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Cheap Healthy Good - Frugal Recipes, Food Tips, No Mayo

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Comfort Foods: A Free, Printable Cookbook from (Also ... Hi.)

Tue, 13 May 2014 12:30:00 +0000

You will like these.
Why, hello there, everybody.

It's been about 100 years since I last posted here, and one (baby) or two (house) things have happened since then. The third thing is this: I've become Food Editor at a website called (Our motto: All Fun, No Doilies.) (I'm kidding.) (OR AM I?)

Anyway, we just put out a pretty sweet cookbook called Comfort Foods: 24 Reader Recipes for Casseroles, Soups, Cakes, and More. It's completely free, printable, and contains a recipe for Candy Bar Blondies that haunts my dreams at night. (In a good way.) Best of all: You can send it to your grandma, or keep it all to yourself for endless nibbling. (We won't tell.)

It's also available on Kindle for $0.99 via Amazon. (Go here for that.) 

And that's it. In the meantime, how are y'all? The internet's changed a bit since 2012, hasn't it? And how about them Mets?

Roommate Living: Your Food, Kitchen, and Sanity

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 14:32:00 +0000

This was first published in April 2010.Since freshman year of college, I’ve had approximately 15,000 roommates. Some are still my best friends, favorite people, and life partners. Others smoked crazy things too late at night. One remains the only unrelated adult I’ve ever yelled at. (Surprise! It was over the dishes.)Whether you’re fresh out of university or shacking up with your significant other for the first time, living with other people has multitudinous benefits. It can save everyone involved a ton of cash. It can be a social opportunity, cultural experience, and culinary education. It can keep you from being plain lonely.But if you’re not careful, it can also be a terrifying descent into a cohabitational hell, in which anger and discomfort become facts of everyday life. Living with the dishes guy? Was kind of like that. The center of roommate karma is inevitably the kitchen. Maintain a zen-like equilibrium there, and your time together will be peaceful and harmonious. Forget to buy paper towels for the third week in a row, and you could find a severed goldfish head on your pillow.That’s why it’s important to discuss food, money, and galley-related issues up front. It puts you on the same page, sets a precedent for the future, and prevents misunderstanding down the line. So, be open with your wants and needs. Ask plenty of questions. And remember the two most important things about living with anyone new:Don’t be afraid to speak up. If your roommate isn’t doing her dishes and/or owes you money for olive oil, tell her. You can assert yourself and still be considered a nice person.Don’t be a jerk. You’re sharing this room with others, and should always take their feelings into consideration. Play nice, do your part, and don’t make fun of Bob’s vegan macaroni and cheese.With those ideas in the back of your head, the ensuing discussion should be easy. For reference, here are a few good areas to touch on, along with a ton of pertinent questions.1) FOODFirst and foremost, you and your roommate(s) have to feed yourselves using actual food. Broaching the edibles topic could set the tone for the rest of your talk, not to mention the rest of your lease. Tread carefully, be thorough and kind, and ask:Will you share food? Will you share everything or just staples? Which staples?Will you share cooking responsibilities? How will you split the job? When will you cook? Should you set up a schedule? What meals will you eat at home?Does anyone have dietary restrictions, allergies, or ethical issues? Will any food be off limits? (ex: If there’s a peanut allergy in the house, it could be best to avoid ‘em altogether.) 2) EQUIPMENTOnce you have food, you need ways to serve it. Your requirements could vary wildly, based on your diet and/or affinity for cooking. Plan ahead, use this checklist for guidance, and ask:What kitchen equipment do you already own? Is it in good shape?What do you need to buy? Where should you buy it? Do you have any doubles (ex: two toasters)? Do you need the extra? If not, what can you do with it?Who will keep new purchases (microwave, blender, etc.) if/when you move out? Is there room to fit everything? (See: Storage.)3) MONEYHere comes the hard part. Beyond rent, you’ll probably spend most of your apartment-apportioned cash on food and kitchen supplies. Splitting the bills can be tricky, and payment itself even harder. Stay positive and ask:How will pay for the food you buy jointly? Will you split the bills or alternate months?How will you pay for the kitchen necessities (tin foil, dish soap, paper towels, etc.)? What falls under that umbrella term?Who will do the actual buying? Will you take turns? Will you join a bulk store or CSA? What supermarkets, ethnic markets, and farmer’s markets will you shop at? How will you handle coupons, sales, or memberships?How will you handle restaurants and take out? Does that go in the budget?4) STORAGEPots, pans, silverware, dishes, and appliances do more than look pretty: they take up space. And when square feet a[...]

Learning to Love Foods You Hate: A How-to Guide for Frugal Eaters

Wed, 14 Mar 2012 16:33:00 +0000

This article first appeared in April 2009.Up until a few years ago, the list of foods I loathed was a long one. It included, but wasn’t limited to: spaghetti squash, broccoli, asparagus, red cabbage, ginger ale, cauliflower, radishes, lentils, beans, Brussels sprouts, fennel, eggplant, anise, scallops, figs, and of course, the dreaded mayonnaise. The list goes on (and on), but you get the idea: growing up, I wasn’t exactly a daring eater.I still hate mayo. I will ALWAYS hate mayo. George Clooney could serve me mayo wrapped in chocolate bacon on a gold-plated re-issue of Who’s Next, and I would throw it back in his face. But my opinion’s changed on most of those other foods. These days, I’ll gladly scarf a floret of cauliflower. Brussels sprouts hold a special place on my dinner table. And eggplant? Well, eggplant is my favorite thing ever, aside from the panda song from Sifl and Olly. (In fact, you could say I’m drunk on eggplant mystery.)Granted, part of it is just me aging. At 31-years-old, my palate’s matured a little, and my tastes now lean more toward savory than sweet. The other part, though, can be directly attributed to recent changes in my lifestyle.See, a few years ago, I resolved to learn to cook, to eat healthier, and to better manage my money. As it turned out, vegetables and legumes were vital to making this work, since they’re exponentially cheaper than meat and much more nutritious than most starches. So, I had to confront my fears. I had to expand my produce repertoire beyond corn, carrots, corn, and carrots.These strategies helped. I learned to tolerate, and even love, a lot of foods I had longstanding issues with. Try ‘em for yourself, and please add your own suggestions to the comment section.Make it unrecognizable. Case study: EggplantSeedy, mushy, and horrifically purple, eggplant appealed to me about as much as a drug-free colonoscopy. Then, in 1997, my friend H hid it in her homemade tomato sauce. And … revelation. Soon, I was on to eggplant dips, eggplant pastas, and finally, plain ol’ broiled eggplant. The trick was getting the image of the vegetable out of my head, and forcing me to associate it with otherwise good food. I suspect it would work beautifully with any vegetable that could be pureed or furtively included in a sauce (butternut squash, bell peppers, etc.).Use it in a recipe with foods you love.Case study: Brussels sproutsAs far as I was concerned, Brussels sprouts were tiny, bitter cabbages that masochists ate when they ran out of bigger bitter cabbages. Little did I know that slathering them in Parmesan would provide a delicious gateway into healthier, simpler preparations. See also: Red Cabbage (ew) with Honey (nice), Apples (yay!), and Bacon (king of cured meats). It's actually quite scrumptious.Try it in an ethnic dish.Case study: BroccoliBroccoli: looks like trees, tastes like butt, right? Yeah, I used to think like that, too. But in high school, Ma ordered Chicken and Broccoli from our local Chinese joint, Da How. Suddenly, it was broccoli: looks like trees, tastes like HEAVEN (with garlic and brown sauce). Sometimes, a food is more appealing when its paired with flavors you’re not necessarily accustomed to. Like bean sprouts on top of Pad Thai. Or peas stuffed in a samosa. Or tomatillo sauce spread across an enchilada. Pick a cuisine and start experimenting.Cook the best-reviewed recipe you can find featuring that food.Case study: CauliflowerMost aggregate recipe sites like Epicurious, Food Network, and All Recipes have sophisticated rating systems with which home cooks can evaluate any dish. If you’re feeling ambitious, plug an ingredient into one of their search engines. Then, prep the recipe with the best overall reviews. For example, Ina Garten has a Cauliflower Gratin that’s received an average of five stars from 132 people (which is outstanding). I’ve tried it myself, and without exaggeration, it changed the way I felt about cauliflower. I just … I just didn’t know it could taste tha[...]

