Favorite "Meditation of My Heart"

Call unto me,

and I will answer thee,

and shew thee great and mighty things,

which thou knowest not. --Jeremiah 33:3 KJV

Sunday, June 10, 2012

More Cheap Eats!

People frequently ask me for my recipes for inexpensive meals.  I really struggle with this because I don't have very many "standard go to recipes".  I "create" a lot as I go based on what I have or can get cheap or free.  I must say, I've cooked with and tried foods that I had to consult the internet about, and some have become new favorites.  I grow my own herbs and use lots of spices like smoked paparika and rich flavors like balsamic and specialty vinegars, worcestershire sauce, cooking wines and soy sauce.  These let me hide a lot of specifics from my kids! 

We frequently receive donated foods from various sources that are a real blessing. Plus I shop with coupons and ads SO I often feel a bit like the Iron Chef.  Only my challenge sounds more like, "You were given 2 pounds of ox tails, 5 pounds of venison, a case of mustard greens, 2 cases of chick peas and 3 dozen eggs. You bought with a coupon on sale the following: sugar, salad dressing, flour, oranges, bananas, dry egg noodles and potatoes.  You got kohlrabi, green peppers and squash from the garden.  You bought green beans, onions and zucchini at the farmers market. Now cook for the week or longer!"  Obviously, I try to plan menus, but when something gets dropped off as a donation and needs used ASAP...well, I have to be flexible and creative!

So let me share a few low cost "gems" that I've been given, tried and loved along the way.

Venison:  Cube it. Apply a generous sprinkling of apple pie spice and some fresh cracked black pepper to taste (like a teaspoon or more of apple pie spice per pound) and then use it as you would any super lean beef.  Cubed venison is especially good in the crock pot on low with a cup or so of New York Steakhouse A-1 Marinade, which is frequently on sale and has had lots of coupons so I can usually get it for $1.25.  (Yes, you read this right, "a-p-p-l-e pie spice" and sometimes I add a little fresh ground ginger, which is much cheaper at the whole foods store than at the grocery store and it is a favorite of mine.) 

Oxtails:  Oxtails are BEEF, don't freak out.  They were a staple during the Great Depression because of their high nutritional content (especially high in iron) and their low cost.  Campbell's even used to sell Oxtail Soup! I frankly hate to tell you about oxtails because I might not get them given to me so often if people knew that they make extra tasty stews and soups.  I sear the oxtails first in some olive oil and then slow cook them to get the great flavorful stock!

Ham hocks:  These are awesome in a pot of pinto beans, but my favorite recipe is by the Pioneer Woman. It is Black Bean Chowder.  I've taken this to several school luncheons and to friends in need of some awesome comfort food.  It is a FAVORITE and I've picked up some un-deserved fans of "my" cooking.

Pickled Beets with Hard Boiled Eggs: 
Tasty & Pretty & Cheap!
Beets:  People apparently grow beets, but don't like to eat beets.  When I'm given beets, I love to make Pickled Beets with Hard Boiled Eggs!  Its a big treat.  I make 4 or 6 times the recipe below, but this is a size for typical folks. 

3 pealed and sliced beets that have been boiled
1 red/purple onion thinly sliced
6-8 hard boiled shelled eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp of pickling spice tied in a cheese cloth bag

Place the liquid off the boiled beets (about a cup) in a pan and add sugar, vinegar, and bag of pickling spice.  Bring to a boil and simmer at a low boil for 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Layer beet slices onion slices and eggs in a jar.  After the liquid cools so it is just warm, pour it over the layers. Put the pickling bag in the jar too.  Cover the jar.  Shake or stir twice a day to mix the contents.  Let it sit 3 to 5 days before serving.  (BTW-This is an awesome snack or as a side for a salad or mustard greens.)

Garbanzo Beans/Chick Peas:  There are hundreds of ways to use garbanzo beans, but apparently few people in the Mid-West know them.  I get lots of canned garbanzo beans given to us.  Garbanzo beans can be roasted for a highly nutritious snack.  Our kids love hummus which can easily be made if you have two things: 1) food processor and 2) tahini (sesame seed paste).  I can't believe that I used to think that garbanzo beans were just to add to veggie soup!

Mustard Greens & other leafy things:  Mustard greens are much milder than spinach and they can be easily seasoned with sauteed onion and ham hocs.  Kohlrabi leaves, collard greens, mustard green are such are amazing in a hearty veggie soup.  A favorite is Balsamic Reduction-Glazed Garbanzo Beans served over mustard greens or other leafy things like fresh baby spinach with some crumbled feta and seasoned walnuts.  But its all about what's in the house already so if I don't have feta, I might put some other cheese or some drained mandarin oranges or whatever strikes my fancy.  Some of it turns out better than others, but with 12 hungry mouths and visitors, it usually all gets ate!

A favorite low cost "Pioneer Woman"
 dessert is "Prune Cake"
Sometimes I end my blog with a Bible verse or two, but this blog entry would probably be most appropriately ended with a Bible story from Numbers 11.  The food that is given to our family and that is purchased at low prices are seen by my husband and I as gifts from the Lord, much like the manna in Moses time.  While it is true that we could ignore the budget and buy other foods, we feel that would not be acting as good steward of the gifts we are given.  We often share our surplus of gifted and bargain foods with others, but we try to use all that we need with contentment in our hearts.  When I find myself wishing for something else, I remember that my children are being exposed to more variety of wholesome foods than most children and I pray for God to make me content with His generosity.  (Its amazing how often the next few weeks yields something I was secretly hoping for!  I'll never forget wanting to buy steak for Mr. Workman for Father's Day a few months after the we added the 4 boys to our family.  It would have busted the strained budget!  But I prayed for contentment and planned to fix lasagna, but two days before Father's Day some friends started a fast and gave us two huge steaks from their freezer that were tempting them!) 

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