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Good Food Box (Montreal)


Alright! I've been excited about this for awhile, but wanted to get my box before I gave you all my opinion. The Good Food Box is a collective-produce buying program in Montreal. Produce is bought from local farms and distributed throughout the city to drop-off points.

Here is a pretty colorful pamphlet about the program:
http://www.moissonmontreal.org/pdf/PamphletBBBBfr.pdf

They distribute about every two weeks, you need to sign up (and pay) a about a week before.

I ordered the big box, it cost $16. Here's what I got today!






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Chicken-Broccoli skillet casserole


Speaking of home-made cream-of-chicken soup...
My oven is still broken. I wanted a chicken-broccoli-rice-cheese casserole. So I improvised a skillet version. I didn't have any cream-of-chicken (only cream-of-mushroom), so I made my own!

I cooked some onion and chicken in some oil in a deep skillet. A whole onion and one chicken breast (two would've been better, but I only had one). When the chicken was nearly cooked, I added one finely diced clove of garlic.

Meanwhile, in another pot I cooked some rice. 1c uncooked rice + 2c water + .5 cube chicken bouillon.

Then I added to the skillet about a cup of water. I scraped my spatula around the bottom of the pan to get all the goodbits of chicken/onion. I added half a cube of chicken bouillon. When that was simmering, I added just over 1c milk (mixed with 1.5tbsp corn starch). Let that simmer and thicken. At this stage I also added a thick slice of Velveeta cheese (about 1/2 and inch slice).

When the cheese was melted and the sauce thickened, I decided to add a little more cheese. A few grates of cheap old cheddar. Just for kick.

Then I mixed in the broccoli/cauliflower mix. I used all I had left, maybe 2 cups.

Then I tossed in the cooked rice. Mixed it up and yum! Of course, my broccoli/cauliflower was still cold, so I let it simmer on the stove a little longer. So next time I will definitely cook the broccoli first, or add it earlier.

I sprinkled some paprika over our individual servings for a little spunk. :)
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Homemade Cream of Chicken


I make a lot of recipes that can use cream of chicken soup. However, I don't always have it on hand, and since learning to make my own I actually prefer doing it myself. In most cases it's not much more work or mess (except for tuna noodle casserole, I always use a can for that).

For both my chicken-and-biscuits and my chicken-broccoli-cheese casseroles I start by cooking some onions in a little oil/butter/margarine. If I don't already have cooked chicken, I cook that at this stage also. (Sometimes I'll throw in a little garlic, too).  When the chicken's cooked (or if you're just starting with onions, when they're soft), add about a cup of water and half a cube of chicken bouillion. Then, on the side, I pour a cup of milk and add  to it 1-1.5tbsp corn starch. (Whisk it in good with a fork, don't let it sit too long or it will settle. If it does settle, just re-whisk it.) I add that to the water/onion/(chicken) in the pan. Bring that to a simmer and you'll see the "sauce" thicken. Add more milk/cornstarch if needed. Taste it, you can add more chicken bouillon, or more water/milk/cornstarch to make more sauce as you need.

It's the perfect base for nearly any creamy chickeny casserole. :)

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Salmon Cakes


I wrote this post ages ago and forgot to actually upload it. So... here it is. :)


Basic Ingredients:
  • 1 can salmon
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 egg
  • frozen peas
  • parsley
  • flour
  • lemon juice

Hubby wants more fish in our diet. It's been a long time since I made these but I gave it a try last night.

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Easy Quiche


Our oven is broken. I have no idea what's wrong, but the darn thing just won't heat up. Good thing we have a toaster oven! I've been forced to only cook things that can fit in the toaster oven or be cooked entirely on the stovetop.  Fortunately, my pie plates and cake pans fit in the toaster.

This is another of my Mom's secrets. Okay, most of my best recipes are hers. She really should be co-writing this blog with me. I always forget the exact measurements for the base, so I often look it up on allrecipes.com  This is a great example, though I rarely make the ham and broccoli version.

In a large bowl start with:
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1/2c baking mix
  • 4tsp butter/margarine (softened, melted, or just in little bits) 
  • salt & pepper
Add:
  • 1 c cheese
  • 1 c meat
  • 1c veggies

 Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, check it. Coninue cooking if necessary until the eggs look cooked and the top has browned.
    My preferred version uses spinach, onion, bacon, and cheddar cheese. Those are ingredients I usally have on hand in the freezer. Of course, you could do all-veggie or whatever you like. Lately I just make the basic mix, pour it in the pan(s), then add veggies/cheese/meat until it looks good! Kind of like making a pizza. Of course, I always use onion and some kind of cheese. :)












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    Homemade Hummus and Pita Chips


    Homemade Hummus
    • 1 can chickpeas, drained
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 2tbsp lemon juice
    • 1-2tbsp olive oil
    • salt & pepper 
    Blend all ingredients in a food processor, add salt & pepper to taste. I was loosely following a recipe that called for 1tbsp olive oil, I'd seen others that called for 3. I put in one and it was too thick so I drizzled in some more. I also added about a tbsp of the leftover juice from the chickpeas.  I even considered adding a jalepeno pepper, but changed my mind. Good thing, too, since just having it in contact with the ingredients briefly (and a tiny bit of chopping that only took out a tiny tiny piece) was enough to spice it up a bit! If I had any sundried tomatoes or roasted red peppers on hand, I would try adding those. Perhaps next time.

