I'm sure you've pinned and clicked through many of these on Pinterest. I'm a big fan of them myself - the only problem with the vast majority? They're not realistic. I have yet to find one which would actually feed my family - 6' 2" hubby, 6' eighteen year old son, thirteen year old son, and myself.
The taglines are so enticing... "How I Feed my Family of 7 on a $85 Weekly Budget", "How to Feed a Family of 5 on $200 a month", "How I Feed my Family of 6 for $200 a Month", and my personal favorite, "Real Food Meal Plan: Four Weeks Four Mouths $330".
I could spend this entire post breaking down the feasibility of each of these four examples, but I'm here for a better purpose today. Let me just point out that what these posts, along with the hundreds like them have much in common; they're only counting dinner, the meals are pretty much chicken, rice, and some canned stuff thrown in for good measure, and often they are talking about feeding small children who eat like mice. If these families are making this work, good on them, but not even one of them would work for my family. First off, we need to eat actual food. Secondly, we're not that fond of chicken. We like it, don't get me wrong, but if I served chicken on Monday, chicken soup on Tuesday, chicken rice on Wednesday, chicken tacos on Thursday (you get the idea), my family would revolt.
Yes, you cannot be too choosy when you're eating on a budget, but food is not just fuel, it should be flavorful, nutritious, and delicious. That is what we are used to. Which is probably why our grocery budget was absolutely out of control. I was spending my (pathetically sad) $300 weekly paycheck on food, and when you do that , there is not much left over for things like bills, or heaven forbid - fun. Which is why I decided to take a good look at some of these and come up with a plan that can actually be used on a large scale.
Another thing I'd like to mention is that I have yet to come across a Canadian budget meal planner. I'm sure they're out there, but I've only clicked through American ones. Why does that matter? Because I cannot go to the grocery store and pay .89 for a dozen eggs, nor can I get a whole chicken for $3. My cost could be double some of these in some cases. So I had to tailor it to my food prices. Now, if you're living in the States and you're reading this, you could possibly shave about a third off of my cost, just because your prices are lower in many areas, which is just an added bonus for you.
Before I get into the meal plan - three meals a day, every day, for one week - I'd like to share some pointers that will make this so much easier for you. What I'm about to tell you is no secret - many of the links and posts widely available offer much of the same advice. Actually, a large number of these "Feed your family on a budget" posts do not actually contain meal plans, they just give you pointers like 'clip coupons', 'buy in bulk', 'batch cook', and 'love your crockpot'. All fine suggestions, but we don't have a whole lot of coupons here in Canada (not like in the States), and I have yet to find a coupon for anything in the produce section. Buying in bulk means you need a place to store all of your bulk (and it means cans and boxes, which I am not fond of), no one wants soup or stew every night, and don't get me started on batch cooking. Tried it once - no thank you.
So here are my pointers:
Plan Out Your Week.
Whether it starts on a Sunday or a Tuesday doesn't matter. Get a pen and a piece of paper and find a comfy chair. I write out the days of the week, and the first thing I do is make a note of which days I'm working. Nights, actually, I work 11pm-6:30am, which should make this whole cooking three squares a day even more difficult for me, so if I can do it, so can you. The reason you're doing this is so that you do not plan a complicated dish on a day you're going to be excessively tired or busy running around. Use leftovers or simple dishes on those days to make your life easier.
Write Out Your Meals
Write down seven breakfast dishes, seven lunches, and seven dinners. You'll trim this down as you decide because some dishes are 2-day deals, i.e. oatmeal, chili, or soup. But writing down three for each day gives you a variety of choices. Whatever you decide to take out can always be pushed to the next week. Now trim your list. My list includes two different kinds of oatmeal, donuts, and muffins, and that covers my week. My lunches are tuna melt pie, scones, and sandwiches. My dinners consist of chili, soup, pizza, sliders, and pasta. More on all of these later, but you can see a wide variety of food - actual food. I highly recommend Pinterest for this exercise because you can just search "cheap dinner", "budget friendly meals", etc., and you'll get a ton of ideas. Draw on your own experience also. There's nothing wrong with meatloaf, spaghetti, or whatever your family has always loved. So trim your list by making notes of which meals will have enough leftovers for a second day, you'll see what I mean in my plan.
Write Out ALL The Required Ingredients.
You mean even things like salt or pepper? Why? A couple of reasons. First, you're going to make one trip to the grocery store. You heard me. One. Can't do that if you missed something. Second, you may think you have an ingredient, but when you go to the cupboard to get it while you're cooking you find that you are out of it. That sucks and has happened to me more times than I like to admit. Third, you may think you need an ingredient, but guess what? You have four of them in the back of the fridge because you keep buying it. Going once and getting everything you need and only what you need saves you time and money. If you're like me this will be very strange. I am used to shopping 2-4 times per week. I am also used to throwing stuff out because I forget I bought it because I had no actual plan for it, and now it went bad. More money wasted. And I work at a grocery store - so if I can limit my food purchases to once a week, you definitely can.
