Saturday, May 31, 2008

Comments of the Week

This week, it’s kale recipes, coupon clipping, vegetarian beefs, and remembrances of Presidents of the United States of America gone by. Oh, and if you have the time, check out all the great responses to What Would You Do: Restaurant Gives Meat to a Vegetarian. The consensus: I should have spoken to a manager, yo.

On Millions of Grilled Peaches (Grilled Peaches for Me)

molly b: Can't believe someone else actually remembers that song. We had a hamster once that we named Peaches... because we got her for free. :-)

Monica: I loved that song! So much I bought the whole CD. Oh the crapola we listened to in order to get one great song. Thank you so much iTunes!

On
Eating Healthy While Clipping Coupons: The Dos and Don’ts

Pam: I started clipping coupons a couple of months ago and was amazed at how many of them are for personal care items. Since I'm not brand loyal for these kinds of things, I've saved a lot of money using coupons. It's freed up more of my grocery budget for the organic dairy I've been wanting to purchase but couldn't.

Di Hickman: Also for those looking for healthier coupons, try Mambosprouts.com they have some health food coupons, but then you gotta search the supermarkets to find the items! (though whole foods does take coupons)

Chocoholic: Another thing on the websites, especially organic companies, sign up for their emails! I routinely get emails from Horizon, Organic Valley, etc. that have coupons in them. Make sure to check out the register coupons some places print. I've bought Amy's pizzas and gotten Kashi pizza coupons and vice versa.

On Kale and Hearty: White Bean and Kale Soup with Turkey Sausage

c.r.a.: Now that you have discovered kale, may I suggest my favorite kale recipe, Pasta with Kale and Fontina? It is so good. I only use half of the pasta called for to make it more about the veggie goodness (and as a result, you can scale back the chicken broth a little) and gouda cheese is, I think, even better than the fontina. It also makes rocking leftovers.

Leigh: Kale is my favorite leafy green. When in doubt, just sautee with garlic and mmm! Enjoy your new, healthy relationship.

Anonymous: As for other greens, can I suggest Swiss Chard? I make a one dish meal (sounds better than casserole ?) with Canadian bacon, Swiss chard, potatoes and Gruyere ( or regular Swiss) cheese that is very good. Recipe is here.

On Veggie Might: That’s What I Was Going to Say

Jen@BigBinder: When I go to a restaurant, I want someone who can do something snazzy with vegetables so I usually order a vegetarian dish. I think there is a greater potential for interesting and beautiful and tasty dishes I can't make at home.

CraftyKate: I can only speak for myself of course, but as a long time veggie who lives with a meat eating boyfriend it makes me uncomfortable when a meat eating family make too big of a deal about me being veggie. … I really don't want to be a burden, and while it's incredibly sweet she's willing to go out of her way to make me welcome in her home, I always feel like a finicky pain when she buys me my own meal. I'm happy with the non meat portions of the meal!

Michelle: I know food choices can be hard, but I think vegan shoes have really come along way! One of my favorite vegan shoe sites is: http://www.vegetarianshoesandbags.com/. They also just added a children's line as well! doesn't get any easier than this!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Millions of Grilled Peaches (Grilled Peaches for Me)

I am a fruit girl. Sure, I like vegetables and grains appeal to me now more than ever, but I am, have always been, and will always be a fruit girl.

Besides the pleasure of scorching my translucent flesh to a bacony-textured, slightly off-white hue, the abundance and variety of fruit is the key reason I tolerate humid, stinky summers in New York. Every June and July the Union Square farmers market teems with cherries, watermelon, blueberries, plums – all the good stuff. It’s a rainbow of inexpensive nutritiousness, and sashaying down the open-air aisles, it’s all I can do to keep from stuffing my face with juicy, fruity wonderment. Even the local Key Food, normally a black hole of bruised produce, is starting to brim with berries, melons, and most importantly, peaches.

They were on sale this week, and despite my newfound aversion to off-season fruit, I couldn’t let their fuzzy goodness go to waste in some other Brooklyn kitchen. No, I had to have them. What’s more, I had to have them GRILLED.

Grilling stone fruits (peaches, plums, apricots, etc.) deepens the flavor and, to use a technical term, squishens them. This means you won’t need to sharpen your incisors and/or a hacksaw to enjoy them on frozen yogurt. Fortunately, broiling stone fruits has essentially the same effect, only you miss those darling grill marks. You know – the ones that scream, “BEHOLD, MORTAL! FIRE TOUCHED THIS PEACH!” If you’re lacking a Weber, however, broiling is the way to go.

That’s what I did with How to Boil Water’s Grilled Peaches. First, I let them marinate in a Food Network-approved brew for about five minutes longer than necessary. Then, the broiler was fired up, the peaches were plopped face-down on a pan (flipped halfway through), and blazing, blistering heat took care of the rest. The Boyfriend and I ate them with a spoon and no accompaniment (except each others' swooning gazes). And they were delicious.

One caveat – once the fruit passed the five-minute mark in the broiler, the sugar started to burn to a blackened mass. So keep an eye out. Also keep an eye out for more simple fruit-based dessert recipes in the near future. Because, I don’t know if I mentioned this? But I likes me some fruit.

Grilled Peaches
Serves 4
Adapted from How to Boil Water by Food Network Kitchens.

4 ripe medium peaches, quartered and pitted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 to 2 pints frozen vanilla yogurt (optional)
Suggested toppings: toasted sliced almonds

1) Preheat a grill (medium-high).

2) In a large bowl gently combine peaches, vanilla extract, almond extract, and brown sugar. Let marinate 15 minutes while grill is heating. Place on grill, skin side down, "until skin is slightly charred, about 3 minutes." Flip and grill the second side about 1 minute, until there are grill marks. Flip again and do the same for the third side.

3) Split peaches into 4 servings. If you like, fro-yo and toasted almonds are good accompaniments.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
84 calories, 0.25 g fat, $0.39

Calculations
4 ripe medium peaches: 153 calories, 1 g fat, $1.12
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract: 2 calories, 0 g fat, $0.12
1/4 teaspoon almond extract: negligible calories and fat, $0.20
1/4 cup dark brown sugar: 180 calories, 0 g fat, $0.11
TOTAL: 335 calories, 1 g fat, $1.55
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 84 calories, 0.25 g fat, $0.39

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Veggie Might: Daikon (Jicama) Mango Slaw - I Can Make That

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

It’s pretty much my goal as an amateur gourmet on a budget to recreate the fabulous things I eat (or smell) in restaurants on the cheap, on the veg, or at all. Since I can’t afford to eat out often, I pay close attention and occasionally take notes (or poor resolution camera phone pics).

Working without a recipe can be risky for sure, especially when you’re a cheapskate like me. I HATE wasting food. But I also find it extremely rewarding. It’s creative and fun, and when it works, it’s thrilling. I dance around, give the dog a carrot, and if it’s really good, call my mother to brag.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of dining at Spring Street Natural, an organic wonderland in New York City’s SoHo district. Two work friends recommended it and were stunned I’d never been there. After I took a gander at the online menu, I was stunned too. There were so many delicious-sounding vegetarian choices. I really have to get out more. Mid-year Resolution: No more veggie burgers in pubs!

Later that evening I found in front of me a plate of corn-crusted tofu, sautéed spinach, and jicama mango salad. It was all lovely. The tofu had a great texture, and the seasoned cornmeal crust gave it a flavor and crispiness reminiscent of the catfish I grew up with. The spinach was spinach. I love spinach; but it was nothing to call mom about.

