Monday, June 20, 2022

Oops... where did last week go ??

 



I'm not sure what happened here.  lol  I didn't make it here to post last week OR SOMETHING.  Getting old is always an adventure.  In the past 9 days, we have taken a trip to celebrate our anniversary and my sober birthday (not far away or anything, but we did get out.)  Then we had some hellacious storms here, fallen trees and tree branches took down power lines and left us powerless (lol) for over 36 hours.  We loaded both freezers down with ice and blankets on top for insulation and luckily we didn't lose any food. Biggest problem was the heat. We've been having temps in the high 90's with heat indexes in the hundreds. Yuck.  Thank Goodness it cooled down for a couple of days. The storms giveth and the storms taketh away. So, there's my pitiful excuses for not posting and I promise I'll try to be better. :)

  So, this week, I want to talk about another important pantry item.  Pastas. Pastas are a great filler of bellies and extender of foods.  Depending on what kind you buy they can also be nutritious. One of my favorites are Soba Noodles. They are made of buckwheat. Soba noodles are some of the healthiest options out there for carbohydrates. Unlike ramen noodles, which often contain oils, fat and salt, soba noodles calories (especially pure buckwheat) are very low in fat and cholesterol, provide healthy carbs and give you protein.

 I keep a variety of pastas and noodles. The difference between the two are the variety of wheat used to make them. Noodles are made from regular wheat and pasta is made from durum wheat. Most of us can't tell the difference.  But back to the pantry. I buy bulk items from Amazon, like the organic soba noodles because the price is so much better. For instance I am out of Soba, so I ordered a pack of 24 packages for 23 dollars. Walmarts lowest price of the same brand is $4.99/package.  I also buy Rice noodles from Amazon. This week I wanted to try something we do not usually eat, although my husband says he ate it in college. I ordered a case of Ramen noodles (soy sauce flavoring packet) for under 7 dollars. It's the cheapest way to get the ramen noodles (and throw away the seasoning packet, lol) I keep thin and regular spaghetti, penne pasta, angel hair pasta, fusili pasta, and fettucine in my pantry.  I keep a gallon jar of egg noodles at all times. These make a relatively inexpensive meal when mixed with a jar of my home canned chicken or roast beef. Filling, satisfying and better for you than the fast food options.   

  Today is Meatless Monday here on Honeysuckle Hill, and my plan WAS to make a cold soba noodle salad for supper. Alas. No soba noodles in the pantry.  So I will make something like it, but with a different pasta, like angel hair or thin spaghetti.  It's in the mid 90's again today, so we need a light but sustaining supper. The cold noodle salads or pasta salads are a perfect choice. I have a take and bake baguette that I can fix in the air fryer oven and make a nice garlicky bread to go with it.  I can make it like a putanesca salad, and use up whatever vegetables in my fridge that need to be used.  I have olive oil (EVOO) or sesame oil in the cabinet to dress it with. I have some fresh basil out in my planter box that will top it nicely.  A very low cost meal, made from things I have on hand. Don't have to spend any money today on gas or groceries, and in my book that's a win-win. So, here's a recipe I posted in about 2012 I think... check it out.     





  Happy Pantry. You can go out this week to many places like dollar stores and find a nice variety of pastas for your pantry.  Just do it.  lol I store all mine in jars...big and small.  
  

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Week 2. Building up a stocked pantry

 



  About once a month, if the budget permits, I try to buy a case of some item (usually a specialty item) that I use a lot.  Sometimes it's shelf stable tofu, sometimes it's organic full fat coconut milk, sometimes it might be a soba or rice noodle. This month it was time to buy more brown rice, so I toodled on over to Amazon and hooked myself up with a 10# bag of Brown Basmati Rice, and a 2 pound jar of Tahini. I know that all households eat differently, and here we try to eat at least a couple of meatless meals a week.  Having been a vegetarian off and on throughout my adult life, it's usually not too hard for me to come up with ideas.  We also have a very liberal palate(s) when it comes to trying new foods or foods from other countries. For instance, I have made cold soba salads, Vegetable Pad Thai, Peanut Butter Tofu and a number of other exciting foods. I have cookbooks with recipes from India, China, Africa, Ireland, France, Korea, Japan, and England.

