Archive for the ‘How To’ category

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Turban Squash Soup

October 31st, 2014

Phone pix 2014 Oct 001Turban squash soup is easy, tasty and CHEAP!

Autumn seems to scream, “SOUP!  FIX THE FAMILY SOME SOUP!”

Of course you could pick up a can of soup somewhere but soup from scratch, seasoned to your specific preference is so delicious.  Squash soup is particularly filling, nutritious and easy to prepare!

Turban squash came to my attention when I went through my “Macrobiotic Phase” … I had never seen one of these beauties before and was fascinated by their unusual color and shape.  Turban squash are very dense and difficult to cut but once you’ve managed to open them up it is a breeze to oil the exposed flesh and place them on a baking sheet, flesh side down.  I roasted two of these babies in the oven for about an hour and a half at 325*.  Ovens vary…ours runs hot so you can see if 350* is good for YOUR oven.  Adjust the temperature accordingly.

As the roasting process went on I chopped a huge leek into rings, soaked them in a bowl full of cold water.  I rinsed them and cut the rings into quarters.  I sauteed these with a bit of veg oil until they were soft, adding salt and pepper.

When the squash came out of the oven, I scooped out the seeds.  Some folks like to roast those with a bit of salt for a snack.  Those are not popular at our house so I disposed of them, as I did with the outer shell.

The dark yellow-orange flesh of the squash went into the food processor, as did the sauteed leeks.

SIDEBAR No food processor?  Not to worry.  A potato masher works quite well.  The job will go faster if you add a bit of hot water and/or broth to your soup pot as you mash.  The idea is to break up the stringy pulp that remains so your soup will be smooth. END SIDEBAR.

From the food processor the squash and leeks went into the soup pot,  along with enough chicken broth to cover everything.  You could use vegetable broth, as well.  It’s a matter of using whatever you have.  After tasting this mixture I added a bit more salt and ONE TABLESPOON of brown sugar.  That was the magic bullet!

To make a thicker soup I added 1 tablespoon of corn starch.  That didn’t quite DO it for me, so I put in some leftover mashed potatoes that were just sitting in the fridge, waiting to be of service.  When I was satisfied that the soup was thick enough I called it quits. I wanted this to be smooth and creamy so I added milk until it had the consistency and color that pleased me.  You might prefer a thinner soup…it’s all about what YOU like.

As the soup gently simmered I taste tested it again.  It needed just a little something/something so I added a tiny bit of thyme.  I thought it was yummy but to make sure, I offered a spoonful to our house guest, who raved that it was “BRILLIANT!”.  Before I served the soup, I sprinkled some dried parsley into the pot to add some color.

SIDEBAR:  Had it been available, fresh parsley would have been ideal.  I dunno about YOU but we don’t have the luxury of fresh herbs so we lean on the dried versions.  END SIDEBAR.

We had half a dozen lunch guests on the day this was served.  Each of them has far more experience in the kitchen than I.  Everyone complimented the cook on the soup so I think that qualifies me to announce that Turban Squash Soup was a huge hit!

*I should have made a double batch!  It would be easy to do and that way there could be another meal, waiting in the freezer!

Changing the subject abruptly, I want to let you know that there will be a cooking class for users of EBT cards from WIC,  food pantry users, and those who have food commodities!  It will be held on Friday, November 14 at 1:30 PM at the SENCA office in Tecumseh,  Nebraska.  If you are in the area and wish to participate, just call the SENCA office to let them know you’ll be there.  There is NO CHARGE for this class but we need to count noses so we’ll have enough food for the attendees! I plan to show how to use things from your food bundles that are easy, cheap and tasty!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there might be links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Kay Speaks, Part 2!

October 13th, 2014

Canon City 003The Normanator and I are always glad to have great ideas for staying within the food budget!

***Please be advised that Mother Connie will not be posting here for a week or so.  Life has become chaotic and we need to step back and take a deep breath.  Here’s hoping you recognize YOUR need for self care, too! 

