Poor Man's Beef Stroganof

It's November.
I know what you're thinking.  It's the same thing that I'm thinking.  Where did this year go?  I've done stuff and talked about stuff and thought stuff that hadn't ever crossed my mind.  I don't think that I need to give you a year in review or anything but I feel kinda surprised and proud (just a little) all at the same time.
The sucky part though is that I'm still broke.  I've got a hell of a lot of debt paid off this year... but I'm still broke.  Broke's not always a bad thing though.  It can make you creative.  It can make you sympathetic.  It can make you realistic.  For example, I'm not about to say that the world owes me anything but I'm also not saying that I'm broke because I don't work hard enough and that if I just worked harder that the money gods would reward me with cash.  I'm also not under the impression that someone with more money than me works harder than I do and is therefor entitled to all the money that they earn.  It also bugs the hell outta me that all the money people earn seems to give them carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want with the planet.  (Hmmmm - I knew that a rant was in there somewhere.  Remember when I said in my last post that we walked through the Occupy Toronto Camp... Yup - I knew a rant was in there somewhere).
Let me be completely honest though.  I'm not flat broke.  I still have a job.  A good job.  It doesn't pay big bucks but it's kept us afloat.  D works many jobs - as many as he can get his hands on.  I work at home after my school job is done.  I've got benefits and all that crap at my job.  I'm lucky and I don't want to take it for granted.  There are many many many many people wayyyyyy less fortunate I am.

When it comes to food, even though we don't have a lot of money to throw around I want to make sure that we are putting our money in good places and stretching it as far as possible in those places.  So we don't have meat regularly.  We don't have a lot of sauces or store bought treats around.  I make whatever I can because it's cheaper (and just happens to be healthier and better for the world around me).  I take my lunch to work and my kids take fruit or homemade snacks to school... and they don't go out for lunch either.  We throw out as little food as possible.  We try to make sure that we use up what we make, freeze what we can't finish and use as much of a vegetable as possible.  That brings me to this dinner.  Think pastured ground beef, organic and local veggies, locally made (or homemade even better) yogurt... And you've got cheap and healthy dinner on the table.  It's a hearty meal and it's tasty... and even kid #2 will eat it if it contains noodles.  Win/Win.

Poor Man's Beef Stronganof adapted from Kitchen Simplicity
serves about 6 - 8

4 - 5 cups cooked pasta (al dente - I used penne noodles) reserve the pasta water
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 med onion, diced
1 clove garlic minced
1 green pepper diced
3 cups chard or kale chopped
3 cups mushrooms (I used button) sliced thin
1 cup plain yogurt
1 bouillion cube
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp each: parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup cheese (I used medium cheddar because that's what was in my fridge - feel free to get fancy), shredded

In a large pot or dutch oven heat some oil over medium heat.
Add in the onion, garlic and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add in the mushrooms and greens (chard or kale - even spinach would be fine).  Cook for another 4 minutes.  Add in the ground meat and cook just until the meat begins to brown.
Add the bouillion cube, Worcestershire Sauce and soy sauce.  Cook for another 4 minutes.
Add the herbs, salt and sugar.
Check the taste and add something hot if you like (I like).
Add in the yogurt and the cheese.  Mix until the cheese is melted.
If you would like more liquid for the sauce add in a little cream.
Check the tastes again and adjust if necessary.
Toss in the mixed pasta.
Sprinkle a little more cheese on the top if you desire.

Green Tomato Chutney

I don't have many photos for this stuff.  How many pictures do we all want to see of green tomato chutney in a jar? 
The reason I made tomato chutney is because I already had way too many jars of green tomato salsa.  There is only so much salsa you can eat.  Really.
Talking about green tomatoes is kinda boring though.  I think it should be enough to say that all my green tomatoes are gone from my tomato plants and from my fridge.  Sunday morning was spend seeing to that.  Done.
Now on to more interesting things.  Well, more like random things.

I can't believe that it's Wednesday already.  I'm having trouble keeping up with how quickly weeks are flying by.

All of a sudden I woke up with a pretty nasty case of Plantar Fasciitis yesterday.  Looks like I'm cycling and doing yoga for the next few days.  Jeez.  What's totally weird is that I have no clue what I did.

I walked through the 'Occupy Toronto' camp with my kids the other day.

I'm going to start reading this book - D is reading it at the moment and keeps saying things like 'Ok, listen to this' or 'You've got to read this book' ... So I'm gonna.