But the best part of the meal was the jicama mango salad. Oh yeah. It’s why I ordered that entrée in particular. I could have had a veggie casserole with quinoa—Maude knows I love quinoa—but the jicama mango combo was speaking to me. And once on my fork, it spoke to me right in my mouth.

A sweet/savory combo done right is a dream come true. The jicama was crispy and mild; the mango was tart and crunchy with just the right amount of sweetness countered by cilantro, red onion, a tang, which I assumed was lime juice, and some kind of heat. But what was it? Garlic? I didn’t think so. Cayenne? Jalapeño? It was a mystery; there was heat without flavor. Of course, my palate is not that sophisticated, so it could just have eluded me.

For days (okay, two), I talked about this salad before I decided I just had to make it. My only real challenges were finding jicama and balancing the proportions. Jicama is a Mexican tuber with a mild flavor, kind of like an apple. It’s just a touch sweet—just a touch—and crunchy when served raw. Actually, I never had it any other way.

The jicama to mango proportion had been about 2:1, and the cilantro and onion did not overpower. I decided to use cayenne for heat, and if it tasted weird, to add a teeny bit of garlic to a small portion of the slaw to check the flavor. It turned out to be a nonissue.

Never leaving a three-block radius of my apartment, I went to four different vegetable markets on my quest for ingredients. First, I went to my tried-and-true, everything-here-is-about-to-go market, where I scored mangoes at two for $1, red onions for 75¢ a pound, and seven limes for $1. But no jicama. Then, I went to the Korean market—where they coo over my dog—and got cilantro for 79¢ a bunch. Still no jicama. So, Snack and I trucked it down to the Mexican produce market. No señorita, no jicama para tí.

Luckily I was able to draw on the vast (ha!) knowledge of world cuisine I gained working as a waitron at a glorified diner on the Upper West Side. Daikon, a white radish, has a, well, radishy flavor, but is fairly mild. Its texture is similar to jicama, so I figured it would make an adequate substitute. I shoved Snack in his pet carrier, went into the Amish Market (the name of the store, not run by actual Amish people), and procured the proxy ingredient (for 99¢ a pound).

If you try this recipe and can’t find either jicama or daikon, try a firm, tart apple like Granny Smith. It will work great. When choosing mangoes, go for the firm, not-so-ripe ones. You’ll be amazed how much easier they are to cut in this state. Get your chopping gloves on. All the chopping for this recipe gave me a blister.

Daikon (Jicama) Mango Slaw
Adapted from the Jicama Mango Salad at Spring Street Natural
Yields about 14 ½ -cup servings

4 medium daikon, julienned
2 mangoes (firm, not-yet-ripe), julienned
3 limes, juiced
1 small bunch cilantro, finely chopped
½ medium red onion, quartered and sliced thin
Salt
Cayenne to taste

NOTE #1: This dish is all about Julienne and her cutting style. If you have good knives, you’ll be a-okay. If you’re not sure if you have good knives, you’ll know soon enough. I have crappy knives, but I’m persistent. I wore a band-aid at the base of my index finger like a badge of honor when I served this delight at a Memorial Day BBQ.

1) Julienne (cut into thin sticks) the daikon (jicama) and mango. Place in a big ol’ bowl.

2) Stir lime juice into bowl with fruit and veg.

3) Add cilantro and onion. Stir

4) Add salt to taste.

5) Add a few dashes of cayenne. Wait 30 minutes. If you still want it hotter, add a bit more. The daikon gives a little bit of that heat I was looking for.

NOTE #2: The longer this dish marinates the better. A subway ride to Brooklyn is a good start. Here we are a couple of days later, and my Mom is getting a call about it.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
34.3 calories, .2 g fat, $0.37 per serving

Calculations
4 med daikon: 240 calories, 1.2g fat, $2.50
2 mangoes: 170 calories, 1.2g fat, $1.00
1/2 medium red onion: 20 calories, .1g fat, $.25
1 small bunch cilantro: 22 calories, .5g fat, $.79
3 limes, juices, 28.5 calories, .1 fat, $0.08
1 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1 tsp cayenne pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
TOTALS: 480.5 calories, 3.1g fat, $5.21
PER SERVING: 34.3 calories, .2 g fat, $0.37 per serving

CHG Favorites of the Week

Food Blog of the Week
Carol on Keller
Maryland resident/novice chef Carol is attempting every meal in the legendarily complicated French Laundry cookbook, which is a bit like learning math by starting with calculus. Fr’ instance? The most recent post documents her attempt to braise and stuff a pig’s head. Yoinks.

Food Comedy of the Week
“Cake or Death” by Eddie Izzard
Someone set Eddie’s famous/FAHbulous Dress to Kill show entirely to Legos! It's hilarious, and almost better than being covered in bees.



Food Organization of the Week
Kiva
A microlending organization connecting individuals directly to the folks they’re donating to, Kiva is one of (if not THE) first website of its kind. What happens is this: you choose an entrepreneur anywhere in the world and loan them a pre-designated amount of cash. Over time, they grow their business, lift themselves out of poverty, and pay you back. Then, you can invest in someone else registered with the site. Awesome. Part of my government stimulus is definitely going toward this.

Food Quote of the Week
‘I do wish we could chat longer, but … I'm having an old friend for dinner. Bye.” – Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), Silence of the Lambs

Food Tip of the Week
Whether you’re a home cook or part-time dieter, if you have to weigh ingredients often, there’s no need to buy a fancy, expensive electronic food scale. Instead, look for a plain old analog one. They work just as well, clean-up is easy, and brand new items sell for about 20% of what a digital doohickey would cost.

Untried Cheap Healthy Recipe of the Week
30 Ways to Be a Good Guest at Smitten Kitchen
In a stunning culinary coup, Deb compiles more than two dozen of her favorite party-appropriate dishes. It’s all good, but especially don’t miss out on Black Bean Confetti Salad, Hoisin Barbecue Sauce, and Tequila Lime Chicken. Good lord.

Food Video of the Week
“Grits” by RZA
Wu-Tang mastermind RZA digs deep and comes up with the most heartfelt paean to cornmeal ever put on wax. Grits sustained his family in dark times, and now he’s giving them their due.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Eating Healthy While Clipping Coupons: The Dos and Don’ts

(So, I finished this piece a few days ago, but waited until today’s scheduled Article Day to post. Money Saving Mom beat me to the punch in the best possible way. Guest contributor Jody Connelly has a tremendous essay called Nine Coupon Myths Debunked, and while it doesn't concentrate wholly on healthy couponing, it’s absolutely worth ten ganders. I encourage you to read it, study it, and adopt it as your child. Once that’s done, c’mon back here. Hopefully, this can add to Jody’s well-observed points.)

A few weeks ago, Serious Eats (one of my favorite blogs) picked up on a CHG piece called The Hour: How 60 Minutes a Week Can Save Hundreds of Dollars. Their post summarized The Hour in four simple steps, #2 of which was “Clip and organize coupons.” Quite a few commenters picked up on it, and more than one made the same salient point: it’s difficult to use coupons and eat healthy.

(Incidentally, one or two comments were along the lines of, “Coupons suck. I’ve been a vegan for 400 years, grow and cook all my own food from scratch, and refuse to ingest anything that’s ever come within 300 yards of a questionably unhealthy chemical. P.S. I’m better than you.” But we’ll ignore them.)

(For now.)

I won’t deny it: the “coupons aren’t healthy” folks are largely on the money. When it comes to food discounts, the vast majority of coupons are for sugary snacks and preservative-laden convenience products. You’d do better to lick a few dirty band-aids for the vitamins and minerals they provide, “Low in fat! High in niacin!” claims aside. What’s more, coupons can lure you to buy foods you wouldn’t otherwise, and oftentimes, those items are significantly pricier than generic or competing brands.

