Saturday, October 29, 2011

Whole Wheat Cranberry Beet Muffins

Don't let the ingredients fool you these are delicious. I was skeptical but will be making more of these tomorrow.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cup oats, ground in a blender to make a powder
1 tbsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt

1 cup canola oil
2 cups applesauce*
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup water

1 cup frozen cranberries
~2 cups finely shredded beets**

1. Heat oven to 350oF
2. Mix first 7 ingredients; in a separate bowl mix oil apple sauce sugar eggs and water.
3. Combine mixtures and add cranberries and beets.
4. Fill lined muffin cups and bake for 25-30 min until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

This makes about 24 very tender muffins.

*I didn't have this much apple sauce. Instead I blended 2 cups of apples about 8 small, (cored but skins on) with the water and some of the oil to make an uncooked version.
**I used all the beets I shredded using a grater. This was probably slightly more than 2 cups 6 small beets. Anywhere between 1-2 cups should work fine.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Homemade Bread for novices and students

Making your own bread is both easy and cheap, and doesn't take a lot of hands on time.

1 cup water
2.25 tsp yeast
1.5 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oil
~4 cups all purpose flour (in the US use Bread flour)

1 big bowl
1 cup measure
1 tsp measure
1 tbsp measure
Spatula (or spoon for mixing, or hands work too)
baking tray/pan

Mixing the dough:
1.       Using water that is almost at body temperature (it should only feel slightly warm to the touch), combine 1 cup of water and yeast in your big bowl.
2.       Add sugar, salt, and oil and stir.
3.       (If you have old yeast, leave it for 5 min. If you start to see small bubbles or foam, your yeast is still fine. If you have new yeast that hasn't expired you can skip this step)
4.       Add about 2 cups of flour and mix until completely combined.
5.       Continue adding flour, about 1/4 cup at a time until it gets harder to combine with the spoon
6.       At this point use your hands and knead (see below) the dough until it stops sticking to your hands, but still feels moist (your goal is to use as little flour as possible to get a dough that is easy to work with and doesn't stick to your hands).

Rising (letting the dough double in size):
7.       Knead the dough for 5-10 min or until it starts to get an even texture. Then form a ball and put it back into the bowl.
8.       Rub a little oil over the outside of the ball to keep it from drying and cover with a clean tea towel or some cling wrap.
9.       Leave the dough in a warm place for about 45-60 min

Shaping the Dough:
10.   Once the dough is about twice its original size, cut it into 6 equal pieces and shape it into balls.
11.   Flatten the balls to about 1/2 in thick and place them evenly space on your tray.
12.   Rub them with a little more oil, then let them sit and rise again for about 30 min.

Baking the bread/buns:
13.   Bake buns at 400F for about 20 min or until the bottom of a bun sounds slightly hollow when tapped.
14.   For bread loaves, simply roll the entire batch of dough into a log and put it into a loaf pan. Bake at 350F for 30-40min until the bottom sounds hollow when you knock on it.

To knead your dough.
1. Flatten the fough ball slightly with the heal of your hand.
2. Fold the dough in half toward you and flatten again, pushing away from yourself to flatten the dough
3. Turn the bowl 1/4 turn. Fold the dough toward you, and flatten by pushing away with the heal of your hand.
4. Repeat the process, always rotating the bowl 1/4 turn until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Add flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.

·         If you forget about your dough and it rises so much that it collapses, try kneading it 4 or 5 times quickly and letting it rise again for 15-20 min.
·         Hot water kills the yeast. Cooler water just means the yeast will take longer to make the bread rise. Opt for cooler over too hot water.
·         If your home is not warm enough to rise bread, put the bowl into the microwave (DO NOT turn it on), and put a glass of very hot water into the microwave before closing the door. The water will heat the air in the microwave.
·         Add a little extra water if the dough is too dry, a little extra flour if it is too wet.
·         For whole wheat dough, try substituting about 2 cups of whole wheat or oat flour for 2 cups of the all purpose flour. (For 100% whole wheat you will need a different recipe)
·         The more moist the dough, the easier it is for the dough to rise, and the lighter the texture of the baked bread. A drier dough will take longer to rise and make a denser bread.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Back-to-school: Grocery list

This menu should provided a week worth of very large meals (my husband and I actually use this for a week of meals for ourselves), so you could half the amount, or simply eat the same set of meals for 2 weeks if you are a light eater. This week's focus is on portion control when it comes to expensive ingredients (e.g. chicken). As always, leftovers from dinners double as lunches.

