I’m somewhat of a minimalist, and enjoy the idea of using up the last of my cupboard contents before heading to the store. But I also dislike sitting down once a week to meal plan. A lot. If I can … Continue reading
There are two camps in the grocery buying arena. There are those with cupboards, freezers, and refrigerators filled to the max. At. All. Times. And there are others who keep everything pretty sparse and only shop when needed. I lean toward the second kind. I don’t like to go on big shopping trips (fortunately I don’t do much of the shopping in the first place), I fear wasting food more than I fear not having enough, and I like the idea of just picking up a few things for a special dinner if the mood strikes and not ALWAYS planning ahead (although sometimes I wish I was more of a meal planner). And then there’s the fact I’m more able to welcome gifted garden fare when I don’t already have heaps of produce waiting to be consumed (or just rot).
Today we were gifted squash and tomatoes. I’ve never loved squash… but recognizing it’s not all made with miniature marshmallows, I’m looking forward to giving it another try. Does anyone have a favorite recipe to share?
A couple of years ago, I met a young mom who had moved back to her rural Minnesota hometown before starting her family. Though her faith was no longer in line with that of her home church, she continued to attend. This didn’t make sense to me, so I asked her to explain how it worked for her and her family. She explained, because nothing in her area fit her better (and because it would break her mother’s heart to know the truth), she made do. She appreciated the support structure, comfortable routine, and moral base for her children, but often talked to her girls about the “stories” they learned there as being just that, “stories.”
All areas of life are full of opportunities and challenges often meet with our ability to “make do.” Say you’re too far from the store to run out for that forgotten item or the store has a limited selection, in rural America (and urban food deserts), you learn to make do.
My top 10 “Make Do” solutions
- 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk = 1 tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice, then fill with milk to 1 cup, mix and rest for 5 minutes
- 1 cup polenta = 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar = 1/2 tsp. white vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 cup powdered sugar = 1 cup granulated sugar ground in your blender until it becomes a fine powder (optional: add 1 tsp. cornstarch before blending to prevent clumping)
- 1 cup molasses = 1 cup honey, dark corn syrup, maple syrup, or 3/4 cup sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup light corn syrup = 1 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup liquid (whatever is already called for in the recipe)
- 1 cup dark brown sugar = 1 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 cup light brown sugar = 1 cup white sugar and 1/8 cup molasses
- Dry herbs = check the label! Unfortunately there is no easy trick to remember. (1 tsp. dry oregano = 2 tsp. fresh; 1 tsp. dry dill weed = 1 tbsp. fresh; 1 tsp. dry basil = 3 tsp. fresh; 1 tsp. dry mint = 2 tsp. fresh)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream (not for whipping) = 2/3 cup whole milk and 1/3 cup melted, unsalted butter
What did I miss? Add your favorites with a comment below.
According to Mint.com, urban chickens could be a money-saving hobby. But you won’t find them in my yard. Despite relocating to a rather rural small town, I still consider crickets a lot more like fingernails on a chalkboard than white noise. And I’d venture a guess I’d feel the same about clucking. Give me street noise and sidewalk chatter any day.
I’ll lean on my apple tree, reach for a few of the 8 ingredients boasting the “biggest nutritional bang for your buck,” and join Food Network’s Brown-Bag Challenge this month to keep our grocery bill at bay. Check out tomorrow’s lunch!
- 1 cup cooked long-grain brown rice
- 1 cup cooked bulgur
- 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
- 1/4 cup diced carrot
- 1/4 cup diced celery
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
- 2 medium unpeeled eating apple, chopped
- 4 medium green onions, chopped
Sweet Red Onion Dressing
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. grated red onion
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cloves grated garlic
In a large bowl, mix salad ingredients. In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until chilled.
*Inspired by a 3-grain Betty Crocker salad, but major alterations have been made.
In rural America, there comes a time in mid to late summer when the harvest begins, and break-room tables everywhere become cornucopias. Coworkers bring their produce like offerings. It would be rude not to partake. I returned from vacation yesterday to three beautiful onions left after my cubical buddies took home their share of Ron’s crop. I turned to a version of the onion trick for inspiration.
With one quick trip to the German bakery (literally) across the street, some cheese (and sandwich meat for Jeff) scavenged from the refrigerator, and a quick dusting off of my beloved Panini maker, we enjoyed the most wonderful sandwiches we’ve had in years (or ever).
As we enjoyed the gooey cheese, fresh onion, and savory crunch of the hearty, toasted flaxseed bread, we realized that while most of the year, finding fresh organic produce in a town of 3,200 is often out of our reach, one easy way for us to improve our diet and food purchase choices is to buy fresh, healthy bread baked just steps from our front door. We are, after all, blessed with two small bakers within a stone’s throw.
Last Saturday I raved about my Farmer’s Market green onions. Here’s how I used them, the successes, and lessons learned.
1. Last Saturday I used the first half of our green onions to make Rachel Ray’s Fragrant Fried Rice Pilaf. It’s extremely flavorful with a hearty dose of meat-free protein.
Success: It’s beautiful. Even a novice cook like me
can make it look as great as the magazine photo.
Lesson: This was the second time I’ve made this dish,
and I’m beginning to accept I may never learn how to
make the rice “form a crust.”
2. Inspired by a 2005 post from Farm Girl Flare, and a more recent Dinner: a Love Story, our second green onion creation was a 2 onion, green pepper, and cheese pizza (plus a 2 onion, green pepper, and pepperoni one for Jeff).
Success: The “Great Value” brand makes a decent all
natural pizza sauce. Plus the freshness of our
toppings convinced me to try making pizza at home
Lesson: Skip Great Value’s “Just Add Hot Water”
crust. It was dry and flavorless. Next time I’m going
to try Trader Joe’s refrigerator dough (so excited for
my first pilgrimage tomorrow!) or try a from scratch
3. For yesterday’s pizza toppings, I fried green and yellow onions and green peppers in two or three tablespoons of olive oil. I save what remained after Jeff put the toppings on our pizzas, and this morning I whipped 6 eggs, added a splash of cold water, the leftover onions and peppers and scrambled them. When they were just about done cooking, I sprinkled some shredded cheddar on top.
Success: I don’t know why I’ve never put green onions
in eggs before. Amazing. That’s all I have to say.
Lesson: No matter what you offer your two year-old.
No matter how much she usually loves what you
offer her. No matter how much she usually eats for
breakfast. There are no guarantees.