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Cooking Conservatively in Tough Financial Times
Vanity | Feb, 18, 2008 | JRandomFreeper

Posted on 02/18/2009 2:24:13 PM PST by JRandomFreeper

It’s tough out there and may get tougher. Job cuts, pay cuts, and expenses are going up. What’s a conservative to do? Conserve, of course.

That doesn’t mean you have to eat less healthy food, or eat foods that aren’t so good, or eat less. With a few of the right ingredients, some practice, some planning, and some time, you can produce excellent quality nutritious meals for surprisingly little money.

The catch, of course, is the time it takes. But if you are unemployed, or under-employed (like me), you have more time than money.

Fine cooking is about treating good quality ingredients right. Inexpensive cooking is about picking the right ingredients, some planning, and some labor.

My favorite ingredients are good quality, good price, and ingredients with many uses. That means shopping fairly frequently, watching for specials in the flyers that fill up my mailbox, and talking to family and friends about the REALLY GOOD DEALS that we all run across sometimes.

Ingredients

I rarely buy canned or frozen, with a few exceptions, (canned tomatoes and frozen corn, namely) I use what is fresh and in season, and cheap. I also have a garden, and eat what is seasonal from the garden.

Basil is expensive in the grocery store, but is easy to grow. And it shows up about the same time as the tomatoes. Can you say Italian?

Meats are more problematic. I’ve pretty much given up on beef, except once a month. I’m fortunate that I can get game locally, like venison and boar, and we raise a few goats for the freezer.

Pork can be found on sale in large roasts that can be cut up and prepared in many ways.

Chicken also can be found on sale in bulk and frozen in appropriate sized portions.

Bulk products, like flour, cornmeal, rice, beans, masa, and sugar can be purchased in bulk and transferred to appropriate sealed containers to keep the bugs out.

Planning

Since I’m single, I know how much of what I’m going to use in a month and plan accordingly. Breakfast is whatever you eat for breakfast times 30. For me that means 60 eggs, 30 sausage patties, 30 frozen biscuits, and 60 oz of homemade salsa for the month. Sausage patties weigh 2 oz each, so that’s 60 oz of that pork shoulder for breakfast for the month.

A word about individually frozen biscuits. I use them, they are good. I can, and have mixed up a batch of biscuit dough to cook just one biscuit. I won my bet, and would never do it again.

Lunch and dinner I plan for 8 oz of meat, 6 oz of cooked starches, and 4 to 6 ounces of vegetables. So for planning that’s 2 meals times 30 days = 60 meals. So I need about 30 lbs of meat, 22 lbs of starches, and 20 lbs of vegetables for the month.

A word about starches. 2oz of dried beans, rice, or pasta roughly equals 6 oz of cooked starches. For things like potatoes, rutabagas, and turnips, use the full 6 oz measure when buying.

Fruit is as in season, and inexpensive. Sometimes, that means that I just get preserves.

Salads for me come from the garden if they are in season. Down here in Texas, I’ve usually got something most of the year.

I make my own breads, desserts, and lots of my own sauces.

This article is meant to stimulate discussion on cost savings and maybe provide some advice during these difficult times. There are quite a few freeper Chefs, food service professionals, and darn good non-professional cooks on this site.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Your Opinion/Questions
KEYWORDS: advice; budget; cooking
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This article is meant to stimulate discussion on cost savings and maybe provide some advice during these difficult times. There are quite a few freeper Chefs, food service professionals, and darn good non-professional cooks on this site.

A little about my food background; I am a graduate of the USAF Food Service Course in Lackland, and a graduate of Aims Culinary Academy in Dallas. I served my internship (slave labor) at some of the nicest restaurants in Dallas. I have cooked in dives, golf clubs bars, sports bars, and for servicemen and women around the world.

Thanks to all the folks that helped me edit this. I hope it can become a resource for freepers on a limited budget.

I will answer any questions that I can, or refer when I can't.

/johnny

1 posted on 02/18/2009 2:24:13 PM PST by JRandomFreeper
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To: JRandomFreeper

Grow all your herbs, cheap, easy, and way better than buying the jarred dried stuff.


2 posted on 02/18/2009 2:27:27 PM PST by mnehring
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To: JRandomFreeper; yorkie

Thanks!


