Friday, 28 December 2012

Secret Vegetable Ramen

My fella loves these noodles.  But loving veggies?  Not so much.

I like to give my guy stuff that he enjoys but I want to keep him healthy too.

What's a girl to do?

Here's how I give my meatatrian the ramen he loves but sneak some nutrition in there too.  

The finished dish has 1-1/2 to 2 times the quantity of vegetables that it does noodles, but my fella actually likes carrots and thinks they're the only vegetable in the dish.  The finely sliced onions and cabbage mimic the shape and colour of the noodles so he doesn't even notice that they're there.

You'll need:

  • ramen noodles
  • thinly sliced onion, 1/2 to 3/4 cup for each package of noodles used
  • thinly sliced cabbage, an amount roughly equal to the quantity of noodles you'll be cooking. (Slice your onion and cabbage very thinly.  You want the shreds to mimic the shape and size of the noodles.)
  • shredded carrots, about 3/4 cup for each package of noodles use
  • 3 cups of stock for each package of noodles used (I used homemade chicken stock this time, but any flavourful stock will do.)
  • toasted sesame oil to taste
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Open the ramen package and throw away the flavouring packet.  There is nothing good in that little foil envelope.   

I usually break the noodles up into shorter strands before cooking them but that is, of course, entirely optional.

Place the vegetables and stock in a saucepan, bring them to a hard boil, and cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp.

Add in the ramen and cook the dish for 3 minutes longer.

Much of the liquid will have boiled away, but drain off what remains and save it.  It's now quite concentrated and will add good flavour to another dish.

Return the drained ramen mixture to the pan and add in a little sesame oil.  You won't need much; it's strongly flavoured.  I use about 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil for each package of ramen I've cooked.

Season the dish to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toss the noodles and vegetables until seasonings and oil are distributed throughout, then transfer them to a serving dish.  Secret Vegetable Ramen is best served piping hot.


This post is linked to Gallery of Favorites hosted by Premeditated Leftovers and The 21st Century Housewife, to Foodie Friday hosted by Rattlebridge Farm, to Friday Food Frenzy hosted by Adventures in All Things Food, to Foodie Friends Friday hosted by 
Tracy at Busy Vegetarian Mom, Robyn's View, Marlys at This and That, Lois at  Walking on Sunshine, Michelle at  From Calculus to Cupcakes, Cynthia at Feeding Big, Jodie at Binomial Baker, R Dawn at Spatulas on Parade, Angie at A lil Country Sugar, Kelly at Adorned Well, Cindy at Cindy's Recipes and Writings, Joanne at Winelady Cooks, Marlene at Nosh My Way, Jutta at Hungry Little Girl, and Erika at Chef Picky Kidto Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, to Nifty Thrifty Sunday hosted by Nifty Thrifty Things, to Delicious Dish Tuesday hosted by Full Time Mama, Mama Chocolate, and Coping With Frugality.

Gallery of Favorites  

Adventures In All Things Food   Foodie Friends Friday  

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Lazy Woman's Slow Cooker Pork Ribs

We had company this weekend:  A friend from our old neighbourhood who was passing through town on his way to the airport.  We wanted to serve him dinner but his travel plans meant that we'd have to eat mid-afternoon, smack in the middle of my blog cooking time. I didn't want to mess up my cooking schedule (there are so few hours of usable light at this time of year) but I did want to make something he'd enjoy, so I pulled out the slow cooker and made ribs.

This recipe has, in one form or another, made it into the repertoires of virtually every woman my age who lives in this area.  It was a big thing in the 90's and, although we've all learned more scratch cooking since then it remains a fall back dish for many of us.  I think it continues to be popular because it's so simple to make and because it tastes really good.  

Ribs come on sale around here about three times a year and, when they do, I buy quite a quantity of them to keep in the freezer.  I get coupons for Heinz chili sauce about twice a year and usually combine the coupon with a sale price to purchase several bottles for the pantry.  With these two items on hand, this dish becomes an easy and affordable option for busy day meals.

