For the Love of TVP

tvpA long, long time ago, for a recipe far, far away, I searched high and low for an elusive ingredient: TVP. Having just begun my frugal journey, I had heard about this awesome vegetarian substitute for meat. It provided the protein and taste of meat, and yet it was much, much cheaper. It sounded wonderful. Unfortunately, none of the stores in my neck of the woods knew anything about it. I became disheartened, thinking that my burgeoning love affair with TVP would meet an end before it had even begun.

And then I asked about it in our local health food store. They directed me to the dry goods aisle, where I found a bin full of what appeared to be dry cereal. I purchased a small quantity, hoping that it would allow me to make frugal, protein-filled meals for my family.

My relationship with TVP grew but also met some bumpy spots. Here are some things that I discovered as I substituted TVP in my recipes:

  • Using TVP is quite simple. As I said, it appears to be a dry cereal, and so you will need to soak the TVP in hot water to reconstitute it before you add it to something like a meatloaf. It is perfect to use in soups, though, as the process of cooking the soup will give the TVP time to plump up.
  • Plain TVP can be flavored by using sauces or condiments. However, I have found that getting it to take on and keep that flavor can be difficult. Despite my use of spices and flavorings, everything still turned out bland.
  • Although I thought that the granola recipes using TVP would be great, they weren’t. My family couldn’t stomach the granola no matter how sweet it was. I decided to stick with oat-based recipes from then on.

Although my impression of TVP was a bit mixed at that point, I still continued to use it. Then something happened that would forever change my relationship with TVP. I found flavored TVP online. It was a gamechanger. This TVP was much easier to use and required no addition of spices or condiments. Too, it helped me to create tastier meals for my family.

Whether you add TVP to meat to extend its use or make a recipe all vegetarian, TVP can be a useful ingredient to have on hand in your pantry. It is a frugal way to add protein to your family’s meals, and it can be stored easily in its dried form. Maybe you too will find a love of TVP!

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Using Up Butternut Squash

usingupbutternutsquashOne of my weaknesses is planning for the use of various ingredients. With a small family, it can sometimes be difficult to utilize food products in a timely manner and not frustrate the taste buds of my family. I encountered again this weakness this week in my failure to use up the butternut squash that I cooked on Monday. Although I used one half of the squash in the soup that I made on that day, the rest of the squash still needed to be used in some meal.

Frustrated and lacking ideas, I did a bit of reading as far as freezing the squash. I found the information that I needed at this link. I followed the instructions, pureeing the squash and putting it in the container. While this was the first time that I have frozen squash, I hope that this will be useful information for the future. Too, by freezing the squash, we should have some time for our taste buds to readjust and crave the wintry goodness once again.

But before I put the container in the freezer, I scooped a bit of that squash out for use in my lunch, Butternut Squash and Pasta. This is a quick and easy lunch idea that can be quite handy for winter lunches.

So if you’re like me and get behind sometimes on your meal planning, then don’t be afraid to do a bit of research and try saving that food for another day. It can certainly prevent the ingredient from going bad in your fridge while you try to find an appropriate recipe. And it will keep your family happy in the meantime.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

spicybutternutsquashsoupThis morning I decided to bake a huge butternut squash that we purchased last weekend. As it was a rather large squash, I knew that we would be able to use it for multiple recipes. And what would be the first dish to utilize the cooked squash? I decided that it would be a spicy butternut squash soup, just the thing to warm us up in the cooler weather.

I began with the basic recipe for Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup Recipe. This seemed like a great beginning for our own soup, but with some alterations that fit our pantry—as well as my energy level. The result? It turned out to be a hearty, spicy soup that brings out the best of the squash.

Changes I Made to the Recipe

As I had already cooked the squash itself, I spooned the flesh of ½ of it into a crockpot. I then sauteed the carrot, ½ of an onion, 2 chipotle peppers in sauce, and garlic until tender. That was put in the crockpot as well.

I didn’t want to bother with a blender, so I knew it would be more of a stew than the creamy soup pictured in the recipe. I therefore added to the crockpot the following ingredients: 1 can fire roasted tomatoes (undrained), 1 can kidney beans, and broth. I also added some additional seasonings, such as garlic pepper, salt, and mixed herbs. All of that combined will cook in the slow cooker until we’re ready to eat.

Perhaps I’ll find one of those handy submersion blenders at the thrift store one of these days. Until then, I probably won’t bother putting soup in the blender just to make it creamy. To be honest, it’s just not worth the cleanup.

So is this frugal? You betcha. The only fresh ingredients—butternut squash, onion, and carrot—were all very cheap in the grocery store. Taking advantage of vegetables and fruits that are in season is certainly a great way to celebrate the cooler weather as we approach fall. And with some homemade bread, this soup will make a great dinner.