Tag Archives: canning

Weekly Eating – 8/27/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

 

Well, Saturday ended up being MUCH more productive than I expected! I took that 20 pounds of peaches and turned it into 10 jars of peach jam (4 of which are destined for the food swap) and 6 jars of quartered canned peaches in the pantry! The pantry is slowly coming along as I edge out plastics with glass jars and canned items.

budget epicurean pantry

At the thrift store I also found some nice baskets for pantry items and a ton of excellent glassware. I also spent some time hanging up pants I bought at the thrift store for $4 each to dry, and ironing a batch of freshly laundered handkerchiefs. Oh, and had my first taste of a fresh fig! They are seriously amazing.

budget epicurean ironing handkerchiefs

Also, that ridiculously expensive spirulina? Yeah, turns out it turns all smoothies a really unappetizing brown/black color… The boy and I are both not impressed. Chalk that up to a costly lesson. No photos here… you’re welcome.

And I almost forgot, Sunday I hosted another tea party! I had a few girlfriends over for a few hours, to snack and chat and drink tea (of course). It’s always nice to have time to relax and catch up on each others’ lives. And also the food. I love making it, and I love sharing it, and I love eating it!

budget epicurean appetizers
Local tomato bruschetta and goat cheese stuffed dates and figs with sage and balsamic drizzle

Monday:

Breakfast – smoothie with banana, frozen mixed berries, and spirulina

Lunch – I had a later than usual breakfast, and an earlier than usual dinner, so no lunch today

Dinner – Tonight was Food Swap night! I inhaled some leftover quinoa with veggies before running out the door.

Hosted at Bull City Ciderworks, we had a good turnout, and lots of new faces. I made some new connections, and came home with a pretty great variety of stuff. My first time making biscotti turned out great, thank goodness, and the pistachio cardamom was a hit.

budget epicurean pistachio cardamom biscotti

Tuesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with frozen cherries and blueberries and fresh peaches. Yes that is a plastic straw but it is the heavier reusable kind.

budget epicurean breakfast smoothie

Lunch – I prepped two big kale and chickpea salads over the weekend to have for grab and go lunches. It couldn’t be simpler: 3-4 handfuls of kale, rub with olive oil and lemon juice. Split a drained can of chickpeas between 2 salads, sprinkle on garlic salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese if desired.

budgetepicurean kale and chickpea salad

Dinner – leftover chicken and rice soup

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smoothie with frozen tropical mix, fresh peaches, cherry juice, and amla powder. I love this mix of fruit, but I hate that they put coconut chunks in it. Just why?

budget epicurean breakfast smoothie

Lunch – thawed homemade ravioli from a previous food swap with thawed pesto made from my own basil 🙂

budget epicurean ravioli with pesto

Snack – fresh heirloom tomato pico de gallo and blue corn chips

Dinner – I had a bunch of random odds and ends to use up: some pinto beans, a tiny bit of pico de gallo, a couple wet bruschetta. So I figured, why not make a Mexican strata? I layered the bruschetta in a pan, topped with pinto beans and pico, and poured on a few eggs. Baked at 350 for 40 minutes, and top with cheese and avocado.

budget epicurean breakfast strata for dinner

YUM! And now the fridge has more space! #nomorefoodwaste

Thursday:

Breakfast – Leftover pancakes with coffee. Whenever I make more pancakes than we can eat, I pop the rest in a bag in the fridge. Then all it takes is a quick reheat in the toaster, and good as new.

budget epicurean pancakes

Lunch – the other kale and chickpea salad, with grape tomatoes and an apple

more kale

Snack – I had myself a lovely tea time in the afternoon with green tea, my own biscotti, and a johnnycake from a previous food swap

budget epicurean tea and biscotti

Dinner – Thursday $3 Co-op dinner! Tonight was biscuits and gravy. None of us were brave enough to try the vegan biscuit, but the vegan gravy was okay. Not my favorite meal ever, but 8 of us all got together, there was much laughter, and live music. I’d eat cardboard and be happy in that situation. There’s nothing I love more than chill and cheap hangout with friends time!

budget epicurean co-op dinner

Friday:

Breakfast – a sad bowl of cocoa puffs. It was so tasty though!

