Desperate Measures

Moving Day

Posted in Food - Recipes by desperatemeasures on January 13, 2009

I decided to actually register a domain


Grocery Flyers

Posted in budget by desperatemeasures on January 10, 2009
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I live in a building where we do not get that weekly load of flyers for the local grocery stores, and that probably is a really good thing, since these are pretty much a huge waste of paper.  Especially now that you can find a great deal of the flyers conveniently online!  It is that new trend I heard about, pre-cycle.  Don’t create waste in the first place!

I just love to compare where I will find the best deal on butter, or juice, doing it online allows me to “flip” screen to screen and get the full picture.  I will be reviewing the online flyers in the coming weeks, I will just say that the Provigo online flyer does have a great advantage in that it can create a grocery list from the flyer – neat-O!

In Canada


Bravado Beef!

Posted in Food - Recipes by desperatemeasures on January 10, 2009
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Bravado BeefSo that hunk of beef I got on special was begging to visit the slow cooker and I couldn’t possibly say no!  Having seen a few recipes for Espresso Braised Beef, I decided to go it alone and come up with my own recipe, as most had ingredients that I don’t particularly like (turnip) or didn’t feel like having (sweet potatoes), or ingredients that were just over my budget (sirloin roast).

What I used: 3 lbs of boneless blade roast, 3 tbsps Maxwell House Strong Roast Coffee grains, 1 large leek, a mixing bowl, 2 cups of red wine, 1 tin tomato paste, 1 tbsp brown sugar, fresh thyme, salt and pepper.  All in the crockpot.

Cut the beef into 1″ cubes, trimming the excess fat as you go along.  Toss these into the bottom of the crockpot and then toss in the coffee.  Mix this around and allow the coffee to hold onto the beef cubes. Add in the sliced leeks and thyme.  Some people might prefer to sweat these a bit before hand, but I prefer them straight in. 

Take the red wine, the tomato past, and sugar and mix together in the mixing bowl.  This should become slightly syrupy.  Taste and add salt and pepper to your preference.  Pour this mixture over the beef and set the crockpot on low, for 8-10 hours.

I served this with the coconut rice and black beans and some steamed asparagus (though they were slightly over-steamed).

Get Inspired!

Posted in budget by desperatemeasures on January 9, 2009
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Every week I sit down with all the grocery flyers from my area, I circle all the great deals I see, and then I try to figure out how I can best prepare them.  I generally only shop at one store, and have the entire grocery delivered.  This week, the items that stood out most were at my local IGA.  The pork loin roast was 3.51$/kg, full chicken breast, bone in was 3.51$/kg, the chicken legs were 3.28$/kg and the boneless blade roast was just 4.39$/kg.  Great building blocks at very reasonable prices!

Unfortunately, when I checked out the pork loin, I found that what was available was not to my liking, so I skipped that idea and got some baby back ribs instead, though pricier, it makes a nice treat at the end of a long, cold winter week!  I ended up getting one nice big fat full breast of chicken (1.2kgs), some chicken legs (1.2kgs) and a roll of nicely marbled boneless blade roast (1.3kgs).  Vegetables weren’t really on sale anywhere this week, so it upped my grocery bill quite a bit, but I managed to find a few choices that will do us well for the entire week.

Spinach was a ghastly 6.99$, I bought some simply because it is my favorite, but forget about mushrooms this week.  The tomatoes were awful and looked dry (a dry tomato!  Yuck), and no possibility for red/green/yellow peppers.  I did end up picking up some carrots (5lbs were 2.99$) a nice sized head of romaine lettuce (1.99$) some purple potatoes (1.10$) and a head of purple cabbage (1.19$/kg).  I caved and bought the heirloom tomatoes for 3.99$ a pint, and along with some fresh rosemary (1.59$).  The asparagus was wrongly coded and because of that, I scored them for half-price (5.00$ for about 24 thick ones) – All in all, veggies killed this budget quite a bit.