  This week I want you to think about Beans and Rice for your pantry. These staples of many countries around the world, complement each other nutritionally and are a must have. Who doesn't love cornbread and beans ?  I keep dry beans, canned beans and home canned beans in my pantry at all times. Right now, my pantry has Pinto Beans, Navy Beans, Black Beans, Adzuki Beans, Lima Beans, Garbanzo Beans, Kidney Beans, Red Beans and  Cannellini Beans.  You can find these beans at any grocery, some at Dollar Generals, and just about anywhere.  The cost ratio per serving is amazing and the nutritional punch is awesome.

 https://beaninstitute.com/bean-nutrition-overview/#:~:text=TYPE%20OF%20BEAN,371

I always keep a couple of gallons of dry pinto and Navy beans on hand. I also home can each of these for convenience sake, because it takes time (and fuel) to cook a pot of beans. Especially if I want a smaller amount to make burritos or refried beans for a meal. Handy. I have canned garbanzos, but usually I just buy a case of them at Aldi because my life needs simple sometimes.  lol  So many vegetarian meals you can make with garbanzos (chickpeas).  They are a staple in many middle eastern foods in places like India, Africa and Egypt.  And they care crazy good for you. I make my own Hummus and  Falafel. 

  I keep a variety of rices in store as well.  Brown rice, which doesn't keep as long or as well as white does, but is much healthier, Jasmine rice, Basmati rice and sometimes wild rice.  This way I can have a variety with meals. Most of my life I have never used a rice cooker until about 5 years ago and now I can't live without one.  If I had to though, I could cook rice on the stove.  lol  So, there's your challenge for week 2.  Rice and Beans.  The recipe I want to share is Chana Tikka Masala. It's a traditional Indian recipe that is chock full of tasty nutrition.  If you are not fond of Indian food, skip this.  But if you're on the fence, or don't know, give it a try.  It's simple and it's mouth watering. It's vegetarian, and with the rising cost of meats, we all need to start eating less of it and expanding our palates.




  Chana Tikka Masala

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 14 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 13.5 ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water, as needed to thin the sauce
  • (2) 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

FOR SERVING

  • 4-5 cups cooked white or brown rice
  • chopped cilantro, parsley or green onions

Instructions

  • In a large pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Now add the spices, salt, tomato sauce, coconut milk and drained/rinsed chickpeas. Stir until smooth and combined, then simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Taste; add more salt or spices as desired. Serve immediately over rice.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Annie makes plans, and God laughs...here we go...

 


  There may or may not be another great depression in this country.  It remains to be seen. We are seeing food shortages, crazy inflation, supply chain disruptions that most of us alive now have never experienced.  It's pretty frightening.   I'm sliding into 70, and I have experienced some weather catastrophes that got a little unnerving.  I'm a vagabond who has lived in several places around the country, which gave me untold opportunities. Tornadoes.  Earthquakes. Floods. Hurricanes. Power grid interruptions that lasted for weeks sometimes, grocery stores with no deliveries made.   I also grew up in a large family with one working parent, so money was always a little tight, though we never had to do without basics. My parents were Depression kids who could remember how tough things got in the  world. The duration of it was about 120 months. That floors me.  I had no idea it lasted that long. No wonder people were so mentally and spiritually devastated by it all. My mom was a pretty good cook and knew how to stretch a dollar.  My dad worked a union job in a steel factory, so we were not destitute. But as we all know, it takes a lot to run a household. I remember days before payday when she would invent things for us because the grocery money was used up. One of my favorite suppers during those times (and still is today) was cooked white rice with milk and sugar and cinnamon and butter. And fried potatoes. It was a Keto nightmare, LOL, but tasted soooo good to us kids. And it fed all 8 of us with no problem.  After WWII something interesting happened in America and convenience foods were born to make a wife's job "easier"  Women were encouraged to get out of the kitchen and enjoy life.  (*snort)  The foods became much less nutritious and  more processed until we ate our way into heart disease and  colon cancer and general malaise. 


  I hear people all the time complain that eating healthy is more expensive (not true), it's too difficult, and they don't know how to do it.  The hardest part of cooking is the planning. And doing it every day. 


