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Develop Your Food Network

A great way to save money and add to your food choices is to develop a network of friends and acquaintances so you can pool your resources. A great example of this is my neighbor. He is an avid sports fisherman and has been fishing for salmon for the past few weeks. Right now, the silvers are in season and he has caught his limit several times. Unfortunately for him, (but not for us) his girlfriend doesn’t like fish and won’t eat or cook it. So he proposed a deal – he will split his catch with us if we cook him a salmon when we c002ook ours. What a great deal! I’ve got one salmon in the freezer and have cooked two – one for us and one for him.

Another friend of ours got a bunch of fresh herbs and a sack of green tomatoes from her daughter – she passed some of this bounty on to us. I used some of the fresh basil to bake with the salmon and hung a big bunch of parsley to dry.

Another neighbor gave us a some spaghetti squash and beets and some other vegg
ies. My husband doesn’t like the squash and I don’t like the beets. I passed them on to my vegetarian friend and she loved them!

My niece has a gorgeous garden this year and just sent us some tomatoes and cucumbers.

And so it goes on – just share the bounty and you will always have someone in your network to help.


Oven Baked Fish Formula

Your fish will always come out perfect with this formula! I have never seen it fail.

For fish 3 to 5 lbs. Do not use for smaller fish.

Clean fish, rub inside with salt and other herbs, etc. I like a little butter with lemon, basil, garlic, green onions or parsley or whatever else you have in hand. You can also use any sauce recipe you want.

Preheat very hot oven 550 degrees. Place fish on foil lined pan or sheet tray.

Bake fish 10 to 15 minutes

Reduce temperature to 425 degrees

And allow 10 minutes per pound for first 4 pounds plus 5 minutes per pound for each additional pound.

Example:

41/2 lb salmon

12 minutes in 550 degree oven

lower heat and 42 minutes in 425 degree oven.

Hot Weather, Hot Veggies, Hot Tips!

We’re having a heat wave! I don’t like the weather much, but I LOVE the produce! I live near a lot of farms and there are 3 produce stands within easy driving distance! So, now is the time to stock up!

One of my favorite publications is the local Farm Guide, which lists the farmers and farmers’ markets in the area. If you can, look for one – I’ve seen them in the library. If you like U-pick or “gleaning” the guide will really help and they are free. The guide also lists which farms and produce stands or farmers’ markets will accept SNAP cards. It also has a chart for what fruits and vegetables are ripe in each month.

I highly urge you to try gleaning. It is fun, take the kids, and you can REALLY save some bucks. It takes a little work (kid power) but you can get amazing produce for amazing prices. Gleaning is offered by most large farms – you are given free access to the fields and orchards AFTER they are picked. But there won’t be anything left, you say. Oh YES there is, pickers go through a field or orchard fast and pick the optimum fruit leaving the small and green behind. A few days later the gleaners go in and the produce has had the benefit of more sun and energy from the plant and it grows bigger and beautifully ripe. I especially like peaches, apples, tomatoes and melons. Right from the farms and orchards the flavors are amazing!

pickled vegiesHot Pickled Veggies

Select and chop various veggies into bite-sized pieces – you can use just about anything:

  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Zucchini
  • Green onions
  • Etc.

Blanch if necessary – this is for the harder vegies – carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

Add 6-8 cloves of garlic, whole, peeled

Add to taste:

Cilantro

Oregano

Red pepper flakes

Mix water and white vinegar 1:1 ratio (equal parts) heated to boiling

Add salt to taste, and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Pour hot liquid over veggies and seal jars. If you don’t want to can or don’t have the jars, they keep fine in plastic in the fridge – for about 4 to 6 months – but you’ll eat them before then!

Quirky, Quick Quinoa!

005I have discovered quinoa! Yes, yes I know everybody knows about it already, but I thought it was just another side dish option or weird health food. But recently I tried a recipe from Pinterest and found it works really well for me, and I started getting creative.

