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Granola Recipe

October 13th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

As requested, here's the granola recipe. The recipe was originally posted by Jodi on the Saving Advice Message Boards:

4 cups oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup maple syrup
scant 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 TBS canola oil
Dried fruit (to taste)

Combine oil and liquid sweetener in small pot. Heat to simmer. Mix oats, brown sugar, almonds and spices in large bowl. Pour heated sweetener/oil mix over oat mixture and toss to coat. Spread onto baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees fro 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add dried fruits (raisins, Craisins, dried cherries, etc) after removing from oven. Store in covered container after cooling.

NOTES: The type of oats doesn't matter: instant or old-fashioned will work. Do not over bake! When you remove granola from oven, it will not be crisp and crunchy, but the crunchiness will appear after it cools.

Depression Cooking

October 6th, 2008 at 03:39 pm

I lost my dear sweet grandmother in June of this year. Clara (the star of these videos) reminds me of my grandmother.

Depression Cooking with Clara:

Episode 1: Potato, Peas, and Pasta
Episode 2: Egg Drop Soup
Episode 3: Poorman's Meal

Staying Cool When it's H-O-T

June 9th, 2008 at 04:48 pm

We're in the middle of a heat wave and I sold my air conditioner a few weeks ago. What's a frugal gal to do?

Close all the windows and doors and draw the blinds. I'm surprised by how many people don't know this trick! As the temperature starts to rise, you want to trap the cool air in your house and keep the heat from seeping in. I've actually had people come into my house during hot weather and assume I have central air conditioning because the house is so much cooler than the outdoors. I don't have central air, but I do have I have an indoor/outdoor thermometer. Once I see the temperature outside is cooler than inside (probably around 9pm) I'll open everything up to let the cool air in. For safety reasons, I sleep with everything closed, but when I'm up in the morning I'll open everything up again until the temperature in the house starts to rise.

Break out the Crock Pot. No cook meals like salads are a great idea when the weather is hot, but I'm moving in a week and trying to eat down my pantry and avoid going to the store. Crock Pots are great for hot weather because unlike your oven or stove top, they contain most of their heat. Furthermore, if you have a porch, garage or basement you can let the Crock Pot work it's magic outside the living quarters to further prevent additional heat in the house.

Last night I found this unique recipe for
Slow-cooker Chicken in Spicy Peanut sauce
. I was thrilled because I could use 2 cans of tomatoes AND the remainder of my peanut butter plus the 2 chicken breasts that have been in the freezer for GodKnowsHowLong. I threw the ingredients in the Crock Pot and plugged it in in the basement before I went to work. When I got home, I put some rice in the rice cooker and plugged it in on the front porch. Before long, I had a hot meal and a cool house!

Cooking from the Pantry: Afghani Lentil Casserole

May 27th, 2008 at 06:21 pm

I was clicking through old entries and couldn't help but notice how how long it's been since I've posted any recipes!

As I've alluded, I'm getting ready to move and trying to eat up the foods in my pantry. This has led to some ho-hum meals like green bean casserole, but also to tonight's Afghani Lentil Casserole. The recipe calls for lentils, canned tomato sauce (although I used canned diced tomatoes tonight), lasagna noodles, an onion, plain yogurt, and spices. The ingredients are probably things you have in your kitchen, too. Unlike many recipes that utilize kitchen staples, this one is pretty original.

1 large onion -- chopped
1 cup green or brown lentils -- picked over and washed
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups tomato sauce (I used 1-14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coriander (I used fresh cilantro)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (I used paprika)
9 lasagna noodles
3 cloves garlic -- chopped
2 cups fat-free yogurt
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
vegetable cooking spray
1 tablespoon mint

Saute onions until golden. Stir in the lentils and add the vegetable stock.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add tomato sauce, salt, coriander, cumin, pepper and cayenne, simmer 30 minutes.

Cook noodles. Combine yogurt, flour and garlic, stir well. Spray a 13x9 inch baking pan, put half yogurt on the bottom, layer with 1/2 noodles, 1/2 lentil sauce, repeat ending in lentil sauce. Sprinkle mint over top and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Adapted from :
"A cross between Syrian Rishtah from The Versatile Grain and the Elegant Bean: A Celebration of the World's Most Healthful Foods by Sheryl and Mel London

(See the little rose plant on the table? It was an impulse by at the grocery store for $2.99. Being frugal is great, but who can resist beauty?)