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Egg, and Parmesan: a Mutant Freak of Deliciousness

Mon, 12 Mar 2012 14:44:00 +0000

This post first appeared in April 2009.Though I’m cooking more often now, creating my own recipes continues to scare the living daylights out of me. My self-spawned dishes tend to be three-out-of-five star affairs, meaning they’re servable, but won’t necessarily knock your socks off. See, I’m still mastering certain techniques (read: all of them), and find pairing flavors tougher than Advanced Calculus. (Hey, if mathematicians had to eat their results, they’d have never picked up calculators in the first place.)So, when I invent something that actually works, it’s like … it’s like … hm … how to express this without resorting to hyperbole?Oh! I have it. It’s like riding a golden unicorn over a rainbow while world peace breaks out in the background. Or U2 playing an acoustic gig in my living room as I’m hand-fed chocolate-covered strawberries by Raoul Bova. Or taking a permanent vacation from my job, but with eternal severance pay and health benefits. (Dare to dream.)Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. But it is pretty cool. And today’s recipe, Spaghetti with Asparagus, Egg, and Parmesan, is one of those rare triumphs.Tuesday night, I was in a spaghetti mood, but had a use-it-or-lose-it pound of asparagus whiling away in the crisper drawer. With no funghi available, Pasta with Asparagus and Mushrooms was out of the question. So was Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg and Parmesan, since I reallyreallyreally wanted some pasta. But both recipes fused together? That could work.And did it EVER. It’s my new favorite comfort food. Creamy and cheesy and asparagus-y, I can see myself eating this over and over again until my death in 2097. (Yes, I’m shooting for 120. Believe in the stars!) And? AND? I would say I could eat 14 bowls of the stuff, but a single serving filled me to the brim.Of course, should you decide to give it a shot:1) To cut the fat even further, omit ½ tablespoon olive oil and a little parmesan.2) Don’t throw out the pasta water. Love it. Be liberal with it. It’s vital to everything.And that’s it, folks. Have a lovely weekend, and experiment if you get the chance. Occasionally, it’s worth it.Spaghetti with Asparagus, Egg, and ParmesanServes 38 oz thin spaghetti1 tablespoon olive oil1 pound medium-thin asparagus, rough ends snapped off, cut into 1-inch piecesCooking spray3 eggs½ tablespoon tap waterKosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper2 dashes cayenne pepper¼ cup grated parmesan1) Cook pasta ‘til al dente and drain, reserving ¾ cup of cooking water.2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus and saute for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ¼ cooking water and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until asparagus is crisp-tender.3) In the meantime, spray a small nonstick pan with cooking spray. Crack three eggs into it, and add ½ tablespoon tap water. Cover and cook over low heat for a few minutes, until the top of the yolks cloud, but are still soft and runny. Remove from heat.4) When the asparagus is done cooking, add drained pasta to the pan, stirring to reheat if necessary. Off heat, add the remaining ½ cup of cooking water, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir.5) Ladle pasta into bowls along with 1 tablespoon water/sauce from bottom of pan (or more, if you like). Place egg on top and sprinkle with about 1-1/2 tablespoons parmesan cheese. Break egg, mix everything together, and enjoy.Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving446 calories, 13.4 g fat, $1.24Calculations8 oz thin spaghetti: 800 calories, 4 g fat, $0.331 tablespoon olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, $0.121 pound medium-thin asparagus: 91 calories, 0.5 g fat, $1.99Cooking spray: negligible calories and fat, $0.033 eggs: 221 calories, 14.9 g fat, $0.55½ tablespoon tap water: negligible calories and fat, $0.00Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.022 dashes cayenne pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.01¼ cup grated parmesan:108 c[...]

Couponing for People Who Hate Couponing: A Zero-Stress Guide to Clipping Big Bargains

Wed, 07 Mar 2012 15:08:00 +0000

This post first ran in April, 2010.WARNING: If you know what a Catalina deal is and/or have actually employed one, this may not be the post for you. If you occasionally slice your pinky open while using adult scissors, this is definitely the post for you.When you think of couponing, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Is it GoGurt? Is it a planet-sized binder and never-ending stack of circulars? Is it a crazy cat lady, forever in search of the single slip of paper that will net her 14 free packets of McCormick fajita seasoning? It’s understandable. Long stereotyped as the favorite pastime of bargain-happy grandmas and moms of 47, clipping coupons gets a pretty bad rap. Many believe it gets you minimal deals on junky food. I didn’t touch coupons for years, figuring the time it took to collect them was disproportionate to the amount of money they saved.Now I know better. While I still buy groceries primarily based on the circular, I’ve come to realize that a simple, no-frills approach to couponing nets good money for little time investment. I don’t freak out, I don’t buy rainbow-colored faux food, and I save a couple hundred bucks each year. Not too shabby.If you’re considering coupons, but don’t know where to start, read on. These simple explanations and stress-free strategies could kick off a lifetime of half-price egg noodles. If you do nothing else, make sure to scroll down to the GOLDEN RULE OF COUPONING, wherein I explain the practice’s most important tenet as well as the origin of the universe.(Also? Readers? What am I missing? I’m sure it’s a lot. The comment section awaits.)OBTAINING ‘EMThere are a few ways to collect coupons. Some are intuitive, others not so much.Newspapers. Since the beginning of time, the Sunday paper has come equipped with bazillions of coupon-stuffed circulars. If you can’t swing a subscription, bum them off friends and family after they’re done reading. This is how I amass most of my deals. (Thanks, Dad.)Store circulars and magazines. Occasionally, coupons will appear in publications within a supermarket or drugstore, probably by the door or the cashier. Though you’ve already made your plan, leaf through these, since they can offer good last-minute deals or bargains for next time. Store shelves. You know those little ticket dispensers that line supermarket aisles? If they’re located by a food you enjoy, grab one. Hey, you never know.Mailings. If you really like a particular company, you can frequently sign up online to receive coupon packets through the mail. Online. Online coupon deals can be tremendous, but also a giant headache if you spend too much time looking for them. So, be judicious in your search. Speaking of which, there are three basic ways to collect and save. Go to aggregate sites like and Mambo Sprouts (organic).Visit individual company pages like Betty Crocker. Cruise popular forums and consumer sites like A Full Cup and Coupon Mom.Be warned: you might have to sign up for the service and/or install a special printing program, but it can be worth it. Also, not every store accepts print-outs, and many supermarkets often restrict what you can and can’t use. Give your local chain a call before planning any big shopping trip.ORGANIZING ‘EMMy coupons currently sit in a small stack on my clock radio, vaguely organized by general category. Sometimes, I weed through them and pick out the expired ones (which can then be donated to the military). Your preferred method may vary, but other folks seem to enjoy:Accordion foldersBindersFile boxesAnarchy They’re all small, cute, unobtrusive, and cheap (except the last one). Store ‘em in your desk or among your cookbooks.CLIPPING AND USING ‘EMIt’s Sunday afternoon. You’re sitting down at the kitchen table, coffee at your side, clippers in hand. In front of you rests 20 coupon circulars, waiting patiently for you to begin slicing and dicing. How in the good name of [...]

