Archive for the ‘Hints’ Category

Cast Iron has been used for several centuries in providing meals to others.  Ideally, they were to be used and handed down to the offspring, who would hand it down to their offspring.  If “hand me down” cast iron is not available, finding used well-seasoned cast iron at garage sales and/or estate sales are the best way to go.  Cast Iron pots include fry pans, griddles, dutch ovens, cauldrons, sauce pots, and grills in all different sizes.  MRF090907013

Cast iron cookware, in my humble opinion, is great.  Once seasoned, cooks can use less oil and they are easy to clean and maintain.  Sometimes, it is difficult to buy used cast iron and it becomes necessary to buy new (pre-seasoned) cookware.  Pre-seasoned does not mean it is seasoned as it should be.  Things will still stick to the “pre-seasoned” new cookware.  Below are some steps I can offer on how to season your own cast iron cookware.  Remember: Pot lids need to be seasoned as well.

1.  If you have a fire pit or barbecue pit, that is ideal.  The heat is intense, but it will get the job done efficiently without smoking up your house.

A.  If you are a vegetarian or vegan, use olive oil.  This will take longer (about 10 times) as the fats will take longer to caramelize.

B.  If you eat meat, use lard.  Three seasonings should do the trick.

2.  Using the fire pit or barbecue, coat the interior and exterior of the pot with oil/lard and put onto the fire.  The oils may catch fire and this is expected.  After 10 minutes, turn the pot over so the inside may be done as well; after 10 minutes, pull off of the heat.

3.  Coat again and repeat (3 times for lard or 10 times for olive oil)

4.  Once cool after the final firing, wash with water and cloth only.  Do not scrub your pot and do not use soap.  After you use it for cooking, only light scrubbing with a cloth or natural fiber scrubber with water should be used.  You don’t want to remove the carbons that have been used to season  your pot.

normal__mg_5592If you are one of the unfortunate people who do not have access to fire and can only use a stove, I will warn you that this can be a smelling and messy project.

Preheat the oven for 450 degrees.  Once hot, coat your pot in the oil of your choice (olive oil or lard).  Keep in the oven for 45 minutes and pull out to re-coat the pot.  Repeat for steps 3 and 4, skipping steps 1 and 2.


In today’s economy, many are making cutbacks in all areas of the household budget.  Anything that can be eliminated is considered.  For many, the days of eating out everyday are gone and are being replaced with brown bag lunches.  It’s hard on a lot of families who were used to living in one lifestyle and suddenly, they need to change the way they live their lives.9017_150093804438_579144438_3443213_6130643_n

Often, the food that is cheap (and highly over-processed) is not good for you as it is often contains unhealthy fillers, high fructose corn syrups, nitrates, MSG, and/or other unhealthy ingredients which can increase behavioral issues with children and adults alike.

In an earlier blog (http://alicethecook.com/?p=128), I touted the benefits of buying  locally.  It is idea and helps the environment and the community, but can also hurt the pocketbook.  Below are some suggestions at buying good food, which can lead to healthy and tasty meals which help with the budget.

A couple of suggestions.  Consider finding a meat slicer (used or new), chest or upright freezer, food dehydrator, and a “food saver.”   Each of these items as well as some good food storage containers can help keep your food fresh for a longer time period.  Buying in bulk and cutting the items down to family-friendly servings are ideal.

  • A 14 lb. shoulder beef roast at Sam’s Club can cost around $22-$25, but can be cut into 30-40 steaks or 5 smaller roasts.  Roasts can be sliced up for sandwich meat.
  • Buying a whole chicken and cutting it up is significantly cheaper than buying processed chicken.  Remember, some scraps can be used for other things. Chicken backs which are usually disposed of can be used to make broth or stock.
  • Check out the local ethnic food markets for fresh fish and rice at cheaper prices
  • Consider adding more vegetables and fruit to your diet.  It’s not only healthier, but easier on the budget that processed meat.
  • Left over vegetables that may not be enough for a serving, can be used with other vegetables and made into soup, stir fry, etc.
  • By drying fruits, you can have a healthy snack at less cost that can be kept for a longer time.
  • Review the packaging and read the ingredients.  Are you buying a name brand and/or a lot of chemicals?
  • Dried beans are better for you and less expensive than canned beans.  They do require some planning by soaking overnight (24 hours) prior to use, but the higher magnesium, protein, and fibers levels will be much more beneficial.
  • Pay attention to your local store’s coupons.  Two-for-ones are great for saving money especially on items that can be used to offset eating out prices.  Pick up things you go through quickly and that are versatile so you always have items for an easy meal:  rice, pasta, pasta sauce, etc…
  • Get creative with recipes.  Some times, when money is really tight, you can take an inventory of what you have and visit some websites that specialize in recipes with four or five ingredients.  I like http://busycooks.about.com/od/fouringredient/a/fouringredient.htm.  You can do a search based on some of the ingredients you have.
  • Selecting a day where lunches can be made in advance.  For example:  A family size lasagna can be cut up into 12 different servings
  • Be eco-friendly and buy a water container and avoid buying bottled water.  Water is good for you, but the disposable plastic bottles are not good for the environment.
  • Date the items you put into the freezer with a permanent marker on the packaging so you don’t lose it to freezer burn and your money won’t go to waste.

