As Ostara fast approaches, falling on Thursday March 19th, I wanted to share some recipes, decorations, and ways to celebrate the Spring Equinox as the Wheel turns again.
DISCLAIMER: Many items profiled in this article are sold in my new shop at mysteriousdragonfyre.com. I recommend them because I use them regularly in my practice.
Deity & Decoration
Ostara is a wonderful time of year to ask blessings of and give offering to the Triple Goddess. In Dragonfyre Wicca, this is the time of year when the Queen of the Witches features prominently in our rites and rituals, and we set our altar with items sacred to Hecate. No matter which Deity you prefer to work with, it is easy to use our setup as a guide.
As you can see in the picture above, we have the main items set in the shape of a pentagram, with a framed print of the Triple Goddess representing Spirit, a beautiful chalice that belonged to my grandmother filled with spring water representing the Water Element, a patchouli-scented candle resting in a glittery holder represents Fire, Earth is represented with a soapstone trinket box containing pink salt*, and finally, a black brass incense burner contains purple sand, a charcoal disc, and some dried lavender, ready to burn during prayer. For an offering bowl, we used a tiny selenite bowl and filled it with apple chips that just came out of the oven.
This is the basic setup, which features items sacred to Hecate. Since it is Ostara, we like to add a few extra decorations which represent the Sabbat:
We’ve included a picture of our decorated altar, where we’ve added some yellow flowers and a potted shamrock, an egg (dyed using turmeric, see below) in a 'nest' of fresh thyme, and some rose quartz. Feel free to add any of the above, or mix it up a little with a floral wreath made from springtime wildflowers, which you can wear during ritual, then place around your statue or picture, statues of small springtime animals such as bunnies or lambs, and herbs and stones of the season such as lemon balm, sunflower seeds, rosehips, vervain, clear quartz, agates, lapis lazuli, and amazonite.
Traditional & Modern Ways to Celebrate
Ostara is all about springtime and the celebration of new life, and so at this time, it is a good idea to perform spells for prosperity, growth, and agriculture.
In the days leading up to Ostara, dyeing hard boiled eggs is an ancient tradition that survives to the present day among Wiccans, Christians, and many others. Highlight your wishes for the new season by decorating them with symbols of the season, and then consecrate them in the name of the Goddess of Spring and the God of the Sun.
Runes are perfect to decorate your eggs with.
Pictured above: Berkano - beginnings | Fehu - wealth | Sowilo - good fortune | Wunjo - joy.
Photo Credit: Peter Lomas via Pixabay
Dyeing eggs from natural foods you may already have in your home is incredibly easy. Here are the basics:
Bring 4 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to a boil. Add colouring ingredient, lower heat, and simmer for a half hour. When the 30 minutes are up, remove pot from heat and let cool completely and strain to remove foodstuffs. Now, you can add your eggs, and once they reach the shade you like, remove them (with tongs!), dry them with a paper towel, and enjoy!
4 cups chopped beets will make pink eggs, 4 cups of onion skins orange, 3 tablespoons ground turmeric yellow, 3 cups of chopped red cabbage light blue, and 4 cups of blueberries dark blue.
I found this recipe and the colour combinations at goodhousekeeping.com, click on the link to be taken to their page with full instructions.
You can also create magickal amulets and talismans for fertility, protection, and prosperity. wisewitches&witchcraft.com has a great article with step by step instructions how to make portable magickal items.
On Ostara Eve, place some patchouli incense in a hanging censer (or any incense burner you can carry without dropping or burning yourself) and light a lavender candle (also in a receptacle that enables you to safely carry it). Carry both throughout your home, briefly visiting each room, and bid farewell to Winter and welcome the Spring.
Once your celebrations are done, take your crushed eggshells and toss them into your garden as an offering to the Fae Folk and as fertilizer for the new plants that will soon begin to poke their heads through the soil.