To make Lazy Woman's Slow Cooker Pork Ribs, you'll need

  • Pork side ribs (I cooked about 4 pounds this time)
  • An equal amount each of Heinz chili sauce and marmalade (I used about 1 cup of each)
  • Chili flakes

Cut the ribs into 1 or 2 rib portions and put them in the slow cooker.

Mix together the chili sauce and marmalade, heat it in the microwave for about a minute, then give it a good stir so that the marmalade loosens up and mixes through the sauce. It's okay if there are a few bits of undissolved jam.

Stir in some chili flakes to taste.  (My fella is not a spicy food guy so I only added about a quarter teaspoon this time.)

Pour the sauce over the ribs and set the cooker on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high for 3 to 3-1/2 hours.  (The cooking time may vary, depending upon how "slow" your slow cooker is.)

When the ribs are done, the meat will be so tender that it can literally fall of the bones. Most of the fat will be rendered from the meat and will be floating on top of the sauce.

Transfer the ribs to a platter and put them in the microwave or a 200F oven to stay warm while you skim the fat from the top of the sauce.  

Put the skimmed sauce in a gravy boat to pass at the table.

Plate the ribs on top of noodles or rice and serve them piping hot.  Enjoy!

Monday, 10 December 2012

What We Spent November 26 - December 9

Big total at the bottom of this page this week!  We drove some distance to visit our grandchildren one weekend, which added to the amount we spent on gas, and we bought some meat for our freezer.

We've been pretty good about using the meat we having on hand but certain cuts come on sale at this time of year at very good prices.  This is especially true of turkeys and, since they are unlikely to go on sale again for at least two or three months, we decided to stock up.

Other than that, things have been pretty much as usual.  Here's what we spent between November 24 and December 9:

Nov. 26/12

4 liters skim milk

3.2 kg butternut squash

1.4 kg green cabbage

.42 kg bell peppers (red and yellow)

household supplies

200 Overwaitea tea bags
Dec. 1/12
Dec. 3/12
8 weeks eggs, pre-paid

Dec. 6/12
10 pounds carrots

10 pounds russet potatoes

3 pounds onions

4 liters skim milk

900 grams extra old cheddar cheese

7.85 kg pork side ribs

7.65 kg frozen turkey (2 birds)

.86 kg broccoli crowns
Nov. 26 - 
Dec. 6
coupons redeemed


image source:

What We Ate November 26 - December 9

I was sick last Monday and didn't write a "What We Ate" post so you're getting two week's worth of menus this time.  

Looking back, I see that we've been eating pretty high off the hog (for us) recently.  I had a restaurant meal one night and we enjoyed an amazing dinner cooked for us by our daughter and son-in-law.  'Tis the season, right?

I've also been doing a lot of baking for my posts on A Word For Aunt B.  The baking is a bonus for us, because it's paid for out of my blogging budget so we're enjoying treats that wouldn't normally be provided for in our grocery budget. (Well, my fella is anyway.  I've been pretty good about keeping out of the cookie tins. :)

Here's what we ate:

Monday, November 26:

  • Breakfast - Oatmeal and applesauce
  • Supper - Broiled basa filets topped with homemade pesto, sauteed red and yellow bell peppers with herbs and onions, brown rice, and some delicious cheesecake made by my friend Laurel
Tuesday, November 27:
  • Breakfast - Poached eggs, wholewheat toast, oranges
  • Supper - Grilled sirloin with matire d' butter, steamed broccoli, carrots and bell pepper, mashed potatoes, apples
Wednesday, November 28:
Thursday, November 29:
Friday, November 30:
  • Breakfast - Peanut butter, marmalade and raisin sandwiches on whole wheat toast
  • Supper - Pumpkin and cheddar mac'n'cheese, green bean and onion salad with honey mustard vinaigrette, brown sugar poundcake
Saturday, December 1:
  • Breakfast - Oatmeal and canned peaches
  • Supper - (cooked by our daughter and son-in-law) pork roast, gravy, roast potatoes, steamed carrots, purple and orange cauliflower, cheese sauce, cookies
Sunday, December 2:
  • Breakfast - Nothing for me.  My fella had granola and applesauce
  • Supper - Tea and toast for me.  Leftover mac'n'cheese and salad for my guy.
Monday, December 3:
  • Breakfast - Tea and toasted homemade white bread for me.  Toast with peanut butter, and an orange for my fella.
  • Supper - Nothing for me.  My guy had a fried egg sandwich, and some white bean soup from the pantry
Tuesday, December 4:
  • Breakfast - Oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon, and homemade Greek yogurt
  • Supper - Poached chicken breasts, steamed white rice, steamed carrots, and vanilla ice cream.
Wednesday, December 5:  
  • Breakfast - Poached eggs and toasted English muffins, oranges
  • Supper - Baked potato soup garnished with chopped green onions and some homemade Greek style yogurt
Thursday, December 6:  
Friday, December 7:
  • Breakfast - Oatmeal with leftover canned pears from Thursday
  • Supper - Egg salad sandwiches on homemade white bread, carrot sticks, celery sticks, leftover apple crisp from Thursday
Saturday, December 8:
  • Breakfast - Cheese grits and scrambled eggs
  • Supper - I was cooking all day for my blogs so we nibbled all day long.  We decided to skip supper.
Sunday, December 9:
  • Breakfast - Buttermilk pancakes topped with home canned cherries
  • Supper - Slow cooker pork ribs, sneaky veggie ramen (recipes coming soon), assorted cookies

