Archive for the ‘Cook’ Category

This week’s focus is Holiday Main Dishes. As you may have gathered if you’ve spent any time reading my blog, I was domestically challenged when we got married. I am slowly learning but for the first couple years of our marriage, my husband did all of the cooking. It has only been in the last year that I am slowly taking over during the week. My husband loves to cook so weekends are still his to create his culinary masterpieces. Why am I telling you this? Because I don’t really have any holiday mains to share unless it encompasses holiday sides as I have yet to cook a holiday main dish. My chef husband always does it and I sous-chef.

The ultimate holiday dish for me (being the veggie lover that I am) is Roasted Brussel Sprouts. Growing up we always ate steamed brussel sprouts at every holiday meal but rarely in between. After watching a cooking show about a year ago, we stepped it up. While I always have loved them – they take on a whole new taste like this! The ultimate brussel sprouts are as follows:

Steamed, then Pan-Fried
Cut your sprouts in half and steam until almost done. While they are steaming, fry up some shallot (or onion) and a little bacon in a pan. When your sprouts are almost done, toss them into the pan with the bacon and let them crisp up. Mmm.

Half them, spread them cut side down on the baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper and roast for 35+/- minutes. They will get crispy and yummy!

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Super Yummy Banana Bread
  • 5 Tbsp Salted Butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 Egg Whites
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups mashed banana
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cream (or milk, half and half, buttermilk or any combination thereof)
  • 1/4 chopped walnuts (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line bottom of mini-loaf pans with parchment paper and then grease the pan to ensure ease of removal.
  2. Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add white & brown sugar and beat well. Add egg, whites and vanilla. Beat well. Add mashed banana and beat on high. (a lot of beating huh? Hope you have a mixer!)
  3. In a separate bowl – combine flour, baking soda & baking powder. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with cream (or milk) ending with the flour. Add the nuts if desired
  4. Pour batter evenly into loaf pans and bake until browned and toothpick comes out clean. Approx 1 hour 10 min +/-.
  5. Cool approx 10 min. then remove from pan and cool completely on rack

Quick Breads often taste better the day after they are baked. As soon as it is cool, I wrap in in plastic wrap and leave it on the counter over night. The following day, we eat one (or two) and the rest go into the freezer! I wrap them in plastic wrap and then put them into a plastic bag to make sure they stay fresh!

I have a few staple recipes that I make in mini-loaf pans and freeze. I shared a Frugal Carrot Cake recipe in the past that freezes well too.

I always buy over-ripe bananas because they are usually marked down to a super low price. Last summer I bought over 20 lbs of reduced bananas for about $4.00. I peeled them all and mashed them all and froze them in 2 cup portions Now when I want to make banana bread, it is so easy.

When my husband makes his home-made ice cream, the recipes usually call for egg yolks. He leaves the whites in the fridge for me to use for baking. Last week mom told me that you could freeze egg whites. We are going to try and freeze them in ice cube trays so that I can easily use them in my baking. If if works you can bet I’ll share the details on a Frugal Friday post!

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My addition to this week’s Frugal Friday – STOCK!

Though making your own stock is old hat to some, it is also a daunting task to others. I’m here to tell those of you who are intimiated by the idea of making it yourself that it really is dead easy and comes in so handy!

Whenever you have any sort of meat bone-in, whether it be chicken, turkey or beef, save those bones. You can make a flavourful stock by roasting them and then putting them in a pot of water to simmer (not boil!) for a few hours. To make it taste even better, onion, carrot, celery, dried herbs, a tablespoon of tomato paste or a little salt & pepper all make a great additions but even the bones on their own will work just fine.

Now if you don’t have enough bones from one meal, I’ve always just bagged them, put them in the freezer and waited until you have a good amount. Simply thaw them, give them a quick roast in the oven (to maximize flavour) and put them in a pot. Cover the bones with water and add whatever else is handy. If you are a real frugaller (is that a word?), then you wouldn’t have anything needing to be used up in your fridge but alas, sometimes I have veggies in the fridge that are teetering on the brink. I toss them in the pot too. One day my husband came in while I was making stock and asked me why there was one lonely mushroom floating in the pot. I explained that I found it in the fridge and it was awfully sad-looking, so I decided to put it to good use 🙂
I freeze some of my stock in icecube trays for a nice gravy or those recipes that you need just a little. I also freeze it in two and four cup packages for bigger things like a quick soup or stew.
Using homemade stock is good for a number of reasons
  • Makes your dollar go further when buying meat on the bone
  • Is Easy
  • Healthier for you because you control the amount of salt etc.
  • Good way to use anything up that is going bad (make a veggie stock)
  • Recipes are more flavorful using stock rather than water
  • Have you checked out the price of stock at the store?!
Now maybe all you Frugal Mommas out there are already doing this but it was something I have only started doing in the past year. It was an exciting culinary milestone for me and my new-found frugalness!
Do you have a reason why home made stock is best? Or a tip about making stock? Leave a comment by clicking on the word ‘ #comments’ below.

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Pasta Pesto – Fast and Easy

Pasta Pesto is my “oh no what are we eating” dinner when the day has gotten away from me, or my fallback when we need to go grocery shopping and I have nothing else. It is also a good meal for Wednesday nights when we’re rushing to eat and get out the door to church!
  • Boil your pasta
  • add a TBSP (depending on how much you make) of Pesto* and stir.
  • it’s especially nice with a little grated cheese.
*I haven’t yet made our own pesto – I buy it in a jar but you hardly use any with the pasta. There are two types: tomato or olive oil, parsley, garlic, pine nuts etc. unopened it sits in the cupboard and once opened keeps for weeks/months in the fridge. Even my daughter (who is two) loves it.
I suppose I am cheating this week since it really isn’t a recipe but like I said, it is my fallback pasta which we eat a couple times a month! Have a good pesto recipe for me? I’d love to hear it!