Delicious Things to Eat
Traditional foods to enjoy and share with friends and family during Ostara include: biscuits, cheese, eggs, fish, ham, honey cakes, lamb, nuts, seeds, and sprouts. Here are a few of our favorite recipes for you to try out:
6 eggs [hard boiled, cooled, and peeled]
1 shallot, finely diced
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Smoky (sweet) or Hungarian (hot) paprika
*Slice eggs lengthwise and remove yolks with a small spoon, being careful not to damage the white. Place whites on a plate and yolks in a small bowl.
*Add all remaining ingredients except paprika and mash and stir together with a fork.
*Spoon (or pipe) mixture back into holes left by the yolks, and top each with a pinch of paprika.
(I found this wonderful recipe for Medieval Honey Cake online! I bake them in ramekins so they’re smaller, and bake for only about 30 minutes. Source: poppyandprune.com)
3 cups cake flour
1 cup honey
½ cup oil
½ cup milk
*Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottom of a 9” round cake pan with parchment paper and oil the interior.
*Mix together flour and honey. When reasonably combined, mix in oil. Then add the milk. When thoroughly mixed, the batter should have a consistency not unlike that of Play-Doh.
*Spread the batter into the pan, smoothing with a spatula. Bake 35-40 minutes. This cake is best served warm.
Ham & Spinach Quiche
1 store bought pie crust
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 cup chopped cooked ham
Salt and pepper
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups shredded cheese (a blend of cheddar, mozzarella, and monterey jack)
*Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
*Place pie crust in pan, flattening it into the sides and trimming any excess. Place in fridge while preparing filling.
*Crack eggs into a large bowl, and add heavy cream. Beat until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then stir in cheeses. Add ham and spinach and stir the entire mixture until well combined.
*Pour mixture into pie crust, using a spoon to ensure that it spreads about evenly. Carefully place quiche in oven, and bake for 35 minutes, or until texture is “jiggly” but solid.
*Remove from oven and let sit for three to four minutes, then cut and serve immediately.
Thank you for spending some of your time with me.
I wish you a blessed Ostara!
Last week I started a new series where I will order different goods and services from Groupon and let you know how the order process goes and how good the actual items/services are. My first order was a 51% discount on my first order from GoodFood, a recurring subscription for a meal prep kit delivered weekly. (You can read the initial post here.)
I signed up for the family box, which consists of four meals that each feed four people and will cost me $140 per week. Each meal will have all the ingredients, washed, measured, and properly portioned, along with a recipe card. The price is surprisingly fair - it's about $35 a meal. Yes, I can absolutely make dinner for less than that, BUT I will have to figure out what I'm making, go to the grocery store to pick everything up, then wash and measure it all prior to cooking. There's also waste to consider. We're pretty good about using up what's in the fridge, but that has only been a recent change in this household. As recent as six months ago I was throwing out a whole lot of spoiling food every week. Even with the recent change in habit where I try to use up everything fresh we buy, I still end up with a decent amount of scraps and odds and ends that I have to throw out because we just can't go through it quick enough. Especially if I need a quarter cup of heavy cream and I have to buy a carton of it. Since things like cream, spices, vinegar, etc., are sent in the exact portion I will need for the recipe, I don't have to throw it out, or have it sit in my cupboard until I'm sure it's no longer any good.
Since I am an exceptionally curious person, I wanted to know how the options and pricing available to me through GoodFood compared to other companies offering a comparable service. Mind you, I did some preliminary research before I even signed up because I need to know I'm getting the best bang for my buck, along with the best service on offer. So here are some companies (that deliver to my area), and how they compare:
GoodFood offers two family sized options, The Classic which can be ordered for 2 or 4 servings and offers "unique ingredients... for a culinary adventure" or The Family, which has family friendly fare which can be prepared a little faster. The Classic will run you $150 per week, at a cost of $37.50 per meal and The Family is $140 per week, which is $35 per meal. I would love to try out The Classic, but I have a very picky eater, and little time for cooking most nights during the week, so The Family it is.
