Monday, February 28, 2011

Stew Mix

I love making stew on a cold day. It’s the best way to make a bunch of cheap food taste great, or to use up whatever you have in your fridge. It’s only 3 weeks until spring (woo hoo!) so I’m trying to make all my winter meals one last time before it gets too hot to enjoy them.

Stew Mix

1 cup corn starch
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

What else you’ll need

3 cups cold water
1 pound stew meat in cubes
8 cups chopped veggies (potatoes, carrots, frozen peas, yams, green beans, celery, parsnips- whatever you have).

In a slow cooker mix water, 1/3 cup powder and meat and cook on high while you chop the veggies. Add vegetables and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

I made mine with beef, 4 potatoes, 4 carrots and 2 cups of frozen peas. It was a hit, men and toddlers love stew, and it tastes even better reheated the next day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sweet and Sour Sauce Mix

Every time I go out for Chinese food I feel like I’m going to be sick immediately after. I guess it’s something about eating deep fried meat coated in syrup and MSG with oily, salty rice and vegetables on the side.


Parts of it are so tasty that I just get a craving sometimes. So I concocted my own creation that gives me that sweet and sour taste without the gut rot afterward.

Sweet and Sour Sauce Mix

2 cups sugar
¼ cup corn starch
4 teaspoons ginger powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt

What else you’ll need

½ cup cold water
½ cup vinegar
½ cup ketchup

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine ½ cup mix with water, vinegar and ketchup, stirring vigorously with a fork until all ingredients are dissolved.

Pour into a glass baking dish with boneless, cubed chicken, pork or tofu. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.

I make ours with boneless, skinless chicken breast and serve it with steamed broccoli and rice. The sauce is very sweet and isn’t exactly healthy, but it eliminates the other evils of breaded, deep fried meat, sodium and oil. It gives you all the sweet and sour goodness without feeling like you’re going to hurl afterwards and that’s exactly what I was aiming for.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Burrito Seasoning Mix

When you’re on a tight budget, burritos make an amazing meal. They are a tasty way to eat beans (which are cheap and high in protein), use up leftovers and feel like you’re eating take out. You can put all sorts of things in them- beans, cheese, tomatoes, onion, chicken, ground beef, avocado….

But they also taste good with just beans, especially if you spice it right…

Burrito Seasoning Mix

¼ cup onion powder
¼ cup garlic powder
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon cumin

Use 2 tablespoons of mix for every can of beans.

If you’re only using beans and spices, you’ll need 2 cans of beans to make enough filling. If you plan to add cheese, meat or other toppings one can of beans will do.

My husband refuses to eat beans unless they have been pureed so I used a hand blender to mix them. I find this tastes better anyway and solves the annoying problem of beans flying out of your burrito as you eat them. I added ¼ cup of water when I blended them to make it smooth. I probably could have added more.

You can just buy tortillas, but I make my own burrito dough and then bake them in the oven.

Burrito Dough

2 cups flour
¼ cup butter
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup cold water

Mix flour, salt and butter, then slowly mix in water while kneading the dough until you have the desired texture for rolling out dough.

Divide the dough into 10 balls, and roll each out as flat as you can, stuff with filling and then wrap closed.

I like to brush mine with oil using a pastry brush to make them a bit crispier.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

I used taco sauce for dipping sauce but anything works- salsa, plum sauce, sweet chili sauce.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dill Pickle Popcorn Seasoning

*This was an earlier attempt but is not as good as it could be. For a truly great dill pickle popcorn seasoning, go here*

Chips are so tasty and so fattening, but it’s really not the chips we crave, but the tasty seasonings on them. Popcorn seasoning is amazing, it lets you enjoy the tastiness of flavored chips with less fat and more fiber.

A few years ago I kept raving to a friend about the joys of popcorn seasoning, which wasn’t available where she lived. I talked about it so much that when I came to visit I brought 8 different kinds of it in my luggage. Since then I have mailed her several emergency refills of her favourite kind, but that will no longer be necessary. This one’s for you Megan!

Dill Pickle Popcorn Seasoning

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon dill weed
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried chives
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder

First I mix it up in a bowl, then I use a funnel to put my popcorn seasoning in those little glass spice jars from the dollar store. They have a lid with shaker holes and only cost 33 cents each.