3 posted on 02/18/2009 2:30:17 PM PST by pandoraou812 (Don't play leapfrog with a unicorn! ...........^............)
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To: Miss Marple
Per your request. I don't have the ATRW ping list.

/johnny

4 posted on 02/18/2009 2:31:18 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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To: windcliff

ping


5 posted on 02/18/2009 2:31:34 PM PST by stylecouncilor (The black man is keeping me down!)
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To: JRandomFreeper

Considering your background, I know you can attest to this, some of the absolute best foods are or where once considered ‘poor’ person food. Feijoada from Brazil pops to mind- pork scraps and black beans..

One cheap cut of meat that is a foodie secret is beef cheeks. Correctly cooked, and they are more tender than any roast you can find, they are similar to Wagyu at 1/10th the price.


6 posted on 02/18/2009 2:32:20 PM PST by mnehring
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To: JRandomFreeper

Our local grocery store had whole beef tenderloins on sale for 4.99/lb. So, I made fajitas. Best I ever had. My mom said I’m crazy, but wait till I make her some.


7 posted on 02/18/2009 2:33:31 PM PST by sportutegrl
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To: svcw
I said on that other thread that the chefs on FR should do this, so I started the snowball rolling.

/johnny

8 posted on 02/18/2009 2:33:39 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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To: JRandomFreeper
I am truly blessed in that Mrs. L is a professionally trained 4 star chef who has worked in some of the finest California Wine Country eateries.

Whatever happens, we ain't gonna starve.

9 posted on 02/18/2009 2:35:02 PM PST by Lurker (The avalanche has begun. The pebbles no longer have a vote.)
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To: JRandomFreeper; SquirrelKing
Squirrel recipes
10 posted on 02/18/2009 2:35:58 PM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: mnehrling
We grow what we can here, but I prefer dried oregano leaf (not ground) for some dishes. For garnish, very much fresh.

Dried for Italian, fresh and dried both for Mexican foods. Personal preference, obviously.

/johnny

11 posted on 02/18/2009 2:37:09 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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To: JRandomFreeper

I ordered a nice size order of grass-fed ground beef from Tallgrass Beef when there was a free shipping special. Add in the 20% coupon I had, and I yielded the highest quality ground beef at a cost of $3.19/lb, delivered. Individually vaccum sealed in 1-lb packs, and they all went into the deep freezer.


12 posted on 02/18/2009 2:39:10 PM PST by NewJerseyJoe (Rat mantra: "Facts are meaningless! You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!")
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To: RKBA Democrat

Pinging the “Surviving Socialism” listkeeper.


13 posted on 02/18/2009 2:40:36 PM PST by Albion Wilde ("Praise and worship" is my alternate lifestyle.)
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To: martin_fierro
LOL! I have squirrel in the reefer thawing for steamed dumplings tomorrow. We have LOTS of the little tree rats.

I don't generally present that face to the public when I'm being food serious, but all real Chefs know that if any culture eats it regularly, you should at least taste it.

/johnny

14 posted on 02/18/2009 2:40:59 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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To: JRandomFreeper
I've been cooking more and making sacrifices. Some of the cheaper cuts of beef are great when pounded into submission and marinated. But I love my spices.
There are winter vegetables. Although they are environmentalists, the Sustainable Table actually has a good list of season stuff. Carrots, Cabbage, Winter Sqash, turnips, onions, potatoes, and apples are in season across the entire lower 48. Anywhere in the south you can also get spinach locally.
15 posted on 02/18/2009 2:43:28 PM PST by rmlew
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To: Lurker; Syncro

Woo hoo! We’ll be right up.


16 posted on 02/18/2009 2:46:01 PM PST by Jim Robinson
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To: NewJerseyJoe
I tend to grind my own. Yes, a KitchenAid(tm) is expensive, even used, and the grinder attachment can be, too, but I make my own ground beef, ground pork, sausage, etc.

I won't buy beef for more than $1.25US/lb. Which means brisket around here, or 7-bone (aich bone). Lose 30% in fat trimmings (I use that for other stuff like sausage). And you wind up with ground meat that you can count on to NOT have been dropped on a floor where someone has recently thrown up, and YOU control the fat content.