Crock pot extravaganza and Side Stream Income

February 28th, 2008 at 07:26 pm

Sidestream Income:
$1509.93 old total
$40.00 babysitting
TOTAL: $1549.93

I made $40 babysitting last night.

I've also been working really hard this month to eat from my pantry and freezer. I should run the numbers and see if my grocery bill was any different this month.

I've also been making great use of my beloved Crock Pot:

Tonight's creation used up some bulgur I've had on the shelf for some time. I skipped the parsley because it would have required a trip to the store. I didn't precook anything and just tossed everything in and cooked on low all day. I also used homemade chicken broth made from a chicken carcass (mmmm, tasty) I had stored in the freezer. The end result of the bulgur pilaf was decent. Not something I LOVED, but good enough. The chicken broth, on the other hand, was great. I really like how the recipe has you puree the chicken meat and vegetables into the broth rather than just toss them. It gives the broth a richer flavor and adds more nutrients.

Leftovers + Creativity

February 11th, 2008 at 06:19 pm

I love being able to make dinner using odds and ends in the kitchen.

Last night I threw the following into the Crockpot:

1/2 diced onion
1 diced green pepper
Tomato Sauce (leftover from a 28 oz can I opened last week for homemade pizza)
1- 8 oz package tempeh, crumbled (purchased for a recipe I intended to make weeks ago but never did)
Leftover black beans from my dried-bean experiment
2 TBS soy sauce
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

I turned it to low and let it work it's magic while I was at work all day.

Any guesses to what this made?


Vegetarian Sloppy Joes! I spooned the "meat" onto a roll with some lettuce... the result was super yummy, frugal, and easy.

Dried Beans

February 4th, 2008 at 03:59 pm

My blog's title is due in part to my fondness for the humble bean. Legumes are wholesome, tasty, versatile and cheap, what else could you want in food?

Despite my bean penchant, I admit always buying the canned rather than dried variety. Once, as a college student, I tried to cook dried beans and the result was less than appetizing. My local grocery stores sells a variety of canned 15.5 oz beans for $0.55 each, so dried beans hardly seem worth the hassle.

However, yesterday I threw caution to the wind and cooked up some dried beans in the Crockpot. The result was superb! I mixed 1 cup dried beans with 4 cups water and 1 bay leaf, turned the crock pot on high and ~5 hours later, I had a pot of tasty, fragrant beans.

I used about 3/4 in a chili recipe and will use the rest later this week.

I'm converted!

Frugal Food!

November 18th, 2007 at 05:47 pm

Turkey gyros are one of my favorite frugal meals. When I was working as a personal chef, it was also one of the favorite meals of my client, too. Unbeknownst to them, it was a simple recipe they could easily have made themselves!

When made with ground turkey from Aldi ($0.89 / lb), the meals costs ~$1.25 / serving. Technically, a gyro is supposed to be shaved lamb, pork, beef or chicken. This recipe is neither shaved nor the appropriate meat, but the flavor is delicious so let us allow the technicality slide!

Turkey Gyros

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1/2 C. onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/8 tsp. black pepper
4 7" pita bread

Cucumber Mint sauce (to be served on top of gyros)

1 C. non-fat plain yogurt
1 C. low-fat sour cream
1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/4 tsp. dried mint
1/2 tsp. salt
dash black pepper

Mix all turkey ingredients in non stick skillet and brown. In bowl combine all Cucumber Mint sauce ingredients, stir. Spoon hot meat mixture over pita and top with sauce.

If you donít have a cucumber or mint (I didnít tonight) they can easily be omitted and your end result will still be great.

I stuff the filling into whole wheat pitas (purchased and frozen from my summer trip to the Freihoferís Outlet), and filled with diced grape tomatoes and spinach from last weekís Aldi trip. Healthy, flavorful and original!

Not For Bean Counters

June 20th, 2007 at 09:43 am

Mark Bittman from the New York Times examines the illustrious Bean Salad:Not for Bean Counters. Check out his instructional video, too: A Hill of Beans.


