When I was a kid, the best part about Halloween was all the candy, mostly the chocolate. Am I right? We didn't get a lot of sweets in our home, so getting all of that at once was a bounty that couldn't be beat.
I still love chocolate, but I usually lean towards the darker stuff nowadays. And hands-down the best part of carving pumpkins, besides the fun of designing, is getting all the pumpkin seeds. Roasted pumpkin seeds are not only a tasty treat, but loaded with health benefits.
Here's the recipe I use now when roasting pumpkin seeds. I've tried variations, but always go back to plain old salt. It seems like a lot of salt in the water, but they don't end up too salty, though that's a personal preference and you can change it if you wish. An important thing I can tell you is make sure they are roasted all the way through. One year I thought they were done, but once sealed up in a container they went soft- and moldy after a couple of days. You want to roast all the moisture right out of them.
They fill that craving for salty snacks, but unlike chips, are loaded with fibre- so a little goes a long way, and you won't eat too many. They have magnesium, which helps control blood pressure, and zinc, which is a key component in enabling your immune system to work efficiently, among other benefits. Omega-3's for those of you who don't like fatty fish, and L-tryptophan, the fabled amino acid that converts to seratonin and helps with sleep- and who doesn't need more restful sleep?
Roasted pumpkin seeds are full of protein and potassium- more potassium than a banana! And they aid in prostate health, so eat up, gentlemen!
Happy Halloween, friends! Enjoy your treats in moderation!
Leftovers get a bad reputation. I don't know if it's because so many people just put out the same food as the night before and get bored, or because they get left in the fridge and forgotten about until they go bad, but let me encourage you to reclaim your leftovers. Add a little flair to your leftovers to help your food budget flow a little more smoothly.
This morning I made my first ever food video (I promise, I'll get better!) after trying to decide what to do with our leftover pizza ingredients from dinner last night.
As you can (sort of) see, there's not a lot left. A little pizza sauce, a few slices of meat, a few chopped peppers and onions. And no mozzarella. My usual go-to meal when I only have a little bit of this and that left is soup, so that was an option. I could always cut up another pepper, add a can of tomato sauce with loads of garlic and oregano, and have a reasonable facsimile of pizza in soup form. I also considered loaded pizza baked or roasted potatoes, and a casserole of sorts was taking shape in my mind. In the end, though, I decided to send my oldest to school with a pizza grilled cheese sandwich, which is what you see in my video. I made sure to cool it to send it to school with a freezer pack, so maybe not quite as tasty as hot, but still a delicious lunch. I'll probably eat one for lunch too, actually.
When you've got a pile of leftovers, consider how you can change them up to make something else. Dinner tonight is again leftover-based. A month ago or so I cooked a pork loin, sliced the leftovers, and froze them in meal sized portions- these are my meal starters. To a baggie of pork loin slices I am adding leftover brown rice from dinner a couple of nights ago and creating a yellow pepper, spinach, and yellow curry cream sauce. It's going to be delicious! And quick. I like quick. Quicker than sitting in the drive-through window and ordering dinner, then driving home to eat it. Definitely tastier and better for you, too. I will have dinner on the table tonight in about 15 minutes, because the rice and pork are already cooked.
Varying your foods exposes your family to different flavours in a nutritious way. You've probably heard "Variety is the Spice of Life", and it's true even when related specifically to food. We need a variety of foods in our diets to achieve the most nutrition naturally, and many spices have their own specific health-supporting properties. We definitely need as many supporting players as possible this time of year when flu and cold season starts up in full swing.
If you'd like to experiment with building your own spice blend for Garam Masala (what we in the west mostly call curry), I found this delicious-sounding recipe online this morning during my search for internet treasure. I have created in-house blends for many of my favourite spice mixtures, and sometime in the next while this will be something I experiment with. In the meantime, though, I have a brand new package of store-bought to use up, and we all enjoy eating it.
Happy Friday to you, friends! What's for dinner at your house tonight?
All of you who participated!
I'm so grateful for those of you who took the time to comment, like, or share. I'm working hard on preparing your meal plan, so expect to hear from me later today via Facebook Messaging. You've helped me gain some insight into what you find valuable and I appreciate your participation.
Facebook sometimes makes it difficult to track shares and so on. If you liked, commented, or shared before the time was up this morning and you don't hear from me by the end of the day, please message me with a screen shot of your share. I will be happy to get the goods to you!
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Well, maybe not exactly how busy- but I have an idea, because I'm busy too. We live in a hectic, fast paced world, all of us running to the next appointment, stacking our errands together or fitting them in when we can.
What would the freedom of knowing what's for dinner feel like?