I use about 23% fat content for burgers, and 17% fat content for chili.

/johnny

17 posted on 02/18/2009 2:47:59 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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To: JRandomFreeper
Good info, thanks. I already grow a few herbs, and I've been thinking about foods to store up on and rotate to always have fairly fresh on hand. I've also been doing research on how long things like flour, beef jerky, rice, dried fruit, etc. last and how to store them.

PlainsRadio is going to have a weekly show on how to prepare for hard times. One last week was very informative.

18 posted on 02/18/2009 2:48:24 PM PST by YellowRoseofTx (Evil is not the opposite of God; it's the absence of God)
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To: JRandomFreeper

Our store puts whole pork tenderloins on sale for $1.99/lb about every 6 weeks. These are usually about 8-11 lbs, but the store will cut and wrap. We get these cut into some small roasts, and some chops. There is almost no waste, and can be cooked many ways, delicious! Also, I try to buy whole chickens when they are $.79/lb or less. While we did not have a garden or farm, my mom sure did a great job of feeding 5 children on minimal money when I was growing up. I hope FReepers share their stories of creativity!


19 posted on 02/18/2009 2:50:09 PM PST by NEMDF
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To: Jim Robinson; Lurker

I’m in!

I may have tasted her cooking talents.


20 posted on 02/18/2009 2:50:16 PM PST by Syncro (Ti Ming -- Use Librally)
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To: rmlew
Farmers Almanac also has a generally good list of seasonal vegetables.

Your local county extension agency and state ag website can offer specific advice for your area/state.

/johnny

21 posted on 02/18/2009 2:50:32 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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To: JRandomFreeper

How long do you cook roadkill ?


22 posted on 02/18/2009 2:50:38 PM PST by Cyber Ninja (His legacy is a stain OnTheDress)
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To: OnTheDress

It depends on how long it has been aged.


23 posted on 02/18/2009 2:51:53 PM PST by Syncro (Ti Ming -- Use Librally)
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To: JRandomFreeper

Cheap food for me means beans soaked 24 hours then cooked. Chickpeas being the most meaty


24 posted on 02/18/2009 2:53:00 PM PST by dennisw (Archimedes--- Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth)
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To: Syncro; JRandomFreeper

I was told ‘just til the tire-marks are gone’.


25 posted on 02/18/2009 2:53:45 PM PST by Cyber Ninja (His legacy is a stain OnTheDress)
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To: mnehrling

There is no part of a pig that is not good. Poor people long ago learned to eat everything but the squeal.


26 posted on 02/18/2009 2:54:08 PM PST by csmusaret (You can't spell Democrat without R-A-T.)
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To: JRandomFreeper
Good for you. Everyone in our house cooks. It's a special treat on weekends when there is time. Hubby makes the most wonderful Chicken Italiano, son makes the best fish and I have really gotten into homemade soups. We look forward to a Saturday evening with a bottle of red wine and all the fun of being together in the kitchen, smelling all the great spices. We put on opera and nothing we fix runs over $10 for all three of us.

French cuisine is all about taking what you have, working with it and making it something special. I've had some lesser successes (don't mention stuffed Cornish hens for example unless you want to see my family turn green), but for the most part, we eat better at home, for less than any expensive restaurant.

27 posted on 02/18/2009 2:54:24 PM PST by Constitutions Grandchild
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To: JRandomFreeper
I tried cooking liberals and didn't have much luck.

The vegetarians were particularly stringy and inedible.

28 posted on 02/18/2009 2:55:25 PM PST by George Smiley (They're not drinking the Kool-Aid any more. Now they're eating it straight out of the packet.)
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To: OnTheDress
How long do you cook roadkill ?

The only advice I have to offer on road kill and food is from here.

I also be geek for many, many years. Cook was second career.

/johnny

29 posted on 02/18/2009 2:56:33 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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To: rmlew

You can use a pressure cooker for those tough cuts and they’ll fall apart.


30 posted on 02/18/2009 2:56:39 PM PST by tiki (True Christians will not deliberately slander or misrepresent others or their beliefs)
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To: JRandomFreeper

I store about 8 or more varieties of dried beans and lentils in containers, plus cans of tomatoes, corn and chicken broth. Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots or whatever you have on hand, and make excellent soups, which you can vary with leftover meats, pasta, rice or potatoes from other meals. Onion soup is easy — sliced onions cooked in beef broth, with a big slice of whole-grain bread added to the bowl and some mozzarella or parmesan cheese on top and run under the broiler. What a treat!

