Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Found" Food

What if I told you that you could make a meal for your family for under $2, would you believe me?

Part of keeping our food budget in check while continuing to eat satisfying, healthy meals is our willingness to eat "found food". But don't worry, we're not talking about dumpster diving. Just being aware that there may be a creative, delicious use for that onion peel you are about to toss.

Yes, that onion peel. Put it in a bag in your freezer. Toss in carrot peels, trimmings and celery greens and ends for good measure. Let it hang out until you buy a chicken...

After you enjoy a delicious roast chicken meal, pick the carcass and dump it into a big pot of water. Add in your weird bag of frozen cast offs, and let them simmer.
It's a bit odd looking at first, but all of those onion peels actually give your chicken stock that rich yellow brown color you see in soup at a restaurant.
You will need to strain the stock. It is now ok to toss the carcass and veggies.
Now that you have your restaurant quality stock ready, it's time to make Tuscan Onion Soup. (So much better than the French version...this one has BACON.) While you cook some bacon, have your personal assistant get to work peeling the onions you found in the back of the pantry.
(This was actually an excellent toddler activity. Don't forget to save those peels and ends for the next soup!) Run your onions through the food processor on slice. Add a mess of garlic. Slowly caramelize the onions in batches in the bacon grease. (There is nothing better than onions caramelized in bacon fat.) Add the caramelized onions and crumbled bacon to the stock. You have now made soup for 6 for about a dollar. Congratulations. You rock Momma.
The Hubster relaxes by brewing beer. While I do not enjoy the smell, it is nice that he has a hobby. Making your own beer means you will have whole grains in the house. Like the actual grains. They are funny looking. When the beer is done brewing, you will have "spent grains", usually about 6 cups worth. Encourage your in home brew master to indulge that curiosity he has about homemade breads. That way he can use the spent grains to make you some yummy whole grain bread.
Each recipe uses 2 cups of spent grains and yields 2 loaves of bread. You can freeze the leftover spent grains on 2 cup increments. A sandwich baggie is the perfect size.
Check put that bread! Isn't it lovely? It maybe cost you $1.

So there you have it. A simple meal of bread and soup for six for around $2.

A neighbor of mine once scolded another at a party "What?!? You BUY chicken stock? I thought it came free every time you buy a chicken?" It was very funny, maybe you had to be there, but it stuck with me because it's indicitave of an attitude about food that I admire. It's not just waste not want not, but a willingness to know and respect where your food comes from and a willingness to engage in that process.
So...what free food have you been throwing out?


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