But.

There are ways around the coupon trap. By applying the little buggers prudently, you can (and will) save a few bucks off healthy foods every week. It’ll compensate for the cost of labor and materials, and the time commitment shouldn’t take away from more important things. Like cooking, sleeping, or wondering why your boyfriend can get his laundry NEAR the hamper, but never IN the hamper.

Here are a few guidelines. You’ll note that some might not be applicable to your particular situation, and a few may even be at odds with each other. But hey – take what you like, and leave the rest. As always, I’d love to hear reader suggestions, as you guys are a scrappy, brainy bunch whose wisdom trumps mine by a country mile.

DON’T clip coupons for crap foods. It may seem intuitive, but if you ignore the insert discount on Mr. Transfat’s Super Rainbow Sugar Snackaroos, you’re much less likely to buy the product. And sandwiched between that barrage of prism-hued cartoon ads (which, infuriatingly, are often and obviously aimed at kids) are food coupons much more worth your while, as both a cook and a healthy eater. Bonus: by snubbing the crap, you’re not adding extra time to your grocery routine.

DO clip coupons for pantry staples. Sure, some folks have the time and inclination to brew their own soy sauce from scratch, and more power to them. I don’t. Fortunately for me, a plethora of standard condiments and cupboard stalwarts appear quite regularly in coupon inserts. In fact, right now, I have paper discounts for bread, Tabasco sauce, mustard, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, milk, eggs, sugar, sweetened condensed milk, soy milk, frozen vegetables, sugar-free sorbet, coffee, whole grain pasta, peanut butter, jelly, bagged salad, and 5,000 kinds of yogurt. These aren’t unhealthy foods, and many function as ingredients for other, nutritionally sound meals. Plus? When the coupons are paired with circular sales, each item can be purchased for well below the regular price.

DO check online. I could be wrong, but I find websites seem to have more health-based coupons than do Sunday newspapers. As of this writing, $3 worth of Muir Glen tomatoes, Birds Eye frozen vegetables, and Tuscan dairy discounts are available at Coupons.com, while SmartSource.com has $3.85 off Tribe hummus, Borden organic milk, Near East couscous, Heartland pasta, and Pompeian olive oil and vinegar. (And, um, $1 on Ben and Jerry’s.) Lots of organic-friendly companies will include coupon offers on their business websites, as well. All in all, that ain’t too shabby. (Of course, beware of grocery stores that don’t take print-out coupons. Mine don’t.)

DON’T be unwaveringly brand-loyal. A vital component of this whole healthy couponing thing (and couponing in general) is forgoing your allegiance to certain brands. Simply, coupons are for all kinds of items made by all kinds of companies, and the more you’re willing to try, the more you’ll save. It means you may have to give up Pillsbury sugar for Domino’s, but the money’s worth it in the long run.

DO clip coupons for personal and kitchen supplies. I don’t know if you’ve ever bought generic plastic wrap, but in my experience, it’s slightly less worthless than a Paris Hilton math book. With the help of coupons (paired with store sales, of course), you can regularly score aluminum foil, Tupperware, soap, cleaners, and toothpaste – all necessities that usually get lumped into the grocery budget - for next to nothing. And? The money you bank can be applied toward healthy whole foods like produce, grains, and meat. Money Saving Mom has the lowdown.

DON’T clip coupons for items you will never use (or donate). Much like the “No Crap Foods” rule, there’s no need to blow two hours eviscerating a coupon insert because you may miss a fantasy deal on fish oil supplements. If you’re an elderly dog owner prone to yeast infections, go ahead and getcher markdowns for Tylenol Arthritis, Alpo and Vagisil. If you’re not, pass them by (unless you will donate those goods to charity in the near future). Again, you’ll save time and aggravation, which affect both your health and your willingness to coupon.

DO read up. I’m far from an expert, but I know that circular sales or coupons by themselves aren’t usually enough to make a product enticing. Applied together, though? Different story. And these two posts include all you really need to know: Coupons Tips and Tricks That Can Cut Your Grocery Bill by 80% at The Digerati Life and The One Month Coupon Strategy at The Simple Dollar.

And that’s it. Readers, again, I’d love to hear from you. There’s so much to talk about with this particular subject, and I’m sure I forgot a ton. Please edumacate me.

(Photos courtesy of Flickr members ninjapoodles, joslynl, and peretzpup.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

City Kitchen Chronicles: Introducing Jaime

City Kitchen Chronicles is a bi-weekly column about living frugally in Manhattan. It's penned by the lovely Jaime.

jaime:
Hello Cheap Healthy Good-ers! We here at City Kitchen Chronicles have a special column for you today. Two weeks ago you were introduced to Jaime by way of one of her cheapest, healthiest, tastiest recipes. Today we go past the flash and sizzle to meet the girl behind those tasty beans and veggies, to learn a little about how she ended up here, and why she’s sorta living on rice and beans. Hi Jaime. Thanks so much for joining us.

JAIME: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

jaime: Of course. So, first, how did you end up here at Cheap Healthy Good?

JAIME: Well, that’s a two-part question. Or, several parts. How did I find the website? How did I end up writing for it? Why do I feel the need for cheap, healthy, and good food in my life?

jaime: Any of that.

JAIME: Well, like most websites, I ended up at CHG through some sort of link odyssey. And why did Kris think I had things to say about cheap, healthy food when I spend most of my time blogging about theatre and cats? I’m not sure, but that leap of faith and that trust are a true gift.

jaime: You mention theatre. Something tells me there’s a connection there, to the cheap eating.

JAIME: Ha! Definitely. Working in theatre almost inherently necessitates frugal living. Non-profit off-Broadway theatre, though a wonderful place to work and make art, is not where you get rich. When I was finishing up college, I consciously made the decision to do what I love, not what would make me the most money. And so I find ways to make that work.

jaime: Now, yes, working in theatre does not pay a ton. But surely it must pay better than rice and beans. Don’t many of your coworkers do crazy, indulgent things like buy lunch rather than brown-bagging every day? How can they afford that when you can’t?

JAIME: Well, I may have had some, shall we say, financial indiscressions in my past. Senior year of college it seemed like a great idea, rather than having any savings on graduation, to spend winter break backpacking through Europe.

jaime: Ooh, how was that?

JAIME: It was amazing but, especially after my train passes got stolen on a train somewhere in Germany and had to be replaced, it catapulted me into a dependence on credit cards that I’m only now just starting to shake.

jaime: Ah, credit cards. (And a lesson to our readers to sleep on their bags on overnight trains.) But credit cards – can you tell us more about that?

JAIME: Sure. The Europe trip was the first time I remember really leaning on credit cards, and then it got more intense after graduation. My first job was working as an assistant at a talent agency, which makes my current job look like a goldmine. It paid horribly, and New York City is one of the most expensive places to live in the world. I had a new apartment (with two roommates) to furnish, and I think that went heavily onto credit cards, and my job wasn’t enough to make ends meet. I took on a second, part-time, job, but still – theatre tickets, a dinner out, groceries – I was living beyond my means. Nothing extravagant – okay, there was that hat – but I was just living a reasonable life on unreasonable money.

jaime: That doesn’t sound like the sort of person who would write for, let alone read, frugal cooking and personal finance blogs. What changed?

