Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekly Menu Retrospective #132


Welcome to my weekly roundup of the past week's eats. I prefer to report what we ate in the last week, rather than what we're planning to eat in the coming week. Why? The reason is pretty simple: although I usually have a general idea of what we're going to eat in the next week or so, life often unfolds a little differently than planned, and I adjust my menu plan on a near-daily basis to accommodate leftovers and other not-possible-to-plan-ahead circumstances. I find this is the easiest way to ensure that I minimize our family's food waste. I'm also willing to admit that I'm a rather spontaneous cook, given to preparing foods that strike me as the most appealing thing to eat right here and now!

If you'd like a whole book full of inexpensive, quick and kid-approved recipes, check out my book, Cheap Appétit : The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Family for Less Than $400 a Month (While Eating Better Than You Ever Thought Possible) on Amazon (Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon UK) and Barnes and Noble.  It's gotten multiple 5 star reviews!! I've included page references to recipes that are in the book in my menu plans so you can locate them quickly. For more details about the book, go here. 

 

Breakfasts:

Granola (p. 92) with homemade yogurt, Rhubarb Streusel Muffins (p. 97), waffles

Lunches: 

leftovers, grilled cheese, sandwiches 

Dinners:
Monday: Thai-Style Peanutty Pasta (p. 147)

Tuesday: Barbecued Steak, Broccoli, Bacon & Cheddar Salad (p. 204), corn on the cob

Wednesday: Western Omelette Wraps (p. 124)

Friday: Pizza Night: Sausage, Onion and Red Pepper Pizza (my homemade thin-crust pizza dough recipe is HERE)
  
Saturday: Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Lentil Soup (p. 162)

Sunday: Spaghetti with Creamy Tomato Vegetable & Meat Sauce, Peach Crisp
 
In keeping with my local and organic challenge, I'd also like to note the local and/or organic items on this week's menu:

Organic: coconut (in granola), coconut oil, raisins, sunflower and pumpkin seeds (in granola), flax seeds, fresh ginger,  coffee (locally roasted and delivered by bike!), tamari, oregano, basil, parsley, Fairytale tea, peppermint tea
 
Local: potatoes, onions, carrots, apples, cucumbers, red peppers, garlic, salsa (home-canned), honey (unpasteurized), sour cream, whole wheat flour, ground beef (antibiotic and hormone free, pastured), milk, buttermilk
 
Local AND organic: 
oats, cornmeal, eggs (not "certified organic", but real free range and fed organic feed), apple cider vinegar, green onions*, tomatoes*, herbs*

*from our backyard garden

Tired of figuring out what to make for dinner? I've completely overhauled my budget menu planning service over the summer! Many of the simple and affordable recipes are NEW and NOT on the blog or in the book. Plans include complete menu plans and grocery lists featuring inexpensive, seasonally-focused ingredients. Click HERE to find out more!

For more great meal ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com. 
 
Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest 

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap Appétit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

RECIPE: Apple, Bacon & Sage Pizza


It's a fact: teenagers love pizza. And with two teenage boys in the house, there's a lot of pizza-eating capacity around here :) Fortunately, I've gotten pretty darn good at whipping up a homemade pizza, and finally have a thinner-crust dough that meets with my family's approval (if you want a more thick, chewy dough, my Whole Wheat Refrigerator Bread Dough works well!)

We've been experimenting with some more sophisticated pizza variations lately. This Apple, Bacon & Sage Pizza won rave reviews from my whole family (my husband even gasped "I think this is the best pizza you've ever made" while wolfing down his share). We've all decided we actually prefer a white sauce to the typical red sauce on our pizza, so I've been using that a lot as the base. It somehow gives an air of decadence to just about any pizza you can throw together, and takes just a couple of minutes to whip together. And since I planted sage in my garden this year, I've been looking for more ways to use it. It pairs wonderfully with the apples and bacon...and as fresh local apples are just coming into season, NOW is the perfect time to make this pizza!

So, let's get right to it, shall we?