Now if you want fat free popcorn you can just sprinkle the seasoning onto air popped popcorn, although not much sticks. Or you can drizzle a bit of oil or butter on it and then sprinkle it on, which helps it stick.

This seasoning doesn't have the same mouth puckering sourness as the commercial dill pickle seasoning, so I'll do some more experiments to try and re-create it, but it in the meantime this one is pretty tasty if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fajita Seasoning Mix

Fajitas are something I like to serve to a crowd, so when we have people over I’ll cook a big pan of the filling and lay it out on the table along with the wraps, shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole and whatever else I might have to stuff them with. It makes it easy on me to just let everyone make their own and I can sit back and enjoy our company.

My husband has been begging for fajitas for a while now so I thought I should probably make some tonight.

Fajita Seasoning Mix

1 tablespoon corn starch
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cumin

Big Batch

6 tablespoons corn starch
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons cayenne
1 ½ teaspoons cumin

What else you’ll need

1 pound boneless chicken breasts cut in strips
Dash of vegetable oil
1 large onion sliced
2 red bell peppers sliced

Toss the chicken strips in about 3 tablespoons of mix and set aside.

Fry onion until tender and then add coated meat.

When chicken is cooked through add the peppers and cook until tender.

Serve with tortillas and your favourite toppings.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Basic Sweet Sausage Mix

We order our meat from local farms and with it the most delicious sausages. They’re perfect for a quick lunch on a busy weekend, but quite tedious to use in recipes like pasta, gumbo or on top of pizza. Removing the chewy casings is just too much work!

But then I had an a-ha moment!

Somebody made these sausages with plain ground meat, and added spices. Wouldn’t it just be easier for ME to add my own spices to the meat and save myself all the work of disassembly? All I needed was to learn which spices went into sausages!

It seems that spicing sausages is really quite simple. It’s getting them into the damn casings in the first place that makes it work to make them! And since labor tends to cost money, a pound of my spiced meat for cooking costs us over $2/pound less than buying the sausages themselves.

Basic Sweet Sausage Mix

3 tablespoons cracked fennel seed
3 tablespoons black pepper
3 tablespoons salt

Use one tablespoon of seasoning for each pound of ground meat.

Tonight for Valentine’s Day I decided to make bow tie pasta with sausage, onion and red peppers.

My husband gobbled it up and begged for more. I would't say it's the most romantic thing he's ever eaten, but it did make for a nice dinner. Especially since for the first time since I've made the pasta he didn't complain about the chewy casings.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chana Masala Mix

I had a craving for my famous chana masala today.

A few years ago when we were saving for our house I used to make a giant batch of this every week to take to work. This used to stop me from running out to Subway or the Chip wagon every afternoon when I was still hungry after lunch.

Chick peas bridge the gap between vegetarians and meat eaters. They are not gross and slimy like tofu and they are not cute and furry like cows.

Single Use (to make sure you like it)

2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1.5 teaspoons tumeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder

Big Batch (makes 6 uses)

4 tablespoons coriander powder
4 tablespoons garam masala
3 tablespoons tumeric
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons ginger powder
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard powder

What else you’ll need

1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 14 oz cans of chick peas
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Pour tomatoes, chick peas, oil and 3 tablespoons of mix into a round slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours. Can also be simmered in a saucepan or cooked in the microwave. This truly is curry in a hurry. Serve with basmati rice.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Low sodium bouillon mix

My daughter had a terrible stomach bug yesterday and I spent most of the day doing laundry and cleaning the carpets. Today she’s running around like nothing happened but I’m only giving her bland foods to be on the safe side. I decided to make her some alphabet soup with my homemade bouillon mix.

I love soup, but I hate that disgustingly sour and overly salty aftertaste that goes along with canned or packaged soups. Here is a visual of what half a day's worth of sodium looks like in many processed foods. Crazy isn't it? For a while I boiled chicken carcasses to make my own broth, but that was incredibly disgusting and time consuming. It also took up half the freezer, and we have enough space issues with just a fridge top freezer as it is.

This bouillon powder is 100% vegan, MSG free, low sodium and only takes up a small container’s worth of space in your cupboards. It tastes just like real chicken broth and it also has the added bonus of being very high in vitamins due to the nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is sold in any bulk or health food store and is inexpensive and full of B vitamins.

Low sodium bouillon mix

1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
3 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon sage
¼ teaspoon pepper

Use 1 tablespoon of mix plus one cup of water for every cup of broth needed in a recipe or in the place of a bouillon cube.

