17 Free Cookbooks for Kindle

I bought myself a Kindle ebook reader last November and I often wonder what I ever did before I got it! In addition to buying ebooks for Kindle (often at a much lower price than the physical books would cost – without taking up space) I’m always on the look out for the Kindle freebies that pop up. This week I found a bunch of free cookbooks for Kindle. I make no guarantee that these items will remain free on Amazon, nor do I guarantee the quality of the books or recipes, but it’s always fun to see what you can find with the Kindle freebies.

If you don’t have an actual Kindle ebook reader you can download a free Kindle application that will work on your PC as well as for most tablets and smartphones.

Online Grocery Shopping – Is it really part of a Frugal Family Life?

I Don't Like to Do Groceries!
Grocery shopping. Blech. I don’t think I know anyone that doesn’t hate grocery shopping. I’m sure there are some people out there who enjoy it but I’m certainly not one of them. [Read more…]

Deviled Eggs – 12 Deviled Egg Recipes for Leftover Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs photo by Dystopos on Flickr

One of our favourite ways to use up leftover Easter Eggs is to make deviled eggs.

Deviled eggs are always a favourite around my house. My kids love them for picnics, potlucks, parties and snacks. Deviled eggs are quick and easy to make and there is an endless variety of recipes.

Tip: You can make any of the mayonnaise based recipes lighter by using light mayonnaise or mixing mayonnaise half and half with low fat (or no fat) yogurt.

12 Deviled Egg Recipes

  1. Special Deviled Eggs
  2. Classic Deviled Eggs
  3. Dijon Deviled Eggs
  4. Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs
  5. Spinach Deviled Eggs
  6. Spicy Deviled Eggs
  7. Tarragon Deviled Eggs
  8. Curried Deviled Eggs (my personal favourite)
  9. Hummus Deviled Eggs (no wait – this is my favourite!)
  10. Sun Dried Tomato and Chive Deviled Eggs (who says I need just one favourite?)
  11. Deviled Ham Deviled Eggs
  12. Scotch Eggs with Sausage (not eggsactly deviled but close)

Related post: Looking for another way to use up those leftover Easter Eggs? Check out 12 Egg Salad Sandwich Recipes.

Frugal Food: How Long Will Food Keep in the Freezer?

This is post #3 in the Frugal Food: Freezer series. Be sure to check out post #1 “Frugal Food: Foods You Can’t Freeze” and post #2 “Frugal Foods: How to Package Food for the Freezer“.

Frozen vegetables

While storing food longer than the times listed in the guide below won’t affect food safety it will affect taste, nutrients and texture of the foods so it’s recommended that you label all foods in your freezer with the name of the item and the date it was placed into the freezer.

I personally prefer and upright style freezer as it’s easier to organize and find things and there’s less chance that items will get buried at the bottom of the freezer never to been seen for years. Remember, it’s not frugal to freeze food if you leave it in there so long that’s inedible!

Fruits and Vegetables 1 year
Butter, salted 1 year
Butter, unsalted 3 months
Cheese 3months
Milk up to 6 weeks
Margarine 6 months
Egg, whites 3 months
Egg, yolks mixed with 1/2tsp salt per yolk 3 months
Fish, uncooked 2 months
Shellfish 2 to 4 months
Beef, uncooked, roast 6 to 12 months
Beef, uncooked, steak 6 to 12 months
Beef, uncooked, ground 3 months
Lamb, uncooked 6 to 9 months
Pork, uncooked, roast or chops 3 to 6 months
Poultry, uncooked, pieces 6 months
Poultry, uncooked, whole 1 year
Beans, Lentils or Rice, cooked 3 to 6 months
Casseroles 3 months
Cooked meats 2 months
Soups and Stews 4 months
Breads, yeast, baked or unbaked 8 months
Cakes, Cookies, Sweet Breads, Muffins 4 months
Pastry Crust, unbaked 2 months

Frugal Food: How to Package Food for the Freezer

This is post #2 in the Frugal Food: Freezer series. Be sure to check out post #1 “Frugal Food: Foods You Can’t Freeze“.

Plastic freezer containers
Wrapping and packaging foods for the freezer can seem intimidating at the beginning. Should you use butcher paper? Zippered freezer bags, or plastic storage containers? Which packaging should I use for which foods? How much food can I freeze at once?

First a few quick freezing tips:

  • Make sure the freezer is set at 0F or -18C or lower.
  • If you plan to freeze a lot of food at the same time turn the thermometre of the freezer to it’s coldest setting for the day before.
  • Don’t try to freeze to much at once. Try to freeze no more than 3lbs (1.5kg) of food per cubic-foot capacity of your freezer within a 24 hour period.
  • Freeze in usable quantities. If you have a household of 2 people it doesn’t make sense to freeze a container with enough to feed 8 people. Think about how you’ll use things before you freeze them and package accordingly.
  • Make sure you use only vaporproof/moistureproof packaging that is designed for use in the freezer. Packaging should be able to withstand freezing and thawing without breaking or cracking. If you choose glass containers make sure they are freezer-proof.
  • Square container take up less space and stack better than round containers.