Before long we’ll be back with some great food ideas that will be kind to your budget!

***

Kay the Gardener was so kind as to send a huge amount of tips for those of us who must cook frugally!  We continue with her hints:

SIDEBAR:  I made every effort to match Kay’s fonts to Mother Connie’s. It did not work so we present her ideas AS IS with our gratitude for her generosityEND SIDEBAR.

“Sample Menu Plans –

Breakfast – I serve Oatmeal & Cream of Wheat during the week, with various toppings of raisins, cran-raisins, nuts, chopped dried fruits etc. For weekends, egg dishes for speed, pancakes or French toast for leisure. There is also juice or fruit, plus small serving of cheese or peanut butter on crackers, toast or muffins for protein. I save instant breakfast & cold dry cereals for occasional treats or emergencies.

Lunches – I have cheese, peanut butter & jelly or tuna sandwiches, plus soup & fruit. Sometimes I have leftovers from an earlier dinner, but in smaller portions.

If I am away from the house, I pack a sandwich & fruit & crackers.

Dinners – They have a pattern of Starch + Protein a la carte + another Veggie, plus Salad/Soup. Or Casseroles, Stir-frys, Stews… = 1 pot dishes.

I find that for proteins, the larger the piece, the more expensive.  For example a serving a portion of 4-6 oz of roast, vs 2-4 oz of 1/2” – 3/4” pieces in stir fries.

With veggies, it is the opposite – 1 large serving vs many more in mashed form, such as a baked potato vs mashed potatoes…

I also try to add something fresh to leftovers, so it doesn’t seem like eating the exact SAME THING all the time.

Examples –

1A) A dinner of thick-cut ham slice, with sweet potatoes/yams & apples or peaches + Green beans in separate pot, + Salad.

1B) Cut up leftover ham into bite-size pieces, serve with mixed veggies, adding leftover green beans & new onions, celery, carrots, etc in the stir fry, over rice + egg drop soup.

2A) Baked chicken (whole cut into pieces or quarters), baked potatoes, sauced carrots/celery dish, baked apples, all done in 350 degree oven…

2B) Cut leftover chicken into bite-size pieces, add to barley with carrots/celery & fresh onions. Cook on stove about 1 hour. Can serve dry or add chicken stock for soup, depending upon how much leftover food you have for dinner. Serve with biscuits, cornbread, potato rolls etc for something different.”

Kay, you have really given us a great many good ideas and we appreciate everything so much!

Those of us who depend on EBT cards for WIC or SNAP; those who frequent food pantries; those who use food commodities all understand how important it is to figure out the best ways to manage those food dollars!

The purpose of this blog is to support those who use and depend upon  public assistance for their food dollars.  We have nothing to buy; there is NO judgment and we welcome our new Members with open arms.

If you’d like to comment about anything food related or if you have ideas you’d like to share we invite you to send emails to foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com. WE LOVE MAIL!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there might be links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

 

 

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Freezing Zucchini!

July 17th, 2014

The Normanator took command of our trusty  old  Saladmaster machine and after we had peeled a monster zuke, he chopped a batch …

Freezing Zucchini 001

And froze half a dozen bags:

Freezing Zucchini 002

This is not a glamor job nor is it brain surgery but it is wonderful to have this in our freezer!

SIDEBAR:  You don’t need a fancy, high priced machine to chop these babies!  If you have a food processor, that will work.  If you have a box grater, that’s good for this project.  Help your children learn safe methods for peeling the veg, if you feel that’s appropriate, and the older youngsters can CAREFULLY use the box grater with adult supervision.  END SIDEBAR.

Zucchini can be used in so many ways and they all save money!

*Who does not love great ways of  S T R E T C H I N G their food dollars?