In the aisles, I picked up three cans of whole tomatoes (796ml no name – 3/2.97$) and 6 cans of Campbells Tomato soup (3/0.99$), two tins of tuna in water (12oz cloverleaf 0.97$), lot’s of juices (Fruitopia being the family fave – expensive at 2.89$ for 1.8L) Tropicana OJ (4L for 5.00$) and a bottle of a new juice (why can I not resist the new juices?) by Bottlehouse Farms, purple carrot and blackberry (3.99$)

My total bill ran to 126$ including the delivery fee and some household necessities like paper towels.

I found a few recipes for variations of espresso braised beef and plan to do a little variation of my own, the first day to be serve over those bargain asparagus with some garlic mashed potatoes, the second day I will shred the beef and add some BBQ sauce and serve on warm homemade bread with a side of peas and carrots.

The chicken breast will make a nice simple dinner with fresh rosemary.  I think the rest of the asparagus and some more garlic mash will work well here.  The bones and skin will mean that my chicken bag is almost full – stock is coming up soon!  I will remove the skin from the legs as well and stew them in the crock pot with a can of tomatoes and some sweet spices.  They will definitely make two meals, so I can expect to be able to make lunches with the leftovers on day two, or maybe I will just break up the meat off the bones a bit more and serve this over some pasta…hmm, we’ll see.

I will ABSOLUTELY be making my special spinach caesar salad… it has been such a long time since I indulged myself with one of those.  Yea, I bought some romaine and will likely make a regular caesar salad as well, but I will let you know now, my spinach caesar, ROCKS!

I will post my recipes and pictures of the results as I make them – ’cause I am never sure how I am going to cook it!  LOL!

Prepared food weaknesses

Posted in Food - Recipes by desperatemeasures on January 7, 2009
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I know that prepared foods are not so very good for us, they have additives that I cannot pronounce, they contain too much sodium, they generally don’t contain “real” spices, and most of all, to me, they have no soul.  I do have one very big weakness (okay, maybe two) when it comes to prepared food that evokes memories of coming home at lunch during the school year and my grandmother making us a special lunch.  One is Campbells Cream of Tomato soup and the other is Habitant Pea Soup.

My grandmother had a method with Cream of Tomato, she would prepared it with real 3.25% homogenized milk (my mother made it with water), in her big cast iron pot, that added a slightly burnt flavor to the soup.  However, the real special part was that she would make a grilled cheese sandwich, then dice the sandwich up into little cubes and place those mini sandwiches into the bottom of my bowl.  Then she would pour the creamy hot soup over the cubes.  I dare you to try this and not love it.  Of course, my tastes have changed quite a bit since my childhood, so I make my grilled cheese with fresh cheeses that I have on hand (I like to mix together left over cream cheese and a little bit of blue cheese).  It is inexpensive, delicious and makes me feel like a spoiled little kid again.

Challenge yourself to remake a childhood delight, make it for your kids and create a new and delicious memory!

Spicy Chicken Thighs

Posted in Food - Recipes by desperatemeasures on January 7, 2009
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Chicken thighs are really a wonderful, inexpensive meal option and are almost impossible to screw up.  They are naturally extra juicy and pack quite a bit of meat.  I think they are better than drumsticks for kids because they are easier to de-bone, and taste great without the skin.  So after de-boning (and placing the reminants in my stock ziploc in the freezer) I will often times prepare them for an evening meal in a ziploc with a little marinade.

Saute pan, cooking spray or butter for the pan, a ziploc bag, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 tsp of sea salt, 1 tsp of chilli powder, 2 tbsps of bread cumbs, 8 plump de-boned chicken thighs in a bowl of water, a wooden spoon, 1/4 cup of water.

Spray the pan with cooking spray, or spread a very thin layer of butter, turn heat on to medium-hi, and place the saute pan over the heat.  As you are waiting for the pan to properly heat, add all the dry ingredients to the ziploc.  Take each piece of chicken thigh out of the water, letting it drip dry for a few seconds, then place in the bag.  Once all 8 thighs are in the bag, shake up the bag.  Add piece one by one to your hot pan and once they are all in, turn the heat down to medium.  Leave to cook on one side for about 7 minutes, then flip over and cook another 5 minutes.  Take out the thighs and add a little bit of tap water to the pan, turn the heat up to hi and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula.  After a minute, one final scraping and pour the sauce over the chicken thighs.  I serve this with my sweet coconut beans and rice, with a side of corn nibblets, but it works well over pasta (tossed with garlic and parsley with a bit of butter) as well.