Lunch – the rest of the leftover Turkish red lentil stew & some more grape tomatoes

budgetepicurean red lentil stew and tomatoes

Dinner – I started a crock pot full of chili this morning, and cannot wait to come home to that delicious smell! It also used up tons of odds and ends: field peas from the last produce box, rest of baked pinto beans, several heirloom tomatoes that needed used up.

The Weekend

Well, this weekend kids off Brofest at our house. Hub’s closest friends from childhood through college are all turning 30 this year, so they decided to do one big reunion /get together / celebration. At our house. For a full week. I have several friends with spare bedrooms on standby and a bag packed if I need a quick escape.

I kid. I’ve met all these dudes, and love them to pieces.

Anyone who is vetted by the boy and remained that closely in touch for two decades or so is clearly a good person. This week of relaxation, bonding, video games, and beer could not be more needed at a stressful point in his career, and I could not be more excited to have a houseful of hungry boys to cook for!

Though that does lead to the next point…

 

Food Total: $366.76

Ouch. Feeding a half dozen grown men for a full week is not a cheap ambition, let me tell you. But I am up for the task. We are now stocked for sandwiches, cereal,oatmeal, grilled cheeses, pizza, and more burritos than I would know what to do with.

There isn’t a spare inch of unused freezer space at this point. And I bet it will be nearly cleaned out by next Sunday. (HOW do parents with multiple boys in their teens at the same time stay solvent??)

But you know what?

Worth it.

Lessons Learned

As Mrs. FAF just pointed out, leftovers are a beautiful thing! I am so thankful both of us not only tolerate but actually enjoy eating leftovers. And I quote often even cook twice or three times as much food on purpose, to save us time later in the week. This is definitely one of my top tips for eating well on a budget.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

 

 

Kale & Wasabi Pea Caesar Salad

 

Are you getting in the spring of things? Have you begun a whirlwind of cleaning out rooms, old clutter, elbow greasing the bathroom, and sorting through wardrobes? Do you day dream about tender green baby lettuce, the first sweet juicy strawberry, or delicate spring peas that pop in your mouth? I know I am!

Spring is a time of freshness, rebirth, and growth. The world re-awakens after a long, cold, terrible winter.

Though it is hard to believe now, with the still-cold, hard earth brown and bare, soon rain will drench everything, sun will warm it again, and greenery will burst forth! Birds have begun singing, small furry animals are emerging from hibernation, and gardeners all over are just itching to get outside and play in some dirt!

Now might be a good time to assess your food preservation options. If you don’t have canning jars or could use some more, I recommend at least a case of pint jars (wide-mouth can fit more in easily, you can can or even freeze them), as well as a case of quart jars, and if you make lots of different flavored jams, jellies, or salsas, maybe a few tiny 4 oz jars too. These also make great gifts!

Don’t forget the lids, regular mouth lids and  wide-mouth lids. These cannot be reused (they lose their seal) but the rings you can reuse.

Even if you don’t have a garden yourself, canning is an excellent skill to begin learning. You can get steals and deals at the end of the day in farmer’s markets, pick-your-own bushels of fruits at an orchard, or on-sale in-season produce at the grocery store.

Canning is a great, non-electricity-using way to store these seasonal delicacies for the future dreary winter, that we don’t even want to think about yet. Read my earlier foray into canning beans for more information, directions, and especially important safety information to consider if this is your first time (or hundredth).

In honor of this season of green, here is a lovely salad recipe using fresh greens, wasabi peas, sunflower seeds, and other fresh veggies. Feel free to make it your own based on your tastes and what is currently in season near you.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups assorted greens (romaine, kale, spinach used here. also try arugula, watercress, chard, or endive)
  • 1/2 cucumber, washed and sliced
  • 1/3 cup wasabi green peas (use fresh peas if you have them or don’t like wasabi spice/flavor)
  • 1/2 cup homemade croutons
  • 2-3 tbsp Caesar dressing (or Ranch)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • Optional: grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese

Step 1: To make croutons, cut 2 slices of old bread into cubes. Toss in 2-3 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle on seasonings (I recommend Italian). Toast on a flat cookie sheet in an oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Or use store-bought, or omit entirely. Up to you.

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Step 2: Shred or slice the romaine, spinach, and kale, and pile on a plate. Top with cucumber slices, sprinkle on the seeds, peas, and croutons, and add dressing. Toss lightly to coat.