Also, of note, I found the GoodFood website very easy to navigate, and quickly found all the information I was looking for. The same cannot be said of 3 out of 4 of the 'competition' - Chefsplate wanted my email address right away, Fresh City was not user friendly, and Prepd looked like an eleven year old used a free website builder. Only the HelloFresh website was as easy and informative as GoodFood.
My first box arrived on Tuesday February 28th. I received an email the day before letting me know what to expect in my box and that it would arrive at some point before 8:00pm. Since their box is lined and contains ice packs, you do not need to worry about being home when it arrives. Our box arrived at some point between 4:00 and 6:00. I say at some point because although there were two cars in our driveway, no one rang the doorbell or knocked on the door to let us know we had a delivery. I found that a little odd. If I hadn't happened to look out the front door around 6:15, I wouldn't have known it was there. I probably would have only gone out to look around 8:00, wondering where my food was.
That aside, I was excited to bring in my box and check out the contents:
There was a whole lot of goodness packed into that box, it was difficult to get it all into one shot. Just a quick glance assuaged my fears of portion sizes, this looked like a decent amount of food.
First up, Shrimp Al Ajillo with Patatas Bravas. From my research I have learned that all of the aforementioned meal kit deliveries come with recipe cards. As you can see from the photo above, GoodFood sent me beautiful, full page recipe cards that were exceptionally easy to follow and will definitely find their way into a binder with two sections: "Make Again" and "Nope". GoodFood also has a link to each recipe on their website, so if you spill something on your card, or if the dog chews it up, you're good. Shrimp Al Ajillo will make it into the Make Again section. I hate green beans. Hate them. I haven't touched a green bean in over twenty years. These green beans were so good I actually wanted more! The shrimp were also good, but the real star of this meal were the potatoes. Simply roasted, but with the addition of the smoked paprika mayo - a delicious surprise.
The recipe card states 35 minutes for prep time, but it took me just under an hour from start to plate. Maybe I'm just slow at cutting the ends off of the beans or pulling the tails off of the shrimp.
Day two was Chana Masala. Hubby really enjoyed this dish, but the rest of us weren't too keen. Since it's an East Asian dish, I expected really bold flavors, but I found it really bland. I don't care for chickpeas or kale, so I was hoping the spices would make it worthwhile. The spiced naan was quite delicious, even if there was too much vinegar on the salad. My older son only ate about half of his meal (that has probably only happened a handful of times in his 18 years on this planet), and I had to make the younger one a peanut butter sandwich because he took one bite and said nope.
The recipe card states 40 minutes for prep time, and that time was pretty much bang on.
Day Three was Pork Chops with Onion Gravy and Parmesan Broccoli. I was the least excited about this meal because we eat pork chops all the time. However, this meal was even more enjoyable than the shrimp meal. The parmesan on the broccoli was a nice, sharp contrast to the sweetness of the gravy on the chops and barley. Definitely keeping this recipe!
The recipe card states 40 minutes for prep time, but once again I took almost an hour. There were a lot of components to this recipe, and a lot you had to pay attention to. It was worth it, though.
And we come to Day Four: Loaded Ground Beef Nachos with Fresh Salsa. My kids were looking forward to this one all week. Unfortunately, with all the stuff on it, my picky youngster would only try one chip. That was okay with the rest of us, because we really enjoyed dinner. Even with all of the fine chopping, this meal was on the table in an hour (The card said 40 minutes). It seemed like every meal this week featured an ingredient I am not fond of, so I give a whole lot of credit to GoodFood for designing meals that made me enjoy these foods! Today's ingredient was the radishes. Truthfully, I almost didn't use them. I am really glad I stuck to the recipe because they were a delicious addition to the nachos, along with the red pepper ketchup. There was a lot going on with this nachos, and yet every flavor shone through and it was a harmony for my taste buds.
