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.
This is not a good post for you if you are one of my vegan or non-dairy friends. We are still in cleanup mode prior to doing a spring refresh on cupboards and fridge – one of many steps of renewal we take during Lent. Right now I am targeting cheese.
Following a busy holiday season I’ve realized we were giving safe harbour to far too much cheese. I’m willing to eat cheese, but it does contain a large amount of fat – and so should be eaten sparingly, if at all. Since we are also frugal eaters and shoppers, though, I see no sense in throwing away perfectly good food. Better to eat it up and then simply cut down or stop our purchases.
Hence, today’s lunch was more tasty lentil pasta, tossed with sage, celery, and a creamy cheese sauce. No packaged macaroni dinners for us, when in the time it takes to cook the pasta, one can make a tasty sauce:
In a nonstick or smooth, easy to clean pan, melt 2 T (30ml) butter and stir in 2 chopped stalks of celery and a few chopped herbs – we had sage left over from another dish.
Sprinkle in 1-2 T (40ml) white flour and stir until it sort of coats everything but doesn’t brown. Add 1/2c (125ml) milk (1% for us but even skim will do as cheese provides more than enough fat). Then add grated cheese – max 2 oz or 60 g per person. Stir over low heat until the sauce bubbles, then mix in your cooked pasta. Serve with a grind of pepper or some freshly grated nutmeg.
The fridge is starting to look a little bare as we get ready for a cleanup and refresh. Whether it’s because you’re going away, there’s a change of season, or your cupboards and fridge just need a good sorting, it helps cut down on waste if you take one day a week to cook just with what’s on hand.
Here’s what I saw that needed to be used:
3 homemade sourdough buckwheat buns – I keep these in the freezer because with whole grains and no preservatives they spoil easily.
Sundried tomatoes in oil – bought for a recipe; I prefer the dry-packed, as they keep longer without electricity.
Green olives – good for martinis but alas, we are out of gin.
A can of tuna in water.
Kozlik’s Tripke Crunch mustard, which I love but which has, of late, been ignored in favour of Old Smokey.
Some cheese bought “off list” on last week’s market excursion and needing to be finished off.
I chopped the tomatoes and olives, mixed with the tuna and mustard, and spread this on the buns (sliced in half). Next I grated the cheese and put it on top, popping under the broiler just until melt-y.
That’s it! Another weekend use-it-up assignment complete:
We’ve been in “use it up” mode at our house lately, finding creative ways to avoid the grocery store and use what’s on hand. This includes working down things we have in the freezer, in anticipation (hope?) of another season of garden bounty. Also, I was once again fooled into buying bananas. Here in Nova Scotia, even if the bananas look as green as grass, they won’t last more than a day or two. So here’s what we did – enough for last night’s dinner and lunch today…
Dice a large carrot, an onion, and two peeled white potatoes. Put on to boil in some vegetable broth, then simmer 10 minutes til tender.
Chop up half a pound or about 200g of fish, or use leftover cooked fish, and add to the veg along with a couple of large spoonfuls of dried unsweetened coconut and a tablespoon (15ml) of curry powder. Simmer until fish ish opaque and stir in a cup or so of milk.
Heat through…and here’s the surprise: in each bowl, slice in half a banana. Top with the soup and some chopped herbs – we have basil and Vietnamese coriander growing in the window.
Yesterday we planned for a barbecue party…which is always a risk on a long weekend. Either the guest list will be feast, or famine. The low turnout means leftovers – a great opportunity for creativity. Couple that with an over abundant vegetable garden and our cooking imaginations are getting a fantastic workout.
On the menu this rainy Sunday morning: mushrooms and Swiss chard, sautéed in just a little butter. Then we tipped in a couple of medium eggs, beaten lightly. When the omelette could be folded, we topped it with a couple of cheddar slices (which also went down a treat on yesterday’s homemade burgers), covering the pan, just until they melted.
We served this delicious omelette on hamburger buns, spread with Kozlik’s Triple Crunch (secured on our last visit to Toronto) and topped with baby tomato slices. With a mug of hot Just Us! coffee on the side, we’re feeling pretty grateful about the whole start to today.
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!
There is nothing quite like an old family recipe for the holidays. They may not quite conform to our modern dietary habits ( we rarely use lard in our house any more). But our grandmothers knew a thing or two about frugal eating that we would do well to take on board. This tremendous, versatile cake was the result of wartime rationing, when butter, milk, and eggs were rare commodities. The good new is that it tastes so delicious those things will never be missed.
Since we’re not big on fruitcake, we like to add some red and green cherries to this, during the festive season.