Celery: Aldi Style

April 15th, 2007 at 04:14 pm

I bought this celery from Aldi exactly one week ago:

Note to self: Aldi's great produce prices probably mean a shorter life once purchased. We were able to eat about half of the $0.99 purchase before it headed south for retirement.

I diced the remaining limp celery to freeze. I can through it in a soup or something.

Nothing Says Springtime like... Borscht?

April 4th, 2007 at 05:54 pm

Mr. Bean is out of town again. While he's away, I try to cook foods that I enjoy but he doesn't (or as I like to think-- foods for which he lacks the culinary sophistication to enjoy ;-)

Tonight I made Vegetarian Borscht.

I decided to make borscht when I spotted fresh beets at the grocery store earlier today (something the store doesn't always carry). There was also a huge display of canned beets. Does anyone know if beets part of the Passover tradition- or was the onslaught of beets just a coincidence? I am from a Ukrainian heritage, so I grew up eating a lot of beets, but as far as I know beets aren't part of a traditional American Easter.

Despite the tower of canned beets, I went with the fresh. I've never tried canned beets, but I was tempted this afternoon since peeling and cutting fresh beets is such a messy task. I'll use the beet greens for another recipe (maybe a lasagna?) I also found a use for those pesky pink skins:

While my soup was cooking, I boiled the skins a mixture of water and vinegar and then tossed in a few eggs. Viola! Natural pink dye for Easter eggs!

Kitchen Staple Creation

March 27th, 2007 at 05:31 pm

We returned from our weekend away to a refrigerator that looks like this:

[At least there's some good beer to drink whilst we feast on Country Crock and cat food.]

Iím having an especially busy week at school and donít have a lot of time to go shopping. Plus, I need some time to think through my grocery shopping plan of attack since I will be in the vicinity of an Aldi next week.

Sounds like itís time for another Kitchen Staple Creation!

We all know pasta is a great solution for meals in a hurry. Some nights a bowl of pasta topped with marinara from a jar and a handful of frozen veggies hits the spot. But other times, Iím really in the mood for something more imaginative.

Penne with Spinach and Raisins is definitely one of my favorite ďGo ToĒ pasta meals for when sauce from a jar won't do the trick. The bite of the red pepper combined with the sweetness of the golden raisins is almost enough to make you think youíre in Sicily (almost). Golden raisins were not a typical staple in our house, but now I always keep a box on hand specifically for making this dish.

Penne with Spinach and Raisins

Olive Oil or Cooking Spray
4 gloves garlic, crushed
10-12 ounces spinach (I use frozen)
1 14.5 oz can Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
Ĺ cup golden raisins
Ĺ tsp salt
ľ - Ĺ tsp crushed red pepper (depending on taste)
Ĺ cup chicken or vegetable broth
12 ounces cooked whole wheat penne

1. In large sautť pan, sautť garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Cook until golden. Add spinach, beans and spices. Cook ~ 5 minutes, stir in broth. Heat through.
2. Add cooked penne to spinach mixtures. Toss and enjoy!

Getting imaginative with kitchen staples

March 14th, 2007 at 05:34 pm

For us, cooking and eating at home is one of the best ways to keep our monthly expenses down. Back in my bachelorette days, I thought nothing of having a salad and a microwaved veggie burger in front of the TV for dinner. But now that Iím married, I feel much more compelled to prepare a real meal AND eat it sitting down at the table with Mr. Bean. Research indicates there are many health and social benefits of family meals for families with children- surely some of these benefits apply to those of us without kids, too! My desire for a sit down meal isnít completely altruistic, I love being able to have a nice hot lunch (microwaved leftovers) without having to leave my office the next day.

In order to cook at home most days of the month, you need to have a repertoire of go-to meals. But what to do when your go-toís are all gone? Or for when you havenít been to the store recently? Such situations are when we fell victims to ordering pizza- (mmm, pizza).

In effort to avoid such quandaries, Iím trying to expand my repertoire of go-toís meals that can be prepared with staples- things that we have in the refrigerator or cupboard on most days of the week even if the last trip to the store was some time ago. For, us this typically mean meatless since I only buy meat when I have a special recipe in mind. When I find a new a winner, Iíll share it here. I realize the staples in my household might not be the same as yours, but hopefully this will still be interesting.

