Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sick sick sick

Sorry for the no posting. I even had this great stew from thanksgiving turkey and a bunch of other stuff that I made last Sunday that I was going to share. But I don't see the point now since all I've got is a picture, and I don't remember exactly what is in it. Turkey, potatoes, tomatoes, bean. Other stuff. Crockpot. Kinda chili-like.

I am lucky that my spouse still remembers how to cook. Esp this week. Time to get more sleep before the boy wakes us up at 6 am for presents.

On a positive 3lbs in four days.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tangerine Jamalade

Pardon for not posting for awhile. Busy, tired, under-the-weather.

One tool in the box of the frugal cook is preservation. Freezing, canning, drying... I have used all three now and then. Probably in that order.

For freezing, I often freeze surplus CSA or farmer's market finds. Fruits (strawberries, blueberries) and vegetables (steamed kale, collards, garden fresh tomatoes - use only cooked).

For drying, it is mostly herbs right now. I don't have a dehydrator (anymore anyway), so I tend to dry herbs by...letting them sit on the counter until they are dry. Very scientific. :)

For canning, my experience is limited...sort of. I grew up in the country of western PA. We had a large-ish garden and an acre. So as a pre-teen and early-teen, I spent the summers "putting up" with my mom. So much so that one summer, I had the dill pickle, green bean, and strawberry jam recipes memorized. I remember it being fun. Then again, I would help the neighbor do her laundry in a tub with a "wringer" to dry them out from wash to rinse, so take that with a grain of salt.

As an adult, I started with freezer jam. It's easy, it's good, it uses a LOT of sugar. Last year, we graduated to making strawberry jam in the water-bath canner. We only made a few pints, and they were gone lickety-split.

This year, our teeny tiny tangerine tree in the back gave us a bumper crop of tangerines. That my spouse decided to pick almost all at once, right before he left on a business trip. The thought of doing anything with them while working full time and doing double-duty at home was too much.

But then he came back. Sick. Wait a few more days. In the meantime, my boss brought a bumper crop of tangerines from his tree. I swiped a couple of pounds.

I decided to make tangerine marmalade. I looked up several recipes. The one that I liked the most was here. But I also looked here and here. I have the Ball Blue Book and the instructions that came with the pectin recipe. Which ended up being very helpful. Marmadale is not supposed to need pectin, because there is plenty of pectin in the peels of the fruit. But despite boiling our mixture for an hour and half, it wasn't "setting", so we added pectin. Which clumped. So we used the immersion blender. Which pulverized our peels. Which is why my friend Angela dubbed it "jamalade".

As much as it was a lot of work - 2.5 hours on Friday night, chopping the fruit, and 2.5 hours the next day, cooking the mixture and canning - we both felt proud of ourselves. There's some bit of satisfaction with taking food from your own tree and turning it into something yummy.

So here goes:

Tangerine Jamalade:
8 lbs tangerines: $ 0
1 grapefruit (we had it): $0
1 lemon: $0
14-16 cups sugar: $3.28
1 package Pomona pectin: $2.50

Total: $5.78 for 14 pints of jamalade, or $0.41 per pint. Plus the cost of the jars, which is about $0.90 each. You can reuse the jars, but that doesn't work if you give some of the stuff away. Which we do.

You can see that if you have a free source of fruit (or cheap in season), it can be worth it to can it. Especially if you live somewhere where produce is scarce in the winter. (I don't.)

Peel the tangerines. Dice small, painfully, so as to avoid the seeds, until you get through 8 lbs and realize that you only found 3 seeds. Promise next time you are going to use the food processor, as a couple of the recipes recommended. Slice the peel.

Place the fruit and peel with 6 cups water. No wait, that wasn't quite enough. I used closer to 8 cups of water in my largest pot. Let soak 12-18 hours.

Add sugar. Here's where it's tricky, because a lot of recipes say one cup per pint of fruit mixture. Now the original recipe said about 13 cups for 8 lbs tangerines. But I only had 7 pints of fruit mixture. Until I realized that the graduated lines on the side of my pot was for QUARTS not PINTS. Then, the 14-16 cups makes more sense.

Cook the sugar and fruit until boiling. It should get to about 220F, so it boils and starts to thicken. Ours didn't really. Some reading I've done suggests that marmalade will thicken in the jar over a few weeks. I didn't want to take that chance. So we added the pectin. The Pomona pectin recipe for marmalade actually suggests using pectin (of course it does, they are selling you pectin). Most others don't. But you are supposed to add it with the sugar. Presumably, if you do that, it won't form little dry balls of pectin. Ours did (hence the immersion blender).

Meanwhile, sterilize the jars and the lids. You don't want to boil the lids, just simmer. This is where I now remember that canning takes all four burners. One for the fruit, one for the boiling jars, one for the canner, and one for the lids.

When everything is ready, start pouring your fruit into your jars. We used a big funnel and the pyrex 2 cup measuring cup. Wipe the rim of the jar, and place the lid on top. My tweezer skills from work come in very handy here - getting the lids out of the simmering water. Screw on the top. Finger-tight. Remember to use an oven mitt, and don't forget to tighten it. We had one jar that we didn't tighten. It's runny.

Place in boiling water bath and can for 10 minutes. Remove to cool on the counter on a towel. Repeat with remaining fruit. Feel proud. Enjoy on bread.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is it no wonder that I'm confused?

Here are a few of my new favorite blogs:

Penniless Parenting (cooking, bulk buying, food storage, rock bottom prices)
Broke Foodie (shops once every three months, and uses her pantry the rest of the time)

The Everyday Minimalist (who only has just enough in the fridge to last the weeLinkk)

There are aspects of both approaches that I find appealing. Having food on hand so that I don't have to go grocery shopping, and saving money by buying in bulk = goood.

But planning exactly one week's meals and not having to dig through this and that to find what I'm looking for, only to realize that I'm out = also very appealing.

But they are polar opposite ways of doing very similar things.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Curried Cabbage

Sometimes, the essence of frugal and simple cooking is in what you DON'T do, not what you do actually do. Case in point: traveling. My husband travels. Not a huge amount, but still. It's pretty difficult to try and hold down a full time job and be a single parent, even if only for a day or two. I'm expected to work 40 hours per week (actually, I'm expected to work closer to 50, but good luck with that). But on travel days, with drop off AND pick up at school, I can only be at work from 8:30 to 4:30 pm. Which makes the math hard on getting in 40 hours, and makes me tired.

