frugal living

What to do with canned beans?

Posted on May 19, 2011 at 9:04 am

So, you’ve been following along with me while I have canned a whole load of different beans. Great! Now you have about 16 pint jars of beans! What do you do with them now?!?

Well, apart from the amazingly awesome vegan bean burgers, how about hummus! No, this isn’t your tired old blah store bought hummus. This is a culinary superhero, packed with vitamins, protein, fibre, and most importantly – FLAVOUR. If you eat hummus with a grain it also forms complete protein – so make your favourite bread and scoop it.

2 pint jars of home canned chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

Place the chickpeas, garlic, and kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 15 to 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process for another 15 to 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice and water then process for another 20 seconds. Add the tahini, buzz it hard, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil.

If you don’t have tahini you can use peanut butter instead – you may lose out on one of the essential amino acids, but it’ll still taste great and be really good for you.
If you have gluten problems, you can use corn tortillas or other substitutes for bread. I prefer to use raw carrots or other veggies instead of bread.

If you don’t have, or don’t like chickpeas, you can use any other legume – our local has an amazing black eyed pea hummus.
Add in a 1/2 inch / 1.25cm length of raw horseradish to make it fiery. You could also add a chili pepper or some raw ginger.

A one pound packet of dried chickpeas produces 4 pint jars. Add in the costs of production, let’s call it 29cents per jar.
Tahini at my local store was $3.99 a jar. Using 1/3 cup per batch, that’s 73cents per batch.
I always have big bottles of lemon juice to hand – while it’s worth it to use freshly squeezed if you can, that’s not always practical, so I’ll use the cost of the bottled stuff. Call it 2cents. The rest of the ingredients add another couple of cents to the cost, so let’s call the lemon juice and seasonings 5cents.
So, two pints of home made hummus for about $1.07. One pint gets eaten, the other gets frozen for later consumption. I call that a win.

Original recipe courtesy Alton Brown. He’s an amazing guy.

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Easy canning dried beans

Posted on May 17, 2011 at 10:24 am

Canning dry beans can seem like a real pain. The rinsing, sorting, soaking overnight, changing the water rigmarole. There’s the “quick cook” method – boil for 2 minutes, soak in the hot boil water for 1 hour, drain, fresh water, bring back to a boil – pfft, what a pain!

So here’s the super easy way to do it!

Put your pint jars into your pressure canner with hot tap water to the appropriate fill line. Start heating the water with the jars in it. Put your electric kettle on to boil. If you don’t have an electric kettle – why not?!? – boil the water in a pan instead.

Rinse and sort the beans. Put 1/2 to 2/3 cup of rinsed sorted beans in each pint jar, producing an approximate yield of 4 to 5 pint jars from each pound weight of dry beans. Pour in boiling water to 1/2 inch of the top (just about where the screw threads start).

Cap your jars and process at the appropriate pressure for your altitude for 90 minutes. Follow the usual steps for pressure reduction and cooling as specified in your pressure canner user manual.

There you go! Between four and 10 pint jars of pressure canned/cooked beans in about 100 minutes, more or less, ready and waiting for you to deploy them in all sorts of interesting manners.

The beans I canned this way were chickpeas(garbanzo) and pinto beans… you’ll see why later this week.

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Eat real food

Posted on April 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm

As I read more about health and nutrition, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that a lot of what is wrong with people’s health in the “western world” is the food we are eating. Our grandparents mainly ate what would today be considered a semi-vegetarian diet: fresh, local, seasonal fruit and vegetables, cheese, butter, relishes and pickles, and whole grain bread. At the end of the week was the traditional Sunday roast: beef, pork, or chicken.

If you are on a tight budget, eating meat at every meal is financially disastrous. Although we have the privilege of relatively cheap meat, it’s still expensive enough to impact your food budget drastically. The bottom line is that if you eat frugally for six days of the week, you can afford to have a nice roast on Sunday.

While conventionally raised meat may be cheaper than naturally raised, there are other costs involved. The places where the animals are raised are called CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feed Operations, also called “factory farms”. The meat that comes out of CAFOs is frequently tainted with e. coli, salmonella, and so on. This contamination is inherent to the factory conditions the animals are raised in. The animals are also treated in abominable ways – cruelty and mistreatment is part of the system as no-one really cares about the animals, which are seen as a commodity rather than as a living being deserving of a basic level of decency in how they are treated.

The alternative is naturally raised, or “grass fed”, animal. The problem is that grass fed is also twice the price of conventionally raised – or more! At the end of the day extra price is worth it. According to the National Institutes of Health, grass fed beef is significantly higher in Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Instead of swallowing a pill every day, why not get the Omega-3s from oily fish or grass fed beef? Salmon is mighty tasty!