JAIME: Well, for starters, I got a new job. Which basically meant I could drop the second job – and wouldn’t have time for it, anyway. But a little more money was coming in. And then starting to stumble across, and then read, personal finance blogs was a big inspiration for me. I’d had a handful of moments of panic about my growing debt, but it was only several months ago that I made the commitment – to myself – to completely stop adding to it and to make a schedule to pay it off. So recently I’ve buckled down, hardcore. Part of what was – and is – so frustrating is that if I weren’t sending money to my credit cards every month, I’d have enough to live much more comfortably. But I know that a year (or two, oy) of really strapping down and doing this puts a definite end date to this.

jaime: And what is that end date?

JAIME: (mumbles) September 2011. My theatre paycheck doesn’t give me a lot to work with!

jaime: Well thanks for sharing that. It can be hard to be candid about this stuff.

JAIME: Sure thing.

jaime: So now that you’ve committed yourself to paying off your debt, how has your life changed?

JAIME: I’ve cut spending in every corner. My weekly grocery bill is down from about $60 a week to $25 or $30. I almost never eat out. I don’t have cable. I rarely buy clothes.

jaime: Is that hard?

JAIME: Honestly, yes. I think being young and single and living in New York makes it especially hard. Waah, I know, poor me. But, for example, almost every kind of socializing, of seeing my friends, involves spending money. Did we get free tickets to a play? Let’s get dinner beforehand. Is it someone’s birthday? Let’s go out for drinks. Have I not seen my best friend for two weeks? Let’s get coffee. And lunch. And see a movie. And in New York, all of this is bloody expensive. Groceries, too. Refocusing my priorities has really changed how I live.

jaime: Do you feel deprived?

JAIME: Of course, sometimes. I’ve had to find ways – often, small financial compromises – to keep myself feeling sane. But I also know why I’m doing this, why I’m living this temporarily ascetic life, and that once I’m out the other end, I’m going to have hundreds of extra dollars a week. And I also know that now I have the tools – and the discipline – to make that money go farther. I’m not going to suddenly lose my frugal mindset once my cards are paid off. And that’s exciting, too.

jaime: Good for you. Wherever you get your kicks.

JAIME: No, seriously. Figuring out how to eat for a week on $20, a third of what it used to cost me, is exciting. Because, look, when my cards are paid off, and I’ve got some emergency $$ stashed away, if I don’t go back to my old habits, let’s say $30 a week for groceries rather than the old $60, and I keep brown-bagging, no cable, this general frugal mindset and all the money that saves me from wasting – do you know how many pairs of shoes that is? How many fancy hats? Dinners out? It’s going to be awesome. I’m going to be able to save for retirement, see theatre beyond what I can get free tickets to, spend money where it counts rather than wasting it, and all because I learned to love rice and beans.

jaime: You’re insane.

JAIME: It’s a really pretty hat.

jaime: That’s true. It makes you look like a flapper.

JAIME: I know. I love that.

jaime: Well good for you. And thank you for sharing your story here. I’d ask about food, about cooking healthily and frugally, but that’s what your column’s for, isn’t it?

JAIME: Largely, yes. I’ve got more non-recipes like the bodega beans. I’ve got kitchen strategies that, for me at least, help me not waste money. I’ve got tales of living cheaply in the urban jungle. And I’ll probably find a way to sneak in something (it’s health-related!) about how weight lifting is the best thing ever, and how I really want my knee to heal so I can get back to the gym.

jaime: You pay for a gym membership? Isn’t than terribly anti-frugal?

JAIME: Not if you use it. But more on that to come.

jaime: Ooh, anticipation. Leave them wanting more. I like that.

JAIME: Thanks.

jaime: And thank you. And thanks to Kris for ok’ing an interview that was either a total rip-off of Glenn Gould or an easy way out of writing a self-introduction of coherent paragraphs.

JAIME: Indeed. And thanks for reading!

jaime: More soon!

JAIME: Yay rice and beans!

jaime: You’re crazy.

JAIME: Then so are you.

jaime: Crazy frugal.

JAIME: Okay, seriously now.

jaime: Okay. Bye!

(Photos courtesy of Flickr members GHD Photography & Design, truedeluxe, scandblue, wallyg, and docman.)

Tuesday Megalinks: The Post-Party Edition

We had 100 people at our place for a Memorial Day barbecue this weekend, and my kitchen just this morning stopped smelling like Brooklyn Lager. Please forgive me if some of these are nonsensical.

Being Frugal: Frugal Living for Beginners
Lynnae runs down a few starter strategies for frugal newbies. (Essentially: DIY, plan ahead, consolidate.) BAM!

Culinate: Better and easier cooking: rules for the home kitchen
With eight tremendous tricks to make cooking easier, this piece is a bit like “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Meaning, I wish I wrote it.

Culinate: Steering clear of refined grains (How to eat more whole grains)
What I like best about Culinate is that they walk you through things. Really, they’re the Alton Brown of foodie websites (only without the ballpits that are meant to symbolize atomic processes). This grain post is a good example.

Get Rich Slowly: Can Saving Prepare Us for an Economic Recession?
While it’s a bit tangential to the cheap/healthy theme, JD’s post is a vital one. He’s asking readers if they feel prepared for the financial straits we’re about to enter, and how it’s affecting them already. Personal stories abound, and it’s faboo to read so many viewpoints.

Lifehacker: Become the Memorial Day Grillmaster
Um. I’m one day late. But grill season has just begun to fight!

The Nest Baby: How Big is Baby?
Are you pregnant? Do you know someone who is? Have you ever heard the terms “pregnancy” or “there’s a baby in my belly and I’m going to push it out soon”? Go to Nest Baby now (especially if you like pictograms). Among other things, you'll discover that your nine-week-old fetus is about the size of an olive. (But should not be eaten as such.)

New York Times: Busy Students Get a New Required Course: Lunch
The brainy youths in this NYT article are skipping out on meals to pack in study time. I’m trying desperately to relate, as I was a (big) nerd. Alas, I was not a nerd who skipped lunch.

New York Times: Finding the Best Way to Cook All Those Vegetables
a.k.a. Prepping Produce to Pack Powerful Punches of Putrients and Pinerals. (Um, I was going for a theme there.)

Serious Eats: Cooking With Kids – School Lunch Revolution
Back in the olden days, when I was student teaching at a rural high school in upstate New York, I took the opportunity to glance at the kids’ cafeteria lunch offerings. There were hardly any vegetables, period, and every Wednesday, it was Pretzel Bites and Cheese Sauce. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? And we wonder why kids’ obesity is skyrocketing? Yarg. Anyway, this Revolution Foods program aims to change situations like Pretzelgate.

Serious Eats: Foodies Movies?
Movies! With food!

Serious Eats: Top 10 ingredients I will never have in my kitchen
Extensive comment thread on notorious denizens of American cupboards. Readers, what are yours? In descending order, my picks:
10. Mayonnaise/Miracle Whip
9. Anise
8. Lunchables
7. May to the onnaise
6. Kraft Singles
5. Fish in squeeze-paste form
4. Little Debbies snack cakes
3. Canned mushrooms (non-marinated)
2. Pre-made burger patties
1. It starts with "M" and ends with "ayonnaise"

Slashfood: Think twice about using palm oil
Palm oil = massive deforestation/widespread extinction of endangered species. Not so good.

Toronto Star: Sharing the wealth from Ontario farmland
What in the name of Alex Trebek’s mudflaps is this all aboot, you might ask? Well, if you’ve been curious about CSAs but don’t know where to start, Kim Honey’s $450 venture into fresh, locally-grown produce is a good place to commence reading. (Thanks to Slashfood for the link.)

