Your Creativity will Carry You Through

We’ve been conditioned to shop. Programmed, really. Even with food. We live in one of the most abundant countries in the world, and the minute someone tells us we can’t have something, we run after it like desperate lemmings. Or at least that’s how it appears.

Today is March 28th. I’ve been in my little castle in the sky for more than a week without venturing outside, with the exception of the balcony, or the garbage chute. We can do this. You all know I like to save a dollar (even a dime!) wherever I can. I also hate waste. And I like to cook, and eat. So how is a food-lover like me managing these days?

Creativity is my secret weapon. And improvisation. And being able to set frustration aside. I also learned to cook from some women who were even more frugal than I. They had no choice. I do miss my vegetable garden right now. I know as we spend more time inside, I will REALLY miss it. But the cupboards, fridge and freezer will have to do.

Some things that have been my kitchen salvation during this:

  1. Rice and beans (including lentils and chickpeas). I always have lots on hand. I buy dried, not canned, because a much larger volume fits in the same space. Then I cook up batches and refrigerate or freeze some portions for quicker use, if I am so inclined. Right now I have white and pink beans in the freezer, already cooked, in mason jars. Lots of kidney beans and black beans in the cupboard.
  2. Canned tuna and nuts. Both sources of protein. If you’re vegan, the nuts will do nicely, but they are much more expensive.
  3. Eggs and cheese.
  4. Rolled oats and cornmeal. Porridge. Polenta. Granola. Muffins. Bread.
  5. Pasta, shapes and long.
  6. Frozen fruit and vegetables. They often go on sale. They don’t go bad as easily and take less space to store than fresh.
  7. Potatoes and onions. They store well in a dark cupboard or in a box on your balcony when it is consistently above freezing but not hot outside.
  8. Canned tomatoes. You can eat them plain, with eggs, in a soup, make delicious marinara or a casserole, without all heavy doses of sugar, salt and additives found in many canned varieties.
  9. Soy or nut milk in tetra packs, or UHT (shelf stable) milk or canned evaporated milk. Again, coming from a place where there are frequent storms and power outages, I learned to keep things on hand that can survive without a fridge.
  10. Many dried herbs and spices. Many.

Basically, it is cheaper and easier to keep the base ingredients for things you like to eat, and learn to cook them from scratch. Keep a supply on hand. Learn to use them. If you want tips, let me know. (Oh, and that vegetable chowder up top? Put a diced potato, onion, carrot, and about a cup of corn niblets (half a can, if canned, or use frozen) in a pot. Add cold water that covers them by about an inch (or the depth from your thumb-tip to the first knuckle). Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer 10-12 minutes until the carrot is soft. Add a cup of milk (canned, plant, whatever you have). Add herbs or a grind of pepper (or both). Enjoy. Next time, switch up the veg. Or use tomatoes instead of milk.

Please care for each other. Stay in. Stay safe. Venture out only when you must. You’ve got this.

Are you up for the challenge?

As the supply dwindles toward shopping day, it can be tempting to run out to the store for just an item or two. But let’s face it, most of us in the developed world have enough food in the house. I’m not talking about low-income households, who face true hardship in feeding their families. But for the rest of us, “there’s nothing to eat” often means “I’m not sure how to make a meal out of what’s in the house.” 

This year we moved back to a location where I am in walking distance of a plethora of food sources. So when I started to throw together a quick chowder for lunch, I realized I didn’t have any potatoes. I have sweet potatoes, but I have plans for those. Those of you who know me, know that not having a meal plan is an unusual situation. But did this predicament really call for desperate measures? I think not.

Hence, this classic simple chowder now features turnip (more appropriately, rutabaga, but that’s not what we called the big purple and yellow root vegetable where I’m from).  We are still working hard to choose local first, and the veg in this dish came from across the street – and before that, from farms here in our own province. We’re happy that our neighbourhood FreshCo makes an effort to clearly identify local items, and usually has a good selection of those. If you want to know what’s in season in Ontario, check out this handy guide. Many provinces and states have something similar.

Here’s the result – it was pretty tasty. What do you have on hand that you can use up to keep your grocery bill in check this week?

  
For two:

2 c / 500ml water

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 c diced turnip

1 onion, peeled and diced 

1 6 oz / 180 g frozen fish fillet, slightly thawed and cut in 1″ / 2.5cm pieces

1 c / 250ml 1% milk

Fresh ground pepper

Bring the vegetables to the boil in the water. Turn down and cook for 11-12 minutes on medium low heat. 

Add the fish pieces and simmer for another 7 minutes.

Stir in the milk until heated through.

Serve with a grind of fresh pepper.

It's Beginning to Taste a Lot Like…Christmas?

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Back from a long walk in preparation for a busy day, I thought some French toast would be nice. But alas we were out of bread. My resourceful husband seized on an idea. Why not use up that leftover panettone that has been lurking in the freezer since Christmas? If you live in an Italian neighbourhood, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll receive one of these eggy breads over the holidays, and frequently, multiples. They’re often studded with raisins or dried fruit, and hold together beautifully when dipped in egg and cooked. We had ours with a bit of sliced banana and some Canadian maple syrup. Today’s gonna be great!