Category Archives: RECIPES

Simple scratch recipes from our kitchen. Learning how to cook is key to finding independence from the corporate food system.

blackberries + sugar

old fashioned blackberry preserve recipe

Making long-boil old-fashioned blackberry preserves. Three ingredients:

Blackberries, Sugar and Time.

It’s long boil, so I have time to think. Stirring and thinking. Thinking and stirring. Sipping tea.

Thinking about those two ingredients and how each one is intimately linked to a very different food system than the other.

I thought about using honey instead of the white death. Had it in my hand at Famous Foods this morning. But I couldn’t do it. 28 dollars.

My house still hasn’t sold and this in-between-uncomfortableness has made my budget like all my pre-pregancy clothes : So tight it borders on vulgar. Let’s not even talk about my jeans. Let’s just say I wear a lot of yoga pants. Thank god I live in Vancouver where wearing yoga pants outside of yoga classes is socially acceptable.

Maybe if I ate less jam . . .

I got a screaming deal on a huge bag of sugar way back at the beginning of canning season. Pretty much the only thing I use it for anymore, thank goodness.

It is part of the problem of local eating, eating better in general. Yes, I can stretch my food budget, but sometimes, there’s something in me that just doesn’t allow me to justify spending nearly $30 on what will end up being four or five jars of jam. That’s absurd.

(I’m pretty sure the answer is going to be keeping bees, but that is a whole other problem altogether.)

Did I mention this is my first go at a long-boil jam? When they say long, they mean looong. 15 minutes my ass.

We know we shouldn’t eat white sugar. And it seems kind of sacrilege to put white sugar with these gorgeous wild blackberries.

These blackberries grew by the roadside in my son’s favourite park of their own accord. They demanded no attention, no tending, no encouragement of self-esteem. They provide hearth and home for countless song birds and furry animals and hold the soil steadfast on the slopes of our neighbourhood ravine.

They ask for nothing in return, and will take over completely if you let them. There are worse things that could happen.

They have more patience than I have . . . gel stage, where are you?

The sugar on the other hand. . . I have no idea where it is from, or how it was grown or even what crop it was derived from. I think most North American sugar is from sugar beets?? Anyone?

Starting to wonder if this mysterious gel stage even exists. I am doing a good job of making a mess of my stove, that’s for sure. This is one of those recipes where if I called home to Gramma she’d just tell me,

Oh, you know, dear. Just cook it till it’s done.

Right.

This push and pull between blackberries and sugar pretty much sums up my entire food-life.

I want to do better, believe most of us can do better, know for certain many of us (corporations and governments included) can and SHOULD do much, much better.

But there are always limits to our love.

Although I live in a world of momentarily limitless blackberries, I do not live in a world of limitless funds.

How do we balance our ideals, our goals, our dreams with our realities? With the red and black of our bottom line? Our access, or in-access, for a plethora of reasons, to food that is good, clean and fair?

Do we do our best? Say, as much as we can as often as we can? Do we say – here I will compromise, there I won’t?

Does it matter?

This stupid book I’m reading right now says that us zany locovore / slow food / organic / natural / bio-dynamic etc. etc. folks are using arbitrary food rules as a means of filling the vacuum left by religion. That all these self-imposed rules and difficulty and challenges and exclusivity are just the manifestation of some innate yearning for structure and order and really mean nothing in and of themselves.

It would help if I read the instructions properly. I totally skipped a step in my test. My sheet-testing skills need some brushing up. I gave up and jarred my jam. Bugger it. It tastes lovely.

Maybe we are a bunch of religious-zealots in denial. I don’t know if I care anymore.

I’m going to do my best to eat by my heart and my conscience and leave it at that. As my mother says,

It’s good enough for the guys I go out with.

(Please don’t ask me why she says that. I have no idea. She’s always said that for good enough is good enough. And now I say it too. So it goes.)

Here’s the recipe for the blackberry preservesI made, Gramma-style.

Homemade Old-Fashioned Blackberry Preserves

  • 12 cups blackberries
  • 6 cups sugar
  1. Mix sugar and blackberries together in the pot you are going to cook them in.
  2. Let them sit for about 10 minutes while the berries release their juice.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.
  4. Cook it till it’s done.
  5. Jar.

I’m going to eat mine with yogurt right now . . .

eat better for less : part two

Here’s part two of how to eat well on a dime.

If you didn’t see it, here’s part one of how to eat better for less.