Last week, when my spouse traveled, I did no cooking. Really. I'd made a couple of items over the weekend - caponata and eggplant curry. And that's what my son and I ate for the week. The cabbage languished in the fridge - why make something special for only two? As my husband traveled again this week, I though about doing the same thing. I made turkey alphabet soup (for the sick husband) and homemade bread on Sunday. So, why not? Then I remembered the languishing cabbage. And the fact that when I go really "simple" like that, my veggie intake suffers, and this doesn't make me feel very good. My digestion suffers.

Last night I pulled out the cabbage and threw some stuff together. It was pretty delicious. There's a little bit of uncooked cabbage left, two nights in a row is pushing it for me as a single parent. Tonight, it's frozen veggies. And more soup and bread.

Curried cabbage
1 T canola oil: 0.03
1/2 onion, chopped: 0.10
1 lb chopped cabbage: 0.40
1 clove garlic, minced: 0.05
1/4 tsp EACH cumin, turmeric, coriander: 0.05
1 T Bragg's liquid aminos: 0.10
juice of 1 lime: 0.20
1 tsp sugar: 0.01
Total: $0.95 for 4 servings, or $0.24 per serving.

Saute the onion in the oil until brown. Add the garlic and spices and saute 30 secs. Add the rinsed cabbage with the water still on the leaves and the Bragg's. Cover, reduce heat and cook about 5-10 min, or until soft.

Remove lid and turn up the heat to get some browning action (10 min). When almost done, sprinkle on the sugar and squeeze on the lime. Stir, cook 2 more min and serve.

On a side note, I discovered kabocha! Yum! Better than butternut even. After reading about it from HEAB and others, I had to try it. (It was on sale).

And, I had a delicious salad at some point.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Eggplant and Potato Curry

Finally, a delicious recipe that I can take credit for. Kind of. You see, there's this little Indian restaurant here with a great eggplant curry dish. I haven't eaten there in at least 5 years. But for about that long, I have wanted to try eggplant curry. Now, considering how many vegetarian/vegan/Indian cookbooks I have, you'd think I'd find a recipe easily. Not so. In the end, I found a vegan eggplant stew, an "Indian eggplant dish", and one other eggplant and potato dish in various cookbooks. I decided to make it vegan and use only the items that I had. And I wanted to have a tomato based curry.

This recipe is basically a combination of the three. I used the spices that I had, the ingredients that I had and like. And ... it was very tasty. My husband said "this is great!" unsolicited. Not that he doesn't appreciate my cooking normally, but it's nice when he pops out with a compliment on a new dish.

We ate this over cooked brown rice and quinoa, and topped it with avocado. I had a feeling that it would be better with something creamy/ avocado, yogurt, eggs, or nuts. And I got a bunch of delicious avos at the farmer's market this week.

Eggplant and Potato curry
4 T canola oil: 0.16
1 chopped onion: 0.18
1 eggplant, diced in 1/4 to 1/3 inch cubes: 0.90
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.10
1 T fresh ginger, grated: 0.05
1/4 tsp turmeric: 0.05
1/2 tsp garam masala: 0.05
1/4 tsp chili powder: 0.05
1 tsp cumin: 0.05
1 lb potatoes, diced small: 0.10
1 14oz can diced tomatoes: 0.58
1/2 tsp salt
Total: $2.27 for 5 generous cups, or $0.45 per generous cup.

Saute onion in 1 T canola oil until soft, and then add garlic and ginger and saute one more minute.

Add the spices and cook another minute. Or, forget to do that like I did. Add the eggplant and 1/4 tsp salt and the rest of the oil, and cook for 5 min. Add the water, reduce heat, and cover. Then remember that you forgot the spices. Add the spices, stir, and cook, covered, 20 min.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes and steam (I did in the microwave) until cooked.

Puree the tomatoes and add to the eggplant after the 20 min are up. Add the potatoes. Cover and cook 10 more min or until potatoes are fully cooked. Add the 1/2 tsp salt.

We served this over rice and quinoa, which was $0.85 for 4.5 cups, or $0.19 per cup. I generally eat 1/2 cup, spouse eats 1 to 1.5 cups. The avocado for the topping was $1.05

All told, this will be 2-3 meals for two and a half people, for $6.27, and that includes the three avocados.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Take a Shopping Trip with Me

My shopping habits change with the year and the season. During the CSA season (now 46 weeks long), I always pick up our fresh veggies on Thursday after work. (except next year, I think I signed up for Tuesday. After 10 years on Thursday, how much do you want to bet I'll forget the day?)

When my son was in daycare, I would often shop once per week at Tri County Produce because it was close to his child care provider, and had very good prices. When I was working Sundays, I would hit the farmer's market at lunch time near work. The Saturday farmer's market is one of the largest and is my favorite, but during the year or so that I was training for half marathons or triathlons, I always almost missed it.

When I worked part time, I shopped several days per week as I needed things, because I simply had more time. When I went back to work full time and got tired of that, I decided to only shop once per week (not counting the CSA pick up and farmer's market). When that got to be too stressful, I took a page out of some others' books (those who shop once every month or two or three), and attempted to shop only every 2 weeks. My thought was that I still had the CSA to pick up every week for vegetables, and there was now a farmer's market at my son's school on Wednesday, so I could shop without an extra trip.

I found the challenges to every 2 weeks were milk and fruit. It's not that if I ran out of something else, I couldn't work around it. I have a lot of practice with that. No bread for sandwiches or toast? Eat oatmeal or rice or pasta or soup. Milk does not stay fresh for 2 weeks. I know that you can freeze it, but I wasn't able to find 1/2 gallons or organic milk in the plastic jugs, and I didn't want to attempt to freeze paper cartons. And we eat a LOT of fruit. I eat 2-4 pieces a day and the spouse and child eat 1-3 pieces each. Our CSA supplies little fruit (some weeks, none at all), and the farmer's market choices are heavily dependent on the season (as expected). The market at my son's school is very small (1/8th the size of the Saturday one), with few vendors. I found myself having to shop at least once a week for milk and fruit, so I gave up the "every 2 weeks" shopping pretty quickly. I think I lasted 6 weeks.

The frugalness of my shopping trips has varied over the years and months too. A lot of frugal shopping and cooking habits can be learned and practiced bit by bit. Using a price book. Shopping loss leaders. Buying (and cooking) in bulk. Putting up "excess" (yours and friends'). Avoiding convenience foods. However, like healthy eating habits, it's pretty easy to find yourself drifting away from the good habits over time. One holiday party here and a pizza lunch at work there, and you find yourself hitting the bread or chocolate or wine a bit too much. Likewise, a week or two of craziness at work, a sick kid, or a traveling husband can mean you find yourself ordering pizza more often, or not using your price book, or buying convenience foods, or shopping at only one store because it's easier than shopping at three.

