Blogs have a way of losing good stuff in the depths of the archives, so I'm going to be mining mine for gold and posting it here where it's easy to find. I haven't tried these tips out, unless I say I have. I assume readers prefer anonymity. If you want me to publish your name and a link to your own site, just say so.

Salt - before or after cooking beans?

About the salt — I know it is thought that salt toughens the beans. In my experience that is not the case. I read a long article on bean cooking on the Fine Cooking site a number of years ago, and they said that it was sugar that toughened beans during cooking. I’ve experimented a bit and this definitely seems to be true. So I don’t add anything with any sugar — no tomatoes or tomato paste for instance — while I cook the beans. I do sometimes do a baked-bean type dish, and add tomato and molasses and such after the beans are cooked.

Easy bread

A ship's cook wrote to share his ways of making whole grain bread that kind of break the rules, but make a 'nice product'. It's on the bottom of the Cheap Bread page.

Free Vegetable Stock

1.  I keep the crappy parts of vegetables that I don't use while I'm cooking such as:  carrot root ends, carrot greens (very nutritious but not so pleasant to actually eat), onion skins*, celery leaves, pepper tops, mushroom stems, and whatever else, and put them in a quart-sized freezer bag which I just always keep in the freezer.  Don't keep stuff like broccoli and strong greens, since the flavors are too powerful.  I only add a small amount of tomato scraps, because it can also overpower the broth and make it too sweet.

2.  When the bag is full, I add the contents of the bag, plus a quart and half or so of water, a little salt, some peppercorns, a bay leaf, whatever not so fresh anymore herbs I may have on hand, and a piece or two of kombu kelp (which I'm only guessing you also have on hand because I saw, but didn't read, your recipe for miso soup) to a stock pot.

3.  Bring it to a boil, turn the heat down to a low simmer, then let it go for a while--  maybe 45 minutes to an hour.  Then I just strain out the liquid and freeze it in individual containers.  Compost the leftover veggies as usual.

Hope you or someone else finds this useful!

Buttermilk pancakes

I also use part buckwheat and/or part whole wheat, gradually reducing the white flour so my kids can get used to the whole grain taste. You can also make buttermilk by adding a teaspoon of vinegar to the milk. Soy milk and yogurt work too. We also add a spoonful of vanilla, but this is a luxury that may not last. I have taught my kids to mix up a big batch of the dry pancake ingredients. Now they can make pancakes whenever they want.

Slow cooking with hardly any electricity

I built a more modern version of the ancient "haybox" for cooking tough meats and more importantly beans. First, I built a 1 ft x 1 ft wooden box with a tight fitting lid. Then I cut styrofoam squares to fit the box. then I cut circular holes in the squares to just fit my pressure cooker.  There is styrofoam in the top of the box too.  I soak my beans overnight in the cooker and in the morning rinse and add fresh water to cover beans.  I bring the cooker up to pressure, pop it in the "haybox" and Im done.  The beans are perfectly cooked every time.... and they're still hot 12 hours later. Cooking beans this way I've also never had a problem with gas. I also will heat chilis and soups, pop them in the haybox and my kids and I can have a hot hearty healthy (and cheap!) meal six hours later when we go skiing. 

I applied the same idea to oatmeal ( I can't abide quick or "instant" oats).  I found an BIG insulated mug with a lid at my local salvation army.  Into the mug I measure my dry oatmeal, sugar, salt,raisins and dried milk.  When I boil my water for coffee in the morning I fill up my mug, cover it and let it slow cook for about 1/2 hour.  I never burn any oatmeal, I save on fuel and only have one dish to clean.  Saves time!  Try it, you'll like it.

...and even lower-energy:

"One valuable tool I’ve recently discovered is thermal cookware. I’m using the 8 quart Thermos Shuttle Chef, as I too cook soups and stews in large quantities and freeze meal sized portions. All I do is bring my ingredients to a boil for about 15 minutes (a few minutes more for chunkier stews), then put the cooking pot into it’s thermal sleeve for a couple of hours or even overnight. The veggies come out much brighter and fresher tasting than simmering. And it saves a lot of propane. Next on my list to try is using it for baking."

This thing is $250, so I have to wonder how long it would take to pay for itself compared with a slow-cooker that paid for itself twenty years ago. When trying to be green you have to think about what kind of a footprint the manufacturing of an item like this leaves, too.

Keep the Lactobacilus alive in your Miso Soup

Be careful to not add the miso to the boiling soup, as it will kill the lactobacteria from the fermentation process. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool down for a minute or two before adding the miso and then serve.

Falafel from Scratch

Soaked, uncooked, chickpeas, processed with garlic, onion, fresh parsley and coriander, salt, and spices. The prep is effortless (even if the chickpeas take half a day to soak). The cooking, apart from the soaking time, is almost instantaneous. And the falafel that comes out of the pan is absolutely incomparable: crisp outside, perfectly moist inside without being bulky.

Cheap Suppers  Recipes to Print

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