WXYZ: Real Calorie and Fat Content
That barbacoa burrito you’re about to buy at Chipotle? Might have more calories than you think. Double yikes. (Thanks to Consumerist for the link.)

Washington Post: Young Lives at Risk – Our Overweight Children
If you read nothing else this week, please make sure you read this. It’s a gigantic series on kids’ nutrition and how their growing bellies affect almost every other aspect of their lives. Beyond the immaculately reported statistics and personal stories, the best part about the whole shebang is the multitude of solutions the authors propose. As a nation we need to get on this.

(Photos courtesy of Flickr members emyduck, Peter Korte, and cutglassdecanter.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

White Bean and Kale Soup with Turkey Sausage: Kale and Hearty

(In celebration of Memorial Day, this will be my last post until Tuesday. Hope y’all have lovely long weekends, and don’t forget the sunscreen!)

My experience with leafy greens has been somewhat limited. Salads and simple sauteés mostly, with the occasional collard green experiment thrown in to alleviate the boredom. Oh, and once, I cooked chard for so long it burned to the pot, causing a chemical/produce scent unrivalled by even the foulest San Joaquin poop lagoon. I still owe my old roommate R a new pot for that, plus a few years in nasal therapy.

Why have I never keened on to those heralded emerald veggies? I could resort to, “My Mama never made ‘em,” and it would be true. Clichéd, but true. More truthfully though, they never did much for me. For years, I pegged all leafy greens as tarted-up lettuce – crisp, crunchy, and destined to live eternity out as sandwich toppers. Every time I sauntered through a supermarket, I callously overlooked them, contented to live happily with my carrots and mushrooms.

Then, this week, I met kale. Kale and I knew each other through friends and the infrequent restaurant side dish, but we never really sat down for an extended meal. That changed with Closet Cooking’s White Bean and Kale Soup with Turkey Sausage. Nuanced, filling, and over-the-moon healthy, it made me want to develop a real relationship with kale - one where we could stroll on the beach and whisper love songs by the light of the moon. Of course, eventually one of us would be mercilessly consumed, but it doesn’t mean we couldn’t give it a shot.

As ever, there are one or two (or three) things to know about this recipe:

1) When you first chop the kale, odds are it will barely fit in the pot. (My gigantic dutch oven was just big enough.) Give it a few minutes. It’ll wilt to about 1/8th of the size.

2) You may need more or less stock/water. Seven cups of stock, plus two cups of precious agua did it for me.

3) The scent is outrageously good, and it will make other people want your food. A legal temp almost mugged me at the office microwave yesterday.

This kale encounter has encouraged me to try some of its jade-hued kin. Who knows? Next week it could be mustard greens. The week after that, amaranth. Then ... I don't know. I'm still learning.

Happy vacation!

White Bean and Kale Soup with Turkey Sausage
14 cups of soup or 9 1-1/2 cup servings
Adapted from Closet Cooking.

1 pound Italian turkey sausage (casing removed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 stalks celery (chopped)
2 carrots (chopped)
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 ounce can white beans
1 bunch kale (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1/4 red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 parmigiano reggiano rind (optional)
* chicken stock (I needed 7 cups of 99% fat-free stock and 2 cups of water. – Kris)

1) In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat until browned, breaking it up with the back of a spoon as you go. Remove to a plate when finished.

2) In the same skillet, heat oil over medium or medium-high heat. Add onion. Cook between 7 and 10 minutes, until soft, stirring occasionally. Add garlic. Cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

3) Add sausage and the remaining ingredients, ending with enough chicken broth to just cover everything. Cover, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, drop heat to a simmer and cook between 30 minutes and 1 hour.

4) Fish out bay leaf and cheese rind. Serve. Garnish each bowl with parsley and grated parm.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
224.4 calories, 7.4 g fat, $0.94

Calculations
1 pound Italian turkey sausage: 700 calories, 40 g fat, $2.50
1 tablespoon olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, $0.12
1 onion: 46 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.18
2 cloves garlic: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.10
2 stalks celery: 11 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.50
2 carrots: 50 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.20
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes: 163 calories, 0 g fat, $0.99
1 14.5 ounce can white beans: 482 calories, 1.2 g fat, $0.50
1 bunch kale: 335 calories, 4.7 g fat, $0.98 (I estimated this at 10 cups. - Kris)
1/2 teaspoon oregano: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1 bay leaf: negligible calories and fat, $0.03
1/4 red pepper flakes (optional): negligible calories and fat, $0.01
salt and pepper to taste: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
7 cups 99% fat-free chicken stock: 105 calories, 7 g fat, $2.33
2 cups of water: negligible calories and fat, $0.00
TOTAL: 2020 calories, 66.9 g fat, $8.47
PER SERVING (TOTAL/9): 224.4 calories, 7.4 g fat, $0.94

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Veggie Might: That’s What I Was Going to Say

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

This past weekend, my cute doggie, Snack, and I participated in a bike ride to promote pet adoption. Here’s a cute photo of Snack and a link to Rational Animal rescue collective. Adopt a pet and love forever!

Even before Kris asked me to write for CHG, I’d been thinking about what my Veggie Manifesto might say. It would not try to convert omnivores to the fold (though you may think otherwise from my first post—really, I was just making a correlation to our current eco/enviro situation); but it would respond to the same old questions and frequent (and unprovoked) defensiveness I encounter from meat eaters.

Then someone wrote it for me—my Veggie Manifesto—almost word for word. Almost.

In the Slate article, Meatless Like Me, Taylor Clark tells omnivores everything they’ve ever wanted to know about veggies, with a sense of humor and a dose of reality. I heard the podcast version while walking home from work one rainy evening last week. With every new point, I smiled and gave a little “amen, brother!” from under my umbrella.

Point one: We are regular people. Clark explains, “Imagine a completely normal person with completely normal food cravings, someone who has a broad range of friends, enjoys a good time, is carbon-based, and so on. Now remove from this person’s diet anything that once had eyes, and, wham!, you have yourself a vegetarian.”

We’re just like you, but with a plant-based diet. Not necessarily health-nuts, not necessarily activists, just people who choose not to eat meat, just as you might choose not to eat shellfish or horseradish.

I was beginning to feel liberated.

Point two: We want decent food in restaurants. Clark implores, “We really appreciate that you included a vegetarian option on your menu (and if you didn’t, is our money not green?), but it may interest you to know that most of us are not salad freaks on a grim slog for nourishment. We actually enjoy food, especially the kind that tastes good.”

Preach it!

Though, in New York City, I have little to complain about, it can still be tricky to eat out. When dining with my omni friends, I’m accustomed to making meals of sides, appetizers, and parts of entrees to the annoyance of many a waiter and chef to be sure. But I’m used to it. When I go to a vegetarian restaurant, it takes me hours to order; it’s such a novelty—and sometimes a burden—being able to choose from everything on the menu.

Point three: We don’t care what you eat. Clark reassures, “As you’re enjoying that pork loin next to me, I am not silently judging you.” That’s right, omnis. Go ahead and enjoy your osso buco. Savor that porterhouse. As long as I don’t have to eat it (or cook it for you), it doesn’t bother me. I grew up eating meat; I’ve served meat in restaurants (Who had the lamb shank?); I’ve only ever dated meat eaters. The people who attempt to make you feel guilty about your life choices are just, well, obnoxious. And if you feel guilty eating chicken Marsala on a date with your new vegan boyfriend, let me assure you, it’s your issue, not his.

There is one thing I would add or change in my version of the Veggie Manifesto. For me it goes beyond diet, into lifestyle territory.