Trim Your List
Once you've written everything out, go through your cupboards, fridge, freezer, pantry, and everywhere else you house foodstuffs and cross off anything on your list that you have on hand. Most likely you have things like salt (I was almost out of pepper, so that will stay on the list next week), baking powder, or flour. But you may be surprised at what you do have sometimes, tucked away in the shadows. Now you have your basic list. I whittled a list of over 60 items to less than 30 - sweet. This is what you will venture out to buy. If you are a coupon clipper, now is the time to go through your coupons and see what you have that will help you with your list. I am not into coupons, not because I don't want to be, there just isn't much that I purchase in the coupon world. I do suggest 2 apps here that will help you immensely. If you are not using the flipp app to shop, you're nuts. I absolutely love it. At this point I pop in my basic list and look for sales on the items I need. I usually only shop at two stores, FreshCo and Real Canadian Superstore, the first because the prices are great (but the selection is meh), and the second because although the prices are a bit high, I can often find anything FreshCo doesn't carry here (plus I work there so I get my [truly mind boggling, how do they stay in business] 10% discount). Both stores price match, and I can do that right from the app. The second app I suggest is Checkout51, which saves you a little bit here and there. You just look to see if anything you bought is offered, take a pic of your receipt, and you're good. You won't get rich off of it, but it's easy and it helps a little. This week I got $1.00 cashback for buying the Eggo waffles, which I was buying anyway. *NOTE* I don't know how widely these apps are distributed, I live in Ontario, but I'm sure you will have something similar in your area.
And buy ONLY what is on your list. Yes, those strawberries look so delicious. Sure, that cake is on sale. Oh yeah, the chips are 2 bags for $5. Do not give in. You are on a budget. Whatever reason got you here, you must think of it and buy only what you see on your list. And only make this one trip. It may be to two or three stores, but do it in one go. It's a time saver in the end, but it also cuts down on the temptation to impulse buy.
The only time I encourage you to go off list is if it is an extremely good price and it is something that can keep for a bit. Maybe you only need one can of romano beans, but they're on sale for .88, and that's a good deal. I would buy maybe four or five cans (all different), and possibly use them the next week.
Okay, enough about all that. I'm sure I'm not really telling most of you anything you don't already know. Here is the part that made you visit here in the first place:
7 Day Meal Plan for a Family of 4 for about $100
Breakfast: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day <$2, my cost was $0)
Lunch: Tuna Melt Pie + Salad
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day ~$7, my cost was $5.50)
Dinner: Beans & Pasta
(approximate cost <$5, my cost was $3)
Day One Notes: I made the muffins and pie the day before and the salad was simple, I bought a big bag of organic mixed spring greens for $5 which will make about 6-8 servings, a great addition to a smallish lunch and easy enough to take to work. The beans & pasta is a staple dish in our home and very simple:
1/2 pkg elbow macaroni
2 cans romano beans (do not drain them)
2 strips bacon
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 onion, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1] Boil pasta
2] While pasta boils, chop bacon & fry until crispy, do not drain. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add spices and stir.
3] Add beans and liquid to bacon/onion mixture and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and stir once or twice. Let cook another 5 minutes.
4] Drain pasta and add to bean mixture. Remove from heat. Stir until all pasta is covered and serve.
Day one cost about $14 if you purchased all the necessary ingredients. My cost was about $8.50.
Breakfast: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin
Lunch: Tuna Melt Pie + Salad
Dinner: Southwestern Style Chili
(3-day recipe - approximate cost per day $5.50, my cost was <$4)
Day Two Notes: A pretty easy day with two meals consisting of leftovers so no need to cook. The chili can be made stovetop (as I did) or in the crockpot, as the recipe calls for. I froze the third day's serving as it is actually a little less than what would feed all of us and I think it would be great for chili cheese dogs next week. The chili pricing includes the toppings: cilantro, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese.
Day two cost about $14.50 & my cost was about $9.50.
Breakfast: Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $2. My cost was $1.50)
Lunch: Bacon, Cheddar, and Chive Scones + Salad
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $6. My cost was $4.50)
Dinner: Southwestern Chili
Day three notes: The oatmeal cooked overnight and was hot and ready to go in the morning. I baked the scones the day before and froze half of them for next week.
Day three cost about $13.50 and my cost was <$10.
Breakfast: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
Lunch: Cheesy Frittata + Salad
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $6. My cost was $2.)
Dinner: English Muffin Pizzas
(Approximate cost $9.)
Day four notes: The pizzas are another fun staple in our house, and so simple to make!
2 packs (of 6) of english muffins
2 small cans pizza sauce (you can get away with one but we like a lot of sauce)
1 can mushroom pieces and stems
1 snack pack of mini pepperoni
1 onion, sliced
1 sweet pepper, sliced
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Halve the muffins, spread pizza sauce, top with cheese, then all other toppings. Bake at 350deg for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Feel free to add or remove any of the toppings, put whatever you like on them, they're quick, easy, and delicious.
Day four cost about $17, with my cost about $13.
(Approximate cost is $3.50)
Lunch: Frittata + Salad
Dinner: Golden Coconut Lentil Soup
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $2.50. My cost was $0)
Day five notes: Yeah, I know you got all excited about the donuts, then clicked on the link and got weirded out when you saw what the donuts were made of. Trust me, it's okay. It's just a little cheat and we are not a bunch of snitches, so our secret is safe.
Day five cost about $14.50 and my cost was $8.
Breakfast: Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day is $2. My cost was $0)
Lunch: Reuben Stromboli + salad
(approximate cost $12.50. My cost just over $11.)
Dinner: Coconut Lentil Soup
Day six notes: Remember when I told you to write out EVERY ingredient and then go from there? I did not write the dressing down for the reuben recipe because I really just glanced at it and came to the conclusion that it was only for the dip, and I was not going to make the dip, so I did not need the dressing. So I did not put it on my list at all. Boy was I wrong, and I don't even know how I missed the necessity of the spread on the bread. Anyway, I always have mayo in my fridge, so that was a quick save.