My shopping habits have also changed because of my reading habits. What to Eat, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Eat for Health, The China Study etc... now I purchase organic dairy whenever possible. We eat less meat (a LOT less) and buy organic and free range (local when possible). We eat about 5-10 lbs of meat in a typical month (for a family of 3). We try to eat organic for the "dirty dozen" fruits and vegetables also.

"Back in the day" before I embraced the more-organic path, and when I was working part time, I would use cash to shop and could feed us for $70/week plus $20 for the CSA. We ate more meat, I shopped more often at Tri County, and my son was mostly fed on breastmilk and baby food. I sometimes think longingly of those days of shopping aggressively and cooking from scratch 5 days a week (with leftovers on the other two days). But my shopping and eating habits have had to change for my own sanity's sake.

So, frugal or not by your standards, here's a day (sort of) in the life of my family's shopping habits. I was able to shop myself (no kid), which was relaxing.

At the Wednesday farmer's market this week, I discovered something dangerous. The hummus guy. Oh my goodness. I was shopping for my son's school snack for the next day. I like making my own hummus, but there's that time factor again.

Weds Farmer's market: $15
3 tubs of hummus: $13
1 lb broccoli: $2

Weds Grocery store: $9
crackers and baby carrots

Saturday Farmer's Market: $34.50
raw almond butter: $8 (this stuff is GOOOOOD)
10 lb bag oranges: $6 (great deal! and they keep pretty well in the fridge)
3+ lb avocado: $5 (from the best avocado ranch around)
1 ripe avocado: $1.50 (from a different vendor)
2 heads lettuce: $2
24 oz honey: $9
2 lb carrots: $3 (vs. 33cents a pound at Tri County. Not the frugal choice, but they are tasty)

Contrast these prices (some good, some not great) with Tri County Produce (location of origin listed).
Total Tri County: $14.82
yellow onions (USA) at 0.33/lb
kabocha squash (USA) at 0.79/lb (oops, they charged me for acorn)
organic pink lady apples (USA) at 1.39/lb (best price I've seen all year for organic)
cabbage (USA): 0.49/lb
poppy and sesame seeds: 0.69/ea
celery (USA): 0.79
red bell pepper (Mex): 0.49/lb
eggplant (Mex, though the label on the shelf said USA!): 0.99/lb
soda (bad Marcia): $1.59

I read recently that our poor farmers feed our rich people and our rich farmers feed our poor people. I wish I could remember where. Probably from a link from another site, like Casual Kitchen. When you compare our farmer's market prices vs. our store prices, you can see that is true.

Trader Joe's: $56.94
drinks: prosecco, limade, grapfruit soda (for a party)
sparkling water, apple juice (for home). Yeah, I pay for bubbles.
milk (1 gal, leaking), 2 kinds of yogurt (32 oz each) - I haven't made my own in awhile
fruit applesauce pouches (a jar would be better, but it's a treat for my son)
olives, capers, pickles
whole wheat penne and fettucini, bowtie pasta
bananas, gorgonzola, sour cream, bread

So, there you have it. $115.44 for the week. And we ordered pizza one night.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Roasted Vegetables

Ah, there is something about the cold weather that just makes me want to roast stuff. I love roasted vegetables. The problem with them is that when the weather is warm, you just don't want to turn on your oven.

The weather is often warm in So Cal.

Still, I've got great recipes for roasted cauliflower, roasted root vegetables, roasted potatoes. I use "recipes" lightly because with the exception of the cauliflower, the recipes are "salt, pepper, oil".

I experimented a bit this week because I still have a lot of that 10-lb bag of potatoes for a $1. I also still had some green beans. I wonder if you can roast green beans?

Turns out you can. And later this week, I repeated the experiment with the potatoes, green beans and onions, and I tossed some broccoli in there too.

I do have a little trick to make it go faster: Pampered Chef has this great little black micro steamer that I LOVE. I love it so much I have purchased the larger size as gifts for friends. It microwaves vegetables quickly and perfectly. Then the oven is just the browning part. These days I am making two trays. We eat a LOT of vegetables in this house. Still with two trays, there were only enough leftovers for one lunch (mine).

Roast vegetables: (amounts are just what I had)
1.5 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced into 3/4 inch cubes: 0.15
1/2 lb green beans trimmed: 0.35
1.3 lb broccoli, cut into florets and the stems peeled and diced: 2.00
1/2 an onion, sliced: 0.12
1 Tbsp canola oil (yes I measure this out because I'm trying to lose weight): 0.03
seasoned salt (homemade) to taste

Total: $2.65. The broccoli was from the farmer's market.

Use the microsteamer to steam the veggies. I did it as I went:
green beans: 1.5 min
broccoli: 2.5 min
potatoes: 4 min

Put in a bowl with the spices/seasoned salt and canola oil and toss.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment (a nod to the spouse who does the dishes). Spread evenly.

Bake at 425 for 20 min. Stir. Bake another 10-15 min.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Failure to Thrive

My pretty little delicata and butternut squash plants started off so lovely. And now, they are shriveling. Why??


And TODAY, my biggest butternut was missing! A critter took it! Hmmph.

Friday, November 26, 2010


For the first time ever, we had a small Thanksgiving. Just the three of us. And it was nice. We pulled out the fine china and crystal. Cooked a small meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, and homemade rolls. Hung around the house, went to the park, and cleaned out the master bedroom closet. Here comes freecycle!

First, a gorgeous salad with beets, blue cheese, toasted walnuts, avocado, pomegranate seeds, and a delicious raspberry balsamic vinegar I got from the winery.

Next, the turkey and homemade rolls.

The table:

We also made coconut lime snowballs, from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I won't post the recipe here (you'll have to buy the book, or if you are an online member, the recipe is here). The recipe is also here (without a reference to the original, but who knows how she got it, maybe it was written on a 3x5 passed down by a relative):

I could have saved some money by buying butter in bulk and flour on sale, but I try to stick to unbleached flour, and couldn't find that on sale.

