Lazy Budget Chef: September 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Make Peppermint Extrac)

I grow mint in pots on my patio. Earlier this summer I spiffed up the planters from our old apartment with green outdoor paint I had leftover from my front porch remodel and garden landscaping project.

I also took the opportunity to thin the root bound mint plants and transplant the peppermint and chocolate mint into their own little happy pot homes.

Between transplanting and this summer’s drought the mint leaves are tough and do not taste as good as the mint I dried last year. I should wait and dry next summer’s mint for winter tea if I want to continue drinking mint tea that doesn’t make me gag.

I’m not letting this summer’s mint go to waste. I’m going to make peppermint essential oil with my garden peppermint to use in my homemade shower cleaners.

OK, technically, what I am making is not a pure peppermint essential oil. It is a peppermint tincture. To make an essential oil, you have to boil the herb in water, capture the steam, and cool the steam into a liquid to extract the oil. That’s why essential oils made with natural ingredients are often expensive (but so much better in quality than the cheap synthetics. Not to mention, synthetic essential oils usually contain pthalates which are bad for you.) I'm calling it an essential oil in this post because that is what most people type into the almighty Google machine when they want to know how to make an herbal tincture.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How to Dry Fresh Herbs Without a Dehydrator

When Husband and I started cooking from scratch, it didn’t take long for us to learn that herbs and spices are a magic money saver. You can change the taste of the same basic protein, vegetable, and starch combination to a new dish every night of the week with herbs and spices.  If only they weren’t so expensive!

One way I save money on herbs and spices is to buy them at a store that sells them in bulk. I can buy the amount I need, often in larger amount for the price of the same thing in a small jar. I wash and refill the old spice bottles with the bulk spices. Who knew the jar added to much expense to the price of the stuff inside it?

Another way I save money is to grow herb plants. I have mint in pots on my patio, and Chinese and Genovese Basil, Cilantro tucked in my front garden.  

Genovese Basil
Genovese Basil from my garden

Unfortunately, when the winter snows come, there go the garden fresh organic herbs. This year, I decided to take my cue from the small furry squirrels that are currently gathering nuts for their winter siesta and try my hand at preserving fresh herbs from my herb garden for winter.

Drying Herbs

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mixed Bean Salad Recipe

Hi, my name is Cyn and I'm guest blogging here today. I blog about food, family, creativity and more over at Creative Cynchronicity. I'd love for you to pop on over and join me there. I'll have the sweet tea ready for you!

 Mixed Bean Salad

I just love this recipe for a number of reasons. It's easy to make, versatile, can utilize leftovers, and economical even for a crowd! AND since most of the ingredients aren't perishables, you can keep them on hand and make this dish anytime!

One of the ways you can reduce the cost in this recipe is by using dried beans. Now before you run away, let me tell you - it's really not complicated! Most beans need about 4 hours of soaking (some require 8 or even 12 - check the package for full details) but here's the thing: soaking them longer than they need won't hurt them. It doesn't detract from the taste, texture, or nutrients. So, I simply put the beans in to soak overnight! Easy peasy! The key is to place the beans in a non-reactive bowl or pot (no metal as it can impart a metallic taste into the beans) and add enough water to cover them by 4 inches because they will expand by about double or more as they soak. Remember that different types of beans may have different cooking times - you'll want to soak those separately! Check the packages or this chart and combine them only if they have the same cooking times. 

 If you're only soaking them for 4 hours, they can remain at room temperature but anything longer than that needs refrigeration so it doesn't ferment or start growing sprouts! After they've soaked, put them in a colander and give them a good rinse. Beans can have some remaining dirt on them so you want to be sure to wash all of that away! Cook according to the chart or package and place them in the refrigerator until ready to use. I often cook up some extra beans and serve some in hot dishes, reserving the rest for this bean salad so I get double or triple duty out of one soaking and cooking batch! Of course if you need to make this in a hurry, maybe for a last minute potluck, picnic, or cookout, you CAN use canned beans but wait until you see the difference in cost! 

The Basic Recipe (Variations Follow)

 Note: The prices I'm using here are from my local Loblaws' store here in London, Ontario Canada. It's a mid range store and prices may vary in your area and by shopping at discount grocery or bulk stores. 