Day six cost about $17 and my cost was about $11.)
Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Lunch: Chicken Nugget Eggo Waffle Sliders
(Approximate cost $12)
Dinner: Sausage & Egg Sliders
(Approximate cost $14. My cost about $13.)
Day seven notes: Today turned out to be slider day, I don't think I planned it, but I didn't hear anyone complaining. I have to give you the link to Chicken Waffle Sliders because that's where I got the idea for my chicken nugget sliders, and I like to give credit when credit is due. I took their idea but made it easier by just buying a package of Jane's chicken nuggets and topping each one with a little mayo, lettuce, and 1/3 of a grape tomato. Yum!
Day seven was the most expensive day by far at $28, with my total around $25.)
The approximate total cost for 3 meals a day which actually, realistically, feed a family of four for 7 days turned out to be about $119. My total was a little lower at $84.50. Your total would also differ depending on what you already have in your home. However, even if your fridge is empty and your cupboards bare, I have shown you how to keep your family well fed on about $120.
One last thing I would like to comment on before I send you off: drinks. We drink a lot of water in our house. (Real) juice is a weekly treat, and pop is a rarity, really only when we have company and we all indulge, a few times a year. We also drink coffee (the adults) and tea, both hot and iced. If you're trying to wean yourself or your family off of pop and juice, try squeezing the juice of a lemon or orange into a pitcher of water. Maybe some fresh mint (slightly muddled), or even a few chopped strawberries. Ease your family into it. I won't judge, it's your family, you can ingest what you like, but I feel like if you just give good old H2O a chance, you may find you enjoy how refreshing it can be. And it's also a heck of a lot cheaper ;)
I thank you for sticking around, I know, this was a really long post, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible because the very simplicity of the other posts made me feel it was a waste of time to click through. Comments are always welcome - let me know if you've tried my plan, or if you have any inexpensive but delicious recipes I can add to a future plan.
It's that time of year again - the time of year when everyone and their uncle has the best pumpkin pie recipe. And while a homemade pie is almost always going to be better than one you pick up at the store (farmer's markets and true country stores not included), the recipe I am going to share with you today is the only recipe you need to blow your family and friends away. It's so good that people who don't eat pumpkin pie (myself included) will eat your pie.
Please don't tell anyone that I told you my secret recipe in all of its entirety. My husband and children all said that I should post the bulk of it and "leave out" an ingredient or two so that no one else can make them like mine. I won't do that to you (insert evil laugh here).
This pie is ready to get into the hot oven
Empty pie shells ready for pumpkin goodness.
I'm going to keep today's post short because I have a ton of stuff I have to get to, but before I get into the recipe, I do want to warn you: If you feed this to anyone, and I mean anyone, be prepared to be the 'pie person' for all Thanksgiving events forever unto the end of time. If you're willing to make that commitment, read on.
Try to prepare all of your ingredients before you start.
Secret Weapon Pumpkin Pie
(For the crust)
17 Oreo cookies (filling removed from 12)
1/2 cup melted, unsalted butter (for a crust a little more like graham)
or 3/4 cup melted, unsalted butter (for more of a cookie crust)
1) Grind Oreos in a food processor on pulse until they're crumbs.
2) Mix in the butter. If you're using 3/4 cup, it will be wet and easy to flatten out and line your pie plate, if you're using less, you'll have to mix it well to make sure all the crumbs are covered, and it will be a little more difficult to get a nice, even cover on the pie plate.
3) Put aside while you make the filling.
(For the filling)
1 can pure pumpkin (I prefer ED Smith)
1 whole egg + 3 egg yolks
3/4 cup melted ice cream (good flavors are French Vanilla or Butterscotch Ripple)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tbsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1) Place a large pan of water in the bottom of your oven and pre-heat to 425 deg.
2) Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, blend on low 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and mix on medium low for about two minutes until everything is well incorporated.
Put it all together:
Divide the filling between 2 pie dishes (regular sized, the white ones you see in my pictures are actually deep dish. I tripled this recipe and made two deep dish and four small ones), spreading and flattening out with the back of the spoon. This filling is thick and will not spread out on its own while baking. If you want to make pumpkin designs on them, you absolutely can!
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350. Bake at this temperature for 35 minutes.
The pan of water in the bottom should help reduce cracks in the pie by circulating some moisture and not allowing the pies to dry out.
Cool on rack about a half hour and then refrigerate at least two hours (or overnight) before devouring.
Top with whipped cream to increase your enjoyment!
**NOTE** the ratio of yolks to whites makes this a rich, dense pie. If you like yours a little less dense, use more whole eggs (i.e. 3 whole + 1 yolk), and use a full cup of ice cream.
If you need any clarification or have any questions, post in the comments, I'll answer the best I can.
Last time I left you with my experiments with lilacs. I was a little underwhelmed with it, I have to admit. I didn't care for the 'refreshing' lilac water, and the lilac sugar's taste is so mild that it just gets lost in whatever you bake or eat with it. However, if there's one thing I've learned, its that not everyone is going to like everything and if you fail (even if its only in your own eyes), just dust yourself off and try something different.
Next on my list is yucca. I have a large yucca next to my front porch, which my mother in law gave me just after I moved into this house 7 years ago. At the time I didn't even know that the spiky plant flowered, but a couple of years after planting it, one lone stalk came up and I remember thinking how pretty it was. Many years later I now have two flower stalks come up each year, loaded with pretty, bell shaped blossoms. Imagine my surprise when I read that the flowers on this plant are edible! I was so excited to try it out and could not wait for it to bloom this year.