A Beginner's Guide to Beans, Plus 42 Bean Recipes

Wed, 15 Feb 2012 15:59:00 +0000

This article first appeared in October 2009.Some will balk at their flavor and size. Many will have texture issues. And still others just won’t enjoy the farting.But know this: there are few cheaper, healthier, and more versatile foods than the humble bean. Members of the legume family, beans can be found everywhere from gourmet restaurants to campfire cauldrons. They’ve been vital to the survival of certain populations, and instrumental to the development of particular cuisines. Also, they taste good.Still, there are folks out there unfamiliar with chickpeas and pintos, kidney and black beans. And for them, CHG proudly presents the following: a breakdown of why beans are wonderful, plus 42 tried-and-true recipes in which to use them.HEALTH BENEFITSLow in fat, high in protein, and astronomically high in fiber, beans work beautifully as the main components of recipes, but also as fabulous alternatives to meat. This is for a few reasons: A) they create a complete protein when paired with nuts, seeds, or grains, B) their chemical composition makes you feel sated longer than a lot of other foods, and C) they have a bulky and substantial mouthfeel, so you never feel deprived. Studies have found them to be solid tools in weight loss and maintenance, and integral to the prevention of all kinds of diseases.If that ain’t enough for you, this WebMD blurb is pretty convincing: “In a recent study, bean eaters weighed, on average, 7 pounds less and had slimmer waists than their bean-avoiding counterparts -- yet they consumed 199 calories more per day if they were adults and an incredible 335 calories more if they were teenagers.” Sweet.P.S. True to the well-known rhyme, beans make you both smartier and fartier. They contain both certain vitamins that improve brain function AND undigestable sugars, which lead to exciting intestinal activity, which leads to gas. So there you go.PRICEGrown globally from Ethiopia to Australia, beans are some of the most plentiful - and subsequently cheapest - edibles anywhere. A pound of dried beans in Brooklyn will generally run about $1, and will produce four to six cups of food after rehydration.Compare that to meat. In my neighborhood, a pound of chicken breast (one of the healthier animal options) runs $1.69 on sale. It shrinks slightly when cooked, ultimately producing around two cups of poultry.Let’s do some math, then. One cup of cheap chicken is $1.69 divided by two, or $0.85. One cup of beans is $1.00 divided by five, or $0.20. Using these (incredibly) rough numbers, chicken breast is 425% the price of dried beans.Of course, the numbers will vary by area, sales, and math skills, but you get the idea.DRIED OR CANNED?It’s a controversy as old as storage itself: dried or canned beans? On one hand, dried beans are universally cheaper, and widely considered to possess a creamier consistency and better overall flavor. On the other hand, canned beans aren’t terribly expensive themselves, and the taste difference is pretty negligible when you’re talking about everyday kitchen use.The tiebreaker, then, is time. If you have the wherewithal, forethought, and 90 to 480 minutes to rehydrate a bag of dried chickpeas, you’ll be rewarded in kind. If you‘re throwing dinner together and an hour-long prep time is crazy talk, canned beans are the way to go.It’s worth noting that if respected cooks aren’t using canned beans already (Giada DeLaurentiis, Sara Moulton, etc.), they’re starting to come around. Even die-hard dried fans like Mark Bittman have been giving props to metal dwellers recently. Meaning: don’t fear the Goya.INTRODUCING … THE BEANSIf you’ve ever tried chili, hummus, minestrone, Texas caviar, Mexican food, Indian food, Italian food, or, er, refried beans, you’ve already experienced the wonder of the bean. They’re omnipresent in cuisines all over the world, and come in a range of flavors and sizes that can be adapted to thousa[...]

Pasta Puttanesca: Fancy Food for Frugal Entertainers

Tue, 14 Feb 2012 15:37:00 +0000

This post first appeared in February 2009. HOTUS and I eat it every Valentine's Day. It's dang good.I’ve learned many things since moving out on my own (make the bed, don’t do drugs, etc.), but perhaps none have been as vital as the following excerpt from a 2003 life skills instruction manual. It was written by a wise, wonderful, unassuming literary icon (note: me) upon her brother’s college graduation, in hopes of inspiring him to put pants on:“Learn to be at least marginally entertaining. Even if you are aggressively anti-social or covered in boils, the time will come when people want to see you. You must be prepared. Clean your place and don’t leave them to entertain themselves.”See, with great power (adulthood) comes great responsibility (hosting friends and family). And occasionally, that means feeding people.Which is why sometimes, in my darkest hours, when all else seems lost, I turn to Rachael Ray. I have conflicting feelings about RR, mostly because she invented “yummo,” which should be banned from all lexicons, everywhere. Still, she knows how to please a crowd. And I respect that.I respect this Pasta Puttanesca, too. The recipe comes from an episode of 30-Minute Meals called “Quick Italian Classics,” and for the time involved, it’s outstanding. I made it for The Boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, and we almost had babies on the spot. (We didn’t though, Ma.)Beyond the salty, briny wonder, the best thing about it is the serving size. It will feed roughly 3,000,000 people, and impress at least 2,999,990 of them. When you’re entertaining as a young’un, quality and quantity are good to have.Should you try it on your own, know the following:1) If you’re averse to seafood or olives, run far, far, far away. Don’t look back. Then stop and take a breath. Then start running again.2) Just to restate: this is A LOT OF FREAKING FOOD. The Food Network site claims this will make four servings, which might be true if you live in a family of insatiable giants. In my phenomenally humble opinion, it’ll serve a minimum of six, especially if you include garlic bread or a salad or something.(THINGS TO PONDER: Can one claim to be “phenomenally humble”? It’s essentially saying you’re the absolute best at being modest, which negates the whole thing. Discuss.)3) For kicks, we added a drained can of quartered artichoke hearts. (The Boyfriend loves ‘em.) They’re not listed in the original recipe, and are only included as an option here, because they’re somewhat pricey (but highly suggested).4) I used half black olives and half kalamata. BECAUSE I COULD. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!So, next time you're forced to feed a crowd, consider the Puttanesca. It could be a valuable part of your adulthood.Pasta PuttanescaMakes 6 servingsAdapted from Rachael Ray. 1 pound spaghetti  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes20 oil-cured black olives, cracked away from pit and coarsely chopped3 tablespoons capers1 (28 to 32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drainedA few grinds black pepper1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, choppedOPTIONAL: 1 14.5-oz can artichoke heart quarters, drained1) Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.2) In a large skillet, combine oil, garlic, anchovies, and red pepper and heat over medium heat. Cook about 3 minutes, until anchovies are completely dissolved. Add olives, capers, tomatoes, black pepper, and parsley (and artichoke hearts, if using). Once it starts to bubble, drop the heat to medium-low and cook 8 or 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 3) Add pasta to pan. Toss to coat. Serve. Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving434 calories, 9.3 g fat, $1.50Calculations2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil: 239 calories, 27 g fat, $0.234 to 6 cloves garlic: 22 calories, 0.1 g fat[...]