I made the following recipe Sunday night. We were hungry and need of something hearty. All of my typical meals seemed unappealing for various reasons. This recipe was quick, filling, spicy (a problem with a lot of my go-to meals is that they have a similar flavor profile). I love that the dish uses things we almost always have on hand. The recipe was originally published in Vegetarian Times.

Indian Lentil Pilaf
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups chopped carrots (next time I might try peas for variation)
1 cup basmati rice (I used brown basmati)
3 gloves minced garlic
1 TBS fresh minced ginger
1.5 tsp garam masala* (I used 2 tsp)
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes**
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
Cilantro for garnish

*Garam masala is a blend of spices frequently used in Indian cooking. You can buy it at large grocery stores or ethnic stores. Also, you can Google a recipe and make your own- the ingredients are all common.
** I used fire roasted, but plain diced tomatoes would work well

1. Cook lentils is ~ 4 cups water until tender firm. Drain, reserving water.
2. Wipe out pot. Heat oil over medium heat and sautť onion until golden. Add carrots and rice and cook three minutes until rice is toasted and fragrant, stirring constantly. Add ginger, garlic, garam masala and cook 1 minute more.
3. Stir in tomatoes, broth reserved lentil water (you may need more than whatís called for is using brown rice), bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat. Let stand five minutes, fluff with work and serve. Garnish with cilantro (If you have cilantro-use it! The flavor contrast is great!)

I spooned individual portions of the leftovers into 2 cup Rubbermaid containers and froze. In fact, I had one for lunch today!

Aldi vs. Weekly Loss Leaders: The Iron Chef Moms Challenge

March 13th, 2007 at 05:06 am

Join me in following a friendly competition involving Amy from The Aldi Queen and Meredith from Like Merchant Ships.

For the course of the week-long competition, Amy will prepare dinner meals with food purchased exclusively at Aldi and Meredith will prepare dinner meals with food purchased exclusively with grocery store loss leaders.

To quote Meredith:

We'll each post our dinner menu, including shopping tips and a breakdown of its cost. At the end of the week, we'll total up and see which method came out ahead. Here are the rules we've agreed to play by:

Amy will purchase everything from Aldi. My groceries will come exclusively from next week's sale flyers. No freezer or pantry stockpile allowed! I'll also be keeping a log of how much time/gas store-hopping costs me.

Each night's menu will serve four people and include the main dish and sides. We'll calculate the cost per unit for each ingredient, except for "negligible" amounts of staples--less than 1/2 cup.

There will be a wrap-up at the end of the week and you, as readers, can feel free to critique our strategies, or offer up some of your own strategies.

Sounds like fun! Monday night results are already up. Be sure to check it out!

Subbing Non-Fat Dry Milk

February 25th, 2007 at 06:40 pm

I am thinking about trying to use non-fat dry milk (NFDM) in place of fresh liquid milk in more recipes. Does anyone have experience with this? In particular, are there any recipes you would caution against using it in?

I was in the process of making Corn Chowder this evening when I realized that if I used the amount of fresh skim milk called for in the recipe (2.5 cups) we wouldn't have any for breakfast in the morning. Luckily, I had a box of NFDM in the cupboard left over from a recipe that specifically called for non-hydrated milk. I mixed up 2.5 cups of rehydrated milk and proceeded with the recipe.

Neither Mr. Bean nor I noticed a difference in taste of the soup. The recipe is one I make a couple times a month, so we both are familiar with the "normal" taste. I've used the NFDM in recipes before with good results.

I don't care for the taste of NFDM for drinking, but I could definitely get in the habit of using it for recipes. When making NFDM for drinking, it's recommended to mix in advance and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours to achieve the best taste. However, in recipes I've always just mixed the amount needed and used immediately. I have not noticed a difference.


February 18th, 2007 at 08:02 pm

This quote from Amy Marcus, a recipe developer and food stylist at Vegetarian Times caught my eye in a recent issue of the magazine:

"I think that people don't enterain enough. There's nothing like going over to someone's house for a home-cooked meal."

We entertain a lot, so it's hard for me too judge what the rest of the world is doing, but in terms of just having a good time, I enjoy being with friends at home (or at their home) over going out. All of that aside, I find entertaining, even with a fairly sophisticated menu, to be less expensive (or comparable) to going out.

