Monday, June 02, 2014

Cooking frenzy

This morning has been cool. Overnight the low was in the upper 50s and at 10:30 temps are still only in the low 70s. I'm taking advantage of the weather to get some cooking and baking done.

That's part of adopting a frugal mindset. In trying to keep my AC off for as long as possible, I take advantage of the weather for various things. Wash the heavy blankets on a hot day and hang them outside to dry. When it's cool, cook and bake.

Being the first weekday of my summer break, I'd much prefer to stay in bed, read, and generally do nothing. But the cool temperatures call.

Part of budgeting also means that I look ahead to the month and see that as the monthly paycheck gets thin, to take advantage of the food I have now; cook it, freeze it, have it later. That way, no food is wasted and I have prepared ahead like the ants do for the financial winter that is the last 10 days of my monthly paycheck.

Here is what I made:

Spaghetti squash soup. I've never made this before. The Bountiful Basket Co-Op basket had the largest spaghetti squash I'd ever seen. I cooked it a day or so ago and the amount of squash that came out of the thing filled four Corning ware dishes. I'd never eat it all before it went bad. So I kept one Corning dish of squash so I could eat the squash like I like it: topped with butter, Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce. As for the rest, what else are you going to do when you have a truckload of something, but either make a casserole or a soup? In this case I preferred soup.

The recipe I found called for celery and carrots, both of which I had on hand, and away I went. I used one Corning ware dish of roasted squash as-is, for texture and bulk. I sauteed the celery and carrots, and mixed that with the squash. I boiled some bouillon cubes for the broth. I put the main part of the squash into the blender with some broth to make a thick stock and added that back into the soup. Let simmer for half an hour and you're good to go!

It's hard to tell here, but the soup has a
golden yellowy butter color to it

Roasted red pepper quiche. At the last BB we received a huge amount of red peppers and green chile peppers. I roasted them right away (lol). I've used some in scrambled eggs, or sandwiches, but I still had a lot left. What to do? Make quiche. Why? Because on the last day of school a friend who keeps chickens gave me 2 dozen eggs, and I had eggs to spare. I found a recipe that didn't use flour and away I went.

Roasted red & green peppers, and mushroom & onion quiches.
Just need to top with the whisked eggs and some cheese, then bake.
Mushroom-Onion quiche. The local grocery store often has mushrooms for $.99 on sale. But they are either a little brown or about to go brown. That's why they're on sale. When they're on sale it means they need to be used right away. Hence the quiche, with the same reasoning as above RE the eggs. Another reason for making two quiches besides having lots of eggs to use, is that we should never turn on the oven for only one item. The most expensive things in the house to run (after the AC) are the dryer and the oven. I also planned to make an apple crisp. I planned to put the oven to good use on a cool day.

Done! That was easy!

Apple crisp: Once again BB came through and I had a bag of green apples. I used some in chicken salad sandwiches, or just to eat, but a bag (plus the extras on the side that also came in the BB) made for a lot of apples for one gal to eat. But I like having a lot of fruit and vegetables around. This is because I like to make recipes that use a lot of the item yet don't exhaust my larder. I can make 2 quiches and still have eggs left over. BB makes me feel like I don't have to "ration out" my items. I can use them mindfully but not impecuniously. So I had apples several different ways this week. I like to make crisp because I don't have to peel or core the apples. I am not a fan of labor-intensive cooking or baking.

Nom nom nom...I'll heat and top with cold vanilla yogurt when the time comes

On the last day of school another friend at work was cleaning out her shelves and found a box of raisins. She asked me if I wanted them. (The frugal woman always answers "yes", unless she knows she truly can't use something. In that case, it would be wasteful to accept something.). I added the raisins to the apple crisp to make up for the little amount of oatmeal I had. I know it's not a taste substitution. It was a bulk substitution. And also raisins and apple crisp are a good combo, even though the particular recipe I was following didn't call for raisins.

Never be afraid to monkey around with a recipe (unless it's a chemically delicate dish like souffle or fragile macaroons or something). Never discount an entire recipe just because you don't have one ingredient on hand. Say 'Yes, thank you' when offered something and figure out how to use it later, (like the raisins, a food I use frequently) and next, use what you have (as in, never run to the store for one item).

Green bean pate. This is also called mock chopped liver. I don't know why because it is nothing like chopped liver. Anyway, a while ago, another friend gave me green beans from her garden that she had blanched and frozen. A lot of green beans. So what to do with a bulk amount of an item? If you're not going to make a casserole or a soup, then grind it up, lol.

It's greener in real life. This actually looks like Baba Ganouj...

