Food, Lunch/Simple Meal

Nourishing Lentil Stew with Daikon and Sweet Potato

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Today for the second time in 3 days, the weather has chosen to deviate from acceptable “spring” conditions to an unacceptable wintry mix of horror.

It has been snowing.

Monday-snow.

Tuesday-rain (and lots of it) ☔ ☔ ☔

Wednesday-snow. Coupled windy-like blustery weather reminiscent of a hurricane.

What??

Quit it winter. Goooo away. Seriously.

 

So I decided that if the weather is going to be wacky and un-spring-like, I was going to make a dish of food that was reflective of that.

I made a lentil stew using a bunch of veggies, some of them spring veggies.

Take that, winter weather.

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I began by thawing and heating some chicken bone broth in my dutch oven. Then I cooked up some lentils.

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Next was more chicken broth and a plethora of vegetables. Onion, carrots, daikon, red radishes, beet and sweet potato. The only seasoning I used was thyme and salt. Keepin’ it simple is my jam 😝😎😋

I just added what I had and went a little bit out of my comfort zone with the flavor. But it turned out well.

For this recipe, I cut the carrots, sweet potato, and beet into smaller pieces so they would cook faster. The onions, daikon and radishes will not need as long to cook, so you could add them in last if you want a chunkier stew.

And don’t feel like you have to use any veggies you don’t like or have. Make it fun, make it you. 😋

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Nourishing Lentil Stew with Daikon and Sweet Potato

Serves: 4-6

Cook time: about 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups/46oz/1,680mL homemade chicken bone broth, divided.*
  • 3/4 cup/113g lentils
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 small piece daikon, peeled and thinly sliced.
  • 2 red radishes, thinly sliced.
  • a few slices of fresh beet, sliced.
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt

*I used a combination of chicken bone broth (4 cups/960mL) and chicken soup base+water (3 cups/720mL, I used Gia Russa brand).

 

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, add lentils to 4 cups/960mL of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prep the veggies. When the lentils are done, add in the 3 cups/720mL remaining chicken broth, veggies and seasonings.
  3. Cook on medium high heat, uncovered, until carrots, sweet potatoes and beets are done.

 

Cost:

I estimated that it cost me about $2.05 to make this pot of stew. That’s 51¢ per 4 (large) servings. If you divide it into 6 servings, that’s 34¢ per serving.

Cheap, filling, delicious and nutritious.

Enjoy!

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Uncategorized

Before You Shop…{12 ways to save on groceries}

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There was a time in our not-so-distant past when our family had a very limited grocery budget. Each and every penny was dear.

I knew, just knew there were resources out there to help me. I knew that I wasn’t the only one. So I dug through the internet, and all the cookbooks and e-books that I could get my hands on so I could find some frugal solutions to bolster my courage and expand my knowledge of the art that is grocery shopping.

And what was most important to me? I wanted to be as frugal, but as healthy with my choices as possible.

I wanted to pass on some of the things that I learned for anyone who is where I was. I still practice a lot of these things, though our grocery budget is slightly larger than it was in previous years.

Plan

1. These items are at the core of any frugal meal.

  • beans
  • rice
  • canned tomatoes of all kinds
  • chicken
  • eggs
  • noodles
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • garlic
  • herbs & spices
  • frozen veggies

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2. Shop the sales and build meals from sale items. This goes hand and hand with meal planning.

3. Meal plan. I use this printable from Just a Girl and Her Blog. It’s got a newer design but it’s the same one I use. I write the sales items from local grocery stores on the back, as well as meal ideas. Then the names and dates of the meals go on the front of the shopping list.

I think of it as a game. I use a sale ingredient, good. I use it twice or even 3x or more, very good. See how many ways you can stretch the same ingredient. 

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Example: celery. I use it in chicken noodle soup, then I use it to make casserole spaghetti. I dice up the rest and freeze it for when I make chicken or beef bone broth.

4. How much do you need?

Believe it or not, when I was newly married I thought I had to follow a recipe exactly and I often made way too much food. Nowdays I will cut a recipe in half or even in fourths to suit my family.

I know about how much meat we will eat (1/2lb-slightly over 1lb, depending on recipe) and what size of pot, pan or baking dish I will need. When you know what everyone will eat, second helpings and all, you can plan better and save money.

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What Is In Season?

1. Fruits and vegetables that are often cheap and available (but not always locally in season) year-round:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • bell peppers
  • celery
  • sweet potatoes
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • apples

2. Here are some (typically) cheap, in season foods for October and November:

  • apples
  • pears
  • cranberries
  • grapes
  • kiwis
  • pomegranates
  • some citrus fruits
  • beets
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • eggplant
  • kale
  • mushrooms
  • pumpkins
  • rutabagas
  • spinach
  • squash
  • turnips

It is good to pay attention to The Clean 15 and The Dirty Dozen. But don’t get hung up on it. If you can afford organic, awesome! If not, remember you are still caring for your family by buying them good and fresh produce. Eat as well as you can afford and don’t worry about the rest.

