Sunday, January 16, 2011

Let's Save some Time and Money..... Lalalalalala....

We've all noticed and it's true, food prices are going up. All over, some places more than others but if you add this fact along with the reality that our time is the most valuable asset we have, it makes sense to have a well stocked pantry since this can save you time at the market and having everything and more at hand means that you will save time and gasoline too. Plus if you think that you could also substitute all those unpronounceable ingredients and chemicals which are in every single thing you buy now a days, if you purchase convenience foods that is..... an increase in your health meter is an added bonus and I say, great, works for me!

Now, I don't buy convenience foods and haven't in a long, long time due to my guys getting allergic reactions to chemicals in food. How did I know this? Ricardo used to have all these aches and pains, joints and hands mostly, which he thought was just aging and something everyone can expect; but it began to get worse. Around this time (we were living in Las Vegas at the time), we spent a long spell in Europe and then almost 4 years in Mexico and guess what? He realized his pains stopped when we were on holiday. Now Europe, like Mexico, is organized pretty much the same way: go to the market almost daily, buy food for the day, no convenience foods because they're expensive, no frozen items, everything prepared the "slow food" way (old fashioned style). His health was much improved and didn't falter until we decided to come back to the good old USA.

All of a sudden the aches and pains were back and he began to walk and act his age (old guy age), so this pretty much told us that issues from before were the culprits and we began an "elimination diet" to find the source. This means you eliminate everything from your diet and you go on a fast. Did a detoxing program along with foot bath and that was the beginning. It was hard due to his being a very good eater but he felt badly and knew he didn't want to feel like this, so fruit juices came first and he began feeling better (he doesn't take any medications so this wasn't an issue), he was hungry but doing better and the aches were better. Salads and veggies came next (lots of them, he was famished all the time!), by this time he was doing "oil pulling" which helps rid the body of heavy metals and other stuff (google it, it works), and he could tell his health was returning. Finally one day he added table salt to a soup he was having and about 20 min later, his hands started aching! We found regular salt contains aluminum and if he switched to sea salt or kosher salt, no aches. This set us on a path from which we don't stray anymore and I know this applies to many people as well. Millions of people have reactions to the chemicals, preservatives, additives, etc. in food, maybe you do too.

So we learned that making everything, knowing the ingredients contained and cooking things the right way made all the difference. Being busy made me look for short-cuts and one thing plus another led me to practical solutions to feeding my family, saving money (for obvious reasons but now more than ever) and making it quicker since time was short. After hearing from a good friend who wanted some info on homemade dry mixes, I thought others might benefit from these too. Above all since they are dried, you can have them in jars or zip lock bags and they're ready whenever you need them and can be made quickly. Most people don't notice the change or some even prefer these.... you could do a blind taste test and see for yourself if they will work for your family. I buy a lot of spices and herbs (dried) at my local health food store. They sell them by the oz (parsley @ .13oz, so 1 lb would be about $2 and would last forever!) You can also buy online at wholesale prices. Alpharetta Spice Co. is a great source, they sell in bulk, you could get together with 1-2 people and take advantage of their prices. So here we go:

Dry Onion Soup and Dip Mix.- An old standby which can be used for meat loaf, hamburgers, chuck roast, mashed potatoes, etc. Just add 4 cups hot water and you're good to go.

3/4 cup instant minced onion (or dehydrated onions)
1/3 cup beef flavor instant bouillon
4 teaspoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seed, crushed
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt (optional)(I use dehydrated garlic with no salt)

NOTE: How to get cheap dried onions? You can use a dehydrator if you have one or else get a special on onions and cut them very thin and chop very fine, place on trays and dry in oven at the lowest setting you can get (3-4 hours or more at 200F- 24 hrs at 120F), stir them now and then. You can also sun dry (maybe once winter is done).

Ranch Dressing plus Other Variations.- Try these on for size! These are dried but I also have a fresh mix on this site, use the search bar above.

1 cup dried parsley flakes
1/2 cup finely crushed saltines (about 15 crackers)
1/2 cup dried minced onion
1/2 cup garlic salt
1/2 cup onion salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup onion powder
2 tablespoons dill weed

In a large mixing bowl, combine first 8 ingredients; mix well. Store in airtight container in a cool dry place.YIELD: 3 cups mix (enough to make 24 batches of ranch salad dressing).

For Ranch Dressing:In a bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of mix with 2 cups mayonnaise and 2 cups buttermilk. Refrigerate until serving. Yield 4 cups.

For Thousand Island Dressing: Add 1/4 cup chili sauce (or ketchup) and 2 tablespoons pickle relish to 1 cup prepared ranch dressing.

For Cucumber Dressing: Add 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and pureed and 1 teaspoon celery seed to 1 cup of prepared ranch salad dressing.
NOTE: Don't want to spend on buttermilk? Mix 1 cup milk or half&half with 1 tbl vinegar, stir and let rest 5-10 min.