10 Ways to Eat Less Meat

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 14:39:00 +0000

This was originally published in May 2010.Today, we continue our May Top 10 series by addressing a popular topic in both the food and personal finance blogospheres: eating less meat. “Why in the good name of Bea Arthur would I want to eat LESS meat?” some might ask. “I don’t get enough bacon as it is. Plus, humans were meant to be carnivores, right? Otherwise, how do I explain the dead alpaca in the fridge to my kids?”Well, sweet reader. We come not to demonize meat, but to praise consuming it in moderation. Because when raised right and chomped sensibly, beef, chicken, pork, lamb - maybe even that alpaca - can be pretty good for you. What’s more, it’s good for your wallet, your children, the Earth, the moon, the universe, other universes, the multiverse, the Rebel Alliance, Hoth, Dagoba- … Sorry. Got carried away there.Following that line of reasoning, here are 10-plus strategies for reducing your meat intake. Some are well known. Others, less so. But all told, it’s a pretty decent list, if I do say so myself. (Note: And I do.)Of course, if you’d like to change anything or add your own suggestion, the comment section awaits. That’s what it’s there for, after all. (Also: quoting Glee.)1) Have one or more meatless nights per week.It’s hard to say whether the movement began with bloggers or Johns Hopkins’ Meatless Mondays. Either way, this 15% reduction in your weekly meat can have a massive positive impact on … well, everything we just mentioned (the environment, your heart, Tatooine, etc.). The options aren’t as limited as you think, either. Vegetarian burritos, pizza, chili, and pasta are so tasty, you won’t miss the extra eight ounces of pork.2) Buy less meat. And when you do, only purchase pricey, delicious, humanely raised meat.You have three grand and a choice: You can go to McDonald’s every night for a year, or Babbo every night for a month. You’d choose 30 days catered by Mario Batali over 3,000 stupid chicken nuggets, right? Buying farmer’s market meat is kind of like that. You purchase less overall (because it’s pricey, yo), but what you do buy is so delicious, it’s worth the wait. Not to mention … imagine a world where the chicken tastes like chicken. I’m not talking about the wan, watered-down, quasi-poultry we know and tolerate. I’m referring to genuine, robust fowl that screams, “I am bird! Hear me cluck! Or roar! Or roarcluck! Whatever.” That flavorful planet is attainable, if you’re willing to go for it.3) Don’t eat meat before dinner.You may have heard of Mark Bittman’s “vegan before 6” diet. Essentially, the New York Times writer doesn’t eat any animal products before dinner. (Um … that may have been somewhat self-explanatory from the name of the diet, in which case, I apologize.) While restricting cheese and eggs might be a little too much to take, dude’s definitely on to something. How simple would it be to cut the bacon out of your morning feast? Or to swap grilled eggplant in for grilled chicken on your panini? Or to buy the deli’s awesome, overlooked Italian Bean Soup instead of their admittedly lame Chicken Noodle? Try it for a few days, and see what happens. Could be easier than you think.4) Don’t make meat the focus of your meals.There’s nothing like a good cheeseburger, but eating one every night takes its toll. Relegating meat to side dishes or secondary ingredients ensures you still get a decent helping of beefy goodness, without the egregious bad things. Chilis and soups are particularly wonderful for this, as is everything in Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond’s Meat Lite column on Serious Eats.5) Go ethnic.Mediterranean, Indian, Chinese, Thai, and even Italian and Mexican food rely much less on meat than traditional American cuisine. Throw your family a culinary curveball by having a World Kitchen Night, and preparing a fe[...]

50+ Cheap, Healthy Super Bowl Recipes

Wed, 01 Feb 2012 14:47:00 +0000

This post first appeared in 2009Two years ago, we posted a piece called Cheap, Healthy Party Food, filled to the brim with inexpensive, Super Bowl-appropriate recipes. Most of them came from thoroughly vetted outside sources like All Recipes and Cooking Light. All appeared delicious.Since then, between CHG and my weekly Healthy & Delicious column at Serious Eats, we’ve compiled hundreds of our own recipes, many of which are floofin’ perfect for the upcoming game. We made and ate every single one of these, and can recommend them without reservation. Even to your Dad (whom I’m sure totes loves healthy food, especially on Super Bowl Sunday).If you have suggestions or excellent, apropos recipes from your own blog, leave ‘em in the comment section! Together, we can make this the most delicious Super Bowl since the last time Tom Brady was in it.(Special note: frugal shoppers! Even if you hate football with the white-hot intensity of a thousand angry suns, this is a great week to stock up. Look for sales on cheese, sour cream, beans, frozen foods, crackers, dip, and more at your supermarket.)DIPS, SALSAS, and GUACAMOLEAvocado Corn SalsaBaba GhanoujFresh SalsaGuacamole-Bean Dip MashupLemony HummusMango SalsaRoasted Eggplant SpreadSeven-Layer Taco DipSpinach and Artichoke DipSpinach and Cannellini Bean DipTomatillo GuacamoleTzatziki (Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Sauce)CHILICactus ChiliCamp Stove Veggie ChiliChili Corn Pone PieEasy Vegetarian Bean ChiliPumpkin Turkey ChiliTurkey ChiliTurkey Chili with BeansWhite Chicken ChiliWinter Vegetable ChiliSALADS and SIDESAvocado Chicken SaladBlack Bean and Tomato QuinoaChickpea Salad Chili-Spiced Potatoes Ellie Krieger’s Refried BeansGazpacho Pasta SaladGolden Delight Egg SaladLemon Basil Pasta SaladPotato Salad for Rainy Day PeopleSemi-Southern-Style CornbreadSpicy Sweet Potato FriesMAINSBaked ZitiBlack Bean Burrito BakeChicken Fried RiceChinese Chicken and BroccoliChipotle Pork TendersFalafel with Tahini SauceGrilled Flank Steak with Tomato RelishHomemade PizzaMacaroni and CheesePork TacosSausage and Pepper SandwichesSkillet Chicken FajitasSpiced Chicken SkewersStuffed PeppersStuffed Peppers with Black Beans and CornVegetable Lo MeinDESSERTS and SNACKSBlack Bean BrowniesCrunchy Pecan CookiesRoasted ChickpeasReaders? Your recipes? ~~~If you like this article, you might also like:A Beginner’s Guide to Beans, Plus 42 Bean RecipesCheap Healthy Beef, Part I: Recipes and MethodologyCheap Healthy Pork: Recipes, Methodology, and Tips[...]

Lightened Seven-Layer Taco Dip: A Super Bowl OF FLAVOR

Mon, 30 Jan 2012 15:04:00 +0000

This was originally published in January, 2008.As a nutritionally minded blogger, I normally advocate fresh, whole, prepared-from-scratch meals in modest proportions.But, dude. The Super Bowl’s coming.With the possible exception of Thanksgiving, no other event requires Americans to consume their body weight in onion dip. Nor can I think of another quasi-holiday where quesadillas are designated as health food. Sure, your party of choice might have a token crudite platter buried behind the wings, but essentially, Super Bowl Sunday is to diets what Lawrence Taylor was to Joe Theismann’s leg. (Caution: this video might kill you.)Yet, us weight-conscious folks need options come February 3rd. And that’s where Lightened Seven-Layer Taco Dip comes in. I got the original dish straight off AllRecipes last year, but subbed in reduced-fat and fat-free ingredients, which saved 30 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving. Fortunately, there were so many loud, proudly competing flavors nobody could tell the difference. I’m making it again this year. And while the initial expenditure might look daunting (see Calculations below), just know three things:1) With 56 servings, this is a hulking behemoth of food. It is the Mount Kilimanjaro of taco dips. If it was people, it’d be William “The Refrigerator” Perry bear-hugging John Goodman. Last year, my friends N and I barely put a dent in it, and they once downed a Ben & Jerry’s Vermonster by themselves.2) There are ways (WAYS!) to save a little extra dough. This year, I’m going to buy ingredients on sale, make my own taco seasoning (total cost: about a quarter) and shred a block of Kraft Cheddar with my grater. Depending on how much I buy the block for, it will probably run $0.50 to $1.00 less than a bag. Good times.3) I live in Brooklyn. Even when bargain priced, everything is more expensive here. Except maybe Chinese food.If you’re interested in keeping it extra-healthy, the dip can be paired with self-baked tortilla chips or possibly celery. (Which, eat quickly, because people will inevitably bogart the veggies for their hot wings.)On a final note, the rest of this week is being dedicated to Sunday’s game. Tune in tomorrow for some pigskin-appropriate links, and then again on Wednesday for a monster list of cheap, healthy Super Bowl fare. After that, it’s Thursday’s Football Favorites of the Week. Friday is anyone’s guess, but there are seven lonely leftover jalapenos sitting in my fridge. Suggestions are most definitely welcome.Lightened Seven Layer Taco Dip56 servings (seriously)Adapted from All Recipes. 1-oz. package taco seasoning mix (or make your own )16-oz. can fat-free refried beans8-oz. package fat-free cream cheese, softened16-oz. container fat-free sour cream16-oz. jar salsa1 large tomato, chopped1 green bell pepper, chopped1 bunch chopped green onions1 small head iceberg lettuce, shredded6-oz. can sliced black olives, drained2 cups reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese (or shred your own 8-oz bar)1) In a medium bowl, mix taco seasoning thoroughly with refried beans. Transfer it to a large platter or bowl, spreading it out on the bottom 2) In a separate medium bowl, mix sour cream and cream cheese. Pour it over refried beans and spread. 3) Pour salsa over sour cream/cream cheese mixture. Spread out. Then, layer with: tomato, bell pepper, onions and lettuce. Finish with cheese and sprinkle olives over everything.Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving36 calories, 1 g fat, $0.25Calculations1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning mix: 45 calories, 0 g fat, $0.251 (16 ounce) can fat-free refried beans: 385 calories, 0 g fat, $0.891 (8 ounce) package fat-free cream cheese, softened: 218 calories, 3.1 g fat, $2.691 (16 ounce) container fat-free sour cream: 336 calories, 0 g fat, $1.201 (16 ounce) jar salsa: 12[...]