Coconut lime snowballs:
2.5 c. flour: $0.51
3/4 c. sugar: 0.20
2 sticks butter: 1.75 (yeah, I know, not exactly "healthy", but better than storebought anyway)
2 tsp vanilla: 0.30
1 c. shredded coconut
juice of 2 limes: 0.38
3 Tbsp cream cheese: 0.23
1 c. powdered sugar: 0.50
Total: $4.37

This makes about 38 cookies. Or $0.12 per cookie.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving on a budget

If you are here to find out how to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people for 20 bucks, look no further.

No really, look no further. I can't help ya. You might want to check out The Complete Tightwad Gazette. Or the Economides family's newsletter. Or a number of frugal blogs out there, that show you how to hunt down the $2, $5, $8, or $0.29/lb turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas and describe how to store them in your deep freezer to eat them all year.

You see, this year, I took the leap. Last year, we didn't even make a turkey (we had a few not-so-successful turkeys in a row). This year the leap was made to local, organic, free range turkey, based on the recommendations of TWO friends. (Michelle and Kelly, you know who you are.)

The local farm was Healthy Family Farms, and their turkey is a pretty reasonable $4 a pound. Reasonable for local and free-range, that is. It also means that even a small 13+ lb turkey is $56.

Does it matter that the 10-lb bag of potatoes was only $1? Green beans for $0.69/lb? No, not organic this year, but you have to pick your poison, as it were. With a $56 turkey, there wasn't a whole lot of room for the sides.

There have been quite the sales this week on canned vegetables and fruit also. Now, while I tend to be a bit of a vegetable "snob" (living in So Cal with daily access to farmer's markets and farm stands can do that), I am also a working mom. So the occasional can of green beans in the pantry is very useful for those days when you are out of the fresh stuff and can't stomach a trip to the store.

On the menu:
Turkey (brined and cooked in a bag)
red leaf salad with beets, pomegranates, radish, walnuts, blue cheese
garlic and buttermilk mashed potatoes
homemade rolls, if we get around to making them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tacos, Pasta, Soup

This was the camping weekend. We were going to drive about 30 minutes north and camp out over the weekend. Unfortunately, I looked at the weather. Possible rain. So we canceled. Ate the $15 cancellation feed. Good thing. We got dumped on, and we had thunder and lightening. And my son came down with a fever. I can't imagine sleeping in a wet 3-person tent in the rain, with a sick kid. Well, at least we would have been close to home.

So Saturday night was taco night. Now, tacos are pretty easy, but still a lot of work:
homemade corn tortillas
cooked fresh tongue-of-fire beans (shelling beans)
shredded radish (they're pink!)
shredded cheese
salsa and sour cream
diced avocado

and I sauteed up some fresh green beans (for only $0.69 a pound!!)
and roasted potatoes ($1.00 for 10 lbs!)

Lots of little things to cook. With only a little bit of leftovers.

Sunday was the day that I was going to make soup for dinner. But my child was feeling sick, so I made the soup for lunch instead. The stock was homemade chicken stock (that I made in the crockpot on Saturday). I added a bunch of vegetables - onions, celery, summer squash, frozen mixed vegetables, barley. Herbs and pesto. There was a ton of leftovers and my son ate a whole bowl.

Dinner then was egg noodles with mushrooms, onions, canned salmon, in a homemade nonfat cream soup mix-type thing. And salad. This dinner - I winged it. And we have a ton of leftovers for lunch this week. It was pretty good. Needs more salt though.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Roast chicken, succotash, and pasta

Not all on the same night. This is what happens when you don't have time for regular posts.

We had some friends over for dinner on Saturday. I was going to make my standard "roast chicken parts" from organic, free-range chicken. But, the store was out. So I bought a whole organic free-range chicken, and roasted that. I say "my standard" because I really don't cook meat a lot. I've managed to figure out how to not ruin chicken (baking/roasting), salmon when I get it from the neighbor (pan-frying) and beef (in stews). I generally pull out this expertise when friends visit. Because normally? I'm happy with beans, rice, and vegetables. Which we ate a lot of this week.

My favorite roasted chicken recipe is here, and it's cooked on a bed of veggies. Now, the veggies usually get very cooked (aka, almost burned). And this day, well, I wanted to cook some more pumpkin muffins, which required a lower oven temp, so I went with that. This meant the chicken took 10 mins longer, but still was tasty. I had two small butternut squash, so we cooked the chicken on a bed of squash and onion. Boy, was that squash good. My friends liked it too "it's tasty - oh wait, it was the bed of the chicken". Yep, you got it, soaked in chicken juices. When you buy whole organic chicken at the farmer's market or the stores here, you get the giblets too, which is awesome for me. My friend loves the neck and I'm a big fan of the liver. I saved the carcass for stock. I mean, if I'm going to eat an animal, I don't want to waste anything.

Remaining food for the week includes a homemade succotash of a sort. The lima beans, green onions, carrots, and zucchini were all from our CSA. We ate a lot of pinto beans, then I made a pasta on Wednesday. I used whole grain pasta and frozen veggies, and the PMS told me to make a cream sauce. So I dug out my weight watchers cookbook and made a slightly more-waist friendly alfredo sauce than the traditional drenched-in-butter type.

The last week of the CSA was today. We got kale, lettuce, radishes, pumpkin, garlic, zucchini, cucumber, oranges, and tongue of fire beans. Don't feel sorry for me though, because the new season starts in 6 weeks. Yep, a 46 week CSA. I love California.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vegan Pumpkin Muffins and Work-Life Balance

So, as most working moms know, we tend to have issues from time to time with work-life balance. Truly, it's not just moms. It's dads, and non-parents as well. Whenever you are deciding how much time to spend...working, sleeping, exercising, cooking, being with family and friends, there is going to be some push-pull going on. In my case, always the pull from work as I push them back.

My work hours have gotten steadily longer over the last year. Where once I left at 4 pm, now it is 4:30 pm. And the pull gets worse. I've had folks ask why I don't work after 5. I've been asked to work weekends (on a regular basis, from home. I'm not talking about the "emergency" stuff.) I've been asked at 4:30 pm to do "just this one more thing". Of course I say no because I have to pick up my kid. My explanation, of late, has been of the "it's $1 per minute for every minute that I am late picking up my son from school" variety. Now, my girlfriends get offended by that answer and think that I should just say "no, I'm a mom, my kid comes first." Well, duh. That's the real answer. I'd rather spend more time with my kid. Yeah yeah. While that is the truth, I have to face facts here.

I am an anomaly. I am the only full-time working mom in my company (with a young child). Out of 70 people. I am a woman in a man's world, and I have to speak the language that they will understand. Sure, the dads get it (especially those with working wives!) But the men without kids...they don't. They may try. But they really don't get it. However, they do speak the language of money, and they all understand that $1 per minute is $60 per hour, and by the way, I don't make $60 an hour.