Ingredients:
Crust
¾ cup warm water
1 tsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour (may use up to ½ cup whole wheat flour if desired)

cornmeal for sprinkling

Sauce
2 tbsp butter
6 sage leaves, cut crosswise into thin strips
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk 

Toppings
6 strips bacon
2 apples, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, sliced
2-3 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Instructions:
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Let stand for a few minutes until yeast starts to foam. Add the salt and butter.
  • Gradually stir in the flour until mixture forms a ball of dough. Place dough on a floured surface and knead for several minutes, adding more flour as needed, until dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place dough in a clean bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in size (about 45-60 minutes).
  • While dough is rising, prepare the sauce and toppings: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and cook for about 3 minutes, until fragrant and softened. Add the flour, stirring to make sure it's completely coated with fat, then slowly whisk in the milk, stirring frequently until sauce thickens. Set aside.
  • In a medium frying pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to cool, then crumble.
  • Drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the apples and onions and cook until tender and onions have browned slightly.
 (You're almost finished, hang in there!)
  • Grease a rimmed baking sheet, then sprinkle with a thin layer of cornmeal. Place the dough on top and start stretching it out with your fingers to fit the baking sheet. To get a really good thin crust, I find using a rolling pin or a round drinking glass to press down and roll it very firmly is helpful.
  • Once the crust is in place, spread the sauce over top, leaving about ½" uncovered around the edges. Spread apple/onion mixture evenly over top, then sprinkle with the crumbled bacon. Top with cheese.
  • Bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes before cutting into squares.
Serves 4

I shared this recipe at Full Plate Thursday. 

This is just one of the many simple, delicious and inexpensive new recipes that will be featured in my October menu plans. Go HERE to find out more about them! 
Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest 

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap Appétit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Probiotics for Pennies

My homebrewed kombucha in 3 flavours: strawberry, pineapple and grape (the bottles are from IKEA)

It's back to school this week, and that means it's a perfect time for...probiotics.

Wait, WHAT?!?! You thought I was going to say a good stiff drink, right? :)

I'll admit the (alcoholic) drink sounds tempting, but there's another type of drink that will definitely have more long-term benefits than that bottle of wine you're eying. Better yet, it's one you can easily make at home for just pennies: a delicious homemade probiotic beverage.

Increasing your family's probiotic consumption at this time of year is particularly advantageous as probiotics are beneficial to both the digestive and immune systems. With the stress of the new school year (not to mention the exposure to a round of new germs in the classroom), probiotics can be a great support to help maintain optimal health for all your family members.

There are definitely some pretty extreme health claims for probiotics on the internet; research *does* support that there are a variety of health benefits to consuming probiotic foods on a regular basis - the exact benefits depend on which particular organisms you're ingesting. I have personally noticed that since I started brewing kombucha and drinking it nearly every day (starting early this spring), my seasonal allergies have improved dramatically this year - I've been using my homemade nettle tincture FAR less than I did last year to treat allergy symptoms. Your own experience may be completely different depending on which types of probiotics you consume and your body's own personal affinity for particular organisms over others.

While you can certainly purchase both probiotic supplements and prepared fermented foods, it can be a big investment (it can easily cost you $1-2 or more per day for supplements per person!) and you really have no way of knowing how active the supplement is when you take it (even if it came from a very reputable company, the way it's been stored and handled since production can adversely affect quality). The same goes for many fermented foods produced on an industrial scale. While there are certainly some quality products out there, they are going to be the pricier ones, and even paying a higher price is no guarantee of quality with so many companies jumping on the probiotic bandwagon just to make a quick buck.

The obvious solution is (as usual) to do it yourself! Making your own probiotic foods might sound intimidating, but keep in mind that people have been fermenting foods for thousands of years! Some fermented foods are quite familiar to most of us (e.g. yogurt) and some might sound just plain weird, but there's plenty of opportunity to discover some tasty, interesting and probiotic-packed foods in the middle.