Let me give that gift to you. Over the next 24 hours, everyone who "likes" and "shares" this post on Facebook will be entered into a draw to win a complete 6 dinner meal plan- grocery list and recipes included. Comment with hashtag #6dinnersonabudget so I can track you down when I draw your name. Let's sweeten the pot- if my Facebook Page likes reach 500, I'll throw in 2 additional dinners- 2x15-minute meals- recipe and grocery list. That's 8 in total!
Are you ready? Here's an easy way to take my service for a test drive!
oh slow cooker, old friend,
you cooked my food well
and made my stock deep and tasty,
You worked hard to the end.
So good, my kitchen would smell
though sometimes you were hasty
those flavours you could blend...
and I'll miss you.
The biggest takeaway for me this week was to more thoughtfully consider what we do with what we have. As far as being a reducer, re-user, and recycler, I'm definitely in the know and I know our family does this better than we used to. However, there are still many, many things we can do as a family to improve our impact on the environment. Every day brings new opportunities to make changes to "how" we run our home.
It's easy to get complacent. It's disheartening, here in the west, when we know that no matter how much we give and alter our lifestyles and choices, there are other countries around the world that don't care and don't make any changes. But we are responsible for our choices, and if nothing else, we can make a difference locally. Buy those ugly vegetables. Reuse your plastic bags when you buy fruit and vegetables, and bring your own boxes or bags to the grocery store. Recycle what you can, and minimize what you can't. There are almost always better choices to make- none of us has this completely covered.
How about you? Have you had any epiphanies this week about what changes you can make to give your kitchen a waste-reducing makeover? #wastereductionweek2016
Here are a few final ideas for reducing kitchen waste, and here is a pretty decent article I found online this morning.
All the best this week, friends.
Cooking involves a lot of energy. An avid cook such as myself uses the stove top multiple times a day, the oven several times a week, and the slow cooker at least once a week, sometimes more often. All of our household appliances use energy, of course, and we can always buy more energy efficient appliances, but when you're not in the market for an expensive kitchen makeover, what are some of the steps you can take to reduce energy usage in your kitchen?
I have heard that because slow cookers use very little energy they are more energy efficient. However, the difference may not be as great as you think. I was shocked to learn today that, because the slow cooker cooks consistently and constantly over the time it's on, it can use more energy than your oven, which cycles on and off to reach the right temperature as it cooks. Many variables come into play, such as how efficient your oven is or how much you open your oven to check your food. The energy use makes sense when thought about- I just didn't think about it! Here's an interesting article that discusses this.
The other major cooking appliance in our kitchens is the stove/oven. There are 3 choices available for your cooktop- gas, electric, and induction. Gas is typically more efficient than electric, and the electric ignition does away with the pilot light, which makes them much less scary for me to contemplate using.
According to Consumers Reports, there are various types of electric stoves which can vary energy efficiency, so do your homework before buying a new stove. In the meantime, you can reduce your energy usage by planning your meals efficiently. Use the element closest to your pot size so you reduce the amount of wasted heat radiated around your pot, and cover your pot with a lid to enable it to reach temperature more quickly. If you need to boil water, don't forget to turn down the burner once the boil is reached and continue to cook at a low simmer rather than a hard boil. Use as little water as possible when cooking, as suggested in my cooking water challenge post.
I am intrigued by the idea of induction cooking. I've seen induction cooking surfaces for sale over the last few years that are stand-alone and can be plugged in to use. They cook using a magnetic field, which in and of itself is fascinating. Though I have heard they are more energy efficient to cook with, remember that they also both use electricity to cook. In one article I read, the suggestion is there that The US Department of Energy did a study to compare the two, but the study link refuses to open the document beyond the first page so I can't speak for the results myself. I don't want to spread more confusion into the already confused internet on the merits of energy efficient appliances, so I will not draw conclusions here. However, there are several reasons I would like to try induction cooking, and it is on my list for future purchases.
The most energy efficient cooking appliance in your home to cook a meal is the Microwave, but again there are so many variables at play, as this article lays out.
The most important consideration, regardless of what type of cooking you choose, is to cook thoughtfully. Use as little liquid as possible, cover your pots with a lid when possible, and choose the right burner size to fit your pot. Keep your works surfaces clean to avoid potential fires or (in the case of gas) to be more efficient. Many dishes, such as roasting a turkey or cooking a casserole, don't require preheating. You can turn the burner or oven off a few minutes before the timer sounds, and the residual heat is probably enough to continue cooking your food to completion. (I've done this with pasta and high-temperature roast pork loin and it's worked well...let me know if you experiment!) Cook ahead to make meal starters for future meals, plan to use your leftovers, and read your recipes before beginning. Becoming aware of wasted energy through heat is enough to start thinking about your cooking processes, and thinking through your own processes may make it easier to come up with ways to use less energy. Here's an article on Energy-Wasting Myths to read if you'd like more information!