I'm in a job where working longer hours is encouraged and praised. However, I don't enjoy being penalized for being efficient (using my friend Kelly's terminology). If I can get the same work done in 40 hrs that it takes someone else 50 to do, that does not mean I need to be working 50 hrs. While I have no problems coming in on weekends during emergencies, I simply will not be working late every day. I'm okay being the person to constantly fight the pressure to work long days, because I'm confident in the quality and quantity of my work. (And truly, when the sh*t hits the fan on the weekend, who is the first one to come in and fix stuff? Yeah, that's right, it's usually my boss, but if he's out of town, it's me.) I am definitely a "do what it takes" employee, but I simply don't have the luxury (or the desire) to spend 60 hours at work and never see my kid. I already outsource the cleaning. If I try to outsource the cooking (by eating out, buying convenience food), or cut back on exercise, I'll just get fat, and sick. I know this because I used to weigh 182 lbs. And my blood pressure was through the roof.

The upshot of all of this is that no matter what I do at work, at home, I have to start job #2. I generally get home at 5:15 pm, and have to cook dinner. Even with the bulk-cooking that I do on the weekend, I have to put at least 20-30 minutes into cooking. So I get home with a little boy who wants to PLAY PLAY PLAY. His second choice is to watch TV. But I prefer to limit his TV to 1/2 hr per day. Which he often gets to watch in the morning while we shower. So, that means I have to PLAY. Or distract him. That's where the pumpkin muffins come in.

I am finding that while it's not "playing", having him help me cook is a great way to have fun, interact, keep him busy, and teach him skills, all at the same time. He's been so excited to make muffins. They made them at school. I needed a recipe, so I dug out my favorite Isa cookbooks. Vegan Brunch had a pumpkin muffin recipe with wheat bran and whole wheat pastry flour. Don't have either of those. So I moved on to VWAV. The PERFECT recipe according to the book.

Except for one tiny thing. The recipe makes 12 muffins, and has 1.25 cups of sugar. Let's do the math, shall we? 1 cup has 16 tablespoons. So 1.25 cups of sugar has 20 tablespoons, or 1.67 tablespoons (5 teaspoons) of sugar PER MUFFIN. Holy camoly!

I cut the sugar to 2/3 cup and they were still very sweet. Next time, I will cut to even less. When I think about it, a small muffin should probably have a tsp or less of sugar. 1 tsp x 12 muffins = 12 tsp = 4 TBSP = 1/4 cup. I think I'll cut the recipe to 1/3 cup next time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Salmon with a white wine lemon pan sauce

So, the plan tonight was salmon patties. You know, salmon-in-a-can. Not sexy, but you get your omega 3's, it's cheap, and it's not full of mercury or PCBs.

Then my great neighbor stopped by. He's got a "fish guy". A couple of pounds of fresh salmon later...we had some tonight, some for leftovers tomorrow (on top of a salad), and the rest goes in the freezer for later this month.

I had some lemon. I knew I wanted to make a pan sauce. So I googled. "lemon white wine salmon".

And I found this recipe. It's a 5-star recipe!

And I followed it. To a T. Just kidding. I left out one tiny ingredient. That ingredient would be...can you guess?? 3/4 stick of butter. Geez. Really, there was enough oil from the cooking spray (that I used instead of olive oil) and the actual fish that made a good pan sauce. I also added a clove of garlic when making the sauce.

DELICIOUS, though my son thought the basil leaves looked like "ants". Whatever.

I also made a lima bean puree that we served on toast. Fresh limas, cooked, with roasted garlic, lemon juice, a little tahini, salt, pepper, and enough cooking water to make a good consistency.

Believe it or not, the 4 year old ate everything, including the salad which had lettuce, olives, blue cheese, and avocado. He's a good eater. He helped me shell the limas too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baked Falafel and Beans and Rice

I love beans. Falafel is basically beans. My fave recipe (truly, only one I've tried) is from Vegan with a Vengeance. This week I decided to bake them instead of fry them, and they turned out great!

Last night was beans and rice. Last week's "bean of the week" was garbanzo (hence the falafel. and hummus. and stew with chickpeas). This week is black beans. I cooked up a pound. And some of them are destined to be bean burgers. Eventually.

As I've decided to try and lose those 8 lbs I've gained since I've stopped running (dang 40 year old knee!!), I've been measuring out...everything. Ya know? That takes about 20-30 minutes a day. It's a good deal of work, almost like a part time job. Especially at first.

Anyway, this pretty picture has 1/2 cup of mexican-inspired brown rice (cooked brown rice, stir-fried with onion, garlic, peas, cumin, parsley, oregano, and tomato), 1/2 cup black beans, diced tomatoes, diced avocado, low-fat cheddar, light sour cream, TJ's garlic chipotle salsa, and some chopped cooked frozen veggies (broccoli, carrot, cauliflower). It was a huge plate for not a lot of calories. Which is good.

And the ingredients are all pretty cheap. For example, I prepared all of this:
6 cups cooked black beans: $1.29 (one lb dried)
3 cups cooked brown rice: $0.47 (one cup uncooked)
1 tomato: 0.50
1 avocado: 1.00
2 oz lowfat cheddar: 0.75
6 tbsp sour cream: 0.32
1/2 c. salsa: 0.75
onion: 0.30 for one
garlic: 0.15 for 3 cloves
frozen veggies: 1.02 per lb
frozen peas: 1.09 per lb

And we've got a bunch of leftovers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Applesauce. Pressure cooker stew

Boy, have I been using my kitchen tools. Blender for smoothies. Rice cooker for quinoa. Food processor for shredding and chopping. Immersion blender for applesauce. Pressure cooker for beans and stew. Slow cooker for applesauce. I mean, I don't *need* all these tools, but they make cooking easier for sure!

Monday, I arrived at my desk to find a bag of apples, with a note "Can Frugal Healthy Simple do something with these baking apples?" Why, of course Lori, I can. So that evening, I googled "slow cooker applesauce", and then winged it.

Slow cooker applesauce:
9-10 small to medium apples, unpeeled, diced (I like the peel, it's got fiber): free
1/2 cup water: 0
2 Tbsp brown sugar (didn't need it): 0.05
1 tsp cinnamon: 0.05
pinch nutmeg
juice of 1/2 lemon (which wasn't enough to prevent browning, so it was wasted): 0.10

Total: $0.20 for probably 5 cups of applesauce. And it's tasty. I've been eating it with my morning oatmeal. I will probably freeze some.