    Homemade Pita Chips
    • Pitas (stale ones work fine!)
    • olive oil
    • salt
    • seasonings, if you like
    Chop the pitas into triangles and split them.  Brush with olive oil (just the smooth side is fine), sprinkle with salt. You can also sprinkle with seasonings such as garlic or onion powder (or garlic/onion salt, if you omit the regular salt), chili powder, etc.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes, but watch them closely. I baked mine in the toaster oven, it took just over 5 minutes at 350.

    Once the hummus is made, this is a quick and easy snack! You can even dip veggies in the hummus for a healthy snack. (And my kids love it!)

    Cost Breakdown:


    Chickpeas     $0.69
    Pitas$1.00
    Garlic/Lemon/oil    $.50
    Total$2.19

    Okay, so I'm totally guessing on the Garlic/Lemon/oil cost. It takes so little... Also, the hummus makes such a big batch you could freeze half of it. And the pita chips go a long way also, one pita easily makes enough chips for one person. The $1 packages I buy have 5 pitas,so that's 5 servings. And that won't even use half of the hummus. Of course, you can always serve the hummus with veggies, too. Or use it as a yummy spread. :)
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    Orange Caesar


    I've been on an OJ-bender lately. I can't get enough of it. We got a bunch of Oasis Premium OJ for only $1.25 each (normally $4.99, on sale for $2, used $.75 coupon).  Needless to say, it's all gone. I recently bought a new jug of Tropicana, since it was part of a store promotion (buy $20 in Pepsi/Quaker/Tropicana products, get $30 gift card for groceries). So very awesome.  Anyway, I love frozen orange juice. So much. I put a plastic cup of OJ in the freezer and later snacked on it like it was Italian ice. I know it's not as smooth, but I still loved it. :)

    Anyway, so I've been thinking about this drink. I don't want to get in trouble for sharing a recipe for something that is trademarked. I also can't think of any better name to call it - it's orangey, frothy, chilly, yummy deliciousness.  So I looked up recipe ideas and found one by Alton Brown. OMG I love that guy. So I watched his recipe (and another entire episode because man, I just can't stop).

    His recipe calls for fresh squeezed OJ and orange zest. I don't have this on hand, but I DO have OJ. So I substituted the juice and omitted the zest. It was still very awesome.

    Here's the basics. Blend together:
    •  about 8 frozen cubes of OJ
    • 1/2c milk
    • 1tbsp powdered sugar
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4c liquid OJ (2oz)
    Check out his recipe on the Food Network's website.

    Iced Coffee & Iced Cappuccinos


    It's summer, it's hot, and lately I'm really not in the mood for a hot cup of coffee in the morning. I want Iced Cappuccinos; those deliciously icey and caffeinated drinks from that heavenly Canadian coffee chain not named after an elephant. Oh man, I could drink three a day. But that would be wrong.

    I've been saving all my leftover coffee (which has been a lot lately since we make it out of habit then often don't drink as much, if any).  I keep a 2qt pitcher in the fridge, and fill it up with the leftover brew.  When it is full, I pour it into a big saucepan, add 1/2 cup sugar, and boil it down to about half to 1/3 it's original volume. Sugar doesn't dissolve so well in cold, that's why I add it to the boiling coffee instead of later.  Now I have this delicious coffee syrup in my fridge (boil it down more and it can be used for even more awesome stuff like homemade coffee ice cream).  When I want a fantastic iced coffee, I mix half "syrup" and half milk (or more milk, as you like it...), add ice and OMG YUM.

    If I have more time, patience, and the kids aren't tugging at my clothes, I'll make my own iced cappuccino. This is almost exactly the same as the iced coffee, only I put it in the blender (with lots of ice!). It can be topped with whipped cream and chocolate (which I also happen to have on hand...).

    I'm even considering brewing some decaf and making a decaf version of my coffee syrup for an evening treat that won't keep me up all night...

    Just be sure to keep the "syrup" in the fridge. It will mold if you don't.