The party seems to linger a little longer, and people seem more willing to let their true personalities show better when they're at a home. Growing up, my parents seldom entertained. When they did, it was always a big, stressful production. Although there is a lot about my parents I hope to emulate, I try to take a more relaxed approach to entertaining and try to keep an open door policy towards guests.

Mr. Bean and I had, in my opinion, the best Valentine's Day in Bean-relationship history. It started with an unexpected day off (weather related), a nice pancake breakfast, a few hours of snowshoeing, and a homecooked lasaga for dinner. Mr. Bean was recounting to friends the next day about our pancake breakfast. Many of our friends are international students- including some who have spouses back in their home countries.

Somehow he ended up inviting a few people over for brunch today-- but then the list expanded. In total, we had 10 people from 7 countries (US, China, India, Nepal, Turkey, Germany, Argentina).

We moved the kitchen chairs out to the living room and let people help themselves buffet style to a smattering of food, including a new recipe for Gingerbread Waffles, breakfast burritos, cherry almond cake (my fave!), a rendition of Jodi from Saving Advice's granola, fresh fruit, and an array of goodies brought by friends.

(The Granola was the the only thing I took a picture of!)

Everyone stayed over 3 hours. Lots of food and 3 pots of coffee later, we were all stuffed, but it was a fantastic way to end the weekend.

Crock Pot Cuisine

January 30th, 2007 at 04:35 pm

Rewind to Monday evening: The weather was forecast to be frigid the next day, and I knew I wouldnít be home until after 6:00.
Sounds like a perfect opportunity to use the 'ol Crock Pot!

I wanted to try a new recipe-- my only criteria were that the meal be:

* Vegetarian (or easily adaptable to Vegetarian)
* Contained barley and lots of vegetables (wanted to use up both of these)

I found a lot of soup recipes online, but the only issue was that I didnít want a soup that was basically just diced tomatoes, broth, vegetables and barley. Been there, done thatówe needed a change. So, I was pleased to this recipe for Slow Cooker Creamy Vegetable Barley Soup.

It fit my criteria for ingredients, and the ďcreaminessĒ was a nice variation to an old stand-by. Another bonus was that the creaminess comes from skim milk and corn starch, not fattening cheese.

The recipe couldnít have been any easier to prepare. I threw it all together last night in less than 5 minutes. I did make some changes to the vegetables in the recipe: I used frozen corn, frozen green beans, 2 peeled diced potatoes, garlic and a can of diced tomatoes with chilies in lieu of the recommended vegetables. I also omitted the parsley.

The end result was tasty and filling. Itís not something Iíd enter in a cooking contest or request on my birthday, but for a frugal, quick, and healthy mid-week meal, it will be on my ďREPEATĒ list.

In the future, Iíd like to cook more with barley. Itís a great source of soluble fiber, and a 1 pound bag costs on $0.49. Any recommendations?

The Beans Go Carnivorous

January 17th, 2007 at 06:09 am

I was a vegetarian for 10 years. Then, I went to Germany for 3 months. I came back an omnivore.

Mr. Bean, although never a vegetarian, was raised by a vegetarian Mom, and grew up on a largely vegetarian diet. Neither of us has a strong preference / taste for meat and weíre both runners and health conscious- so, even though Iíve shed my vegetarian title, we donít eat it meat too often.

When I do eat meat, I tend to want to try what I consider more interesting meat. No, not organ meat, but not chicken breasts. So, when I ran across turkey drumsticks on sale for $1.19 / lb I figured they might be fun to try.

I used a recipe Moroccan Turkey Drumsticks and served with some cumin-roasted potatoes and a salad. This was all just so very different than how we normally eat (which is typically some sort of concocted vegetarian oneĖpot wonder).

The resultóehhh. Decent, but not something Iíll make again. It was fun in a weird way to eat these HUGE drumsticksóI felt a little like I was attending a medieval feast.

