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The Wonder of the Ground Cherry

 
The first year we started our square foot garden, I poured through every page of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalogue, which specializes in heirloom and organic varieties that thrive in the Mid Atlantic region. As I read, I discovered something called a ground cherry that I never heard of before. The variety called Cossack Pineapple sounded especially delicious. How tantalizing is this?
1/2″ diameter berries have a delicious flavor reminiscent of pineapple. Bite-sized berries are so tasty that they may never make it into the kitchen, especially if you have children. Excellent for preserves, hot dessert toppings, salads or mock pineapple yogurt. Plants are short (12″-18″) but with bushy spreading lateral branches which choke out weeds. Fruits ripen to a pineapple yellow.
 
Everyone describes the flavor differently. My best description is a mix of chocolate and pineapple.
 
 
So, what are these tiny treasures? Ground cherries are native American variety of husk tomato and look like a tiny tomatillo while they are growing.
  


Tomatillo
 


Ground Cherry
Young tomatillos are on the top. Full-size cossacks are on the bottom. The tomatillo plant and fruit will grow to be much larger than the cossack as the season progresses. The tomatillo fruit remains green and often becomes sticky under the husk; the husk of the cossack will dry and turn brown and the fruit will fall to the  ground.


Ground cherries are a nightshade and should only be eaten when the husk has dried from green to brown and the fruit falls to the ground. However,  if you are feeling impatient, it is ok to give the plant a gentle shake to encourage the brown pods to fall to the ground.




Green and on the plant = not ready



Brown and on the ground = ready
 
Harvesting these little yummies is great fun for 2.5 year-old V who can gather them on his own and even pop few in his mouth straight from the garden since the husk keeps the fruit clean enough to eat right away. When they actually make it inside the house, it is fun to rinse and husk them.
 
 
 
Normally we just snack on these raw. But, I’ve also made them into jam and mixed them into chocolate frosting. The jam was yummy, though made a tiny yield. The frosting was a bust in that the chocolate overwhelmed the cossack flavor.
 
  
Because ground cherries are a native species, they grow very easily. The seeds we started indoors flopped, but the ones we direct sowed did wonderfully. Over the years, they have self-sowed and survived our various transgressions like forgetting to water or fertilize.


Our front garden is having a very good tomato, tomatillo, ground cherry year (along with some radishes to help with pests).  The ground cherry plants are in the front row, left side.
 So, what do you think? Will you give ground cherries a try?
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Brewing Kombucha: Step-by-Step

Now that you’ve gathered all of the supplies to make kombucha, now it’s time to brew!

(If you are wondering what kombucha is, start here.)

Day 1: Brew

Today, you will need

  • 1 gallon water
  • 3-4 bags or 2-4 tablespoons loose leaf tea
  • 1 cup sugar            
  • 1 symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) and fermented liquid   
  • Pot
  • Spoon
  • Large glass brewing jar (mine is an old pickle jar)
  • Sieve (if using loose leaf tea)
  • Piece of cloth large enough to cover the jar opening
  • Rubber band or twine(Additional details about these items are here.)
    1. Boil water in the pot.
    2. Remove from heat and stir in tea leaves and sugar.
    3. Let the sweet tea cool to room temperature. (I go about my day and then come back to it when I have time.)
    4. Pour the room-temperature sweet tea into the glass container/fermenting jar
  • Strain while pouring if using loose-leaf tea.
  • If your SCOBY came in fermented liquid, be sure to add this to the jar. Alternatively, you could add a bit of store-bought kombucha. If you do not have any already-fermented liquid, plan for your first batch to take a minimum of ten days rather than seven. If you are maintaining a SCOBY hotel, refresh your backup jar with any remaining tea.
  • Cover the jar with cloth and secure with rubber band or twine.
  • Leave in an out-of-the-way, warm place out of direct sunlight (indirect light is fine).

