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Some of my loot from the farmer's market.
I love summer! The long days, the warmth. People seem to be in a better mood don't they? And then there is the food. Fresh corn on the cob. Juicy fruits and vegetables galore! Farmer's markets. I have to admit I am really enjoying my Sunday morning routine of the Farmer's market, once I got over the shock of the $2.50 head of garlic. I am getting to know the regular attendees and the Vendors. Getting to know who has the best produce at the best prices. Today, since I wasn't as restrained budget wise I bought more apples and nectarines. Fresh green beans. Carrots that are so crisp and sweet that they are breaking in half as you put them in the bag. I'm in love. I even found garlic at a good price! And I purchased the most gorgeous summer tomatoes, a bunch of different varieties. I asked the vendor to put together a sampler of his best. Oh my they are beautiful. I got home and sliced up some Mozzarella and put some baby tomatoes in a bowl. Heavenly. Yesterday I went to a different market, an impromptu idea from my girlfriend Wendy. The produce there still had dirt on it. The onions were misshapen and gorgeous. There I bought English Peas. That evening I sat on the porch, watching the sunset and shelling English Peas. All that was missing was a porch swing. I felt so old fashioned. The only thing is I ended up just a smattering of peas when it was all said and done. It will be a TBSP each at dinner tonight. Mind you, between the dogs, me, my husband and Wendy we ate our fair share of fresh peas from the pod. They were delicious. The taste of summer.

So I've been thinking ... oh oh ... I have my own package habit. I need to get off the can, so to speak. Mostly canned beans (black, kidney, chick peas) and canned tomatoes. I've had readers point out to me the nastiness of canned food. Will it never end people? Oh this and that leaches into the cans. Ok. Ok. I'm going to end up spending half of my life in the freakin' kitchen! After grumbling and complaining, I decided to give dry beans a try - mostly because I was out of money and had some dry beans in the cupboard - but I'm going to stick to grumbling and complaining - it reads better. So before I went to bed one night I threw a cup of beans in a pot and poured some cold water over it. Time involved 10 sec. The next day. I emptied the water and then poured some fresh water in the pot and turned on the element. Another 10 sec. When the water was boiling I turned down the stove to minimum and put on the lid. Another 5 seconds. I let it simmer for two hours while I worked in the office. (talk about efficient) Then I drained the beans and put it into a container and into the fridge. About 20 sec.  I was so proud of myself. Like Tom Hanks in Cast Away "I have made black beans!". They were so cute and looked just like their canned cousins. So the actual work involved in cooking the beans was about 45 seconds. A minute if I'm tipsy. I'm thinking that's not so bad. I'll do it from now on. No more canned beans for me unless it's an emergency.

Now for the canned tomatoes. I've decided next year I will attempt growing my own tomatoes. Then I will get together with my fellow farmer's market pal Wendy and can said tomatoes. That is if I am actually successful at being a balcony tomato farmer. Time involvement, probably loads, but I'll be with a friend and there will be wine involved on my part, and general whining I'm sure and lots of mess and laughs. We might even end up with some canned tomatoes ... who knows? But if I do? Then no more cans for me. I'll be off the can and free forever ... or at least until I run out.

However, I'm still looking for a challenge for right now ... any suggestions?
 
 
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My handy dandy garlic chopper thingy.
I love garlic. I think I'm part Italian and no one is telling me. It tastes great in almost everything, except for possibly ice cream, although I haven't tried that.

For years I smashed garlic, minced and minced and smelled like a vampire hunter. I'd have garlic presses break in my hand while I was pressing. I ended up avoiding garlic like the Count. Garlic became my nemesis.

Then I found my garlic chopper thingy. I fell in love again. I mean look at it. It's so cute and green.


Best of all it makes my life easier. Always a plus. No minced fingers in the minced garlic is an even a bigger plus.

