Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Corn on the Cob

How often do you see a good sale price of fresh corn on the cob at the supermarket? I usually only ever buy fresh corn on the cob when it is no more than a quarter an ear. So what happens is you get caught up with that great sale price and get a few too many ears than you really need? Well, I will get to that later but first, how do you cook that great, fresh ear of corn? 

Here is my favorite and usually, only way I ever cook corn on the cob. Instead of  pulling off all of those husks and dealing with all of that silk, leave them on and simple trim the tip end off with a chef’s knife to get off any cornworm mess or unformed kernels. Leave the husk on and put all of the corn into a sink full of water. I will soak the ears in water for about a half hour, letting the water get into the ear and letting the outer husks to get pretty well soaked. Put all of these on your grill, medium heat, turning every 10 minutes or so to get all 4 sides of the ear cooked well. You can close the lid on the grill if you use a low heat. Now you can’t actually see the corn to know it is cooked, so you will have to go by how browned the husks are. Seriously, if you use a medium to medium low flame, the outer 2 layers of husk should be pretty well dried out and browned. It’s okay, the corn will be fine. Now, using a pot holder, hold the ear by the base and pull the husk off. All of the layers of husk will pull right off with one pull on each side. The silk will usually come right off with the husk, but otherwise you will find it comes off A LOT easier than before it is cooked. Smother this ear in butter and salt & pepper and enjoy. You will find that this corn will be more flavorful than anything you cooked in a pot of water. The water trapped between the husk layers will steam the corn and the dry heat from the grill will condense the flavors of the corn as it burns the steam off and any burned or browned kernels from the grill will actually have MORE flavor. If you ever had fresh corn at the state fair, this is it!! Save the $3-$4 you would pay at the fair and do it yourself.

So what do you do with all of this extra corn you have now? How about fresh corn the next night for dinner? Basically, for any recipe you make, all you have to do cut the kernels off the cob and use it any other way you would use corn. You can do this with a special device, also known as a corn on the cob stripper for removing the kernels or just use your  chef’s knife and cut down the cob at the base of the kernels. One of my family’s favorite meals from this is corn chowder. A basic soup recipe of thickened stock (a veloute) with an assortment of veggies- celery, onion, peppers, corn of course, and a bit of cream to finish before serving. Awesome!!

If you are really inundated with extra corn or want to stock up for the winter, take the decobbed corn and lay it in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with wax or parchment paper. Put this pan in the freezer for 2 hours and let the corn get frozen solid. Loosen off the pan, put into quart zipper bags and put the bags back into the freezer. Using the 1 quart size will give you just enough corn to pull out one bag and have just enough for a meal. 

Other suggestions, to offer just a few ideas, are Mexican corn, corn o’ brien, succotash, simple buttered corn. We also like to use our favorite Cajun Spices or Mexican pepper spice blend on it and add a bit of kick to the corn. 

It may be corny, but Chef Cheapo saves you money and helps you eat better.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Homemade chocolate syrup

If your family is like my family, chocolate syrup is a favorite condiment in your household. We use it in milk, over ice cream, mixed in kefir, in smoothies or any other food you like. After reading the ingredient list for just about every brand, I discovered that they all have HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) as the main ingredient. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. There are a few brands that use real sugar, mostly on the Mexican foods aisle, but they are a bit pricey. After reading what the ingredients were, I set out to make it myself, only cheaper and better for us. Yes, I would not say that chocolate syrup was healthy, but in moderation and without the blatantly detrimental ingredients in it, one can enjoy it. This recipe is very easy to make and once done, I think you will be surprised why you didn't make it yourself before.

2 Cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1- 12 oz can of cocoa
1T vanilla
pinch salt

Put water, salt and sugar in pot on stove. Heat until the sugar dissolves and the mix starts to boil. Allow to boil on medium heat until the syrup lightly coats the back of a wooden spoon (or 215 degrees F). NEVER STIR SUGAR OR IT WILL FORM CRYSTALS!! Remove from heat, allow to cool for a few minutes. Whisk in the cocoa to remove lumps and to make it smooth. Add vanilla. When cool, pour into jars to save. This recipe will yield about 48 ounces

That's it!! Very simple. As far as storage, I would say it will likely be fine to leave on the cupboard shelf since it is all sugar, which usually does not allow for mold growth, but if you have the fridge space why not keep it in there, just to be safe. The vanilla is a needed addition to this as it will add more depth to the flavor. Without it, the flavor will seem very flat. You can add cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and even chili powder (be sure it is JUST powdered chilis and it isn't a chili powder blend, having garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cumin or any other spice added) to this chocolate syrup to really jazz up the taste.