7. Join a CSA

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

In a CSA you pre-pay at the beginning of the season for a share of the harvest throughout the growing season. By paying ahead you provide the farmer with income at a time when she might have to otherwise borrow money. Any added security we can provide our farmer is good for us and good for the resiliency of our local foodshed.

Some CSA’s only run during the spring through early fall, but it’s increasingly possible to find winter CSA’s as well. Depending on the farm, you might enjoy a variety of fresh veggies and even eggs, cheese, milk, meat, honey and preserves.

There are lots of benefits of CSA’s – you get to support the farmer directly, which usually means more of your dollar ends up in her pocket. Always a good thing. I’ve even heard of farms offering discounts if you volunteer to lend a hand during busy times. You’ll eat great, save a ton of cash and learn some new skills while getting to know your food and your farmer.

Here in Vancouver, we even have a CSAs from urban farms! How cool is that? Urban Digs Farm is one example of creative, industrious folks building food security right here in the city.

If you’re  not already eating a ton of veggies, your CSA box will probably reveal some weird and wonderful new veggies. Nourished Kitchen has a great post on what to do with the strange veggies in your CSA box, if you’re ever stumped.

You can also find CSA’s for specific products – meat shares, milk shares, seafood, even wheat!

8. Join an organic grocery buying club

A grocery buying club is kind of like an online farmer’s market. You place your order and pick up your groceries at a neighbour’s, instead of the grocery store. They  make it easy to find local, sustainable products from small producers. One stop shop instead of driving all over town to different specialty shops and markets.

Kind of neat, hey?

NOW BC is our local co-operative and features all sorts of yummy goodies. Their subscription programs and bulk buying options are great opportunities to eat well without breaking the bank.

9. Shop farmer-direct

Buying directly from your farmer is one of the loveliest ways to get your groceries.

Our family purchases our organic pastured pork and beef from Big Bear Ranch in Horsefly, BC. They aren’t exactly in our backyard, but I don’t sweat it too much. They have outstanding farming practices and make it super easy to keep the freezer stocked with delicious, quality meat. We place our orders online and they make a number of stops here in the city where we can meet them to pick up our meat.

Big Bear offers specials on “family packs” of meat. You’ll get a selection of pork, for example, that will include a variety of cuts, bacon, sausages etc. You’re not guaranteed to get specific products, but you’ll get a certain percentage roast, chops, specialty items etc. We often split a pack with family – everyone enjoys the discount while still maintaining some spare room in the freezer!

10. Shop seasonally

Shopping seasonally is part of the locovore culture that gets poked fun at a lot. Critics tease that we think we’re saving the world by eating parsnips.

I duno about you, but it seems to me if everyone ate with a focus on seasonality, I think we’d all eat better, save money and walk lighter on the planet . . . That’s a debate for another day.

To talk in terms of economics, seasonality takes advantage of the rules of supply and demand. If you buy when supply is higher than demand, prices will be lower. Not exactly rocket science.

11. Shop in bulk

If you shop in season AND in bulk, you’ll really start to see some savings.

Even though I grow my own, I invariably get nervous that I haven’t put enough food by for the coming winter. There is nothing worse than running out of stewed tomatoes in February. It gives me the shakes just thinking about it!

So I go to my favourite local farm stand and load up. I mean LOAD UP. I once filled an entire shopping cart with local tomatoes. They were 69 cents a pound! I mean, come ON!

Before you go – make sure you’ll be ready to put the food by and that you’ve taken the time to . . .

12. Learn to can

For all you canning virgins out there let me tell you – You CAN can! It is not scary (ok maybe a little, the first time) and it is way easier than you think.

I did not grow up canning. Until I met my hubby, canning food at home was some magical, mysterious process that might kill me with strange bugs whose names I can’t pronounce. My mum didn’t can, neither did my grammas.

Canning has so many benefits and is key if you really want to save money on food. It also addresses the “I don’t have time to cook” whine I hear so often. Canning is hot work, and is much more enjoyable if done in the company of friends at an old school canning bee. If you’re more comfortable, take a class first, but give it a try, for heaven’s sakes!

Canning Bootcamp Part One explains the basics and The Joy of Canning covers all the benefits.

Personally, I think tomatoes are one of the easiest places to start. You can get the basics on canning tomatoes here. 

canning tomatoes

Once you master water-bath canning, I strongly recommend you try to get your hands on a pressure canner. It will take a larger investment (or you can be like me and ask for one for Christmas) but it is well worth it. With a pressure canner you can put by soups, spaghetti sauce, fish, meat, stocks and more. Pressure Canning 101 has basic instructions and my recipe for canning chicken stock.

