Eating Healthy on a Budget- Freezing

(I am totally stealing this from my former blog because it’s been one crazy week and I haven’t had much time to do anything! Original post here!)

One way we eat healthy on a budget is by shopping the manager’s specials, or clearance items. This allows me to get the things we need at a fraction of the cost. The catch is they expire in the next day or two and need to be used immediately.

When I can get quantities of fresh veggies at a reduced cost, and I know I can preserve them, I jump on the deal. (But only if they still look, smell and feel fresh!)

This past week I found red bell peppers on managers special. This excites me because on a good week, the red/orange/yellow peppers are $1.00 each. (Green ones are cheeper, but not as sweet!) I love adding red/orange/yellow peppers to casseroles, stir frys, eggs…. but they can be cost prohibitive.

Anyway, I knew I could freeze them- that’s how I preserve my extra ones from the garden (I grow all colors- purple is my favorite) At Meijer, the clearance produced are bagged and you aren’t able to sort them. Each bag had 5-6 peppers in it. I feel through the bag and found the firmest ones. You don’t want squishy ones. I got 6 peppers for $1.79. Thats about…. 30 cents a pepper.

red peppers

As you can see, one was wrinkly, I decided to use that in dinner. The other ones were perfect.

These were not organic, so I soaked them in a water/vinegar/salt mix to clean them. (I have a huge bowl and I add about 2 tablespoons vinegar and a tablespoon of salt.) Rinse them really really REALLY well. I scrub them with a vegetable brush. Let them dry completely. I put them in my dish drying rack so they were off the counter and could drain better. I let them dry for a few hours. Then I chopped them up and put one pepper in a (dated!) freezer bag.

I add them to the meat when I cook it so they get nice and tender. Or I caramelize them with onions. Or sometime I just sauté them before adding them to the dish.

One medium red pepper has 32 calories, loads of vitamin A and C, 7 grams of carbs, 1 gram of protein and a trace amount of fat. For loads of flavor without all the extra stuff we don’t need, a sweet red bell pepper is one heck of a nutritional deal!

Herbs and Spices

It’s National Nutrition Month and the theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right”.

One of the easiest ways to enjoy the taste of food while eating right is to replace salt with dried or fresh herbs and spices. There are so many choices and knowing how to use them can really make an impact on an otherwise same old dish.

So, what’s the difference between an herb and a spice?

In culinary uses, an herb is any of the aromatic plants whose leaves, stems or flower are used as flavoring, either dried of fresh. A spice is any of the aromatic plants whose bark, roots, seeds buds or berries are used for flavoring and is usually dried and can be whole or ground. (Both definitions are from the 5th edition of On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals.)

Did you know that many herbs and spices have antioxidant benefits too? And as long as the the bottle, either in the name or ingredient, does not contain the word ‘salt’ (garlic salt, celery salt) consider it good for you!

My Favorites!

There are many many many herbs and spices and it would take a while to go through them all- and I haven’t even tried some of them! So, here are some of my favorite herbs and spices and how I like to use them.

Dill– This might be my most favorite herb. Probably most familiarly used in pickles, dill can also be used to flavor vegetables, fish, breads, potatoes and chicken salad. The seeds are also used in pickling and in fish dishes. One of our favorite ways to use side dishes is in dilly carrots- as you are cooking the carrots, add a little dried dill and a smidge of unsalted butter.

Basil– maybe the easiest to grow, basil comes in a variety of flavors- garlicky, lemony etc, but in my opinion, the best is sweet basil, followed by purple basil. Very popular in Mediterranean cooking, fresh basil is a wonderful addition to any tomato based dish- spaghetti, pizza, lasagna. My husband’s favorite though, is pesto on hot pasta.

Cilantro– whose seeds can be used and are known as coriander, is either beloved or hated. Cilantro has a citrus-y flavor is popular in Mexican cuisine. Some people say it has a soapy flavor. Fresh cilantro is superior and my favorite thing to use it in is homemade guacamole.

Rosemary– The stiff, pine-like needles can be used in a variety of ways. I like to chop fresh rosemary and add to any sort of meat dish. When dried, the needles can be difficult to chew, I will ground them up, if using dried. Whole stems may be added to stew type dishes and removed before serving or when there is enough flavor. Our favorite way to use rosemary is in softened whipped butter to top a quality grilled steak. Mouth. Watering.

Sage– In my opinion, sage is best used dried, as the leaves are kind of… fuzzy. I prefer this herb with poultry- especially turkey. It has a very strong flavor, and doesn’t always play well with others, but I love cooking up some ground turkey and seasoning it with dried sage and a little dried ginger.

Thyme– I think of thyme as a grandfather- strong, steady and dignified. Hints of sage make this the perfect addition to any meat when you want a . I prefer to use this in an herb marinade for chicken or a little sprinkled on roast beef for an earthy feel.

Capers– these are the unopened buds that have been pickled- fresh buds are not used. Used in French cuisine, capers have a salty-sour flavor and remind me of green olives. But they are a great compliment in sauces on fish and game.

Paprika– known for its bright red appearance, its flavor runs from sweet to spicy. Used in Spanish dishes and sometimes as a garnish. I like to use it on chicken cordon bleu (recipe coming soon!)

Cumin– I used this when I want some spice but not necessarily heat. It’s popular in Mexican dishes and I like adding it to a variety of soups and chilies!

