Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lentil, Chick Pea and Eggplant Boil

Sorry for the delay. I actually made this days ago, but due to my busy school schedule (yay! The semester is finally almost over!), I didn't have time until now to post it.

I always forget about lentils. I always have them in the house, and like them quite a bit, but most of the time, they don't even exist as an option in my head. I don't know why that is. I've been telling P for a while now I wanted to eat more lentils, so finally I just made some. I also decided to take this as an opportunity to use up some spare veggies laying about. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 anise bulb, sliced
1 small onion, cut into rings
1/2 jalepeno, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste

1 cup yellow potato, cubed
2 cups cubed and peeled eggplant
1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, cut into quarters
1 cup lentils
3 - 4 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon each: clove, cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/2 preserved lemon, diced

1 roma tomato, chopped
1 cup mixed broccoli and bell pepper (I used frozen)
1 cup chopped mint
2 cups cooked chick peas

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add first group of ingredients and fry until the onions and anise are lightly browned. Add second group of ingredients (use 3 cups water if you want it more like a pilaf, or 4 1/2 if you want a soup) and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add last group of ingredients and heat through. Serves 4-6.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pumpkin-Cranberry Oatmeal

Okay, so I liked the oatmeal the other day. This, coupled with a desire for increased health (and the option of a little fat off my belly, though not much) is making me open to eating oatmeal more often. But I'm still not ready for the rolled oats, which are so much faster to make. I like the texture of the steel cut, but they really do take a lot of time to make. Time is not something I have much of in the mornings, so I usually forego breakfast all together, instead favouring a large lunch of dinner. I did some research on oatmeal, and I found this article from Apartment Therapy. It gives you an overnight method that doesn't use the crock pot, to make the oatmeal (I only have a very large and a very small crock pot, which makes breakfast impractical for it). Sounds full of win, to me. Here's my take on this method. Hope you enjoy!

1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup steel-cut oatmeal
1 1/3 cups water
pinch salt
1 cup pumpkin
1/4 - 1/3 cup brown sugar
large handful dried cranberries
pinch each: cinnamon, nutmeg (freshly grated), ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Over medium heat, melt butter. Add oatmeal and fry lightly for a minute or two. Add the water and salt, then bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, then shut off the heat and cover (I have electric, so I left the pot half on and half off the burner). In the morning, uncover and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer. When fully heated, serve. Serves 2.

I'm giving you a picture this time, despite my previous refusal to do so. Oatmeal is never going to be pretty, but I figured you guys might want to see it anyway.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lazy Days Beans and Rice

This may be the laziest "recipe" I've ever posted, but I thought I'd share anyway, since sometimes the easiest foods are the most satisfying. We had this yesterday for dinner.

1 cup Bhutanese red rice
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked chick peas (I cooked mine while at school in the crock pot w/ one bay leaf)
1 teaspoon - 1 tablespoon furikake (basically season to taste)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine salt, rice and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then stir. Cover and reduce heat to a slight simmer, then cook 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, do not uncover the pot. Allow to sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Mix the beans and lemon juice into the rice. Serve, using the furikake as a condiment (hence the varying amount - each person should use to taste). Serves 2-4.

The picture looks kind of funny, because it's of the leftovers that were sitting out for a bit (I didn't remember to take a picture until I was about to do the dishes). Sorry 'bout that.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chicken Casserole

Normally I'm not a huge casserole person, if for no other reason than because it just doesn't occur to me to make them most of the time. Thursday, though, I came home from my early class and was going to make breakfast (huge fruit salad and coffee) and P said, "Is pasta for breakfast?" I was really confused until he mentioned the bag of pasta sitting on the counter. I'd intended to cook it so we could mix it quickly with mayonnaise and lemon pepper for a light lunch. I got the fruit out of the fridge to cut it and noticed a bag of shredded colby jack, and it reminded me of when my mother used to cook spaghetti squash and toss it with cheese and a can of stewed tomatoes. I really, really love that dish, but I don't have any squash in the house right now. So I figured I could just use that pasta instead and if I tossed in some chicken, it could make a nice dinner. Besides, I had refried beans and fresh tortillas that could serve as lunch just as well with a nice salad (or uh... a stupidly large pot of queso). As often goes with these things, once I get started thinking about food, I start thinking about what else was in the fridge (does everyone do this?). Eggplant. Oh yeah. I needed to use that eggplant before we go went of town for the weekend (for a wedding and for a birthday celebration).