There are two types of packaging for freezing foods: rigid (best for foods like soups, stews, casseroles, etc.) and flexible (best for firmer foods like fruits, vegetables, meats, etc.). Either type should be vaporproof, leakproof, durable and able to withstand freezing temperatures.

Packaging meat & fish for the freezer: While you can freeze meat and fish in their grocery store wrappings for short term freezing (up to 1 month) meat and fish are best wrapped in butcher paper to freeze. I probably should take a bunch of photos of the process of wrapping meat but I’m not one to reinvent the wheel if I don’t have to LOL. Here’s a great tutorial on wrapping meat for the freezer with nice illustrations.

Next we’ll talk about how long foods can be kept in the freezer before they start losing flavour, nutritional value and texture.

Frugal Food: Foods You Can’t Freeze

Freezer filled with foodOver the next few weeks Frugal Family Life will be doing a series on using your freezer to store food and save money.

I figured I’d start with a post on what not to freeze. For many years I was pretty much afraid to freeze anything that wasn’t actually bought in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store because I wasn’t sure what was safe to freeze and what wasn’t.

Over the years I’ve learned that there’s really not much you can’t freeze and I can honestly say that my upright freezer is the best investment I’ve ever made. It’s paid for itself several times over in savings over the years enabling me to take advantage of sales, freeze fresh produce (some that I’d grown myself) and allowed me to batch cook meals that could be reheated quickly on busy nights. I’d give up a lot before I’d give up my freezer!

So here’s a list of what you can’t freeze and why.

  • Cooked egg whites – they become rubbery and just unappealing. (Good news though. Uncooked egg whites freeze well!)
  • Mayonnaise – it separates when it thaws.
  • Sour Cream – it separates and becomes watery. (You can still use it if it’s well stirred into a recipe though. It won’t hurt you.)
  • Potatoes – they go dark and can be mushy. (I have seen mashed potato and scalloped potato recipes turn out fine after freezing though. Again – it’s not that it’s unsafe, more that it’s unappetizing.)
  • Crisp fruits and vegetables such as melon, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, etc. – they get really soggy and limp and not appetizing at all.

That’s it. Not all foods freeze and thaw with great results but pretty much anything you can think of can be frozen. Now it’s just a matter of defrosting your freezer, taking out the shrunken ice cubes and the freezer burned fish your Uncle Todd caught on that fishing trip 4 summers ago and start using that freezer to save money and plan great meals!

Next we’ll talk about how to wrap foods to keep them safe from freezer burn and odors.

Fresh Strawberry Peach Trifle

Fresh strawberry and peach trifle.

Strawberry Peach Trifle
This has been a favourite in my household for years. A great dessert for Canada Day, July 4th or other summer celebrations.

4 peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces or thinly sliced
2 1-pint baskets strawberries, halved or quartered (if large)
2 1/2-pint baskets raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups custard

48 purchased sponge-cake-type ladyfingers
1 cup cream sherry
3 cups chilled whipping cream
Additional whole strawberries (optional)

Mix first 5 ingredients in large bowl and toss to blend; let stand 10 minutes. Beat chilled cream in another large bowl until stiff peaks form.

Arrange 16 ladyfingers in 10- to 12-cup glass bowl or trifle dish to cover bottom. Using a pastry brush, generously brush ladyfingers with sherry. Top with 2 cups fruit mixture, then 1 cup custard. Repeat layering 2 more times with ladyfingers, sherry, fruit mixture and custard. Top with 3 cups whipped cream. Garnish with whole strawberries, raspberries and peach slices.

Mascarpone cheese or vanilla pudding may be substituted for custard.

Cutting Out Caffeine

Coffee Love

Coffee Love

I love coffee. I mean I LOVE coffee. Really. Beginning my freshman year of high school I have been a die-hard fan and total addict to the Goddess of Caffeine.

The smell.

The warmth in your hand as you clutch the cup.

The rich, strong flavour of a cup of strong black coffee. Mmm….

And yet…

I know that it’s not the best thing for me. Oh sure there are reports and studies that say caffeine is good for you. And there are studies and reports that say caffeine is bad for you. Either way, it’s time to break the chains of addiction once and for all.

I’ve become, over the years, a slave to addiction. I got to the point where I was making my coffee really strong, drinking it black, an average of two full pots per day. I was using coffee (and have been for 20 years) as a substitute for food, water, nutrition. It was nothing for me to be awake for the first 10-12 hours of my day existing on nothing but cup after cup of strong black coffee. I’d eat my first (and often only) meal of the day at supper time with the kids. My body has been in a constant state of famine as a result and I don’t eat much and when I do it’s not usually anything healthy.