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Shop

1. Shop the perimeter of the store.

It is typical for produce, meat and dairy products to be on the outskirts of the grocery store. This is a common tip, but still worth mentioning 🙂

2. Buy (selectively) in bulk. 

When you see something on sale that your family loves, buy as much as you can.

Example: when our favorite bread goes on sale for BOGO, (Buy One Get One free) we buy 4, sometimes 6 if our freezer space allows.

Staples of course are good to buy in bulk. My family is small and my children have tiny appetites so much of what we buy in bulk is shelf stable. Honestly lately I have not bought much in bulk.

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3. Buy and preserve favorite fresh foods.

When a fruit or veggie is in season and your family loves it, see if you can buy a very large amount and preserve it in a way that they would most enjoy.

Freezing, canning and drying are all options. This often works best if you buy as close to the source as you can. This way you can maximize your savings and get the freshest and best produce. I’ve done this with apples, plums and corn this year.

4. Know when to spend.

I know. That’s not frugal. Well no it’s not. But knowing when to spend and when to save can save your sanity, which in my opinion is priceless.

Know when to cut yourself some slack and buy convenience foods or non-sale pricier items. For me, when I was pregnant and when my daughter was a baby I let a lot of things slide. My tastes, cravings and energy all varied by day and my goal was simply to stay healthy and get out of the store as quickly as I could.

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At Home

1. Explore MYO.

I learned early on from reading frugal cook books that one of the easiest ways to save money is to make your own convenience food. That may sound backwards but let me explain.

By making your own mixes, snacks and baked goods you have created a special stash of healthy or at least home cooked food for your family. Is it convenient in the sense that it saves you time? Well, not always. But consider the amount of time you spend going to the store and shopping. Is it faster to make some cookies or to buy them?

I maintain a balance of store bought things vs. homemade. Sometimes I make my own, sometimes I buy it.

Generally I make all my own spice mixes…taco seasoning, chili powder, pumpkin spice, etc. I do make my own granola bars because it’s cheaper, healthier and fresher that way.

2. Reduce waste.

There is this awesome blog Don’t Waste the Crumbs that got me started on this. It is amazing the amount of food I waste. It is an almost continual process to brainstorm ways to save as much as I can and make sure it is all used.

Example: save vegetable scraps for bone broth.

~~~

 

And that’s a lot of what I’ve learned!

It takes practice, but it can be done. Being frugal can be a challenge, but it can also be fun if you look at it as a game 🙂

~Rachel


 

A few resources:

Grocery shopping list printable from A Girl and Her Blog

~

Complete Mix Recipe Index from Budget 101

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12 Simple Ways to Avoid Food Waste from Don’t Waste the Crumbs

canning, Food, Seasonal Food

Apple Season Always

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Apple season is upon us. I looove this time of year. Even if it has been uncharacteristically hot. I know that fall is on its way.

Today I wanted to talk about apples. About oh..2 weeks ago I brought home a bushel of apples to add to the peck I already had. I was planning on canning A LOT of applesauce and possibly doing some other things if I had any left.

This is what happened…First, the apples. I used 3 kinds.

Newton Pippin (I think)

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We picked these (With permission of course. Our neighbor was very kind and didn’t want them.) from our neighbors tree.

My friend and neighbor helped me pick apples and helped me during part of the canning process. We picked about a 1/2 bushel and 1 peck of them. Ended up not using the red ones because they didn’t have as much flavor as the green ones, which tasted like a combination of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples.

After a lot of research (I love a good mystery), I believe these are Newton Pippin apples. They have some sooty blotch (a fungus) on them but peeling or scrubbing them makes them a ok to use. I found this interesting I thought they were just naturally that way. At any rate, they are delicious. Very crisp, a bit tart but still on the sweet side too. You can learn more about them from the link above.

Melrose

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This is part of the 1/2 bushel of Melrose apples.

The awesome thing about Melrose apples is that they turn the applesauce a pinkish-peach hue, depending on how many you add. I found that making half or slightly more apples in each batch made the sauce a pretty peachish color.

Cortland

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And part of the 1/2 bushel of Cortland apples.

Cortland apples aren’t very exciting. They are quite similar to a Macintosh. Rather soft and cooks down easily. A nice white fleshed apple.

~~~

And now…preserving the apples! Here are 3 ways to keep it apple season, always.

You Can Can Them,

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We had to use 2 big pots to make a double batch that would fill 8 pint jars.
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Pressing the mixture through a collander to strain out the peels and cinnamon sticks.
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Made about 30 pints applesauce. About 24 pictured here.