A large pot can make lots of soup servings, if you have enough 1-cup or 1-1/2 cup containers for the freezer. I try to keep two or three varieties going throughout the winter months. In summer months, I freeze homemade applesauce or ultralight soup, like chicken broth with julienne broccoli stems, carrots and garlic, or pureed yellow squash with spinach or parsley. Also, a great breakfast soup is the smoothie served in a bowl.

I have even made vegetable soups with camomile tea, or leftover pork roast soups with apple juice as the basis.

And the same bean soup you had last night can taste very different if you puree it and add a blob of sour cream, yogurt, grated parmesan, cayenne pepper or a tiny dash of cider vinegar.

Soup is filling and helps maintain ideal weight.


31 posted on 02/18/2009 2:58:10 PM PST by Albion Wilde ("Praise and worship" is my alternate lifestyle.)
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To: JRandomFreeper

nice tips thanks.


32 posted on 02/18/2009 2:58:36 PM PST by Centurion2000 (01-20-2009 : The end of the PAX AMERICANA.)
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To: JRandomFreeper

Fine advice, sir.

I would add, though, that buying cases of TVP is also a good choice, although it is recommeded to buy large cans of mushroom soup, various spices, especially garlic, and maybe a case or two of your favorite hellfire and brimstone hot sauce to enhance the stuff to make it palatable. Throw in a barrel or two of oatmeal to stretch your supply.

As an aside, those who have lived through the archiac period where C-rats were the primary source of nourishment will survive all the various punishing personal trials, food shortages, bouts of hunger, atavistic trevails, Stalinistic orchestrated starvations, lakeside shore lunches cooked by your buddies, cold spam from the can, dandelion salads prepared by hippies and Quaker Oats oatmeal bars.

I have a recipe for ham and MFs but can’t post it on a family site.


33 posted on 02/18/2009 3:00:32 PM PST by sergeantdave (nobama is the anti-Lincoln who will re-institute slavery to government)
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To: csmusaret
There is no part of a pig that is not good. Poor people long ago learned to eat everything but the squeal. 

The Chinese waste nothing from the pig
And everyone knows back in the slave the days the massa got the best cuts
And the slaves learned how to make do with the scraps such as feet and chitterlings
34 posted on 02/18/2009 3:01:07 PM PST by dennisw (Archimedes--- Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth)
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To: JRandomFreeper
Buy bulk on staples...rice and a variety of dry beans. Store them in air tight containers.

Bean and a grain makes a complete protein. You can have a couple of meatless meals a week and save a bunch.

Buy meat on sale and freeze... It's actually false economy to buy beef by the side, you are paying the same price for fat and bone as you are for steaks.

It is false economy to cook one meal at a time. You loose in heat what you saved in product. Cook in bulk and freeze in individual containers , label , date and use it. Press and seal double wrapped will keep bulk down and minimizes freezer burn.

Cook for the week if you can, no point in turning the oven on 7 nights a week if you can limit it to once or twice.

Nothing wrong with nuked casseroles.

Savory soups loaded with bone sticking grains like barley are both healthy and tasty. Beefy barley with mushrooms.

35 posted on 02/18/2009 3:01:12 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: JRandomFreeper

Sounds like it’s Mel Tappan time.


36 posted on 02/18/2009 3:01:41 PM PST by MSF BU (++)
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To: dennisw
Cheap food for me means beans soaked 24 hours then cooked. Chickpeas being the most meaty

I got some dried fava beans recently at a middle-eastern grocery that are also quite large and chewy even after soaking and long cooking.

37 posted on 02/18/2009 3:01:56 PM PST by Albion Wilde ("Praise and worship" is my alternate lifestyle.)
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To: tiki
You can use a pressure cooker for those tough cuts and they’ll fall apart.

A pressure cooker will do that? I use lemon juice and basalmic vinegar in the marinade ... acids start eating the connective tissue ... at least I think they do.