I know what you're thinking. I've run out of things to say. My $150 food budget has made me lose my mind and now I'm rambling on about a garlic. Trust me - (a) I have lots to say, I'm just scared you'll think I'm nuts. Or maybe I'll finally realize I'm nuts. and (b) this thing is awesome! You're dying to know how it works right?


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Load the peeled garlic.



Give the garlic a quick smash with your knife blade to loosen the peel and then place the peeled garlic in the cute green handy dandy garlic chopper thingy.

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Perfectly minced garlic.
Twist like Chubby Checker for a few seconds and voila! Perfectly minced garlic.

Oh the love. Oh the joy. Oh the bliss. Scrape it into the pan and you're on your way.

Throw it in the dishwasher or clean by hand. That's all there is to it.

Now you gotta love that don't you? I want to give one to my daughter for Christmas in her stocking. Do you think she'll like it?


Seriously, if you see one in the store, get it! Mama Mia! It's totally worth it.


 
 
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When I was a kid growing up we had a big ol' tree in our back yard. It was big enough for half of my family to climb into at once. Each one climbing as high as their ability would take them. I stayed relatively low, rebel that I am. It was a cherry tree. A Bing cherry tree. Each year it would be dripping with fruit. We would climb to our respective branches and gorge. I mean gorge. I mean purple hands, purple faces and running to the bathroom for two days kind of gorging. It was awesome. I still have to finger shoot cherry pit missiles each time I eat a cherry to this day. The cherry tree is a good memory. We did nothing to that cherry tree except eat its fruit. We didn't fertilize it. Never pruned it. (actually my dad did when I was older and it never bore the same amount of fruit again). Never sprayed it for bugs. At 6.99/lb the yield from that tree would feed my family for at least a week now a days. We were eating organic cherries. Who knew? Did you know that the regular succulent cherries you look forward to each year are laden with pesticides?


 
 
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Hearty Lentil Soup with wrinkled napkin. (Click on pic for recipe)
Last week I spent $2.50 on two bulbs of garlic at the Farmer's Market. I am still trying to get over that one. This week I was a little more careful. I skipped the Farmer's Market. Actually, in all fairness, it closed at 3:00 and I didn't get there until 3:15, but I still skipped going in theory.

So off to my regular super market I went with my $151.06. This week was a little easier shopping wise as I didn't have to purchase 1/2 cup of cashews, and 4 Tbsp of peanuts. After yesterday's freezer cleaning I have enough little bags of nuts, (don't go there) to last me a life time, well a few weeks at least.


 
 
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Yesterday I went through my fridge freezer - I was appalled. It was packed full of unmarked 'stuff' that was unrecognizable - little packages of nuts; three, count them THREE bags of prawns (I hate seafood); some Tilapia that had seen better days (again? what's with the seafood?); tiny bags of frozen vegetables with about 1/2 cup in each one; and a Costco size hunk of prosciutto - unsliced of course and left over from some entertaining thing I did at some point (???). But the best of them all was 4 little tubs of chipotle peppers.  Those little jars have about three peppers in them and they are hot little suckers. So I tend to use only one, seal the rest up and stick 'em in the freezer ... over and over again. Am I senile? What is up with that?


 
 
I'm like Old Mother Hubbard, except its not my cupboard its my fridge. I am here to tell you that my fridge is bare. It's so bare I can list it's contents. Organic Eggs, Beef roast for tomorrow, 2-3 slices of natural ham, left over spaghetti from last night, Broccoli, Organic Celery (part of the dirty dozen), about 1/2 cup of yogurt, 1 tub of margarine that I'm too cheap to throw out, 1/2 cup organic milk, 1/4 cup of organic half 'n half for my coffee, natural peanut butter, natural jam and condiments. I should take this opportunity to clean my fridge.... ah nope ... too lazy. On my counter I have some apples and one banana in the fruit bowl. And the pantry has stuff in it ... I dunno what. I have to look ... later.