I know that for a lot of people the cost of grass fed looks eye-watering. Heck, I feel the same way! But if you eat frugally most of the time – lots of veggies, fruit, and fish – you can afford to eat the natural stuff from time to time, You gain health benefits, financial benefits, and you also feel better about the meat you are eating as it came from an animal that lead a much happier, natural life. What more can you ask for?

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Pressure canning – beans

Posted on April 14, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Beans are a powerful ally in living frugally. They have the best “bang for the buck” in terms of nutritional return for money: insoluble and soluble fiber, high in protein, complex carbohydrates, folate, and iron. Once you get a stockpile of dried and canned beans in your pantry you are opening up new vistas of frugal, healthy, and stupidly cheap food.

Start with 2lbs of dry beans – any type, any combination. I started with 1lb of dried black beans and 1lb of dried kidney beans. Sort through the dried beans discarding any that are broken or that are stones masquerading as beans. Wash them in lots of cold water and place them in a large pot with enough water to cover them by 1 inch / 2.5cm. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Allow the beans to stand for 1 hour in the hot water.

You now have a choice: discard, or don’t discard, the water. Many recipes recommend discarding the water and starting again with fresh as this reduces the amount of oligosaccharides, which are responsible for the… fragrant!… reputation that beans have. The water also contains trace minerals and nutrients, so I leave it up to you to decide which is more important for you.

Two pounds of dried beans will yield you between 6 and 10 pint jars of ready-to-use beans, depending on which ones you go for. The black/kidney bean mix I did yielded 8 pint jars, at a cost per jar of 25 cents. Most of the cans in the stores are done by weight rather than volume, but they probably contain about 1.5 cups of cooked beans, usually at around 50 cents to over a dollar in price.

Put the squeeze on those bad boys for 75 minutes per pint jar, 90 minutes per quart jar. The National Center For Home Food Preservation is an absolutely essential reference for those of you above 1000ft.

Beans. Full of nutrition. Good for you in multiple different ways. Work well with vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore cuisine. Laughably cheap and stupidly easy to prepare. What more do you need to know?

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Make your own yoghurt

Posted on March 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm

It’s stupidly easy, laughably cheap, and takes next to no hands-on time.

  • 1 quart (946ml) milk (any kind but not “ultra-high pasteurised”/UHP or “ultra heat treated”/UHT)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup non-fat dry milk (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons existing yoghurt with live cultures
  • You can easily scale this up – I made a gallon batch, added 1 cup dried milk powder, and 1 cup of starter.

    Toss the milk into your slow cooker (crock-pot). Hit the setting that cooks hottest for the least time. Go to bed.

    Next day cool the milk to under 120ºF (49ºC). I just unplugged the slow cooker and wandered off for a couple of hours while it cooled down. Don’t do anything else until the milk is below 120ºF (49ºC)but keep it above 90ºF (32ºC) for happy bacteria.

    While you are waiting for the milk to cool you can bring the starter (live yoghurt or cultures) to room temperature.

    Add the dried milk if you’re using it – it increases the nutritional content of the yoghurt and allows it to thicken more easily.

    Add the 2 tablespoons of the existing yogurt, or add the freeze-dried bacteria. Stir it in.

    Cover the slow cooker with several towels and just walk away from it – leave the bacteria to do their job for 8 hours. Bingo, you have rich, silky, delicious home-made yoghurt!

    What next? Portion out the yoghurt, chill it, and eat it with fresh fruit, a spoonful of jam or honey, or just eat it straight up. Put some in a sieve / colander with several thicknesses of cheesecloth and allow it to drain for half an hour or so and you have Greek-style yoghurt. If you allow the yoghurt to drain overnight in the fridge, you have yoghurt cheese – kind of like a spreadable cream cheese. Use the drained whey from the yoghurt in cakes, or to kick start your next batch of yoghurt!

    My total cost for nearly 1.5 US gallons / 5.6litres of home made, natural, live culture yoghurt? About $4. Laughably cheap, really easy, and delicious? I believe we have a winner!

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    Build in flavour

    Posted on January 11, 2011 at 11:22 am

    While making a turkey pot pie with the last of my Christmas leftovers, I realised an important point. Dishes like pot pies rely on building in flavour at every step of the recipe – you simmer the chicken (or turkey carcass in this case), then use the broth to cook the veggies. This builds flavour into every single step of the recipe, resulting in a much more nuanced and tasty dish at the end.

    You can accomplish the same end by assuming you’ll re-use liquids from each step of the cooking process. Simmering vegetables? Use that liquid as a vegetable stock for baked beans, soups, or stews. Same with meat – I make awesome baked beans from ham stock.

    You can even go off at a tangent and simmer veggies in milk, then make a roux to thicken the milk as a white (or cheese) sauce to go with the veggies.