Friday, 7 December 2012

This Week's Baking

I'm sharing 24 baking recipes between December 1 to December 24, over at A Word From Aunt B.

No recipe today, but look for two tomorrow.  :)

Here's a  list of the recipes posted since December 1.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Turkey Vegetable Soup

We try hard shop the larder before we shop the grocery store, so I'm always very well pleased to be able to come up with a really tasty dinner using just what we have on hand. I shared one of those dinners here on the blog yesterday:  Turkey thigh oven-braised in tomato sauce with herbs, onion and bell pepper, and served over brown rice with lots of melty parmesan cheese.

Sounds good, doesn't it?  It was. Amazing enough to feel all special occasion-ish.  

It was a big dinner, too, with lots of leftovers.

Changing up your leftovers by using them to make the foundation of a new dish is good frugal practice.  (It's such a common occurrence at our house that my husband calls it "Thing One and Thing Two.")  It uses up what you have on hand without making you feel you're eating the same meal over and over again.  

Soup's a near-perfect way to make "Thing Two." and with so much tomato sauce on hand, it was a natural leap from braised turkey to bowl.  The resulting soup was really delicious and it provided us with supper one evening and lunch the following day.  

Three meals from $4.28 worth of meat sounds like good value to me!

Here's what I used to make my soup:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked pasta (I used whole wheat spaghettini broken into short lengths but any pasta you like will do.)
  • 4 to 5 cups stock (I used homemade turkey stock but chicken stock, vegetable stock or even pork stock will work too.  If you're using packaged stock, buy the lower sodium kind.)
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 3/4 cup diced carrot
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce with vegetables (Mine had herbs, onion and bell pepper in it from the previous night's dinner.  If you don't have tomato sauce with vegetables, reduce the sauce amount by 1/2 cup and add 1/4 cup each diced onion and diced bell pepper to the soup. You'll want to add oregano, rosemary, and granulated garlic too.)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3/4 pound cooked, cubed leftover turkey thigh.  (You can substitute any poultry here - even a couple of chicken breasts that have been quickly cooked in the microwave.  If you're pressed for time, you can buy ready cooked from the deli.)

I began by cooking the pasta in boiling salted water.  

(I don't like to put pasta right in the soup pot because it becomes mushy over time. Instead, I cook my pasta, rinse it well, and set it aside.  I stir it into the hot soup just before serving it.  The heat from the soup warms it very quickly.)

Next, I brought 4 cups of stock to a boil and added in the celery and carrot, cooking them until they were tender crisp.  (If they're not already in your sauce, you would add the onion and bell pepper in at this point too.)

Once the vegetables were cooked, I stirred in the tomato sauce and brought the soup back to a boil.  

I tasted the soup and adjusted the seasoning.  It was a little too acidic for my taste so I added in another cup of stock.  You can use your own judgement about this.

Once the seasoning was adjusted, I stirred in the frozen peas and cubed turkey, heating the soup until it returned to a boil once more.  