We love to add it to stir fry dishes, fresh veggie salads, and for stretching leftover stews or soups.  My favorite use of zucchini, though, is to peel and chop it to cook with potatoes.  When you mash potatoes that have been in the ‘hot tub’ with zucchini, NO ONE will ever know those guys were there!  Add a bit of butter and milk to the mashed beauties and it will look and taste 100% like “smashed” taters!  Another idea:  Add some grated zukes to your spaghetti sauce!

Another great use of zukes is to wash and cut the smaller to medium sized ones in half, LENGTHWISE.  Scoop out the seeds,  leaving a hollow and place them on a greased baking sheet.  You can fill that little opening with pieces  of onion, celery, carrot and drizzle a bit of cooking oil over each little “boat”.  Season them with salt and pepper and garlic, if you have some.  Slide them into a 375* oven until the veg is tender.  When they come out of the oven you can sprinkle a bit of cheese over the tops and let that melt.  That’s really a meal in itself.  Add a few biscuits; serve fruit for dessert and you have a delicious, tummy pleasing menu for those you love best!

For those of you who may be new here, this little corner of the internet is dedicated to those who depend on public assistance for their food dollars.  If you hold an EBT card for SNAP or WIC; if you get goods from a food pantry or use food commodities, we want you to know that we support you in the best way we know how.  We help you cook with the goods you might have on hand.

And to those of you who might be contributors to your local food pantry, might we suggest you pick up a spice or two for your next donation?  You might even consider getting a salt/pepper set to take to your local caring cupboard.  Word is that these items are often overlooked by donors and funds are so tight that there is no room in the food budget for such “luxuries”….it’s something to consider.

Are you living on a dime? If so, you no doubt have picked up a tip or two you might like to share with the other Members.  There is a modest series of cooking tips that you will  receive if you join our numbers.  We think those of you in the trenches might teach Mother Connie a thing or two, along with some of the other Members!  wink/wink  *Don’t be shy; send YOUR tips and tricks to foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.

So enjoy the bounty of all those zucchinis and do remember you are loved and appreciated.

 

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Let’s Make Vegetable Broth!

June 13th, 2014
Mother Connie will show you step-by-step how this jar of broth came into being!  *Pity you cannot smell this because the aroma might make your mouth water!

Mother Connie will show you step-by-step how this jar of broth came into being! *What a pity you cannot smell this because the aroma might make your mouth water!

Making broth can save you a TON of money!  I paid $1.29 for a good sized stalk of celery.  I’ll show you exactly how I turned the waste from that stalk into a delicious ingredient for soups, stews, gravies or sauces.

As soon as I bring the groceries home, I run a sink full of cold water and let the vegetables hang out in it to clean them and rinse away any residue of sand or soil that may be clinging to each one.  Since I wanted to make veg broth (and save a ton of $) I placed the whole stalk of celery in the sink thus:

Making veg broth 002

After it had soaked awhile and was clean, I pulled it out, shook the excess moisture off and patted it dry with a kitchen towel.  I then placed it onto my cutting board and chopped off part of the end and some of the tops:

Making veg broth 004

As you Members know, Mother Connie is a big fan of cooking once and eating twice.  While I was making the broth I was also making a meal, for which I needed to use both celery AND carrots.  I scrubbed them within an inch of their pretty orange lives and trimmed the tops and bottoms, which were added to the celery pot.  *Celery and carrots need not be the only guests at the party…you could add onion pieces, chunks of taters, cut off ends of asparagus, pieces of any root vegetable, whatever vegetable strikes your taste buds’ fancy!

Making veg broth 006

Making veg broth 008

There was enough water to cover the celery and carrots and the whole works got a dose of salt and pepper.  It even got a dash of garlic, just for fun.  I set the burner low enough that there was a nice simmer going.  Little bubbles; no hard boil.

SIDEBAR:  If you don’t have extra salt or pepper or you don’t care  for garlic you need not fret.  You can always add the seasonings your gang likes best when you prepare the recipe you’ll use for your brothEND SIDEBAR

Making veg broth 010

After the veg cooked and the broth was full of its flavor  (I was very busy; it stayed on the stove for about  4 hours.)   I strained the whole business into a large bowl.  *I did this in the sink, just in case I spilled or slopped!  *As it happened, I cooked some potatoes so I added the potato water into the mix.  This means LOTS of richness for whatever gets to hang out with the broth as I am cooking in the days to come!