Oh and you don’t want to be the man, woman, child or cat that stood between me and my and coffee. Trust me on that. Hell hath no fury like a woman who’s not had her coffee! Except…

Well, I’m the one coming between me and my beloved coffee. Once and for all.

So how does a twenty year, two pot a day, “jet fuel” strong coffee addict let go? Slowly. Carefully. And with a plan.

I can’t do the “cut out a cup a day” sort of thing. When you drink 2 pots a day you never really pay attention to how many cups you drink… just whether your cup is empty or full.  So here you have it…

Merlene’s Caffeine Addiction Solution:

  1. Start gradually cutting back your “allowed” hours for caffeine. Today maybe say.. No caffeine after 8pm. Tomorrow will be … No caffeine after 7pm. And so on. Get it so that you stop your caffeine intake one hour earlier each day until you are within 2 hours of your usual first cup of coffee. Once you’ve reached your quitting hour switch to water for the rest of the day. Every time you have an urge to pour yourself a coffee (or a Coke or whatever caffeine beverage is your downfall) replace it with a glass of water.
  2. Now you can take note of how many cups of coffee you have your first hour or two of the day. At this point you are going to cut back half a cup a day.  Until you reach the half cup per day point.
  3. If you’re anything like me… that “cup” you’re drinking from is HUGE. Now you’re going to move to a smaller cup. And half a cup of that.
  4. The next day you should finally just quit once and for all. If you think you need one more day  fine… but you’re at 1/4 cup today. That’s 1/4 of the small cup, kiddo… not the huge mug you’ve been used to.
  5. That’s it. You’re done with daily coffee. With daily caffeine.

Once you’ve been caffeine free for a week or two you can start having it again in very limited quantities. Consider it a reward. Have a cappuccino with friends on the weekend once in a while. Have an espresso and biscotti after Sunday brunch. Just don’t’ fall back into those old habits of daily caffeine. Keep substituting water for you daily caffeine and you’ll be healthier and happier in the long run.

And don’t ever suggest I switch to decaf. I might have to stab you in the throat with a stir stick. Just kidding. Sorta.
(Up until last week I was averaging a can of ground coffee or a pound of coffee beans per week. This is also a frugal post – I’m going to save at least $20/month on coffee and filters!)

Frugal Holiday: Chocolate Carrot Cake

Today is day two of Frugal Upstate’s Thanksgiving Mini Series and today’s topic is desserts.

This simple cake is the most requested recipe I’ve ever made. Family and friends rave about it and it’s not only simple to make but frugal as well. Even people who don’t like carrot cake love this moist, luscious cake.

Chocolate Carrot Cake

2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of salad oil*
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of cocoa
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
4 eggs
2 cups of  shredded carrots
1 cup flaked or shredded coconut
1/2 cup crushed walnuts (optional)

*I usually substitute 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of the oil. It significantly reduces the fat but keeps the cake moist.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour Bundt pan. In large bowl, mix 10 ingredients at low speed until well blended, constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Increase speed to high, beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. Add in carrots, coconut, and walnuts. Spoon batter into pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes; remove cake from pan. Cool completely.

The cake can be made up to 2 days ahead. Wrap well with cling wrap to keep it moist. It can also be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Drizzle Icing

1/2 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tsp orange juice
1/4 tsp vanilla

In a small bowl sugar, juice, and vanilla. Stir in enough additional juice to make a drizzling consistency. Drizzle icing from the back of the spoon onto the cake and allow to run down the sides.

You can garnish the cake with a sprinkle of icing sugar on top, or well drained mandarin orange slices.

Frugal Holiday: Beautiful Beet Soup

My friend Jenn over at Frugal Upstate is doing a week long mini-series “Thanksgiving – the Frugal Mini-Series” and while I’m Canadian and my Thanksgiving was a few weeks ago I decided to add a favourite fall soup for today’s topic of Thanksgiving side dishes. Be sure to visit Frugal Upstate every day this week to find more great Thanksgiving recipes, ideas for decorating and more.

This is a gorgeous beet soup. Full of colour and flavour.

It can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated or up to a month ahead and frozen to be reheated in a Crock-Pot or on stove before serving.

6-8 large beets (1.5 lb), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 yellow flesh potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 onion, chopped fine
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
salt & pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

In a large, heavy saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Cook beets, potato, onion, celery, and curry for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until onion is soft and translucent.

Add stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. You might find it easier to work in small batches rather than all at once, returning puree to a clean saucepan.

For a velvety smooth soup you could then take an extra step and pass the puree through a fine mesh strainer but it’s not required.

At this point the soup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

To serve, reheat on stove until hot throughout or in a Crock-Pot for 1-2 hrs on low, ladle into soup bowls, top with a spoonful of sour cream.

Makes 8 servings and can easily be doubled.