I used all 3 types of apples in my applesauce, but mostly Cortland and Melrose.

I used the recipe from this book.

 

Or Freeze Them.

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Had a ton of apples left to make apple pie filling to freeze.

With the extra Pippin apples I made some apple pie filling. Not sure if the apples are suited for baking but I guess we will find out! I made an apple crisp a few days ago with them and it turned out ok. Took a bit longer for the apples to get tender but delicious none the less.

I used the recipe from this book.

Or Even Dry Them.

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More Pippins for dried apples. Used about 10 apples to make 2 batches.

The Pippin apples are wonderful dried! So good. I did not peel them because I didn’t know about the sooty blotch at that time. I think its fine. I mean, I haven’t died yet. That’s a good sign.

I sliced them thin and dipped them in lemon juice, shook off the extra liquid and filled up the dehydrator trays. I think I dried about 8-10 apples total and it made quite a bit. Cheaper than buying it in the store and so much tastier 😊 My daughter L agrees!

I dried them for about 10 hours each batch at 135°.

~~~

Cost:

Applesauce

I paid $16.75 for 30 pints of applesauce. That’s 56¢ per pint, 28¢ per cup and 3.5¢ per oz.

Apple Pie Filling

$1.43 for 5 1/2 quarts. (Remember the apples were free.) That’s 26¢ per quart. Hopefully I can just use 1 bag per pie crust but we shall see.

Dried Apples

It was about $1.22 for 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice that I used to dip the apples. (Again the Pippin apples were free.) We can get technical and calculate the money spent to run the dehydrator for 10 hours each time but I won’t go there atm.

I made enough to fill at least 3 quart bags. Not too sure on the exact amount.

~~~

So there’s the breakdown! Pretty inexpensive to preserve apples. It may take a bit of time and patience but it is so worth it 🙂

Doing anything interesting with apples lately? Any baked goods with apples that you love?

~Rachel


 

Resources:

http://www.applename.com

Fantastic website for finding the kind of apple you have if you or the owner do not know. Trees/orchards planted long ago may have not-so-common names.

http://www.pickyourown.org/info.htm

Great website that has multiple handy charts. Mostly helpful for canning and freezing. If you want to know how many pounds/bushels/pecks you need to make a certain number of jars of a specific size, or vice versa, this should be a helpful site for you.

canning, Food, Seasonal Food

Canning Homegrown Black Vernissage Tomatoes (Small Batch Without a Kitchen Scale)

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Lately I have been super enjoying canning. And while I’ve canned before, there is something about canning what you’ve grown yourself.

I’m bursting with pride (probably unflatteringly so) over my little 13×13 foot garden. It’s tiny, but it’s mine and I tend it with care.

I’m growing a variety of things but currently the tomatoes are the ones that are producing like crazy. Which is a relief because when I transplanted them this spring they were quite scraggly.

They are now a tomato jungle.

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See? Jungle.

Today I had over 30 tomatoes ripe and sitting on my counter. Hmm. Lately I have been canning the black ones. Those are plants # 1, 3, 5 and 6 in the above photo, starting from the left. Plant #2 is a Sungold (yellow cherry tomato) and plant #4 is a Goldie (huge yellow tomatoes I wrote about in my BLT post).

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Black V. tomatoes ripening on the vine.
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Size compared to a cherry tomato.
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Size compared to a medium sized tomato I got from a produce stand.
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The black tomatoes are fairly juicy and do not hold their shape well during cooking.
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33 tomatoes, washed and sorted.

I knew I was canning them and I had a recipe in mind. I’ve been using this book called Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More (by the editors from America’s Test Kitchen) from the library and I love it so much I want to buy it. But it’s nearly $20 😦 Maybe I can find a deal somewhere…

Anyways.

The recipe I wanted was for crushed tomatoes. But it called for 14 lbs of tomatoes to make 4 quarts canned and I knew I didn’t have that much. But with a bit of brain power I figured that if I cut down the ingredients to 1/4 of the recipe, it would be about right.

I had canned these tomatoes whole and I knew it would take about 14 to make 1 pint. Thus about 30 tomatoes to make 2 pints, or 1 quart. My other canning book said that it takes 2 1/2-3 1/2 lbs of tomatoes for 1 quart canned. So I figured I had about 3 lbs.

The only other ingredients were bottled lemon juice and salt. Easy.

And no, canning isn’t easy at first. I’m no veteran but I’ve been learning a lot from anyone willing to chat about canning. This is my first year canning tomatoes. Before I stuck to just fruit. (*Haha looking back on this post I realise that tomatoes are also fruit! 🙂 Applesauce, peaches, peach butter, blueberry butter. That’s about it 🙂

So I followed the directions to prepare for cooking the tomatoes.

Filling up pots with water, washing jars, prepping tomatoes, blanching and chopping them.