A (not at all comprehensive) list of fermented foods would include:

Dairy-based:
Yogurt
Kefir

Non-dairy based:
Kombucha
Water kefir
Ginger beer
Lacto-fermented lemonade

Fermented vegetables (e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi)

Fermented condiments (ketchup, mustard, salsa, barbecue sauce, chutneys, etc)

Getting started with fermenting:
Based on my own personal experiences, the two foods I've found the easiest to start with are yogurt and kombucha. You don't need any special equipment to make either of them. You can find my basic yogurt making method HERE. I've since switched from putting the cultured milk in a Thermos to putting it directly into Mason jars and wrapping them with towels; that way I just pull them straight out of the cooler and put them in the fridge.

To start making kombucha, you will need a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) - as home brewing of kombucha has gotten very popular, you shouldn't have too much trouble tracking one down if you start asking around. A new SCOBY forms with each fermentation, so most people who make kombucha regularly are more than happy to give some away :) Kombucha brewing has a nice rhythm to it, as it takes about a week to ferment, which is a nice manageable time frame to be switching out batches.

One of the reasons I love kombucha is that you can have a ton of fun experimenting with different flavours - our favourite so far is definitely pineapple (which gets *very* fizzy); we've done strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, grape, peach and lemon as well and I'm looking forward to experimenting with apples and pears now that they've come into season!

My family also loves lemon-ginger water kefir, which I wrote about earlier this year. I was initially very excited about it, but over time I found out that the 2 day fermentation cycle was burning me out, plus the water kefir grains are a lot more temperamental than kombucha SCOBYs so I ended up passing my grains along to a friend who wanted to give them a shot. I plan to give lacto-fermented lemonade and gingerale a whirl to see how they compare taste and ease-of-making wise.

The nice thing about fermenting foods is there are SO many options, so you can pick what works best for your family. Ideally, it's a good idea to eat a number of different types of fermented foods on a regular basis so you get exposed to a wider variety of beneficial organisms.

I'm going to be fiddling around with my fermented ketchup recipe this week, so I'll share that soon. It's super easy if you have some kombucha on hand! The first batch I made met with huge approval from my family so it disappeared fast; I have some ideas of how to make it even better, though :)

And since the jalapeno peppers are one of the few things that we got a bumper crop of this season, I'm going to be trying out this recipe very soon, too.

 Intrigued enough to give it a go? Some helpful resources to get you started:





The Cultures for Health website (great articles and instructional videos, plus you can order cultures from them if you can't find anyone to donate some to your cause!)

Kombucha Kamp - a great resource for all things kombucha-related.

(Yes, the usual disclaimers apply: Those are Amazon affiliate links for the books, and I am hardly an expert on fermented foods or gut health. I'm simply sharing my own experiences. You need to do your own research and make your own decisions about what is right for you and your family, and consult with a health professional if you have any concerns about why fermented foods might not be right for you.)

Are you already a seasoned fermenter, or just getting started? I'd love to hear your experiences with making your own fermented foods.

Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest 

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap Appétit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

RECIPE: Green Beans with Bacon & Mushrooms


Fresh-from-the-garden green beans are hands-down, my favourite summer vegetable. I even have a favourite variety (Slenderette). Unfortunately, this year I have the worst green bean crop I've had since I started growing green beans. The critters really went to town on them and I lost a lot of my plants in the early going. Despite a replanting to try and help offset the damage, I still have a scanty supply in comparison to a typical year.

These are the types of situations where I'm glad I don't have to rely 100% (or anywhere close to it!) on the food I grow myself to feed my family. While beans from the grocery store or farmers' market aren't going to compare to the ones from my garden, it's better than having none at all!

As you might suspect, when green beans are in season, we take full advantage of it and eat a LOT of them. While they're wonderful simply boiled or steamed til tender-crisp and seasoned with a little salt, pepper and butter, if you're looking to up the ante a little and put an impressive-looking side on the table with your midsummer meal, this is a delectable combination, indeed. So good that there was *very* little left over of that generously full pan in the picture after the four of us had at it.