I put some of the cooked pasta into each of our soup bowls, ladled the soup in on top of it, gave it a stir, and served it.

That's it.  Easy peasy.  The whole pot of soup took less than 20 minutes to prepare.  

Don't you love dinners like that?

I served the soup with whole wheat rolls for dunking ('cause at our house you need something yummy to soak up the broth).  

The leftovers were packaged in individual glass bowls and reheated in the microwave the following day.

I hope that if you find yourself with these ingredients on hand, you'll give this soup a try.  It sure provides a big flavour return for the small amount of effort invested.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Turkey in Tomato Sauce over Cheesy Parmesan Brown Rice

I keep a pretty good inventory of the food we have on hand.  I have a list of the stuff that's in my pantry and another of things in my freezer and I update both lists regularly.  

Sometimes, even though I have my lists to work with, I get stuck in a cooking rut and make the same old stuff over and over again.  Then one day, for no particular reason, I'll look at my lists and see something that's different and really quite special.  

This is such a meal.

Here are the ingredients I saw when I looked at the list:

  • 1-1.54 lb package of frozen boneless, skinless turkey thigh (purchased sometime ago on manager's markdown)
  • the last of a bag of frozen shredded parmesan cheese (purchased with a gift certificate during last year's after Christmas markdowns at our grocery store deli)
  • A bag of frozen, chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1- 680 ml (23 ounce) tin of tomato sauce
  • 2 quarts of homemade turkey stock
  • 1 large onion
  • a container of mixed short grain brown rice and red cargo rice (When I get down to the bottom of a container of rice and have only a little bit left, I transfer it to another container with other small amounts of rice that have been leftover.  This mixture varies constantly, depending upon what we have on hand. If you don't have mixed brown rice, any whole grain rice will do for this recipe.

I thawed the turkey thigh out in the microwave and realized that it was one single, humungous piece of meat.  That must've been the granddaddy of all turkeys!  Since it was such a "senior" bird, I know I'd need to cook the meat low and slow.

I cut the turkey thigh into four pieces and put them in a 9-inch square baking pan, then chopped the onion.  

I scattered half the onion and a good quantity of chopped bell pepper over the turkey thigh pieces and then seasoned it all with granulated garlic, oregano. chopped fresh rosemary, and a generous grind of black pepper.

I poured tomato sauce over the whole lot.

The turkey dish went into a 275F oven.  

After the turkey had cooked for about an hour and a half, I put the stock on the stove and brought it to a boil, then added in the rest of the onion and a cup of rice.  

I gave the rice a stir, put the lid on it.  The rice cooked over medium-low heat until it was tender and about a quarter cup of liquid remained in the bottom of the pot.

There was about a cup and a half of parmesan in the bag from the freezer.  I added it all into the rice pot and stirred until the parmesan was melted.

By that time, the turkey thigh was cooked. 

I served a scoop of cheesy parmesan brown rice into each of two pasta bowls, placed a piece of turkey thigh on top of each serving of rice, and then ladled tomato sauce over into each dish.  It looked festive.  The turkey was very tender and tasted wonderful.

There were leftovers from this meal.  I used the leftover turkey and sauce to make soup (I'll post the recipe tomorrow), and froze the leftover rice to use another day.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Christmas Baking!

It's the last day of November already!  I must admit that the month has just flown by.  I have no idea where the time went.

Last year, on A Word from Aunt B, I shared twenty four baking recipes between December 1 and December 24.  I'll be doing the same this year and, to start everyone off, I've compiled links to all twenty-four recipes from 2011 in a single post.  

I hope you'll all join me at A Word from Aunt B to enjoy this year's recipes too.  :)

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Why You Need This Stuff In Your Kitchen: Brown Rice

I included brown rice in one of my menu posts last week and my friend Mr. CBB,  from Canadian Budget Binder asked “I know the brown rice is good for you but I still haven't been able to get into it yet.. what do you think of it?

Mr. CBB’s question about brown rice got me thinking that it might be a good idea to pass on some information about this wholesome kitchen staple.   

