calzephyr: (cooking)
If you have been reading my LJ for some time, you know about my love affair with the slow cooker - but, as of Friday, it has competition! Pressure cookers are all the rage right now with one pressure cooker to rule them all - the Instant Pot. People are losing their minds over this thing and rightly so. I went middle of the road and bought a Tupperware Microwave Pressure Cooker from my friend who sells the stuff. It's purple and for the cost, I could safely find out if I was a pressure cooker type person.

The pressure cooker itself is pretty heavy and durable. I read the instruction manual carefully and it was super easy to use. There is a slight hitch - our upstairs microwave was too powerful. It can only be used in 900 watt or lower microwaves. Fortunately the pot just barely fit in our 900 watt downstairs microwave. Why do we have an upstairs and downstairs microwave? Let's say it's the easiest way to marital bliss when you want to nuke hot dogs at 3am ;-)

I picked a soupy stew called Caldo Tlalpeno because it looked simple and straightforward. I couldn't find a single bulk hot pepper in the produce aisle, so I substituted taco seasoning to give it kick. Basically first you nuke the chicken and then you nuke the vegetables. Instead of a whole chicken like the recipe called for, I bought some chicken breast stir fry strips. I nuked them for 15 minutes - I would maybe do 10 next time as the chicken was a little rubbery coming out. But no doubt about it - it was cooked through! I nuked the vegetables for 5 minutes as suggested in the recipe, but I would use 10 minutes next time as the onions and carrots were still crunchy. Still, very filling and I have lots for lunch tomorrow!

Chicken vegetable soup stew made in my new #tupperware microwave pressure cooker! Worked really well and fast :)
calzephyr: (oh noes!)
Speaking of my super hot muffins, here's a potluck entry that didn't go so well on local news.

My favourite YouTube comment is: "I admire that woman, she messed up a recipe but instead of throwing it away she decided to torture people with it."

LMAO! Awww!

calzephyr: (cooking)
No, my bird has not joined a biker gang :-D I had to toss 9 out of 12 muffins that I made on Monday for the craft club potluck on Tuesday. I was going to make my mildly spicy polenta muffins. The grocery store didn't have any of the big fat red chilies that the recipe required, so I bought a package of small, mixed hot peppers.

I only cut up four for the recipe (they were all lady finger sized) and as you can imagine...well...making substitutions is always tricky and sometimes ill-advised.

Fortunately I tried a muffin after it came out of the oven - hot!! Thinking that it was just one muffin that got most of the peppers, I tried another one - hot!! Thinking that some dip might cool down the taste, I had half of a third muffin and the inside of my ears burned!.

Dang, I don't know what kind of hot peppers these were, but I ended up getting up early on Tuesday to make a new batch, sans peppers. If you want to be friends with people, it's probably best not to melt their faces :-D

Cheap Eats

Nov. 7th, 2016 08:47 pm
calzephyr: (cooking)
Our new furnace/hot water tank/AC is almost paid off. It was installed back in April and it was not cheap. Fingers crossed it will all last until we're 60 and can get some senior discounts :-) With the end finally in sight, it was time to get organized again and find some hidden dollars. For too long life has been very seat of the pants and it was causing me some unhappiness.

For some time I have been taking oatmeal to work (because it's easier to eat breakfast at work than argue with my bird over oatmeal) and a big bag of plain oatmeal is pretty cheap! But I had to do better. I bought a giant Tupperware set from my friend that included five 2 oz containers, ten 1 cup containers, five round containers and five divided sandwich boxes, all in five fabulous rainbow colours! It's an organizational miracle.

Making snacks and breakfast for the week. I bought this fabulous #rainbow #Tupperware set from @nnoela and life is 20% cooler! #oatmeal #snacks #mealprep #organization #nobody #timesaver

So far I have started small with the 2 oz containers for cashews and the one cup ones for uncooked oatmeal. We went grocery shopping after making a meal plan on Sunday and I bought grapes, cheese and three different kinds of crackers to make my own SBUX style bistro boxes. I love them, but at $6 a pop I can slice my own darn cheese :-D
calzephyr: (birds)

Huzzah, another successful week of home cooking, this time with $92 of groceries. Sad but true, food in Canada is expensive and even more so if there's lots of meat.