For kids that cannot tolerate heat, you can replace the chili with a sweet paprika, or use a sweet curry mixture.

Coconut Rice with Black Beans

Posted in Food - Recipes by desperatemeasures on January 7, 2009
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If you could just smell this, your mouth would water!

If you could just smell this, your mouth would water!

This is one of my favorite recipes.  It is a perfect compliment for any of the spicier recipes you plan to cook up.  I love it with spicy chicken thighs, or with simple prepared fish (salmon pan fried with tons of garlic?!) 

You Need: a good sized pot with a lid, a wooden spoon, a can of coconut milk (not cream), 1 can of water, salt, 1 can of rice, 1 can of black bean (very well rinsed and drained), 1 tsp of butter (I prefer salted).

Coconut milk (make sure it is the milk, not the cream!) and water in the pot and bring to a low boil

turn the heat down to medium or less and add the salt.

Add in the rice, and beans, cover and let cook for 15 minutes

Remove the lid and lightly stir in the butter, leave the cover off and cook for another 5 minutes

Turn off the heat and let sit until of the liquid is soaked up.

YUM!  Of course, this recipe is adjusted depending on the kind of rice you use.  Generally, you could replace the  1/2 the water required on any box of rice with coconut milk and get very comparable results, however, I find that letting it sit for an added 5 minutes pumps up the flavor tremendously… try it, let me know how yours turned out.

“Recipes from the edge”, okay, whatever!

Posted in Food - Recipes by desperatemeasures on January 5, 2009
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Desperate MeasuresYea, I am kind of silly and have a limited imagination, so, yes, the tagline is as stated above, I apologize for that.  Meanwhile, let me explain my plans.  The idea for me, is to take the weekly flyers from local grocery chains, and create a menu for a family of four, breakfast, lunch and dinner – every week for under 300$ a month, who knows, possibly even less.  In fact, I want to see how low I can go, while maintaining creative dinners and meeting the usual dietary requirements.

By creative dinner ideas, I mean to say that I want to be eating something different every night, fairly easy to make and well, tasty to the point that you don’t realize you are eating on a very restricted budget.  Fair enough?

As for the dietary requirements, I am looking to produce dinners that are not terribly high in fat or sodium, that include all the elements of a healthy diet, fruit, veggies, meat, dairy and grains.  So no, I won’t be counting the iron content and the calories, this won’t be dietary science, instead, this will be a real world (well, my world) look at eating on a budget.

I have a few tools at my disposal that I feel are absolutely essential if you are eating on a budget, the most important in my humble opinion is a slow cooker. This vessel will make the cheapest, roughest piece of meat become so tender it will fall away from the bone, it will make preparing dinner a breeze and everything messes up only one pot – SOLD!  Take 50$ and buy the best one you can find.  It will pay for itself within two months, likely faster.

Buy four extra large Ziploc storage containers or freezer bags.  One you will use for the leftovers of uncooked meats (no chicken, no fish), the second for cooked meats (chicken is fine, but no fish), the 3rd for vegetable pieces (as long as they haven’t been in contact with any meat), the last one is for raw chicken fat, bones removed before cooking, skin if you don’t eat that, etc… if it is chicken and raw, put it in this one.  Whenever you are chopping something up, you know those pieces you would generally ditch in the garbage or compost?  Don’t.  Reach for a container.  When one of the containers is full, we’ll make some excellent broths!

Store everything so that it lasts as long as possible.  I hate waste, my budget hates waste, this budget cannot be stuck to, if there is waste!  So let’s not allow anything to go bad.  Bring everything that is close to expiry to the front of the line.  The faster something needs to be used, the faster it needs to be the first thing you see when you open the fridge door.  You know the saying “out of sight out of mind?”, how about we start a new saying, “in my line of sight, we’ll eat that sometime tonight!”

I hope you enjoy what I am trying to come up with here and wednesday will be shopping day… list to come!