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Buying It

Cheap and Good: Buying Local in Season – Strawberries!

Strawberries. Until Clarence Birdseye popularized frozen foods, strawberries meant ‘fresh in the spring and early summer or on your toast and waffles as jam and preserves the rest of the year. Now, you can get frozen strawberries anytime, and at Chez Siberia, we do our part to pick and freeze a whole lot. But we also take the opportunity to eat them as soon as we can get them home, rinsed and into a bowl.

Good, fresh, sweet-all-by-themselves strawberries are not only a treat, but nutritionally fantastic (more…)

Getting the Best Out of Grass Fed Meats

Well, I lied. Or, I think I did. I think I said, or at least intimated that I’d delved into farmers markets and wouldn’t darken that door again.

Well, Aunt Toby realized that she missed out on an entire section of stuff that gets sold at farmers markets (and increasingly gets sold, I might add), which is meat.

Honest to gosh, shrink wrapped (though usually not on a slab of Styrofoam, in my experience), frozen, labeled with weights on ‘em, meat. And many times, they are labeled with words such as ‘free range’, ‘pasture raised’, ‘grass fed’ and so on. This is to differentiate them from what’s in your butcher or supermarché, which generally is ‘conventionally raised meat’ which means “grain raised”.

And when you see ‘grain raised’, the little voice of reason in your head should be saying, “and that means, ‘corn fed’.” (more…)

More Obscure Vegetables You Can Learn to Love – Chard

In our last episode of “Weird Veggies I Have Known and Learned to Love”, we talked kohlrabi; today it’s that ‘not quite celery – where’s the beet’ thing called Swiss Chard. Chard suffers from a branding problem – how good does it feel saying the word “chard”?


Broccoli – now THERE’s a word that has a good feel in your mouth – very Italian and dramatic — brock–o–li. “Chard” has no charm at all; they should have stuck with the name that they used to call it, “Silver Beet” – that at least has a little bit of charm to it. Even ‘spinach beet’ which was another name for it, is better. Chard? A marketing specialist would have a field day with this – let’s find the guy who came up with ‘the other white meat’ – that’s the guy we want to rebrand chard. (more…)

Walk on the Wild Side at the Farmers’ Market

And…we’re BACK!! And we are circling around again, on the subject of farmers’ markets because – I say so. A reader of the last piece told me that she does not go to ‘her’ farmers market because they only had two vendors and all the vendors had were greens and green onions.

OK…we’ve got two issues here. First is probably the fact that north of some predetermined spot, it’s really too early to find a whole lot more than green onions and greens. It’s just not warm enough yet and the farmers, even with row covers, etc. will not have had enough time to actually grow a whole lot. And second, Aunt Toby realizes that some farmers’ markets are NOT very special – the one closest to you might not be – the one in the next town over might be. (more…)

Is cheap, confinement raised meat lighting the fuse on the next flu pandemic?

Lest we start to play ‘Healthy Days are Here Again”, Aunt Toby would like to remind readers that the so-called Swine Flu (H1N1) is still with us.
“Just as many New Yorkers were beginning to forget the threat of swine flu, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said at a hastily called news conference Thursday evening that swine flu had been confirmed in the sick man, whom colleagues identified as Mitchell Wiener, the assistant principal of Intermediate School 238 in Hollis. He was being treated at Flushing Hospital Medical Center, where he was on a ventilator.” Latest on Swine Flu in NYC Schools

Update: Mr. Weiner, the gentleman mentioned above, succumbed to H1N1 and died Sunday evening.first swine flu death in New York City

For current updates on H1N1, see US CDC: Swine Flu Update

What Aunt Toby wants to talk about is this: Where the hell did this thing come from? (more…)

Friends of Farmers Markets are Friends of Mine

This blogging thing does get out of hand. The first thing you know, you get an idea and then it sprouts other ideas, which breed and make other ideas and pretty soon the whole post gets out of hand and you are looking for a book deal. So, I am going to go with one idea and tell you what the next one is and hold myself to it.