Kid #1 got a lightsaber when he was out for Hallowe'en.  So he became Spider Man with a lightsaber.  Cool.  He hasn't turned it off since.  It's Wednesday.  Here they are Kid #1 as a zombie and #2 as a very muscular spider man.

A couple of weeks ago Kid #1 got to tape a tv special with her choir for Russell Peters.  Coolest part:  she got to meet Michael Buble and they all got their picture taken with him.  Awesome.

I feel like I haven't seen my friends in forever and I'm trying not to let it bum me out.  I'm going with my BFF  KT to NYC soon though so that's gonna help a lot.  I'm broke so we're totally going to find cheap fun stuff to do and if you have any cool ideas PLEASE let me know.

So yeah, if you have green tomatoes that have been sitting around for a bit, looking for some lovin'  Well, give this a try.  It sounds good to me.  If I taste it and it bites I'll let you know but how wrong can some tomatoes and sugar go, right?

Green Tomato Chutney adapted from 'Food in Jars' and 'Lara Ferroni'
makes about 2 (scant) 500 ml jars

10 cups (or so) green tomatoes (any variety) coarsely chopped
1 med onion (red or cipolini) finely diced
1 jalepeno pepper finely chopped (deseeded)
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 1/2 tbsp salt
3 tbsp freshly ground ginger
4 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 dashes of nutmeg
1 dash of allspice

1/2 cup (medium handful) of raisins or currants

Throw everything except the raisins into a non-reactive pot (I used a ceramic covered caste iron pot) and simmer for at least 1 1/2 hrs on low heat.
Add in the currants and simmer for another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, sterilise 2 clean 500 ml jars (put them in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes) and prepare the water canner.
Once the chutney has cooked down (should be about 1/2 of the volume as when it started) carefully ladle the chutney into the jars leaving at least a 1/2 inch at the top of each.  Seal with the lids and place in the water canner.  Boil for 10 - 12 minutes.
Remove from the canner and cover with a clean cloth.  Let it rest for about 24 hrs.
Enjoy with meats, cheeses or crackers or sandwiches or... whatever.

Maple Parsnip Soup

I'm not trying to be a total smart ass but this soup looks like barf in a bowl.
And just in time for Hallowe'en.
It doesn't taste like barf though. . . fortunately.
I tasted really good in fact.
Here's my take on Hallowe'en BTW.   'Cause I'm sure that you're all very curious, you're just afraid to ask.


It's awful.  I'm a poop.  If it makes any difference to you, I almost care as little about christmas.  Whateve.  It is what it is for me.  No more.  No less.
It's not about warding off bad spirits anymore.  Which I think is kinda cool BTW.
It's all about kids dressing up and getting candy (not bad at all).  It's all about teenage girls looking way older and sluttier than I'm comfortable with.  It's all about adults going to parties.  It's about fun and parties.
So, as I've mentioned before, I'm not baking spooky witch hats or goblin eyeballs.  I'm not cooking up a pot of boiled brains for dinner.
Just soup.
Plain old barfy looking soup.

It's good soup.  It's cheap too because parsnips are cheap people.  And seasonal.  And good for you.  Pour a little maple syrup in there and you've got fall comfort food covered.
Now I've got to sit down and figure out how I'm going to survive the hours between school tomorrow and when we leave the house to take Kid #1 and #2 out to collect all this candy that sits beside the refrigerator for the next 11 months (yup - just put the last of it in the bin on the weekend).  I've got a couple of survival ideas but I'm not sure if I would still be in good enough shape to walk up and down the street.
I plan on having a nice big gloopy bowl of this stuff before I go either way.

Maple Parsnip Soup adapted from 'Simply in Season'
serves about 6

5 tbsp butter
1 1/2 lbs (or about 5 med/lg) parsnips chopped
1 lg onion, diced
1 clove garlic
5 cups veg or chicken broth (I used a combination)
3 dashes of nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 - 1/3 cup maple syrup
1 lg tbsp dijon mustard
salt to taste

Heat a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.
Add in the butter and turn the heat down just a bit.  Add in the parsnip and the onion.  Let those cook together in the butter for about 7 minutes.  Stirring regularly so they don't get stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Add in the garlic and cook for another 4 minutes.
Add in the broth.
Simmer over low heat for another 10 - 15 minutes.
Once the parsnips are very soft puree the soup using either a hand blender or placing the soup in a regular blender.
Once the soup is back in the pot and on the heat, add in the nutmeg, milk, maple syrup and dijon mustard.  Mix well.
Check the taste and and salt to taste.
Serve with yummy focaccia bread (see my last post) or warm rolls and be thankful that you are inside.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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