Ultimately, I realised I should probably just turn this whole mess into a casserole and be done with it (honestly? I just really didn't want to do all the dishes it'd take otherwise). The eggplant would soften and take on that beautiful roasted flavour, the stewed tomatoes never mind oven heat and the cheese would be bubbly and wonderful. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it!

1 12-ounce pasta (I used a multi-shape one) $0.79
1 can stewed tomatoes $0.50
1 pound chicken breast (this was one large breast for me), de-boned and cut into cubes $1.00 (on sale)
1 cup cubed eggplant (peeled or not; I left the peels on) $0.50
1/2 cup diced celery $0.30
1 package pearl onions (I recommend you use frozen, if you're lazy like I normally am) $2.00 (less if frozen)
1 1/2 cups shredded colby jack, divided (cheddar would be great here too) $1.00
1 tablespoon lemon pepper (can't leave that out!) $0.10
1/2 cup shredded colby jack $0.25

Preheat oven to 350F. Boil a large pot of water (w/ salt added). When boiling, dump in the onions and let them cook 30 seconds to a minute. Transfer to a large bowl of ice water and cool for about a minute. Cut the tops off the onions and then, holding the root end of each onion, squeeze it out of its skin. Cook pasta according to package directions in this onion water, then drain. Mix all ingredients except the smaller amount of cheese, then bake one hour. Uncover, sprinkle remaining cheese on and bake about 10-15 more minutes, or until bubble. Serves 4-6.

Total cost: $6.44
Per serving: (4 servings) $1.61, (6 servings) $1.07

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beans and Pasta

Oddly, I told myself earlier today to cook some beans. But then I got side-tracked by TV and calculus (in that order) and completely forgot. Canned to the rescue, I suppose. Anyway, I had some eggplant in the fridge (what a shock) and I wanted to make a little of it, but I thought I should add some protein to the mix (hence the beans). This is a relatively unseasoned dish, first because I really just wanted to taste all the components without any real modification and secondly, because the capers and preserved lemon are so salty. Enjoy!

2 tablespoons each: butter, olive oil
1 leek, washed and sliced into half moons
1 carrot, sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
salt to taste

1 cup each: diced eggplant (I used Indian ones), celery (including leaves)
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
12 ounces vegetable rotini, cooked to package directions
1/2 cup roughly chopped basil
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and diced
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 cup chopped tomato
2 tablespoons butter

Heat butter and oil together over medium. Add leek, carrot, mushrooms and salt. Cook until the carrots are soft, then add eggplant and celery, cooking again until the eggplant is soft. Add beans and lemon juice, heating through. When pasta is cooked and drained, add it and the remaining ingredients, cooking until the tomatoes just barely soften a bit. Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cherry Oatmeal

Astra at Food for Laughter made a post recently about almond milk oatmeal, that became of sudden interest to me when I had a lot of leftover almond milk from making the flan over Passover. I've never really been a fan of oatmeal, for purely textural reasons, but I've been hearing lately that using steel cut oats is a a good alternative for people who don't like the texture of regular oatmeal. I figured it was worth a shot, since I'd really like to enjoy oatmeal (primarily since it keeps you full through a long day, and doesn't cost much). The people who talked about the steel cut were right - it was delicious! I will spare you all the photo, since we all know oatmeal really just looks like vomit. Enjoy!

3 cups almond milk (or water or regular milk)
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup brown sugar

Bring the milk to a boil, then add in oats, cherries, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to combine, and cook according to package directions (my package said to cook 25-30 minutes, but I found it was actually closer to 45), stirring occasionally. When the oatmeal is close to done, add in the brown sugar and vanilla. Cook until done. Serves 2.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Wanchai Ferry Sweet and Sour

As you all know, I've been dreading this one. Nothing in the Asian category of sweet and sour appeals to me, usually. Well, okay. I usually find them completely disgusting. So it was with much trepidation that I took out the chicken and made this (at P's request).