The 10 Cheapest, Healthiest Foods Money Can Buy

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 16:46:00 +0000

This originally ran in May 2010.Whether you’re broke and waiting for the next paycheck, or simply trying to cut back on your grocery bill, it’s vital to choose foods that give you the healthiest bang for your hard-earned buck. These ten foods do just that. They’re nutritional powerhouses for pennies on the dollar. Many could be considered superfoods, and have long been staples of frugal households. I included almost all of them (sorry, lentils) for CHG's $25 Challenge, and you’ll see that Hillbilly Housewife uses quite a few in her famous $45 Emergency Menu, as well.To compile the final list, there were three main criteria. Each food is:Versatile. It can be eaten on it own or used as an ingredient in other dishes.Inexpensive. A serving will cost a few dimes or nickels.Nutritious. It packs high percentages of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and/or calories. (Note: To be totally honest, some important, but fairly obscure minerals are included here. Manganese? I thought it was a capital in Southeast Asia. It is not, and oatmeal has 147% of the USDA-recommended daily allowance.)Bonus: since most of the list is comprised of produce, grains, and legumes, it’s fairly environmentally and ethically sound, as well. Of course, your opinion on some of these foods (particularly the first) might differ, and I’d love to hear what you would have included instead. But first, before we get started, two quick notes:All prices are the lowest available from Peapod (Stop & Shop) on 4/6/10.All nutrition data comes from, uh, Nutrition Data and is approximate. Serving sizes are noted.Obligatory disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist, and these choices reflect my own opinion, so take ‘em with a grain of salt. (Or don’t, because, you know - not a nutritionist.)BANANASAre there better-rounded fruits? Absolutely. Berries will single-handedly protect you from every known disease and fight off communism. But they are inordinately pricey little buggers (especially out of season), and for the money, don’t compare to a good ol’ Cavendish banana. Lesson: Always listen to the monkeys.Serving size: One large (5oz) banana.Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.33 eachGood source of: Fiber (14% of a 2000-calorie diet), Vitamin C (20%), Vitamin B6 (25%), Potassium (14%), Manganese (18%)Suggested recipe: Three-Ingredient Banana, Honey, and Peanut Butter Ice CreamBEANSWe’ve discussed beans ad nauseum here on CHG, and for good reason: there are fewer cheaper sources of protein and fiber found on Earth. (Maybe Mars?) Their mutability means you can pack them into just about any recipe, and with a range of flavors and sizes, everyone’s palate will be equally pleased. Plus: hilarious farting.Serving size: Half a cup of cooked black beans.Peapod/Stop & Shop cost, canned: $0.21 per serving ($0.75/15oz can)Peapod/Stop & Shop cost, dried: $0.15 per serving ($1.50/1lb bag)Good source of: Fiber (30% of a 2000-calorie diet), Iron (10%), Protein (15%), Thiamin (14%), Folate (32%), Magnesium (15%), Phosphorus (12%), Manganese (19%)Suggested recipe: Black Bean Soup with a Fried Egg on TopCANNED TOMATOESCanned tomatoes are here not as a snack or a stand-alone food, but an ingredient. Simply, they’re the basis for innumerable recipes across countless cuisines; sauces, soups, stews, and chilis wouldn’t exist was it not for the humble tomato. And yeah, if you’re the type to dig in a can of Progresso with a spoon, that’s okay too.Serving size: One cup canned whole peeled tomatoesPeapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.48 per serving ($1.67/28oz can)Good source of: Fiber (10% of a 2000-calorie diet), Vitamin C (37%), Iron (13%), Vitamin B6 (13%), Potassium (13%), Sodium (14%)Suggested recipe: Tomato and Bread SoupCARROTSBugs Bunny was on to something. But while carrots can be eaten [...]

Why Weight Maintenance is Harder Than Weight Loss, and How to Help it Along

Wed, 18 Jan 2012 15:49:00 +0000

This was originally published in July 2009.An estimated 80% to 95% of people who lose a significant amount of weight will gain it back. It sounds high, yes, but I believe it. This is because I’m slowly becoming one of those people.Full disclosure: about four years ago, I dropped 30 pounds to get to a (too) low weight of 132. Between then and now, my scale readout has slowly crept up to about 153 pounds. On one hand, I think I would have gained the weight back much faster had it not been for this blog. Undoubtedly, it’s helped my eating habits change for the better. I drink water, cook at home, scarf lots of produce, and avoid processed foods like it’s my job. My heart, lungs, and various other organs are in excellent shape, and my sister gets thoroughly annoyed that we can’t eat a meal without me adding some kind of crazy vinegar or seasoning. So there’s that.On the other hand … I’ve put on 20 pounds in four years. I’m not in crisis mode (yet), but what the heck?I know my faults. There are ongoing issues with portion control and dining out, and my reliance on cheese has grown from an occasional treat to an everyday occurrence. I just didn’t expect those factors to make this much of an impact on the circumference of my backside.But, as the opening statistic demonstrates, I’m far from alone. Maintaining a weight loss is difficult for everyone. In fact, I would say it’s even harder than losing the weight in the first place. Why? Well, once you’ve dropped the pounds – once you’re no longer getting measurable results on the scale, and weight loss morphs from a happy goal to a ho-hum product of the past – things change. Over time, enthusiasm fades, behaviors slack, and long-ignored temptations are indulged with abandon.In other words, eating salad for 40 days is easy. Eating salad for 40 years is hard.Enter the National Weight Control Registry. Comprised of PhDs, MDs, and other experts in the health and obesity field, it monitors the habits of thousands of people who have lost at least 30 pounds, and have kept it off for a minimum of one year. (The average is 66 pounds over 5-1/2 years.) Workers conduct studies, publish journal articles, and are widely considered The Authority on diet and weight maintenance. And while they don’t claim to have concrete guidelines that will keep the pounds permanently off for everyone, they have discovered a few actions common among successful maintainers. (Note that these findings imply correlation, and not necessarily causation.)In order of popularity, they are:1) Exercise, on average, about one hour per day.90% of successful maintainers do this.Far and away the most common factor for weight maintenance among respondents, exercise prevents you from binging, draws you away from the television set, and … y’know, does all the good things it’s supposed to. Movement must be for life, not as part of a temporary diet plan.2) Eat breakfast every day.78% of successful maintainers do this.The researchers gave three reasons for this: “First, eating breakfast may reduce the hunger seen later in the day that may in turn lead to overeating…Second, breakfast eaters may choose less energy-dense foods during the remainder of the day. Finally, nutrients consumed at breakfast may leave the subject with a better ability to perform physical activity.” Of the 2959 successful maintainers in a 2002 NWCR study, only 4% never ate breakfast.3) Weigh yourself at least once a week.75% of successful maintainers do this.The NWCR calls this “consistent self-monitoring,” and claims it allows maintainers to, “catch weight gains before they escalate and make behavior changes to prevent additional weight gain.” I have not weighed myself in over a year. This explains a lot.4) Watch l[...]

