Wednesday 27 February 2013

Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

I'm often amazed by how much people spend on bottled salad dressings.  Some of the ones in the grocery store are really expensive!  You can make your own salad dressings at home for a fraction of the cost.

Homemade dressings are free of preservatives, artificial colours, and stabilizers.  They are almost always made with better quality oil than you find in store bought dressings, and they have fresher, more vivid flavours.

Salad dressings are so simple to make that it rarely occurs to me to write a recipe for them, but I've noticed lately that when I post my supper menu on Facebook or my "What We Ate" menu revues here on the blog, I get requests for tutorials.  

This honey mustard salad dressing the first of a series.  I'll be sharing several salad dressings in the coming weeks.

I chose to begin with honey mustard salad dressing because we forage for nettles and young dandelion greens at this time of year.  Both are slightly bitter tasting so a little sweetness is a welcome addition to our plate and, like all greens, nettles and dandelions pair well with mustard.

If you don't forage for greens, you'll still want to try this recipe.  It works well with the spinach or the "spring greens" mix you see in the produce aisle, with radicchio, or as a dressing for cooked  kale, beet greens, turnip greens, or Swiss chard.

To make honey mustard salad dressing, you'll need:

  • 3 Tablespoons mild flavoured honey
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard (I used a brown, whole grain mustard this time but do use whatever mustard you like best.  This even works with a dijon/horseradish blend.)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vinegar (I used a peach infused vinegar this time, but I've also used champagne vinegar, homemade cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and even lemon or lime juice depending upon my salad ingredients.)
  • salt to taste

Combine the honey, mustard, and vinegar in a small bowl and mix them together until well combined.  

Test the consistency.  If the dressing is too thick, add a little more vinegar.

When the dressing is the consistency you prefer, add salt a little at a time, whisking after each addition until your salad dressing is seasoned to your taste.

Store any leftover honey mustard salad dressing in a sealed container in the fridge. 

This post has been shared with the Adventurous Palette Program at The Aliso Kitchen.

Monday 25 February 2013

What We Spent, Feb. 18 - 24

It was an odd sort of week for our budget.  I was very frugal about most things, and excessively spendthrift about one.

I've been struggling with some long term health issues and have been told that both my health condition and the medications prescribed for it are making it difficult for my body to metabolize certain nutrients.  Tired of feeling tired, I consulted with my pharmacist who sat down with me, went through my list of meds and made some recommendations regarding supplements.  We ended up with quite a long "grocery list" of extras.

The idea of a row of vitamin bottles on my bathroom counter or breakfast table is not appealing to me.  I have always believed that a person should do their best to get the nutrients they need through healthy eating, so I came home and did further research.

In the end, I decided that I can't go on feeling this poorly and that, given my particular set of circumstances, supplements are worth a try.  

I could either buy a whole bunch of different bottles of pills and capsules to meet my nutritional needs or I could look for one "all purpose" supplement and get the whole thing out of the way in a single dose.  I chose the single dose option and decided upon a nutritional supplement called Vega 1.  

Like all supplements, Vega 1 is highly processed - something I'm never a fan of - but it is at least made right here in British Columbia, and made mostly from whole food ingredients.  The company is owned by Brendan Brazier, who is to my knowledge the only world class triathlete ever to compete while maintaining a plant based diet. 

This bundle of veggie nutrition is not inexpensive.  The best price I could find for Vega 1 here on the island was $55.95 for about a month's worth of supplement.  That's a hefty addition to our food budget!  

The jury is still out on whether this supplement will help with my on -going health problems, but I've decided to give it at least two months before making a final decision about whether or not I'll continue to take it.  With that in mind, I purchased two months worth of Vega 1 - at a cost of more than half my usual monthly food budget.  

Shoppers Drug Mart made the purchase price for my supplement a little more palatable by throwing in a $20 gas card and a $0.05/liter discount on a further 50 liters of fuel.  With gas prices being what they are, I was happy to take it.

I'll let you know what I think about the supplement when I'm done with the two month's worth I now have in the cupboard.

Here's what we spent this week:

Feb. 18/13
2 x Vega 1 supplement

4 litres skim milk
Feb. 20/13
Family pack (10 lb potatoes, 5 lb carrots, 3 lb onions)

2 lemons
Feb. 22/13
Burger and onion rings
Feb. 23/13
1 English cucumber

5.1 kg/11.24 lbs red bell pepper

.8 kg/1.36 lbs beets

.6 kg/1.32 lbs tomatoes

20 avocados


Total Coupons Redeemed


What We Ate, Feb. 18 - 24

It was a "keep it simple" week at our house this week, with not a lot of fussing going on in the kitchen.  