Heart in my throat, I made the rice and cut the chicken into little bits. I fried the chicken in the cornstarch mixture (which smelled amazing, btw). Then I cut open the sauce packet. To my delighted surprise, it was not bright red or orange. This was the first sign of hope that I was not going to be icked out when I ate the food. P was excited, and played a video game while he waited to taste it.

I mixed it all together and finished heating the sauce and pineapple/water chestnut mixture through. It actually started to smell... appetizing. My mouth watered a bit. When it was heated through, I put a huge portion (half) into P's bowl and brought it to him. For myself, I got out a plate, and a jar of rice seasoning. I mounded up rice on my plate, then off in a corner, isolated from the rice, I dished up a little bit of the sweet and sour mixture. Rice seasoning tucked under my arm (y'know... in case the sweet and sour was gross, I could just eat rice for dinner and pass the rest of the food off onto P), I wandered toward the living room (we eat in the living room). I dipped a finger into the mixture and tasted it. Then I stopped and walked back to the kitchen. Shockingly, this wasn't gross. It was actually... good? I didn't know yet.

I put the rice seasoning back in the spice cabinet and put some more of the sweet and sour on that part of the plate. My first impression was that it wasn't cloyingly sweet, and had enough vinegar to produce a proper tang. With a backward glance at the rice seasoning (hey, I'm just being honest here), I went back to the living room with my plate of increased food portion.

I sat down and took a bite. Ouch! It was a little hotter than I realised. P said the same. We settled in and waited for it to cool off a bit. Then we ate. P thought it was absolutely delicious. He ate his up very quickly. I ate mine more slowly. The sweetness was really only hinted at. The vinegar was stronger, making it much tastier. I decided I liked it. It was actually pretty good. The sauce wasn't super-viscous, just as the other sauces weren't. I ate most of my food. Eventually, it did become a little too sweet for me, so I stopped eating. At the end of the meal, I felt satisfied and well-fed, as well as surprised that a sweet and sour ANYTHING existed that I enjoyed. Good job, Wanchai Ferry!

So yes. I recommend this. Even more so to those who're lovers of sweet and sour sauce.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Passover Lamb

In addition to a few recipes from Gourmet Magazine (orange flan, which you should totally make because it was stunningly good, the sweet and sour celery, and the saffron rice - I made MUCH smaller quantities of these), I also made a leg of lamb. We bought a small, boneless one; about 3 pounds. It was really lovely, but does require a bit of planning. I marinated the lamb for a full day before cooking. I'm sure if you're in a hurry, you could just do a couple hours, though a full day of marinating really lets the flavours get in there! Anyway, hope you enjoy!

3 pound boneless leg of lamb


1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon each: dried basil, dried marjoram, ground coriander
1 tablespoon each: aleppo pepper, sumac, minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground dried bergamot peel (or orange peel)
2 tablespoons each: pomegranate molasses, olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
scant 1/4 cup orange juice
1 small sprig rosemary (I left this whole, but you can chop it if you like)

Mix together. Put lamb in a baking pan that closely fits its size. Pour marinade over (it will be very thick; only slightly thinner than a paste) and rub all over both sides of the lamb. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. When you wake up in the morning, turn the lamb over and pat more of the marinade over it. Go about your business for the day (giving it roughly 24 hours total of marinating time, being turned only once). Heat oven to 325. Remove plastic and cover with foil (or you could just have used foil all along, I suppose, but I didn't think of that). Insert probe thermometer in the thickest part and roast until it reaches 145F (for medium rare). I think that was maybe an hour or an hour and a half for me (this time chart may help). Let it rest a while (I let it rest while I was finishing the rice), and during the resting portion, pour all the marinade from the roasting pan into a small saucepan and boil it down to make it a thick sauce. Serves probably 6.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Ham Bone Soup