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Some Good Reasons to Use Mini Loaf Pans for Desserts:

  • I get 6-10 Mini Loaf Desserts from a Recipe
  • I don’t know about your house but at mine, we can eat a pan of brownies or whatever just because I baked it and it is there. By doing small loaves, we eat one or two and the rest go into the freezer.
  • or I can send a loaf to my parents or grandparents who live in the neighborhood.
  • It seems to make my baking go further
  • They are the perfect size to thaw fast (for unexpected company or the church fellowship you forgot about) rather than racing to the store to buy prepackaged which would cost more.
  • You can thaw out a couple different loaves so you have a good selection to compile a lovely dessert platter (see photo)
  • They slice up frozen because they’re just the right size
  • They loaves are just cute!

I always used foil mini loaf pans from the dollar store and they worked well. However, at the suggestion of my good friend and Epicure Consultant, Carmen Locke, I bought the Epicure Silicone Mini Loaf Pans. She said they were great but she was wrong…they are awesome. They are easy to use, just the right size, no sticking issues while trying to get your baking out and of course they wash SO easily. If you want to purchase a set of these, they are affordable. Let me know and I will provide her contact information.

I have a couple recipes that are my favorites for using the mini loaf pan for. Over the next couple weeks I will share them with you. They are recipes that freeze well without changing texture too much and taste fresh when thawed. And of course they are absolutely delicious. They include Banana Bread, Frugal Carrot Cake, Orange Pound Cake and Brownies, just to name a few…so be sure to check back!

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We were at the store the other day and I saw a deal I couldn’t pass up. For some, maybe it wasn’t a great deal but to me it was! I purchased 10 pounds of carrots for $2.99. Now what to do with them?!?

We had some with our dinners all week but my dh isn’t that crazy about cooked carrots. I peeled a bunch and made carrot sticks ready for snacking but my two year old doesn’t seem that interested 😦

Now what?

Ina Garten (a.k.a. Barefoot Contessa”) has a fabulous recipe in her cookbook for carrot cake cupcakes. Here is my adapted version. It is SO good! DH loves it!!!

Yummy! Carrot Cake Mini Loaves
Makes 6-8 mini loaves

1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 1/3 cups of oil (olive, vegetable or whatever you have)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
18 oz grated carrots
1 1/4 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the bottom of your loaf pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray.
Beat the sugar, oil and eggs together in a bowl until light yellow. Add vanilla.
In another bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and then add the raisins, nuts and carrots.
Fill your mini loaf pan about 3/4 way full.
Bake for 10 minutes at 400 then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 35 +/- minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.

You can frost these with a basic cream cheese frosting but my husband prefers it plain. If you do not frost it, it’s a delicious and frugal loaf to make if you get a greal deal on carrots!

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I have discovered that I love aprons.
When I first got married my husband pointed out an apron in a kitchen store we were visiting. I think it was more of a joke since it said “Domestic Diva” and I certainly wasn’t domestic at all! I could hardly cook, had never ironed (successfully at least) and was lacking in so many areas. But the apron was pink and I like pink so we bought it.

Wearing an apron – I feel energized, motivated and domestic. It helps me to be a better keeper of my home, helps me to focus and reminds me to get things done! I also like to wear one since I can never find a dish towel to dry my hands in the kitchen and the pockets serve to carry tissue around to blow little noses. We’ve been married for almost 4 years and my apron collection has now increased as well as my knowledge of domestic things.

Some would view the word “apron” as a dismal word; a drudgery. To me, an apron is the symbol of a Beautiful Calling. Whether you stay at home or go out to work, as a wife and mother we are called to be keepers of the home. It is a God-given calling, a blessing and it can be a joy. It all depends on your attitude and how you view it. As silly as it sounds, wearing an apron helps me to keep the right attitude. Not all days 🙂 but most days.

A friend pointed me in the direction of a great store in Simcoe, ON called Ann’s Gifts & “Sew Much More”. It’s a fabulous place for great and fun aprons. She has made aprons for Chloe, Jaiden, my nephews and I. I would be happy to provide you with her contact information – just ask! Her her items are high quality and made with love and attention to detail! You won’t beleive her prices! It was Ann who passed this little saying on to me. I hope you enjoy it.

It has been said that it will be a long time before someone invents something that replaces the “old-time apron” that served so many purposes. I think they are right!

Grandma’s Apron

(author unknown)

When I used to visit Grandma. I was very much impressed,
by her all-purpose apron, and the power it possessed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The strings were tied and freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.
She used it for a basket, when she gathered up the eggs,
and flapped it as a weapon, when hens pecked her feet and legs.
She used it to carry kindling when she stoked the kitchen fire.
And to hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
She used it for a hot pad, to remove a steaming pan,
and when her brow was heated, she used it for a fan.
It dried our childish tears, when we’d scrape a knee and cry,
and made a hiding place when the little ones were shy.
Farm produce took in season, in the summer, spring and fall,
found its way into the kitchen from Grandma’s carry all.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I’m sure the apron she chose that day, was her Sunday best.

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