 

Day 6+: Prepare to Bottle

  1. Clean the Day 7+ bottling and brewing equipment (see preparation instructions).

Day 7-10+: Bottle and Brew

Today, you will need

  • 3-5 glass bottles
  • Something to label storage bottles with
  • Funnel
  • Sieve
  • Flavoring agents
  • All Day 1 supplies, if starting another batch
    (Additional details about these items are here.)
  1. One to two-ish weeks after you’ve brewed, it is time to bottle. The longer you wait, the less sugar will remain and the benefits of fermentation will be stronger. However, the taste will be more vinegary. Each family will have their opinion on when the brew is ready. We like 7-10 days. We did three weeks once, and it was not palatable.
  2. Inspect your SCOBY and the brew. Mold is bad. Colors in the realm of cream and brown are normal variations for a SCOBY. Bubbles also are normal, but not required.
    The bottom picture shows the various colors and textures that a healthy SCOBY can have. You do no need to remove the SCOBY from the jar (though you can, if you’d like to rinse off the stringy and chunky bits)
  3. If you are doing the continuous brew method,  boil water and add tea and sugar. Let sit in the pot to cool. (See Day 1 for a review, if needed)
  4. In the meanwhile, bottle last week’s batch. The dishwasher door is a great place to do this and contain any spills.
    E is not amused at being left out.
  5. Pour the kombucha into glass bottles using a funnel and sieve (to strain out debris).
  6. If you would like carbonation, leave a good amount of head room.
    The red is the kombucha. You can see  I’ve left several inches of headroom on this narrow-necked bottle. I’d leave less with a wide-necked jar.
  7. Leave some of the brew in the fermenting jar for the next batch (or to feed your SCOBY if you are not brewing again right away).
    The SCOBY remains covered with old kombucha in preparation for a new batch.

  8. You can drink your kombucha now, or you can flavor it and then do secondary fermentation. Flavor the drink by adding pieces of fruit, herbs, or juice into the bottles. A post just on this is forthcoming, but I’ll share that my favorite is freshly squeezed orange juice plus the rind.
    Yummy organic oranges.
    Cranberry, mango, and plain
  9. Label the bottles with the date and flavors.
    A grease pencil works well for labeling.
  10. Let the filled bottles sit at room temperature for a few days to carbonate and undergo secondary fermentation (if desired).
    The top of the refrigerator is a good storage space in our small kitchen.
  11. If you are doing the continuous brew method, start your next batch by adding the cooled sweet tea from step 2 into the fermenting jar (along with the reserved fermented kombucha).

3 Days Later

  1. Put the bottles in the fridge to end fermentation (so it doesn’t become alcoholic).
  2. Drink as desired. (Take it slow if you are new to kombucha. The benefits to your gut health can be a little too good if you start with too much, too soon.)
    Berry Kombucha
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Over the past two years, I’ve grown increasingly aware of where my food comes from. My stance on organic produce used to be that, save for the dirty dozen, conventional produce didn’t faze me; local trumped shipped-in organic as the greener choice. But, I’ve come to realize that those chemicals not only impact the people who consume the food but also those who grow it. I want better for those people as well as the rest of the natural order around them.

My journey with meat has also progressed. After a period of being so consumed with the ethics of meat that it was difficult for me to eat, our family made the decision last fall to segue into buying locally and humanely raised meat.
One way to make this switch more affordable is to purchase whole animals or bundles. While I had my first experience grinding a beef heart this year (to mix in with ground beef), my guest poster today, Alexa, has been ordering whole and cooking whole animals for about a year. Using a whole pig piece-by-piece just got a lot easier thanks to the new book Beyond Bacon: Paleo Recipes that Respect the Whole Hog by Matthew McCarry and Stacy Toth, known in the blogosphere as Paleo Parents. Here is her review of the book.
There are a few things you should know about me before reading on:
  1. I cook a whole lot.  I often wonder if I spend more time in the kitchen than I do doing everything else combined.
  2. I am not what you would call a “reader.”  I very rarely read non-fiction books for pleasure.   It is hard to engage me long enough to get really interested in something unless it has a great story line.  
  3. I don’t like cookbooks much.  I think this goes back to #1.  I am not the kind of person who looks up a great recipe, goes out and gets everything I need for it & comes home to cook it up.  I am more the kind who opens the fridge, freezer, and/or pantry and uses whatever I have to whip up a meal.  Cookbooks just don’t usually fit into that.  