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I had this for lunch with an apple, a piece of homemade corn bread (with canned corn in it) and a big glass of water. Just a perfect amount of crunch and spring flavors to perk you right up. Now if only there was no more frost danger so I can set out my seedlings…

Kale & Wasabi Pea Caesar Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups assorted greens (romaine, kale, spinach used here)
  • 1/2 cucumber, washed and sliced
  • 1/3 cup wasabi peas (use fresh peas if you have them or don't like wasabi spice/flavor)
  • 1/2 cup homemade croutons
  • 2-3 tbsp Caesar dressing (or Ranch)
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • Optional: grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese

Instructions

  1. To make croutons, cut 2 slices of old bread into cubes. Toss in 2-3 tbsp olive oil, and sprinkle on seasonings. Toast in an oven at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Or use store-bought, or omit entirely. Up to you.
  2. Shred or slice the romaine, spinach, and kale, and pile on a plate. Top with cucumber slices, sprinkle on the seeds, peas, and croutons, and add dressing. Toss lightly to coat.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegetarian/kale-wasabi-pea-caesar-salad/

 

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Can you can beans?

 

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I enjoy everything about canning. It is an easy way to save extra seasonal produce before it spoils. It keeps for a very long time with proper storage, so you can be sure you always have food available. It looks pretty on your pantry shelves. It teaches self-sufficiency. And assuming you keep it up all your life and re-use the jars, it can be extremely frugal!

Combine a very frugal hobby/life skill with one of the most frugal foods on the planet, beans, and you have a very happy budget epicurean! Canned beans at my store typically run 50-90 cents for store brand to over $2 per can for fancy organics. When you buy dried beans in bulk, and re-use cans over the years, you can easily get the price per can down to mere pennies.

I love having canned beans in my pantry so I can whip up a quick chili, tortilla soup, or refried beans for tacos or tostadas without having to pre-soak for hours. Though some sources say that not only is pre-soaking not required, but it actually hurts the taste and quality of the final product.

Most vegetables or fruits are safe to can and store. Typically you need to add sugar (for fruit) or acids like vinegar (for vegetables) in order to ensure their shelf-safety. But are beans safe to can at home? And there is also debate over the worthiness of canning beans, since dried take up much less space. But you can’t beat ready-to-go cans for last minute recipes.

Most resources say a pressure canner is an absolute must to kill everything. No one wants botulism. The pressure canner causes high heat and pressure much higher than could normally be achieved inside the canner. This is the only sure way to kill spores, which are able to resist the heat of normal boiling water.

However, what can one do if you don’t have a pressure cooker? Can you still can beans the usual way, with a large pot of water?

Sorta.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, health professional of any kind, or nutritionist. I am not encouraging anyone to try this. I am simply relating my own experience.

I had bought a 5 pound bag of pinto beans, but am bad at pre-planning my meals when I get busy. So I would want to make tacos for dinner or something, and be out of canned pintos. I had not soaked the beans, and wanted to eat within the next hour or two, so cooking up the dried ones was not really an option.

I decided to try canning some beans. I do not have a pressure cooker. The reasons I took the chance included: 1) I stored the processed cans in the refrigerator until I used them 2) I used all the cans within a month, presumably too short a time for anything too dangerous.

This site says there are several factors that contribute to growth, including salinity, acidity, moisture level, and temperature. Some strains of botulism cannot grow at low temperatures, while others are able to, if slowly. So, for science.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried beans
  • Lots of water
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 4 tbsp vinegar

Step 1: In a large pot, you can soak your beans overnight if you want. I just went ahead and cooked them. Cover the beans in water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 2-6 hours, depending on how soft you want your finished product and how much time you have. Add the salt and vinegar.

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Step 2: Either boil your jars and lids, or run through the dishwasher to sterilize. You will need about four pint jars for one pound of cooked beans.

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Step 3: Fill each jar up to the top, leaving 1-2 inches of space. Cover with the cooking liquid. You should have a faint scent of vinegar, and the liquid becomes cloudy after cooking the beans. Wipe the rim, seal, and place the entire jars in a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Process the jars for 45-60 minutes.

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Step 4: Remove the jars from the hot water with tongs, and place on a towel on a solid surface. Let them cool without moving them for at least 6-8 hours. You should hear the “pop” of the lids sealing. If any do not seal, put in the fridge and use within a week.