Monday - Ground pork tacos, rice and salad
Tuesday - Smoked salmon, rice and vegetables
Wednesday - Shake and Bake chicken legs, broccoli and cake :)
Thursday - pork chops with homemade cream sauce, broccoli and spaghetti

I like smoked salmon because it's such an easy meal - just thaw and serve. It's a little rich though, so I probably won't buy it too often.

Our friends made pizza bagels for dinner on Sunday and I loved the idea. It looked easy and was really quite filling so it will definitely be on the menu next week. It's the good kind of cheap eats!

calzephyr: (cooking)

I felt like such a kitchen wizard this week because we managed to not eat out for four nights - even for lunch. The only things that were wasted was an onion that went South surprisingly fast and a quarter of an apple pie. That's a first for our household - I don't think there has ever been an instance of dessert going to waste!

It all started with $75 in groceries at Safeway on Saturday and two Crockpots going on Sunday. The comic expo took up so much mental energy that even thinking of something as simple as slicing up a cucumber was too much to think about. I was hustling down the street to the boutique grocery, Sunterra, for lunch and everything else.

But it was with some wonder when I sat down on Saturday morning with a cup of tea and my best bird friend by my side that I plotted a week's worth of eating. The mania that I used to feel at the prospect of cooking a month's worth of meals back in day has long subsided - a week at a time is fine.

Sunday - Roast beef dinner with potatoes and carrots
Monday - Japanese style beef curry with rice, potatoes and carrots
Tuesday - Beef chili with rice
Wednesday - Spaghetti and chicken fingers (or as SwiftKey thinks, children fingers)
Thursday Fish sticks and rice

The plan worked mostly well - my husband had to work late on Wednesday and the chili never got made, so things moved around a little, but it was all good. Cooking a whole bag of creamer potatoes in the Crockpot on Sunday made the curry so easy the next. Hubs was also not keen on the beef curry and I ended up eating most of it for lunch. I thought we had a proper brick of curry in the cupboard, but it turned out to be a bachelor chow kind of deal that you microwave and squeeze over rice. It wasn't hot or spicy enough for my other half.

Still, there was plenty of food to be satisfied with and beef left over for the freezer. I don't know what this week is going to hold, but it probably won't be so beefy :)

calzephyr: (Uh Oh)
The recent theme of vintage ads with recipes reminded me of the useful tome that is The Christian Home Cook Book, a vintage cookbook that I picked up from the Mennonite restaurant in Linden, Alberta. As I noted before, the recipes don't have pictures and after so many years, the recipes are merely suggestions. What's a family sized tea bag? How large is a large can? Where do I get young chickens?

Unfortunately I accidentally made myself lunch for the week with this failed recipe. It sounded good (click for larger):

I substituted frozen meatballs for the chicken, used a can of condensed chicken noodle soup instead of Lipton's and added a cup of sautéed celery and onion to fill it up. Unfortunately the casserole came out humble, if not bland to me. I should have also stopped at one cup of breadcrumbs as two turned it into a strange interplanetary landscape. My husband said that the spices in the meatballs overpowered everything. Some spaghetti sauce rescued it, but after two lunches in a row I don't think I can finish the pan. I hate to throw food out, but you know, sometimes you just have to.

Oh, one more little insult to injury - the casserole pan wasn't big enough and during cooking, a large dollop of soupy cream sauce escaped, making for a nice burning smell to go along with tonight's dinner. Sorry Mrs. Orval Johnson of Walnut Hill, Florida, I gave it a shot!

Cheap Eats

Oct. 28th, 2015 08:17 pm
calzephyr: (birds)

We have been doing so good for eating in lately - I was paid today and kind of surprised at the amount of money left in the bank at the end of the month. I wasn't quite feeling that way when I spent $105 on three bags of groceries at Safeway on Sunday though!