Well, the time has arrived, and I spent the last couple of (super rainy) days outside picking blossoms and shaking insects off of them. Although I did find a few different species, there are two that really, really love my yucca, a small white moth and an even smaller black and red beetle. I brought my colander and a pair of scissors outside with me and cut off about 120 blossoms. Then I spent a good ten minutes shaking the colander and picking beetles and moths out, and I still had some stowaways. Apart from making sure you get as many bugs as possible out before you take them inside, also make sure that when you are picking flowers which are unblemished, freshly opened blossoms.
My adventures in yucca are much tastier than the lilac ones. Raw, the blossom tastes ok, a little meaty, with a bitter aftertaste. If you enjoy bitter greens, like dandelion, you would most likely enjoy these raw in a salad. After blanching, the flavor improves a bit, the aftertaste is still there, but only a little. After I got everything in the marinade I just could not wait, so I tried a little the next day. Really delicious! So good that I can't wait for the second bunch of buds to flower so I can make more! I got three small jars out of the recipe below, two for me and one for my mother in law. She's always interested in these weird things I do and I thought it would make a lovely gift for her if it turned out. I know she browses through my blog posts, but I don't think she actually reads all the way through, so it'll still be a surprise, even though I just told all of you!
One last thing before we get to the actual recipe - you absolutely have to try this on home made naan bread smothered in goat cheese. Its delightful!
This recipe makes about 3 small jars - or 2 medium ones.
As I mentioned before, even after 24 hours it's already pretty delicious. After the three days, store in the fridge. The oil will solidify in the cold, so take out an hour before serving.
Thanks for stopping by, feel free to comment if you tried to make this, if you have any other things that you make with yucca, or if you just have any questions.
Interested in foraging, cooking, baking, homesteading, or all things green? Follow me on Pinterest!
Originally published on June 30th, 2015 on UnusuallyDelicious.
It's early June here in Southern Ontario and my Dwarf Lilac has just begun to bloom. My entire yard smells so wonderful. While I'm transforming my yard, every time the wind blows I get the lovely scent of lilac. Who knew they were edible? Not me. Nor anyone I've talked about eating lilacs to. Some even questioned whether they were toxic. Well, here's the lowdown on what I've found about ingesting lilacs:
Firstly, they're part of the olive family, so that's a good sign. As with all things, start slowly. You may have an allergy you have no idea about, and since many of us do not ingest flowers on a regular basis, it's always best to start out small. The best things to make with lilacs are syrup, infused water, sugar and scones. I'll write a series on the fragrant lilac and give you the how-to on all of the above, along with uses for each (although the scones may be self explanatory).
Recently, thanks in part to my addiction to Pinterest, I have discovered the fascinating world of foraging. Don't get me wrong, you will not see me bent over at the side of the road picking dandelion, but I do have quite a bit in the way of diversity when it comes to the 'weeds' in my yard. I have purslane, stinging nettle, lambs quarters, plantain, and of course dandelions growing all around my property. That's only what I've noticed and been able to name while perusing pins, boards, and websites dedicated to eating weeds. I have spend years bent over, killing my back and my hands pulling them from the earth and cursing them profusely.
This year I decided I'm going to go about my garden a little differently. Aside from the total makeover I have started in my backyard (you can watch the progress on my blog at sonjarants.weebly.com), I have decided to try out some of the recipes online with these wild foods and maybe try to make a few of my own. Not only the weeds, either. Quite a few of the flowers I grow are also edible, apparently. So that is where we will begin our journey together, with a flower.
I've always loved growing things. Flowers, fruit and veggies growing in my home or in my garden bring me great joy. I don't exactly have the greenest of thumbs, I've likely killed more plants than I've nurtured through an entire life cycle, but I still try because I love it and truly, there is nothing that compares to walking outside in the morning and popping a cherry tomato into your mouth as you pick and choose which herbs and vegetables will be a part of your morning meal, or choosing which strawberries are the ripest for your clafoutis.
I also thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking (the process and end result, but not the cleanup!), and thought that it would be a great idea to start up a hub page dedicated to cooking and baking with things that grow in and around my home. I'll try to keep it interesting. Let's face it: you probably don't need another 'best ever marinara' recipe. So I'll try to show you the interesting side of my garden and kitchen. I love to experiment, and I'm really excited that you're along for the ride.
Since most of the recipes I found online which use lilac as an ingredient don't actually call for the flower itself, but lilac sugar, that is the very first thing I decided to make with it. I'll have to make a whole lot, and pick and dry a whole lot of lilac blossoms in a short period of time because they really don't last very long, and I'd like to take advantage of it while I can. So to start, I picked a bunch of lilac branches and brought them inside, sat my butt down in front of the TV and started picking. This is no quick task. After about an hour and a half, I'd only picked about 4 branches clean and had about a cup and a half of blossoms. I decided that was more than enough for my first 'test' batch, so I washed and strained them, then placed on a layer on some paper towels to dry overnight. The next morning, I split the pile in half, so I could test two different methods of making the lilac sugar. Almost all of the recipes for lilac sugar I found online were vague on how to use the blossoms, fresh or dry? So I decided to try both methods and see which one, if any, is better.
I ended up losing one half of the batch because I thought I'd speed up the drying process and stick half in the toaster oven to dry them further. It didn't work. They browned almost instantly and the smell was no longer pleasant. So I just used the fresh ones dried overnight and the result was underwhelming to say the least. The sugar absorbed liquid from the blossoms and smelled kinda weird.
