Meal-planning is an important way to stretch your food budget, to keep mealtime interesting, and to get other family members involved in the harvesting, shopping, preparing, or cooking. However if you’re gardening, vegetables wait for no man (or woman). They ripen on their timeline, not yours. The consequence of this is that you may have veggies or fruit that are ripe when you didn’t plan on using them, or more than you needed, or not quite the same quantity as you had imagined. How do you reconcile a well-thought-out meal plan with home-grown produce?
Before you go thinking, “you don’t”, consider the possibilities. For produce where you have an over-abundance, or early ripening, consider whether you have space to preserve – by canning, freezing, or dehydrating. We’re cautious in the volume of veg we are putting up for winter, since this is only our first harvest year in our small condo. But some things, like this pesto, let us pack a lot of flavour, and volume, into a small space.
I don’t use a recipe for pesto any more, because I’ve made it many times. But the easiest one I found when I started out was from Jamie Oliver. Nowadays, I add other herbs sometimes, or use walnuts (the sacrilege!) or make other variations according to what’s on hand. One thing I always do, though, is this: I freeze my pesto in small mason jars like the ones above – just enough for a week or so of flavouring, or a single dinner’s worth of pasta for two. To freeze, simply pour a small layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to keep it from discolouring, seal the jar, and pop in the freezer (make sure it’s upright, at least until it is fully frozen). This will give you delicious, fresh basil-y flavour anytime you want, and is especially welcome on a drizzly day in February when you don’t want to venture out and there’s nothing in the cupboard but a little dried pasta. (Yes, those days are coming, my friends)!
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 days are getting longer, and yet it gives us an increasing perspective on the night. When we leave for work in the dark, and arrive home in the dark, it is hard to appreciate that time when the indigo sky highlights the trees and there is a time of beautiful contrast.
On the “official” first day of spring, we had the trifecta of indigo light, wind, and waving trees. In celebration, dinner consisted of an inky squid pasta, combined with the season’s veg…celery, carrot, onion, hothouse pepper, and some Altantic salmon. It was a great combo that fed our tummies and souls.
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!
Hand-rolled pasta may sound like a Herculean task for a weeknight, but last Thursday we made these ravioli to take advantage of some leftover spicy roast squash. (Other leftover mashed vegetables will work equally well). Check the recipe pages for the hand-rolled pasta. We rolled it out and used a small biscuit cutter to cut rounds – as many as we could get from the batch of dough. On each round, we placed about 10ml/2tsp of filling, then wet the circle, topped with another round of dough, and crimped the edges carefully (so as not to pierce) with a fork.
We cooked the pasta for about 10 minutes, and in the meantime made sauce:
Heat 30ml/2T butter w 15ml/1T flour. Stir in 125ml/1/2 c 1% milk and continue stirring until thick. Grate in 30-60ml 1-2 oz smoked Gouda and add a dash of nutmeg. Serve over ravioli and enjoy!
Start to finish, including making the pasta from scratch, about 45 minutes.
. So it seemed like a good idea…move half way across the country and pay attention to the food blog at the same time. All the while, we were having “farewell” dinners with friends and clients. In reality, we ate a lot of restaurant food, much of which was not that notable. It was not health eating at its finest, either.
After a week on the job, it was time for a good housecleaning, and a big shopping trip. We’ve gone from the big city and tiny shops to a tiny town and a giant supermarket. Quite a change. But we did find a lovely little organic café and grocery to fill in some of the missing bits, last night we made our first batch of marinara for the freezer, and earlier in the day, chicken soup. Things are starting to come together. Soon…beans and bread!
In an effort to use up last year’s batch of canned tomatoes before the new ones are ripe, we made a huge pot of marinara on the weekend. Some has gone to the freezer, but the mother of all sauces is so versatile, it’s getting used in all kinds of dishes. Yesterday, pizza toast for lunch. Then on a stroll to Plank Road for a chicken breast big enough for two, we spotted these luscious two-colour egg noodles. They went perfectly with the chicken…which we cooked in a 400F oven for about 40 minutes. Here’s what was in the pot: 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1 carrot and one yellow bell pepper, diced. Five large white mushrooms, quartered. 1 cup/250ml of marinara. Cover and bake.
We took a well-deserved day off on Friday, golfing in beautiful Northumberland. Then we visited friends in Kingston and took the slow road home through Prince Edward County, including a few winery stops and a delicious lunch at East and Main in Wellington.
By the time we arrived home, though, all we wanted was a simple meal and a rest. This is what we cooked up: a stalk of celery, a small onion and a garlic scape, sautéed with a diced chicken breast. To that we added a splash of wine and a couple of diced fresh tomatoes. With a few ribbons of basil from the garden, it was a relaxing and satisfying meal. There’s no place like home.
Last summer we canned bushels of tomatoes, which have lasted us through the winter. We also made sauce and salsa. Today we’re eating the last batch of marina from that harvest…which means time to get cooking again. It looks like we have just enough canned tomatoes and salsa to last until the next harvest. Summer in a jar!
With some basil from the garden, whole wheat penne, and some Gran Padano, that marinara’s going to be good!
Last night’s dinner, Chicken Paprikash. It’s fast and easy to prepare, but most of all, it’s a comforting food. It’s been an adjustment learning to see all over again but with this dinner, no recipe-reading was required.
Stay tuned for today’s special, pancakes!