Now they were ready to cook and here is what the completed “sauce/crushed tomatoes” looked like⤵⤵⤵

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Ready to can! The burner under the water bath canner had been turned off already. So now…canning prep!

Prepped hot jars, sterilized lids, lemon juice and salt in jar, filled jars, left headspace, wiped rims and lids and made sure lids were properly loosened.

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Jar 1
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and jar 2.

Then the jars were carefully lowered and I placed the lid on and waited for the water to boil.

While I waited, I made lunch. Last nights leftover burrito filling…rice, black beans and seasoned ground beef mixed with the remaining 2/3 cup of crushed tomatoes. Yum.

The water boiled after a bit and judging by the directions I went with a 45-minute processing time. It was the correct time for my elevation for quart jars so I just went with it.

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Finished product!

I love listening for the jars to pop. I didn’t hear these ones pop but I will test them later. Both are indented and not raised, so that’s a good sign 🙂

Whew. All that work for 2 pint jars. But it’s still quite a bit of tomatoes. And I love preserving the fruits of my labor. I hope they taste good when I use them in a recipe later!

Do you can? I’d love to hear what you are preserving this year 🙂 Do you can by yourself or do you have help?

~Rachel

Food, Seasonal Food

Seasonal Fruit: Pomegranates

It’s that time of the year again. In my state, fall is starting to dwindle into a colder, duller time of the year. How dismal. To challenge myself, I’m going to try to blog about one fruit or vegetable that is in season during the winter months. Preferably one that I’m not as familiar with.

Honestly its so dark and dreary already in the winter and I feel like not a lot of things are in season during the winter time, so this should be a good challenge for me.

I shall begin by introducing a seasonal superfruit. This fruit is in season for a 2-3 month span, beginning as early as mid-August and potentially extending into December, depending on where you live. I just noticed them at my local grocery store about a month ago, yet they have just this week (11/5) gone on sale at Aldi. 69¢ a piece! That is an excellent price for our featured fruit.

About nutrition…the FAQs state state that this superfruit is so called because of the powerful antioxidants it contains. Better than red wine? I’ll take it! They are also high in potassium and vitamin C, to boot. Supposedly half of a this fruit has 25% of your daily vitamin C requirement and about 10% of your daily potassium. But it was the antioxidants that intrigued me.

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Pomegranates. Gorgeous pinky-mauve on the outside…
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And full of jewel-red “seeds” on the inside.

The seeds are actually referred to as arils…I thought it was a bit of a funny term myself. Wiki enlightened me. Basically an aril is a part of a fruit that encloses a seed. Wiki points out that nutmeg has an aril, called mace in the spice world.

(Yes, I used a red towel under my cutting board. I would recommend it, as the juice can stain fabric and other surfaces very easily.)

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The unique thing about a pomegranate is that the aril is really the only edible part of the fruit. The peel and pith are really too bitter to eat.

Or so I’ve heard. Didn’t personally want to give that one a go.

There are basically 2 options for eating a pomegranate: 1) eat the arils whole or 2) juice the pomegranate arils.

I tried eating them whole and did not particularly care for it. Wasn’t crazy about those crunchy seeds. But that was ok, because I happened to be borrowing a juicer from a family member. Besides using a juicer, I’ve heard that you can manually juice a pom using a juice press. A juice press is nice because all you do is cut the fruit in half, pull down a lever and ka-bam. Juice.

If you’re using a juicer though, you need to extract the seeds before putting them into the juicer. There is an easy method for this involving a bowl of water and a metal slotted spoon.

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Can I just say how much I love any recipe that allows me to vent my frustration through pounding? Does that sound odd? It was a great stress relief to de-seed these pomegranates. After pounding away for about 30 seconds, I peeled the fruit a bit to get the few remaining seeds out. This would be a good activity to do with your kids, too. It was really a lot of fun.

Then I scooped out the pith that was floating in the water and rinsed and sorted the arils.

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Aren’t they gorgeous? They look like little jewels. I measured 2 1/2 cups of them. Then I carefully poured them into the juicer. This is the one I used. It’s actually not too pricey. This isn’t a high end model though. I think if you’re a serious juicer a bigger investment would be in order. But I’m not serious. And my borrowed juicer suites me just fine.

source: Amazon

It looks like so. My kitchen counters were not so picturesque. But here the juicer is after I used it. Talk about an explosion of pink! It did an excellent job.

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Juice! This is from the 3 pomegranates that I bought from Aldi.

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Those 2 1/2 cups of arils made nearly 1 cup of juice! Total price=$2.07. I drink it in 1/3 cup servings, costing me 69¢ each.

And it was delicious. I would describe the taste as similar to grape, raspberry and cranberry juice, yet not really like either one. Pomegranate juice has its own thing going. What is your favorite seasonal superfood?

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~Rachel