The cost for this comes out to about $2 for the 48 ounces, which is a big savings over the $2 a 12 ounce bottle at the grocery store. A smile should come across your face as you realize the savings while eating that bowl of chocolate covered ice cream.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

REAL Waffles

If you are like many people, the thought of a freshly made Belgium Waffle is very exciting. Popping it off the griddle and lathering it up with butter and syrup sounds really good. Most of not all of the mixes you find in the grocery store produce something resembling a waffley pancake more than an actual waffle. In fact, many of these mixes are sold as, "Pancake and Waffle Mix". Checking the ingredient list I noticed that all of these mixes are missing one vital ingredient that you will find in commercial mixes- corn. So I decided to try and replicate my own mix. The corn meal adds the bite to a waffle that pancakes don't have. When cooked on a waffle iron, the corn crisps up and gives it that crust.

 My mix is not only tastey, but a lot less expensive than what you will buy in the store. One of the ingredients, malt powder or malt syrup is not something everyone will have in their pantry. If you do not have it, you can omit it or add molasses instead (this can also be purchased at any beer brewing supply store). I think the molasses will give it that unique taste that the malt would add. When I make this batch of waffles, it is always enough for everyone to have extras and then have even more that I put into the freezer for the kids to eat during the next week or two. I prefer to use buttermilk for the liquid. The acidity of the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to give the waffle its airiness. Kefir (fresh, unflavored, preferably homemade) will have the same effect. You can use milk but you will be losing some of the flavor the buttermilk would add.

 3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup Corn meal
1 T baking soda
1 T baking powder
2 whole eggs, scrambled
2 sticks butter, melted (half pound)
1/4 cup malt syrup OR 1/2 cup Malt powder
1 qt (approx) buttermilk, kefir or whole milk

Sift together the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and butter (and malt syrup), then your milk. The amount of milk needed will depend on a couple factors, so an exact amount is hard to say, but it will be about a quart. The batter should have a thin consistency, not as thick as pancake batter because it will need to spread when you close the lid on the waffle iron. Cook the waffle as the maker requires to your desired degree of doneness. Enjoy!

A couple of footnotes. I bought an old waffle maker at a thrift store about 15 years ago and it is still working fine. I had to replace the plug once, but I used one from another appliance that was broken. I have seen plenty of waffle makers in thrift stores so I suggest you look for one there first. Kefir is a fermented, live culture milk product that is so easy to make at home, that no one can say they can't do it. I will write a blog about it in the future. Buttermilk is also a fermented, live culture milk product that is equally as easy to make as kefir. If you buy either in the store, be sure you get ones that are live culture and do not have added ingredients like carrageenan, guar gum, whey, etc. These are not needed to make buttermilk, but they are added so the manufacturer can cut corners and time in production.

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Friday, July 21, 2017


Currently we have a dozen chickens and 4 female ducks and let me tell you, they can lay some eggs when they want to. Occasionally we get inundated with them and we can sell them or I need to cook something to get use them up. Sometimes, I will hard boil a dozen or so and eat them for breakfast or make a scrambled eggs in the morning before I head to work.  Some of the ideas here are for storage and they are great tips for when eggs are on sale and you can buy some extra.  Here is a bunch of egg facts I have collected. 