Brown rice is the seed from various cultivars of a wetland-loving grass-like plant, Oryza.  There are two main varieties of Oryza:  Oryza sativa (Asian rice) or Oryza glaberrima (African rice).  It is a cereal grain, from which the nutrition for a large percentage of the world’s population is derived, providing more than 1/5 of the total calories consumed by humans worldwide. [i]

The seeds of the rice plants are harvested and dried, then run through a rice mill, which removes the chaff (the outer husk of the grain) while leaving the bran intact.  This rice – brown rice – is considered a whole grain.  White rice is further processed to remove the bran and germ, leaving only the innermost portion of the seed.  

A cup of brown rice provides 5 grams of protein, and 3.5 grams of dietary fiber.  It is rich in manganese, magnesium and selenium and also provides potassium, copper, and zinc.  It’s a source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid.[ii] 

Brown rice is more flavourful than white rice, and firmer in texture.  Because it’s cooked with its outer bran still intact it does take longer to prepare, but the taste and nutritional benefits make it worth the effort. 

I usually cook my brown rice in the same way I cook pasta:  I fill a large stock pot with water, allowing at least 8 cups of water for every 1 cup of uncooked rice, and bring it to a boil.  Once the water has reached a boil, I add enough salt to make it taste like the ocean and then stir in my rice.  

I cook my brown rice at a medium boil until it’s still slightly al dente (usually 40 to 50 minutes depending upon the variety), then drain it into a sieve.  

At this point I depart from all tradition and rinse my cooked rice well with hot water.  Traditionalists might not approve of this step but the hot water rinse yields rice with less surface starch.  It won't clump together, even when cooled and stored, and that's important to me because I often cook a large quantity of brown rice all at once.

If you prefer to cook your brown rice using a more traditional method, use 3 to 4 cups of boiling, salted water or stock for every cup of uncooked rice and cook it at a low boil in a lidded pot until all the water is absorbed.[iii]

Short grain brown rice is also very good when cooked risotto style.

Since brown rice does take a long time to cook  and it takes as much time to cook a little bit of rice as it does to cook a whole lot of rice – I usually cook a big batch (3 cups uncooked, which yields 9 to 12 cups cooked rice) all at once. 

Once I’ve drained and rinsed my cooked brown rice, I allow it to cool and then portion it into 1-cup packages for storage in the freezer.  

On days when brown rice is on the menu, I transfer the rice from the freezer to the fridge before heading out to work in the morning, or I thaw the rice in the microwave just before using it.  The thawed rice can be reheated in the microwave or a steamer, it can be fried, or it can be stirred into soups and casseroles.

“Brown” rice actually comes in a variety of colours, ranging from the light brown grains we are most familiar with here in North America through red, purple, and even black.  You can find some of these rices in the ethnic food sections of larger grocery stores but if you have an Asian market in your area do take the time to check it out.  You’ll find a whole rainbow of rices there.  Many have interesting, nutty flavours and beautiful aromas.  One of my favourite varieties – red cargo rice – smells like popcorn while it’s cooking!

Like all grains, rice is a calorie-dense food and should be eaten in moderation.  Do include it in your diet though:  It will provide valuable, affordable nutrition and variety to your menus.

  • You can find an excellent chart comparing the nutritional value of brown rice and white rice at Rebecca’s Pocket.  The information is based on information provided by the USDA nutritional laboratory.
  • The proteins in brown rice do not contain all 22 of the proteinogenic amino acids found in meat  but, when consumed in combination with legumes, nuts, or milk products, will provide a “complete” protein source.  Dishes like rice and beans provide an inexpensive, healthful alternative to meat.[iv] , [v], [vi]
  • There used to be thousands upon thousands of regional varieties of rice in cultivation but market demands have caused farmers to focus on those with the most commercial value.  The number of varieties in commercial cultivation has decreased to less than a hundred in recent years.   You can help encourage genetic diversity – important to world food security – by purchasing different varieties when shopping.  Just think:  You can be a good world citizen and have fun exploring new flavours!
  • The rice shown in my title photo is a mixture of short grain brown rice and red cargo rice, both from Thailand.

Related recipes:

[iii] Brown rice can be soaked before cooking to reduce cooking times.  Doing so also removes some of the surface starch, making a less sticky finished product