Sunday, January 27, 2008

Curry and Cabbage

But not curried cabbage.

While I am a big fan of frugal eating, I am also a big fan of local eating. These two desires often war with one another. I love the idea of eating local cheese, honey, and nuts. But they are more expensive.

We have been members of the local CSA program for many years. I think this is our 8th. Delicious, local, organic produce...but boy I have to work hard to make sure it doesn't get wasted.

I used some of the produce today to make stock.

We are having red cabbage and apples for dinner, along with chicken curry. Nothing local in the chicken curry.

Remaining items for the week from the CSA are broccoli and kohlrabi (tomorrow in stir fry). Lettuce, carrots, squash...and of course, the head of red cabbage makes about 8 servings. So we'll be eating that for awhile.

I have been focusing lately on weight loss...losing those last baby pounds. I have finally made it into the 120's (129.2), which is really nice!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pressure Cooker Mediterranean Rice and Chickpeas

Hey, I'm down to 131.4 pounds, yay! Only a few more to go to hit my goal.

This is a good one, and pretty quick:

Mediterranean Rice and Chickpeas (serves 5-6, though I think it makes 8 cups or so). Which is 5 WW points per cup.

1 large onion, chopped (0.20)
1 T. olive oil (0.10) - or use oil from sun-dried tomatoes.
3/4 c. dried garbanzos (0.28)
1.5 c. brown rice (0.35)
2.5 c. water
1/3 c. sun-dried tomatoes or kalamata olives (0.65)
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped (0.40)
1 tsp marjoram (0.10)
1 tsp rosemary (0.10)
1 bay leaf (0.05)
1/2 tsp oregano (0.03)
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1/4 c toasted slivered almonds to garnish

without the almonds: $2.53, 0.31 per cup

Rinse the beans, pick out any debris, put on to soak in the morning before you go to work (cover with 1 inch water).

Drain beans when you get home.

Saute onion in olive oil until soft, 5 mins.

Add water, be careful for sputtering oil. Bring to a boil. Add rice, chickpeas, herbs, bay leaf (but not the parsley or sun-dried tomaotes).

Lock the lid into place. Over high heat bring to high pressure. Lower heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 25 min. Remove from heat, allow pressure to reduce naturally for 10 min. Remove lid and stir.

If rice is not done, return lid and allow to steam for a few more minutes.

Stir in sun-dried tomatoes and parsley and fluff rice. Remove bay leaf, add salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds.

All told, takes about 45 mins, especially if you chop the onion the night before.

Adapted from Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Kitchen.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hanging out with Friends

Last night we had a couple of friends over for dinner. Pizza and salad...made homemade dough and sauce. I have to say the dough was really good. I prefer par-baking the crusts first because I don't have a pizza stone to cook on. For once, it came out pretty good. I par-baked at 400F for 15 min to 20 min. I think the temperature is the key. In the past I've used a lower temp. Didn't work out as well.

There was wine, yahtzee afterwards, all in all a good evening.
Tonight is spanakopita, roasted potatoes and salad.

30 oz frozen chopped spinach, about $3.00 (though I used two 10-oz packages with some frozen chopped kale from the CSA).
4 oz feta ($1.60)
1 cup chopped onion ($0.25)
16 sheets phyllo dough ($1.00)
1/2 bunch parsley (0.40)
2 eggs (0.24)

Total: $6.49 for 12 servings, or 0.54 per serving.

Roasted potatoes:
1 lb potatoes ($0.34)
canola oil

I also scored...went grocery shopping today for baby food (I know, not frugal) and found nonfat dry milk for $11 for what will make 5 gallons. Plus found dry chickpeas for 0.99/lb.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Off Topic - food storage

So I've already mentioned that people don't cook anymore...I know a lot of single folks with empty refrigerators, and I'm sure there are plenty of married-with-kids folks with empty fridges too. While I don't necessarily go along with the survivalists' idea of having 6 months to a year of food on hand, I do have about three months.

Why is it important to have food on hand? You never know when the fire, flood, hurricane, or tornado is going to come and strand you in your house. How do you feed your children? What if something else happens? Do you have friends and family who regularly check up on you? Perhaps you should.

This comes to mind as I recently read a story about a mother and son in Omaha, NE who were found dead in their apartment. The mother died of natural causes. The 21-month old toddler probably starved to death - there were indications that he was foraging for food. My own son is 21-months old, and I can't really keep myself from crying about that poor baby.