Ginger– Used fresh or dried, ginger has a sweet, peppery, lemony taste. Ginger is widely used in all types of dishes, but perhaps mostly in Asian cuisine. I like adding it to stir fries and homemade egg rolls.

What if a recipe calls for a fresh herb, but you only have dried?

No problem! Just use 1/3 of what is called for. If it calls for 1 tablespoon fresh, use 1 teaspoon dried. You may want to add them earlier in the cooking process, since dried herbs and spices can take a little while to release their flavor.

What herb goes with what type of dish?

Try one or a couple of these.

Asian– anise, ginger,
Beef– caraway, marjoram, rosemary, thyme
Poultry (Chicken and turkey)- basil, chives, cilantro, marjoram, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
Fish– basil, chives, cilantro, dill and dill seed, tarragon, thyme
Fruit– allspice, cinnamon, cloves
Lamb– basil, fennel, rosemary
Mexican– cilantro
Pork– caraway, sage,
Vegetable– dill, fennel, marjoram

Herbs are easy to grow and I look forward to harvesting fresh leaves in the spring, summer and fall to flavor my family’s dishes. It’s one of the first things I tend to each spring- getting their little beds all ready for a wonderful, aromatic harvest!

What is YOUR favorite herbs and spices? How do you like to use them? Tell me in the comments below!


I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month

What is in Season When in Michigan

Ever notice how something’s just TASTE better certain times of year? It’s not your imagination, there are some fruit and veggies that are better in certain seasons than others. Not only do they taste better, but they are often cheaper because there is an abundance of it!

March is National Nutrition Month and the theme is Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right. What better way to enjoy the pure taste of something than to enjoy it in season? So, I’ve compiled a list of what is in season when, but this is for Michigan, because that’s where I live and will be most useful for me. However, a quick google search will have you finding websites in no time for your area!

Now, most lists I found is listed alphabetical. That’s great. If you are looking for what month something is harvested in. But I want to know what is in season in March! So this list is sorted by season, then by month. I hope you find this helpful!

Fruit

Rhubarb May- June Late Spring to Early Summer
Strawberries June Summer
Blackberries June-July Summer
Cherries, Tart July Summer
Blueberries July-Aug Summer
Apricots July-Aug Summer
Cantaloupe July-Aug Summer
Cherries, Sweet July-Aug Summer
Peaches July-Sept Summer to Early Autumn
Raspberries July-Sept Summer to Early Autumn
Apples Aug- Oct Late Summer to Mid Autumn
Asian Pears Aug- Oct Late Summer to Mid Autumn
Watermelon Aug-Oct Late Summer to Mid Autumn
Pears Aug-Oct Late Summer to Mid Autumn
Muskmelon Aug-Oct Late Summer to Mid Autumn
Nectarines Aug-Sept Late Summer to Early Autumn
Plums Aug-Sept Late Summer to Early Autumn
Grapes Sept-Oct Autumn

Vegetables

Asparagus April -June Spring – Early Summer
Arugula May-Sept Late Spring to Early Autumn
Chard May-Sept Late Spring to Early Autumn
Peas (sugar) June Late Spring to Early Summer
Kale June- Nov Summer to Autumn
Beets June- Oct Summer to Autumn
Turnips June-Nov Summer to Autumn
Radishes June-Oct Summer to Autumn
Spinach June-Oct Summer to Autumn
Lettuce June-Sept Summer to Autumn
Onions, Green June-Sept Summer to Autumn
Cucumbers, salad July-Sept Summer to Early Autumn
Summer Squash (yellow Squash) July-Sept Summer to Early Autumn
Zucchini July-Sept Summer to Early Autumn
Beans, green and snap July- Oct Summer to Mid Autumn
Cabbage July- Oct Summer to Mid Autumn
Carrots July- Oct Summer to Mid Autumn
Eggplant July-Oct Summer to Mid Autumn
Peppers July-Oct Summer to Mid Autumn
Celery July- Dec Summer to Winter
Corn, Sweet Aug-Sept Late Summer to Early Autumn
Cucumbers, pickling Aug-Sept Late Summer to Early Autumn
Broccoli Aug-Oct Late Summer to Mid Autumn
Cauliflower Aug-Oct Late Summer to Mid Autumn
Tomatoes Aug-Oct Late Summer to Mid Autumn
Onions Aug-Jan Summer to Winter
Potatoes, white Aug-Mar Summer to Winter
Parsnips Sept-Oct Autumn
Pumpkins Sept-Oct Autumn
Sweet Potatoes Sept-Oct Autumn
Butternut Squash Sept-Dec Autumn to Winter
Acorn Squash Sept-Dec Autumn to Winter
Rutabagas Sept-Nov Autumn to Winter
Brussels Sprouts Oct-Nov Autumn

 

I realize this isn’t the prettiest list. I’m still working on really learning WordPress. So.. if you want an easier to read, printable list you can download it!
In Season Produce for Michigan PDF

I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month

Recent Posts

Tara Hovis

Good Food * Good Health * Good Life

CHOOSE FIT

If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you

Crazy Green Thumbs

Chronicling a delusional gardening experience.

Cooking without Limits

Food Photography & Recipes

Oceans & Eyedroppers

Even small actions can make waves.

The Clean Eating Mama

~Health, Wellness, Positive Thinking and Physical Happiness~