However, I left the lid off for a couple of days and continued to shake, and the scent began to correct itself, as the sugar slowly dried. After two days, I ran it through a fine mesh strainer, not an easy task, I might add, but with the now brown flowers removed and the sugar drying out, I can smell the pleasant lilac fragrance coming through, and I can't wait to use this in my first recipe.
Take three. I picked a new batch of blossoms and this time removed as much of the green bits as possible, washed them, and placed on a tray lined with paper towels on top of the fridge to dry out for a few days. Aaaand... Success!
This can be used in recipes like cupcakes, frosting, and scones. I'll post recipes as I make them. You can also decorate some small mason jars with ribbon, fill with sugar and give as gifts. I thought of this as I was closing up the jars and will post pics when I make mine, as I am planning to give some as gifts this year for sure!
Unfortunately, I did not take any good pictures of my own lilac sugar (all the others are mine, and my dwarf lilac bush seems more pink than purple) before it was all dried out, so I found this one at honestcooking.com - click the link to go to their site - they have a recipe pretty much identical, but I think they used the blossoms fresh (I had better success with the dried ones). They do, however, have a link to a blueberry pie recipe which calls for lilac sugar which I will definitely try soon, so please do visit them.
Feel free to comment if you have any other great uses for lilac sugar or if you make yours differently.
Interested in foraging, cooking, baking, homesteading, or all things green? Follow me on Pinterest!
Originally published on July 31st, 2015 on UnusuallyDelicious.
Ever since I first started reading about edible weeds, I have to say that I am much more observant and careful when weeding my garden this year! Since the main garden patch has been allowed to go to weed as I re-engineer my garden this year (if you'd like to see my plan and progress, please visit my gardening blog Green-ishThumb) and pretty much all of my "crops" are in containers this year, let's just say that there is a tonne of weeds to pick! (*NOTE* Green-ishThumb will also eventually be moving here, so I'll update this link [hopefully] when that happens.)
I was out earlier this week trying to get a handle on the jungle out there when I spotted something that looked interesting. I don't recall seeing it before in my yard, so I didn't pull it and promptly got onto my Pinterest foraging board to try to identify whether this was one of the edible types. As luck would have it - it was! And yes, I checked, double checked, and then checked again to make sure there were no poisonous "look-alike" plants out there. If you're going to eat wild, especially if it's something you're unfamiliar with, always, always, triple check everything! Your safety and health is infinitely more important than trying out new things.
Medicinally, mallow can be used as an astringent, laxative, expellant, and anti-inflammatory. Here is a great site that gives you some idea of what the indigenous peoples such as the Cherokee, Iroquois, and Navajo used it for.
As for food, well, I can tell you that it tastes quite delicious sauteed (as I did for this recipe) with some onions and garlic. I did not try it raw (I probably should have), but according to all the sites I visited, it tastes good raw in a salad. Generally, you can use it in spinach's place in any type of dish.That is what gave me the idea for this take on spinach and feta burek. There's one more great site I'd like to mention, pennilessparenting.com, which is chock full of great information all about mallow, basics, photos, foraging, and some stuff to do with it.
You can also make actual marshmallows with them! The candy (or is it a confectionery?) was originally made from powdered mallow root, although it isn't any longer. Yet another way we've forsaken the mallow. Here is a site with a recipe using the root powder. I would like to actually plant some mallow next season and try to dry and grind the root myself. Mallow was on the list for my medicinal garden, but from what I've read it is not shade tolerant, so into the actual garden it will go!
I only had the one plant in the yard, sorry, I did not take a picture of it in situ. I pulled up the whole thing, did my best to shake any resident bugs off of it, and brought it inside for preparations to become a part of dinner. I did place the root in water, thinking maybe I can stick it back in the ground to see if it will regrow it's leaves. I also placed various types of stems, leaves, and other cuttings into a glass of water to see if I could get any of them to root. So far, one out of the three in the glass has keeled over and died. The other two are still okay. I will most likely let you know at a later time on Green-ish Thumb if I have any success with either method.
You may also be wondering what the heck 'burek' is. Well, its a Croatian dish that is basically butter, phyllo pastry, and a filling consisting of cheese, cheese and spinach, potatoes, ground meat or apples. You could put pretty much anything inside and it would be delicious, and you can eat it hot or cold, its just that good. Although you technically could put anything inside, the five fillings I mentioned are the ways that I grew up eating it. I don't have the patience to make my own phyllo pastry, so I do get the store bought ones that come in a box. You can find them in the freezer section in the general vicinity of the frozen bags of fruit. Traditionally, burek is rolled up, but I decided if I'm going to change it up, might as well change the shape also! If you'd like to see what a traditional burek recipe looks like, head over to likecroatia.com for a great traditional recipe.
Lastly, before we get to the recipe portion of our program, I'd like to give you a few pointers in regards to method. Firstly, please take the time to strain the cottage cheese. To do this, place cheese in some cheesecloth, which is in a strainer, and place it over a bowl for about 5 hours. This will allow all the excess moisture to drain out and you'll have a much drier cheese to work with. If you skip this step - I did because I saw the mallow too close to dinner time - you will not have as crisp a bottom as you should. Trust me, the crispiness of the pastry is part of the burek experience.You'll only see one egg in the picture... I made a mistake, again, rushing, and only added the one. You need that second egg, it makes a difference. Also, I used a glass dish with the interior measurements of 7-1/2 x 12" if that makes a difference to you.