This is a recipe I'd had several times before. Always in my quest to make sure I eat enough vegetables, I look for unique ways to serve them. This is essentially a green bean dip held together by hard boiled eggs. I mentioned above that my friend gave me a lot of eggs, and I immediately thought of the green beans I had in the freezer. I knew right away that I had a large amount of both of the main ingredients to make this dip. The only other main item in it is walnuts. They are too expensive for me so I got almonds at the Dollar Store when I was there for my regular shopping. Green Beans Almondine was a favorite dish of my mother's and I knew that green beans and almonds were OK together.

I say often "Use what you have" but also it's important to "Know what you have." Go through your cupboards and freezer often and eyeball what you've got in there. I know at the back of the bottom shelf on the left cupboard I have dried apricots, raisins, and cranberries. I know I've got canned carrots but not peas. I know I've got a can of black beans in the cupboard and quinoa in the freezer so if I wanted to make black bean patties at some point, I can. Like that. I hate it when I buy something at the store and I get home and realize I had it all along.

Keep track of your groceries in your mind. Doing this also helps when you get home and you're tired and if you know what you have you don't have to spend time mulling over, searching, or scrounging to put a dinner together. You can just grab the can of peas you know you have, and boil some eggs for an Egg N Pea salad and make a burger with the little bit of hamburger meat you have in the bottom drawer. Voila, dinner.

Hard boiled eggs. When I boiled the eggs for the green bean pate, in keeping with the motto 'never turn on an oven or a burner without doing more than one thing', I boiled four extra eggs to have on hand for snacks.

Water. I made lime-infused water and chamomile sun tea, also. Choosing not to buy soda, juices or other beverages means I have to plan ahead for when I want to get a chilled drink.

I used fewer lime slices this time. Last time it was pretty sour

Sun tea brewing

So that was my morning. I listened to a couple of sermons while I was making all my wonderful dishes, and listened to a movie while I cleaned up. Now I think I'll buy the next round of Bountiful Baskets, and then take a nap. It IS summer, after all.


Anonymous said...

Your cooking blogs are fun to read. :) I love impromptu meals. I made a fabulous "curry" one day when I mulled over some ingredients I had in the fridge, that were on their own not enough to make a full meal for my husband and myself. But added together, with some spices on hand (paprika, turmeric, ginger), and some instant brown rice, voila, my own spin on "curry". It totally wasn't authentic, by any means, but we liked it.


Elizabeth Prata said...

Thanks Carolyn :). Your curry sounds great, all the more for being created on the spot.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, I've actually been inspired by your recipes.

And I love your advice, because it's the exact same attitude I have:

"Never be afraid to monkey around with a recipe (unless it's a chemically delicate dish like souffle or fragile macaroons or something)."

I am always tinkering with recipes, unless there is a legitimate reason it has to be followed "as written".

I forgot to add, with my "curry", I also put in a little olive oil, some lemon juice, and a touch of sweetness, to take a little heat off the spices. I'm not a fan of spicy food.

How have your fruit infused waters been working out? Someone recently served me some cucumber water, and it was good!


Elizabeth Prata said...

Thanks Carolyn! I like lime water, apple water is OK, and I hated mango water. I had not thought of cuke water, and since I always struggle to use up a cuke the idea of cucumber water sounds like the perfect solution.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have thought of cucumber water, either. It was a friend who had made some. I'm not sure I'd have liked mango water, either. I don't like mangos to start with, so putting them in water wouldn't suddenly endear me to them.

Lime is a new idea for me... I do like lemon, but maybe I'll try lime. Although it is slightly different, I do have some key lime juice I need to use up soon, that was leftover from making key lime pudding (major yum!). Hmmmmm...


Anonymous said...

Erph, the key lime water, not so much. But in the spirit of your post, I had to use it up, and also needed to use up some milk, so voila, another batch of key lime pudding. :) Nothing wasted.


Elizabeth Prata said...

key lime pudding sounds delicious. how do you make it? I like puddings and not a fan of pie so using limes NOT for key lime pie sounds good to me. Yah, the lime water is pretty sour but I like sour.

Anonymous said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Here's the recipe we used:

We followed the recipe as written, omitting the lemon zest. And of course, instead of the lemon juice, we used key lime juice. One could also use regular lime juice. Key limes have a slightly different flavor than regular limes, but both are good!

Key Limes:

Regular Limes (aka Persian limes):

Then we save the egg whites and either add them back into a whole egg scramble for breakfast another day, or we make macaroons or another dessert that calls for egg whites.

I hope you try this recipe, it makes a very delicious pudding. It's one of our favorite flourless desserts.


Elizabeth Prata said...

Thank you so much Carolyn! I'll go over and look that recipe up!

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, I hope you try and enjoy it!

Thanks again for your fun cooking blog posts.