Ingredients:
1 lb green beans, trimmed
4-6 strips of bacon
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ lb mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Instructions:
  • Cook the beans in a saucepan of boiling water for about 5 minutes (they should still be crisp). Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a medium frying pan until crisp; remove to a paper-towel lined plate. If there is more than 2 tbsp of bacon fat in the pan, drain some of the fat. Return the pan to medium heat and saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the bacon fat until tender; season with the salt and pepper.

  • Add the green beans to the frying pan and cook for about 5 minutes longer or until beans are tender; crumble bacon over top and serve.
Serves 4

I shared this recipe at Full Plate Thursday.

This is just one of the many simple, delicious and inexpensive new recipes featured in my August menu plans. Go HERE to find out more about them - more brand new tasty, family-friendly dishes are on the way for the September edition.

Are you a huge green bean fan, too? What is your favourite way to serve them?

Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest 

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap Appétit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Healthy and Inexpensive Eats on the Road


Chances are, you're planning a road trip at least once this summer! I'm gearing up to leave on a family camping trip myself, that will involve several hours of driving to get to our destination. 

With two hungry teenage boys in the backseat, I know I need to be prepared with lots of healthy, inexpensive snacks to dole out en route, or we're headed for the dietary (and budgetary) disaster of a fast-food fix somewhere along the way.

One of the strategies I've developed over the years is to make sure to pack some extra-tasty snacks so that they don't feel “deprived” without a stop at McDonald's for lunch.

Two of the best ways to make sure you don't get stuck spending a fortune eating junky food at a greasy spoon on the way to your holiday destination are:

1. Planning ahead: You know you're going to need to eat along the way (and if you have boys who are non-stop eating machines in tow, you know they will need to eat a LOT along the way!) I aim to start tucking some homemade healthy snacks into the freezer a week or two before our departure date, so I just have to pull them out and pack them right before we leave.

2. Packing a cooler: Depending on your final destination, you'll want either a basic cooler to fill with ice, or an electric cooler (one brand name is Koolatron). If you're tent camping without access to electricity, a basic cooler will do the trick. If you'll be staying at a bed and breakfast or hotel, the electric cooler will allow you to easily maintain a stash of healthy foods and drinks throughout your holiday without the inconvenience of draining and refilling a basic cooler with ice every day or two.

What Snacks Should You Pack?
Every family seems to have their favourite “go-to” snacks; below are some suggestions that are quick and easy (and/or make-ahead-and-freeze friendly).
  • Oatmeal and Fruit Bars (freezer friendly) - substitute raspberries or chopped peaches or plums for the blueberries in these delectable bars
  • Pocket Sandwiches (freezer friendly) - my boys love these Curried Beef and Spicy Pork pocket sandwiches! The fillings can also be tucked into pitas or wraps if you don't want to wrestle with bread dough, although they're messier and not as travel-friendly that way.
  • Popcorn (pack individual servings in ziptop bags)
  • Whole fruits and sliced vegetables (pack a container of hummus for extra hunger-pang-busting power!)
  • High protein finger foods: Trail mix, cheese cubes, hard boiled eggs and jerky.
  • Nut butters and breads or crackers for spreading them on
In addition, we always pack a large Thermos jug with ice water so we can stay well-hydrated in the heat (for a special holiday treat I also bring along a bottle or two of Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade for our roadside picnic – it goes on sale occasionally at Food Basics, Fortinos and Metro for $1.99/960 mL bottle so I stock up then!)

While prepping food for a road trip does take some time and forethought, that effort pays off hugely in the health of both your body and your finances. I'm always glad I took the time to stock our cooler and picnic basket with wholesome, homemade foods and I'm sure you will be, too!

Do you have a favourite healthy, inexpensive snack for toting on road trips? Leave a comment and share it with us!  
  
Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest 

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap Appétit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

RECIPE: Curried Beef Sandwich Pockets


Summer meals should be relaxed and easy. In my house, it's a good thing if they're "make it now, grab it whenever you're ready to eat" as the boys are often off on adventures with their friends and not necessarily around to eat when Joe and I do. 