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Yesterday I gave the lowdown on two drinks our family have incorporated into a healthier lifestyle, along with the recipe for lemon water and a promise that one for golden milk would soon follow.
I won't give you the whole why this is awesome for my family spiel again (you can read yesterday's post here), instead here are the benefits of golden milk, and my own personal recipe.
This is another drink that is causing a lot of buzz on the internet. South Asia has known about the powers of turmeric forever and we in North America are just catching on. Turmeric is the spice (or root) that gives golden milk it's rich colour and one of the components that make it so great for your body.
Google 'golden milk' and you'll get a plethora of hits, most giving you the standard recipe of: coconut milk, turmeric powder and honey. On it's own, this combination has some benefits, but with the addition of a few simple ingredients, you can pack so much more punch into your evening drink.
About 90% (if not more) of the recipes call for turmeric powder. It is a fantastic spice and can be used that way if you prefer or if you do not have access to fresh. I will always choose the fresh option, picking up a whole bag of the root whenever I find it, however I do have ground turmeric in my spice cabinet and will use it when fresh runs out. Same goes for the ginger, although it is really easy to find in most stores.
A note about the ingredients: feel free to use cow, goat, coconut, almond, soy, or whatever type of milk you prefer. We started out with coconut milk, but we moved to cow's milk, as I find that we get a richer, creamier drink. The black pepper is added in because with it your body is able to absorb an astonishing 2000% more of the available curcumin in turmeric. Shocking, I know, what that little tiny addition will do. If you read yesterday's post you'll already know this, but I'm saying it again just in case: it is really important to mix the honey in after the milk has cooled slightly. High temperatures will kill the beneficial bacteria in it. Also, try to use raw, unpasteurized whenever you can. The difference in benefits is astounding when you remove the pasteurization (high heat...) process. To see yesterday's chart regarding this topic, click here.
2 cups milk
sliver fresh ginger
1/2" chunk fresh turmeric
2 whole black peppercorns
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsps honey
1/4 tsp maca powder
1/2 cinnamon stick
(*note* I use a nutribullet for the first part. You can forgo the blending part and just chop smaller pieces and put everything together in your saucepan as is)
Add 1 cup milk to blender.
Add ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cayenne and maca. Blend for 30 seconds.
Place this along with remaining milk and cinnamon stick into a saucepan.
Allow to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about a half hour. Do not boil.
After a half hour, remove from heat and allow to cool about 10 minutes.
Strain into 2 cups and stir in 1 tsp honey each. Drink warm.
Why drink this? Once you read all these benefits, you're going to wonder "Why am I not drinking this?"
Yesterday we learned about the benefits of ginger and honey:
Ginger improves the absorption of essential nutrients, helps relieve gas, bloating & nausea, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Honey helps prevent cancer & heart disease, reduces ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders, has anti-bacterial & anti-fungal properties, reduces coughs & throat irritation, regulates blood sugar, gives you great skin and is a probiotic.
In addition to those benefits, in each cup of golden milk you'll get these boosts also:
Turmeric boasts anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, & analgesic properties, boosts immunity, is an anti-carcinogenic, helps maintain cholesterol levels, promotes digestive health, detoxifies livers, regulates metabolism, lowers triglycerides, helps give you beautiful skin, and can help with high blood pressure, and improve memory & brain function.
Maca is rich in vitamin B vitamins, C, & E. It provides calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous & amino acids. It can boost to your libido, balance your hormones & increase fertility. Can alleviate cramps, body pain, hot flashes, anxiety, mood swings, & depression. Energy levels may increase, along with an increase in mental energy & focus. It helps restore red blood cells, which aids anemia & cardiovascular diseases. May help clear up acne.
Cayenne has the ability to ease upset stomach, ulcers, sore throats, spasmodic and irritating coughs, and diarrhea.It's an anti-cold and flu agent, has anti-fungal properties, can help prevent migraines, anti-allergen, digestive aid, helps reduce atherosclerosis, detox support, joint-pain relief, anti-bacterial properties, boosts metabolism, help balance LDL cholesterol & triglycerides, & helps prevent tooth & gum disease.
Cinnamon helps with heart health, blood sugar regulation, better brain function, & improved motor function.
So I ask you again, why aren't you drinking this? Trust me, your body will thank you!
As I move my family towards a healthier home little by little, we've also started to drink 'concoctions' (as hubby calls them) in the morning and evening as a small step on that path. Currently we drink honey lemon water each morning and golden milk each evening and we've seen a few changes since this has become routine. Hubby has lost a few pounds (ten at last count, I believe) and I have had some success in that area also. To be more specific, at the beginning of this year I caught a particularly nasty bug - one that had me wishing I could just die - and over the course of the four days that I feared leaving my home without wearing an adult diaper (I know, TMI), I lost sixteen pounds. Crazy, right? Well, that's what happens when you're petrified of putting anything into your body (like food), but your body still feels the need to get rid of everything that is still in there. Usually after such an illness, I'll put it all back on (and then some because I'm so happy to be able to eat again) but that was not the case this time around. Four pounds returned, but here I am, a month later, and that is all I've put back on.
We're not eating any differently than before and definitely not getting more exercise (although we both know we should), so we're laying this good fortune at the doorstep of the honey lemon water we drink each weekday morning. Yes, I said weekday. On weekends we all wake up at different times (my teenager just in time for brunch, usually) and since you can't have coffee for an hour after the lemon water, it makes for a tricky situation. So we forgo our 'concoctions' on the weekends. We've been taking our honey lemon water since before Christmas last year.