I hope you found these suggestions useful.  There are other locations and resources in other states that can help families that are really struggling to feed their families.  If you are one of these families or people, visit Second Harvest Heartland or your ear food shelf.

If you are one of the fortunate ones, consider donating to an area food shelf and help others who may be struggling.

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20
Jul

Potluck Food Safety

   Posted by: anj68 Tags: ,

Summer time offers individuals opportunities for individuals to socialize with friends and family.  With these events, potlucks are often scheduled and offer participants a variety of dining choices.  Potlucks can also make other sick, unless you follow some food safety guidelines that will halp keep you and your loved ones from becoming ill. 

Easy Tips

  • Handle food safely
  • Always wash hands before and after handling food.
  • Keep the kitchen, dishes and utensils clean.
  • Always serve food on clean plates.  This also includes storage bins and coolers for transporting the food.
  • Trust your nose before preparing.  Do any of the ingredients smell a little “off?”  If so, avoid using.
  • Covering the food prior to serving will also keep the flies and other pests out of it.  Target, ACE Hardware, Lowes, Walmart, etc. all carry mesh covers for food.
  • Be aware of how your food is being handled.  Bring you own clean utensils to avoid cross contamination.
  • When prepping the food, don’t mix your sources.  Raw vegetables should never mix with raw meat in the preparation stages.  This also can lead to cross contamination.

Cook thoroughly:
Heating to the proper temperature kills the bacteria, parasites and viruses that may be on meat and fish. Using a meat thermometer, be sure that: whole poultry reaches 180 degrees; chicken breasts 170 degrees; ground turkey and poultry 165 degrees; ground beef hamburgers 160 degrees; all cuts of pork 160 degrees; beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts and chops 160 degrees; all other meat and fish 160 degrees.

Keep it hot or cold

  • Divide cooked foods among shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165 degrees.
  • Hot foods should be held at 140 degrees or warmer. Use a chafing dish, slow cooker or warming trays.
  • Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees or colder by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them, as needed, with cold foods.

Mind the time

  • Food should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours
  • Replace empty plates rather than reuse them for a fresh serving.

I hope these suggestions help.  In the meantime, enjoy your summer!

23
Jun

Eating on a budget

   Posted by: anj68 Tags: , ,

With the troubling economy and unemployment rates at a higher than average level, people are looking for ways to cut costs where ever they can.   Everyone needs to eat.  There are ways to cut back and make the most out of your food budget.  If you’re willing to work towards the cost savings, you can find rewards.  Investments that help make the most of your food budget include a Food saver or similar device that vacuum-packs food, food processor, and a deep freezer.

The deep freezer allows  you to hold more food in cold storage and saving it until  you need it for a longer time.  At our home, we have two of them (both were inherited).

The food processor, allows  you to make the most of the food products, pureeing them to use in soups and stocks and adding to their nutritional value and enhancing flavor.  For example, pureeing garlic or onions can add flavor to any dish.  Once pureed, place plastic wrap in an ice cube tray and add a tablespoon or more of each into one of the trays.   Cover with a zip lock bag so the odor doesn’t affect your other food items and freeze.  Once frozen, empty the tray to add more.  This can be done to carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, etc for instant mixing to other dishes.  The carrots and other items can be shredded or julienned and frozen to be added to other dishes.

The food saver helps in buying bulk and cutting it down to appropriate servings.  The culture in North American tends to lend itself to overeating.  By portioning out the food, you have enough for your family with out adding to the waistline.   My family and I will often visit a food warehouse such as Sam’s Club or CostCo and buy a large shoulder roast and cut it down to steaks or smaller roasts.  A $22 shoulder roast, can be cut down to about 36 steaks.  A single chicken, can be cut down  to 2 legs, 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 breasts, and 1 back).  Depending on the size of your family (just you or more) you can determine the serving size.  The back can be boiled and used as chicken stock for future soups and stews.  Chickens are significantly cheaper whole then cut up.