We had quite a number of eggs on hand and wanted to use them up so they made their way into several of our meals. 

I had quite a bit of whey saved from yogurt making so I used it to make waffles for the freezer.  

We're continuing to make the best of locally available winter vegetables, but I was delighted to see a very good price on red peppers ($0.88/lb) at the farm market.  They were a welcome change to our routine.  

Our freezer stock of peppers was getting low so I also sliced and froze several pounds.  I'm sure they'll come in handy.

Here's what we ate last week:

Monday, February 18:

Tuesday, February 19:

  • Breakfast - Oatmeal and applesauce
  • Supper - Pork chow mein made with cooked pork shoulder roast, shredded vegetables, rice noodles, and home grown mung bean sprouts, lemon pudding

Wednesday, February 20:

Thursday, February 21:

  • Breakfast - Apple slices and cheddar
  • Supper - Raisin bread French toast topped with pears in brown sugar syrup (I heated them and thickened the syrup with a little cornstarch), homemade yogurt, and freshly grated nutmeg

Friday, February 22:

Saturday, February 23:

Sunday, February 24:

  • Breakfast - Homemade yogurt and canned peaches (leftover from Saturday's supper)
  • Supper - Farmstead waffles topped with eggs scrambled with cheddar, red pepper and onion, mixed green salad with red wine vinaigrette, raisin pie

Thursday 21 February 2013

Turkey and Eggplant Parmagiana Casserole

One of the things I love about produce is how beautiful it is.  To me, the well stocked bins at the farmer's market look like jewel cases, filled with treasures of all shapes, sizes, and colours.  I cannot resist picking up all those treasures; experiencing their weight and texture, and their glorious scents.  

There are fewer treasures in the market at this time of year.  For those of us who try to shop seasonally, the long months of late winter and early spring can mean a seemingly endless repetition of the same few fruits and vegetables.  I'm pretty good at creating variety through different preparations but, even so, I long for the bright greens, deep reds, and rich purples that summer produce brings.  

You'll understand, then, why I was delighted to see beautiful eggplants at the market recently.  They were near flawless; dark purple with vibrant green caps.  I couldn't resist.  I picked one up and brought it home, intending to serve it for supper.

Plans changed, and my eggplant languished in the fruit dish on the counter for some days.  It didn't spoil, but I could tell from its diminishing weight and drying cap that I needed to use it up soon.

My fella requested eggplant parmagiana; a layered dish not unlike lasagna, made with breaded, fried eggplant slices instead of pasta.  I love the flavours too and I wanted to use up the eggplant, but I wasn't looking forward to the frying of the slices, or to assembling a layered dish. 

This casserole was my answer to my guy's request. It has the same great flavours as eggplant parmagiana, with less fat, and it's much quicker to assemble.

To make Turkey and Eggplant Parmagiana Casserole, you'll need:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced, about 1 cup
  • Finely minced garlic to taste (I used quite a lot: about 1-1/2 Tablespoons)
  • 1-680 ml/23 ounce tin of tomato sauce or about 3 cups of homemade sauce
  • 1-10 ounce package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 680 grams/1.5 lbs. diced, cooked turkey breast (I had some in the freezer, removed from a roast turkey and set aside for use in another recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • red pepper flakes to taste 
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella or a blend of melting cheeses (I used a mixture or mozzarella and edam)
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (not pictured)
  • Extra dried oregano and pepper for garnish

Begin by preparing the eggplant.  The skin can be quite bitter so I trim off about half of it, leaving half the eggplant unpeeled. Cut the trimmed eggplant into 1-inch dice.

Spread the diced eggplant on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over it, and season it with salt and pepper.

Bake the eggplant cubes at 400F until they soften and begin to take on a little colour around the edges.

When the eggplant is nearly cooked, use the remaining tablespoon of oil to saute the onion in a large pan.  

When the onion is tender and just beginning to take on a tiny bit of colour around the edges, add in the garlic and continue to cook for a few seconds more.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the tomato sauce to the pan, then mix in the spinach, turkey breast chunks, oregano, and red pepper flakes.

At this point, you can either transfer the ingredients to one large casserole dish or make individual portions.  I have several oval bakers with snap lids so I portioned the ingredients into six dishes.  (We used two for supper and I froze the rest.)