How are we to eat for the next two days you may ask? We will be having a chick pea curry for dinner using cans from the pantry (tastes better than it sounds), brown rice, frozen green beans and leftover naan bread made earlier this week and then frozen. Sunday dinner will be Roast beef, roasted organic potatoes (in the pantry), broccoli and homemade gravy. Dessert will be apple/blackberry crisp. We're covered. I have a fair bit of broccoli so I may make some broccoli soup for a lunch today. Then my fridge will really be bare.

I am also happy to report that I have not gone over budget this week. Our family ate (extremely well I might add) for $150 this week. I even have $1.06 left over. What is odd is it felt rather freeing to be so restrained. Isn't that weird? I guess its because getting groceries (something I used to do every couple of days) was now off my to do list. I didn't have to go to the grocery store - I had already spent my budget for the week, and the meals were planned. I was done. I was able to drive past the grocery store without guilt and that was in itself freeing.

Yesterday I went to the Grocery store with my $10 remaining and bought $3 worth of coffee, Organic eggs on sale for $5 and some more oatmeal to get us through breakfast the next few days. I would never do something like that (buying just a bit of coffee and oatmeal) if not on this challenge - but I was not about to go without my morning coffee - it ain't pretty.

This coming week is going to be more of a challenge. This weekend I will take stock of my pantry and anything that is left in my freezer and then look through recipes. I'll let you know what I come up with. Here's where it gets interesting (for me anyways).

Once again, the challenge is:

I will cook only -
  • Preservative free Food
  • Real food - no packages
I will purchase only -
  • Organic of the (dirty dozen) fruits and veggies
  • Locally grown produce whenever possible
  • Naturally raised and grain fed meats and poultry whenever financially possible
  • Free range eggs
  • Organic dairy when financially possible
I will do this and feed my family of three with an added hungry and tall boyfriend every once in a while, including Sunday dinner, breakfasts, lunches, snacks, beverages and desserts for $150.00 per week. If we go out to eat it is included in the $150 budget.

I've added another recipe for you to try if you like. Only those who make it to the bottom of the this blog page get to see it - see what you get for your perseverance? Simply click on the picture for the recipe.
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Spicy Soba Noodles - Click on picture for recipe.

 
 
Tonight is Spicy Soba Noodle night. I was really looking forward to it. Quick and easy. Yummy. Then I got home. Hubby is in between jobs and has been off for a few weeks. He starts work this weekend (thank God, but don't tell him I said that). He's trying to fill his days with things to do. I keep hinting that working on the garden would be helpful, but he decided to clean the oven. We'll he's not really cleaning it, the oven is cleaning itself. But, I'm sure he felt all proud of himself for pushing the button and turning the handle.

Now it's 7:10 and I still can't access my stove. I shut it off two hours early and I'm waiting for it to cool down and work for me. I'm sorry, did he not think when he put the dang thing on at 5:00 pm with the little timer flashing at 4 hours that maybe just maybe it might cause a problem?

So, I'm blogging. Except I have nothing to say. Actually I do, I always have something to ramble on about.

Here goes the ramble ... I love it when you find something simple, safe and effective. Ladies and Gentlemen - let me introduce you to Chamomile Tea. Here are some things that I use Chamomile Tea for -

  1. Drink it at night - duh
  2. In my bath - great if your skin is irritated, itchy, sun burnt, rashes. (add some ground oatmeal and your skin will be soooooo soft)
  3. On my hair - it lightens my hair naturally. I like that a lot!
  4. For mosquito bites - I discovered that this summer actually. Mosquitoes loved me this year. Put some chamomile tea in a spray bottle. Spray it on the bite and it has something in it that actually numbs the nerve endings (which is one of the reasons it is good for a sunburn too). It would stop the itching, and believe me I had welts this summer from those blood suckers.

