{Family Centered Kitchen} Real Food, Pure and Simple

Real Food on a Real Budget | Grains + Beans

This is a copy of a guest post that was recently published on my friend Tricia’s blog.  You can see the whole series, called “Real Food on a Real Budget” with all of the guest bloggers here.  PLUS, there are loads of other lovely posts to read through on Farmish Momma.  Tricia is an amazing, inspiring lady.  Writing this post has inspired me to write some more, similar posts, so be looking out for those.  I have chosen “Real Food, Pure and Simple” because it has been our farm motto since the beginning. 

We know a little something about the importance of good food to maintain good health, and a whole lot about how to get that food on the table with a small budget.  I was so honoured to be asked by Tricia to share with all of you some of my favourite tips for serving delicious, nutritious food without breaking the budget.  In fact, used liberally, you might be able to save some pennies aside for something extra special.

We are blessed to own a beautiful farm, nestled in the hills of central Massachusetts.  Growing your own vegetables wherever possible, putting up extras for winter months, keeping chickens or a couple of milk goats if that is possible where you are is the ultimate in frugality – particularly if you have a LOT of grass for those creatures to eat.  But that isn’t possible for everyone, so finding a local farmer that you can work with is excellent.  If you visit a farmer’s market, go toward the end of the day.  The farmers may be willing sell for less, or will put a little extra into your basket.

Plan a marathon cooking session around what is going to be abundant each week.  Put extra meals into the freezer for days that are unexpectedly busy, or when Mama is feeling unwell.  I learned that I saved – consistently – 30% by planning this way.  I tend not to buy on impulse, but to stick with my list; and I had no waste (which saves on rubbish).

As the mother of five boys, who require a lot of protein and calories, my favourite tip for serving up Real Food on a Real Budget is to use clever food combining to get a complete protein without meat.  Grass fed organic meats can be very costly to buy in large quantities, and there are times when they are a luxury item to be served in smaller-than-usual portions, or just less often.

However, organic legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains are abundant, diverse, and extremely affordable, especially in bulk.  And – BONUS – they look so pretty in jars on your pantry shelf! I recommend trying to locate an organic food co-operative local to you, or use an online co-op where you can get a variety of other natural living products at excellent prices.  You can purchase grains and legumes in very large quantities (if you have the storage) and keep them in their whole state for a very long time.  {Make sure you store them in glass or metal canisters with tight lids in case a little furry critter should catch a whiff and want to visit your house.}

Just keep these three simple formulae in mind for inexpensive, nutritious, protein-packed meals::

With those in your toolbox, and a pantry stocked to the gills with whole grains, legumes and seeds, all you have to do is add whatever fresh organic produce and herbs you can pick from your garden or buy on special each week for an infinite number of really delicious nutrient-dense meals.  Change your companion ingredients and seasonings and you have a sweet breakfast or super healthy dessert!

These recipes make large amounts, since I’m feeding eleven people.  You can either reduce the ingredients to suit your family, or make them up and have a couple of meals’ worth – one to put by for tomorrow or the next day.

GRAINS + DAIRY

 Real Food on a Real Budget | Baked Oatmeal

Baked Oatmeal {50¢/serving or less, makes 12 servings}

Seriously our fave cold-weather breakfast.  My husband can’t handle the crash after regular oatmeal.  With this, no crash because it is a complete protein.  I have loads of variations of this recipe available.  Just get in touch with me through my blog (www.gadboisfamily.com) and I’d be happy to send them all to you!

Preheat Oven to 350° F

BASIC RECIPE:

  • 5c. organic oats
  • 1 c. sugar (white or brown depending upon your taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 – 1 1/2 T. spice (see variations below)
  • 3 c. milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 T. vanilla or vanilla paste

Combine dry ingredients and spices in one bowl, set aside.  Combine wet ingredients with fruit purée.  Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add chopped or dried fruits.  Let sit for about 5 minutes.  Pour into a 1/4 sheet pan and bake, cover with foil, for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for a further 15 minutes.  Serve with milk or cream.

SEEDS + LEGUMES

 Real Food on a Real Budget | Any Bean Hummus

Any Bean Hummus {25¢ – $1.50/ serving, makes 20-24 ( ¼ c.) servings}

A variation on the traditional version made with chickpeas.  You can use any beans you have on hand – experiment!  I’m using mung beans, which I bought for a treat.  NOT economical at $5-$13/lb.  But you can use navy, black, kidney, cattle… whatever you can find for a great price.  You can also try substituting other nut and seed butters.  But not peanut butter since peanuts are actually legumes and won’t get you your complete protein.

  • 2lb. beans or peas, cooked
  • ¾ c. lemon juice
  • 1 c. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 – 1 ½ T. garlic, crushed (4-8 cloves)
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • olive oil (your preference, but I love the green EVOO)
  • water as needed to achieve consistency

Blend beans (or peas) through salt in a food processor, food mill, or blender; or with an immersion blender until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Add a little water if the hummus seems too stiff.  Blend in some olive oil, or make a divet in the top of the hummus and pour in some olive oil before serving.

Real Food on a Real Budget | Hummus Tabouli Pita

SERVING SUGGESTION:  Spread hummus on pita breads, top with tabouli salad and spread.  Place on baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes in a 400° F oven for a delicious lunch treat!

GRAINS + LEGUMES:

Real Food on a Real Budget | Chick Pea and Rice Casserole

Brown Rice and Chickpea Casserole {.50¢/serving, makes 12 servings}

This is one of my family’s favourite recipes, and consequently, my go-to when the fridge is getting empty.  I always have these ingredients in the house.  Often, as long as it isn’t a Friday, we’ll add in some chicken sausage or leftover roasted meat from another meal to make this dish extra special.  Delicious served with a garden salad!

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, sliced or minced (your preference)
  • olive oil
  • 1-2 T. fresh herbs or 2-3 tsp. dried (we like thyme, oregano, marjoram)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. mild curry (or to taste)
  • 3 c. brown rice (uncooked and rinsed)
  • 1 qt. stewed tomatoes, diced, (you put them up last summer, right?)
  • 6 c. chicken stock
  • 2 lb. chickpeas (cooked)

Sauté onion and garlic until tender and onion is translucent.  Add herbs and seasonings, rice, tomatoes (don’t drain them), and stock.  Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and cover tightly.  Cook for about 30 minutes, then add the chickpeas.  Cook for another 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes before serving with a dollop of Greek yoghurt or shreds of your favourite cheese. NOTE: if you choose to use white rice, put the chickpeas in with the rice and cook for 15 – 20 minutes over low heat.