    Just pause for a moment when looking at what you are making and see if you can’t use the components of dinner in multiple applications 🙂

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    Red beans and rice

    Posted on December 9, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    So you have taken care of your leftovers in a frugal manner and are looking for a dish which can soak them up and turn into something really tasty as well as being laughably cheap?

    Red beans and rice! A Creole favourite, it uses simple basic ingredients which you should already have in your pantry and soaks up leftovers like nobody’s business. You can also toss everything into the slow cooker and come home to a wonderfully fragrant house with dinner ready and waiting for you.

    1 pound dry red kidney beans
    3 qts water or stock*
    1 pound diced cooked ham, bacon, or sausage*
    1 large onion, peeled and chopped
    1/2 cup Worcester sauce*
    1 teaspoon garlic salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)
    1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
    3 bay leaves
    hot cooked rice

    Wash and sort the beans, discarding any that are broken. Combine beans and water in a large Dutch oven and cook for 40 minutes.
    Add the next 8 ingredients, cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for 2 hours. Bring to a boil, uncover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer uncovered until desired level of thickness is reached. Discard bay leaves and serve over rice. You can also do what I do and toss all the ingredients into the slow cooker and let it rip all day!

    * Vegan/vegetarian alternative: swap out about 1/4 cup of the beans for 1/4 cup of black turtle beans, add about a cup of coarsely chopped dried mushrooms and soy sauce to taste.

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    Posted on November 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Ah, Thanksgiving. One of the leading causes of leftovers along with Christmas! But leftovers is where the home canner can really shine.

    The turkey carcass? Boil it up to make a bone stock and put the squeeze on it. Same with the leftover veggies, you can put them up for later use. You could add some of your freshly made stock to make the vegetables into a rich and nutritious soup. Put that soup on the shelves for later in the year when you can’t be bothered cooking, or even when you are ill.

    Got a ham? What are you waiting for – boil those bones and make a stock – then pressure can that bad boy! Yes, even things like Collard or Mustard Greens which are frequently made with pork stock or bacon can be canned.

    What about all these lovely buttery, creamy sauces? Can you can them? The answer, sadly, is a categorical NO. Dairy products can’t be canned in any way that the USDA deems “safe”. If you have some butter or cream or milk in there, please don’t even take the chance – freeze it, and avoid that whole “dying from botulism” thing. That’s a once in a lifetime experience of suck!

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    Vinegar, the unsung hero

    Posted on July 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Why do I call vinegar the unsung hero? Because of its many uses…

    • Cleaner
      White vinegar (also called distilled vinegar, also called acetic acid) in a 1:1 mix with tap water is a very effective cleaner and steriliser. Use instead of bleach to clean stove tops, windows, bathrooms, and so on.  Be careful with tiling grout and marble, though.
    • Fabric softener
      You don’t need to buy expensive, perfumed, allergy-triggering fabric softener. Use white vinegar instead – use about 3/4 cup in the final rinse cycle, or put it into the softener container in your washing machine.
    • Streak free glass
      You can use it on glass as well. Cleans the glass without a streak.
    • Dishwasher rinse aid
      Yup. No more buying goop from the store – fill your rinse aid container with white vinegar instead.
    • Prevention / treatment of yeast infections
      Er… I’ll leave that one up to your imagination! If you are cloth diapering, wash the cloth diapers in vinegar and tea tree oil, then put out into the sunshine.
    • Oh… and you can use it in food, too 😉

    For a lot more uses of our flexible friend, have a look at the Vinegar Institute’s website. Who knew that something natural and cheap could be so useful?

    Well… we do!

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    Fast food is cheaper – right?

    Posted on April 8, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Well… no. Not at all.

    I recently bought a 9.5lb ham for about $10 including tax. I simmered it for 4 hours, making it literally fall-off-the-bone tender. I stripped the meat off the bone, dropped the bone back in the pot, added a little white vinegar, and simmered the result for 2 hours. I pressure-canned 5 quarts of ham stock, and had about a pint leftover. I used the leftover pint to make red beans and rice.

    For a total cost of about $12 we have had 4 evening meals and 5 lunches so far. I still have 5 quarts of awesome ham stock to use in soups, red beans and rice, or whatever.

    To compare: a recent meal at Arby’s consisting of a small sandwich for the munchkin, a medium sandwich for my wife, a large sandwich for me and a shared large fries cost us $14. A similar meal from one of the hamburger places would cost around $10.

    It comes down to a simple phrase – “Good. Fast. Cheap. Choose any two.” A meal of red beans and rice takes hours to cook – but you can toss everything apart from the rice into your slow cooker in the morning and come home after work to an awesome tasting, healthy, and CHEAP dinner – the only preparation you need to do is to cook the rice. Or you can spend $4 to $6 per person on something that only loosely resembles food and leaves you with no leftovers for other meals.

    I know what choice I prefer. I will go for cheap and good and cherish my slow cooker!

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