So. Tonight. I am moving some of my son's snack foods to the bottom drawer that he SO loves to get into. And maybe a water bottle or two. Because you just never know.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Cooking from Scratch

This may seem obvious (or not), but it is healthy and frugal to cook from scratch. But maybe not all that simple. I have several friends who insist that "by the time you buy all of the ingredients, it's cheaper to eat out". I have argued that while there are many reasons to eat out, don't fool yourself into thinking that money is one of them. Now, dishes...THAT'S a reason to eat out. I hate doing dishes.

Of course, it takes proper planning and the ability to cook from a pantry to really save money in the kitchen. And the more you cook from scratch, the better.

This week, my "from scratch" cooking included making my own yogurt and bread. I use a yogurt maker (working mom, so while I know you don't need one, it's just easier for me). I also use powdered milk, which you think would be cheap...but with prices going up, the milk I bought for $11.99 in July (to make 5 gallons) is now $14.99, 16.99, or 18.99, depending on the store. Of course that's more per gallon than I currently spend on milk, so I'm not buying it right now.

All in all, I can make 4 cups of yogurt for about a dollar. And here's where the money-saving idea of substitution comes in. I love cottage cheese. My favorite brand of cottage cheese (Trader Joe's) is also the cheapest. But what was only $2.59 last year is now $3.99, due to the increase in oil and dairy prices. That's for 4 cups. Since I can make yogurt for about 1/4 the price of that, I am eating yogurt not cottage cheese.

I also tried my hand at the "No Knead Bread" recipe in Mother Earth News this week. I have a few versions, including Cook's Illustrated and an internet version. It really was as easy as they say...about 5 mins to mix, 5 mins to fold over (the extra time is to avoid sticking), and 5 min to roll in a ball and let rise. Bake time is 45 min. My partial whole-wheat bread was tender on the inside with a good crust. I will be making it again this weekend, maybe a kalamata olive version to go with lasagna.

The cost of the ingredients for this bread was about $0.25, plus the cost of the cornmeal that I dusted it with, so maybe $0.35 for a 1.5 pound loaf. As far as snacks go, this ranks right up there with popcorn on cost and health (though you don't want to overdo on either - 6 servings per day of carbs for me.)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Quinoa Casserole

Ah, weekends and holidays...the days when I can spend a little more time cooking.

A few weeks ago, a walking friend named Amira decided to treat her fellow walkers to a delicious brunch. She is heading off to travel for awhile and wanted to say goodbye.

Amira is vegan, and the luncheon was a delicious vegan feast. I didn't stop talking about it for a week. All fresh and homemade, plenty of fresh herbs...her blog/website is listed to the left...Vegetarian Organic Life.

One of the items she served was a delicious quinoa casserole. I decided to make my own version from items on hand. Mine wasn't vegan, or even vegetarian, as I used leftover chicken stock to cook the quinoa. As my husband took my toddler to the hardware store, I did the prep work.

Here's an approximation of the recipe and pricing:
Quinoa casserole

1 cup dry quinoa (1.00)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (1.00)
1 cup dry black beans (0.35)
1 can creamed corn (0.50) - I didn't have regular or frozen
1 small can El Pato (0.69), in honor of my friend Maryanne, who loves the stuff
1 8-oz package tempeh (I finally found it in the store!) (1.99)
1 onion, diced (0.17)
2 cloves garlic (0.05)
1 T canola oil (0.03)
seasoning: bragg's liquid aminos or soy sauce. Cayenne, cumin, garlic powder...just roll with it.
4 oz shredded cheddar (0.50)
1 package cornbread stuffing mix (1.00) - had this lying around

1. Rinse quinoa. Cook in stock - bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook until liquid is absorbed.
2. Saute onion in canola oil until soft. Add crumbed tempeh and 2 cloves chopped garlic. Saute until it begins to brown. Add seasonings here and mix well.
3. Soak black beans 4-8 hours. Cook in pressure cooker for 3 min, allow pressure to reduce naturally. Drain black beans.
4. Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Layer:
black beans
tempeh/onion mix
El Pato
Stuffing mix

Bake in 400F oven for 30 min. You'll probably have to put a lid on half way in to prevent stuffing from burning.

This made a lot. Dinner and probably at least two days of lunch, maybe three. Not bad for about $7.38 (or 0.90 to 1.20 per serving). Added bonus was that our toddler really liked it too. We served this with sauteed mixed vegetables, guacamole, sour cream, and tortilla chips. All told, about $1.75 per person for dinner, including veggies and add-ons.