Put in slow cooker. Cook overnight or all day on low. Use immersion blender to blend.

I also found some pork in the freezer, and looked up a recipe in America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. But I was missing a bunch of stuff. So. I improvised. It was a mid-week meal, which is why I tried out the pressure cooker. Last minute, I realized they recommended serving it with white rice (which I don't buy), so I used quinoa instead. The original recipe called for 3 lbs pork and 1 lb chorizo. I used 1 lb pork, plus chickpeas, plus potatoes. I subbed mild enchilada sauce for diced tomatoes. You see where I am going here. The recipe called for browning the meat, then browning the onions, then...and I wanted a one pot meal. So I changed that too.

Pressure cooker stew:
1 lb pork loin, diced into 1 inch cubes: 1.99
1 T. canola oil: 0.04
2 onions, diced: 0.40
6 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.30
3 Tbsp flour: 0.01
1.5 cups water
1 Tbsp brown sugar: 0.02
2 cups cooked chickpeas: 0.37
1 vegetable bouillon cube: 0.37
1.5 cups mild enchilada sauce: 0.75
3/4 lb potatoes, peeled and diced: 0.38
salt/pepper to taste

Total: $4.63 for 6 servings.
Quinoa: 1 cup dry quinoa, cooked (makes about 3 cups): $0.55
$0.86 per serving, including quinoa

Brown the onion and pork in oil in pressure cooker. Add garlic and cook 1 min.

Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute.

Add water and bouillon and stir, stirring to get up the brown bits on the bottom. Add the enchilada sauce and brown sugar. Cover, bring to pressure, and reduce heat enough to maintain high pressure. Cook 13 min at high pressure.

Use quick release to lower pressure. Add diced potatoes and chickpeas. Return to heat. Cover, bring to pressure. Cook 8 min at high pressure. Let pressure reduce naturally.

Serve over quinoa.
And I made a salad with some pumpkin seeds that we roasted on top.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Life's been crazy, what can I say? Here are a few tidbits of food from the week:

Saturday: Boo at the Zoo, and burgers on the way home. And a chocolate malt. Yum.

Sunday: Beef Goulash from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Beef from the farmer's market (free range and all that). This is not the kind of goulash I grew up on. This is more of a beef with a lot of paprika goulash. Delicious! But at $14 for 2.3 lbs of beef, it's not exactly frugal. Beef, onions, paprika, garlic, chicken stock, tomato paste, parsley, red bell pepper... I made another loaf of no knead rye bread.

Monday: pasta with homemade pesto and fresh tomatoes

Tuesday: soaked up some beans during the day, pressure cooked 'em, and fried them with chicken stock and oil and onions and spices to make refried beans, which went in burritos

Wednesday: rice and quinoa in the rice cooker. Eggs from my friend's chicken. Stir-fried veggies from Costco (freezer section).

On the fitness front: I totally bit it Monday biking to work. Zoned out, then realized that I was going to hit the curb. "Don't hit the curb, don't hit the curb." Well, hitting the curb beat swerving in front of cars. So, nice bruise on the calf.

Today, my sciatica has been so painful. I have been seeing a strong correlation between the day of the week and sciatica. See, Wednesday is the day that I don't work out. And the sciatica goes crazy. I think I will have to start getting up at 5:30 am and working out a bit at home (while my spouse is at the gym), see if that helps. My best days are Sat/Sun/Mon/Tuesday, which are big workout days.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Picture's Worth a 1000 words, right?

I hope so, because I don't really have time for recipes, just pictures.
Split pea soup.

No knead rye bread (which I kneaded, because I needed it to be done more quickly. This stuff is AWESOME!)

Lemon-poppy seed cake (a little bland).

Mexican-style fried rice and quinoa

Baked chicken

Red beans with garlic

We layer the rice (too spicy! Man, only 1 TBSP of last year's roasted hot peppers, and the kid can't eat it), beans, chicken, and cheese into one bowl/plate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Update on the chickpea stew and pita bread

oh my goodness, it is SO good! I mixed up a little yogurt with lemon, garlic and parsley to serve with it. It was also good, except my son yelled "too spicey", which means I think he got a huge chunk of raw garlic. Oops.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Enchiladas and Pizza

This week I did it. For the first time. I made enough food to last the week. 10 meals worth. On Saturday, it was pita bread and chickpea stew.

On Sunday it was a tray of enchiladas, and two large pizzas. All told, 10 meals' worth, so we are set on lunch and dinner all week. I hope everything tastes good.

This time, I didn't forget the yeast in the pizza dough. That's because my hubby made the dough, while I was working. On a Sunday. Yeah.

I found a GREAT deal on cheese this week. You know how the coupon queens always talk about how coupons for cheese are a great deal? Loss leaders the way to go? Not for me. I've never found shredded cheese or block cheese at a grocery store on sale for cheaper than Costco. This weekend though, I got 2-lb bags for $4.99. Hence the pizza and enchiladas.

The pizzas - one was pesto (I have a lot of pesto), and one had a tomato sauce, made from the leftover tomatoes from the chickpea stew, a few cherry tomatoes from our plant in the garden that survived the winter and is still giving us tomatoes. We planted this guy from seed last April (2009). I added some italian seasoning. Toppings were sauteed onions, peppers, mushrooms (all diced so small that hopefully my kid can't pick them off), olives, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and blue cheese.

The enchiladas were an experiment. I can't really estimate the cost. There are too many unknowns.

Experimental enchiladas:
1 T canola oil.
1.5 cup leftover cooked brown rice and quinoa
1 mason jar of tongue of fire beans from CSA, cooked 1 hr till soft with a clove of garlic.
3 small peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp shaved hot pepper from freezer
2 c. enchilada sauce from freezer. I don't know how old it is, nor whether it was homemade or from a jar.
4 whole wheat tortillas
3 eggs
cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper
2 c. shredded cheese (colby-jack blend)

Saute onions and peppers in oil until soft.
Cook the beans
Mix the rice, beans, and veggies in a bowl with the spices.

Layer a little sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Scoop out 1/2 of the bean/rice/vegetable mixture. Cut two tortillas in half and arrange to fit the pan. Put half the remaining sauce on the tortillas. Put the rest of the mixture on top. Crack 3 eggs on top of the mixture (why not? Figured I'd try it.) then another layer of tortillas. Top with rest of the sauce and then the cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, at 350F for 30 min, then remove foil and bake another 15 min.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chickpea Stew and Pita Bread

Today has been a whirlwind of activity. I started the day by making up some arugula-basil pesto (got a bunch of each from the CSA). Then I cooked up up some chickpeas. Then I hit the gym and tried Zumba...I liked it, my knee did not. Owee. And my back didn't like it either.