    Here's the breakdown
    • 1qt leftover coffee + 1/4c sugar (think 1 quart + 1 quart..er)
    • milk
    • ice
     Anyway, enjoy! :D

    Easy soup


    Alphabet Soup

    This is an easy soup that my entire family loves (especially my picky daughter).  It's easy, I almost always have the ingredients on hand, and it's pretty versatile.
    • 1 can diced tomatoes (seasoned or not)
    • 2 carrots, chopped
    • 2 stalks celery, chopped
    • 1/2 onion, chopped
    • 1 chicken bouillon cube
    • 1/2 cup noodles or rice (maybe less rice, I rarely measure...)
    • water
     Theoretically you could just throw everything in and cook until the noodles are done. I like my veggies a little more cooked, so I start with those.  Cook onions, carrots, and celery in a bit of butter/oil to soften. Add diced tomatoes and another canful of water. Add chicken bouillon cube (and extra seasonings if you like). Boil until carrots are soft....er. Add noodles/rice and some extra water (especially for rice - just watch and add more if you need to) and cook until those are ready! Ta-Da!

    I often use Italian herbed diced tomatoes. If I use plain, I add oregano and basil. You can also add garlic to make it super awesome. Or leftover chicken to make it more hearty.  I used to prefer making this with shell noodles, but lately I've been using alphabet noodles (which my kids love).


    I always have these ingredients on hand. I used diced tomatoes so regularly that I always have them in my cupboard. Before my kids snacked on celery, it would often go to waste. So I would chop half the bunch and freeze it. I often did the same with onions.


    When my daughter was still learning to feed herself (using her fingers) this (with garlic) was her absolute favorite. 

    I like to serve this with grilled cheese, tuna melts, or biscuits. Mmmm...

    Bread Machine Pizza



    Before I even got a chance to introduce anyone here to my awesome pizza I discovered an entirely new option. Bread Machine pizza. (For people without a bread machine, I still plan to post my older pizza recipe.)

    I've always made my own pizza. Frozen pizzas or delivery were special-occasion treats while homemade pizza is a once- or twice-a-week meal.

    1. Dough. I always make my own dough. I found a recipe that works for me and have stuck with it.  Today I've tried a new one with the bread machine. See below for how that went! I buy the yeast by the jar and keep it in the freezer.
    2. Cheese. Don't buy it already shredded. Buy big bricks and buy them on sale whenever/asoften as possible. You can freeze bricks, or shredded (great if you buy a TON). I used to always use a handheld cheese grater (a good quality one) and shred only enough for what I was making. It kept me from having to freeze the cheese, but added extra prep time.  Now I've been given a food processor which worked GREAT until I broke... something. It just doesn't work so well anymore. :( Entire bricks of cheese can be grated in the food processor and then frozen for later use.
    3. Frozen toppings! I keep chopped onions in my freezer nearly all the time. They're great for adding to pizzas! (Not only does this save time but money as well! In the fall we can get 10lb bags of onions for $1-2, no kidding! So I chop & freeze most of them!)  Also, chopped green pepper, spinach, and pepperonis all freeze quite well. I've not had such luck with ham, however. [On a non-pizza note, celery can be frozen and used later in soups and casseroles - saves from losing half a bunch to wilting!]  

    So here's how the bread machine pizza dough worked out. 
    (Sorry, didn't get pictures of the sleek new machine at work.)


    The dough was a little loose coming out of the machine. I was expecting a nice solid lump of dough, but instead it was soft and airy. I dumped it out onto a floured pan and rolled it around and it easily formed a nice ball. The recipe's instructions said to let it sit another 10 minutes under a bowl.

    This was a lot of dough! So after resting I divided the dough into two balls.   This dough was so wonderfully elastic that I could toss it! Like real pizza dough! I didn't realize this until the second ball, so I made the first one the way I would with my usual dough and it came out slightly odd-shaped. 

    I topped it with pizza sauce (it really doesn't matter to me what kind, I sometimes even use leftover spaghetti sauce though I prefer not to), some basil, oregano, and parmesan cheese. Then add the toppings (this time it was only pepperoni & cheese - not my usual)! 




    Bake it (350 is fine) until the cheese looks yummy and the crust looks toasty!
     
    Yums! I am *definitely* making this again.


    I topped the second pizza and popped it in the freezer. Cooked it up a couple of days later and it was great! Unfortunately, I forgot to grease the pan so the frozen one REAALLY stuck. And the dough was a bit too thick on that one. But it froze well!

    Um. The end! 

    Bread Machine


    So, in another attempt to save money this summer (and beyond) we've decided to invest in a bread machine. We've had our eye on a Breadman for a couple of months but they are probably the most expensive brand. But they've had the best reviews and seemed the best option for us.  We finally found a good sale - 40% off at Canadian Tire. So we scooped one up!