SIDEBAR:  Once upon a time, Mother Connie strained the goodies into the sink WITHOUT THE BOWL.  Maybe you heard the wailing and the gnashing of teeth at the time?  So I am advising you to get that bowl out of the cupboard before you pull the same stunt I did.  O my.  END SIDEBAR

Making veg broth 012

The final product yielded nearly 2 quarts of good, nutritious  broth.  I will use it for soup, most likely, for braising meat and gravy.  Then it will be time to buy more celery and begin again.

Do you use goods from a food drop?  Are you living on a dime?  Do you have things in your pantry from a food bank or food pantry?  Do you use food commodities?  Might you have an EBT card from WIC or SNAP?  Maybe you are just someone who squeezes a nickel until the buffalo bellows and you want to save money on your food budget.  In any case, we are here to support you.  There is nothing to buy, there are no judgements and we hope you have some fun as you hang out here in the Club House!

If this is your first visit, I’m excited to tell you that you can sign up for a little series of cooking tips, just for becoming a Member.  No dues, no meetings, just serious help for those who need to cook frugally!

We hope you will leave us some love on the comment panel.  You are also welcome to send us a message  at foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com  **We LOVE mail!  And boy howdy, do we ever love our Members!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Keep Calm and Scramble Eggs!

June 2nd, 2014

 

Eggs make a simple, low cost, tummy filling meal in minutes.  And talk about EASY-DO!

Eggs make a simple, low cost, tummy filling meal in minutes. And talk about EASY-DO!

As you all know this little corner of the internet is dedicated to users of public assistance for their food dollars.  That would include holders of EBT cards for SNAP and WIC as well as those who  visit food pantries, food banks, food drops, and food commodities.

It was my privilege to attend a large conference recently where I met people who work in food pantries.  The concern seems to be  “WHY do users of public assistance not know how to shop wisely and prepare healthy foods at home?”

This is not neuroscience, my friends. MANY of us are living on  a dime…  Here’s the deal:  People who need help with their food dollars are those who grew up poor or became needy from medical circumstances or had bad luck or made choices that put them into financial straits.  Most likely as they were growing up, their caretakers were working two jobs each to keep body and soul together and there was no time or opportunity for the next generation to learn how to shop or cook.  It may have been “catch as catch can” when it came to the business of mealtime.  Maybe they live in places where good food supplies are uncertain and sometimes unavailable.

Enter Mother Connie!  My passion is for people who want to learn to work with the resources they have in order to S T R E T C H those food dollars to get the help they need AND for those same people to feel appreciated and respected and loved as people.  There will be no scolding, no shaming, no judgement in this little part of the world. We just wanna HELP.

Today I want to share with you how EASY it is to scramble the humble egg.  Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein and can star in any menu-breakfast, lunch or dinner.

 

Begin by GENTLY heating a coupla pats o butter or a bit of veggie oil..

Begin by GENTLY heating a coupla pats o butter or a bit of veggie oil..

While your butter or oil warm, choose two eggs for each diner and one for the skillet.  *ALMOST the same as the rule for potatoes:  “one for each face around the table and one for the pot.”   Here are the eggs we fixed for today’s lunch:

Scrambled Eggs 2014 002

Mom always taught me to break each egg into a small bowl before I added it into a batch so a bad egg would not ruin the whole works.  You can see that the small bowl was eliminated here and the reason is that these eggs are farm fresh and we have NEVER found a bad egg in the many eggs we get from this resource!  This big bowl is what they were mixed in before the skillet was warm and ready to receive the goodies!

I used a whisk to mix the eggs gently but thoroughly.

