Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fancy frugality

I am learning some new things these days. After 8 years far from the world of pay cheques and scheduled hours, and instead being my very own boss (ha ha, you know as well as me the kids have taken over!) I have returned and am discovering juggling schedules and priorities once again. Nope, I haven't made bread on a regular basis. Yup, there's packaged pizza in my freezer. And yes, I only work part time. Still, things have shifted, but, I am feeling refreshed and renewed with a new sense of purpose and/or responsibility.

Some things have not changed, however - some things never will. For one, budgeting food expenses. I'm convinced even the super wealthy have some sort of a food budget! And, I still very much enjoy taking budget meals and presenting them fanciful, even with time constraints and slow cookers doing part of my work. The kids are catching on to this idea, too, and are much more interested in dinner lately. "Make sure my potatoes are square, too, Mom!"

Is it as exciting to you as it is to me when "clean out the fridge and use up all the left over bits and pieces" dinners turn out super yummy? Certainly a slow cooker hides many flaws, and with a little plating ingenuity, meals from them can look more than one coloured slop. (Please do take a moment to feel inspired, to put away frustrations, and to get excited about your budget foods!)

So what's in this? And what do I call it? How about Upside Down Shepherd's Pie. If you ask my opinion, this version is much more pleasing to the eye than vice versa.

Towards the end of my grocery week, my choices become slim, and since I do not waste, I use up. I had -

1 onion
2 celery sticks
4 carrots
3 green onions
5 slices Prosciutto
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine

To this I added some fresh things -

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
fresh ground pepper
kosher salt

I first browned the beef with the vegetables, as sauteing adds incredible flavour a slow cooker alone can not achieve. I then added the remaining bits and pieces, threw it all in the cooker, set it on low and walked away. What I do love about cooking this way, is how the aromas start filling the house a few hours in to it. Unfortunately, this also leaves me hungry hours before the dinner table is set.

I love fluffy mashed potatoes, and so, rather than adding them raw into the crock with everything else, I find it very well worth my time to cook these stove top. This extra step also ensures a beautiful jus-like gravy, as the potatoes did not get the chance to soak up those scrumptious liquids. I search my kitchen for an ingenious way to plate the mash, and discover part of my Spaetzle maker works amazingly well. A little fresh parsley, which is still growing like mad in my garden even though it's rather frosty in beautiful Canada these days, chopped and sprinkled adds a little texture and a whole lot of fresh. Seconds, anyone?


Lukrisi said...

Looks magnificent! I'm glad you're having fun in the work-force and I knew you'd still put fabulous and thrifty meals on your table.

Some of our best meals come on The Night Before Shopping Day, when we usually have some kind of stir-fry to use up the leftover veggies. I'll have to take lessons from you on plating though.

Kate said...

Oh yum. I just finished making right-side-up Shepherds Pie 10 minutes ago, and mine doesn't look nearly that pretty! I'll have to think about flipping it next time...a creative way to jazz it up without paying a cent extra.


seconds? firsts! Please find a way to send me your goodies!!!

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