 Ingredients to make enough for 8-10 servings: 

 4-5 cups of cooked beans - you need about 1/2 cup of dried beans to make 1 cup of cooked (use as many varieties as you'd like such as chickpeas, red and white kidney beans, Great Northern beans, black beans, navy beans, black eyed peas and more) - depending on the kinds of beans you use the cost will average around 90 cents to $1
 1/2 medium to large red or Vidalia onion (amount depends on your preference and you can certainly use ordinary yellow onions to bring the cost down even more - these are just my favourites) - around 60 cents

Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil 1/4 cup (or more if preferred) 
plain white vinegar 1/2 to 1 T. 
thyme leaves 1/2 to 1 T. 
rosemary 1/2 to 1 T. 
basil salt and pepper to your taste
plain yellow mustard cost for the dressing is around 70 cents 

Total cost for the salad: $2.20 to $2.30 
Cost per serving (for 8 servings): 28-29 cents each 
Total cost for the salad if you use canned beans (assuming the use of 4 - 14 oz. cans of beans): $6.86 
Cost per serving (for 8 servings): 86 cents each I'll just let that cost difference speak for itself! 

Now for some fun variations - remember, this can be a great way to use up some leftovers by adding them to the basic salad above! 

Add in 1 medium green pepper, chopped (85 cents)

Add in 2 stalks of celery, chopped (40 cents) 

Add in 1 medium tomato, chopped (80 cents) (You could also use grape or cherry tomatoes for an additional cost) 

Total cost if you add all three to the basic recipe: $4.25 Cost per serving (for 8 servings): 53 cents each

Want to round it out into a fuller side dish or even a main dish? Add in any of the following: 

1 to 1 1/2 cups each of any or all of these: cooked corn, green beans, lima beans, or yellow wax beans 
1 1/2 cups cooked white or brown rice or 3 medium potatoes, cooked and cubed or 2 large sweet potatoes, cooked and cubed 
Throw in some leftover cooked chicken, turkey, ham, or sausage 

Variations on the dressing: 
For your spices, use some dried peppers, chili powder, and cumin. 
Add in some lime juice. I find this especially good with black beans, kidney beans, corn, and sweet potatoes. Throw in some sausage for a complete meal. 
Add in lemon or orange juice. 
Use a flavoured oil (avocado anyone?) in place of the olive oil 
Use a flavoured vinegar (I think balsamic is really delicious in this but there are so many other variations to try too) 
Use lemon or bourbon pepper instead of black pepper 
Use a flavoured or grainy mustard instead of the basic yellow 

What other variations can you come up with? Feel free to share your ideas or ask me any questions you have! Thanks so much to Lisa for letting me hang out with you today! I hope you enjoyed this delicious summer recipe!

Thank you for the yummy recipe and variations Cyn! Hey gang make sure you give Cyn's post some social media love and visit her blog Creative Cynchronicity for more recipes and creative ideas!

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Raspberry Moscato Jam Recipe

Raspberry Moscato Jam RecipeLast summer I faced my fear of canning. I canned spiced blueberry jam for the first time. The jam was tasty and no one died of botulism. I call that a win.

Between the blueberry and strawberry peach jam in my pantry and crock pot pumpkin butter in my freezer, I lucked out and had Christmas gifts for gift exchanges, teachers, the mail carrier, etc. - the gifts that sneak up on me. Make a recycled magazine gift bow; slap it on the top of the jar, and boom! A quick, easy, and inexpensive gift that won’t clutter up the person’s house.
magazine gift bow
Learn how to make gift bows from magazines here

I want to make more jam to eat and use for holiday gifts. Since some of my jam may be gifts, I’m on the hunt for something a bit different from the traditional jam recipe. The Columbus Dispatch’s Raspberry Pinot Noir jam recipe was a good candidate, especially as gifts for foodie friends.

Then I bought the wrong wine. That will teach me to double check the ingredients before I make my grocery shopping list, not after.

No big deal. I tweaked the recipe and made Raspberry Moscato Jam. I think the sweeter wine works well if not better with the raspberries than the Pino Noir.