I look forward to hearing ways you save energy when you cook! #wastereductionweek2016
Enjoy your day,
We go through a lot of apples in our house. It's the one fruit my second son will eat every day without a fight, and the rest of us enjoy them too. The photo above shows on the left what's left when I'm done with my apple. If I slice them for the kids or myself, I'll cut out the seed bits and the core. If I eat it whole, the core and stem are left behind. My husband, however, eats an apple down to the stem, as shown on the right.
He's challenged me this week to find a use for the bits of fruit we throw away. I can't imagine eating an apple until only the stem remains, but I agree there is some usable fruit left behind when I'm done with it. What I'm going to try to do is cook down these bits in a little water and strain it after. I'm hoping some version of fruit juice will be left behind- maybe not as strong as commercially prepared fruit juice, but enough flavour that I can freeze it and use it as a base for punch, fruit based desserts, marinade for pork and chicken, or apple cider.
I've got some ideas in mind for the daily grapefruit peel my husband leaves behind. The zest from it, anyway. I have a recipe idea percolating!
Today's challenge for you is to think about the remnants of fruit that is often thrown away. How can you squeeze just a little bit more out of it? It is deferred waste, but I think that is ok. Until garbage disposal units that create electricity are invented on a large enough scale to affordably keep in every household, we are going to have garbage. The challenge lies in focusing on the 3-R's- reduce, reuse, recycle. #wastereductionweek2016
Enjoy your day, friends!
Water is a valuable, non-renewable resource. Growing up as a child of the 70's and 80's, we seemed to have a very laissez-faire attitude about water in Alberta. It was here when we needed it, and would always be.
Now, however, our kids are growing up in a different world. There are routine water shortages and droughts. We watch the snow pack and rainfall levels, and we hear every year about devastating forest fires here in Alberta as well as around the world.
Today, we're going to talk about cooking water. Let me give you an example of how I changed what I do with it.
First, I now steam potatoes in a steamer pot rather than boiling them. They turn out just as cooked, and cook just as quickly, but use much less water. Another benefit to cooking potatoes in this way is giving them the opportunity to retain more of their nutrients. When vegetables are immersed in boiling water, some of their nutritional value gets absorbed by the water and then (usually) thrown away (more about that in a few minutes!). Another benefit of steaming gives you the opportunity to add passive flavour to your vegetables. Last night, for example, I added dried rosemary and sliced lemons to my steaming water. That gave my potatoes a subtle flavour boost that made them just that much tastier when it was time to eat them.
One of the ways I reuse cooking water is to strain out the solids- in this case, the rosemary and lemon- and refrigerate it overnight. Use it as a base for soup or stews the next day, or label it and freeze it flat to use it in the future. If that seems like too much work or too much planning, consider reheating it to a boil the next day and using it as the base for washing your not dishwasher-safe dishes. Add some soap and just enough cold water to make it possible to immerse your hands, and wash away.
Obviously my favourite way to re-use cooking water is to cook with it again. You retain all the nutrients that made their way into the water, and constantly buying soup stock isn't the healthiest or cheapest option. However, sometimes life gets hectic after dinner and you forget to put your cooking water in the fridge overnight- option #2 at least gives a second life to your water before it gets dumped.
Today, I challenge you to re-frame how you think about cooking water for every step of the journey. From how much you run the water before filling the pot, to how much water you cook with, to what you do with it after the fact. #wastereductionweek 2016
Enjoy your day, friends!
Today, let's talk about kitchen waste- specifically, food waste. There was a time when no-one recycled or composted. I remember throwing out empty cereal boxes, milk jugs, and carrot peelings because there was no other option for them. How exciting that we can make a difference now!
I was thinking about the definition of waste in Waste Reduction, and the concept of "deferred waste". When I cook most meals I start with a garlic and onion base. Into those savouries I usually add some celery, sweet peppers, tomatoes...it depends on what I'm cooking. Up until recently I would throw the bits I'd cut off into the garbage, or in the summer the compost bin. Now, however, unless it's moldy or goes off if exposed to air (like potatoes), I toss them into a freezer bag. When it's time to build a crock pot full of stock, a bag of vegetables gets added to the bones. Did you know you can actually cook with tomato leaves? At my next opportunity those will be added to my stock in small amounts. I think they'd impart a really good flavour.
My question for you to ponder today is the same one that I have been thinking about: what about deferred food waste? True, we are getting more nutrition out of our money by saving and using those bones and vegetable pieces, but does it really end up as less garbage in the land fill? Does it make a difference in the overall scheme of things? I don't know the answer, actually, and I don't know if there is a right or wrong answer to this question. What is your opinion?