Chocolate Covered Strawberries

In our house we make chocolate covered strawberries for Valentine’s every year.  So many people ask for us to make them some thinking it is too timing consuming or tricky to do and honestly, they are one of the most simply things you can make.  There are a few things to know, so today’s post will be about the things some things might now.

The easiest chocolate to use is chocolate chips.  For every 1 cups of chips you use, add one tablespoon of shortening.  The shortening does not change the taste, nor does it make them greasy.  The shortening thins out the chocolate a bit and makes it much easier to dip the strawberries.

Your strawberries must be dry because water will seize your chocolate and then  can’t be used and will have to throw it away.  Melt the chocolate in the microwave, start with 45 seconds.  Stir the chocolate and then continue to put in for an additional 30 seconds at a time stirring well after each session.  When there are no lumps left in the chocolate it is ready to use.

If you find your microwave just won’t melt the chocolate for some reason, then chances are it has been exposed to moisture and while you can use the chips for cookies and such it is no longer usable to melt for dipping.

Watch my video to see how very easy it is to make chocolate dipped strawberries and make some for Valentine’s!

Pork Loin Freezer Prep

Freezer Preparation of Large Cuts of Meat

Your local grocery store of butcher will often have large cuts of meat on sale for much less per pound than a smaller cut.  In my area, this is especially true for large cuts of pork.

I am bewildered by the fact so few people take advantage of the significant savings available by purchasing this way.  This week I purchased a large loin of pork for just over $12 that will make a couple very good dinners for us, but even more meals for people with smaller families.

The trick to purchasing this way is to ensure that you package them properly for the freezer so they last for months without any damage.  I am a huge fan of vacuum packing for several reasons.  First of all,  if you vacuum package food it will last longer in the freezer, often twice as long as it prevents freezer burn and ice crystal formation.  Secondly it allows you to add spices to your meats and vacuum seal them together then, during the defrost process your meat continues to marinade resulting in a very flavorful cut of meat.

For pork cuts, such as in the video, I mix olive oil, rosemary, thyme, garlic salt and black pepper.  Using fresh rosemary is always preferable but when I don’t have any fresh I don’t hesitate to use dried rosemary.  I rub it all over the roast, then I place in the vacuum seal bag and seal it.  I then freeze it and when we want to eat it I allow it to unthaw in the fridge or if I am in a hurry a bowl of cold water.  I then allow it to come to room temperature before cooking it in the oven.  Some people prefer to sear it prior to putting it in the oven and that method works just as well.

Cook at 325°F until your meat thermometer registers at least 145°F (up to 160°F).

It takes just a few minutes to cut, season and vacuum pack a couple of roasts and not only do you save money, it allows you to season them in advance which results in a more flavorful roast.

Seasoning Recipe:

3 tbsp olive oil (vegetable oil if that is all you have)
3 tbsp  fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Mix ingredients together and rub over roast and then package and freeze.  You can double or half the recipe depending on the size of the roast you are preparin

This is the food saver I use to package things at home.  You can purchase it on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com

TV Dinners From Scraps

I love the Bento type boxes with the 3 different sections because they truly are a real money saver.

Now I know you have probably seen people post pictures of an afternoon spent in the kitchen making up a week’s worth of lunches that they appear to bring to work each day that week.  And you know, I’m really happy it works for them, but I can’t imagine myself eating rice, chicken and veggie for 5 days in a row.  I just really enjoy variety which is why in our house, leftovers in the fridge rarely get eaten.  If they do it is because I have created a new dish from the leftovers rather than a repeat of the meal before.

There are also plenty of posts about someone spending the day making various TV dinner style meals for the freezer for days when you don’t have time to cook, or you are eating alone, and those are great as well and something I do on occasion.

What I have done frequently of late though is making TV dinners from what I consider scraps.  Previously if all I had left from dinner was a little bit of mashed potatoes, I would just throw them away, but not any more!  What I will do is grab one of the 3 section freezer containers and fill up a couple of them with the leftover potatoes and pop them in the freezer.  Then, when I have a bit of left over meat I will add it to the containers with just potatoes and a bit of gravy.  At that point, if I don’t have leftover vegetables, I will just throw on some frozen corn that only takes 5 minutes of my time and add the vegetable and I now have complete TV dinners made from scraps I would have normally thrown out.

In the past 6 months I have probably made 50 TV dinners at least completely from scraps from meals made over several days all of which would have been tossed in the garbage.

When we want to eat one, it’s as simple as popping off the top, covering it with an ordinary microwave lid (the ones with the perforations to let steam escape) heat it up and dinner is served.  These containers are freezer, microwave and top rack dishwasher safe so super easy to use and very little clean up since you can eat out of the container if you want to.

Saving money this way is very easy and over time the savings can really add up.  If you find little ways like this to save money every month you will start to notice it.  The trick though is that if your grocery budget every month is less, take that money and put it towards something that matters no matter how little. So if you can spend $50 less a month on groceries, take it and make an extra payment on a debt to pay it off sooner, or save for a vacation or whatever.  You need to first find savings, and then do something constructive with them other than flitter it away. Financial stability makes life a whole lot easier!

