Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Never Say Die!

I am a true child of my Scottish heritage - regardless of my financial situation at the time, I am incapable of buying anything at a "standard" (i.e. not sale) price. Even if the item is one I have coveted for ages, or that is already a rather good deal to my fellow shoppers, or is being bought for me by someone else, the part of my brain still stuck in the "you're a broke student" mode keeps me from biting the proverbial bullet and actually taking it home. Granted, my mentality is not completely unjustified - though no longer a student, I am still (for the next little while at least) broke. Busy with projects ("working to work" as I call it), but broke.

Don't get me wrong - we were never a poor family, and my sister and I always had more than enough food, warmth and clothing. The money we had was channeled into the tuition fees for Montessori school (and it's uniforms) or saved up for special family trips like driving to Canada's East coast. Sure, we kids wanted the high-end brand name clothes, or the then-trendy N64, or day passes to Canada's Wonderland. But we came to realize the value of a dollar (thank you, chore-mediated allowance!), especially once the "all powerful" debit cards came into play. I still remember the shock and embarassment I felt after my first "debit" shopping spree, where I drained my 11-year-old self's live savings (about $130) to under $25 in a single afternoon and had a purchase declined. After that, I began to appreciate what power money had, what it took to make, save and grow it, and what purchases were worth spending on (as I soon found out - not many).

It's not all doom and gloom though. This uber-frugal mindset I've fostered over the years, plus the genetic "cheapness" code I've inherited from my Mom's side of the family, has led to some wonderful "use up" concoctions around here. I learned to sew on scraps of fabric that my Mom had left over after making a Halloween or school play costume. I grew up on almost exclusively home-cooked meals, with lunches packed for me every day by my parents, and birthday cakes baked and decorated at home (albeit from a box, can and tube). I learned from an early age how to make a scrambled egg, pancakes, crepes, bread and cookies, how to grow raspberries and tomatoes so I could devour them right off the vine. My sister and I were able to have more fun at our local park with buckets and shovels, or at home with our library of Mom's old storybooks, Barbie dolls (with mansions made by my carpenter Grandpa, furnished by Grandma) or an old chalkboard than we would ever have with the most expensive plaything.
Today, my cheapness frugality plays out in the gardening realm. Like you've seen with some of my previous garden-centric posts, I can't let any of the produce that we worked so hard to grow, from April seedings to mid-June thinning and finally August fruition, go to waste. We've just had our first kiss of frost, and there's no way we're getting any more sweet, red tomatoes from the backyard plants - but there were tons of green fruits hanging off the withering vines and I couldn't let them head to the compost. I knew there were a multitude of different ways to use the unripe gems (not the least being broiled on my favourite pizza!), so I figured "what the heck, I'll pick them and see what comes".

Well, dear reader (...Reader? Are there any of you out there?) I wound up with a lot more than I thought. Those things seemed to multiply under my fingertips, and even after using some in today's recipe the bulk of them are now taking up our large mixing bowl and an entire table. So you might see more than a few recipes for the little green men (or women, I can't tell tomato gender) in the coming weeks.

The first thing that I knew I'd be making with them though was never even a question. I've been a bit latent in posting this year's version of my Dad's all-time favourite pie filling, but when I had such a beautiful array of tomatoes to use I couldn't pass up a variation on my 2008 mincemeat! A few notes from previous years (especially last year) made their way in as well, along with a dash (okay, a lot) of boozy goodness (I misread my recipe and doubled the booze. Shh!). I can't wait to get my pie on this year!

"All In" Meatless Mincemeat 
Makes 9 cups, or 36 1/4-cup servings
3 large apples, diced
1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrot
1 medium beet, shredded
18 oz tomatoes (preferably green), chopped
juice and zest of one orange
juice and zest of one lemon
1 cup fresh (or frozen) cranberries
3/4 cup Demerara sugar
1 tsp stevia extract powder
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/3 cups raisins
4 oz dried apricots, diced
12 prunes, chopped
3/4 cup diced dates
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup currants
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp fresh-grated ginger
1/3 cup rum
1/4 cup amaretto liqueur
4 oz mixed nuts, chopped
  1. Combine all ingredients except the rum, amaretto and nuts in a large pot. Cover, and cook over low heat for 3 hours.
  2. Stir in the rum, amaretto and nuts, re-cover and cook over low heat 30 minutes.
  3. Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2" space.
  4. Process for 20 minutes in a water-bath canner. Alternatively freeze up to 1 year.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 135.0
Total Fat: 1.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 31.4 mg
Total Carbs: 30.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.6 g
Protein: 1.3 g


  1. I can see that more people are embracing frugality these days, but not necessarily as a lifestyle but as a lifeline. To me, being frugal is good. It means I am using my resources wisely and I am smart enough to know my priorities. :)
    Love the recipe, by the way! Sounds really flavorful!

  2. We've been ripening our green tomatoes in the basement. Works like a charm! Well... If you have a basement.


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