I love Chamomile Tea! Especially the hair part. Which reminds me of something funny that I noticed today. I was looking in the mirror and I had this reddish/pink section of hair.   It's quite something! Rather funky. Although I couldn't for the life of me figure out how my hair changed color seemingly overnight. Then it dawned on me - I cut up a beet last night for the salad at dinner (remember the beet from the farmer's market that cost an arm and a leg?). Cut up it looked like a lovely tie dye decoration from the 70's all red with white swirls but it bled like a stuck pig when I sliced it. My hands look like I had murdered something by the time I was done. I must have unwittingly touched my hair to put it behind my ear before washing my hands - and there you have it. Instant funky dye, natural and tastes good too - if you don't mind the hair. I kinda like it. I might do it on purpose one time.

Here's one final thing and it is not about food, well it is in a round about sort of way, but it's more about cleaning.

Here's a link that my sister-out-law sent me - I think it's a great site. Now I should note that I haven't tried all of the ideas here, but none of them can hurt. I will say that I've used it for uses #10, and 9 (which work great by the way) and I will NEVER admit to use #1.

Top 10 Uses for Used Coffee Grounds

Oh my, the stove can now be used, and I'm hungry. It's only 7:45. I'll be eating by 8:15/8:30. How posh.


 
 
So I'm just at the beginning of this challenge and already it's daunting. I love cooking, at least I thought I did. But I'm cheap and lazy remember? The cheap part of me is ecstatic, the lazy part not so much. This is a lot of work. Actually its just a different type of work and I need to get into a routine. The shopping took forever - my brain actually hurt at the end of it and I wanted to buy a coffee and relax, but I couldn't or I'd have to count the damn $2 and I didn't have it to spare. Today I need to make some hummus, fresh tomato soup, tuna salad and of course lunch and dinner. Plus I need to work at my own business and fit in a walk or two for me. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels - something I personally hate. I need to plan and focus on one thing at a time. After I right this, I'm scheduling things out and that will be that.

There's a piece of me that is worried about next week before I even get to it. Talk about not living in the present. I'm worried about protein mostly. One can only have so many beans and lentils. I might have a revolt at home. My freezer will be empty mostly except for a turkey, which I'm not cooking.

Again, I just need to get into a routine and get creative with my recipes. A little less meat, more other types of proteins. Any suggestions would be helpful. Like I say to my daughter, one step at a time. Focus on one thing at a time and suddenly you're done.

There was one good thing, Warde, Lauren and I had breakfast together this morning. I cooked up some oatmeal, with an apple and a few organic blueberries (blueberries are part of the dirty dozen), some flax seed and honey. There was a side of egg for some added protein to keep them going through their day. We never have breakfast together, except for Christmas. I didn't realize that until this morning. That part was kind of nice. I told them how many slices of natural ham they could have on their sandwiches (2). Lauren asked for another jar of pickles to which I had to tell her that it wasn't in the budget. That got an eye roll. Then I said all perky that I'd make up a batch of tuna salad for them too for some lunch variety. Lauren looked at me and said, "Oh! This is going to be so much fun." - she didn't mean it. To which I responded with with a smile "Just wait until you get lentils for dinner." "Oh goody." she said. We all laughed.

They are being really good about it all, but it is the first day. Warde's just happy to be saving money, typical man. Lauren is always supportive of me and my endeavors. I'm hoping we all get into

Can I feed a family of three grown-ups preservative free, non-packaged food, sometimes organic for under $21.50 a day? Three meals, plus snacks and desserts? We are about to find out.
 
 
Feeding your family with healthy preservative free food in this economy is a challenge. Everything is going up in price. And living where I do in Canada we seem to pay more for everything.

I have a family of three. We all eat for two. My husband especially - that man can eat! Of course he's the skinniest of the bunch. Although my daughter can eat her fair share and she's a skinny thing too. No wonder I hate skinny gluttons. I'm surrounded by them. Again, I digress.

I've decided I'm going to do a 4 week challenge. Here are the rules I've set for myself.

I will cook only -
  • Preservative free Food
  • Real food - no packages
I will purchase only -
  • Organic (dirty dozen) fruits and veggies
  • Locally grown produce whenever possible
  • Naturally raised and grain fed meats and poultry whenever possible
  • Free range eggs
  • Organic dairy when possible
I will do this and feed my family of three with an added hungry and tall boyfriend every once in a while, including Sunday dinner, breakfasts, lunches, snacks, beverages and desserts for $150.00 per week. If we go out it is included in the $150 budget.