SIDEBAR:  Our kitchen is NOT tricked  out with granite counters, double dishwashers, warming ovens, and islands with cook tops.  I’m guessing neither is YOURS.  So if you have no whisk, keep calm and grab a fork.  *However, I would not recommend a plastic fork grin/giggle.  END SIDEBAR

The next step requires a bit of patience because the cook – or the cook’s assistant – would be wise to keep those eggs moving so they don’t cook in a bunch.  You want scrambled eggs to be smooth and almost creamy.  Just stir them with your whisk or fork until they don’t look shiny any more.  At the beginning you can season them with plain ole salt and pepper:

Scrambled Eggs 2014 007

If you want to add texture to scrambled eggs, a nice addition *if you have the time* is to finely chop some onion and celery and/or peppers into the mix.  Just drop the chopped goods into the eggs as you start the cooking process and they will provide nutrition and crunch.

Ketchup is a good condiment if you don’t prefer plain eggs; salsa is a popular one, as well.  Use whatever you have on hand and enjoy every bite.  If you have some bread for toasting, that is a good partner for eggs.  You might like to have canned peaches for dessert if it’s lunch or dinner. And if you are making eggs for breakfast, applesauce makes a great breakfast starter.

Here’s hoping this helps you immensely.  We also hope you have the time and inclination to add your comment on the comment panel below this post.

Thank you SO MUCH for stopping by and you need to know how TICKLED we are to see all the new members who have hopped on board,  despite the issues we’ve had of late!  Please know you are ALL loved and appreciated.

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

 PS/You can contact us at foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com , too!

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Little Ole Lentils

May 21st, 2014
Lentils May 14 002

Lentils make a delicious stand-alone entree, work as a filling side dish, or make a wonderful addition to home made soups and stews!

 

Those of us who MUST keep to a budget need to figure out the cheapest way to feed the people we love best.  If you are a user of SNAP or WIC or if you have food from a food pantry or use food commodities this info is not a news flash.

Something I enjoy cooking and eating are little ole lentils.  They are inexpensive to buy, fast and easy to prepare, and they are satisfying when I’m really hungry.  For me, lentils are comfort food.

If you are unfamiliar with lentils you might be interested to know that they come in pretty colors! Depending where you shop you might discover orange, red or yellow lentils.  The most common find will be green and brown.  They all taste pretty much the same and cook the same way but I have discovered that the green or brown do not become so mushy after they are cooked.

Lentils on their own are fine but I prefer to add some sauteed veggies when I prepare them.  I have a favorite cast iron skillet I use to saute vegetables so I like to chop an onion and a rib of celery, and add some carrot shavings for color and texture.  I love cooking lentils in home made vegetable broth.  The proportion I like to use is 1 cup lentils to 2 cups liquid.

SIDEBAR:  Cooking lentils in plain ole tap water will be just fine.  Don’t sweat the small stuff and remember that it is ALL small stuff.  If you are out of carrots or celery, the Kitchen Police will not arrest you.   END SIDEBAR

The beauty of lentils is that they do not need to be soaked.

SIDEBAR:  At a church picnic I went to once there was a huge, LOUD debate which was accompanied by extreme laughter about whether or not to soak beans.  If you ever bring a bean dish to one of our famous First-of-the-Month Fellowship dinners, you WILL be asked if they were soaked or not soaked!  This question will be followed by gales of laughter. **I suppose you would have had to BE there to think this is as funny as I do.  END SIDEBAR.

To cook lentils you  put them into simmering water.  After you add them in, lower the heat so as not to overcook the little darlings.

Since I am cooking for two I just add the cooking liquid (water or broth) to my little skillet, bring it up to a good simmer and add the lentils.  If you have many mouths to feed you will naturally want to use a larger kettle. I prefer to cook lentils without a lid so I can observe the process and stir occasionally.

I make sure there are some bubbles going on as they cook but I do not want them to boil as that will cause them to overcook and be tough.  Incidentally, lentils will be tough if they are old so make sure yours are fresh.