Blackened Mix.- Like Cajun style? Make Blackened Fish? Try this.....

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
dash cumin
Mix together ingredients store in cool place.

Seasoned Bread Crumbs.- Use old, stale bread or save the "ends" nobody wants to eat. Leave them on a plate in the kitchen and allow to dry and get hard. Make crumbs in blender.

1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
dash oregano

Combine all ingredients. Makes 1 cup

Chili Seasoning.- Chicken, Beef, Pork, Turkey Chili? Beans and Rice?

1 cup sweet green pepper flakes (dried or dehydrated)
3/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup ground cumin
1/2 cup onion flakes
1/4 cup parsley flakes
1 teaspoon garlic flakes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Place all ingredients in a 1 quart jar, cover tightly and shake well to mix. Store in a cool, dark dry place for up to 2 months.

TO MAKE CHILI CON CARNE: In a medium size heavy saucepan over moderate heat,brown 1 pound very lean ground meat and drain off any fat. Add 1 can (1 pound) low sodium tomatoes, drained and chopped, and 1 cup water or low sodium beef broth. Stir in 1/2 cup Chili Seasoning Mix. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 cups cooked and drained red kidney beans and heat through.

Your Own Cream Soup Base.- Do away with those cans of cream soups to use with casseroles or pasta, rice.... make your own and save the sodium and fat too.

3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup instant chicken bouillon
2 Tbsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. basil leaves
1 tsp. thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. pepper
(Makes equivalent of 9 cans)
To use in place of canned cream soups in casseroles or as a base for your own soups. Combine all ingredients, mixing well. To substitute for one can of condensed soup: Combine 1/3 cup of dry mix with 1 1/4 cups of cold water in a saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened. Add to casseroles as you would the canned product, add your own "flavor" like chicken, celery, mushroom, etc. Great for leftovers!

Really Great Curry Mix.- This is a traditional curry mix, just add to yogurt or sour cream and add chicken, shrimp, veggies, etc. Over pasta, rice or as a sauce or dip. Yum! (You could also make a roux, add to milk, broth or water to thicken and then add spices).

2 Tbsp. ground coriander
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients. Stir well. Store in an airtight container.
NOTE: I use whole spices and toast them first in a dry pan (the aroma is amazing!), then I grind them in my coffee mill. Leftovers never tasted this good. If you like spice, then add some red pepper flakes or your favorite hot sauce or Sambal......

Like Jambalaya? - Easy mix you will love!

1 cup raw long grain rice
1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1 tablespoon green bell pepper flakes
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 1/2 cups Jambalaya Mix
3 cups water
8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup cooked ham or smoked sausage (or whatever protein you like)
1/2 cup shrimp or fish
Optional: chopped onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, peas, green beans, garlic, etc.

Combine first three ingredients and bring to a boil (in a 6 quart pot) . Reduce heat to simmer; add ham or sausage and cook 20 minutes. Add shrimp and cook 5 minutes more. Remove and discard bay leaf. Makes about 8 Cups

Seafood Mix or copycat Old Bay.- Great for seafood boils or any fish or seafood.

1 Tbsp. ground bay leaves
2-1/2 tsp. celery salt
1-1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1-1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. red pepper
1/4 tsp. ground mace (optional)
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (optional)

Combine all ingredients: store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Pudding Mix.- Ok, I know.... but most people love this! Use in Pie filling, tarts, etc.

2 1/2 cups instant nonfat dry milk
5 cups sugar
3 cups cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa

Mix all the ingredients until they are well blended. Store in a tightly covered container.

To Use: Stir the mix before measuring out 2/3 cup of the mix into a saucepan. Add 2 cups milk and cook over low heat, stirring, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Continue stirring for 1 minute, remove from heat and pour into individual serving dishes. Pudding will thicken further as it cools. Yield: 10 servings

Variation: Cook as directed but add 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 1 tsp. butter as it cooks. For a chocolate mocha flavor, add 1 tsp. instant coffee to the pudding mix before cooking. for Vanilla: Omit cocoa powder and add 1-2 tsp (or more) vanilla extract or any other flavor you'd like.

These are but a sample of what's available and I'm sure you can see the possibilities, right? You can customize them to suit your family's tastes, with more spice or less, no salt if you need to, more flavor or a more subtle one, so they're exactly the way you like them. Be sure to label your mixes and seal them well so they last. Date them too in case you don't expect to use them quickly. They also make great gifts, just put them in nice jars and include them as a gift basket! Convenient, practical and inexpensive and who wouldn't appreciate this? The more you use these, the more cost savings you will find, if you combine these with your own fresh veggies and dry them, even more savings.... Or lower the cost even more and get a group of people together, buy in bulk, get together to make them and split the work and then share equally! I'll keep doing research and post more, if you have your favorites, send them on! We can all use practical ideas..... Talk soon....

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