Enter Beyond Bacon

I ordered a whole pig from my favorite local farm last year and have been cooking my way through it, so when Stacy and Matt from Paleo Parents announced that they were working on a new cookbook called Beyond Bacon, I was excited to have some new ideas to add into my family’s menu rotation.  I saved several of the more uncommon cuts so that I could try them using recipes in the book.  When I was lucky enough to get a preview copy, I flipped through it and was immediately drawn in by the amazing photographs by Aimee Buxton. The food looked incredible.  
I got it home and hoped to get some time to check it out.  Then it got lost in the shuffle of life with kids.  When I finally got a moment of quiet, I decided to reach for it.  That was it.  It had me at Bacon. I sat and read the entire thing. For several hours.  I thought everything looked and sounded amazing, but still wasn’t sure about using a cookbook for my family’s meals, so I decided to look for recipes that I could make using just with what I currently had in the house.  I hoped to find maybe one or two.  I started writing them down and once I got to fifteen recipes I stopped writing.  That’s right, over fifteen recipes with no special grocery shopping needed! Finally a book that just used wonderful real food ingredients that I buy anyway.  Amazing!  
Things I love about Beyond Bacon:
  • Wonderful information at beginning
  • Layout of the pages was very easy to navigate
  • Mouth-watering pictures of every recipe
  • “Notes” or “Tips” listed on many recipes were extremely helpful
  • Engaging story and/or information in the intro paragraph to each recipe
  • Division of the recipe sections by preparation
  • Farm house aesthetic
  • Recipes with real, whole foods without too many hard to find ingredients
  • Focus on pastured meats from sustainable, local sources
  • Encouragement and ideas for nose to tail eating
  • Great index listing both recipes and ingredients
  • Easy to follow instructions (even on more difficult preparations)

Things I would’ve loved to see:

  • Full recipe list in one place (They are listed in the front of each section.)
  • Sample menus/combinations (There are some suggestions at the bottom of several recipes, but it left me wanting even more.) 
  • A few more green vegetable recipes. (My family eats a whole lot of green veggies.

I set out to start testing and wanted to start with a cut I had been saving for months, the jowls.  I set myself to work on this one recipe and I worked my way through it (with lots of help from my little kitchen helpers).  

Once I was done with the recipe, I had a lovely pot of broth just asking to be used and some extra fat that I had trimmed from the jowls.  I flipped through again and found the egg-drop soup, lard and crispy lardons.  
I got four recipes out of my one jowl recipe! I love it when nothing goes to waste and we all eat well because of it.  I had planned on only making that recipe before writing this, but then I just couldn’t help myself.  I had to try more, so off I went to cook.  We are still eating our way through all the wonderful food!
Recipes I’ve tried so far:
Lard
Was incredibly easy to do following the instructions in the book.  I have only ever done it in the crock pot before and mine has often been dark.  It was a beautiful snowy white this time!

Asian Short Ribs
These were incredible!  I’m still thinking about how 
good they are. Darn.  Now I have to go order some more short ribs.


Egg Drop Soup
I loved this!  What a wonderful way to have some protein with your healing bone broths. This will likely become a staple for me.

Ham Pot Roast with Horseradish Mustard Glaze
The meat was so tender and delicious.
  
Hawaiian Pork Roast
The sweetness of the pineapple was delicious with 
the flavor of the meat and spices in the marinade.

Perfect Pork Chops
Just like Stacy says in the book, I think steak and me have 
officially broken up.  Pork chops are my new one and only.

Crispy Lardons
My kids ate these for an evening snack.  
With a spoon.  Enough said.
Green Papaya Salad with Poached Jowl
Amazing flavors in this one!  Will definitely be making again!
Mashed Cauliflower
The creaminess was delicious.  I added some fresh herbs and loved it!

Faux-Tato Salad
The only one that got mixed reviews, but we were never big potato salad people anyway.  I was intrigued by cooking jicama as I have always eaten it raw. It does cook up to a  potato-like consistency, but I think I still prefer it raw.