Do the taste test to check the tenderness…they will need to cook about 20 minutes.  When they are as soft as you like you may add some salt and pepper to season them.

SIDEBAR:  Unless you add the salt AT THE END of the cooking process, you will have tough lentils.  You are striving for tender little morsels, not crunchEND SIDEBAR

A classic way to serve lentils is to put a fried egg atop each serving.  Since I happened to have some hard cooked eggs on hand, I sliced them and used them as a garnish.

It’s really quite surprising how filling and delicious this simple meal can be.  Add a simple salad or veggie plate and a fruity dessert and you have a low cost, satisfying meal!  Even if you are living on a dime!

We LOVE LOVE LOVE your comments and your email messages!  Keep them coming at foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com .  We sincerely hope you realize what a wonderful contribution each of you Members is to the world!

~Connie Baum

PS/Leftover Lentils?  Add them to your ground meat patties for dollar stretching meals!  Since they tend to be on the dry order, you might like to whirl them in your blender or food processor with broth, water or tomato juice.  You will be delighted with the results!

 

Food Stamps Cooking Club: Egg Yolk Video Tutorial

January 13th, 2014

People who are learning to cook will discover that sometimes eggs need to have the yolks separated from the whites.  Here is an entertaining way to accomplish that:

Are YOU learning to cook?  Are you receiving public assistance for your food budget?  Do you find yourself living on a dime?  Do you have an EBT card for WIC or SNAP?  Do you visit a food pantry or receive food commodities?  If your answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’ then you have found a place to belong.  This corner of the internet is dedicated to YOU.  There is nothing to buy and no obligation…how refreshing is THAT?

This video is part of the series we are calling our Cooking Class.  We believe that if you know how to cook you can save all kinds of money.  We know this from our own life experience.

We just love hearing from you…either on the comment panel below this post or by email:  foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.

Please  bear in mind that you are dearly loved.

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

 

Food Stamps Cooking Club: EGGS!

January 3rd, 2014

Holiday 13 and beyond fscc 020Perfectly cooked eggs are easy-peasy!

Allow me to begin with a disclaimer, of sorts.  The food safety police will hunt me down for major punishment if they read this, because I’m going to advocate that you do something they would never approve!

To hard cook eggs to perfection, it is critical to the process to leave the eggs on the kitchen table, in their carton, overnight.  Mother Connie realizes this is counter intuitive but if you want pretty eggs that look as good as the one on the gingham plate, this is Step One.  **My own mother did this and no one made finer hard cooked eggs than she!

The next step is to put all your eggs in one basket…NO! WAIT!  That should read “saucepan” not basket!  grin/giggle    Ideally, the eggs should cover the bottom of the pan but they should not be crowded.  When Mother Connie filled her 2 quart saucepan,  9 medium sized eggs did not quite cover the bottom but it worked out well.

Holiday 13 and beyond fscc 010From carton to saucepan…

You can see that Mother has salt, vinegar and soda ready to use.  Cover the eggs with water…then liberally salt the raw eggs ensuring that IF one happens to crack, it will not leak out as much egg white as it would without the salt.  Next, sprinkle a 1/2 teaspoon or so of baking soda over the eggs.  This enhances what the salt does.  Finally, drizzle enough vinegar (it doesn’t matter what kind of vinegar you use) to make a foam.  Set the covered pan on the burner, set to MEDIUM heat.  When the water begins to boil, turn the heat to LOW and set your timer for TEN MINUTES.  When ten minutes has passed, take the pan off the heat and put the cooked eggs under tepid running water.

The little gems should peel easily and be smooth on the outside edges.  The yolks should be bright yellow.  If there is a greenish ring around the outside of the yolk, that is indicative  of too much heat or too long cooking time.

Now that you have hard cooked eggs, you can create any number of delicious, nutritious dishes for those you love.  On MONDAY, Mother Connie will show you how to make deviled eggs.  When you learn how to make these, you will know just what to take to your next pot luck dinner!