1.3 Chicken wraps
2. Pasta stir-fry
3. Chinese Chicken & Rice
4. Pasta Salad
5. 3 Tuna salad wraps
6. 3 Chicken fajitas wraps with left over veggies
7. Leftovers

Cheapest: Oatmeal
*Interesting(not included in the pricing below): Peanut butter toast, fruit, and yogurt

Shopping List:
1 head garlic
1 small piece ginger root (about 1-2 in)
3 medium onions (I bought a 3lb bag)
7 green peppers (about 3lb or 1.5kg)
1 head romaine lettuce
1 pint of baby tomatoes or 3 tomatoes

1kg cooked chicken breast strips (usually in the frozen meet section near the fish)
2 cans tuna

10 large tortilla wraps

Dry Goods
6 chicken bouillon cubes ( could substitute chicken broth or similar)
1 bottle Italian dressing (oil kind)
1kg quick cooking oats
900g pasta
Rice (check that you buy parboiled, or that the instructions indicate cooking time is less than 20 min)
Soy sauce
Corn starch

Expected Pantry Items

Bullion/Broth powder



Corn starch

Soy sauce



Italian Dressing


This was the actual total for my trip to No Frills" $38.96, but if you have the pantry items it should come to under $30.

Useful hints:
This week requires you to use the chicken 5 times. Try dividing it into five portions before your first meal to make sure you have enough for the whole week.
If you can't get the $10 bag of cooked chicken, try cooking your own and slicing it thinly once it cools.
Leftover bread from last week can be frozen
Try cinnamon or maple syrup on your oatmeal to keep it interesting


Quick oatmeal:
Measure the recommended amount of oats into a bowl. Add the recommended amount of boiling water and a sprinkle of cinnamon or some maple syrup if you have some. Let stand for a few min. If it doesn't reach the consistency you like, microwave for 1 min.

1.  Chicken Wraps
·          Slice one pepper, one tomato (or handful of baby tomatoes), lettuce (if you want)
·          Thaw 1/5 of the chicken in the microwave or leave it in the fridge overnight to thaw.
·          Assemble 2-3 wraps(save one for lunch) with mayonnaise or salsa (add some grated cheese if you have some left from last week)

2. Pasta Stir-fry
·          Boil water and cook 1/2 or the pasta until done (about 10minn)
·          Slice 2 peppers, 2 small (or 1 medium) onion, and 1 clove of garlic
·          Fry with some Italian dressing and 1/5 of the chicken until heated and slightly soft.
·          Combine with pasta and serve

3. Chinese Chicken & Rice
·          Cook rice according to instructions.
·          Slice 1 onion, and 2 peppers thinly
·          Mix in a cup:
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried or 1 in grated fresh ginger
pepper to taste
·          Fry 1 minced clove of garlic in a little oil for 1 min
·          Add veggies and 1/5 of the chicken. Fry until heated
·          Add sauce and fry for 3-4 min until it thickens.
·          Serve over rice

4. Pasta Salad
·          Boil water and cook 1/3-1/2 the package of pasta
·          Chop 1-2 peppers, and 1 tomato (or handful of baby tomatoes) into 1-2 cm chunks.
·          Thaw 1/5 of the chicken in the microwave or in the fridge overnight
·          Once pasta is cooked, mix everything with enough Italian dressing to suit your taste.

5. Tuna Salad Wraps
·          Mix 1-2 cans of tuna, with 1 chopped tomato(or  handful of chopped baby tomatoes), some mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste.
·          Shred lettuce
·          Assemble 3 wraps (one for lunch, 2 for 2 dinner) using tuna mixture and lettuce.