13. Explore new foods

Sometimes, things that you wouldn’t think about as normal dinner fare can be both delicious and inexpensive.

Living here on the coast, we have access to lots of gorgeous seafood. Mussels are cheap as chips, quick and easy to cook and crazy tasty.

My hubby recently introduced me to heart. (It took a lot of convincing.) He lightly breaded it and pan fried it in a bit of butter. Oh. My. God. SOOOO good. You don’t always see these sorts of options in the grocery store, but if you’re buying direct from your farmer, you’ll have a lot more opportunity to try new flavours.

What’s cheap in your neck of the woods totally depends on where you are. Get to know your local foodshed and find out!

14. Don’t buy food in boxes

I’ve never understood why people buy boxed mixes for things like biscuits or pancakes. How hard is it to stir some flour? Really.

homemade whole wheat pancake recipe

homemade whole wheat pancakes recipe

15. Grow your own

I duno about you,  but I can’t afford $5 heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market. Or 3 bucks for a tiny handful of fresh herbs. Or $10 per pound for garlic.

Luckily, I don’t have to.

Growing food is easy and inexpensive and can happen year round. All it takes is a curious spirit and a willingness to get some dirt under your nails. Cold beer always seems to help, too. (See #16)

There are a few important things to remember if you’re just starting out to grow your own.

  • GROW WHAT YOU LIKE TO EAT: For heaven sakes, if you don’t like brussel sprouts, don’t grow brussel sprouts! (Although, keep in mind everything, even brussel sprouts, taste better when you grow them yourself.)
  • GROW PLANTS SUITED TO YOUR SPACE: Take the time to get to know your yard / windowsill / community garden. Learn a bit about the needs of the plants you want to grow. Try to get them to match as best as possible. You can always provide encouragement by way of row covers, small greenhouses, and the like, but the best bet is to get it right the first time. (Especially if it’s YOUR first time.)
  • GROW THINGS THAT COST AN ARM & A LEG AT THE STORE: Garlic is stupid easy to grow. Stupid easy. You can learn how to grow garlic here. Tomatoes, herbs, peppers, berries and salad greens are also easy-peasy. This way, if you only have a tiny space, you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Bonus – most of these things will taste immeasurably better having been homegrown.

homebrew

16. Brew your own beer and wine

If you like a cold one at the end of a long day, you should try brewing your own. It is ridiculously easy and disgustingly cheap.

We got a full equipment kit at the grocery store for 50 bucks. I’m sure if you looked around you could find use equipment for way cheaper. Our local home brew store sells bulk ingredients so you can make your favourite brew at home.

We made a cream ale our first time and it blew our minds. 45 beer for 25 bucks. Golden.

If you like baking bread you’ll love brewing beer. Same kind of creative process – once you understand the basics, you can go bananas.

Added bonus : no empties to cart back to the liquor store. We bought a bunch of old bottles with resealable caps. We talked to one guy at the beer store who said he’s been using the same bottles for over 20 years. He’s only had to replace the rubber seals once. Talk about reduce and reuse!

And don’t think it’s too much work, either. My hubby did most of the work for our first batch with a five month old on his hip.

17. Bake your own bread

I have no idea why store-bought bread is so expensive these days. Who can afford $3-$5 per loaf?? That’s just crazy. And half the time it’s crap with an ingredient list as long as your arm.

Bread is one of those things that is too easy not to make. You can easily make bread with next to no tools, other than your muscles, but having a bread maker or a mixer with a dough hook will make it easier to fit homemade bread into your daily life.

If you’re at home during the day, the dough hook is a good bet. If you work, get a bread maker. You can fill it at night, set the timer and wake up to the smell of heaven. How easy is that?

homemade bread

Once you get going, you’ll find it addictive. Bread is an incredibly creative process, and its relaxing, to boot. A world of shapes, textures and flavours await you. Mark my words, get started and next thing you know you’ll be growing wild yeast on your countertop.

Homemade bread is also a gateway drug to homemade pasta.

18. Make your own pasta

Another one of those things that takes a bit of effort and equipment, but is well worth the time.

Personally, unless it’s a special occasion, I don’t make my own spaghetti or linguini, stuff like that. Good quality dried whole wheat pasta is easy enough to find for a good price.

Stuffed pasta? That’s a whole other story.

Especially if you have kids, this is worth your time for the sheer convenience factor later on. It takes me a couple of hours, but I love to make ravioli for the freezer.