I may use items already in my fridge and freezer which will help until I get used to this budgeting. (I wish I had a garden)

This $150 does not include toiletries, alcohol (thank goodness - I'm gonna need some), pet food or other sundries.

Every Sunday I will withdraw $150 cash and put it in an envelope. That is my budget for the week. If I use it all up before the end of the week I will have to get creative with my cooking.

I will let you all know how the money was spent and the meal plan for the coming week. I will also let you know whether my meal plan was completely out to lunch (pardon the pun) and how I needed to tweak it.

Here's the plan for the next week -

Dinners for the week are:
  • Red Lentil Curry, with Spinach and Homemade Naan Bread.
  • Maple Pecan Chicken, with Brown Rice and Broccoli
  • Spaghetti with meat sauce (ground beef from freezer), salad
  • Greek Turkey Meatballs, with spicy sweet potato fries, cucumber & tomato slices
  • Spicy Soba Noodles with Chicken in Peanut Sauce, Spinach
  • Chick Pea Curry, Arugula, left over Naan Bread
  • Roast Beef 'n gravy, roasted potatoes and Broccoli (Roast beef from freezer)
Desserts - Banana 'ice cream' and home made no sugar Apple Crisp

Lunches are:
  • Tuna Sandwiches, mini carrots, fruit
  • Fresh Tomato Soup, Natural Ham Sandwich, fruit
  • Fresh Salad w/grilled chicken breast, homemade Ranch dressing, fruit
  • Leftovers
Breakfasts are:
  • Eggs, 'fried' potato, grapefruit
  • Oatmeal with berries or apple, flax seed, cinnamon and maple syrup
  • Plain Yogurt, berries, honey, flax seed and cinnamon
Snacks are:
  • Whole Wheat Banana mini muffins (homemade)
  • Homemade Hummus with veggies
  • Homemade 'microwave' popcorn
  • Fruit with Peanut Butter
Honestly, I hate budgets. As a bookkeeper with my own business I work with numbers all week. Adding (again pardon the pun) more numbers to my week is just nasty. But, things are tight. I'm spending too much on food. Time to tighten the reigns and what better way to be accountable than to make it public? So ... wish me luck.

Not a very funny post I know. But give me a week, this could get hysterical, or I may become hysterical. One of the two I'm sure. I'm thinking when a cauliflower can cost me $5 to purchase this is maybe harder than I realize. What I don't want to do is set myself up to fail. Fingers crossed.

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UPDATE: The farmer's market is freakin' expensive! Two garlic was $2.50! I spent $12.50 for 4 carrots, 1 beet and 1/2 a bag of potatoes. What?!?! It took me forever to shop today, but I did it. I thought for sure I was over and was going to have to return a bunch of items and embarrass myself at the counter. Instead of chicken breasts we're having Chicken Thighs $9.90kg for free range. As I was running out of money I had to opt for some regular chicken - something I don't want to do - for the other meals (soba noodles and salads for lumch).

Money went like this -

$117.99 Save-on Foods
$ 20.00 Farmer's Market = potatoes, tomatoes, beet, carrots, green onions and 2 heads of garlic
$  1.99 Soba Noodles
$139.98

I've got $10 to last me through the rest of the week. Next week will be tough as I will have no extra meat to grab from the freezer. Oh boy. Beans for dinner. But that's why it's a challenge right?

 
 
Picture of Butter
In honor of the weekend and indulgence...Butter! Food of the gods!
"Is there anything better than butter? Think it over, any time you taste something that's delicious beyond imagining and you say 'what's in this?' the answer is always going to be butter. The day there is a meteorite rushing toward Earth and we have thirty days to live, I am going to spend it eating butter. Here is my final word on the subject, you can never have too much butter." (Julie/Julia) Never a truer statement has been said.