Then home where I hung laundry to dry, made lunch:

Why do I hang laundry? (a friend asked me once). It's frugal, but that's not the only reason! It's better for the environment (sunlight and wind are FREE, and don't require fossil fuels), and it's better for the clothing. They last longer - you don't lose fabric that becomes lint. AND they smell great. I had a relatively new shirt that smelled moldy. Probably because it ended up in the laundry basket under a wet towel from my ocean-swimming-triathlon-training days. One day washed and hung outside...good as new!

I also hemmed new jeans. I always feel a bit guilty cutting 3 inches off the bottoms of jeans. But I'm short. I buy pants to fit over my, ahem, hips, then end up shortening them and taking in the waist.

I also made chickpea stew, based on a recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Her recipe, while simple, included a step of using a mortal and pestle on garlic, herbs, oil, and salt. And I don't have a mortar and pestle. So, I made it even more simple. I also made my first attempt at homemade pita, from a bread machine cookbook that I loaned a friend. I jotted it down while at her house (she uses the cookbook FAR more than I ever would). They look yummy!

I'd like to say that's our dinner, but we're hitting the pumpkin patch and going out with friends. This will be lunches and dinners during the week.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew
2 T canola oil
1 onion, chopped: 0.40
1 small zucchini: 0 (free!)
3 small mild peppers (from CSA) or one bell pepper, chopped: 0.80
6 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.30
1 Tbsp hot peppers: 0.10 (from last year, in the freezer)
2 tsp paprika: 0.10
1.5 tsp cumin: 0.08
1/4 tsp thyme: 0.05
1/2 tsp turmeric: 0.05
1 tsp dried parsley: 0.05
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 cans garbanzo beans: (I actually used 1 can and made more from dried): 1.58
2/3 of a 28-oz can diced tomatoes: 1.13
Total: $4.77 for 6 servings, or $0.79 each

Saute onion, zucchini, thyme, and peppers in oil until soft, about 10 min. Add garlic, chickpeas, and remaining spices and saute a few more minutes.

Add tomatoes and simmer, covered, for about 30 mins, enough for the tomatoes to break down and flavors to blend.

Pita bread
2 c. bread flour: 0.41
1 c. whole wheat flour: 0.23
1 T. olive oil: 0.11
1 tsp sugar: 0.01
1.5 tsp salt: 0.01
1 tsp yeast: 0.08
Total: $0.85 for 10 pitas, 9 cents each

Put ingredients in bread machine and run on pizza dough setting.

When down, punch down on floured surface. Break into 10 pieces and rolls into balls. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, let rest 10 min.

Preheat oven to 450F, and put two baking sheets in oven to warm.

Flatten and roll pitas to 1/4 inch thickness. Set aside and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let rest 10-20 min.

Remove heated sheets from oven. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Put 2-4 pitas on a sheet, depending on size. Bake 5-7 mins. (Mine took 6-7 mins). Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 2-5 min. Cover with damp kitchen towel to keep moist.

Continue with remaining pitas. They should puff up nicely.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Budgeting While on Vacation

The family and I just returned from a 4-day mini-vacation to San Diego. You can tell a lot about a person by how they vacation, I suppose. Where they stay, how they eat, how they get there.

There are many ways to save money on vacation:
Lodging: hotel, motel, camping, VRBO, housing swap, couch surfing
Transportation: airfare, flight schedule, train, car, bus
Food: eating out, eating in, full meals, snacks

When I go on vacation, I don't really like eating out. It's both a money thing and a health thing (I mean, even trying to be "good" on this trip, I gained a few pounds. Hopefully mostly water.) So my lodging planning includes food - that may mean choosing a hotel that includes breakfast, or it may mean choosing a condo, or it may mean a hotel with a fridge and/or microwave. I generally plan to eat out while on vacation only once per day.

On this trip, we had a fridge and a microwave. There are many options in San Diego...too many to count. By the time you look at distance and reviews, and special deals (includes tickets to Seaworld! But parking is extra!) you can drive yourself crazy. So the first thing to do is to decide your budget AND the type of experience you are looking for.

When younger, budget and habits meant that I stayed at the cheapest motel possible. Age, increased income, and a family has changed that. I really like staying at condos for extended vacations, so that I can cook. But I cook pretty regularly at home, so it's no big deal. Here are the things I considered this time around:

Room with fridge and microwave, or a kitchen, or breakfast. (we got fridge and micro)
Decent pool (yep)
Family atmosphere (yep)
Free or reduced parking (only paid for 2 of 4 days)
Ease of getting to Seaworld (we had a shuttle, and it was only a mile's walk, so we walked home)
Reduced price tickets to parks (we got tickets to SeaWorld included, and it was actually cheaper than booking the room and tickets separately)
Two queen sized beds (yep)
Gym - didn't get this, but as luck would have it, we found a 24-hour fitness a very short drive away (next to the grocery store). And we're members.

This took a little planning, but probably saved a few hundred dollars. And the microwave and fridge were key. I packed up my picnic basket and a few extra items. We had cereal and milk, microwaveable noodles (love Trader Joe's). Veggies and dip. Veggies that steam in the bag. Hummus. Cheese and crackers. Tea (which tasted like coffee for the first two days because we used the coffee pot). Apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas.

If you are basically eating in a hotel room, you need to make it #1 - easy, and #2 - fun. Have some extra-special snacks that you don't normally get.

I started keeping good track of what we spent on food, but probably missed stuff:
1. Groceries: $59, but some of that came home with us
2. Lunch at SeaWorld: 24 (you can sneak in food if you want)
3. Lunch at Legoland: 20
4. Beers: $12
5. Lunch on the way home: $15
6. Dinner out with a friend: $60

That brings our total for 4 days to under $200, or under $50 per day. Which is pretty good for a family of three on vacation with just a fridge and a microwave. If we had to eat all our meals out, we were probably looking at (these are very conservative numbers that do not involve eating at the hotel):

Breakfast: $17
Lunch: $20
Dinner: $40

Which is about $67/day or $308. Saved over $100. Probably more, since beer isn't included in the second budget.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Crockpot Black Bean Soup

My neighbors invited us over for dinner on Saturday and made black bean soup in the crockpot. Which was delicious. And inspiring. So that's what I made yesterday/today.