Top the casserole with mozzarella, then sprinkle the parmesan over top.  Garnish the dish dried oregano and freshly cracked black pepper.

The ingredients in the casserole are already cooked so you really only need it to heat through.  Bake the assembled dish in a 350F oven until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese melted.  (This took about 20 minutes for our individual portions.)

Serve this dish straight from the oven.  When it's really hot and the cheese is all nice and melty, it's very good indeed.  

Cook's note:

If you are freezing portions of this dish, seal the portions after adding the cheese topping and put them in the freezer unbaked.  

When you're ready to cook the frozen casseroles, put them in the oven frozen, with some foil over the top of the dish to prevent the cheese from over-cooking.  When the dish is heated through, remove the foil and turn the broiler on for a few minutes to give the cheese a little colour.

This post is linked to Hearthfelt Hopes blog hop hosted by Aliso Kitchen, to Hearth and Soul Blog hop hosted by Premeditated Leftovers, The 21st Century Housewife, Zesty South Indian Kitchen, and Savoring Today

Hearth & Soul Hop

Monday 18 February 2013

What We Spent, Feb. 11 - 17

Apparently, I'm in a stocking-up-on-meat frame of mind.  I bought a lot of meat the week of Feb. 4 -10, and then more again this weekend.  

One of our local stores had pork picnic (shoulder) roasts on special at $0.98/pound, so I bought two.  They were quite nice roasts, and huge.  I cooked one roast, divided up the cooked meat for future suppers, and froze it.  I broke down the other roast into cubed meat, which also went into the freezer.

I'll probably buy a couple more of these roasts this week and cube them too.  I'll thaw the cubed meat from the freezer, then can the whole lot in one go.  

Trimming meat for canning necessitates removing as much visible fat as possible (fat can interfere with the seal on the jars), and shoulder roasts are not a lean cut of meat.  I ended up with about a pound and a half of trimmed fat from the roast I cubed.  I'm a waste not, want not kind of girl so I rendered the trimmed fat from the roast for use in cooking.  If you want to learn how to do this too Joybilee Farms has provided excellent instructions on how to render fat into tallow or lard.

I also saved the hide from the cubed roast  and cooked it into cracklin's (crispy pork rind) for my husband to enjoy, and I browned the bones from both roasts in the oven, then used them to make stock.  

All in all, good value for our food dollar.

Here's what we spent last week:

Feb. 13/13
500 g/1.1 lbs specialty bacon
Feb. 16/13
1.15 kg/2.54 lbs broccoli crowns

1.47 kg/3.25 lbs tomatoes

4.54 kg/10 lb navel oranges

4.54 kg/10 lb Gala apples

Feb. 17/13
9.88 kg/21.78 lb pork shoulder roast

canning jar lids

Total Coupons Redeemed


What We Ate, Feb. 11 - 17

I've got to tell you that the best meal of my week this week was Valentines Day breakfast.  

I had planned to get up that morning and cook heart shaped bacon and Valentines egg in a basket for my fella, but I had a bad night the night before and was awake for hours, not feeling well.  I finally fell back to sleep around 5 a.m., effectively putting paid to my plans for an early rising, big breakfast kind of day.  

I slept right through my alarm.

My guy shook me awake at 7:30 and, since I had to be out of the house by 8:15, I sprung from bed in a panic.  

"GET BACK INTO BED!" he growled from the kitchen and since, in my heart of hearts, I wanted to snuggle down for a little longer anyway, I obliged.  

Five minutes later my sweet husband came in with a tray.  He'd laid it with a flowered cloth, my coffee in a pretty china mug, two heart shaped slices of toast, and a small bowl of blackberry jelly.  There were two perfect stems of pussy willow too, in bud vase.  

Now I ask you, what could possibly be sweeter than that?

While I was enjoying my breakfast, my fella packed my lunch, ironed my work pants, and carried my bags down to the car.  

Life is very good sometimes. :)

I cooked the meal I'd planned for breakfast for supper that night; one of two "breakfast for supper" meals we had this week. 

Not much else noteworthy in our week was noteworthy.  I worked, we did chores, ate, slept, and made our daily rounds just like everyone else.  It was a fine week, nonetheless.

Here's what we ate last week:

Monday, February 11:

Tuesday, February 12:

  • Breakfast - Apple slices and cheddar
  • Supper - Buttermilk pancakes with butter, sugar and lemon juice, locally made thick cut, apple wood smoked bacon

Wednesday, February 13:

  • Breakfast - Boiled eggs and toasted English muffins (from the freezer)
  • Supper - Slow cooker round steak, pan juice gravy, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and cabbage, applesauce spice cake.