Dijon-Roasted Potatoes PLUS Sweet Potato and Chickpea Puree: Two Recipes for the Price of One

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 16:16:00 +0000

This was originally published in January 2010.When it comes to white starches like pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes, I’m a bit like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I’ll hoard it, possibly kill for it, and occasionally beat up Elijah Wood just to be in its vicinity. Somewhere, I like to think there exists a 60-minute VHS tape of me scurrying away from the buffet table at a family event. I’m cradling plates of spaghetti to my bosom, angrily hissing “The pasta is THE PRECIOUS!” over and over until I’m disowned.But … what was I talking about? Oh yeah – starches. I like ‘em. Maybe too much. Subsequently, I’m attempting to A) cut back, and B) be more creative with what I do make. I have a feeling this will involve a lot of bizarre grains and unorthodox purees, but this is okay. After all, what is Brooklyn, if not home for the bizarre and unorthodox? (He agrees.)Today, both recipes - Dijon-Roasted Potatoes and Sweet Potato and Chickpea Puree – are excellent departures from the norm. The first dish, adapted from Weight Watchers, is a sophisticated alternative to plain ol’ oven fries and baked spuds. The recipe asks you to coat small red potatoes in a tangy, savory marinade, and then roast them to tender-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside perfection. The result goes beautifully with frittatas or lean meats, and can be served with barbecue sauce or ketchup. Gollum would approve.The second recipe comes from O Magazine, which I adore, despite being a childless, apartment-dwelling cynic. (Harrumph!) Many people accuse Oprah of many terrible things (like thoughtful discussion and creative empowerment), but the woman can produce a dang magazine. It’s nice to read a lady-oriented publication that doesn’t begin with the assumption we’re morons.Tangent aside, the Sweet Potato and Chickpea Puree is sweet and savory, and another solid pairing for lean meat and produce. A little tahini could even turn it into more of a hummus-esque concoction, so go nuts with the experimentation.(To know: the original recipe called for 1/2 cup of olive oil, which seemed Smeagol-level insane. So, using a trick from a pesto recipe, I subbed out half the olive oil for fat-free chicken broth. For comparison, I made the full-fat version as well. The Husband-Elect and I both agreed: the chicken broth adaptation was far superior. Sweet.)That said, how’s everyone doing with resolutions so far? Any fun ideas for white starch substitutions? I’d love to hear, and the comment section is THE PRECIOUS. Er … I mean “open.” ~~~If you like these recipes, you might also like:Chili-Spiced PotatoesChorizo and Potato FrittataLemony Hummus~~~Dijon-Roasted PotatoesServes 3 or 4Adapted from Weight Watchers.2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (like Grey Poupon)1 teaspoon olive oil3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed in your hands1/2 teaspoon table salt1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 1-1/2 pounds small (3-inch) red potatoes, cut into eighths1) Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.2) In a large bowl, whisk mustard, olive oil, paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper together. Add potatoes and stir until well-coated. Spread across baking sheet in a single layer. Roast 15 minutes. Remove and stir. Drop oven heat to 350°F. Roast for 20-25 more minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through. Serve.NOTE: The Dijon is pretty subtle here. You can double the coating if you want a more assertive flavor. ~~~Sweet Potato and Chickpea PureeServes 6-8 (makes around 2 cups).Adapted from Oprah Magazine.1 medium sweet potato (about 14 ounces), scrubbed1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed1 small clove garlic1 teaspoon salt1/4 cup fat-free chicken broth1/4 cup extra-virgi[...]

Vintage Cookbook Hoedown: The Quick Cookbook (1961) by Lois S. Kellogg

Wed, 11 Jan 2012 16:21:00 +0000

This article first appeared in February 2010.A few months ago, I fell into possession of The Quick Cook Book by Lois S. Kellogg, a 1961 paperback filled with hundreds of convenient and occasionally jaw-dropping recipes. There are Mayonnaise Mounds. There are Corned Beef Cobblers. There's even Prune Whip. And I'm pretty sure we can trace America's obesity problems directly to the Canned Chicken section. To be fair to Lois, she seems to specialize in baking. The cake and cookie recipes look tasty and are mostly made from scratch. Some aren't, but ... we'll get to that later.First, let's pretend we're hosting a party on Mad Men. And what better way to kick off a soiree than Cholives? Of course, if you're not fond of olive and cheddar finger foods, deep-fried whole chicken sandwiches make an excellent light appetizer. The meal really begins with soup. Tomatoes and pineapples are delicious, inexpensive, and come in cans. They should be lovely together.Side dishes are vital to the success of any meal. I like to make a lot of them, since they're less expensive than meat. I'd love to serve macaroni and cheese, but I find the garish yellow hue too distressing. How do I cope?Of course, the most distressing part of hosting a party is that I never know what to serve for the main course. Jellied Meat Loaf? Corned Beef Corn Ring? Ham Wheel Pie? Corned Beef Cobbler? So many options, and all on the same page...I know! We'll do breakfast for dinner! With a twist!It's important to end the meal with a wholesome, appealing dessert. Since I believe halitosis is a myth, (like morally upright socialists), this should fit the bill!You know, Onion Ice Cream is definitely going on the menu, but Bob really prefers treats that keep him regular. Maybe this would please him?As for my son ... be careful, Danny. This peach pie is "Different" from all the other peach pies. You're such a good student. Don't let it ruin your future.And to cap it all off, coffee. But drinking it just seems so ... pedestrian. Isn't there a better way to get that caffeine fix?Mmm ... delicious. I bet the Jell-O company will pay me at least one hundred dollars for this recipe. Cheers, everyone! ~~~If you like this article, you might also like:11 Things Dwight K. Schrute Taught Me About Food and Frugality The Argument for Spending More on FoodThe Dos and Don'ts of Buying a Cookbook (All photos from The Quick Cook Book by Lois S. Kellogg)[...]

Tomato and Avocado Salsa: A Basic Salsa Recipe of Deliciousness

Mon, 09 Jan 2012 15:49:00 +0000

This post first appeared in January 2010. (Um, you can probably tell by the first line.)It’s the second full week of 2010. By now, you may be ten or eleven days into a resolution diet. You’re probably feeling really good about your progress. Chances are you lost a little weight. There’s a possibility you noticed a physical change already. You might even be thinking (and justifiably so): “I am the greatest person alive! Besides Eddie Vedder, I mean.”Sadly, this may also have crossed your mind: “If eat one more salad, I’m going to set my face on fire.”Sweet baby Jane, I hear you. When I began to change my eating habits, salads made up a big chunk of my diet. Office lunches were never-ending parades of the Caesar varietals (with light dressing, natch), and I got real tired, real fast of baby spinach. Then, I learned to cook and life got exponentially better. (Exponentially! That’s a lot.)Anyway, once I started puttering around the kitchen, I realized the following: lean meat + sauces, spreads, dips, salsas or dressings = excellenceWith a creative topping, you can turn five ounces of pedestrian grilled chicken into a succulent celebration, a flavoral fooferaw, or even a scrumptious shindig. (Or any other gratuitously alliterative party.) Think of the meat as your canvas, and the accompaniment as your pretty rainbow paint of rainbows.Take Gail Simmons’ Tomato and Avocado Salsa from Food & Wine, for example. You can use it as a dip for chips or veggies, sure. (The Super Bowl’s coming up, after all.) But on plain poultry, it becomes something else entirely: a tasty, filling, healthy dinner. Like almost all salsas, the recipe is staggeringly easy to make and constitutes a solid serving of vegetables. For $1 and 100 extra calories, that ain’t too shabby.This week, when you’re choking down another round of Romaine, stop. Grab an avocado and a few grape tomatoes, grill a slice of chicken, and treat yourself to Tomato and Avocado Salsa. It’ll make the next few months a lot easier to stomach.~~~If you like this recipe, you might also dig:Guacamole-Bean Dip MashupMango SalsaTomatillo Guacamole~~~Tomato and Avocado SalsaServes 4.Adapted from Food & Wine.1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved or quartered1 Hass avocado, diced small1/4 cup onion, chopped small1/2 small jalapeno, seeded and minced1/8 cup cilantro, chopped1/8 cup fresh lime juiceKosher salt and freshly ground pepper1) In a medium bowl, gently combine all the ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir again to combine. Serve on meat, chicken, fish, chips, cheese, or … anything, really. NOTE: If you’d like a less chunky salsa, chop the tomatoes and avocado even smaller.Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving4 servings: 100 calories, 7.4 g fat, 3.7 g fiber, $1.04Calculations1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved or quartered: 45 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $2.501 Hass avocado, diced small: 322 calories, 29.5 g fat, 13.5 g fiber, $0.991/4 cup onion, chopped small: 13 calories, 0 g fat, 0.6 g fiber, $0.081/2 small jalapeno, seeded and minced: 9 calories, 0 g fat, 0.3 g fiber, $0.051/8 cup cilantro, chopped: negligible calories and fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.251/8 cup fresh lime juice: 10 calories, 0 g fat, 0.2 g fiber, $0.25Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.03TOTAL: 399 calories, 29.5 g fat, 14.8 g fiber, $4.15PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 100 calories, 7.4 g fat, 3.7 g fiber, $1.04[...]

