Monday, September 21, 2015

In Season Apples and Pumpkins

Fall is in the air and everything is pumpkin flavor. Our post is no exception and we have a great Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip to share today. With October right around the corner it is time to plan what yummy pumpkin creations to share.

Pumpkin is indigenous to North America. Halloween pumpkins are edible and the source of canned pumpkin.

Selection- Select pumpkins that are firm and heavy for their size.

Nutrition Benefits- Fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, good source of vitamin C, excellent source of vitamin A.

Storage- Store pumpkins a a cool, dark place up to 2 months.
Check out the Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip recipe. I suggest eating it with apple slices, however I’m sure you could use it in many ways. Apples are also in season right now!

About 2500 known varieties of apples are grown in the United States. More than 7,500 are grown worldwide.

A medium apple has about 80 calories.

Don't peel your apple. Two-thirds of the fiber and lots of antioxidants and found in the peel. 

Selection- Choose firm, shiny, smooth apples with intact stems. Should smell fresh.

Storage- Refrigerate apples in plastic bag away from strong-odored foods. Use within 3 weeks.

Nutrition Benefits- Fat free; saturated fat free; sodium free; cholesterol free; high source of dietary fiber.

Enjoy this yummy and healthy fall time treat!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stocking up at Caselot sales

Many stores are in the middle of case lots sales or will be having them in the next few weeks. Caselots sales are a great time to stock your pantry. By keeping some basic ingredients on hand you can save money by reducing trips to the store. So before you toss in the kitchen towel and opt to go out to eat… learn to keep a well-stocked pantry.

It’s a good idea to have ingredients for some of your favorite family meals on hand at all time. This CREATES handout is a great help for knowing what foods are good to have on hand. It also has some quick meal ideas using those items.

Honestly you will know best what you need to keep on hand. Start by thinking about your favorite meals. Family favorites, quick meals you get the idea, stuff you make all the time. 

Some stores will have a list of items on sale you can use as a shopping list like this one from MACEY'S. Check with your favorite store during their caselot and see if they have one. 

Most stores will honor the same price for individual items. You don't have to buy a case. 

Are there ingredients that you find yourself purchasing every time you grocery shop? This would be a great starting point. Are those item pantry items or refrigerator items. Pantry items you can purchase in larger quantities and they will have a sustained shelf life. Refrigerator items like produce, milk or cheese still need to be purchased as they are used.

Staples consist of ingredients that are kept on hand usually inexpensive, basic and have a long shelf life. Things like…

Dry goods- flour, sugar, oats, rice, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, dry beans, lentils and pasta

Oils, vinegars and sauces -vegetable or canola oil, olive oil, Vinegars: apple cider, white and balsamic, sauces: honey, mustard, BBQ, mayonnaise, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, ketchup

Herbs and spices: Here are some good basics, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, cumin, crushed red pepper, paprika, cinnamon, curry chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and a good soup base or bullion

What shelf stable items do you use? For example in my home we use canned tomatoes in many varieties, diced, sauce, paste etc. Pasta of all kinds of shapes, spaghetti, elbow mac, penne, rotini, shells.

What vegetables do you like to have available? I keep a supply of green beans, sweet kernel corn, green chilies. I also keep a variety of canned beans available for soups, casseroles and sides. Beans are an inexpensive protein source and good to have available.

What about canned fruits? How about applesauce, peaches, pears, pineapple or mandarin oranges to toss into a delicious spinach salad? Canned fruits are good to have on hand, just make sure they are not packed in heavy syrup. This is usually a good time to purchase apple juice too.

Meats…. I don’t love canned meat, although it is good in a pinch. I do, however, like to purchase meat items on sale and keep them in my freezer. This can be done in a couple different ways. There are times I purchase larger quantities for less and repackage them into portions I would use for preparing a meal. I even vary the repackage size. For example, a smaller amount of chicken breast if I would only need it for making soup, or a larger package if I wanted to do a marinated grilled chicken on the BBQ where each person would have their own piece of chicken. Ground beef I repackage and label for different meals. Tacos I know I would need more than with pasta sauce and even more if I wanted to make a meatloaf. (Who can even afford meatloaf these days with beef at $4.00 a pound) ****As a side note, I add a can or two of black, pinto or small red beans to my taco meat to make it stretch.*****

Meats can also be cooked first and then packaged for meals. I will often cook 5-6 pounds of ground beef with onion and garlic and then keep it ready to use for a night when I don’t have much time to spend cooking. Slow cooking chicken in a crock pot and then shredding it and storing in 2 cup portions makes it ready for soups, skillets or casseroles.

Case lot sales can be a budget breaker if you were to purchase everything at once. They come around about every 6 months.  Plan to start collecting a little bit every six months. Little by little you will begin to stock the items you use the most. It will save you time and money. In classes I often  joke that I wish I had a  grocery store in my basement so that I always have what I neededm,It’s not a joke, I really do want that.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

CREATE a Hummus Pasta Salad!

Have you ever rummaged through your cupboards and fridge staring at the food you have while thinking to yourself “I have nothing to eat”? For me this seems like a daily occurrence. I was in this exact situation the other day when I decided to create a new recipe and make a hummus pasta salad.
Instead of thinking about the meals that I already knew how to make but didn’t have ingredients for I looked at what I had, the two things that stood out to me were a box of whole wheat pasta and a can of garbanzo beans or chick peas as they are sometimes called and from there my idea grew. I would say that 9 times out of 10 I cook without a recipe. Sometimes I google a few just to get an idea of what would go well with what but then I just wing it. No, I didn’t go to culinary school but most everyone has a sense of smell and at least a basic idea of what types of food can go together. So with my box of pasta and can of garbanzo beans I got started.

I knew that I wanted my pasta to be the base of my meal and that I would turn it into some sort of pasta salad. I have seen whole garbanzo beans in pasta dishes before and toyed with that idea but I knew I needed a “dressing” for my salad so I decided to blend the beans up with some lemon juice, garlic powder, olive oil, salt and pepper (most cans of garbanzo beans come with a recipe for hummus on the back and so that is what I used). Of course if you actually had hummus itself that would make this recipe even easier. I added the hummus to the pasta while it was still warm so that it would smooth out and coat the pasta evenly. I was missing one thing…vegetables! I happened to have a tomato and some frozen peas. I roasted the tomato in a frying pan with some olive oil and defrosted the peas. These were the vegetables that I had on hand but I also thought about using carrots or broccoli. I think that most vegetables would have worked.

It turned out really great! I ate it warm the first day but then cold the next day as leftovers. Both ways were good although eating it leftover had given the flavors more time to blend so I liked it a little bit more. Just like that, easy, cheap, and quick I had found myself a new recipe that was packed with protein from the beans and pasta and vitamins from the vegetables.

Creating a salad can be as simple as choosing a base, like pasta or lettuce. Adding a protein, chicken is one of my favorites although beans and legumes are cheaper. Choosing your vegetables and fruit. Then tying it all together with a dressing and some seasonings. Try it at home! And although you don’t need a recipe here is mine:
Hummus Pasta Salad
              1 can of drained garbanzo beans
              2 tsp minced garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
              4 tsp olive oil
              4 tsp lemon juice
              ½ tsp salt
              ½ tsp pepper
1 box of whole wheat pasta
1 large tomato
½ cup frozen peas

Add the ingredients of the hummus together in a blender. Blend until a smooth consistency is reached. Cook pasta as box directs. Sauté tomato with olive oil. Defrost peas. Mix together. Enjoy.