Some people make meal plans. I tried that, but like everything else in my world, I lack the discipline to follow through. So I just wing it mostly.  But I only have to cook for 2, and that guy will eat almost anything I put in front of him. Of course, after cooking for him for 30 years, I pretty much know what he likes and dislikes. 

  One of the first things I want you to remember is to please-- only stock foods your family will eat. I'm going  to start with your first pantry item for the week to buy, and it's old fashioned rolled oats. An important thing to keep in mind is that you need things in your pantry that are versatile and healthy. Filling. I keep a 5 gallon food grade bucket of rolled oats in my pantry.  One thing about oats, you CAN eat them without cooking if you have to. They are digestible and tasty. You can use oats to make cereal (granola type AND cooked hot cereal). You can easily make your own granola bars.  You can use it to make cookies with peanut butter and raisins (no bake cookies). It's a healthy way to bulk up and fiber enrich home made bread. Meatloaf filler and binder.  You can find them in any grocery store or order them in bulk online.  Here's a recipe for an easy to make granola that is customizeable and relatively inexpensive.

 If your family is a cereal eating bunch, making the transition from commercial boxes to home made can be a satisfying, healthy and economical move for you. Not to mention the fact (and this is big for me) you know exactly what's in it. NO fillers (sawdust?--seriously). NO high fructose corn syrup. No chemical additives. No empty calories at all.

  This is the list of ingredients to make a basic granola:

      8 cups rolled oats. (not quick-old fashioned)
      1/2 cup dark brown sugar
      1/4 cup barley malt syrup (optional--I have it, so I use it)
      3/4 cup honey
      1 cup oil (I use coconut, but any vegetable oil will do)
      1 Tbsp. cinnamon
      1 Tbsp. vanilla

    [ Dried fruits and nuts, coconut, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds (preferably raw), raisins...whatever your family likes best.  I dry a lot of my own fruits and use those in my granola and makes it even less expensive to make.  As you can see by the ingredients, it isn't costly. This recipe make a big gallon jar of granola.]

    

  
 You want to get out a medium sized saucepan and mix together the next 6 ingredients on the list.  (Hint--if you put the oil into your measuring cup before the honey or BMS,  the sticky stuff will come out effortlessly!)  Cook over a low flame, stirring to dissolve all the ingredients.  While this is cooking, assemble your dried fruits and nuts...I often use a combination of nuts, like walnuts, peanuts and almonds.  Depends on what I have on hand.  You can put in coconut if you like that. Put in whatever seeds you like into the oats mixture.  DO NOT PUT THE DRIED FRUITS INTO THE MIX YET.  

   When your pan of goo is completely dissolved and mixed, pour it over the oats mixture and using a large wooden spoon or spatula, mix thoroughly. You want to coat all the oats completely with the hot mixture.  Next, we're going to put this into a 250 degree oven to toast and dry out the mix. This part of the process will take about an hour or so.  You want to get in there and mix and stir it about every 15 minutes, so that it doesn't burn.

  Now, after it's all golden and yummy looking, add the dried fruits you chose and mix it up again.  Let it cool before putting it into a one gallon container. And there you have it.  A healthy nutritious breakfast that's quick to fix on busy mornings, and makes a great snack too.  We eat it with milk or mixed with yogurt--both equally good. The Irishman and I both are a little lactose intolerant, so we don't use much dairy in this house. I have found a really good organic soy yogurt and we have Rice Dream rice milk.  If you want a hot breakfast, all you have to do is pour your milk over it and stick it in the microwave for a minute or so. 

  One thing about this hearty treat--It doesn't take much of it to fill you up, A cup of granola is about all my hardworking Irishman can eat and I eat a little less than that.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Resurrection of Dragon Woman's Kitchen

  



So.  Here's the thing.  Times are tough right now.  People are freaking out over the cost of food (as am I). The price of gas is ridiculous. The world is in chaos.  As you know, I have long been a proponent of keeping a stocked pantry and cooking at home. I know lots of people think they can't do this, but there are many ways to stock your pantry. I don't have a traditional "pantry". The house I grew up in did. I created a pantry from a big walk-in closet in the bedroom that is now my office. I bought metal shelving units and built other shelves in there. It works. At one time, almost everything in there came from my hand-- I planted, grew, harvested and canned so many fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, applesauce, pie fillings-- you name it.  I was extremely pleased with myself.  lol  It looked like this:  


