The turkey breast is still $2.80, the Fauxpotato Salad is $1.75, and a pound of Roma tomatoes is 99 cents (let’s call it $1.00), for a total of $5.55. How about half a pound of grapes to go with it, which brings it to $6.05. You can back off a bit of either grapes or tomatoes to get rid of that extra 5 cents and bring it back to $6.00 or less for four people, or $1.50 per person. How much Fauxpotato Salad you’re going to get depends on how big your head of cauliflower is, but I’m assuming you’re going to get at least four cups of florets from half a head of cauliflower.

The third meal will be a leftovers kind of meal. You should have roughly a third of the turkey breast left, but it might be in scraps instead of nice slices. No problem. Use it to make EASY CHICKEN DIVAN, but use turkey instead of chicken and use fresh broccoli. You could use a combination of broccoli and cauliflower if you wanted to, or even all cauliflower for a different dish. It depends on how big the heads of cauliflower are. Either way, it should make six servings and cost about $6.90, or $4.60 for four servings, if you use CREAM OF WHATEVER SOUP MIXAt least another dollar if you use canned soup. Add half a head of lettuce, a couple of Roma tomatoes and some salad dressing for a whole meal for right around $6.00, depending on how much salad dressing you use.

Budget Lunch

And finally, there’s the cooking liquid from slow cooking the turkey breast. I hope you didn’t throw it out! Skim off the fat (optional) and add enough water to make between four and six cups. Heat it and add half a head of cauliflower (about six cups). Cook it until the cauliflower is very soft, puree it in a blender or food processor or using a stick blender (Don’t have any of these? Borrow a food processor or stick blender from MHC’s Hub Tool Share Program. It’s free!) Add a cup or so of half and half and you’ve got about ten to twelve cups of really tasty soup. Enough for four good sized servings at a cost of about $1.15, or less than 30 cents each! That’s figuring that the cooking liquid is free, since we’ve counted all the cost in the turkey. Instead of using the cauliflower you could use the leftover Easy Chicken (Turkey) Divan, which would bring the cost up to $2.70, or about 70 cents per serving. Myself, I’d save the Turkey Divan for another meal and make the cauliflower soup. But it’s up to you. Just be sure that you don’t toss the cooking liquid from the turkey!

Even with pumpkins and turkey on sale, it’s much too early to be thinking about Halloween, let alone Thanksgiving. But turkey is much too good to bring out only on holidays. Enjoy it all year long, when it’s on sale.

Happy Eating!

---Mary Anne---

Monday, September 1, 2014

Do You Carry?

Salads make great lunches, but they’re hard to carry with you to work or to school, even if you have a fridge when you get there. The salad dressing gets on the lettuce and other veggies and you can end up with a yucky slimy mess by the time you get around to eating lunch. It’s not so bad if you have a place where you can store things like an opened bottle of salad dressing, but many of us – especially students – don’t have that luxury. So what’s a body to do? Go without salads?

Nope. You just have to plan a little bit differently. I have two suggestions for you. First, change the way you pack and carry your traditional lettuce based salad, and two, switch to different ingredients that hold up better to sitting for hours with dressing on them.

The first isn’t so much a recipe as a concept. Most salads are built with lettuce on the bottom, then other veggies, meat, etc., and salad dressing on top. The salad dressing works its way down through the other veggies and meat and ends up dressing the lettuce on the bottom. Which is great, as long as you eat the salad right away. Not so great if you’re not eating the salad for a few hours, especially if you’re carrying the salad so it gets bounced around the dressing reaches the lettuce even faster. The solution? Basically, just put the dressing in the bottom of a jar, then the meat, then the wet veggies like tomatoes, then dry veggies, and the lettuce on top. The lettuce stays nice and crisp and dry until you turn the salad upside down on a plate or bowl, and then you have the lettuce on the bottom and the dressing on top, just like usual. As I said, it’s more of a concept than a recipe, but there are some ideas at SALAD IN A JAR. By the way, they say that the salads keep for several days, so you can make a week’s worth at the beginning of the week and just pull one out each day to take. Don’t know, haven’t tried it, but that’s what they say.

I have a few actual recipes for salads using sturdier veggies like cauliflower, broccoli and celery instead of lettuce, or you can make up your own using your favorite ingredients. One of the best things about salads is that they are so adaptable!

The one I make most often is CAULIFLOWER AND EGG SALAD. Pretty much what it says. Cauliflower and hard-boiled eggs in ranch dressing, with some sunflower seeds if you happen to have them.

A close second is PACKABLE PORK SALAD, which is leftover pork (any kind – pork roast, pork chops, pork neck bones, whatever – boned, of course), cauliflower and celery in a mustard-mayo dressing.

One that I keep forgetting about for some reason, is PACKABLE CHICKEN SALAD. Leftover chicken and celery in a slightly teriyaki-mayo dressing.

And finally, CAESAR-STYLE SALAD, with broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots and peppers a Caesar-style dressing with parmesan cheese. It doesn’t have much protein, but you could add some chicken to it or have it as a side salad to some chicken or other protein that you carry with you.

Eat well!

---Mary Anne---