38 posted on 02/18/2009 3:05:44 PM PST by Centurion2000 (01-20-2009 : The end of the PAX AMERICANA.)
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To: YellowRoseofTx
You have to worry about fat content for storage time.

Thinks like dried beans, rice and barley will keep essentially.

Things with fat even if minimal become rancid, it limits storage time.. Temperature matters the cooler the better.

Air and moisture along with temperature are the enemy.

Moisture supports mold.

39 posted on 02/18/2009 3:07:40 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: sergeantdave
I've had C rats, K rat, and MREs. I've had TVP.

I'm talking about eating very good food for very little money.

Not survival food.

Every GI I cooked for got the same attention that I gave every VIP I cooked for. I just adjusted to the budget and made the best choices.

If it gets down to eating TVP for years? I'll find anything else to eat. Maybe call it a "Blue Helmet Special"

But we are blessed with lots of game in the US. The Lord provides.

/johnny

40 posted on 02/18/2009 3:09:40 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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To: dennisw

Chick peas are a wonder.

Blenderize them with squeeze of lemon, some tahani or other nut paste and you have humus. You can season it any way you want, roasted peppers, cayenne.. Makes a great substitute for dip or sandwich spread.

Cost pennies on the dollar if you buy them dry and soak and cook them yourself.

When the melamine issue was going with dogfood, I used them to make my own for months..Hounds loved it.


41 posted on 02/18/2009 3:11:00 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: YellowRoseofTx
Jerky lasts for ages, properly stored. However, that said, you should make your own. It's easy (there are recipes everywhere on the 'net, for instance) and **way** cheaper than purchasing it. And, no, you do not need a dehydrator of any type. Excellent jerky can be made right in a standard oven.

Just wait until bottom round roast is on sale (or picnic roast if you want to make pork jerky).

42 posted on 02/18/2009 3:11:38 PM PST by SAJ
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To: Albion Wilde
Cheap food for me means beans soaked 24 hours then cooked. Chickpeas being the most meaty

I got some dried fava beans recently at a middle-eastern grocery that are also quite large and chewy even after soaking and long cooking.

They were probably old. Beans can be impossible if old. I've gotten stuck with recalcitrant chickpeas. Patronize a store with high turnover. Soaking 24 hours is a must

43 posted on 02/18/2009 3:12:48 PM PST by dennisw (Archimedes--- Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth)
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To: OnTheDress

Just long enough to ger rid of the tire marks.


44 posted on 02/18/2009 3:13:00 PM PST by SAJ
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To: SAJ

I found several jerky recipes today. We’ve made jerky in the past, but these look better. At least that would be a good fill in if there comes a time we can’t buy or afford meats. Also, bullion to add to rice and veggies or just to drink at times.


45 posted on 02/18/2009 3:14:38 PM PST by YellowRoseofTx (Evil is not the opposite of God; it's the absence of God)
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To: TASMANIANRED
This thread is more about the current situation and immediate needs of folks that are crunched for cash on how to eat something besides TopRamen(tm) on the last $50 they have in their pocket.

We'll introduce them to long-term storage and that other stuff later.

/johnny

46 posted on 02/18/2009 3:17:15 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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To: Centurion2000

Crock pot is another tool to tenderize less than perfect cuts of meat and the lid doesn’t become a flying projectile and doesn’t require constant supervision.


47 posted on 02/18/2009 3:17:48 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: TASMANIANRED
Chick peas are a wonder.

They are the meatiest bean....that's why people eat them in falafels. It's a poor mans meat substitute of sorts. Chickpeas are higher protein then other beans. Are my favorite bean. I prefer to make a stew or thick soup with them

Soak 24 hours then pressure cook

48 posted on 02/18/2009 3:17:49 PM PST by dennisw (Archimedes--- Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth)
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To: JRandomFreeper

Sorry, I was answering a question.


49 posted on 02/18/2009 3:19:33 PM PST by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: YellowRoseofTx
If you live in Texas, you have meat available. Real, fresh meat that tastes pretty good. Lots of lakes for fresh fish, lots of squirrels, I think hogs are still ok to shoot.

Raccoon and Opossum are thick this year, although I prefer not to eat those, but would, if TVP were the alternative.

/johnny

50 posted on 02/18/2009 3:20:06 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (God Bless us all, each, and every one.)
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