Now how about we reread the above quote, except replace margarine with butter, they're interchangeable right?. "... any time you taste something that's delicious beyond imagining and you say 'what's in this?' the answer is always going to be MARGARINE?" Doesn't have the same ring to it does it?  Somehow if life were ending I don't think I'd be grabbing my tub of Parkay for comfort.

I can see you all jumping up and down going Cayla! I thought you were a healthy non-hippy type. I am. I said I wasn't going to talk about tofu and quinoa and so far I haven't. I also said I love food. Good food. And dishes made with butter are good, no make that great food. It certainly didn't do France any harm. You'd think the entire nation including the Eiffel Tower would keel over with a heart attack, but amazingly they don't. Viva la France!

I do believe in all things in moderation. I don't like to cut food groups and such. I wish I could eat in moderation, that would be cool, I'd be thinner. But I have not been able to find that discipline on a consistent basis as of yet.  I do indulge every once in a while with butter. Sunday morning breakfast consisting of butter melting on a hot piece of toast topped with 'dippy' egg is simplistic and heavenly to me. Or going out for breakfast and ordering Eggs Benedict (my all time favorite) made with real hollandaise sauce, not 'our own cheesy sauce'. Nothing says summer like fresh corn on the cob glistening with melted butter... and a beer.  I could go on, but honestly I think I'm gaining weight just talking about it. So let's just say this, like bacon - everything tastes better with butter.

There is a lot of debate over which is healthier, butter or margarine. Really when you get down to it neither are. Birthday cake isn't good for you either, but no one should celebrate a birthday without a piece of birthday cake. It's just not right. I remember my mother-out-law who used to feed us a huge meal, then a 1/4 of a homemade pie and THEN bring out the birthday cake. We'd all look at her cross eyed and in shock and she'd say "What? This isn't dessert, this is Birthday Cake. It's totally different!" True story, but I digress.

Here's the thing, if i am going to indulge in the wondrous taste that is butter, I'm going to choose the real natural product and not a man made substitute that says something like "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter". Simulated. I don't like simulated anything. I want the real thing thank you very much. So, I take out a loan and buy myself a 1/2 lb of organic butter. It lasts me a long time and I enjoy every creamy, buttery bite.

OK - so if I was on reality TV the morality police would come in and check my fridge. I'm guilty. They would in fact find a tub of margarine. Hold on now though, I've had it for an awful long time. I'm cheap remember? I got it on sale in a weak moment, and I can't seem to just throw it out. So, I feed it to my husband when I'm mad at him. At the rate he's going we should be through the tub by the end of the year.

In honor of glorious butter I am going to share a chicken recipe. (That doesn't even make sense).  It is really tasty and quick to prepare. When I make this for dinner, my daughter says "You mean that really good chicken that you make?" I smile and say yup. "Yay!" she says,  "I love that chicken!" - she's 20. Young ones will love it too. It really is quite good. It's great cold the next day. Must be the butter.

Curry Chicken Thighs (not a strong taste of curry)
Pre-heat oven to 375F

6-8      Chicken Thighs, skinless and bone in (or more if you like)
4 Tbsp Butter
1/2 c   Honey
1/4     Mustard
1 tsp   Salt
1 tsp   Curry Powder

Melt butter in oven proof pan (like your handy cast iron frying pan).
Add remaining ingredients and give it a whisk.
Add chicken thighs to pan turning to coat with sauce ending with chicken what would be skin side up (if it still had skin on it)
Put in the oven and bake for an 45 mins to 1 hr (depending on size of thighs...not yours the chicken's)
You can baste them every 15 mins or so or leave it alone. I leave this up to you.

I serve this with brown basmati rice. I place the chicken on a bed of fresh spinach. Pour the heavenly sauce over the rice and chicken. The spinach slightly wilts with the heat. Delish!

If you make this and cut the butter portions please don't tell me because  and "here is my final word on the subject, you can never have too much butter."