It's true that I bought some indulgences like a box of bakery cookies for work and some cherry strudels, but even a beef roast seemed indulgent at $24. Do you think this post going to be about Crockpots? Of course.

I really appreciate the Crockpot trio. The beef roast just barely fit in one crock, but I made a whole bunch of vegetables in the other. I get organic groceries delivered sometimes from Spud, and cooking the whole bag of carrots was a good idea again. I added in creamer potatoes and a couple of parsnips along with a handful of organic green beans.

This is the beauty of slow cookers - when you arrive home and put the key in the door, that warm hearty scent seems like it's just for you. The beef roast was excellent, it fell apart with the slightest touch of the fork.

I also bought a deli chicken and made butter chicken with a jar of sauce on Sunday. Leftovers on Tuesday, random dinner tonight.

When my Dad made random dinner, it was truly random, like a can of baked beans and baked salmon or some other combo that didn't really go well together. I was actually surprised by how well tonight worked. I took the leftover vegetables and broth from the Crockpot, threw in some red lentils and set it to simmer. Since I didn't want the fridge to be the place where good intentions go to die, I threw the rest of the beans in the steamer along with two portobella mushrooms I ordered from Spud that didn't quite fit into any meal plans. I nuked a tray of deli mac and cheese and the leftover chicken, and with copious amounts of soy sauce, it was all quite a feast. Dessert was a box of Jello that found in the back of the cupboard on the weekend. Hubs loves it.

I think part of the satisfaction is simply from all the pennies that were pinched in the process.

calzephyr: (birds)

Every home should have a slow cooker. If I get fanatical about it, it's because it's simply magical. Ingredients go in and delicious meals come out :) It is often forgiving and a life saver for cheap cuts of meat. It's inexpensive and will last for years :D 

I actually have an official Crockpot buffet. It's this big thing that has three 2.5 quart crocks. You can make soup, dinner and dessert all at once, or three kinds of warm drinks or chili for a party. It's amazing. I don't use it very often, but when I do, it's well worth it.

I accidentally bought a pound of radishes recently when doing online grocery shopping. That's a surprising amount of radishes. I looked online for radish recipes and one of them suggested adding them to beef stew. So into one crock went half a bound of radishes, four carrots, a red pepper, half a package of stewing meat that was languishing in the freezer, some garlic, lots of ground pepper, a boullion cube, two cups of water and two tablespoons of soy sauce. When I arrived home, I switched it to the warm setting and added a cup of frozen broccoli. The broccoli steamed while the rice cooker was on.

The broccoli was a nice touch as slow cooker dinners can get brown real fast. All the colour cooked out of the radishes and they had a mellow taste along with a potato like texture. Whew! I didn't have to try and get rid of them at work :) I would totally buy radishes again.

The second crock was a soup that I think will benefit from more salt or lemon - something to give it a little zip. I had a brand new carton of vegetable broth that had just expired. Before dumping that in, I let a half cup of red lentils soak in a cup of water while I cut up the other ingredients - namely a red pepper and garlic. I added the broth and when I got home I added some frozen peas. Whew! I hate letting food go to waste.

The third crock was left empty, sadly. Next time it won't be!

Cheap Eats

Aug. 19th, 2015 09:45 pm
calzephyr: (birds)

Now that the weather is cooling down, I can cook again! I missed cooking, but with a too hot house and an unemployed spouse, any place with air conditioning was heavenly. My inner thrifty gal balked at eating out so much this summer, but staying at home all day was pretty understimulating for my husband. Even though Alberta doesn't have a sales tax, eating out is pretty expensive...cheapie places like Swiss Chalet and Denny's can easily rack up a $40 bill with tip. A&W or McDonald's can easily be $10 a person too. We always lose our minds when we go to the US because food is so mind blowingly cheap! The time we at ate Taco Bell in Sandpoint for $10 always comes to mind.

Anyway, I made a simple dinner tonight with enough left over for lunch. I like getting prepared meals from a local grocery chain called Sunterra because they are close to work and inexpensive. They have a "big pan" daily lunch feature with the leftovers becoming grab and go meals for $6.49 each. I thought, well gee, if Sunterra can make a big pan of something and sell it on a bed of rice, I'm sure I can too!

