Blog Flux MapStats: Stats and Counter for Cooking For One Or Two

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Below, you'll find a few pictures of various vegetables and herbs growing in pots and barrels on my mother's back deck. See how easy it is ? :D If you're growing tomatoes, make sure you have lots of tall, thick wooden dowels to keep the vines propped up. And watch out for thieving little cute yummy chipmunks.

More pictures to come on this blog and at Curry Elvis Cooks.


A mysterious okra-like pod (bottom left) amongst various vines. Posted by Picasa


Bittermelon pod (4-5 inches in length). Posted by Picasa


Baby bell peppers. Posted by Picasa


A very large globe eggplant, which would fit in my hand with my fingers spread open wide. Posted by Picasa


Red (ripe) and green chili peppers Posted by Picasa


A quick-growing bittermelon behind some fragrant basil (foreground) Posted by Picasa


One of several tomato plants growing in a pot or barrel on my mother's deck Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 28, 2005 

Oh What A Green Thumb Am I

Time was when a full-time job at minimum wage was actually enough to get by in life. Not anymore, especially with gasoline prices trying to leave the stratosphere. Everyone except the truly wealthy feel the pinch, especially when you factor that for every cent per gallon gasoline increases, delivery costs on everything we purchase goes up several times over. Every product costs more, which causes services to cost more, which in turn causes other services to cost more. The net result is that there's no bloody way anyone can live on minimum wage, possibly not even with two full-time jobs.

When you try balancing your monthly budget to figure out where you can cut back, you realize your choices sometimes boil down to eating or not eating. My personal philosophy is that even if I can't do anything else to help you in your time of need, I will feed you, somehow, if you are hungry. I live by this. But since you probably live hundreds or thousands of miles from me, and I've disable my doorbell, what options are left to you? The answer is simpler than many people realize, but we have become a culture that lets media tell us how to think, what opinions to have. We forget that we are capable, thinking creatures that are savvy enough to solve our own problems.

The answer is simple. In North America, in every continent on Earth, forever back into history, we grew our own food. You don't have to have a mega-garden or put a lot of effort into it. Just a little bit of effort and a bit of knowledge is all you need.

If you live somewhere that you have access to a balcony or a backyard, get yourself some large wooden barrels from a garden shop, vegetable seeds (tomatoes, okra, zuchinni, squash, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, basil and various other herbs), some potting soil, and organic fertilizer. Get them to deliver if you don't have a vehicle. Save eggshells, teabags and vegetable cuttings, that you would normally throw away, as additional fertilizer. Grow fresh herbs in small pots indoors on the windowsill year-round. There's still time this year to grown a batch or two out of certain vegetables. Prepare any excess and freeze, pickle, bottle, the rest. You can pluck green tomatoes early and put them in a paper bag to ripen on their own over the winter. It's easy to find instructions for starting small gardens on the Internet or in garden mags.

The money you save will amaze you. What's more, if you stick that money into a safe money-market fund, the interest accumulated will make you wonder why you didn't grow your own food before.

For those of you that either live in apartments without balconies or somewhere that you do not have permission to use the backyard, you can grow herbs indoors. To grow veggies, join a local "grow cooperative", where members share a patch of land and divide it into small plots that they rent out or even co-own. If you can't find one, get a bunch of friends together with a small amount of money each, and buy or rent a patch. (Make sure you have proper documentation of co-ownership.)

With a little bit of planning and effort, you'll have your own green thumb in no time. What's more, if you have never tasted food made with vegetables and herbs picked right from the garden, you have never tasted heaven. The taste is so incredible that you'll swear off bland, lifeless boiled veggies forever.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Friday, August 26, 2005 

Sharing the Cooking - I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

If you live with other people, maybe even in an apartment building, and are friendly with them, a great way to enjoy good meals without leftovers or waste is to rotate the role of cook amongst yourselves. During my mid-20s, when I lived in Toronto, Canada, I managed to have a couple of nice guys as roommates. We shared in the food costs and alternated who would cook on a particular night. For the most part, it worked quite well, except that one roommate's diet was so bland that he found a small sprinkling of black pepper to be hot. I'm the kind of food freak that bites raw green chillies and lives to tell about it.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Thursday, August 25, 2005 

10 Tips For Stretching Your Food Budget

It's just a hypothesis, but single people are more likely to eat out every night than married people. Obviously, that gets costly. Let's say supper costs you about $8-10, and you eat out at least 5 times a week, week in and week out. At about 50 working weeks per year, that's at least $8x250 = $2000/yr. On a monthly basis, that's about $8x20 = $160 or more. Add in your lunch, and you're probably spending $300/m on just lunch and supper. If you have breakfast on the run at a fast-food joint, that's probably another $100/m or more. Think of what you're filling your body with almost daily, besides all the money you're losing. And don't forget, your fridge doesn't like to stay empty, so you'll probably buy items that just sit in the fridge, forgotten, and spoil. So you’re spending several hundred a month on food when you can get by like royalty on $100-$160/m, provided you’re willing to take meals to work or eat at home. [Okay, let’s be realistic. You’ll want to, and need to, go out once in a while.]

