If you’re looking for a simple dinner that uses up vegetables, I can’t think of anything better than this vegetable strata, with the exception, perhaps, of soup. Whenever I make it, I start with potato – but you could use turnip, beets, pretty much anything that’s round and can be sliced. Potato will be the easiest on your budget, and they’ll last for ages in a cool dark cupboard. You may need longer than the recipe says to bake – if I make this in a big casserole for four (or two, with leftovers for tomorrow), I’ll bake it for an hour.
Cooking for one or two people? Sometimes the big bags of veg aren’t a bargain, because you can’t use them all. If you’ve got foods that seemed like a bargain, but now you don’t know how to use them up, let me know. I can help. I’ve got a recipe for pretty well anything. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I do have lots of plant-based recipes, and I’m happy to adapt if I can. And if you’re not shopping because you’re trying to stay home and stay safe, I get it. If you’ve got foods in your cupboard but don’t know how to use them up, let me know.
Soup season has arrived! (Okay, to be fair, it is always soup season at our house). Each time we have a bag of parings, ends, and leftover veg bits, we make stock. And the same goes with something like the Thanksgiving turkey. We don’t eat much meat these days, but when we do, we are conscious of using every bit.
This starts with putting some sliced onion (skin and all) or other vegetable parings underneath the bird as it cooks. These will add flavour to the stock. We like to use a large roaster with a lid, and cook the stock right in the same pan, or otherwise put some parchment underneath so every bit can be transferred to the stock pot. We always keep stock on hand, and we love to make traditional soups, like Traditional Turkey, or new ones, like Turkey Chickpea Curry Rice soup.
We’re off to see our niece and her husband this afternoon – they’re home for a visit from Germany, where Eric had an opportunity to be transferred this year. We will also be celebrating three birthdays – my hubby’s, my sister-in-law’s, and my nephew’s. The surest way to not overeat at a party is to have something healthy in advance – and hence this tasty salad.
A couple of large handfuls of mixed baby greens, and another of arugula on each plate. Dice half a green pepper, slice four mushrooms, and drain a can of salmon – layer all this on the greens. Lastly, the dressing: zest half a lemon (keep the zest aside). Squeeze the juice into a small bowl and remove any seeds. Add 10ml/2t of Dijon mustard and stir together. Drizzle this over the salad and garnish with the zest.
The upside? We’ll have our cake (a little slice) but we’ll also have more time to enjoy the real zest of life: friends and family.
Number one child arrived home yesterday, and we had great plans to make bean burritos for dinner. Somehow in the midst of all the harvesting, pickling, canning, and freezing, though, our food inventory-keeping went awry. We were okay with substituting chickpeas and Jacob’s cattle beans for the black beans. But no tortillas, either? That was problematic. So we hit on a plan. Bulgur would play the part of the tortilla, in a manner of speaking. For three:
Boil 1 cup (250ml) water. Add 1/2 cup (125ml) bulgur and 1 tsp (5ml) olive oil, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook 3 cloves of garlic and 1 tsp (5ml) chipotle powder in 1 Tbsp (15ml) olive oil. Add a drained can of beans or about 2 cups (500ml) beans and 1/2 cup (125ml) broth. (Go crazy – black beans, chickpeas, whatever strikes your fancy…we are improvising now). Simmer until bulgur is cooked.
Line 3 bowls with greens – we still have mizuna in the garden, so that’s what we used. Stir the bulgur into the bean mix and spoon over the greens. Top with chopped tomato, diced avocado, fat free yogurt, salsa, and grated cheese. (Did I mention we were also out of salsa?) Spicy chioggia relish to the rescue!
All this is to say, in a cost-conscious kitchen, it isn’t always necessary to run to the store when you’re short on ingredients for a recipe. Use a little imagination and you might invent a whole new kind of delicious.
In our continuing quest to finish up things in the freezer or cupboard before automatically heading to the grocery store, we try to keep this in mind. This also means judicious use of leftovers. A couple of nights ago we made a delicious pizza – caramelized onions, olives and mushrooms on a wheat crust, topped with just a little shaving of cheese. With lunch appointments yesterday, the extra slices were still in the fridge, and made a perfect base for a soft-poached egg. Truly, it was a gold medal breakfast.
Nearly an hour on the rowing machine and a long day’s work ahead calls for some serious energy. My grandmother used to start us off on cold winter days with a bowl of oatmeal, and she was right. But we don’t need instant oats or the long, slow cooking of her day. Large flake, old fashioned (or steel-cut) oats will cook nicely in the microwave in under 10 minutes.
We dressed ours up with some extra protein (walnuts), dried cranberries and cinnamon, and topped it with half a banana. And we’re off to race through another day!
January has been a month of creativity for us – in food, and how we live. We decided at the beginning of the month to follow the old advice: use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. I must admit we haven’t felt as though we are doing without, but instead, finding things in our cupboards, closets, drawers and refrigerators and turning them to a more interesting purpose. The delicious horseradish mustard that we use frequently in summer made a tangy start to this egg-wich, which also amps up its veg quotient with minced broccoli ends and a few straggler mushrooms that were left in the bag.
We are working our way through the summer’s harvest, our forgotten condiments, and frozen remains of big batch cooking from the fall. And it’s been a delicious journey…one we will continue for as long as possible.
January is a time of renewal in our family – and frugality of a multitude of sorts. Most of us who aren’t already abstainers (shout out to the in-laws) give up “the drink”. We also usually get back on the horse (or treadmill, bike, road, pool, or trail) if we have been lax of late. In our house we’ve decided to take a tip from our old East Lynn Danforth friends and try not to spend money on non-essentials as well. We were inspired when the Daughter and Son and their loves showed up with a plethora of handmade and homemade things at Christmas.
It calls to mind an old poem, really words to live by in this consumerist age:
Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without
On that note, our lunch quest was, “what have we got in the house to eat that doesn’t require going out for supplies?”
We made this awesomely delicious pasta:
Cook 1c/250ml multicolour veg pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, dice 2 very ripe tomatoes (ok, ours were VERY ripe) and 1/2 head of broccoli, stems and florets (or either)
Drain a can of salmon.
Chop up a hot pickled pepper languishing alone in its jar (clean and save jar for next year’s canning).
Dig out that 30g/1oz end of herbed goat cheese from the fridge.
Chop a couple of anchovies.
When the pasta is done, strain it. Put the pot back on the stove and dump in the other ingredients except salmon. Stir until the cheese melts in, then add the pasta and the salmon, quickly mixing to coat.
Give thanks for leftovers and good things hiding in the fridge!