Wednesday, October 17, 2012

who has time to bake anymore?

Being gluten intolerant can be a nuisance.  However, with the proper amount of planning and research, an entire world of possibilities present themselves.  I always hear people saying how expensive it is to live gluten free (GF).  I understand this and I will not deny that my grocery bill has increased since I found out I needed to be GF.  That said, the main things that cost more are pre-made and processed foods.  Cereals, breads, frozen pizzas, and baked goods are all nearly three times the price of their non-GF counter parts.

So, how do we fight this?  

First, I recommend simply eating less processed foods, not only are the GF versions of these products riddled with corn and rice flours (which if you over do it on these, can cause similar issues to a wheat reaction), but to be honest before being GF we probably shouldn't have been eating as much of these foods as we did.

Second, as the Boy Scouts taught us, "Always be prepared!"  My mother was a wonderful planner.  She would always find great deals on brownie and cake mixes then freeze them for a later time.  We never went without some sort of easy to make sweet treat.  GF brownie mixes can get expensive especially if (like me) you are already buying your flour in bulk and plan on using it to bake.  Like any busy American woman I myself have purchased large quantities with ideas of grandeur, thinking I would just make more of my food from scratch if I only kept the proper ingredients on hand.  That dream usually lasts about a week, if I'm lucky.  But, rather than kicking ourselves when we're already down, we need to just recognize that life is sometimes too busy to bake from scratch every day.

My solution to this didn't come until I had to move a month ago and I had a ton of GF flour that I had premixed in a large vat-like container.  I didn't want to use it all up before I moved but I desperately wanted to make it more manageable to move.  My solution... PRE-made baking mixes.  We have all received a homemade brownie or cookie mix in a jar at some point in our lives.  Why not take that "gift" concept and use it in every day life.

Creating my own GF baking mixes has changed my life.  I have more cash and more time.  It simply took one day to prepare in advance over a dozen baking mixes.  It has been a month and I still have more than half of the mixes I made that day and have had brownies or cookies about 5-6 times since moving.  Preparing goes a long way especially when you have a food allergy, but you don't have to quit your day job in order to do it.  Just take a moment to think ahead and when you have a day off, take that one day to plan and prepare.  Remember these are all mixes you make with things you probably already have on hand and certainly would have bought anyway. If you still need more motivation, with every mix you make in advance say to yourself, that's five dollars more in my pocket this month.

Feel free to contact me for more tips like this or just advice on how to get started... HAPPY PLANING!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

which came first the chicken or the soup? the chicken!

"What did Kristen do with chicken?"  I am sure this question has been burning in your brain for longer than a week now.  Since, I'm also sure you have nothing better to do than to tirelessly check my blog to see if I've posted anything new allow me to apologize yet again...  I  have been busy trying to get settled here in A2 and have completely neglected my blogging responsibilities, but I am back, and ready to settle into a rhythm.

As for the chicken...

Well, I used it for two very different dishes.  After removing the whole bird from the crock pot, I shredded all of the meat and set it in two containers.  Then rather than just throwing the bones away, I returned them to the drippings in the crock pot, added veggies, spices and water. Setting the crock pot on low for the rest of the night, I woke up to a lovely chicken stock.   Which I then used to make homemade chicken soup.

I used half of the chicken for the soup and half the chicken for taco/quesadilla meat.  After all was said and done I ended up with 14 cups of chili and 12 cups of soup.

I still two weeks later, have most of the soup and half of the chili.

....more still to report from these two days of epic cooking!  For now, enjoy my tuscan chicken soup recipe.


1 onion
4 carrots
1/2 the meat of roasted chicken
1/2 cup of chopped fresh italian (or flat leaf) parsley
1 32-oz can of diced Italian stew tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic (whole and peeled)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. cumin
2 quarts of chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
juice of one lemon (optional)

Dice onion and carrots, and sauté in small amount of olive oil and salt and pepper just until the vegetables are soft. Add chicken, lemon juice, and cumin. Allow flavors to combine for just a couple of minutes, then add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer and allow to simmer for a minimum of 1 hour.  (I cooked mine for 3 hours.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Frugality wins!

Here I am in Ann Arbor.  And, it is officially Fall!  Cool weather and beautiful sights.  Autumn is my absolute favorite season.  I think part of the reason I love this time of year so much is that it is full of great REAL food.

I have made few REAL meals since I've been here, but today is cooking day!  In order to keep myself well fed on a tight budget I have to keep my list of ingredients short.  In order to do that I am making a lot of a few single dishes.  Then, I will eat these dishes throughout the rest of this month.

So, what can you make cheaply, that actually tastes good, and that I won't get sick of?

When trying to find dishes like this, it is important to look at inexpensive sources of protein.   Here are three of my favorites:

 1. Chicken
 2. Beans
 3. Ground beef

These proteins are all used in a wide range of dishes which makes choosing what to make with them fun but difficult.  When considering what dishes I wanted to make with these ingredients, I chose based on what would feed me for weeks.

Chicken was an easy choice.  Chicken is vastly versatile and extremely easy to cook.  Chicken is cheapest when you buy it whole.  So, I purchased a whole chicken and put it in the crock pot with just a bit of seasonings and some crushed garlic.  With little effort I will be able to turn this chicken into two separate meals that will easily feed me multiple times.

(Tune in next week to see my plans for this deliciously diverse bird).

My next dish choice fell in my lap like the leaves falling off trees. Other than some simple spices it only requires both Beans and Ground Beef. It will surely feed myself (and others) more times than I can even guess.

Yes, it's CHILI!
Chili is not only easy to make, inexpensive to make, and delicious.  It happens to be one of my favorite cool weather comfort foods.  And as a bonus it pairs well with any beverage of choice (wine, beer, soda, mixed drinks, water, etc.)

Chili is also one of those things that can easily be used in a variety of ways. It can simply be eaten on its own, placed atop a baked potato, or used for taco salad. (All of which are ways that I happen to enjoy eating it).  Finally, chili also keeps for an extremely long time.

I think this should be enough to feed me for quite a while. As such, I should be able to keep on budget.

What are your favorite inexpensive meals?