1 small onion
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 medium sized chopped carrots
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 cups or beef broth or 1 cube bouillon in 2 cups of hot water
20 frozen meatballs

Dice onion into large pieces and brown on medium heat in Dutch oven (I omitted using a fat).

Add carrots, garlic, soy sauce and broth to Dutch oven, stir and bring to boil.

When mixture is boiling, add frozen meatballs and broccoli.

Reduce heat and simmer until carrots and meatballs are cooked (it seemed like about 10-15 minutes). Serve over rice or noodles.

Although dinner was husband approved, I felt like something was missing from it to give it an extra flavour. Next time I would add celery or maybe hot sauce to zip it up.

Food Win

Jan. 5th, 2015 09:24 pm
calzephyr: (cooking)
The best part about multiple crockpots is that you don't have to wait while one is in the dishwasher! I made a simple dish tonight with carrots, beef, vegetable broth, carrots, potatoes and celery. The vegetables and broth were all organic and so delicious. The carrots were local - I think the potatoes were from BC. Anything tastes better when it hasn't sat on a truck for days! We had some rice along side it and leftovers for one lunch and plenty of broth leftover for something else.

In the past I loved these kinds of food wins because the price of food certainly isn't going down. Generally we buy the same things over and over - so a shopping trip that was $50 ten years ago is now $70 and creeping higher. I have to get back in the cooking habit - unfortunately over the past two years I was too busy or exhausted or unorganized to really do much cooking.

This year too, I would like to waste less food. Most households throw out a shocking amount of food and ours is no exception. It's just money out the door :( Oftentimes my husband buys things that he forgets about, like sardines, or I just tell myself I will steam that red cabbage tomorrow. Eating out was something my family rarely did, and it's easy to become spoiled!

Food Fail

Jan. 1st, 2015 04:02 pm
calzephyr: (cooking)

I need to get more iron in my diet and one way that was suggested to me was red lentils. So I found a red lentil curry recipe online, added some carrots, a potato and a little beef to satisfy the mister to the Crockpot. The good news is that the house smelled amazing when I got home. The bad news was that the curry was too acidic to really enjoy it, plus the curry kind of turned into lentil loaf. Those little red lentils will hold a surprising amount of liquid. The nice folks at TQC gave me some suggestions on how to save it, though. Next time I will double the amount of liquid and make it when I'm at home so I can stir it more often. I will also use prepared curry sauce from a jar or something like Glico or Vermont curry brands too!

Zoku Luv

Sep. 7th, 2013 03:18 pm
calzephyr: (cooking)
I always thought that if I had had a little more colourful stuff growing up in the 80s (not everything was rainbows ;-)) I wouldn’t be so attracted to colourful stuff today. Maybe if Lisa Frank had come to Canada or I had just gotten that toy Tupperware baking set I wanted, I wouldn’t have had such a jonesing for the Zoku. The first time I saw it was at Williams Sonoma, and like everything at Williams Sonoma, it was ridiculously priced. It also looked suspiciously like something that wouldn’t work or I would lose interest in. When I saw it bundled at the Stampede - unit, extra sticks, accessory kit and storage case - I couldn’t resist. Unfortunately they only had the white and orange units - one pop, two pop and three pop units in a rainbow of colours are available.

It’s true that there are other ice pop makers out there, but most of them require waiting or running the mold under warm water to release them. I had one of these, but, needless to say, it sucked and I only used it once. With the non stick Zoku, you just put in a stick, fill ‘er up and wait 11 or so minutes. Then you use a knob to pull the pop out. Ta-da!

There’s something oddly scientific about making popsicles with the Zoku. The accessory kit comes with a couple of molds, a stick (so you don’t freeze your fingers to the metal), an angled stand, dropper and three measuring cups. The measuring cups have a little spout to keep the mess down and are marked for 1, 2 and 3 pops. It’s the accessory kit that lets you create all the fun pops. For example, to make filled pops, let the liquid freeze for a few minutes to create a shell, then suck out the remaining liquid and fill with another flavor. Use the stand to create striped pops, and the stick to position fruit on the sides. Fun!!