While Clark is comfortable wearing leather as he shuns a roast beef sandwich, I find that contradiction hard to stomach. He challenges the reader to find a pair of nonleather dress shoes. May I kindly point you here, here, and here? And Portland, where Clark resides, is the home of the first vegan mini mall, which can probably help him find local vegan shoe options.

But his point is well taken. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to be the perfect vegetarian or vegan. (And if you eat fish or chicken sometimes, you’re neither.) We have to set boundaries we can live with. After that, we are only accountable to our own consciences.

So why do meat eaters become so defensive in the presence of vegetarians? Clark doesn’t really ask this question, but I’m curious. I’m not referring to a discussion of the lifestyle between willing participants. I’m talking about unsolicited attacks on the wisdom of my food choices based on presumed lack of dietary merits, ethical differences, or just plain antagonism. Does the perceived deprivation of the vegetarian lifestyle make people uncomfortable? Make them feel like they should be doing something they’re not?

If that’s it, then everyone can relax. I am not deprived. I don’t starve (which you could tell if you could see me), and I enjoy the food I eat. I don’t even miss the meat. Sometimes I get a little wistful when I think of crab cakes or smell fried chicken, but it doesn’t last. I savor the memories and enjoy the vegetarian bounty before me.

Hosanna!

(Shoe photo courtesy of Flickr member shoe la la.)

CHG Favorites of the Week: The Cake Edition

Food Blog of the Week
Allergic Girl
Tree nuts, salmon, eggplant, melon, tropical fruits, and lemongrass are just a few of the banes of Allergic Girl’s existence. For three years, she’s “maintained a wheat/gluten-free, processed sugar-free, lactose-free, soy-free, low processed food-free lifestyle.” These are her stories. (And also her motherlode of food allergy resources, which could be super-helpful to anyone out there with similar issues.)

Food Book of the Week
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Ooooo, this is bleak. Bleakbleakbleak. Like, why-do-I-bother-eating-this-orange-we-all-eventually-die-anyway bleak. Yet! Every time the main characters find food, it sounds like an unparalleled feast. It’s the only novel I can recall where canned pears sound better than ten birthday cakes. Read it and savor. (And weep, too. Trust me, there will be a lot of that).

Food Comedy of the Week
Jim Gaffigan on cake
First, it was bacon. Then, Hot Pockets. Now, it’s sweet, wonderful cake. I think Jim Gaffigan likes food. (And thank goodness.)



Food Organization of the Week
Bake Me a Wish
Speaking of cake, the Boston Globe recently ran this article about Bake Me a Wish, a New York-based baking business that ships the sugary confections to and from U.S. troops overseas. While not a philanthropy per se, you can make donations. So log on! Your favorite airman/seaman/marine/etc. will thank you for it.

Food Quote of the Week
Bill Cosby, on his wife catching him feeding the kids chocolate cake for breakfast: “I've always heard about people having a conniption but I've never seen one. You don't want to see 'em. My wife's face split. My wife's face split and the skin and hair split and came off of her face so that there was nothing except a skull. And orange lights came out of her hair and there was glitter all around. And fire shot from her eye sockets and began to burn my stomach and she said, ‘WHERE DID THEY GET CHOCOLATE CAKE FROM?’ And I said, ‘They asked for it!’ And the children who had been singing praises to me... LIED on me and said, ‘Uh-uh! We asked for eggs and milk... AND DAD MADE US EAT THIS!’ And my wife sent me to my room... which is where I wanted to go in the first place.”

Food Tip of the Week
This one comes straight from The Boyfriend’s mom: to clean your dish sponge, wet it and nuke it in the microwave for a minute. It should kill all the lurking germs. Be VERY careful with removal, though, and make absolutely sure the sponge is damp. Otherwise, disaster.

Untried Cheap, Healthy Recipe of the Week
Chicken and Mango Skewers at Sunday Dish
Food on a stick! And it’s every color of the rainbow!

Food Video of the Week
“Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake
While we’re on this whole cake thing…

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

40 Greatest Songs About Food: Part II

Ladies and gentlemen, you're just in time for the second half of CHG's 40 Greatest Songs About Food! Sit back and behold!

20) “Me in Honey” by R.E.M.
Kate Pierson is sadly absent from this live performance, but bassist Mike Mills fills in nicely.

19) “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg
C’mon, Snoop – it was never hard being you.

18) “Peaches” by Presidents of the United States of America
Note: This is a band, not our actual Commander in Chief. (As you know, Dubya's biggest hit is about pretzels.)

17) “Blueberry Hill” by Louis Armstrong
Adjust your eyes – it’s Satchmo in EXTREME close up. You can see his pores!

16) “Candy” by Iggy Pop with Kate Pierson
Has Iggy Pop ever worn a shirt, ever? I could draw the man’s nipples from memory.

15) “Pulling Mussels From a Shell” by Squeeze
My second favorite Squeeze song, narrowly beating out “Nail in My Heart.”

14) “Lunch Lady Land” by Adam Sandler
Yeah, it’s not the same without Chris Farley’s original SNL choreography, but still one of Sandler’s best.

13) “Ice Cream” by Sarah McLachlan
Reader (and first commenter) nonrunner! I hear you!

12) “Rock Lobster” by B-52’s
Okay, so this is Kate Pierson’s third appearance in the Top 20. I didn’t even know I liked her that much. COVET THE BEEHIVE!

11) “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie
Every Thanksgiving at noon, my family ceases turkey preparation to listen to our local classic rock station play “Alice’s Restaurant.” It’s as important to our holiday as the stuffing.

10) “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard
For years, I thought the lyric to this was, “You want some sugar?/Well have some more!” when it was actually, “Do you take sugar?/One lump or two?” I liked my version better.

9) “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways
Adolescent rage at its ragiest.

8) “Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash
“I wasn’t born so much as I fell out.” Best line ever? I say possibly.

7) “Le Poisson” from The Little Mermaid
I could only find the Broadway audio, but picture: a large, animated French chef rhapsodizing on his weakness for seafood, as a talking, calypso-happy Jamaican crustacean scurries away in terror. I’ll give you a minute.

6) “Just Like Honey” by The Jesus and Mary Chain
Get ready … get set … GAZE AT YOUR NAVEL!

5) “Milkshake” by Kelis
I’m not sure if any song has been used in more movies and TV shows. But “Mean Girls” (and wondrous Fey) employed it best.

4) “Baby’s Got Sauce” by G. Love and Special Sauce
I’m pretty sure this was the only song in rotation at my freshman year college radio station. I associate it very strongly with weak beer and young adult angst.

3) “Mayonaise” by Smashing Pumpkins
Hey! Billy Corgan had hair once.



2) “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones
What a far-out tune! Call me crazy, but I think these kids are going places.



1) “Eat It” by “Weird Al” Yankovic
Like it wasn’t gonna be Weird Al. (The link is the original video. The embedded piece below is just funny.)


And that's it, dear readers. I hope you enjoyed this musical interlude, and are already preparing for next week's Wednesday article, which will most likely be about saving money on food. (Go figure.) Excelsior!

P.S. So - in the countdown, what'd I miss?

40 Greatest Songs About Food: Part I

It’s been pretty serious around here lately, between the food crisis and well, uh, the food crisis. So, I’d like to lighten things up with the sweet, sweet sounds of music. Namely, music dealing with food. Even more namely, my favorite 40 songs marginally related to food, determined by no method other than my own dabolical whim.

Subsequently - be on the lookout! This hour it’s #21-40, and a little later in the day #1-20 will make an appearance. Unfortunately, I can't embed all the videos (I tried, Blogger crashed), but the links will take you right to YouTube.