Just a warning, your pee will turn fluorescent yellow after eating this. Do not be alarmed, it’s just the extra vitamins your body didn’t absorb. You’re not turning radioactive or anything.

I made Sera’s soup with 2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of mix, a peeled and diced carrot and 1/2 cup of dry alphabet pasta. She just recently learned to operate a spoon by herself and is thrilled with spoon foods.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Buffalo wing sauce mix

My husband, like most males, loves BBQ sauce so much that I think he would drink it if it came in beverage form.

One night on a whim I bought a packet of buffalo wing sauce mix and made our chicken with it. If we weren’t already married at that point I’m sure he would have proposed that night.

I decided to try and recreate the sauce mix on my own.

Single use (to make sure you like it)

¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano

Big Batch (makes 4 servings)

1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons oregano

What else you need

4 tablespoons butter or oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons water

I buy my tomato paste double strength in a tube. This is good for recipes that only call for a little so you’re not stuck with part of a can afterwards. With the double strength I just use less paste than the recipe calls for and more water. So I used 1 tablespoon of paste and 4 tablespoons of water instead.

Mix 5 tablespoons of the mix with melted butter or oil, tomato paste and water. Put the meat in a glass baking pan and mix well, totally coating the meat.

I had to use chicken breast strips because we didn’t have any wings.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-45 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. Serve with delicious homemade fries with seasoning salt and hopefully some sort of vegetable matter. We had salad with this dressing.

The chicken made the house smell amazing while it was cooking.

It was incredibly delicious, way better than the mix pack I bought last month. It was a bit sweeter, which we both liked, but I'll have to come up with a hot version in the future for those who like hot wings instead.

When my husband finished eating he wiped the sauce off his chin and asked me to marry him all over again. Well not really, but I know he was thinking it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Homemade hot chocolate mix

There are two kinds of winter: Good winter and Bad winter.

Good winter is the stuff of childhood: Christmas and ice skating, building snowmen and sledding and hot chocolate. Bad winter is how it starts to seem as you become an adult. It’s short dark days, constant illnesses, slushy wet pant legs and freezing cold mornings.

Today was Good winter. It’s warm enough to enjoy being outdoors but cold enough to snow. I took my daughter outside to play in the snow, pulled her around in her little sled and then came inside for some hot chocolate.

Big Batch

2 cups powdered milk
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Use 3 tablespoons of mix with 1 cup of boiling water

The problem with most homemade hot chocolate recipes is that they call for way too much cocoa powder and way too little sugar. As a result you end up with bitter tasting sludge. This recipe is sweet with just the right amount of everything. So mix up a batch and enjoy a bit of Good winter.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Seasoning salt for french fries

My daughter loves french fries with a passion. This makes going to the mall a problem because she will see people eating fries and once she does she will scream at them with such ferocity that strangers will actually start offering her their lunch (this actually happened. I am not joking.)

Today she had one of her little toddler friends over for a play date so I decided to whip up a batch of seasoning salt and homemade fries for their snack.

Big Batch

6 tablespoons salt
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 ¼ teaspoons paprika
¼ teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon dill weed
½ teaspoon celery salt

Pour all ingredients into a spice bottle and shake it up. Sprinkle on fries, potato wedges, hash browns, ect.

I used an empty popcorn seasoning bottle for mine

I made some homemade oven fries. Much healthier than fast food fries as they were just fresh potatoes sliced up, coated lightly with some canola oil and baked in the oven.

The seasoning salt was amazing, it tasted EXACTLY like the kind on the fries at Wet n Wild, the waterpark I used to work at in the summers when I was in school. It gives your homemade fries a real fast food taste without all the cost and rancid oil of real fast food. Us big girls and the little girls gobbled them all up.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Italian salad dressing mix

I figured I would make a salad dressing next because I have a giant tub of salad greens that are about to go off soon and I’m going to have to be eating mountains of lettuce over the next couple of days.

I am a huge fan of Italian salad dressing. Sometimes I just pour myself a bowl of dressing and dip hunks of bread in it. I love it that much.

The good thing about mixing your own salad dressing is that you can choose which kind of oil to put into it. Commercial salad dressing is made with soybean oil, but canola oil is much higher in omega 3 fatty acids, which are very good for you.