    Each week we typically would buy a two-pack of D'Italiano or Vilaggio which are typically around $5.50.  That's $2.75 a loaf!  This bread machine cost us $80.  In 4 months it will be entirely paid for. Well, not accounting for the cost of the flour - all of this I will calculate at a later date (after our usual bread recipe & routine have been established).

    This machine makes a variety of breads, doughs, and even jams. At first I made dough for dinner rolls and french baguettes.  For both of these I had neither the proper yeast (I had "pizza dough" yeast) or flour (I had to mix all-purpose and bread flour), but they turned out great!  Since then we've made several loaves of basic white bread, 1.lb and 2lb, but never with the correct flour (but proper "bread machine" yeast). Yet they've all turned out delicious (we've used all-purpose and blending flour mixes - a certain someone accidently bought blending flour instead of bread flour).

    I finally tried making a loaf exactly by the recipe (and with the proper bread flour) and it was a near disaster! The dough rose so high that it squished up against the viewing window and I had to open it up and punch it down. Any larger and there could've been a big mess (and I was making a medium sized loaf)!  The bread tasted fine, baked fine, but it was a little flimsy standing up.  I tried again today with half blending and half bread-flour. This time it didn't rise up to the window, but it still produced a large loaf (when I wanted a medium) and it's flimsy and airy. 

    Currently, I'm trying the pizza dough. Pictures & more to come!

    (PS: I realized that if I wait until a post is "perfect" I will never post anything - so expect lots more half-thoughts and pictureless ramblings in the near future!)
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    Boxee Box


    We've rid ourselves of the Bundled Bill Bungle. No more cable/satellite for us! With two little couch-potato-tots what are we gonna do? I'll tell ya: Boxee.

    It's this neat little box that connects to our tv (a new one - Christmas gift for hubster). This box has a web browser, built-in apps, connects to our pc, can read USB keys and hard drives (via USB).  Basically, we can watch any tv or movies that we can find online or on our computer.  No subscription needed, just a one-time purchase. (Or, apparently, you can "make your own" by connecting your laptop to the tv....) However, since online television content in Canada is pretty sad, we've added NetFlix. Even NetFlix in Canada is pretty sad, but at least the kids can get their Dora/Diego/George shows.  (BONUS: No commercials!) For those in the US there are a lot more options for streaming television (such as Hulu - we don't get that in Canada).  Plus your NetFlix is awesome.

    So, while I'm going to seriously miss my Law & Order, the kids get their favorites on demand and commercial free, hubby gets his movies, and I can still watch new episodes of House/Fringe/30Rock on their Canadian broadasters websites. 

    The Boxee Box in Canada cost almost $200, NetFlix is $8/month, but we're saving $80/month by cancelling our satellite subscription. 

    http://www.boxee.tv/
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    Hot Dogs & Potatoes!



    Basic Ingredients:


    • 6 hot dogs (more or less)
    • 5 small potatoes (more or less)
    • vegetable oil
    Bonus:
    • frozen corn
    • thinly sliced onion (1/2)


      Another one of my Mom's classics. Quick, but definitely not the healthiest. After having kids I realized I should probably add a vegetable, so I add corn. It's also fine without corn. But certainly not any healthier than a meal of hot dogs & french fries. The best thing about this meal is you can make as much or as little as you want depending on how many people you are feeding. :)

      Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole


      Basic Ingredients:
      • 1 box Macaroni & Cheese
      • 1 can of tuna
      • 1 can of Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom Soup
      • frozen peas
      Bonus Ingredients:
      • breadcrumbs
      • parmesan cheese
      Basic Instructions: Prepare package of macaroni as instructed on the box (I highly recommend the "lighter" version with less butter & more milk). Stir in soup & tuna.  You can warm it up a little more on the stovetop and eat right away if you're super hungry, but I recommend following the next few steps.

      Introducing...


      I'm not entirely sure about the title of my blog... but it's fun to say, so I might stick with it awhile.

      About this blog:  I'm hoping to share my craft, recipe, and other miscellaneous ideas.  None of them are perfect, many may not be original, and most of them can be improved upon or just plain don't work.  So why would anyone read this? I don't know! Everything I do is on an extremely tight budget, so maybe it can inspire others to to good with so little.

      Speaking of budget, that is basically the theme of this blog. Mega-low-budget.  I will do my best to break down the cost of such projects.  Living in Canada I find that most things (especially my recipes) can be made for a lot less in the US. I'm considering, when possible, doing price breakdowns, but based on my own estimations and in Canadian prices.

      I may also ramble about occasional unrelated topics, or my kids; I might also share other ideas/links/photos.  My kids will be referred to by Code Names... cool ones which I haven't thought of yet.

      So, that's a start. Now let's get writing and fancy-up the joint.
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