Now you have your own crazy-cheap supply of canned beans to turn into chilis, spreads, soups, or any number of recipes.

 

Home-canned peaches

 

When I was a kid growing up, I remember all-day-long canning sessions at my grandmother’s house. We would get the whole family together for steamy, tomato-scented days of carrying bushels of fresh tomatoes down from the giant overgrown garden, slicing and dicing, pushing them through the enormous, older-than-my-mom tabletop canning device, squeezing out seeds, stems, juice, skins, pulp.

Pouring thick red liquid into piping-hot Bell canning jars, just out of the rolling, boiling water, screwing on the lids and popping them back into that steamy water bath. Placing them in rows upon rows along the kitchen table, and listening for the “pop” “pop” “pop” of lids being sealed.

Lining those jars, still warm from the boiling water, along the shelves of the basement pantry. Knowing that meant months later, in the dead of winter, we could have huge platters of pasta with sauce that taste like summertime, and know that I helped make that happen.

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That may sound quaint and overly-dramatic, but canning has always stuck with me and is something I desperately hope to continue into my adult life. I think our American lives of over-abundance and convenience takes a lot of the charm, knowledge, and wisdom out of feeding ourselves. We know nothing of how “food” is created, we just go to the grocery, pick out the boxes and cans, put them in the microwave and sit down in front of the TV to “eat” it.

I love the feeling of looking at something I personally created, start-to-finish, especially if it involves food I myself grew, picked, or somehow preserved. There is nothing like it. Sometime when your store has a sale on produce you like, give it a try and see for yourself.

Not only is home preserving fun and good for the soul, it is also good for the waist and pocketbook! Canning or freezing your own food lets you control what is put into it and avoid massive amounts of sodium, preservatives, colorants, etc. in commercially preserved foods. And though canning supplies may be a healthy chunk of change to begin with, you can re-use jars and rings nearly forever, with only new lids to buy each season.

Now, there are some dangers to home canning. Always read up on proper methods on how to can or otherwise preserve food so you and yours don’t end up sick. Take a look at the CDC article on avoiding botulism,  the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning article with tips and tricks, or Foodsafety.gov Home Canning advice.

This is my most recent adventure, when Colorado Palisade Peaches were at their prime. They are legendary for good reason, with such perfectly firm yet soft flesh and oodles of juice to drip down your chin. I of course ended up over-buying, and rather than commit the mortal sin of wasting produce, decided to can the excess.

You can use the outline of this recipe for just about any fruit, homemade salsa, or pre-cooked vegetables (like carrots, green beans, or beets). For more recipes specific to fruit types, head over to PickYourOwn.com, a wealth of home preservation tips. For tips on individual types of veggies, SimplyCanning.com has a whole library.

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Ingredients:

  • About 2 pounds peaches
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 3-5 canning jars, lids, and rings
  • Large pot
  • Optional: Tongs, Funnel, Pressure canner

Step 1: Cut the peaches into slices. It is up to you if you want to peel them or can with peels on. To peel them, boil for 5 minutes, then submerge in ice water. The peels should slide off. I left the peels on cause I’m lazy and I like the extra nutrition.

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Step 2: Mix the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Stir in the peach slices, and simmer 5-10 minutes.

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Step 3: While peaches are cooking, bring a huge pot of water to a boil with your jars, lids and rings inside. This sterilizes the jars. You can also run them through the dishwasher.

Step 4: After boiling the jars, use the tongs to pour the water out of them. Fill the jars with the peaches, using a spatula to press them down and squish in the edges. Leave 1/4-1/2 inch space, and put the lids on.

Step 5: Put the jars back into the boiling water, and process for 15-20 minutes. Make sure the jars are fully submerged. This will help kill any microbes, and seal the jars.

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Step 6: Use the tongs to remove the jars, and place on a towel or hard surface to cool. Don’t disturb the jars for 6-12 hours, or until you hear the “pop” sound of the lid sealing. If after overnight cooling any jars have not sealed (the lid won’t be sucked in, and sort of springy when you push on it) put those jars in the refrigerator and use within one month.

It is normal for some canned fruit to change color slightly over time. But if you notice extreme discoloration, a bright red, or green color, get rid of that food immediately!

Jars processed this way should be stored in cool, dark, dry areas and are good for quite a long time. If properly processed, they are theoretically good forever. But I doubt they will last that long! 😉

Happy canning!