Sautéed Green Beans
A huge crowd pleaser.  Will enter dinner rotations immediately.  
Rosemary Carrot Mash
Another huge pleaser!  We make carrots all the time but have never mashed them.  So yummy!
Baconnaise
I am a huge fan of mayonnaise but hate all the junk that is usually in store bought versions.  I’ve made my own many times, but this one is going to be my new favorite, for sure.
Ones I plan to try soon:
       Corn Dogs
       Sautéed Cabbage
       Triple Chocolate Freezer Fudge
       Scrapple
       Mexican Chorizo
       Lengua Carnitas
       Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits

…Who am I kidding?  I want to try them all

-Alexa

——
I am getting to ready to order a pork bundle that includes backbone, and I can’t wait to see what the Paleo Parents have to say about preparing this. Beyond Bacon comes out July 2, 2013. It is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

About today’s guest poster:

Alexa is a stay-at-home mother of two and co-leader of the Northern Virginia chapter of the Holistic Moms Network. Growing up in a “crunchy-hippie” household, she has created the same for her own family. She believes that what you eat directly impacts overall health and well-being. This belief was further reinforced when giving up wheat in 2005 put a stop to the daily migraines she was having.

Today, Alexa concentrates on feeding her family real, whole foods sourced mostly from local and sustainable farms. She spends her days homeschooling her children, cooking delicious meals for the family, and continuing to nourish her local Holistic Moms community who has given her so much.

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Using Glass For Expressed Milk

We have a minimal-plastic home, so when it came to pumping milk for our little ones, I wanted to find a minimal-plastic option. Ultimately, we decided to go with Ball’s quilted canning jars in the 4 ounce size. These are also called jelly jars.

This little 4 oz size was a good fit for our occasional bottle usage, but the 8 oz size would be great for higher-volume needs. (Locally, check Ace Hardware and Wegmans any time and Walmart during canning season.)

 Quilted jars are different than other glass because they are designed to be freezer-safe. Other glass can get microscopic cracks through freezing and defrosting or even completely shatter. Many folks are fine with freezing food or drink any kind of glass jars, but I wasn’t comfortable with that for breast milk, especially.
I pump into the plastic bottles that came with my Ameda Purely Yours pump and then immediately transfer the milk to a quilted canning jar. (I do have some small glass bottles that fit on my pump, but it makes it too heavy for my super-amazing Made By Moms Pumping Band to support comfortably.)

Once the milk is in the jar, I top it with the typical canning band and lid paired with a piece of unbleached parchment paper or a BPA-free plastic lid, also made by Ball. (Yes, it is plastic. Yes, they are worth it.)

With either kind of lid, it is easy to write the date on the top with a grease pencil or put the date on a piece of tape.

The milk defrosts at a reasonable speed in the fridge or quite quickly when placed in a bowl of hot water.

Best of all, when our nursing days our over, we’re left with something perfectly usable. These little jars are great for packing dry snacks (like nuts or trail mix) or something wet, like yogurt dip for raw veggies.

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Freezing Whole Eggs

We switched to buying local, pastured meat via monthly pick-up earlier this year. While we are very happy with this choice ethically, we are still navigating keeping costs down. One way we do so is by taking advantage of sales. Each month, the farm runs a different seasonal special. This month’s special was discounted eggs, but only with a minimum order of six dozen.  Our refrigerator is only so big, but with the power of a chest freezer, we decided to go ahead and place the order knowing that we could freeze the eggs.

OK, it was only theoretical knowledge. I’d heard that it could be done, but not tried it myself. What I discovered is that it was quite easy, once I figured out our setup.

I decided to wrangle one dozen at a time. I cracked a single egg into each silicone muffin liner. 
(I used the edge of a bowl to get a good crack, the silicone is too squishy.)Once all dozen were cracked, I covered the eggs with wrap and then laid it flat in the chest freezer. (I’d previously prepared a flat spot for the tray.)

After a few hours, the eggs were frozen.

It was easy to flip the silicone liner inside out and pop the egg pucks out into a container. At first, I put the egg pucks in Pyrex, but there a lot of wasted space in each container.  (More on that in a moment.)

Rather than cleaning the liners, I started with the next dozen and got everything back into the freezer quickly. V was eager to help, so I put him in charge of putting the empty shells into a compost bowl. he liked getting “juicy” from the tendrils of egg white. Ah, two-year-olds. I love it!