Bang out a batch of pasta, cook up some filling, freeze it and you have a nutritious, ridiculously quick lunch or dinner waiting at a moment’s notice.

roasted squash and roasted garlic ravioli recipe

Roasted Squash Ravioli Recipe

19. Keep chickens

Children and backyard chickens

If you’re able, chickens are a wise choice to stretch your food budget. We kept enough hens to keep our own (very hungry) family in eggs and support my baking habit with enough left over to sell to ensure that our chickens and our eggs didn’t cost us a dime.

Unlimited organic, free-range eggs for free? Um, yes please.

20. Splurge smart

Make your splurges count!

We go bonkers from time to time – really good (really expensive) cheese, lobster, steak . . . You have to live a little! When you splurge, splurge on things you can’t do for yourself. Make it special. Savour it.

 

How do you eat better for less? Share you tips, tricks and recipes!

rich, decadent, guilt-free chocolate mousse

guilt free chocolate mousse recipe

Guilt-free chocolate? Is there such a thing?

In my effort to turn over a new leaf in regards to my sweet-tooth, I’ve been on the hunt for sweet treats that I can enjoy guilt free. Let’s just say, it hasn’t been easy. I’m not into using sketchy chemical no-calorie sweeteners, and if it doesn’t taste good, what’s the point?

I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted this rich mousse.

Guilt-free Chocolate Mousse Recipe

  • 3 squares unsweetened bakers chocolate
  • 1 – aprox. 250 gram package of organic silken tofu
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • pinch of salt
  1. Melt chocolate in the microwave or on the stove top. Don’t burn it like I did while chasing the kid.
  2. Dump everything into the food processor and whiz until smooth and creamy.
  3. Pour into a bowl or individual servings. (espresso cups would be perfect) Chill.
  4. Devour.

This recipe is easily made vegan by using agave in place of honey and soy or almond milk in place of milk.

I also think it would be over the top with raspberry puree or a shot of espresso in place of the milk. In fact, I might try the espresso later today.

You can also pour this into a pie crust for a rich chocolate cream pie.

raspberry frozen yogurt

raspberry harvest

This morning the little monster and I tucked into the farmer’s market at Trout Lake. We are so lucky to have such a fantastic spot for our local market. Trout Lake is a little oasis in the heart of busy, urban East Van.

I promised the hubs I wouldn’t spend a fortune (as I’m apt to do at the market, which is why I rarely go) so I only took a little bit of pocket money for a treat.

The boy has completely ravaged our substantial raspberry harvest, devouring them handful by chubby handful every chance he gets. At only 15 months old he quickly learned to decipher the gorgeously sweet from the over-tired or unready. A pint of organic raspberries seemed an easy choice for our treat.

We enjoyed a few while he was held mesmerized by the morning’s mexican band, the rest he bore carefully home.

In keeping with my quest to lose weight before baby number two (but not completely forsake my sweet tooth) and keep my hubby happy, I whipped up a batch of raspberry frozen yogurt with the remainder.

raspberry frozen yogurt recipe

Raspberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups of the richest plan greek yogurt you can find. (I used 11% MF)
  • Whatever remains of your pint of raspberries after snacking. We had about 3/4 of a pint left.
  • 1/4 cup of honey.
  • Pinch of salt.
  • Just because I was feeling naughty – One capful of Triple Sec. Completely unnecessary but ridiculously delicious.
  1. Heat your berries in a sauce pan just enough to get them to break down so you can mash them. You can also just run them through your whizzer. (Mine is on the fritz)
  2. Press the raspberries through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl to get out the seeds. If you don’t mind seeds you can skip this step. I hate getting them in my teeth.
  3. Add everything else and give it a stir.
  4. Pour it in your ice cream maker and prepare according to your machines instructions. I use a Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment. ( I heart my Kitchen Aid. )
  5. When ice cream is at soft serve stage you can put it in a container to ripen in the freezer . . . If you can resist destroying the whole tub as soft serve . . .

homemade raspberry frozen yogurt recipe

homemade chewy chocolate chip granola bars

homemade chewy granola bar recipe

Chewy Granola Bar Recipe

  • 2 cups rolled oats (slow cooking)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup crispy brown rice cereal
  • 3/4 cup oat flour (grind oats if you don’t have it on hand)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 4 tbsp neutral flavoured oil
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 2 packets stevia
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Mix dry ingredients well.
  3. Mix wet ingredients and combine with dry.
  4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment and transfer mix to pan.
  5. Lay a second piece of parchment on top and press down firmly while spreading mix into an even layer.
  6. Bake 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Let cool completely before slicing into bars.