The second one we drink each weeknight is golden milk. I found out about the health benefits of this drink and a pretty good recipe online and we've been drinking this for about a month. I've tweaked the standard recipe slightly and will give you my version tomorrow. There is one really glaring benefit we've found with this one, and I can only attribute it to the golden milk because we did not have this benefit while drinking only the lemon water, and it happens within days of starting it. We smell better. I know that seems a really odd thing to say, but you don't realize what a benefit it is until you live it. No one likes to talk about personal odor issues, most of us are embarrassed by it, and do our best to mask it. Hubby didn't have much of an issue to begin with, he is blessed to only have to wear deodorant on the stickiest of summer days. I am not so blessed, and my poor son got my genes in this respect. Since he hit puberty, it has been a major issue. People may think he doesn't bathe or wear deodorant, but he does and it still doesn't help. My body is so good to me that I have to put on deodorant the second I get out of the shower or I already smell. Not fun, and not good for a person's self-esteem. I am quite aware of the correlation between deodorant and breast cancer, but it came down to do I want to lose one or both boobs later in life or stink to high heaven now. I did think about it every time I applied deodorant. It sucked.
Here's the fantastic change: we don't stink anymore! I can (and do, lol) actually go an entire weekend without showering or putting on deodorant. I now know freedom, people. It is quite liberating.
So, enough about our family's bodily functions, weight loss and level of stinkiness. I wanted to share my two daily drinks, but there are quite a few new ones that I'd like to try out over the course of 2015 and I may do another post like this one with my happy results.
I'll start with this one because it's pretty much the most widely known drink with health benefits and also because its the one I start my day with.
There are many different variations of this one, and we started with the basic: Hot water with a half a lemon squeezed in. If you google this one, you'll find recipes galore. My suggestion is to start with water & lemon sweetened with some honey. Next, add some mint. Lastly, try out the recipe below.
**note** It is really important to add the honey AFTER the water has cooled slightly. Hot water will kill the beneficial bacteria.
**note** Due to the acidic nature of the lemon, do not drink coffee or brush your teeth for one hour after consuming.
2 cups water
1 lemon (organic if you can, otherwise, wash it with soap & water)
2 tsp honey (organic, raw, unpasteurized is best)
sliver fresh ginger
4 leaves fresh mint
Toss mint leaves into a saucepan and muddle slightly.
Slice lemon and add along with ginger.
Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Mix in honey, pour into glasses (use a strainer) and consume warm.
(Quick, simple recipe for busy mornings at the end of this post)
Why drink this? Seriously, this one glass packs a punch!
Lemons are known to replenish body salts, aid in the production of digestive fluids, maintain eye health, helps prevent wrinkles & acne, help balance calcium & oxygen levels in the liver, potassium levels nourish brain and nerve cells, help reduce pain and inflammation in joints, help prevent common cold and some infections & diseases by helping slow the growth & multiplication of bacteria, balance pH levels, flush out toxins, and is a great source of vitamin C, citric acid, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Ginger improves the absorption of essential nutrients, helps relieve gas, bloating & nausea, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Mint relieves indigestion, gas, morning sickness, menstrual cramps & pain, anti-bacterial & anti-inflammatory properties help fight oral infections, great for skin & clearing up acne, Helps prevent asthma & allergies, boosts immunity, fights stress & depression and helps fight cancer.
Honey helps prevent cancer & heart disease, reduces ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders, has anti-bacterial & anti-fungal properties, reduces coughs & throat irritation, regulates blood sugar, gives you great skin and is a probiotic. Whenever you can, go for raw, unpasteurized honey, there are way more benefits. If you can, find a local beekeeper and purchase your honey from them. You are supporting your community and you know what you're getting. Just so you know, honey technically cannot be called 'organic' in Ontario (I'm not sure about other provinces) because the bees are flying around and can ingest pollen from anywhere.
I have included a graphic I found online which gives you an idea why raw is better:
I highly recommend that you incorporate at least a basic version of this drink into your morning routine. I know it's not easy - we're all so busy and time is at a premium - but it's such a simple way to do something good for your body.
Some mornings are busier than others, and a way to make this quickly (which I do some mornings) is this:
Boil water in your kettle. Pour water into each glass & add juice of one half lemon. Add enough cold water to cool slightly. Mix in 1 tsp honey. This method is per glass.
Here you have the basics: honey & lemon, and it's quick. Don't give up your health to save ten minutes!
Come back tomorrow for my Golden Milk recipe!
What a lovely little treat!
Everytime I open my cupboard, there's a can of pumpkin staring me, crying out to become something other than a can of pureed pumpkin. I start stocking up on canned pumpkin as soon as they start going on sale around Thanksgiving in anticipation of all the pumpkin flavored goodies I'm going to bake, and I inevitably end up with a can or two left over after the season is over. This is one such can, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it.
I am not a huge fan of pumpkin pie, but I can stand it in low doses. I have previously posted my Pumpkin Cheesecake Rounds (click for recipe), which pairs two things I really don't care for into something I can enjoy, but this is almost straight-up pumpkin pie, so I re-worked it just a smidge and used a few pantry items that were kinda' crying out to be used to make something yummy. They're not at all sweet, so if you have a major sweet tooth, I suggest upping the sugar, but pumpkin pie isn't supposed to be super-sweet anyway.
This recipe will make 8 little guys, perfect for a little treat after dinner, or you can use 6 ramekins and make them a little thicker.