My diabetes doc wanted me to try 5 to 6 small meals a day instead of three large ones.That’s when the quinoa came in handy. I started making these Quinoa Bites and find they are great for snacks or quick breakfasts AND are a great way to use up leftovers in the fridge. Quinoa is cheap, too! Quick Tip for buying quinoa – get it in the bulk foods section – much less expensive and less packaging.

Quinoa Bites

1 1/2 cups water

3/4 cups quinoa – well rinsed

1 vegetable bouillon cube

cook the quinoa – simmer for about 20-30 minutes covered, low heat (or use a rice cooker – much easier) then let the cooked quinoa cool completely.

Add to quinoa:

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups cheese of your choice

And whatever else you have in the fridge that sounds good to you – make sure everything is cooked and cooled  before they are added. Here are some that I have used:

010cooked broccoli, onions, green peppers, jalapenos, corn, shrimp, pinto beans, black beans, olives, salsa, basil, bacon, taco meat, turkey, ham, pulled pork, hot sauce, steak, green onions, cream cheese, raisins, etc.

Stir these all together and tightly pack into a muffin tin. I found that because of the eggs, they leave the pan very messy and so I started using cupcake papers for easy cleanup.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely and then freeze in a gallon plastic zip bag. Pop in the microwave and these are great for breakfast or snacks – a perfect size and very healthy and filling.

If you are a Pacific Northwest gardener, you know about zucchini. They are incredibly prolific and our wet summers are the perfect breeding ground for these inexhaustible squash.

A friend of mine (beginner gardener) once came to my mother and very proudly announced that she had planted 10 zucchini plants! My mom almost fell off her chair laughing! Around here you only need one, maybe two plants for a family of four!

The first zucchini out of my garden this year.

The first zucchini out of my garden this year.

So now that they are here, what do we do with them?

Grilled and broiled, deep fry or boiled,
Pickled or puffed, baked and stuffed
Zucchinis are fun and
There are ALWAYS more to come!

Yes, well I’m a better cook than poet!

Here are a couple of my favorite ways to use zucchini.

Zucchini Bread
3 cups flour (you can use as much as 1 cup whole wheat)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups sugar
2 cups zucchini mush – about 4 medium (If you have a food processor, process the vegetables to mush first, then just add all the other ingredients – otherwise start grating)
2 large eggs or 4 small eggs
½ cup oil
1 cup of walnuts or raisins or whatever you want to get creative with
Divide into 2 greased loaf pans and bake in 350 degree oven for 55 minutes.

Aztec Pie
3-5 zucchini – chopped
3 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
1 lg. onion
1 lg. red bell pepper
2 jalapenos chopped and seeded
2-3 cloves garlic
Lightly salt and pepper

2 cups mozzarella or jack grated cheese
Tortilla chips (I like the white corn type)
sour cream

Stir fry veggies together until cooked, then drain. In large, deep casserole (lasagna pan) layer zucchini mix, tortilla chips (unflavored), then mozzarella or jack grated cheese, and dot with spoonfuls of sour cream, then repeat, ending with grated cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

This is one of my favorite casseroles – right up there with my sister’s lasagna! And the best part is you use up that zucchini that is trying to take over your garden – kinda like Godzilla!

I hate to cook in hot weather. So in the summer, I try to get very inventive to avoid turning on the stove. So oddly enough, one of my best tricks is to roast a turkey!

Turkey is actually a great meat bargain.  

I can get a whole bone-in turkey breast at Winco for $1.68 a pound and if I really think ahead, during the holidays you can get whole turkeys for around $.89 a pound. Put it in the freezer and save for a hot summer day!

Then on a Saturday night when I know I’m going to be staying up late, I season it well, nothing fancy, just salt and pepper or maybe a little seasoning mix of your choice, put it on a baking sheet and a 350 degree oven for a couple of hours – follow the directions on the package and use a meat thermometer.

It is important to roast the turkey at night because in my area at least it is much cooler at night. So, around 9 or 10 at night when everything has cooled down a bit, turn on the oven and roast your turkey! I just pop some popcorn and put on a movie and wait for the turkey to get done.

001

Slicing up the turkey breast. Don’t throw away the roasting juices!