As well as being crazy creative, you can control the flavours and amount of sugar in the pops. Each one only requires 80 ml of liquid, so a small bottle of juice or cup of Greek yogurt will go a long way. Never have a lime popsicle again! There’s no shortage of recipes or pretty pretty Pinterest pictures for inspiration. Really, it’s the simplest form of gratification out there - just pour and wait and presto! I have to admit that the popsicles really got me through a hot summer. My favourite one so far has been a Nutella recipe.

There are certain disadvantages to the Zoku, mainly that the number it can make at once is limited. If you have more kids than popsicle wells, there might be some tears. This is where the storage case comes in handy, as it holds six at a time. Sugary liquid is a must, otherwise the pops might get stuck in the mold. This has happened twice so far and all it required to get them out was to wait for them to thaw a little. Really, the hardest thing about the Zoku so far is that it requires24 hours to freeze before it can be used!
calzephyr: (birds)
I was thinking the other day was a racket Jugo Juice is - especially when one has to wait in line for around fifteen minutes most of the time for a $4-6 non-dairy smoothie. Being new to the whole smoothie making thing, I looked up a recipe on Canadian Living and gave it a whirl (haha!). The result was OK, but overwhelmingly dairy and not fruity or sweet enough. Maybe these things are best left to professionals! Since I have a slight allergy to bananas, I used peaches and raspberries instead. It also made about four cups of smoothie, and fortunately my husband LOVED IT and finished off the rest in five minutes.

So I tried again with fresh mango, frozen peaches, half a can of peaches in light syrup and some raspberries. The result was much more favourable, and if I had used ice, I'm sure it would have been along the same lines as Jugo Juice. I forsee much more blending in the future :-D
calzephyr: (cooking)
I tried making these before, not with this recipe though...spectacular failure was the result :-D But maybe, day...

calzephyr: (oh noes!)
I threw out a tub of Dannon Activia yogurt this morning and have sworn to never eat the stuff again. All I wanted was something different than cereal or toast for breakfast, and yogurt and granola seemed like a nice change. I only bought Activia because it was on sale, and only somewhat dimly aware that it was a probiotic yogurt that was supposed to do good things for your insides. Unfortunately, it did nothing but bad things for my insides. 

Really, the product should come with a warning label that it can have a laxative effect, but the packaging only touts the positive side effect of the friendly bacteria it contains. By the fourth day of eating it for breakfast, I was Googling "Activia yogurt side effects" and found story after story, including a big page of stories. For some people, Activia truly does wonders and I'm happy for IBS sufferers and the like. But a lot of people note that adding Activia resulted in gas, bloating, diarrhea, loose stools, a burning sensation or itch, stomach cramps and other unpleasantness. I also experienced a weird dehydrating effect, despite drinking lots of water.

Usually I'm loathe to discuss anything so TMI, but I want to add my experience to the search results. I imagine few people would make the connection that Activia is causing all these effects and the anecdotes seem to prove that. For me it came to a head last night when my stomach bloated past my breasts. I can't remember being in such terrible intestinal pain in my life. It was hard to fall sleep and I didn't know if an antacid would help or make things worse. Depending on the person, Activia can stay in your body for 2-3 weeks, which is not on the packaging either. 

On a last note, I find it interesting how people describe "going on", "going off" or "using" Activia as if it is no longer a food product, Some even suggest that it is a  detox agent - apparently the Activia challenge is to eat it for two weeks. Ah...I'll just stick to regular yogurt from now on, thanks.
calzephyr: (cooking)
It's time for some overdue love for our Breville Keurig coffee maker, or rather, fancy hot water dispenser. I bought it as a birthday gift for my husband, but I find I'm using it a lot (simply because he's not a big coffee drinker...but likes the's a bit complicated). It can dispense up to 1.5 cups of boiling water *like that* and you can use your own tea or coffee with it besides the single serving cups. The cups can be recycled, so I didn't feel too eco-guilty about buying it.