6. Chicken Fajita Wraps
·          Cook rice if desired adding 1tsp broth mix or 1 bouillon cube to the water to flavour the rice.
·          Slice the remaining peppers and 1-3 small (1 large) onions into strips
·          chop 1 clove of garlic finely
·          Shred some lettuce
·          Fry peppers and onions, with the garlic in some Italian dressing.
·          Once the veggies are warm add chicken and a little more dressing as needed. Fry until heated through.
·          Using 3 wraps (one for lunch) as follows:
Rice (if using)
Veggie and chicken mix
Salsa (if desired)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back-to-school: Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Once you know your grocery stores here are some suggestions for making it on a small budget:

1. Check out the flyers before you go
Decide which store has what you need most, and decide if you will go to multiple stores. Remember that most items will go on sale every 6 weeks or so, so if you will need cheese next week and it's on sale this week, you might want to stock up.

2. Get to know your prices.
Try to walk the same route through the store each time, and get to know what prices are on items you usually buy. Just because it is marked on sale, doesn't mean it is a good price.

3. Make a flexible meal plan and list
If you are an impulse buyer, make it a strict list, but ideally you want an idea of what you will get, then you can modify it when you see what is marked down. Try for 5 planned meals, and 1-2 types of snacks each week.

4. Walk through the store first and look for sales
Do a quick walk through looking for sales, and picking up the items on your list. Then stop in a quiet corner and assess what you have. Ask yourself:
                Can I modify my meals for the week to make them cheaper with discounted/sales items?
                Do I NEED everything in my cart or can some of these wait till next time?
                Do I have some fruits/veggies to eat each day (or whatever food group you tend to forget)?
Do a second trip through the store to put back/pick up things as needed.

5. Set a budget, and keep a running tally as you shop
Round things up to the nearest $0.50 and keep track of what you have put in your cart.  I worked on a $20 budget and I think with planning most guys could make it on $30-40 even if they eat a lot, as long as they plan carefully.

6. Save 20% of your budget for non-food/pantry restocking
For me the was about $4-5 each week. This is for non-food items like toilet paper, toothpaste, etc. Or save it week to week  an use it to buy expensive foods like cheese, meat, etc.

7. Cycle your purchases
On a small budget you can't buy cheese, meat, flour, etc each week. So work on buying enough for several weeks, but only buying one of the expensive items each week. For example:
Week 1: Cheese
Week 2: Meat
Week 3: Milk

8. Watch your portion sizes
Just because you have a block of cheese, doesn't meal you need to finish it this week. Opt for cheaper snacking alternatives and use more expensive items for their flavour and nutritional value. Also, learn how much you eat of specific items like pasta by measuring it out each time you cook. For example, I use 3 handfuls of pasta or 1 1/2 mugs of pasta for myself and 4 handfuls or 2 mugs for my husband. That way you don't make too much and let it go to waste.

Back-to-school: Grocery Store who's-who

September is almost here, and so is the need to get the cupboards and fridge full without spending much.

In South-Western Ontario we have a few major grocery stores: No Frills, Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, Food Basics, Metro, Sobey's and Price Chopper. There are a few others, but I'm not as familiar with them. This is my personal assessment of their merits:

Cost (*=in expensive, ***=very expensive)
Quality of produce/variety of food
Likelihood of having discounted food (*=unlikely- ***=very likely)
No Frills
Fair. Depending o the location this store doesn't carry the biggest variety but the food quality will usually last 5-7 days if you pick carefully.
* stuff moves fast, but the sales tend to be good.
Poor quality. Unless you pick carefully your produce is unlikely to last more than a few days. However, depending on the area FB can have a great selection of international foods at very good prices
Real Canadian Superstore
Good. Usually good quality and good selection. However, they often run out of sale items so be prepared to ask for rain-checks.
** *Almost always discounted produce, bread, and dry foods available
Great. I'd say the best quality and selection in our area, but you will pay a premium for it.
*** If you're looking for a good selection of marked down food, this is your store. I often check it out before grocery shopping elsewhere because they mark stuff down steeply and early. Just get to know which day they mark stuff down. For us it is Tuesdays.
Good. Good selection and quality.
* (Exception is Metro seems to have good meat discounts, otherwise they are about the same).
Price Chopper
Poor: inexpensive but there is little selection and poorer quality so choose carefully.