Anyway, back to the storage issue. I decided to move the egg pucks into a plastic bag. We rarely use bags, but sometimes they really do fit the bill. Ultimately, I got three dozen eggs into a one gallon bag.
 

Next up, we need to decide how we’ll use them and see how easily they defrost.

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Kombucha Homebrewing Kick Off


I was at a Holistic  Moms Network (HMN) when I first drank kombucha. I had no idea what kombucha was, but the bottle said it was ginger and lemon flavored, so I gave it a try. Surprising! Zingy! Yum! It had some effervescence to it and a light sweetness but also a slight vinegar taste (a good thing in my book).  Then I found out what kombucha is: fermented tea.

 

On the one hand, that freaked me out. It makes it sound like I am going to get food poisoning. On the other hand, fermented foods (e.g. kimchi) and drinks (e.g. wine) have long been a healthy part of many traditional diets. I actually had been looking to add fermented foods to my diet to help with acid reflux and it seemed that kombucha could fit the bill in a delicious way.

I bought a couple of bottles at the store but at nearly $4 a pop, that could only be a special treat. Inspired by some fellow HMN members, I decide to try brewing my own. I got a one-gallon glass pickle jar off Freecycle to be my brewing vessel. A new friend from the group gave me a SCOBY (the living part of the kombucha) along with a crash course. 

SCOBY is short for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The SCOBY digests the sugar from the sweetened starter tea and turns it into the fermented kombucha. The SCOBY looks really slimy, flimsy and disgusting in pictures. I find it less gross in person. It looks wet, but is fairly dry to the touch and it sturdier than I expected it to be.

 Armed with tea, SCOBY, bottles, and some courage—I gave it a go and am now on my fourth batch. I am shocked at how easy brewing it is. I spend just 20 minutes per week of active time with the brewing, flavoring, and bottling. That said, I just ended up with my first truly yummy bottle today. Needless to say, I need to work out some more of my kinks before I do a full tutorial.

 
 In the meanwhile you can learn from some of my early mistakes…

·       Starting off with a good non-herbal tea really is key. Believe the internet on this: herbal tea can lead to funky kombucha. Getting so excited about brewing kombucha that you grab the remainders of a box of a coconut chai, red tea/herbal tea blend and just go for it gives instant satisfaction. But you pay for it when the kombucha is ready 10 days later and tastes utterly vile. In this case, water your compost pile with it or offer it to a non-discerning two-year-old who will (shockingly) ask for more.

·       In the case of bad starter tea, do not retain 1/3 gallon of the vile kombucha to help ferment the next batch with a superior tea, as it will make the next batch taste gross, too.

·       Do not freak and think your SCOBY has gone moldy when really all you are seeing is the new baby SCOBY growing on top.


Healthy Baby SCOBY
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We are big on cooking in bulk and then creating freezer meals with the rest. I figure, if we are going to go spend the time cooking and cleaning up the kitchen afterward, we might as well feed ourselves as many meals as possible from that effort. Because meals last so long in the freezer, we can get a versatile stash of meals built up and rotate through them so our palates don’t get bored.

We’ve experimented with once-a-month-cooking (OAMC) from cookbooks and blogs. We’ve prepared food in bulk at Let’s Dish (which we really enjoy and makes a fun date night but is a splurge for us cost-wise). Ultimately, we’ve discovered that cooking and freezing our tried-and-true normal recipes works best for us. Some of our favorites include white chicken chili, hummus, sweet and spicy pork, French dip, and cranberry carrots.

While zipper plastic bags and foil pans are options for storing meals in the freezer, we avoid disposable products. Plus, I don’t like heating food in plastic. Given that, glass seemed like our best bet. We decided to go with Pyrex because it is safe for freezer and oven and the lids are BPA-free.

Pyrex is not cheap, so we built our stash slowly. Several years ago, I stalked the advertisements for Black Friday for the sets that we wanted. I am not a tidy-house person, but I do love a tidy cabinet, so we decided to pick several sizes for our Pyrex and just get those so they could be organized easily.