 -There is no difference between brown, white and green (yes there is a chicken that lays green ones), except for the chicken that laid them (and of course what the chicken ate and how it lived its life).
-To determine whether an egg is fresh without cracking it, put into a pan of water. If it sinks it's good, if it floats, it an old egg. It does this because the air pocket in the egg gets bigger as it ages.
-Room temperature eggs beat up fluffier than cold eggs.
-For fluffier scrambled eggs and omelets, add a pinch of cornstarch to the eggs before beating.
-Season your eggs BEFORE cooking to get a good flavor. I recommend a pinch of onion powder, salt and black pepper, but fresh (or dried) herbs are good too. Adding seasoning prior to cooking always yields better flavor.
-I recommend using schmaltz or bacon fat to cook your eggs in. You will get even better flavor from these fats and they have a high burn temperature so you can cook the eggs quickly on high heat.
- Scrambled eggs should be cooked quickly in a very hot pan. I use a heat resistant rubber scraper and shake my saute pan back and forth while scraping the pan with the scraper to get light and fluffy eggs. The high heat, fat coating of the pan and fast cooking time keeps the scrambled eggs from sticking to the pan
-Duck eggs can be eaten just like chicken eggs except they must be cooked a little less because of the higher fat content in them. If over cooked, they become rubbery. Duck eggs are EGGCELENT for baking with. the higher fat content of the yolks produce better leavening for your cakes and a richer taste.
-Backyard or farm eggs ARE better than store bought. You can tell by the color of the yolk- the deeper the yellow or orange, the more nutrients the chicken ate and passed on in it's eggs.
- A fast way to separate eggs- put your small funnel into a mason jar. Crack the egg into the funnel, without breaking the yolk and the white will fall through the funnel and the yolk will remain.
- Egg whites can be frozen for up to 1 year. I put 1 into each cell of an ice cube tray and freeze. When fully frozen you can crack it out of the tray and put into a container or zipper bag in the freezer. When a recipe calls for X number of whites, you can simply pull them out of the freezer and defrost.
-When a recipe calls for beaten egg whites, add 1t of cream of tartar to each CUP of egg whites (7-8b egg whites). This helps stabilize the white from weeping and separating.
-Chickens are NOT vegetarians. They are omnivores and if allowed to feed themselves (like in a backyard where they can roam freely) will eat bugs, grasses, weeds, mice, snakes and other (baby) chickens. In fact, the more protein they eat, the more eggs they produce.
-To determine if an egg is hard boiled, spin it. If it spins, it's hard. If it wobbles and won't spin, it's fresh.
-Use a tack or push pin and pierce the shell when making hard boiled eggs and the shell won't crack.
-Add 1T of white vinegar to the water when making hard boiled eggs and any cracks that form won't allow the whites to pour out. This also works to keep the whites in one mass when making poached eggs.
- Egg shells can be easily removed from hard boiled eggs by running cold water over the hot eggs.
-Backyard eggs can be stored on the counter for up to 2 weeks without refrigeration as long as they have not been washed like commercial eggs. The egg gets a coating as it exits the hen's vent which prevents bacteria from entering through the shell. Many bakers prefer room temperature eggs as they fluff up better than cold eggs.
- Backyard eggs will have a much thicker shell than commercial eggs since the chicken was able to graze and get more nutrients in it's body that help produce the shell. I have occasionally gotten a shell less egg from my chickens and I know they are deficient in calcium.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Breakfast Cereal

Just about every American kid has eaten or regularly eats clod breakfast cereal with milk. My family is no exception. Over the years we have tried to feed our kids healthy, nutritional food, but sometimes you have to give a little and when grocery shopping, it is hard to avoid a whole aisle. In our efforts to try cut the sugar and make the cold cereals a little less sugary, I started something that may help cut your grocery bills, stretch you cold cereal stores and perhaps make it a little more nutritious.

I am a label reader and it usually makes my family nuts when shopping because I read every nutritional label to make sure that the food does not contain certain ingredients we try to avoid like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), MSG, artificial sweeteners and others. When buying cold cereal, I try to avoid any that have more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. 10 grams equals almost 2 teaspoons. Think of that- 2 teaspoons of sugar just sprinkled over that bowl of cereal and that's if it is just 10 grams. Sugar, although tasty, does not offer any nutritional value, but it does make our caveman brain crave more and then we eat more of it. This goes back to the early hunter-gatherers need to find energy and something sweet was instant energy. This is still hardwired into our bodies and the food companies use that against us to eat more sugary foods.

So how do I try to combat this? I stay away from the high sugar cereals to start and ones where the first three ingredients are different forms of sugar. At least the first ingredient should be a grain (wheat, rice, barley) and the sugar should be at or below 10 grams. I do allow some leeway on this and you will see why shortly. I will buy, for example, frosted corn flakes and I will also buy the same size box of plain corn flakes. The sugar content may be 10 grams on the frosted and 2-3 on the plain. When I get them home, I combine the two boxes in a large storage container and shake them up well to combine.Doing the math 10+2= 12, 12 divided by 2= 6. So that bowl of cereal has now been brought down to a more reasonable level of sugar content. Not only does it bring the sugar down, it also brings the per bowl price down since the less sugary cereal is usually lower priced. So you are saving on two counts!

Here is my list of cereals that I combine ( note I am trying to avoid using brand names, but you should be able to figure out which ones I am referring to)
-frosted corn flakes and plain corn flakes
-Fruity loops and plain oat "O"s
-honey puffs (of wheat) and plain wheat puffs (these can be hard to find at times. Walmart used to carry them by us and they do not anymore)
-sugar coated shredded wheat and plain shredded wheat
-peanut butter puffs (commonly known as Capt. Crunch) and corn puffs (plain Kix)
-Cocoa or fruity rice crisps and plain rice crisps
-plain bran flakes and add your own raisins or dried cranberries
-frosted checkerboard squares and plain checkerboard squares

I am sure that there are other combinations out there can be made, but these are the ones we usually do and it should give you a good idea where to start. Now be prepared, your kids WILL COMPLAIN, especially if they are used to the full strength versions. Stay strong. You are the parent. Let them know that is how it is going to be from now on and they can eat it or not. Mine did a bit too, but now it has become the family joke how we deprived them of full sugar cereal, especially for my older kids. I hope that helps and please continue to tune in for new tips for eating well and saving money.

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