Thursday, Feb. 14:

  • Breakfast - Heart shaped toast and homemade blackberry jelly  
  • Supper - Heart shaped bacon, Valentine egg in a basket, sauteed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes.  We went out for dessert and shared a sliced of chocolate decadence cake.

Friday, Feb. 15:

  • Breakfast - Fried egg and cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread
  • Supper - Mac'n'cheese made with leftover round steak, gravy and mushrooms served with roasted green beans and carrots on the side.  Canned cherries for dessert.

Saturday, Feb. 16:

  • Breakfast - Carrot and zucchini muffins (from the freezer), cream cheese (also from the freezer)
  • Supper - Homemade pizza: Olive bread crust topped with tomato sauce, sliced onion, spinach and bell pepper (from the freezer), sliced tomato, mozzarella and feta cheeses (both from the freezer), dried oregano and freshly cracked black pepper.

Sunday, Feb. 17:

  • Breakfast - Oatmeal and applesauce
  • Supper - Kidney beans and red cargo ride, tomato and onion salad with red wine vinaigrette, chocolate and cherry clafoutis.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Why You Need This Stuff in Your Kitchen: Frozen Chopped Spinach

Some foods have a certain cachet.  You hear or read their names and images of luxury, or romance, or comfort immediately come to mind.

Frozen chopped spinach is not one of those foods.

I am here now, though, to convince you that you really do need this stuff in your kitchen.

There are very few foods that will provide you with as much nutritional bang for your buck:

If you watch the sales and use coupons, you can often buy frozen chopped spinach for less than $1.00 for a ten ounce package.  

Ten ounces of fresh, pre-washed spinach is selling in our local Safeway for $4.99 right now.  

Unwashed, untrimmed bunch spinach is selling for $0.88 to $1.69/bunch depending upon where you buy it.  By the time you trim it, wash it, and spin it dry, it takes three or four bunches to make up ten ounces of useable leaves.  

The nutrients in spinach are more readily available to us if the spinach is cooked, and there are a lot of nutrients. Here's what a single cup of cooked spinach brings to your plate:

Nutrients in
1.00 cup cooked (180.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value

vitamin K1110.6%

vitamin A377.3%





vitamin C29.4%

vitamin B224.7%



vitamin B622%


vitamin E18.7%



vitamin B111.3%





omega-3 fats7%

vitamin B34.4%


Calories (41)2%

Although virtually all vegetables contain a wide variety of phytonutrients—including flavonoids and carotenoids—spinach can claim a special place among vegetables in terms of its phytonutrient content. Researchers have identified more than a dozen different flavonoid compounds in spinach that function as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents.[1] 

The vitamin K in spinach helps our bones to retain calcium, an important factor in preventing osteoporosis.

Two of the carotenoids that are especially plentiful in spinach — lutein and zeaxanthin — are primary antioxidants in several regions of the eye. [2]

Spinach tastes good too!

There are many ways to incorporate frozen spinach into your meals.  I use it in any soup, salad, or casserole recipe that calls for cooked spinach. 

Frozen chopped spinach works well in lasagna, as a green in Italian wedding soup, or as creamed spinach.  I use it on pizza, as a component of most anything Florentine, mixed with tomato sauce or cheese sauce as a base for baked eggs, in omelettes and quiches, and in spinach and cheese bread.  You can use it in green smoothies too.

There are a few steps to preparing frozen chopped spinach for use in your recipes:

Begin by thawing the spinach.  I usually do this in my microwave, but if you plan ahead you can take it out the night before you need it and allow it to thaw in the fridge.

Turn the thawed spinach out onto a clean cloth.  I have several pieces of old sheet that I use for this.  The fine texture of the sheet material makes it excellent for this purpose and it’s easily laundered.  If you don’t have a piece of sheet material, use a clean - but not new - dish towel.  (The spinach juice may stain it.)

Draw the edges of the cloth together and then twist the cloth to wring as much moisture as possible from the thawed spinach. 

Quite a bit of liquid will drain off and you’ll end up with a compressed pellet of spinach.

Use your fingers or a fork to break the spinach apart, then use it just as you would cooked, fresh spinach.

Pretty simple, right? And so worth the effort!


nutrient chart source:
[1] , [2]