For my vegetarian friends: Dried beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein.  Buying in bulk and zip locking distribution sizes so that you have enough.  It’s always a good idea when money is plentiful, to stock up on standard items – canned beans, dried bean, canned veggies, pasta, rice, etc.  S0 that when money is tight you have something to fall back on.

alicef.jpgCheap places to get food:

 

  1. I’ve mentioned before the grocery warehouses.  These places often require a membership fee and unless you go often, it may not be worth it.
  2. Local farmer’s markets.  I adore them.  You are buying locally and helping out independent farmers as well.
  3. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):  By paying in, participants receive packages of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and some ma received eggs, bread, dairy, and meat products.
  4. Community/Communal Gardening: By working the land, you can reap its rewards.  You can do it at home, if you have a yard, or by participate in neighborhood gardening projects.
  5. Larger grocery stores:  You don’t have to buy a paper to get the coupons.  Visit your store, or preview the sales online before venturing out.  The store’s home brand may be cheaper than the more familiar brands.  Generics are NOT always cheaper.  Take a close look at the cost per ounce, you might be surprised by costs savings.
  6. Aldi Z and other food wholesalers.  Many of the stores are cash only and you pay for the extras like bags and carts.  If you bring your own bag and shop wisely, their prices may afford you some of life’s luxuries.
  7. Smart shopping.  By buying what you need, you will have less waste for our landfills and more money in  your pocketbook.
  8. Don’t fill up on junk food.  By buying “real” food, you will feel better and so will your pocketbook.

 

28
Apr

Food and Kids

   Posted by: anj68 Tags: ,

Outside of historical cooking, I have several interests but they all pertain to food.  On another blog the question came up “how do you get fussy kids to eat their vegetables?”  I’ve been blessed as my son likes many vegetables, so it is not a fight.  But for several of my friends’ kids, it is a challenge.  I thought I would post these suggestions for prosperity and hope that my readers may learn a few things.  

Kids are motivated by their parents and peers.  If they have friends or parents who eat vegetables, they are more likely to do so as well.  Some foods are tastier to kids than others.  I still have a strong dislike to brussel sprouts since my mom forced me to eat them as a young child.  

What does your child like to eat?  Do they like sweet flavors such as ginger, cinnamon, cilantro, etc. or do they like savory flavors such as cumin, curry, mustard, etc. or spicy such as chilis, vindaloo, etc.  Use there taste center to your advantage. 

Vegetables that are kid friendly:

  • Sweet Potatoes – baked, oven fried, chips, or mashed.   Not bad for you if you leave off the brown sugar and the marshmallows.    I add a dash of cinnamon to my son’s and I prefer a cumin and cinnamon blend on mine.
  • Beets – very red and very sweet.  Can be found as chips to start with.
  • Veggie Booty – a snack food made from real veggies.  It’s a good start and a better choice than cheese puffs.
  • Baby Carrots
  • Zucchini and yellow squash – can be cut up like french fries and grilled or oven fried
  • Summer Squash
  • Edame (soybeans) – Oddly enough, kids like the mild sweet flavor and its an opportunity to “play with your food” as the beans need to be removed from their shell.
  • Black and garbanzo beans – just fun to eat as you can pop them into your mouth like candy.  

If the earlier suggestions fail, there are other suggestions that may work:

  • If your child likes spaghetti and pizza, make your own sauce by adding pureed zucchini or other vegetables while cooking the sauces
  • Adding a vegetarian soup to ground meat and adding breadcrumbs or oatmeal before cooking meatloaf or making meatballs.
  • Making lettuce wrap meals.  Meals like tacos and other foods can be made into a sandwich using lettuce leaves instead of bread.  This can be fun for the whole family. 
  • When eating out at a buffet, empower your child to select their own veggies.  You might be surprised with their selections.
  • When barbecuing, grill veggies along side the meat so your child will have a tasty selection.  
  • When all else fails, cover the veggies with a sauce the child may like.  Ketchup is very popular in our house.  When I was a young woman, I did not care for the taste of broccoli, but when I covered it in garlic cheese sauce, I couldn’t get enough of it.  Nowadays, I eat the broccoli without any sauce.  

I hope these suggestions help.  Feel free to add to the comment section your suggestions.

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