I discovered a ham bone in my freezer the other day and thought it'd be marvelous with the lima beans I've been seeking a use for. My ham bone had slightly less meat than I initially thought it did, so I added in another third to half pound of ham dice. If your bone has a good amount of meat in it, I don't really see a huge need for the addition of more meat. This recipe adapts perfectly to a slow cooker, for those who love soup in the summer but don't love the heat cooking it produces. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 pound soaked lima beans
1 bay leaf
1 small slice dried galangal or ginger
1 large handful dried onion
2 omani (dried lemons)

1 ham bone
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced (mine are dry packed, not packed in oil)

1 cup celery, cut into 1/2-1" pieces
1 zucchini, cut into half moons
2 carrots, sliced
1/3-1/2 pound ham, diced (optional)
water as needed

Combine first group of ingredients (I add water to cover the beans by an additional 2 inches). Bring to a strong simmer and simmer until the beans are cooked through, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Add the second group of ingredients and let it cook another hour or so (plus water if needed). Remove the bone, omani and galangal. Cool the bone enough to handle and remove meat. Chop the meat and return to the soup with the last group of ingredients. Simmer another 30 minutes to an hour, or until you are ready to eat, adding water as needed. Serves 4. Also, great with a slice of bread.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Supreme Pizza

In my quest to use up all the yeasted bread before Passover, I pulled the remaining pizza crust out of the freezer (I made two and froze one) and we had pizza the other night. I had forgotten how wonderful homemade pizza is (and even better now that we have a stone!).


1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon italian spices
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried onion
pinch sugar
1/2 teaspoon or so salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste

Simmer 30 minutes or so.


1/4 cup each: bell pepper, onion, black olives, jalepenos
1/2 cup mushrooms
pepperoni to cover all but 1" of crust
6-7 ounces mozzarella or italian cheese blend

Shape pizza crust (or use already made and roll it out). Top with sauce (I used half; you might need more. If your crust is large, increase the amount of other ingredients), then cheese. Add your rings of pepperoni, then top with all the rest. If you are using a pizza peel to transfer this to the oven, make sure to put more flour in the middle or it will get stuck (don't ask how I know this) and you will have to worm it off into a deformed ... pizza, using a spatula. Bake at the highest temperature your oven goes to for 4 minutes, then turn and give it another 5-7 minutes. Unless your pizza crust has other directions, in which case you should follow them. This fed 2 of us.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pantry Stocking for Frugal Living, Part Six

And the sixth and last letter:

Ok, so you've had enough by now, I'm sure. Here's a little more:

Homemade soft drinks:

When you peel an apple, save the peel and the core. Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a pan and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for one minute, then add the apple bits and remove from the heat. Let it hang out for an hour or two, then strain the apple bits out. You can mix this syrup w/ club soda to make apple soda.

You can make these syrups from almost anything. In my fridge right now I have mint syrup, lemon-lime (homemade 7-up), kumquat, orange, apple, ginger ... and some other stuff I can't remember.

Big treats:

Homemade Oreo cookies (which you've already tasted, I believe), homemade biscotti, biscuits, bread, ding dongs, pies and all sorts of other treats. I have a lot of recipes for this kind of stuff, so just tell me what you want to make and I'll get you a recipe.

This next section is deleted, as it just has a bunch of recipes from this blog that you've already seen before, as options for using all the stuff in the pantry and freezer. If you guys haven't found recipes on google for these treats, holler at you and I'll send you the links I have.


PS - I'll leave you alone now, unless you have questions. :)

I forgot something. I think. I'm scared to go through all those emails to find out.

When you buy produce next, save a couple of the produce bags you put it in before you bring it home. Anytime you use produce, and you're not using the scraps to make syrups (citrus peel, ginger, etc), put the produce scraps in that bag and stick it in the freezer.

This is everything from onion skins, eggplant peel,tomato seeds, cabbage and celery ends, cucumber ends, parsley stems, squash seeds you're not roasting as a snack, citrus peels (not too many or it makes the stock bitter) you don't feel like making syrup with, whatever. Put it in the bag and keep it in the freezer. When the bag is full, throw everything in the bag into a big stock pot, fill it up with water (and a little salt if you want; though I generally don't salt this) and let it simmer for anywhere from 6 hours to a day. Then strain it, throw away or compost the produce scraps, and return the broth to the pot. Simmer it until it's reduced to the quantity that will fit in your largest pitcher. Viola, vegetable stock. I usually make this once or twice a month, because the scraps add up *really* quickly.