Rectangles in three sizes on the left
Rounds in four sizes on the right
Lids by shape and size in the middle

Our families love to use wish lists for gift-giving, so I added the exact sets we wanted to my Christmas list and let the family know that duplicates were great. That started things off. Over time, I continued to ask for Pyrex sets for gift-giving times plus I check for them on clearance shelves and each year we look for them on Black Friday and get more.

Pyrex also now offers water-tight lids, which is great for bringing defrosted soup to work for lunch. Pyrex does make glass lids, but these merely sit on the container and do not seal. Here are Pyrex’s food storage containers.

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Baby Boy V is now a solid food eater!

P1070229

As people who minimize buying packaged food, jarred baby food was never on our radar. Packaged foods just create so much waste. While recycling is great, we try to do things in this order: reduce consumption (or do without), reuse something already produced, and then if there are no other options: buy something new that can later be recycled.

We talked about making our own purees, but that seemed like a lot of work. Something like the Beaba Babycook makes it look easier, but what a price tag! Biggest of all, the idea of purees—and of babies eating special, separate food— just struck me as a cultural thing rather than a universal baby well-being issue.

Enter baby-led weaning (BLW) also called baby-led solids (BLS). This method feeding, where babies feed themselves from the family meal, seemed like the perfect choice for us. The book Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley was a comprehensive resource for understanding the amazingly compelling how and why of this method. The Adventures in Solid Foods blog is another wonderful source.

As V approached six months* old, he blossomed into being ready for solids per BLW guidelines. One week before his “semiversary” he became a sturdy sitter and he went from just lunging for our food to actually mock-chewing while hubby and I would eat. V had already been able to bring toys to his mouth with confidence, doubled his birth weight, and no longer had a tongue-thrust reflex.

*The six-month mark is key to BLW, but there is compelling evidence for six months as a benchmark no matter one’s solids method.

From the first week, we offered a variety of foods that generally corresponded with what we were eating:

Apple Take 1- We picked up a slice of apple from the farmer’s market and let V explore while being worn close to daddy in a mei tai. He licked it twice then dropped it. Take 2- We offered another slice at home a few days later. V wasn’t a fan that day either. We’ll try again later.
Pear A thin slice of pear was a hit! V got off a few bites and swallowed his first food
Pork We shared from pit barbecued pork with V while eating out. He scowled at it, then mashed it around for ages in his mouth, tried a few times to swallow it, then spit it out.
Squash I pulled this out of mixed vegetables that I was sauteing for a wrap for my meal. V was tired and melting down.
Mango This was too mushy and slippery to stay in V’s hand for more than a few licks. We’ll try again with a heartier piece.
Water V did great with having a few sips of water from a small glass with a curved edge.

In week two he tried
Lettuce I pulled this off my sandwich while eating lunch at Chick-Fil-A with friends. V licked it, ripped it, then threw it on the floor.
Roast beef Beef au Jus was on the menu at grandma’s house, so I have V a slice to hold and explore. He got off a few tiny bites and swallowed them.
Eggplant Take 1- I pulled a long wedge of eggplant out of a sauteed veggie wrap I had made for myself. He loved it and sucked all of the flesh out, leaving just the skin. V’s cheeks and thighs (where he had banged the eggplant)turned red after. Perhaps something else in the wrap bothered him or maybe garlic and onions cooked in the same pan. He cleared right up with soap and water.
Pizza crust I gave V a bit of crust from a thin pizza that had a wee bit of tomato sauce on it. He like it.
Cucumber I am allergic to cucumber, but I know this is a very rare allergy our doctor said food allergies are not passed down. Cold cucumber is supposed to feel great on sore, teething gums, so I wanted V to give it a try since he got in his first two teeth that week. V mashed on it happily for a minute, then dropped it.
Pineapple Fresh off the grill (but cooled down). It was a hit, even if quite squishy.
Asparagus This was perfect for a little hand to hold onto well. We served it microwave-steamed.
Banana I am banana-phobic so hubby gave V this at breakfast while I was asleep.
Oatmeal V fed himself with a spoon from daddy’s bowl
Tuna Steak We have V a small chunk of grilled tuna steak. He was ambivalent about it–just like his parents.

