I have talked about it before but I often come up with these ideas that I just can’t get out of my head when I am trying to fall asleep. I wasn’t sure about this one though. I always paired artichokes with chicken and when doing some research didn’t find a lot of recipes that paired with with beef. But for some reason combining artichokes in a family favourite dish just seemed right. Not only did it turn out amazing it comes close to winning our hearts over our traditional version with mushrooms. And coming from a mushroom obsessed family that is a big deal.
I let the first of the month come and go without talking about my little meat-free challenge from January. We did learn a lot from our challenge, one of those things being we couldn’t give up meat on a permanent basis. While we did enjoy all of the meals I came up with during the month we did miss favourite dishes and were looking forward to February arriving. But it did help re-affirm in my head the financial difference not adding meat to your bill does. We already have our food budget down to a good number but January saw that budget cut down to almost half of that from not having to buy meat. I had a few people tell me that they found they spent more on their food budget when they stuck to a meat-free diet so I thought I would share a few pointers that I stuck to that kept it down.
Eat grains and beans. Things like bulger wheat, barley and quinoa seem to often get forgotten about but they are not only full of nutrition but they are also cheap. If a vegetable isn’t in season not only will you pay more for it at the grocery store but you might find that it has less flavour. Because it isn’t in season the growers have to artificially help the plants ripen that this not only doesn’t produce as flavourful of a product but it reduces the nutritional value. Sticking instead to frozen which is picked at the peak of ripeness and flash frozen is not only a cheaper option but can often be more nutritious. Also try cooking more for portions rather then cooking large amounts that sometimes can be wasted. If you can guarentee you will use the leftovers and won’t just over eat then it is fine to cook large batches of food. But if you are anything like use we find that we just go for seconds more often then saving the leftovers or we will save the leftovers and then end up never eating them and having to throw the leftovers away. Throwing food away is like throwing away money.
Not including meat in our diet did have us eating a lot healthier meals. So I am wanting to try and keep some of the good, healthy habits we got into while incorperating meat back into our diet. So I wanted to share with you one of the first meals I served for us. It was also my first ever attempt at cooking with fresh artichokes. I won’t lie it does take a lot of effort but fresh is so much nicer tasting them tinned artichoke hearts.
Sausage Parcels with a Artichoke and Bean Hot Salad
2 globe artichokes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, zest of whole and then squeeze out the juice
4 good quality fresh sausages (make sure these are good quality and full of flavour)
1 red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 pinches of paprika
140g (5oz ) runner beans
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Adapted from BBC Food
So I love hunting for new inspiration of recipes to try and it often takes me to new places of discovery. The other day I found myself searching through images from a website that I use called Seriouseats.com and I stopped in my tracks when I stumbled upon this incredible recipe. It was one of those love at first sight situations and I just knew I had to make it. The best thing about it for me was that all of the ingredients were things that I keep stocked in my pantry on a regular basis. Which means that this is a simple dish that I can create cheaply because all of the ingredients are on hand. I altered the recipe slightly to make it a much easier dinner to throw together and I am happy to say the result had people scrapping their plates for every last drop. And personally nothing says success better then that.
In response to my first request from my reader Kate Jones, I challenged myself to come up with a new crockpot recipe that was healthy and cheap. And while this one might tote the line slightly on the healthy part I am so excited to share it with you. This truly is one of those dishes that will have people going back for more.
When Kate gave me my new challenge my first thought was to look in my pantry and freezer and see what I had on hand, to give me some inspiration. I saw that I had some chicken and some frozen spinach in my freezer and it got me thinking about one of my favorite appetizers ‘Spinach and Artichoke dip’. So I thought ‘what if I could create a version of that dip that was slightly healthier and also make it a meal instead of just a dip’.
So I set off exploring the web for inspiration. There were a few people that had similar ideas but either the ingredients they used were too fattening or it required more work then I wanted to put into a crockpot recipe so I decided to do what every good cook does, experiment. Not all experiments work well, you can ask my husband about that one. I have had some dishes that had us going out for a takeaway instead. But you never know until you try. So I bought a few ingredients that I thought would be nice in the dish and threw everything in and waited to discover what I had created and whether or not it would be a disaster or something worth writing about.
I can truthfully say not only was it a success but it was one of the simplest crockpot dishes I have made in a very long time.