Egg McMuffins for Homeskillets

Wed, 04 Jan 2012 15:24:00 +0000

This was first published in 2009. In retrospect ... a tuna can? Yep. A tuna can.Like 10% of all Americans, I used to work at McDonalds. Like 33% of all McDonalds workers, it was the morning shift.Everyday in the summer of 1997, I hauled my cookies in at 5am to start the percolator, fire up the grill, and lug 50 pounds of Happy Meal toys out of the sub-basement. My early morning co-workers were a sweet 72-year-old, a slightly retarded janitor, and a middle-aged woman that had no business dealing with the public. On good days, I got to take orders from the drive-through, and didn’t have to face anyone for a few hours. On bad days, entire buses of senior citizens would argue with me over the price of a 60-cent cup of coffee.During that time, I learned the menu backwards and forwards, including basic nutritional information for most of the meals. While the Deluxe breakfast would melt your aorta, I was always pleasantly surprised at the Egg McMuffin. An egg, a muffin, a slice of Canadian bacon, and a dollop of cheese would come in around 300 calories, which still stands as one of the leanest fast food breakfasts around. Plus, they were (and are) delicious. I know. I ate one every morning for three months.After last week’s Strata, I had a bunch of leftover Canadian bacon, and decided to give homemade Egg McMuffins a shot. Happily, it wasn’t rocket science, and ten minutes of cooking time scored me two eminently edible imitations of the real thing. Even better, no one yelled at me afterward.So! For your McMuffining pleasure, here are step-by-step instructions for homemade Mickey D’s. Of course, there are a few things to know first:1) If you don’t have an egg ring handy (and who does?), try a THOROUGHLY WASHED tuna can with the lids pried off. (NOTE: Don’t use a Bumblebee can. The bottom lid sticks outward, making it nearly impossible to remove. See the pics below? It took ten minutes of straight-up wrestling to create that hole. In the end, it was big enough to pour the egg through, but I almost lost a thumb in the process.)2) For a more McDonalds-like experience, go with American Cheese. Then, have a 62-year-old retiree berate you because his coffee was too hot.3) The muffins aren’t browned in a toaster for two reasons: A) they’re harder to hold, and B) I like ‘em better this way.4) At $0.93 a serving, these should be cheaper than your local Mickey D’s. If not, look at it this way: you don’t have to deal with the tall girl behind the counter. You know – the one with the 1000-yard stare, whose only thought is, “Man, I can’t wait to get back to school. This nametag is making my boobs itch.”Happy cooking!Egg McMuffinsMakes 2 McMuffinsCooking spray2 English muffins, split in half2 slices Canadian bacon2 large eggs1 ounce reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I prefer Cracker Barrel)Salt and pepper to taste1) Coat a medium non-stick pan with cooking spray and heat on medium-high. Once pan is warm, place English muffins facedown on pan. Squish lightly with a spatula, so they get evenly browned.2) While muffins are toasting, break one egg into a cup. Break its yolk with a fork, but DON’T beat the egg.3) When muffins have been lightly toasted (about 3 minutes), place them on a plate and IMMEDIATELY sprinkle grated cheese on one side. This will get the melting process started.4) Re-coat the pan with cooking spray. (Note: if you have a gas oven, do this away from the stovetop to avoid a fire.) Place the Canadian bacon in the pan. Place an egg ring OR thoroughly washed tuna can (with both lids removed) on the pan. Pour the egg into the ring. If some should leak out the bottom, no worries. You can fli[...]

Welcome to CHG: A Quick Overview

Mon, 02 Jan 2012 13:41:00 +0000

With the dawn of 2012, comes the dawn of many a resolution. If you’re visiting the blog for the first time, welcome! We’re so happy to have you. Bathroom’s on the left. If you’re a longtime reader, we love you! We’re not kidding. It's a little scary.To get an idea of what CHG is all about, our FAQ and mission statement are good places to begin. To go a little deeper, these six posts give a pretty solid overview of what we do here:Spend Less, Eat Healthier: The Five Most Important Things You Can DoDr. Veg-Love, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Seasonal ProduceThe Circular Game: Decoding Your Supermarket WeeklyHow to Tell if a Recipe is Cheap and Healthy Just by Looking at itWeekly Menu Planning for Singles, Couples, and Working PeopleRelax, Frugal Eater: A Measured Approach to Lifestyle ChangesOur master article directory of over 150 similar pieces can be found here. We also post one or two frugal, healthy, and delicious recipes per week, which are compiled here. There are over 400 right now, and we’re always adding to the list. Here are ten fairly simple favorites to get you started:Asparagus, Mushroom, and Parmesan FrittataBaked ApplesEgg Drop SoupHoney-glazed Roasted CarrotsIndonesian Curried Bean StewLight(er) Macaroni and CheesePumpkin Orzo with SageRoast Chicken with Two LemonsSweet LassiWacky (Chocolate) CakeHope you’re enjoying the blog so far. We’d love to hear from you if you have suggestions, and best of luck with your resolutions![...]