Big Batch (makes 4 500 ml bottles- the size of a regular bottle of salad dressing)

4 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons basil
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon celery seed

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. This will break down the larger herbs so all the salt and sugar doesn’t sink to the bottom. I’m too lazy to clean my blender so I just shake the container and make sure the herbs are mixed well before I take a spoonful out each time.

You can mess up measuring cups measuring out the liquids each time, but I hate washing dishes. You can also spend $10 on one of those salad dressing mixing cruets. Or you can be cheap like me and make one with an old washed out bottle of BBQ sauce and a sharpie marker.

The amounts look uneven because the oil rises above the water and vinegar. The funnel at the top is to make sure I don't spill all over my counters, because I also hate cleaning up.

Mix four tablespoons of the mix with ½ cup vinegar, ¼ cup of water, and 1 cup oil, then shake it up well before pouring each time.

I like my salad in the form of a wrap, so I had one for a morning snack

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Butter chicken (murgh makhani)

When people tell you they love Indian food they really just mean butter chicken. I’ve lived with a lot of people from India while I was going to school and they weren’t eating much butter chicken. Real Indian food is lentils. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, lentils, lentils, lentils. Who loves lentils? NOT ME!

But I do love butter chicken and so does my family. My husband wasn’t always a fan of Indian food, he used to be afraid of it. Back when we were dating I tricked him into liking it by cooking it for him and giving it non-Indian sounding names like ‘tomato chicken’ and ‘spicy stir fry’. After about a year I told him that I had been feeding him Indian food that entire time and he wanted me to keep making it. After that I called everything by the proper name.

My daughter is one of those weird babies that loves food that most people can’t stand until they are at least Thirty. Curry is right at the top of the list.

Single Use (to make sure you like it first)

½ teaspoon cardamom powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala

Big Batch (Makes enough for 6 uses)

3 teaspoons cardamom powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
3 teaspoons ginger
3 teaspoons cayenne
4 tablespoons curry powder
4 tablespoons garam masala

What else you need

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast diced in cubes
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can of coconut milk
4 tablespoons of butter

In a round slow cooker mix 2 ½ tablespoons of powder with tomatoes, coconut milk and butter. Add chicken and stir well. Cook on low for 6 hours. It can also be mixed in a glass baking dish and baked uncovered at 350 Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. Serve with basmati rice.

How it was:

It was delicious, and tasted just as good as any Indian restaurant, but without a hefty bill at the end. It’s not as neon colored as most butter chicken has red food coloring in it. The taste is the same even if it’s not as bright. The green stuff on the side is steamed okra. Yes my toddler actually eats it. So does my husband.

How it all started (or I could make this shit myself!)

A while back I attended and then hosted my own 'tasting' party by a certain unnamed company. I'm not knocking said unnamed company. Their stuff is delicious. How could there be anything wrong with sitting around with your friends eating free cheese dip and salsa and getting free stuff for doing it? I ended up with a fridge full of leftovers, four free jars of seasoning and a half price frying pan. Totally worth it.

But when I read the catalogue, the tightwad Ukrainiun in me was a little horrified by the prices. Six bucks for a tiny little jar of that? I COULD MAKE THIS SHIT MYSELF!

Being the very obsessive person that I am, that very night I started creating my own mixes and compiling them into a cookbook. Drinks, soups, seasonings, curries, salad dressings. I got out my filthy notebook full of kitchen creations, pages falling everywhere and I tested and tried and modified and then wrote it all down. It didn't take me long before I had quite a few mixes.

None of us have a lot of time on our hands, but all of us eat. We're stuck with so few options when we're in a hurry, and because take out isn't affordable 365 days a year we're forced to try other short cuts. The grocery store is teeming with jars and packets of sauces and mixes- just add meat, just add vegetables, just add water. But what are you adding them to? Usually a whole lot of MSG. So then the fancier yet healthier versions are put out by overpriced pyramid scheme corporations like unnamed company. Which saves you from eating the MSG from the three dollar bottle at the grocery store by charging you six dollars for a jar with half as much.

But what if you could make all of these in advance, store them in your cupboards and whip up quick meals and snacks whenever you wanted? What if they were not only additive free, but even less expensive than the unhealthy grocery store versions? My collection of recipes makes that possible.

This blog will let people test out my mixes, give feedback and enjoy my creations as I complete my cookbook. I'll test out my recipes and write about them, and you can try them too.

Happy mixing.