Entertaining in, NOT eating out

January 1st, 2007 at 07:03 pm

A friend invited us to get together for dinner tonight. I think his intention was to all go out, so I asked him, "Do you want to go out or do you want to come over and I'll make dinner?" He chose the latter-- which is what I was hoping. I made pizza dough in the bread machine and then made 2 pizzas. I was tempted to run out to the store to buy a few extra things for toppings, but decided to just use what we had on hand. I'm glad I didn't go out for more toppings because I would have spent another $5 (I was thinking about sweet peppers and mushrooms) and the pizza turned out great without these additions. I topped it with some turkey sausage (in the freezer since October), thawed frozen broccoli (make sure to drain as much water as possible or pizza with be soggy), thinly sliced and broiled eggplant, mozzarella, a sprinkle of feta, and a few canned artichoke hearts (left over from a recipe from earlier in the week). Estimated total cost for all ingredients < $7, and we have leftovers for lunch tomorrow! If we went out, I imagine it would have been at least $25 for Mr. Bean and myself. Since I like to cook, I try to convince people to come over for dinner rather than going out to eat. It seems like a win-win for everyone. I end up doing more work, but typically shell out a lot less money.

Frugal Foodie Feast

December 17th, 2006 at 06:45 pm

Mr. Bean and I had friends over this morning for a Christmas Brunch. Our reason for having a brunch get-together was simply just to try something different than the typical dinner gig-- but when all was said and done it was less expensive and a nice change from dinner entertaining.

The menu consisted of:
Gingerbread Waffles
Pork Sausage (purchased from the University Meat Lab (ahh, the benefits of going to a Land Grant University)
Pineapple (canned) and Mango (on sale)
Coffee, OJ, Mimosas

I made a centerpiece with a retro looking plastic Santa salvaged from my Grandmother's house and candles. I saw some great ceramic snowflake plates at the Dollar Store and was truly tempted to buy some for our Brunch. I held out ONLY because we may be moving in the next six months and I'm trying to limit the amount of stuff we have to move. If we were permanent, I would have certainly spent the $4 and had some really cute Holiday plates for the years to come. They were so charming that I did buy two plates as gifts for the dessert trays I gave to our brunch guests (1 plate) and my personal chef client (1 plate) this morning. Filled with baked goods and wrapped in Green Saran Warp they looked really nice (but cost very little!).

Ebay Debut / Mexican Pizza

December 12th, 2006 at 07:14 pm

I listed 3 items on ebay this evening. I was unaware that there are fees just to list items (I was under the impression that you only incurred fees if your item sold).

I paid less than $5 to list the items, so I'll chalk this first run up to a learning experience and then re-evaluate if ebay selling is worth my time. I also listed a number of books on half.com -- I like that there are no charges to list and that your items can stay listed as long as you like.

In other news, I made another homemade pizza tonight. Tonight's pizza was Mexican themed. It turned out surprisingly good considering the idea evolved from a desire to use up random ingredients. I used the same crust recipe (posted on 11/14), but I covered the crust with a black bean dip (free after coupon), then topped with salsa, then added a little Gimme Lean Soy Sausage (browned first in pan), diced grape tomatoes, and cheddar cheese.

Monday and today were no spend days / no drive days.

Weekend Recipe Wrap-up

December 3rd, 2006 at 05:26 pm

Spending wrap up: The only non-grocery related expenditure was $4 to attend campus sporting event.

I am so frustrated with buying bad / moldy/ rotten food from the grocery store. This seems to happen to me at least once a month. Hereís the latest offense:

I was all set to make this recipe for Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese .
The pasta was cooking, the vegetables were chopped, the oven pre-heated, and then I went to open the brand new package of cheddar cheese (expiration date in February 2007) to find it all covered in mold. Uggh. I will take it back to the store, but the inconvenience is a bigger issue to me than the lost $2 (well, letís say equally annoying).

The wheels for this meal were already in motion. Stopping the preparation or running to the store for more cheese are equally unappealing in such a situation. I ended up asking Mr. Bean to watch the pasta while I ran to a nearby store for another block of cheese. Unfortunately, the store where this cheese was purchased was not as convenient to run out to, so the icky cheese remains sealed in a Ziploc in the fridge until it's convenient to take it back. I know I could have cut away from the mold and still used it, but the cheese was BRAND new, so I will take it back and get another.

Anyway, the recipe was quite tasty and will make it again. Like other recipes with chipotle peppers, you donít need an entire can. I typically freeze the leftovers, thaw for later use, re-freeze, etc. I donít find that the quality suffers with the thawing / re-freezing.