Today’s topic is farmers markets and Aunt Toby is hearing the eye-rolling and groans from here, deep in the computer dungeon at Chez Siberia.(and by the way, the rolling of eyeballs, as any parent of teenagers can tell you, sounds like nails on a chalkboard and is usually accompanied by the word, “Moooooom!!!” which is at the frequency of dog whistles). “Oh, come on, Aunt T – EVERYONE knows about farmers markets. Can’t you come up with something more interesting that THAT?

Well, 30 minutes ago, I would have agreed with you and turned in my blogger’s license right there except for an IM I got from a friend who lives in the more suburban part of a large metro area. We were talking about pasture raised meat (which is another topic for another time) and she was saying, “Oh, I’m sure “large national supposedly organic grocery store chain that is only found in large metro areas” will have that” and I replied, “Mmmm, I’d rather deal nose to nose with the person who actually raised it so that I can ask what they did and how they did it – how the animals were ‘finished’ and so on.” And then she dropped the bomb on my little idea that ‘everyone knows about farmers markets’:

“You know, I’m going to go down to the xxx farmers market right now (which is, like a 15 min. bike ride from her house) – we’ve lived here 25 years and I’ve never been.” (more…)

It’s 8:00 – do you know what’s in your freezer?

ice climbing in a big freezer I know Aunt Toby always sounds a bit like the ant in the fable who ends up with the frozen grasshopper at his front door, but thinking ahead is always a good idea. So, we’re going to take a tour of Aunt Toby’s freezer and talk about the future.

No, that photo at the top is NOT Aunt Toby’s freezer, though there are moments when I gaze into mine and have the same feeling like I’m going to be climbing into it, not knowing what the hell I’m going to find. Do you have that feeling too?

Even when you stock up, and even if you know one week later that you bought chicken on sale, cut it up, packaged it and put it into the freezer, would you know how much you really have and when you put it in there. How about a month later? How about 3 months later?

Are your eyeballs glazing over (and not from the cold air, either – you can shut the door to the freezer now..)?

Aunt Toby is as guilty of ‘lack of inventory management’ as the next person, perhaps more so since I have this really deep seated belief in socking stuff (more…)

Cheap and Good: No Excuses Weightlifting

Today, Aunt Toby wants you to think of our little meeting place here as Kitchen Counter Gymnasium. We’re going to talk today about getting more strength into our lives … at home.

So, you say you don’t have the money for a gym membership. Okay – Aunt Toby is good with that.
And you say you have never lifted weights and are just a little bit scared of hurting yourself. Yep – I’m with you there too. And you say that it’s not something you worry about really.

Just hold it right there, bucko. (more…)

Get Growing!

Beans In my part of the world, right now, there is snow and ice everywhere and frozen soil, but we can dream of a garden. And for those folks who have been doing their homework and have gotten their seeds, it’s time to take out the calendar and start planning for actual planting in the ground, so that you can figure out when you are going to plant your seeds.

In my area, our official last frost is supposed to be toward the end of May, so most people are out putting in their gardens on Memorial Day Weekend. For things like tomato, pepper and eggplant plants, that’s a pretty good rule of thumb. If your soil has warmed up earlier, you can certainly put in things like lettuces, spinach and other greens, anything from the cabbage family(broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Chinese cabbage, etc.), though you might want to provide them with some protection, like using row covering material.

But, let’s get down to where the plant meets the soil, so to speak: how much are you going to put in, anyway? (more…)

Cheap and Good: Chili

chili1 Well, we’re back in the kitchen with Aunt Toby (which works out pretty well, since we’re talking about food) and your first assignment (because I’m all about the assignments and all about doing it right now) is this:

Take out your wallet and take out a $10 bill. Put that bill in an envelope with your coupons or shopping list for the week and hold onto it. We’ll talk about that $10 bill a little bit later, but trust me on this one: You will want to do this every single week for a while. It WILL save you money.

The whole point of this series (which will be on-going…at least until the economy gets itself together) is to share ideas on how to nourish ourselves and our families with stuff that is a) good, b) cheap and c) good for you. There are a lot of things that are cheap and good, but from a nutrition standpoint, are not particularly good for you. The point here is to hit the Nutritional Trifecta: Good, Good for you and Gives you ultimate bang for your nutritional buck.

For our last discussion of Nutritional Bang for the Dollar, see:
What’s It Worth To You?

Our first week’s topic is the old and new favorite: chili.

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