So! Without further ado! Here goes.

40) "Lady Marmalade" by LaBelle
Eat your heart out, Aguilera.

39) "Eat to the Beat" by Blondie
The link only contains about 20 seconds of the single, but it’s worth a look for Debbie Harry’s general gloriousness.

38) "Ice Cream Man" by Van Halen
Diamond Dave could sing a Con Ed brochure and still make it sound vaguely suggestive. The Good Humor Man shares this fate.

37) "Banana Chips" by Shonen Knife
They’re Japan’s Ramones! Only way cuter.

36) "The Lemon Song" by Led Zeppelin
It’s a song! About lemons! Maybe. Probably not. Definitely not. Okay, it’s actually about the ladies. But the word “lemon” appears in the title. So it counts.

35) "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow
Annabella Lwin was only 16 when this came out. My Ma would have killed me for the haircut alone.

34) "Brown Sugar" by D’Angelo
The first of two "Brown Sugar"s to appear on the list. (Um, I may have just given something away.)

33) "Breakfast in America" by Supertramp
I spent years thinking this was Led Zeppelin. I’m not so smart.

32) "Chocolate Salty Balls" by Chef (South Park)
Note: not actually about delicious treats. You may want to clear the kids out for a sec.

31) "Banana Boat Song" by Harry Belafonte
Featuring Fozzy Bear and a whole bunch of Muppets.

30) "Coffee and TV" by Blur
More notable for the video than the tune. Take pity on the milk carton!

29) "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" by Billy Joel
As a native Long Islander, it’s my moral duty to include this.

28) "She Don’t Use Jelly" by The Flaming Lips
If you haven’t heard any Lips since "Jelly," please listen to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots right now.

27) "Green Onions" by Booker T. and the MGs
Get down with the instrumental section!

26) "Trapped in the Drive Thru" by “Weird Al” Yankovic
R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” is pre-requisite viewing for this. It’s just as funny, if not more so.

25) "Know Your Chicken" by Cibo Matto
This song has been in my head since 1996. I apologize for putting it in yours.

24) "Rapper’s Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang
There’s a whole verse about fried chicken! Mmm ... chicken.

23) "That’s Amore" by Dean Martin
Taste the martinis!

22) "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" by XTC
Man, I love this track. I wish I had clever commentary, but it just comes out as gushing adoration.

21) "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffet
SPRING BREAK!

The second half of the countdown is coming shortly! Keep your eyes peeled.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday Megalinks

Thanks to everyone who wrote in with advice on our restaurant situation. (Read all about it here.) I agree with most folks on the tipping issue. Having worked in food service in high school and college, I would have expected a severely reduced tip if I behaved like our waiter had. The one thing we DIDN’T do was talk to the manager (which, in retrospect – duh). I’m sure it would have made a huge difference in our experience. But hey - now we know.

And with that, on to the links!

Antithete: How We Eat on $250 a Month
Faboo step-by-step guide to feeding a family of five on ~$50/week. I bet singletons and DINKs could get a bunch out of reading this, too. (Thanks to Get Rich Slowly for the link.)

Ask Meta: Adventures in Veganland
Are you on the no-dairy/meat/egg train and need a plethora of suggestions for feeding yourself? Look no further, sweet vegan! In this handy thread, dozens of bright-n-shiny commenters come forth with their best from-scratch ideas. Behold!

Chow: Food Blog Heaven
Food porn alert! Chow runs down a brief list of its 10 favorite recipe sites, including two of my favorites, Smitten Kitchen and Accidental Hedonist. Bring a bib, because you’ll need something to catch the drool.

Consumerist: Make Your Own Groceries
Neato ideas from Consumerist about DIY food projects, but the link is truly worth it (once again) for the epic comment section. I’m agog. Aghast, even.

Culinate: How to stock a pantry, fridge and freezer
HEL-lo. Culinate BRINGS it with this two-page extravaganza of kitchen basics. I was all proud of CHG’s Pantry of the Gods entry way back when, but it doesn’t compare.

Culinate: Packaged goods – how to store your food
Jeez. Another one! These guys don’t stop with the comprehensive guides, do they? Must … plan … downfall. (Muahahahaahaa!)

Divine Caroline: Portion Size, Then and Now
Stellar pictorial on hamburgers, popcorn, bagels, etc. in the ‘50s and ‘60s versus today. Without exaggeration, 2008's food portions are three times the size. No wonder we’re all gigantic. While you’re on the site, please (oh please) read Five Foods That Cause Anal Leakage. You'll never look at sugar-free candy the same way. (Thanks to Slashfood for the link.)

The Financial Blogger: Festival of Frugality #126
This week’s FoF is a car theme, courtesy of TFB. While your there, be sure to click on Brip Blap/Paid Twice’s A Simple Way to Save Money on Food (hint: eat breakfast) as well as Money and Values’ Eat Less Food (on the glory of portion control).

Get Rich Slowly: Strawberry Fruit Dip
If you’ve been on such a strawberry kick lately, this will help. Mmm … dip.

The Honest Dollar: 100 Ways to Cope With Inflation
It's really an all-encompassing look at saving some bank, but #1-27 specifically focuses on what goes in the belly. #23 is something I forget to do embarrassingly often, resulting in what I’m sure is a feast for eagle-eyed supermarket cashiers. (Thanks to The Simple Dollar for the link.)

The Kitchn: Reader Feedback – What Can We Do With Buttermilk?
There is a single cup of buttermilk sitting in my fridge right now, so this comes at the right time. All you other buttermilk-holders – WITNESS!

Like Merchant Ships: Repurposing Steel Cut Oatmeal Cans
Yay, Meredith! I love posts like these, which are great for the environment, but ALSO double as brain exercises. Eat it, Mensa!

New York Times: A is for Amandine – A List for Beginners
The Grey Lady compiles a leviathan kids’ cookbook reading list for your very own miniature gourmand. Did anybody out there cook as a small child? I did not. I just assumed food came from Ma, a.k.a. The Giver of Macaroni and Texas Chainsaw Chili.

New York Times: One Country’s Table Scraps, Another Country’s Meal
“In 1997, in one of the few studies of food waste, the Department of Agriculture estimated that two years before, 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food in the United States was never eaten.” Oy.

New Yorker: The Last Bite – Is the world’s food system collapsing?
Manomanoman. I try not to get down when I read articles like this, but it’s tough after awhile. Something has to change. I’m just not sure what, and what I can do to change it.

Serious Eats: Most “fun” cookbook you have read or own
Because cooking should be fun, yo. My favorite: Amy Sedaris’ I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. I don’t know if I’d actually make anything from it, but she's cuckoo enough to make the tome completely awesome.

Slashfood: Ever had a garbage plate?
Rochestarians, unite! Nick Tahou’s in the house.

Slashfood: What are your foodie limits?
In order: mayonnaise, anise, scallops. Anything else is fair game.

USA Today: New breed of American emerges in need of food
A.k.a. Kris, Shut Up About Your Anise Aversion, You Silly Woman. It’s a bit sobering after the la-di-da of the last article, but this piece needs to be read. Lots of people are going hungry right here in the U.S., and again, it’s up to us to change the situation. (Thanks to Consumerist for the link.)

(Photos courtesy of Flickr members vebate, Pinball Mafia Productions, and erikthered.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

What Would You Do: Restaurant Gives Meat to Vegetarian (Also, There's a Mango Salsa Recipe in Here Somewhere)

(Apologies for the longest, most nonsensical post title, ever. Must ... work ... on ... brevity.)