Yesterday, I had to cook up the beans in the pressure cooker. And I did the quick soak first. Which never really works well. The beans end up broken. If you ever want to make beans in the pressure cooker, the best way is to soak several hours, then cook. You can do the quick soak. You can cook without soaking. BUT the results just aren't as good.

I also sauteed the vegetables. My soup was vegetarian, a recipe I adapted from "125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes" by Judith Finlayson. It was heavily adapted. I didn't have some of the veggies she uses, but I had others. Still it was tasty. Her recommendations for sauteing the veggies and using some whole spices are great. But...not as good as the neighbor's soup (which wasn't vegetarian). Mine was a little watery, so I pureed some of it at the end and added alphabets at the last minute to thicken it up. It tasted a little smoky, probably from last year's roasted poblanos.

The bad part about the soup (and the roasted kale), is that summer has arrived. Yes, after a summer of learning to swim in the frigid Pacific, where the ocean was about 59 degrees (instead of 65+), and it was so foggy that we could barely see the buoys on most days - now, in late September, it reaches over 100 degrees. 103? 108? When I checked it at 5 pm, it was 100.1 at home. It's days like these when I am happy that the previous owner of our home painted and nailed the windows shut and installed AC. The heat is not terribly surprising, as September is usually the hottest month. Generally, it's around labor day though.

The good part about the soup is that I've got a 4 cup portion for the freezer (for a future Friday night's dinner), and enough for a couple more mid-week meals.

Crockpot Black Bean Soup
1 lb dried black beans, cooked, with about 1-2 cups cooking liquid: 1.29
1 small onion, diced: 0.20
2 small green peppers, diced: free from a coworker
3 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.15
2 Tbsp chopped roasted poblanos: 0.20
2 ears corn, steamed and cut off cob: 0.80 (corn is not cheap here, and not as good as in PA)
1/2 small can tomato paste: 0.17
2 Tbsp cumin seeds: 0.25
1 tsp thyme: 0.10
1 Tbsp oregano: 0.10
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 vegetable bouillon cube: 0.38
5 cups water
3.5 oz alphabets: 0.20

Total: $3.84 for about 12 cups, $0.32 per cup. Served with tortilla chips, kale chips, and some avocado and sour cream.

To prep the night before: cook the beans and put in the fridge.

Saute the onions and peppers until soft. Add the garlic and spices and cook for about two minutes. Add tomato paste and blend well. Put all of this stuff and the corn and bouillon in a different container. Or the same one as the beans if it's big enough.

Before heading off to work in the morning, combine all the ingredients except the alphabets. Cook on low 8 to 10 hrs.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender a little bit. Add the alphabets and cook another 30 minutes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pressure Cooker Brown Rice Risotto

You see, I googled that exact phrase. And found...nothing. I found other questions about it. I found comments like "you can't make risotto from brown rice" and "you can make risotto from short-grain brown rice, but it needs more time and more liquid". But nothing about doing it in a pressure cooker. I love the pressure cooker, because you can do regular risotto in 5 mins at high pressure.

So I found a chart that said brown rice needs 18 minutes at high pressure. And I have several risotto recipes in Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Kitchen. So I decided to wing it.

And it turns out - you CAN make pressure cooker brown rice risotto. Sure, it's not like the real thing, but it's still pretty good. Just don't forget the salt. I usually use vegetable bouillon instead of stock, and the last time I bought my bouillon, the store only had unsalted. Okay, everything is coming out under-seasoned.

Pressure Cooker Brown Rice Risotto:
1 Tbsp canola oil: 0.03
1 small onion, chopped: 0.20
1 small zucchini, diced: 0 from a coworker
1.5 cup short-grain brown rice: 1.13
1 vegetable bouillon cube: 0.38
4 cups water
1 cup frozen peas: 0.40
2 oz goat cheese: 0.80
handful parsley, chopped
sprinkle parmesan: 0.25
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $3.19 for about 8 cups, or 0.40 per cup.

Saute onion and zucchini in oil until soft. Add rice and stir until coated with the oil. Add water and vegetable bouillon. Close pressure cooker. Bring to high pressure. Reduce heat to maintain pressure and cook 18 minutes. Release pressure using quick-release method.

Stir well and let thicken a bit. Add parsley, salt, pepper, peas, and cheeses.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

World's Cheapest Breakfast

Yep, oatmeal. Okay, maybe not the world's cheapest. But, pretty cheap and pretty good.

Today, we were out of homemade bread. That's okay. Because I have oats. I haven't eaten much oats over the summer. A few mornings of oatmeal, some granola. Today, there was a nice big ripe banana on my counter, and Kath's Banana Whipped Oats were talking to me.

Kath's Banana Whipped Oats (serves 2.5)
2/3 c. old fashioned rolled oats: 0.10 (0.79/lb!)
1/3 c. dry milk powder: 0.17
1 1/3 c. water
1 Tbsp 9-grain cereal: 0.04
1 banana sliced very thinly and chopped: 0.19
pinch salt
1/4 tsp vanilla: 0.02

and for my topping (boys don't like it): 1 tsp sunflower seed butter: 0.03

Total: $0.55 for 3 servings!

Mix water and dry milk powder. Put milk, oats, banana, salt, and cereal in a pot. Cook, stirring constantly, until desired doneness (5-9 mins). I like the cereal in there because it adds some chewy parts. When done, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Note that there is no sugar in this recipe. With a nice ripe banana, it's not needed.

Now, truly, this isn't going to "stick" with my husband all the way until lunch. So his serving of about 3/4 cup or $0.21 would need supplementation. Nuts if I could get him to add them (I don't think he likes them). An egg. More fruit. I could make it more filling by increasing the total amount of oats to 1 cup (and increase liquid to 2 cups), and that would only increase the total to $0.71 (basically, increase everything except the banana and the sunbutter).

Other things on the menu this week: I tried my hand at Zucchini fritters from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I don't think I squeezed out enough water, but they were good! We also made breakfast burritos for dinner. Work was really crazy this week (I worked very late and hubby cooked twice) because my equipment has been broken for two months and we finally got field service in to work on it. After all that, I figured out the problem. Talk about STRESS.

Today is the big local quilt show (which I did not have time to!) It's today and tomorrow, but I am going today. After I go for a walk and take my son for a flu shot. Tomorrow is the Carp Tri, and I am going down and taking pics and cheering on my friends and partying after.