I like this because it only costs the few cents from the water, since the produce is basically "free," as it's stuff I would've thrown away otherwise. And if you compost, just toss the ends in your compost after you make the stock, which gives you a third use.



Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pantry Stocking for Frugal Living, Part Five

Here's the fifth letter:

Are you tired yet? I am. We're almost done, though.

So, here's the deal w/ produce. If it's really cheap, per pound, it's in season. If it's really expensive, it's not in season. You want to eat seasonally whenever possible. Mainly for two reasons.

1. It's a lot less expensive.
2. Your food will be fresher.

In ethnic stores, you can also get dried fruits really cheaply, and they are great for snacks and also to add to foods you're cooking.

Frozen vegetables:

Green beans
Onion (optional)

Frozen fruit:

Pick out 2-5 kinds of fruits and berries you like, and keep a bag of them in the freezer. You can use them for pie, for ice cream toppings, for smoothies, all sorts of things. Also cobbler, clafoutis, etc. Frozen fruits are like the miracle product, because you can fruits that aren't in season super cheaply. Sometimes even fruits that ARE in season can be gotten cheaply this way, as well as exotic fruits you might not've been able to afford otherwise.

This is basically where we finally arrive at the "nine dollars per week" thing. And also why I needed to start you on staples. I have all the staples I listed in the other emails, plus a ton more. I eat a lot of Middle Eastern food, so I have a lot of things that're prevalent in their cooking that aren't in American cooking. You'll want to personalise your staples as well. I keep a list of what staples are getting low on the fridge, and when I go to the store, if I see one of those things on the list on sale, I buy it then. That way I never run out.

Buying seasonal produce, you can have a nice assortments of fruits and vegetables (and usually one staple per week replaced), and still spend only 9/week.

In a typical 9 dollar week I will buy:

1-2 potatoes (not pounds; just 1-2 individuals. A potato goes a long way)
1 onion, or 3 tiny onions
2-5 fruits of my choice. I take these and cut them up to make a fruit salad which I eat throughout the week. I will usually get a pear or two, an orange or sweet grapefruit or two, maybe an apple, an eighth of a watermelon (many stores will sell part of a watermelon for a dollar. when they do, I'll buy it), some other melon and/or berries.
Celery, if I'm out (celery will usually last me 2-3 weeks, depending on what I'm making; wrap it in foil to make it last longer)
1-2 cucumbers
whatever other veggies are cheap and look good (eggplant is a favourite)

Like I said, I make 1 large bowl of fruit salad per week and I eat a bowl of it for breakfast almost every day. It's also a nice snack. Sometimes I splurge and get a cheap bag of chips or some other junk food. If you're really committed to sticking to the 9/week thing, don't do that. I just find it simpler, for when I don't want to make my own treats. You might need to leave out a little fruit or something if you run out of flour, but in general, you can keep it really cheap.

One thing you can do is get a mason jar or two, and a bunch of lemons, to make Moroccan preserved lemons (they're a wonderful flavouring to foods that require very little work to make). Wash your mason jar and dry it. Scrub the skins of your lemons to remove the wax coating. Cut the tips of the lemons off, only to show the pith - not all the way to the pulp. Stand them up on one end, and cut them 3/4 of the way through, then make a perpendicular cut 3/4 of the way through also. Pack the cuts with kosher salt. Put a teaspoon or so of kosher salt into the bottom the jar, then smoosh as many lemons as you can in there. The juice should come out of the lemons and cover them completely, but if not, add in some more lemon juice from the bottle (many people say only to use fresh, but I've never noticed a difference). Put the lid on tightly. A few times a day, shake the jar for 2 weeks. After two weeks, you can use the lemons. You can reuse the juice/salt mixture in the jar to preserve more lemons. These will last about a year.