Presto! Chango! Pickled beets and frozen potatoes


I don’t like canned beets. (I know, I know, those are potatoes in the pic. I’ll get to them in a minute.)

To me, they just taste plain bleh. I’ve never had fresh, out-of-the-garden beets, so I have no idea if that is anything even close to their natural flavor.

So why would I buy them? I wouldn’t. But when they come to us from our friendly food pantry, you don’t (to use a well-worn cliche) look a gift horse in the mouth.

So how is a person supposed to eat things they don’t like to – sounds like my kids when they were small – “I don’t ‘wike’ it!”

You get creative.

Just so happens I love pickled beets (thanks to my ex-mother-in-law Grace, for that!). We also like apple cider vinegar. So I made pickled beets by adding a little apple cider vinegar to taste and some aspartame. (I cut as much sugar out of my diet a few years ago when my doctor told me my mom and grandmother both gave me a family gift – diabetes).

Yes, I’ve heard the arguments against aspartame, but this blog is not about that. Well maybe in a way it is. Yes, it costs more than sugar. But I buy the cheapest I can find (always did even before SNAP) and it costs me $2.14 per box of 200 packets. As far as health-wise, almost all foods have earned some kind of derogatory comment from someone.

And what is that old adage? Everything in moderation?

Anyway, we had those pickled beets tonight with the rest of others leftovers for dinner including some extra potatoes I had frozen couple of months ago. Before that experience in cooking self-tutelage, I had never known what blanched anything was – after all, who blanches food today? My bet is mostly older generations still might. But with all our technologically produced and preserved foods, no one really needs to do that any longer.

Except SNAP recipients.

If they want to preserve the assistance they’ve received. And this recipient does as much as possible to extend the life of the gifts we are given.

Thank goodness for the technology of the Internet! My own personal library at my fingertips.

We often get multiples of goods when visiting the food pantry. And we have some of the best local farmers around, who donate produce to the food pantries. So it’s very easy to have too many of one food item, that is difficult for a two-person family to eat in a timely enough fashion to prevent them from going bad too soon.

I’ve gotten many five-to-10 pound bags of potatoes from the pantry before and even though I would never buy that many at once, I’m not going to quibble over a farmer’s gift of lovingly tended, fresh produce.

Another drawback is that a lot of time, products are either close to their shelf-life expiration date or have passed them altogether. Ninety-nine percent of the foodstuffs are still good to eat, but it needs to be done pretty quickly after getting them home. Or, if you cannot, you preserve the items.

What? You don’t know about freezing fresh potatoes? Easy peasy.

You’ve got to blanch (there’s that word again) the potatoes before you freeze them. Blanching is a cooking process wherein the food substance, usually a vegetable or fruit, is plunged into boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water (shocked) to halt the cooking process. (Thank you Wikipedia!)

You need to decide how you will want to prepare your potatoes ahead of time though, as the brief boiling water period changes with preparation methods. Potato shreds cook far faster than whole, unpeeled potatoes. Then of course, there is defrosting the frozen potatoes.

Since I’d made whole, peeled potatoes, when I defrosted them (oh, I freeze in freezer bags – takes up less space and is moldable!) they were sitting in the bit of water that each potato had within it prior to freezing. I thought about frying them.

Mmm. Fried potatoes are the best!

But what I did instead, to keep them true to form and prepare them with less fuss, was to heat them in the microwave, in a bowl with a paper towel on top to allow the steam to escape. You need to watch how long you do this though, as it is very easy to end up with dried out potatoes.

Ours turned out just a little dryer than boiled spuds and were great with margarine and mashed. I was pretty proud of those potatoes, I tell you, and my pickled beets. Image They both went well with the chicken cutlets we had, which went farther than normal because I’d cut each large one in half, and one of my faves, green bean casserole.

Yum. Almost like Thanksgiving.

(BTW, SNAP needs kudos here: I bought the chicken, cream of mushroom soup and onion rings). The image here is from Betty Crocker, but you can also find other recipes depending on what ingredients you use including French’s Fried Onion Rings, or Del Monte cut green beans, among others.

In my honest opinion, thanks to SNAP and our food pantry, every meal is Thanksgiving, no matter what we are eating.

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About GMFarthing

Gina Farthing is a freelance journalist, writer and graphic designer. She earned her BFA majoring in graphic design and minoring in advertising, marketing and business communications. Gina has worked in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia as a copy editor, ad designer, features editor, reporter, website designer, interim city editor, graphic designer, newsletter editor and photographer for the last 18 years. She has produced various communications materials for local, national and international academic, governmental, public and private organizations, including for news media and public broadcasting service audiences. Prior to going into business for herself, Gina’s most recent employers included. Her work encompassed publications such as The Waynesboro News Virginian, the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, the Reidsville Review, Eden Daily News, Danville Register & Bee, the Draft, Rocktown Weekly, Shenandoah Journal, North Fork Journal, the Shenandoah Valley Business Journal, The Valley Banner, Real Estate Weekly and Bloom magazine.
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