I work nights. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but lately I just can't find the energy to plan my meals, do my grocery shopping, then actually get into the kitchen and get it all together. Yes, it's the nights, but it's also the fibro, and the long, cold winter. By mid January I was already done with it. GoodFood has been an absolute lifesaver this week. Our family ate delicious, fresh, home cooked meals and I didn't have to put too much effort into it. I was able to wake up on my worst day, pull my ingredient bag out of the fridge, and be sitting down to a simple, yet wonderful, meal in less than an hour.
I am extremely happy that I signed up for this service. The ingredients are fresh, perfectly portioned and pre-washed. The recipes are relatively simple but full of flavor. The price is very fair, and the portion sizes are perfect - no one is going hungry in this house.
We put our meals in order of preference and here it is:
ME: 1- Shrimp 2- Nachos 3- Pork Chops 4- Chana Masala
HUBBY: 1- Shrimp 2- Pork Chops 3- Nachos 4- Chana Masala
18 YO: 1- Pork Chops 2- Nachos 3- Shrimp 4- Chana Masala
13 YO: 1- Shrimp 2-Pork Chops 3- Nachos 4- Chana Masala
All opinions expressed in this blog are my own, unbiased after testing the product. The product was fully paid for by myself. The subject of this blog entry has no expectation of a review, favorable or otherwise.
Over the last few months I have been diligently working to get the recipes I either moved over or posted to UnusuallyDelicious onto sonjarants. I'm finally done, and that blog is no more.
If you'd like a little refresher, here are those recipes for you to enjoy again:
Originally posted on July 1st, 2015 on Unusually Delicious.
I know, I know. Every other recipe on the internet is "the most amazing", "the best ever", or something to that effect. What makes these so amazing is not just the taste (which is pretty darn good), but also that they're really really versatile. The first time I made them I served them in pitas cut in half (better than the wrap, actually), and this time around I made them into wraps. You can also do the classic burger bun or even as a 'meatloaf' with mashed potatoes - you cannot go wrong with this beauty.
Anyone who had read any of my recipes knows that 'quick and easy' is not my style when cooking. Usually because that means opening packages, cans, and boxes, and that is definitely not my thing. Real food takes time. Chopping especially, and there's a whole lot of chopping going on here.
There are three parts to this recipe: the sauce, the topping, and the actual patty. Make the sauce first and stick it in the fridge while you do the rest. It will give the flavors a little while to meld together. As always, I recommend using premium sour cream - it's thick and just more delicious than the regular kind.
These are fantastic for a Sunday supper or your family BBQ - trust me, your family and friends will love them. I always gauge a recipe by whether my little guy will eat it. I did make a batch without the peppers for him this time around, but he did eat them with last time, he just wasn't too crazy about it.
The recipe below makes a LOT of patties, about 16 really large ones or 25-30 medium or smallish ones. I do this on purpose whenever I'm making something that can keep. That way we have leftovers for the next day. You can always freeze half of the meat also - just load on the toppings or halve the recipe for them.
First we start with the sauce:
Then make and cook the patties:
While the patties are in the oven (I did it in two batches - the second batch was baking while we were having our lunch), make the topping:
And there you have it, a very versatile chicken recipe. Go all out and make all three parts the first time - trust me, it's fantastic. After that, just hang on to the patty recipe, it's so versatile and can definitely hold it's own without the sauce and toppings.
I do have to give props to thecafesucrefarine.com, as that is the recipe I adapted for the one that you see above. It looked delicious (their pictures are phenomenal - thanks for nothing iPad) and definitely delivers on taste.
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.
Interested in foraging, cooking, baking, homesteading, or all things green? Follow me on Pinterest!
Since I am bringing a lot of posts over from my other two sites, I would appreciate it if you could let me know via comments or contact page if any of my links are incorrect or broken so I can fix them. Thanks!
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!
Hi! I'm Sonja and I'm glad you're here! I'm happy to share some recipes and gardening tips with you while I let you know about great (or not so great) products, services, and media I encounter.
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