V will still get most of his nutrition through nursing for some time to come. But, for now solid food is great fun for experimentation, socialization, and exploring new flavors.

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See A-G here.


Hazelnuts These are great for snacking on and cooking with.

Hummus We love hummus in this house! Hubby has devised many amazing recipes I should share some time. We normally have chick peas in the freezer ready to go for a fresh batch of hummus.

Ice Cream

Molé

Mozzarella Block We buy a two-pound blocks of cheese, shred it with the food processor, then freeze it and just take out handfuls as needed. Do not freeze cheese that you want to slice later. Frozen cheese becomes crumbly.

Orange Juice

Peas

Pierogies These make a great, quick meal on a busy night or an easy lunch to take to work (boil them in the microwave).

Pumpkin Puree Here is what I did in 2008. This puree is from two 2009 batches.

Reduced Cranberry Juice My America’s Test Kitchen cookbook has the most amazing cranberry vinaigrette salad dressing in it (I couldn’t find an online link to share) that requires 100% cranberry juice reduced to one-third. Reducing requires enough time to make me want to blow off the recipe. So, I decided to cook down a whole bottle of juice at a time and then freeze the rest in the proper quantity. Now the dressing is easy to whip up! Cost-saving bonus: 100% cranberry juice isn’t cheap (most cranberry juice is a blend of berries). Using the whole bottle for this purpose saves me from buying a new bottle each time I want to make the recipe, only to use a small amount of it. Of course, we’d drink the rest of the bottle, but I’d rather we drink the $2.50 stuff and save the $5 stuff for when the pure flavor really matters.

Rennet For making cheese with my cheese kit.

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Cassoulet Homemade freezer meal from Cooking Light. It was plain for our tastes.

Sautéed Red Onions (with balsamic and dates) I love Rachael Ray’s Blue Cheese-Onion Empanadas. The last time I made then, I made miniature empanadas instead of the big guys and ended up with loads of extra onions. I used some defrosted ones for the first time on bleu cheese, caramelized apple, onion pizza. Yum!

Shredded Cheese A blend of food processor-shredded mozzarella and pepper jack to put on pizza

Spicy & Sweet Orange Sauce Leftover sauce from making this. This recipe took forever and the chicken was blah. The second time I made it, rather than following Pioneer Woman’s instructions, I breaded and baked chicken cubes, served plain rice, and poured on the defrosted sauce. Quick, easy, and delicious! The sauce is worth it.

Tomato paste

Walnuts These are great for snacking on and cooking with.

Whole Fruit Bars Commercial kind. A yummy snack on a hot day. Really, I should make these myself.

Wine (red and white) Rather than letting a not-so-great or partially drunk bottle of wine go bad, we freeze it in ½ cup quantities for cooking with.

Wonton Wrappers For use in my favorite pumpkin recipe, Cooking Light’s Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce.

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Using the freezer for food preservation is a major strategy in keeping our grocery budget at $250 per month. I thought that taking a peek into our freezer might lend some insight into how we keep food costs down.

Almonds I purchased a 5 pound bag from BJs. I use these as a go-to snack and keep a bag in my purse. They are also great for toasting for salads and making pesto.

Artichoke hearts

Baba-ga hummus Homemade roasted eggplant and garlic hummus. Not great as-is. I will defrost and reblend.

Bailey’s Irish Crème Mint This stuff is so good frozen!
I keep a small bottle of it in the freezer.

Berries I’m not a big berry eater, but these will be yummy on a dessert for guests.

Black beans We don’t do canned beans. These were cooked in bulk and frozen.

Blood worms Food for our African dwarf frog.

Bleu cheese

Bread yeast Hubby is the bread machine king; I am new to Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

Brewing Yeast
Hubby is a home brewer

Butter

Chicken

Chicken Broth Homemade

Chicken Scrap Bag for the next batch of broth

Chocolate chips

Coconut

Diced tomato

Egg Whites We have more than I thought! 4 containers containing various quantities: 2, 2, 3, 6

Film Hmm…I don’t think we even own a film camera any more.

Freezer Packs Good for lunches.

French Onion Soup Hubby made this in bulk for lunches.

Gravy

Guacamole Homemade

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