   Fast forward a couple of years, and I had some major issues.  FIRST-- raccoons killed all my chickens. I lost it. I live in the country on a small piece of dirt and can do anything I want out here, so I had about a dozen layers all the time.   Then I had a mild heart attack, which resulted in a quadruple bypass. Hospital stay, and changed me quite a bit.  That was in  2020 when the pandemic began. I couldn't handle the heat of this midwestern area I live in, I was limited in ways I never imagined I would be. No garden that year. No garden the next year. Just couldn't do it. This year in late February, I tripped in the middle of the night in the bathroom and fell hard on the stone tile floor, breaking my ankle. A Trimalleolar Fracture they said.  The least commonly seen break, it was the tibia, the fibula and the calcaneal ankle bone, all broken right down where they meet at the ankle. Surgery, plates and pins, PT and learning how to walk again after 6 weeks of no weight bearing. So.. no garden this year. Much of my pantry staples have been depleted. So I had to start buying things differently. I've been a little depressed about it all. 

   Now, here we are:  people have been asking me for help figuring out how to navigate these times, in way of meal ideas, grocery shopping and such. First, I want to recommend a book by my friend Sharon Astyk called  "Independence Days".  Some years ago I took an online series of classes that she did about stocking and eating out of your pantry. It was invaluable.  Her book is full of really great ideas and information. Look for it at your local bookseller, but not Amazon. The price there is ridiculous. lol  She talked about things I hadn't thought of at all, like how much pet food to store, what food can you eat if there's no electricity, gas, or  refrigeration.  What about medications ? So much to consider. I keep  fully stocked medical supplies too. I bought masks 4 years ago and gloves. When the pandemic started and everything was in short supply, I had things. Not just food, but bandages and vitamins and aspirin and stuff. 

  I want to start a series of blogs here about supplies to make less expensive healthy foods that can feed your family affordably, and the recipes to go with them. The meals won't be any fancy dancy things that no one can make at home. And they will be wholesome and healthy and easy.  We'll see how it goes. If I get no responses, it's okay, I'll just do it until I get tired of doing it. But I want you to know...there are no rules in cooking. It's magic. And it's also the most primal form of love you can show your family. Every post will contain one thing for you to buy to start your stocking up process. All basic staples. Okay ??  I will start the first post tomorrow, after I go to the local market to try to make a deal to take the rest of the corned beef off their hands if they'll haggle.  Roast beef prices here are between 5 and 7 dollars a pound. Even ground beef is stupid high. They have some corned beef for 1.99/lb. I'm going to get more. The top picture is corned beef I bought a couple of weeks ago and canned. If you're not a canner, you can freeze it too.  But what happens if your electricity goes away ?? That's why I started canning meats. 


  See you tomorrow.  

Monday, June 29, 2020

Chicken and dumplings






  Mmmm...  good old chicken and dumplings.  Comfort food of the pantry variety.  My friends daughter asked me to please make her some chicken and dumplings, so I did.

  It's a Cracker Barrel copycat recipe for the dumplings which works pretty well. I always have home canned chicken and home canned chicken broth in my pantry, so it makes it a breeze to put this dish together.  Start to finish, about 45 minutes.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 small-medium carrots, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cups cooked chicken
  •  salt and pepper to taste
  • garlic and onion powder if your little heart desires (mine does)
         Put your chicken broth into a wide pan (dutch oven) and bring to a simmer. Chop carrots,                   celery and onion into small pieces and put into the broth to cook.Add the S&P and the onion                and garlic powder.  Put a lid on it.
In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry blender. Stir in the milk, mixing with a fork until the dough forms a ball. Pull the dough into 2 halves.

I use parchment paper to roll my dumplings out ...flour it heavily. Helps keep clean up easy AND doesn't stick.  Flour your rolling pin too. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thick, cut into 2" wide strips with your pizza cutter. Then cut across to make 2x2 inch squares.

Put them on a heavily floured plate. Just keep flouring between the layers of dumplings.

To cook them, bring the broth to a boil. Drop the dumplings in one at a time, stirring while you add them. The extra flour on them will help thicken the broth.

Cook them for about 15 to 20 minutes or until they don't taste doughy.

Add the cooked chicken to the pot and serve
.