I find that it's perfect for oatmeal and making Jell-o - it's like oatmeal turns out tastier and fluffier. I put away the regular kettle because it's been gathering dust since February. It's one of the few appliances out there that fit the "world of tomorrow" - it's shiny and swift and oddly rewarding. Plus it just plain works - fill the resevoir, pop in a cup and presto! The cups are surprisingly good value - I can easily get four cups of tea or two coffees out of a single cup. I just discovered today that it can do ramen as well. Man, I just love this thing - it's one of the few appliances I have found that truly makes life easier and does what it says.
calzephyr: (cooking)
I turned on the stove today for the first time in months - it seems most dinners this summer came from the deli or we ate out, which I did not mind at all. It was nice to actually make something and almost complete another goal on my Mission 101 list. The goal is to make five recipes from the Home Christian Cookbook, a tome of 1960s vintage Mennonite recipes. So far I have made Company Casserole, apple cumble, another casserole which I can't quite remember and now cherry crunch, which is actually a little different from the apple crumble. It was good because I was able to "pantry shop" instead of having to buy more ingredients and it was a quick way to use up a bag of frozen berries real fast!

1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp of salt
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup soft butter
3 cups cherries

Mix all but fruit till crumbly. Put 1/2 of the mixture in a greased pan. Pour thickened or ready mix fruit over crumbs. Spread remainder of crumb mixture over top of fruit. Bake 30 minutes at 350. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. (Blueberry, apple or other fruits may be used). Attributed to Mrs. Kenneth Nightengale, Copeland, Kansas.

I took three pictures of the delicious dessert, and couldn't decide which to use, so be sure to check the other two out on Flickr.

calzephyr: (Canada)
[Error: unknown template qotd] Canada's national dish is often said to be poutine - french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. Literally it looks like a heart attack on a plate and I'm not sure it would be too appetizing to many people. You can get poutine at most fast food restaurants here; I like New York Fries. New York Fries is a Canadian company, much the way that Boston Pizza is also a Canadian company! Shawinigan Fries or Edmonton Pizza just don't roll off the tongue that nicely!

For Canada, Wikipedia suggests Poutine, Pancakes with maple syrup, Beaver tail (pastry), Butter Tarts, Nanaimo Bar, Salt cod, Pemmican, Macaroni and Cheese.

If I recall right, Canadians are really big fans of Kraft Dinner. Now Nanaimo bars...those I heartily recommend. They're total sugar bombs, but so good.
calzephyr: (cooking)
With craft sales almost overwith, it's fun to cook again. It's also fun to have food in the house - until yesterday we were pretty much down to Coke Zero and coleslaw in the fridge! Last night we had another recipe from the Mennonite Christian Home Cookbook. One of my Mission 101 goals is to make five recipes from this book, and this was #3.

This cookbook is a particular challenge because it was published over 40 years ago and some of the ingredient sizes have changed. It also has no pictures and little instruction. With most recipes you can guess how they'll turn out even without the help of food stylists, but these are real chin scratchers. Mixing mushroom soup, tomato soup, cream cheese and crackers together is not something you'll find in the average cookbook. It's also unintentionally funny - there are three recipes for ham loaf, but only one is called Delicious Ham Loaf. There are five recipes for chop suey, but one is subtitled "The real Chinese way" :-)

So it was with great intrigue that I combined celery, cheese, mushroom soup, chicken broth, crushed crackers and chicken in the casserole dish. I crossed my fingers that an hour later it would come out tasty; after many trips to the Country Cousins restaurant out in Linden I had great faith that there is no such thing as a bad tasting Mennonite meal.

But I had second thoughts as I dished out the casserole. To be honest, it looked like barf on a plate. The diced cheese had melted and was suspended in little globs in the mushroom soup while the celery bobbed up here and there. My husband looked down at his plate and I recognized that look of fear and disappointment from the orzo loaf disaster years ago. He didn't say anything but politely dug in. To our complete surprise, it was amazingly delicious! I don't know how, I don't know why, but it just was. That's the magic of Mennonite cooking, I suppose! I could see substituting pork chops next time.

And the recipe... )


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