We had a strange situation this weekend, and I’d love to solicit a few opinions from everybody. It’s definitely more of an etiquette dealie, but frugality and good business sense definitely factor in. I’m just not sure what we should have done.

Here’s the scenario: Saturday night, some friends were in from out of town and we all met up at a fancy Italian restaurant. The place was gorgeous, the wine was tasty, and all seemed well at first. When our time came to order, my friend H, a vegetarian since she was 13, specifically asked if the Potato Leek Soup was made with vegetable stock. The waiter, without checking, said, “yes.”

Can you guess what comes next?

Two or three bites into the soup, H pushed it away and grumbled, “Oh yeah, that’s chicken stock.” Three of us took a whiff, and – oooo, yup - no doubt about it. When the waiter swung by to check on us, H (not cruelly, but pointedly) expressed her displeasure and asked him to check with the chef.

Five minutes later: “Yes, it’s chicken broth. The recipe was changed,” he shot off, not quite apologetically. (Defensively, maybe? Even snobbily?)

H was unhappy (to say the least) and requested that the soup be cut from the bill. The rest of the night proceeded without incident until we received the ($300+) check, which (naturally) included the soup. We specifically had to ask for a new bill with the offending item removed.

Now … what would you have done? I think we should have asked to have her entire meal comped, and the restaurant should have bent over backwards to accommodate us for the rest of the night. While feeding meat to a vegetarian (probably) isn’t deadly, it’s … not good. What if she was Hindu, and it was beef broth? Or what if she had a peanut allergy? All in all, I think we handled it gracefully, but I wouldn’t have blamed H if she had lobbed a fork at somebody’s groin. We’re absolutely not going back, ever.

Oy.

And with that aside – it’s today’s food! I’ve made mango salsa quite a few times, and stunningly, prefer Weight Watchers’ recipe to all others. Of course, there are some things to know:

1) It's insanely flexible, meaning it can be spread on chicken breast, scooped with tortilla chips, mixed with rice, or substituted for body wash in your next shower. (Note: one of those may be false.)

2) It's not a watery salsa, and there are no tomatoes involved. You might want to warn friends/family accordingly.

3) I like it better after it sits for a night, but there's no problem eating it right after assembly.

4) The whole shebang will be significantly cheaper in a month or so, when both red bell peppers and mangos are fully in season. (I couldn’t wait.)

5) For you WW acolytes out there, it’s either 1 or 2 points a serving. Bonus!

6) There is a lot of chopping. Watch your fingers. (Gazes sadly at cuticle of left pointer finger, which has finally stopped bleeding.)

Hope y'all enjoy it, and again - would love to hear your opinions on the restaurant issue. Bring it!

Weight Watchers Mango Salsa
Makes 4 2/3rd cup servings

1/8th t. black pepper
1/8th t. salt
1 ½ T. fresh lime juice
2 medium mangos, chopped small
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, diced
½ jalapeno, diced
1 T. fresh cilantro

1) Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
90 calories, 0.4 g fat, $1.01

Calculations
1/8th t. black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1/8th t. salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1 ½ T. fresh lime juice: 14 calories, 0 g fat, $0.24
2 medium mangos: 269 calories, 1.1 g fat $1.98
1 medium red bell pepper: 31 calories, 0.4 g fat, $1.19
½ red onion, diced: 35 calories, 0 g fat, $0.31
½ jalapeno, diced: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.03
1 T. fresh cilantro: negligible calories and fat, $0.25
TOTAL: 358 calories, 1.5 g fat, $4.02
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 90 calories, 0.4 g fat, $1.01

(Additional photo from bobnewell.net.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Comments of the Week

Y’know, sometimes, it’s hard being Snoop D-o-double-g, but not this week. There was some GREAT commentary - suggestions and stories both - on brown-bagging. Be on special lookout for Jennifer, who goes above and beyond the call of lunch.

On The Brown Bag Brigade: Your One-Stop Shop for Work Lunch Ideas

Meags: I hate leaving the office during lunch because it wastes 20 minutes of my hour getting to the place and back.

Deborah: I think the best thing about taking lunch to work is that I'm not stuck in a restaurant, or standing in line, or rusing to and from my food destination for an hour. ... I would often take my lunch to the local park, or to the local lake. 30 minutes sitting watching nature go buy sure beats sitting at a table or standing in a line when it comes to resting my brain.

Annie K. Nodes: A good quick lunch I made the other day was grape tomatoes, corn, and cheddar cubes mixed with italian dressing. Very good. A good snack is edamame. I boil it in the morning, throw in a tupperware and munch munch munch!

Anonymous: Low fat string cheese is easy to carry to work and just the right size for snacks. I also like making larget batches of soup so I have left overs for a while. A cup of soup or chili and a think slice of whole grain bread is healthy, inexpensive and amazingly filling.

Aryn: I do wraps instead of sandwiches and my husband likes to intersperse his sandwiches with salads. The key to our success is quality deli meat, not the cheapo stuff that comes in a package.

Jennifer: One thing I do instead of buying lunch meat is make my own (sort of). I buy 3lb frozen boneless turkey breast portions, roast them myself, then slice them. I usually do 2 at a time and those two will last me probably a month. Whatever I won't use in the next week or so goes into the freezer until I'm ready for it. This saves a good deal of money over processed lunch meat. Depending on where I buy the roasts, they cost $7-10 for the 3 lb which works out to $2-3 per pound, much cheaper than deli meat and even the prepackaged stuff. Plus it tastes so much better!

Cam: For the afternoon snack, I highly recommend pumpkin chocolate chip bread (I found the recipe at tastespotting.com). I make it with all whole wheat flour, halve the amount of baking soda (because I could taste it in the first two loaves I made - yech), and use dark chocolate chips. It's very satisfying both in filling you up and sating the evil sweet tooth, and way better for you than a vending machine run! You just have to remember to only bring one slice :)

Claire: When brown-bagging, remember that the all-time cheapest option is leftovers! (it's been tested;))

Kristen: I pack my husband's lunch without fail. 99% of the time he eats leftovers (lunch meat is way too expensive for our budget), and the odd time he'll eat a PBJ, or a french bread pizza that I throw together. I have no idea how much money this has saved us over 11 years, but it's got to be an impressive amount. It's also saved me from throwing away untold amounts of leftovers!

Marcia: I carefully plan my dinners to have leftovers. I had to start doing that because my husband, who was perfectly content to eat PB&J for 30-odd years, one day decided he wanted leftovers for lunch too.

Julia: I cook on Sundays JUST to brown bag during the week. Once every few months I'll make a healthy lasagna, cut it into single servings, wrap each one and freeze them. Then when I'm out of leftovers I still have something healthy that I made to brown bag. Recipe here. And one of my absolute favorite things to make for the week is chicken salad. I just keep coming up with new flavors!

Kazari: always, always leftovers. with two of us in the house, it works out best. we have a whole bunch of lunch-size freezer containers, and they get filled as i serve the dinner. as long as it's not salad, everything gets frozen. and during the week you just open the freezer and go. mystery meals!

On Veggie Might: Lentil, Spinach, and Bulgur Stew That Wasn’t

Daniel Koontz: I worship Jay Solomon. We've been exploiting his Vegetarian Soup Cuisine book for more than a decade for easy-to-make, highly scalable meals. I also LOVE the fact that almost all of Solomon's recipes are preposterously inexpensive. An entire pot of soup with all sorts of healthy ingredients for under $5.00? Yep. Jay Solomon is The Man.

(Photo courtesy of lunchboxsetco.uk.)

 
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