Saturday evening friends invited us over for dinner and asked that we bring a loaf of bread to go with the lasagna they were making. I wasnít planning on going to the store, so I made this Rosemary Focaccia. I made a few changes that were suggested in the recipe reviews, namely adding: 1 tsp Italian herbs, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp dried rosemary to the dough in addition to what was already called for. Before baking, I gave the top a healthy dose of sea salt. Tasty and easyómy favorite type of recipe! Since a decent loaf of bread usually costs $3-4 dollars Iíll also add in frugal.

Enjoy whatís left of the weekend everyone!

MOLDY CHEESE SAGA UPDATE: I followed Yummy64's advice and called Kraft. The representative said they would send me a re-imbursement. This was much better than toting it back to the store and having the 16 y/o clerk look at me like "Who is this crazy person who carries moldy cheese around for a $2.57 refund"! Today is garbage night so the moldy cheese is now at the curb waiting for its date with destiny.

Soup and Salad La Madeline style

November 30th, 2006 at 06:06 pm

When I lived in the city, (aka: when I spent a lot of money) one of my favorite quick places to eat was
La Madeline . In particular, I enjoyed the Tomato Basil SoupÖ

(photo from La Madeline web site)

...at least until I saw that a serving was 290 kcal and 28g fat (not to mention it a bowl costs something like $6).

Tonight I made a pretty good copy cat of the soup. Although I donít know the exact nutritional breakdown of my recipe, the only fat I added was 2 tsp olive oil to the bottom of the pot. I canít imagine the cost of this home made version tops $3.00, and it probably contains ~ 5 cups soup.

Here's the recipe:
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
2 TBS flour
1 26-oz can tomatoes in puree
8 oz vegetable broth
Ĺ cup fat free half & half
fresh basil, chopped
sprinkle dried thyme
splash balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in deep pot, add chopped onion and garlic. Sautť until onions translucent. Add in flour, cook ~ 1 minute. Add remainder of ingredients expect half & half. Bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes. Puree with immersion blender or traditional blender. Add in half & half, stir and eat!

On the financial front: Today was a no spend day plus I earned $10 on an ING referral. Love the free $$!!

Eating well on the cheap

November 21st, 2006 at 05:05 pm

Eating well on the cheap-- or at least trying to.

As I wrote earlier, on a whim last week I decided to stay out of the store and cook only with what we had on hand.

I did fairly well, but by Friday night I was hungry, tired, and creatively zapped. I was thinking about ordering pizza, but after taking another look at the pantry, I decided to make pumpkin soup. I used this recipe for Cream of Pumpkin Soup for inspiration. I substituted evaporated skim milk for the cream (less fat), added fresh grated ginger, and increased all the spices for extra flavor. I also used an immersion blender so I only needed to clean one pot. Iím sure the soup would be delicious with cream, but I didnít have any plus it would really make the soup fattening. I did make the whole wheat croutons, and they added a nice extra crunch to the mealóalthough Iíd say 4 slices of bread is too much (we ended up just eating the croutons like crackers after the meal. For dessert, I whipped together an apple crisp with apples, oatmeal, flour, brown sugar and butter. Total time in the kitchen was less than 40 minutes, and the results were tasty, pretty healthy, and definitely cheaper than ordering out.

Needless to say, when I did go to the store, I was happy to buy fresh produce again. Tonight I made a Tofu Pad Thai with an entire container of bean sprouts and an entire bunch of cilantro.

Other people have mentioned this before, but if there is an Asian grocery in you town, shop there for things like sauces, stir-fry sauces, noodles, tofu, etc. Itís cheaper than the conventional grocery store and a better selection. (The cost of Taste of Thai brand in the grocery store will seem like highway robbery after you visit an Asian grocer!)

I think there will be enough pad thai to freeze-- even after we have it for lunch tomorrow. I usually spoon a 1-serving portion into a small containers and pop them in the freezer. After microwaving, it doesn't look as good as when it was fresh, but the taste is still great and it's perfect for days when I don't have anything to bring to campus for lunch.

Getting creative in the pantry

November 16th, 2006 at 07:42 pm

I'm trying to delay a "real" grocery trip and work with what I have in the pantry. When I made this goal, I should have taken a better look at what was available, because it's proven to be very challenging!