You can purchase the containers I use on Amazon.ca as well as Amazon.com

Watch my video to see what I mean!

Mutant Turkey From Hell

christmas-tree

Anyone that has come to my house for turkey dinners are always impressed as I have to admit I always put on a great meal.  I buy huge turkeys and usually serve hot turkey sandwiches the next day and use the remainder to make Turkey Pies for the freezer.   My meat pies are not only a favorite with out family, but I also sell them and people just can’t get enough of them.

So by now you have probably figured out, the turkey is a big deal in my house.  Well, this year, I decided to just have my son grab a frozen turkey from Walmart.  I admit, that I have only purchased an occasional turkey from Walmart but time was short and the previous ones from there were just fine.  So my son grabs the largest turkey they have and throws it in the freezer.

On Christmas Eve morning I grab the turkey and throw it in a large white kitchen garbage bag and throw it in my sink and fill the bag with water to let it thaw.  The reason for the garbage bag is simple, my sink doesn’t hold water well and rather than filling it up every 10 minutes, I put what I want to thaw in a plastic bag, problem solved.

Well, to make a long story short, it was noon on Christmas Day when I finally got around to check out my bird close up.  My stuffing was all prepared, oven was on and I was just going to open the airtight packaging the turkey comes in to rinse off the turkey and prep it for the oven.

I took scissors and opened the package and to my horror a Mutant Turkey from Hell greeted me.  I grabbed the package and saw that it was a Utility Turkey, not Grade A!  However, that did not explain this turkey.  Utility Turkey’s can be missing a leg or wing, or have a small skin tear, that’s it. I will sometimes buy them during the year for pies when regular turkeys are very pricey.  Missing legs and wings don’t bother me too much as we never eat them, but I do like them just for presentation purposes.   They are not Mutant and the quality of the meat is the same as Grade A.

The Turkey that was before me had NO SKIN at all except for on the legs.  The legs were disjointed from the turkey itself and flopped to the sides, barely attached.  There were no wings.  The area were you stuff the turkey, didn’t exist, it was sliced down almost all the way to the back and the breast was barely attached to the rest of the turkey.  Lastly, there was a chunk missing out of the turkey breast, that I had hoped was not a bite from another animal.

Panic set in.  I could not stuff the turkey, because there was no skin, there would be nothing to baste the turkey, the entire top of the turkey would be dry, rock hard turkey without skin…and there would be no drippings from which to make gravy.

With no stores open and family coming from out of town, I had no choice but to cover the breast with foil and hope for the best.  Well, as you can probably guess by now, dinner was the worst holiday meal I have cooked in 30 years and would be in the Top 5 Worst Meals of All Time.  There was no gravy possible, the stuffing I had to cook outside the turkey was edible…barely and the turkey?  Oh that thing wasn’t edible.  As I was slicing it I was thinking “uh oh, this thing just isn’t slicing like turkey should.  Everyone took a slice and everyone took one bite and that was it.  Everyone was afraid to eat more.  It didn’t taste like turkey and the texture is best described as “spongey”

The best thing I can say about the meal is that it was over quickly.  Thankfully, we made the best of the situation and cracked jokes like “wow, that turkey didn’t give up without a fight” and “well you can tell who lost that fight” and other numerous jokes including the fact I tried to serve road kill for Christmas dinner.

After thinking about things over Boxing Day I decided to call Walmart about the turkey.  Government regulations are very strict when it comes to grading meat, and this turkey was not only not Grade A, but it was also not a Utility Turkey either, in fact, this turkey didn’t make any Grade and should never have been sold.  I thought it was important that they know their suppliers obviously had issues with quality control and when it comes to meat, that is NOT a great thing.

I wasn’t expecting much from Walmart, except for a half hearted apology.  After all, I no longer had my receipt and the turkey was promptly thrown in the trash.  I was however surprised by the reaction of the assistant manager.  She was very emphatic and sincere with an apology and very much wanted as much information as possible as to brand so they can contact the supplier.  They have even arranged to refund me the purchase price plus provide a gift card for ruining our Christmas meal.

Will anything major come of this with the supplier?  Probably not.  Will I ever buy a turkey from Walmart again?  No, never again.  In fact, I would be hesitant to buy any meat products from them unless of course it was something like name brand bacon that is sold everywhere else.  I will however, shop at Walmart as always for 2 reasons.  The first being is that they are close and about the only store in my city that is a low cost department store.  The 2nd being they accepted responsibility for a bad product without much proof of the product.

So in closing, Christmas, other than the meal was wonderful.  The Mutant Turkey is finally at rest and will be buried at the local landfill but will go to Turkey Heaven knowing it won, no one ended up eating him.  I hope he was an old bird, who fought to the very end.  He will actually be remembered with fondness and we will remember and speak of him every Christmas to come.  RIP Mutant Turkey.