These pocket sandwiches, like my Spicy Pork Pocket Sandwiches, are a huge hit with my teenage boys. They are good to eat either hot or cold, so work well for a picnic or an on-the-road feast if you're travelling. They also freeze well, so stashing a batch in the freezer makes for an easy-to-reheat snack or meal on a day you don't have the time or inclination to cook.

We really like these paired with Cucumber & Bean Salad; they will pair nicely with just about any kind of summer salad, though - this post has a roundup of some of our favourites.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
½ tsp ginger
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp flour
1 lb bread dough - I use my Whole Wheat Refrigerator Bread Dough (or 4 pita breads, halved)

Instructions:
  • In a large frying pan, sauté garlic and onion in oil until they start to soften.
  • Add ground beef, carrot and zucchini. Cook until no traces of pink remain in beef.
  • Add ginger, curry powder, salt and pepper.
  • Stir flour into yogurt until smooth. Add to beef mixture and simmer over medium-low heat until mixture thickens.
  • Divide the bread dough into 6 or 8 equal pieces (depending how big you want the sandwiches - smaller ones work well for younger kids). Roll a piece of dough out into a rectangle until it's about 1/4" thick. Spoon filling onto one half of the rectangle; fold over and crimp edges to seal. Repeat with remaining pieces of bread dough. Cut 2-3 slashes diagonally across the top of each pocket to allow steam to escape. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise 20-30 minutes (you can skip this step if you're in a real hurry, the crust will just be thinner and not as fluffy). Bake at 375ºF for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 6-8 sandwiches (If you don't want to wrestle with bread dough, spoon filling into pita pockets instead).
Serves 4

I shared this recipe at Full Plate Thursday.
 
Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest 

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap Appétit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Belated Spring Yard Sale Report

Yes, it's the beginning of July - and I haven't posted a single Yard Sale Report for this year yet!

Fear not, I *have* been out on my usual yard saling adventures. With the cold spring we had, I really didn't get started until the end of May. And despite the fact that I've hit a substantial number of sales this season, I haven't come home with much. These days I'm pretty picky about what I'll buy, even at yard sale prices, as the more I declutter, the less desire I have to bring something into the house that just ends up accumulating dust.

That being said, I do enjoy the "thrill of the hunt" enough to continue digging around in boxes of random stuff on people's driveways on the slight chance I will unearth something wonderful (I still adore the vintage glass candlesticks I found wrapped in paper at the bottom of a box at an estate sale 4 years ago).

My first find of the season was at a church rummage sale:

The final 3 Harry Potter books, in pristine hardcover, for $1 each. This was perfect timing as my older son was just ready to start Order of the Phoenix. These put a big smile on his face!

At the same rummage sale, I also picked up these in-brand-new-condition books for my gift cupboard (50 cents each!):

 At the same sale, I also picked up a new-in-the-shrink-wrap kids' DVD of magic tricks for $3 (not pictured - it's already been gifted!!)

A few weeks later, I picked up this beautiful, coffee-table-sized book on herb gardening for 75 cents:

Since I am on a never-ending quest to expand the number of herbs growing in my garden, this is a welcome addition to my library (and I admit that I spent a significant portion of a Saturday afternoon leafing through it on my porch!)

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I scored all 3 of these items at a fundraiser yard sale:

Handwoven basket (to become the new trash can in my office), 25 cents; beach mat $1 and single-serving stainless steel Thermos $2.

Grand total: $11 for 10 items, or $1.10 per item

July's looking like it's going to be light on the yard sales for me; I have 2 Saturdays where I'm doing demos at the Farmers' Market, plus we'll be on vacation for part of the month, too. So it may be a while before my next yard sale report appears - rest assured that I'll be back eventually with another update!

Have you found anything great at a yard sale lately?

 
Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest 

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap Appétit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking
Related Posts with Thumbnails