Last night I attempted to make Spanish Style Tortilla. I enjoyed this dish for the first time in a cafe in Madrid. All you really need are eggs and potatoes, both of which I had available. Having never made this before, I looked online and decided to go with this recipe.

Unfortunately, when it came time to flip the tortilla I spilled it all over the pan. I ended up scrambling the eggs and throwing in some grape tomatoes and parsley for color. Maybe I'll just have to wait to return to Madrid for another authentic tortilla!

The Spanish-style scrambled eggs :-)

Pizza-- healthy and on the cheap!

November 14th, 2006 at 05:43 pm

Mr. Bean and I had some homemade pizza for dinner tonight. I make the dough in the bread machine. I often see bread machines of Freecycle, so if you're intrigued, keep your eyes open for one! It took me a while to get it right, but my most consistently good crust comes from the following recipe:
3/4 cup water
1.5 tsp olive oil
2 1/4 cup bread flour (very important to use bread flour!)
3/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp yeast

From time to time I make pizza with a blend of white and whole wheat flour, but the end result can be variable. Need to experiment with whole wheat crusts some more!

I pre-heat the oven to 450, and bake the naked crust for about 7 minutes
(the naked crust!)

Add toppings (canned tomato sauce, whatever herbs and veggies I have on hand, a handful of cheese), and bake another 10 minutes or so. Add in a salad and vino, and viola! You're done!

This works well for casual dinners with friends. Since most poeple don't make their own pizza, people are typically unduly impressed. Furthermore, since you control the cheese, the end result is relatively healthy, very tasty and very cheap!

I checked out "Smart Couples Finish Rich" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in your 20's and 30's" from the library. I plan to settle back and do some reading!

Any advice for saving herbs from frost?

November 12th, 2006 at 07:49 am

This year was my first foray into gardening. What a joy it has been-- but I have a lot to learn.

We've had a few frosts here and most of my plants (ie impatients, sedum, begonia) have died. I have two large perrenial herbs-- (sage and oregano) that seem to still be doing OK. Any idea of how much longer I can expect the herbs (espcially the sage) to be OK outside? I'm in plant hardiness zone 6a if that helps. Maybe I should be pre-emptive and start drying some? Any advice on the best way to do this? I also have a small rosemary plant growing outdoors that I was thinking about transferring to a pot and bringing indoors. Do you think this will work? I love fresh herbs, but they can be pricey at the store.

Pork-- the other white meat

November 11th, 2006 at 01:32 pm

Thanks for all the comments! What a great way to start!

This morning I went shopping to buy food for my personal chef client as well as to pick up a few things for us. I spent $11.47 on us. I'll write more about that in another entry.

I highly recommend lean cuts of pork as a healthy, inexpensive alternative to chicken. Today I bought a boneless pork sirloin roast weighing ~ 3 pounds for $2.20 / pound for my clients... and it wasn't even on sale! A four oz. serving has just 2 grams of fat-- better than chicken and in my opinion, far more flavorful and moist.

Apples and sweet potatoes are also inexpensive this time of year (not to mention that they taste great now since they are actually fresh). Sweet potatoes, or more correctly yams, were just $0.44 / pound-- how can you beat that? Here's a recipe incorporating all three:

* 1 boneless pork sirloin loin roast, 3 to 4 pounds, fat trimmed
* 1/3 cup honey
* 1/4 cup orange juice
* 1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
* 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
* 3 large sweet potatoes, quartered
* 2 large apples, cored and quartered

Preheat the oven to 350į.

Coat a large ovenproof Dutch oven with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat. When very hot, add the pork roast. Cook, turning, until all sides are browned, about 6 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the honey, orange juice, apple juice concentrate, pepper, and brown sugar. Spoon over the pork roast. Place the sweet potatoes around the pork. Cover and bake for ~45 minutes. Add apples. Cook until meat thermometer registers 160 į.

Let the pork stand for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve pork roast sliced, with the sweet potatoes and apples.

If you're not using a meat thermometer I highly recommend starting!! You can buy a digital thermometer for under $10, and for ~$12 you can buy one that has a digital display that stays outside your oven. Aside from all the food safety reasons, your food will be saved from getting overcooked. I find that the cooking times listed in recipes are often inaccurate.