Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Frugal Cooking

Eating Through the Pantry, if you couldn’t tell, is on hold for the moment, as we don’t really have a pantry here to eat through. That’s because I’ve taken our move as an opportunity for a fresh start and a smarter way of doing my cooking. I’m trying to save money and waste less and so far I think it’s been going alright, especially on the ‘waste less’ front. I’ve only had to throw out some fruit that went moldy a couple of days after purchase and the heel of a giant white bread loaf (if I’d been thinking I’d have turned it into croutons).

With so many grocery stores in the neighbourhood, and since I can’t easily carry more than two bags of food when I’m pushing Walter’s pram, I end up shopping every two or three days. This makes it a lot easier to plan meals around what I have on hand, since I don’t need to estimate at the beginning of a shopping period whether or not I’ll have leftovers to spin into a new meal.

I know that people are always looking for tasty, budget-friendly, easy dishes so I’ll try to post the pictures & recipes of the best of the week’s meals up here. My secret weapons are a wonderful cookbook (The Bean Book) by Rose Elliot, which I recommend to anyone who is either a vegetarian OR just looking for healthy, low-cost meals (her tip on cooking beans in low-sodium vegetable stock is the best I’ve ever picked up for bean cooking), and a beautiful cookbook which David’s mum made him when he moved out. It’s full of mum-recipes and thus is the perfect tool for making delicious meals that don’t require hours of active time in the kitchen.

The past few weeks I’ve been most impressed with the following:

Roast-chicken-salad sandwiches: The bird we got for our thanksgiving dinner was so small that I could only make chicken salad with the leftovers. I am not normally a huge chicken salad fan, so I decided to do things my way instead of looking at a recipe. I carefully stripped the last bits of meat and skin from the bones and tossed it into a bowl to which I added mayo, a little extra seasoning, and some of the leftover gravy, adjusting until it was a consistency I liked. It tasted delicious. I think the winning ingredients were the small bits of skin and the gravy, since they helped it keep the flavor of roast chicken rather than mayo.

Sausage & Corn Chowder: This is a recipe I’ve had on hand for awhile, but I had to change a few things in order to fit with what I could find at the grocery store. I decided to make a chowder because I had a large quantity of milk that was nearing expiry. I was thrilled to find that it made about six hearty servings, which meant we got three meals out of it. I’m posting the original recipe and my German modifications are in brackets. Also, I don’t use exact measurements when cooking, usually, so my quantities might be off. I like to err on the side of more:

1 pound bulk kielbassa, sliced into half moons (I used German bockwurst, which is a boiled smoked sausage – very cheap)
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (I had leftover chicken gravy so I used that first and then bulked it up with water & chicken bouillon)
2 cups diced gold or red-skinned potatoes
2 cups frozen corn kernels (I had to use tinned kernels since the grocer didn’t have frozen)
1 tin cream of mushroom soup (no cream of mushroom here so I used cream of asparagus + a tin of canned mushrooms)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I erred towards 1/2tsp since I didn’t have hot sauce)
dash hot sauce (see above)
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
             In a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat, brown the sausage with onion and a little oil until sausage is browned and onion is lightly browned and tender. Stir in the flour until blended into the mixture. Add the chicken broth and stir to blend. Add the diced potatoes, corn, soup, pepper, and hot sauce. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender. Add the milk and stir in butter. Heat through. Taste and add salt, as needed.

Another winner, although I won’t be posting the recipe since it’s a special Porter-family one, is David’s Grandma’s honey-curried chicken. It’s chicken that’s baked in a honey & curry sauce and it was delicious! I have a couple of recipes that are similar and also delicious—chicken really does well with honey sauces. If you haven’t ever had chicken in a honey-based sauce I recommend googling “chicken + honey + mustard recipe” and seeing what you can find. About.com has some great ones.

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