When the turkey is done, I let it cool in the pan and slice it up in the morning. Then I have lots of no-cooking cool meals for hot weather. Here are some ideas:

Chef’s salad – my husband can put together an amazing giant dinner-size salad with lots of creative ingredients, or you can put together a quick lunch-size salad. Use lots of fresh veggies

Club sandwich – fry up a little bacon, add tomatoes, lettuce and some avocado and pile on the sliced turkey – YUM!

Turkey wraps, turkey burritos, turkey tacos and so on… of course turkey sandwiches are great to pack and can always fill empty bellies.

And don’t throw away the bones and roasting juices. Put those in your slow cooker with some water, seasonings and some mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion) and cook overnight and you have some great turkey soup, turkey and dumplings or even add a pie crust and you have turkey pot pie.

Two packages of sliced turkey breast, one small package of turkey bits, turkey bones and roasting juices for soup, etc.

Two packages of sliced turkey breast, one small package of turkey bits, turkey bones and roasting juices for soup, etc.

And don’t forget, if you think you will get tired of too much turkey, pack up the sliced turkey in smaller packages and freeze it. Then wait ‘til next Saturday night and roast some beef or a small suckling pig!

Incoming!!!

Well Summer is here and the produce has started showing up and it is time to do some chores to get ready for “incoming!” The one thing I keep meaning to do is inventory and clean out the freezer. I need to see what I’ve got, what I have to get rid of and what we need to eat up to make room.

I am a fairly well organized person, but I am really bad with the freezer and fridge. My husband shines in this area. He is insistent that we label everything and sort by type.

Sorting works especially well for the freezer and is the only way to go for a chest freezer (ours was $40 on CraigsList). So, sort by date or type or whatever sorting floats your boat. Just make sure that you can find it all again.

We usually sort by type – chicken, beef, pork, seafood, vegetables, fruit. I try to keep a particular area or shelf for each type. Cardboard boxes work for this fairly well, although I’m on the lookout for some kind of bins that will work and stack better than cardboard – see-thru would be nice, too.

Here is a pic of my garden and how far it has come – lots of cherry tomatoes and the zucchini is going wild. I also have tomatoes on my container tomato. The idea with this garden is that we are renters and don’t have a lot of money to spend on elaborate raised beds. We were also not sure how good we were going to be at this gardening thing… So I bought the bench at a garage sale for $10 and containers I found for $3. The rest we planted right in the bag of soil.
Like I said, INCOMING!

Just planted garden 5/30/14

Just planted garden 5/30/14

Garden 6/30/14

Garden 6/30/14

Waste Not, Want Not

My husband and I decided to “trim some fat” around our food budget and one of the ways we really saved some money was by eliminating a lot of waste. The statistics say that Americans waste more than 40 percent of the edible food we produce! That seems amazing to me, but after we decided on some guidelines, we found we were saving a lot of money, time and energy by just eating leftovers!!!

That’s right, eat your leftovers, don’t throw them away!!!

Yes, I was one of those people who saved my leftovers and then ended up cleaning out the various plastic containers after they started smelling bad and looking worse! I SAVED the leftovers, but never ATE them! Just threw them away…

The guidelines we started following were:
1) Whenever the fridge started getting crowded with various plastic containers, we would have a “fridge dinner” which meant eat whatever you want from the fridge – heated up in the microwave.

2) We would make a game of it – whoever cleaned out the most containers “won” and the loser had to wash dishes.

I can’t give any exact numbers, but instead of cooking dinner 5 to 7 nights a week, we would cook 2 to 4  nights and “fridge dine” the rest. I know we saved enough to go out a couple nights a month.

Image

This photo is an example of some creative “fridge dining”. The rice was leftover and heated up in the microwave. The meat in the stir-fry was some BBQ ribs sliced up and a last piece of raw cabbage and half an onion left over from making the coleslaw. The carrots were the last of some carrot sticks I made for lunches and I added the fresh snow peas. A little 5-spice and soy sauce and we cleaned it all up – no waste at all!

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