Food spoilage has always been a problem with every single person I've ever known. If you're like most people, you'd prefer a nice home-cooked meal. But if you've worked a long day at work, and you have no significant other, cooking is probably the last thing on your mind. Oh, you've cooked before, and even like it, but you always make too much, or get sick of the leftovers, or end up throwing stuff out. And supermarkets always package stuff for "family" size, especially frozen meats. Once you thaw a package out to remove one piece, you end up having to cook the rest. It’s not easy.

Well, there are a few fairly easy-to-follow tips that'll help you stretch your budget, should you prefer to go home and cook.

  1. Get some large freezer bags with the good "zippers". They're expensive but they're worth it. In fact, get some large, cheaper bags, too. Put raw meats inside the cheaper bags, then put these bags inside the zipper bags. You’ve got double protection, and as long as the cheaper bag doesn’t leak, you can reuse the zippered bag on something else, including fruits and vegetables.

  2. Get some "snap on lid" plastic containers for leftovers. Get the good kind, whose lids stay on. Expensive but definitely worth it. The cheap kind usually have lids that pop off in the fridge, allowing food to spoil.

  3. If you can afford about $29-99, buy a vacuum sealer and a supply of bags. Veggies that are normally delicate seem to stand up well to the freezer if you vacuum pack them.

  4. If you buy a large quantity of vegetables or meat, cut individual items into single portions and vacuum seal them. Do not mix items into the same bag unless their cooking times are about the same.

  5. For fruit such as apples and pears, wash and slice them, toss in a little bit of lime or lemon juice, then place in freezer bags. (Citrus juice not necessary if you’re vacuum sealing.)

  6. Buy some smaller freezer bags. Buy a family-pack of ground meat and portion it off when you get home. Place each portion in its own freezer bag.

  7. If you’re forced to thaw out a large quantity of ground meat because it’s not already portioned, all’s not lost. When the meat is thawed, lightly brown it in a skillet with a minimum of seasoning. When it’s browned, keep what you want to eat in the skillet and let the rest cool in a shallow, wide dish or plate. When cool, portion the extra meat and place in smaller freezer bags. Alternately, you can keep the excess in a snap-top plastic container, then make something different each night with the meat, until it is used up. For example, one night you can make a small portion of chili. The next night you can make Spaghetti Bolognese (meat sauce). If you’re adventurous, you can make meat-filled “eggrolls” or similar items such as wontons. If you’re skillful, buy a cheap package of wonton wrappers and make your own dumplings with a rich broth. This way, you’re not really eating leftovers, and you can take advantage of your grocer’s meat sales.

  8. If you buy a giant-size pasta sauce can or bottle, you can portion it off in the snap-top containers and stick them in the freezer. Whatever you do, don’t freeze in bottles. You can use leftover yoghurt or onion dip or margarine containers. [If you do, do not leave them in the freezer for more than a week or two, as they aren’t really designed for such use. And do not heat them in the microwave for more than 2 minutes. Just warm the containers a bit, then transfer the contents to a microwave-safe bowl to finish heating.]

  9. If you’re a very busy person, pick one day each week to be a “cooking day”. For example, if you do your laundry on Sundays, and do not have to leave your home/apartment, prepare your raw ingredients while waiting. Cut up vegetables and put them in airtight containers. Thaw out enough meat for the dishes you plan to make. If after your laundry is done, and you feel up to it, spend the rest of the day making three or four dishes. Keep one dish for that night’s supper, stick another in the fridge, and the rest in the freezer. It generally feels like less effort to do most of your cooking for the week at one time, than trying to do some every night.

  10. If you do not like to eat freeze and thaw food, change your shopping schedule. Instead of buying everything once a week and letting some of it spoil, shop 2-3 times a week, even every day if you can. If you particularly like to eat a meal made from fresh, non-frozen ingredients, then there’s a trick I learned “on the line” (cooking in restaurants) that is a time saver. Let’s say you’ve just purchased some vegetables. If you think you’ll be able to use all of it up within 3-5 days, dice or slice up each vegetable and keep it in its own air-tight container. For the next few days, when you want to use a vegetable, just open its container, grab a handful, and throw it into your dish. Having veggies ready like this not only saves time, but when you come home tired and hungry, it’s so much easier to convince yourself to cook.

Hopefully some of this will encourage you to cook at home a bit more. Most of these tips are pretty simple, and while the containers and bag may cost you a bit, they are worth it if you reuse them.

(c) Copyright 2005, Raj Kumar Dash,

About me

  • I'm blogslinger
  • From Canada
  • Writer, author, former magazine editor and publisher, amateur photog, amateur composer, online writer/ blogger, online publisher, freelancer

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