The response to yesterday’s post was really overwhelming and we thank you who joined the chorus!  As you know, this little corner of the internet is meant to help everyone, but especially those users of  SNAP or WIC or food commodities or goods from a Food Pantry.  There is nothing to buy but we do hope you cruise over to the fellow bloggers we mention from time to time and garner all the goodness they are offering.

We always welcome new Members with open arms and we appreciate hearing from all of you on the comment panel or by email:  foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com  Please remember that each of you is  dearly, dearly loved and appreciated!

Connie Baum

Processing Tomatoes at Food Stamps Cooking Club

September 9th, 2013
These beauties awaited us when we returned from breakfast one recent summer morning.  The Tomato Fairy had landed right on our picnic table!

These beauties awaited us when we returned from breakfast one recent summer morning. The Tomato Fairy had landed right on our picnic table!

When you are given such a wonderful gift, there’s nothing to do but shift into high gear!  We did that!  We turned these flats full of yummy goodness into these delights:

We got 8 quarts from these; we already had 6; over the weekend we canned 8 more quarts.  The Normanator and I make quite the duo!

We got 8 quarts from these; we already had 6; over the weekend we canned 8 more quarts. The Normanator and Mother Connie make quite the working duo!

Canning tomatoes is not particularly hard work.  It’s sorta messy but that’s what soap and water is for.  We just grabbed cleaning rags and scouring powder and the stove looked good as ever when we finished!

We cut out the stem portion and made a slice in the bottom of each tomato.  They were dipped into boiling water until the skin split.  As they were held under cold water that skin peeled off easily!  The skinned tomatoes went into a large heavy kettle to simmer until there was foam at the top.  That was skimmed off and discarded.  We used a potato masher to crush every tomato.  We were using juicy tomatoes and Romas, which are more firm and not as juicy, so we crushed the whole lot of them.

There was a system that worked well for us:  While we worked to cut and skin these babies, the oven was working full time.  We had a jelly roll pan with water, each pan holding 6 jars filled with an inch or so of water.  These, along with the canning lids, hung out in the oven as we worked.

When it came time to fill the jars, The Normanator skillfully put dipper after dipper into the each jar.  As soon as it was full, I was in charge of adding the salt, topping it off with the lid and securing the ring.  Each jar took its place on a towel on the kitchen table as we listened for the “CLICK!” of the lid, making the sound that it had sealed.

There was only one jar that did not seal.  It was morphed into a lovely spaghetti sauce when I poured it into a heavy skillet, added lots of oregano, basil, pepper, and a “blub” of red wine.

SIDEBAR:  No vino?  You can use 1/2 cup of any ole vinegar + 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Taste test as you go.  *The sugar diminishes the too-tomatoey  flavor of the sauce.  **That’s the purpose of the wine.  END SIDEBAR

Our benefactor told us they have put up over 100 quarts of tomatoes and salsa for the winter!  We are going to have some major good eats at our house this winter, thanks to the Tomato Fairy!  I have a feeling there will be a chili feed or two on the social calendar!

Are you living on a dime?  Do you LOVE to cook?  Do you HATE to cook?  Are you holding an EBT card from SNAP or WIC?  Maybe you have goods from food commodities, a food bank or food drop.  It could be that you just groove on the challenge of stretching your food budgets until you hear George Washington creak…If you are using any form of public assistance, we hope to be of service to you.  You seem to be passing the word, because the membership has SOARED lately.  Maybe that little list of cooking tips is helpful for you.

You most likely have ideas that will help others.  We would love to hear whatever you have to say.  Our most popular  place for ideas is  either on the comment panel or you could send an email to us at foodstampscookingclub@gmail.com.

Above all, please remember that YOU do matter and we love you with no reservation or judgement.  We only want to help.

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.

Food Storage at Food Stamps Cooking Club

August 8th, 2013
Proper food storage can really  s t r e t c h  your food dollars!

Proper food storage can really s t r e t c h your food dollars!