Let us begin: (scroll to the end for the full list of ingredients and directions)
Mix all the crust ingredients together and gently and evenly (some of mine were a little more even than others) press down into the bottom of your ramekins.
Bake these for about 5 minutes to set them. Meanwhile, make the filling.
Combine the filling ingredients (add another tsp or two of sugar if you like). Remove the crusts from the oven and spoon filling on top.
With 8 ramekins, you'll use about 2 rounded tablespoons each. Add just enough water to the baking sheet to just cover the bottoms. This helps them not to dry out while baking.
When they're done, remove them and cool on your counter for about 10 minutes. Then, move them to the fridge. They're cool and ready in about a half hour!
Now you can eat them naked (your own clothes are also optional, I suppose), or you can top them with whipped cream or anything else you enjoy. I used whatever I found in my kitchen and they taste yummy!
First layer: Laura Secord Chocolate Hazelnut Spread.
Second layer: Freshly whipped cream.
Finally: Sprinkled with mixture of chopped hazelnuts and crushed hazelnut wafers.
For the Crust:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup coconut flour
For the Filling:
1/2 brick cream cheese, softened
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
For the Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp icing sugar
So I guess my self-imposed social media exile wasn't quite as over as I thought a month ago! Truth is, the winter brings me down, it's usually dark and dreary and cold and snowy and slushy and cold. I just really do not appreciate this season. But, I have things to post so I thought I would start with this little gem - my breakfast this morning.
It was freshly baked this morning because I really wanted to bake it last night for dessert, but I was busy all day and started it a little too late. I saw a really delicious looking lemon pull apart cake on Pinterest, but I knew I wanted to incorporate some of the frozen wild blueberries I had leftover from another baking session. And maybe make it a little less complicated, you know, simplify my life.
So last night I made and rolled the loaf and put it in the pan, covered it with plastic and let it slow rise in the fridge overnight. This morning I set my alarm a half hour earlier, got up and popped it into the oven. A half hour later, voila! delicious breakfast!
Without further ado, here is the recipe, which is adapted from Janette's Lemon Scented Pull-Apart Loaf on thewhimsicalcupcake.wordpress.com, I used a lot of her ideas to come up with this easier version.
For the dough:
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup 1% milk
2 oz unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
3 rounded tbsp defrosted wild blueberries, with juice
For the lemon filling:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
grated lemon zest of 3 lemons
2 oz unsalted butter, melted
For the icing:
1/2 brick cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp whipping cream
juice of 1 lemon
1. In a mixer bowl, stir together the sugar, yeast, salt & 2 cups of the flour. In a small saucepan, heat the cream, milk & butter over low heat just until melted. Remove from the heat, add water, and set aside about 1 minute to cool slightly. Add the vanilla extract.
2. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add blueberries & juice and 2 more tbsp flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
3. Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tbsp flour and center the dough on the flour. Knead gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tbsp flour only if necessary to lessen the stickiness. If you add too much flour, just add a little more blueberry juice to soften it slightly. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover the bowl with a damp tea towel, and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. While the dough is rising, make the filling.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar and the zest. Set aside.
5. If you're baking this immediately, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 deg. Lightly butter or spray (I used Pam Coconut Oil spray) a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.
6. Gently deflate the dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a long rectangle. Evenly spread filling, going all the way to one end and leaving about an inch and a half on the other (for rolling purposes).
7. Roll up the dough, starting from the end where you got the filling all the way to the edge. Place in your pan, seam-side down. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled in size, 30 to 50 minutes. If you're going to make this tomorrow, at this point, cover the the pan tightly with plastic rack and place in the fridge overnight.
8. If you're doing this the next day, preheat oven to 350 deg, remove loaf from the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and allow to come to room temperature before continuing. Bake the coffee cake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Make the tangy cream cheese icing
9. In a medium bowl, vigorously mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk and lemon juice until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
10. Slip a sheet of waxed paper under a cooling rack to catch any drips from the icing and remove loaf from pan to rack. Coat the top of the warm cake with the icing to glaze it, add more blueberries if you have them.
Yesterday I Instagramed this absolutely amazing sandwich I made for dinner & promised the recipe today. It's called a Muffaletta and I first saw it on (where else?) Pinterest. I thought it looked so good and decided to give it a whirl. I was going to add herbs, garlic and olive oil to my peasant bread, but decided to bake actual focaccia instead.
Before I regale you with my tale of Muffaletta, here for your perusal is the link to the focaccia recipe (which I did not change at all, it was so easy & yummy) and the muffaletta recipe (which I changed only slightly).
This sandwich is super hardy and makes a great dinner, would impress when brought to a pot-luck, delight on a picnic (something that won't happen in this country for a few months) or hey, Superbowl isn't too far off!
This took a looooong time to make. Mainly because I baked my own bread and that took two hours, but also because I totally forgot about the whole refrigerating and resting times need for the sandwich. All told, it took me about four hours start to finish. You can cut it down by following the steps outlined below. If you are using store-bought bread, totally ignore this and start with the actual sandwich recipe. Please note that I used dried herbs because I was out of fresh. If you happen to have them, use 2 tbsp chopped fresh.
1 loaf focaccia
150g hot Genoa salami
1 pkg sliced mozzarella
1 pkg sliced provolone
1 cup chopped green olives (with pimiento)
1 cup chopped black olives
1/2 cup chopped marinated artichoke hearts
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
4 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fennel
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
Place all the spread ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Put them in the fridge to marinate for about an hour.
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