The Normanator helped Mother Connie fix up a little demonstration about food storage.  Pardon the  extra items on the dining room table; we’ve had a busy morning!  I’m sure you have, too.  grin

The Romaine lettuce you see in the above photo is 11 days from purchase!  It;’s hard to believe that lettuce could keep so well for so long.  The bunch was fresh on the day it was purchased.  It was rinsed and drained and then carefully wrapped in paper toweling.  Then the whole business went into the plastic bag you see there on the table.  It was important to squeeze the air out of the bag so the lettuce could stay cool and not turn brown.  I only take out the leaves I’ll be using and the rest is re-wrapped and put back as I’ve described.

You see a roll of aluminum foil in the photo.  If you bring a bunch of celery home, you can cut off  both ends, rinse thoroughly and use those parts to make veggie broth.

SIDEBAR: To do that, you simply put those end pieces into a saucepan, add water, salt, pepper and any onion pieces you have.  Put a medium heat under that and let it simmer until the celery is soft.  Strain that and save in a jar or refrigerator container.  It’s wise to MARK the date and contents because if it gets shoved to the back of the fridge before you use it, you might wind up with cooked garbage and that won’t save you a dimeEND SIDEBAR

To save the fresh celery ribs, simply shake off the excess moisture and wrap carefully in a kitchen towel or paper toweling.  Wrap aluminum foil around the entire thing, sealing it as you go to keep the oxygen from entering the foil package.  Celery stored in this manner will keep a couple of weeks or longer.  It will not get rubbery, either.

If you have some sort of system for using up leftovers, food storage is not a complicated issue.  For instance, when I make a salad, I will often build more salad than we have appetite to eat.  The leftovers then go into a refrigerator storage container such as the one with the yellow lid shown above, lined with paper towel. The salad goes into the container and is topped off with paper towel.  The dry towels soak up any moisture from the veg and they will not turn brown before the next meal, when they can be slicked up as fresh as ever!

If you cook beans or rice or eggs ahead for use in making lightening fast meals, keep those in a designated area in the fridge so you won’t be growing science experiments!  Make sure you rotate things so they don’t get yucky.  It is perfectly acceptable to discard foods that take up room on a shelf but you know perfectly well your gang will not touch them with a 10 foot pole, let alone EAT them!  The Kitchen Kops will never know and Mother Connie will never tell.

Many years ago, Mother Connie discovered FlyLady…this is a woman who struggled with home care and developed a system of managing house and home and figured out ways to get things done without upsetting your entire life.  One of the things she taught me was to “boogie the fridge” on Wednesdays.  Now, Wednesday is NOT the only day this can be done; you must make this idea work for YOU.  So the notion is that on Wednesday, you look over the fridge, toss what is no good and use whatever you have.  You can take this time to wipe up any spills, freshen the crispers, or take a dish cloth to the door but you are only allowed to spend no longer than 15 minutes for the whole project.  If this idea appeals to you, you might like to try it out.  If you are really excited about learning more of her system you can visit her site:  FlyLady.net.  She has a wealth of information there.

We hope WE, too,  have a wealth of information HERE.  We are tickled pink to see all the new Members who have joined this party!  It is so gratifying to think that we might be helping people and encouraging them in their quest to manage their food dollars with funds from public assistance!

Here’s hoping you can feel our love and concern for you from wherever in the world you are!

*Are you living on a dime?  Do you get food from a food pantry, food bank or food commodities?  Are you holding an EBT  card from SNAP or WIC?  Do you just love the challenge of managing your food dollars?  Are you thrifty by nature?  Do you love to cook?  Do you hate to cook?  In any of the above mentioned cases, we are here to help.  There is nothing to buy but we always hope you come by and leave us some love on the comment panel!

Connie Baum

The FTC wants you to know there are links on this page. Should they be clicked, resulting in sales, your humble blogger would be fairly compensated. Please do your due diligence when conducting affairs online or offline. Always do business with those you trust implicitly.