19-Hour Food Network Running Diary: The Whole Thing and Various Conclusions

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 16:10:00 +0000

This piece first appeared in 2009. Happy New Year!This past Wednesday, I watched an entire broadcast day of the Food Network and blogged about it. Then I slept for 67 straight hours.The experience changed some ways I felt about FN, and reinforced others. For one thing, I always assumed The Powers That Be didn’t pay attention to financial matters, which they clearly do. There weren’t any outrageously expensive dishes all day, and some shows (Throwdown, 30-Minute Meals) made a point of frugality. On the other hand, I thought FN would give a modicum of time to healthy cooking, and it just wasn’t there. Bobby Flay’s fruit marinades were the closest anyone came to nutritionally-minded meals. Granted, it’s Christmas, which tends to highlight baking and various indulgences, but when Paula Deen chops the only pepper of the day, you know we’re in trouble.Finally, I thought there would be more 3/4-sleeve sweaters. Turns out, the chefs prefer long sleeves rolled up. (Except Giada. You can always count on Giada.)The whole thing is attached below, in chronological order from 9:30am to 5am the next morning. You can see I fell into a coma during Food Network Challenge, but revived just in time for Paula’s Cookie Swap. It’s the important things, you know? Anyway, here goes. Merry Christmas.9:30amTHE SHOW: Nigella's Christmas KitchenTHE HOST: British cook/woman I'd date if I went that way, Nigella LawsonTHE CONCEPT: homemade Christmas gifts9:32amNigella is sploshing cider vinegar into sugar. I enjoy sploshing. Someday, I hope to splosh my way into college.9:35amNigella's casual vocabulary is my favorite. She's making jam, and has described it as "fiery crimson" and "volcanically boiling." This is the stuff that goes with peanut butter, right? 9:37amThis entire show is candlelit and set to saxophone jazz. I think Food Network is trying to seduce me.9:40am"Let Dad school you with a vertical rotisserie." is a sentence I never hoped to hear, in a commercial or otherwise. 9:43amA Nigella haiku:Oh, metric systemYou make baking funny with your grams and liters 9:45amNigella's cake batter is "perfectly plain, but anything but austere." Husband-Elect just kissed me goodbye and went to work. Are these related somehow? 9:47amUnconsidered when planning 19-hour blogging marathon: when do I go to the bathroom?9:50amHer strata is (direct quote): "Like a toasted cheese sandwich, but a celestial one, as if eaten by angels." If heaven is filled with grilled cheese sandwiches, I will feel a lot better about death. 9:52amIt's not even time for Price is Right, and Nigella's guests are eating Christmas tree cakes and getting sploshed on espresso martinis. I want to go to there.9:54amWe're up to fully loaded baked potatoes. Cooked by candlelight, naturally. I've never been attracted to a potato before today, but somehow, Nigella is making them look sexy. Maybe because she just "splodged" them with sour cream, and now - I swear to god - is "forking them together."9:58amNigella ends the show scarfing potatoes on a crimson couch by a roaring fire, while angels play smooth jazz in the background. This is a Luther Vandross video.3/4-SLEEVE SWEATERS: 1FRUGALITY QUOTIENT: nothing too expensive hereHEALTH QUOTIENT: We'll let it slide. It's a Christmas show.VERDICT: 10/10, for sexiness 10:00amTHE SHOW: Emeril Live!THE HOST: Emeril LagasseTHE CONCEPT: The godfather of TV cheffery hosts a cooking show in front of a live audience, says "BAM" a lot. There's a band, too.10:05amThe theme of the show is cheese. I can get behind this.10:06amFirst tip, from an at-home video segment with a blonde mom: "Neve[...]

2 Oatmeal Recipes and the Ultimate Oatmeal Personality Quiz

Mon, 28 Nov 2011 16:43:00 +0000

This was originally published awhile ago. But I likes it!The following quiz is intended to evaluate your level of affection for oatmeal. Using the provided key, assign each of your answers a numeric value. At the end, tally your score to discover the extent of your oatmeal fanaticism. KEYFor every A answer, give yourself 4 points.For every B answer, give yourself 3 points.For every C answer, give yourself 2 points.For every D answer, give yourself 1 point.QUIZI eat oatmeal:A) Everyday. Sometimes twice. Sometimes in the shower.B) Weekly. It’s okay for breakfast on the go.C) Monthly. When I’m out of Froot Loops and bologna.D) Never. It killed my dog.My oatmeal comes from:A) The farm. I harvest it myself, with the oatmeal scythe I received for Christmas.B) A cardboard can. I make puppets from it when it’s empty!C) A 3-year-old packet at the bottom of my pantry, under the Windex.D) People intentionally trying to piss me off.My favorite kind of sweet oatmeal includes:A) Fresh pumpkin puree, toasted walnut bits, and a dash of the finest cardamom.B) Honey, peanut butter, and bananas. I call it “The Elvis.”C) Rehydrated apples and cinnamon that can be carbon dated.D) The sweet oatmeal of death.Gingersnap Oatmeal from Kitschen Bitsch (which I, Kris, have now eaten everyday for a week) sounds:A) Like the second coming.B) Like coffee with Angela Lansbury: melodic and educational.C) Like it’d taste better in a cookie.D) Like I’d rather have my tongue grated with a microplane zester. At first, savory oatmeal sounds:A) Delicious! I dated a bowl of it from 2002 to 2005. B) Like interpretive kayaking: strange, but I’m willing to give it a shot.C) Like a science experiment. Nice try, Carl Sagan.D) Like being kicked in the esophagus.Consequently, I’d equate Mark Bittman’s Oatmeal with Soy Sauce and Scallions with:A) A month-long orgasm.B) A Sandra Bullock movie; probably better than it has any right to be.C) Cleaning the house with your mother before guests come over; traumatic, with the ultimate possibility of understanding.D) Being forced to work in a gulag.SCORE/EVALUATION0 TO 6 POINTS: you are an oatmeal hater and honestly, a bit of a drama queen. You’d rather have your tongue scraped off than have a delicious breakfast? There is an MTV reality show in your future.7 TO 12 POINTS: you are an oatmeal ambivalent. Once, in 2007, you bought a giant box of Quaker packets from CostCo, thinking they'd be great to take to the office. You ate the banana bread ones first. The plain ones are still in your pantry. You will end up donating them to charity.13 TO 18 POINTS: you are an oatmeal enthusiast. Your relationship with oatmeal is quite healthy. Also, people like you and small animals feel comfortable landing on your shoulder. You should consider a career on Broadway. 19 TO 24 POINTS: you are an oatmeal extremist. Your love for oatmeal is all encompassing, and your family and friends fear for your sanity. To avoid being committed, eat eggs for a week straight. Should that fail, a straitjacket would not be out of place.~~~If you like these recipes, you might also like:Maple Morning PolentaScrumptious ScrambleVegan Bran Muffins~~~Gingersnap OatmealServes 1Adapted from Kitschen Bitsch.1/2 cup Quaker old-fashioned oatmeal1/2 cup skim milk1/4 cup water1 tablespoon molassesA few shakes ground gingerA few shakes ground cinnamonA pinch ground clovesA dash vanilla extractA few dashes Kosher saltIn a small pot, heat oatmeal, skim milk, and water over medium heat. As oatmeal mixture is warming, add all the other ingredients. Stir thoroughly to comb[...]

38 Cheap, Healthy Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Wed, 23 Nov 2011 19:16:00 +0000

This post was originally published in November 2008. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!Every year, I suspend my healthy diet for one heralded November day. No, not Election Day, during which I’m usually too queasy to eat – but that most glorious of bird-based holidays, Thanksgiving.Then, 24 hours later, I enter an equally magical shame spiral, since I’ve just consumed enough calories to keep me alive for eight years without ever having to eat again.This year, I’m going to desperately try to avoid all that, hopefully by using at least 25 of the following 38 inexpensive, frugal leftover recipes. (Well … okay, 24.) I found them via a thorough, highly scientific search-and-paste process, not unlike previous Beef, Party Food, and Salad Dressing searches. In this case, here’s what determined a dish’s appearance on the list:As always, if the recipe comes from an aggregate site, the reviews must come in at 80% approval or above, or have no reviews at all (in which case, they must look really, really good).It was a little difficult to find low-fat recipes, since stuffing and mashed potatoes aren’t exactly health foods (meaning: they don’t miraculously lose their calories on Black Friday). So, I attempted to keep each recipe NWR, or Nutritious Within Reason. There’s little added butter, oil, dairy, lard, mayo, or canned soup in each dish. If possible, I included notes about lightening the dish under each title.As for price, there aren’t any exotic ingredients included, so costs should be pretty low. Caveat: you might have to purchase a little ginger or a bunch of green onions or something.There is no Turkey Tetrazzini. Because I hate it. Muahahahahahaha! Readers, if you have suggestions, I love to hear. In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving!All Recipes: Apple Curry Turkey PitaUse low-fat yogurt in place of regular to cut fat and calories.All Recipes: Hearty Turkey Soup with Parsley DumplingsAll Recipes: Southwestern Turkey SoupBon Appetit: Asian Turkey-Noodle Soup with Ginger and ChilesBon Appetit: Cranberry Citrus SorbetThis sounds AWESOME.Bon Appetit: Pork Chops with Cranberry Port and Rosemary SauceCHG: Leftover Turkey StewCHG: Turkey ChiliUse turkey bits instead of ground turkey, add to pot with tomatoesCHG: Turkey Noodle SoupSub in cooked turkey for chicken.CHG: Turkey With Shallot Apricot SauceSub in turkey for chicken, and use leftover warmed turkeyChow: Turkey Pad See EwA little high in fat, but delicious-sounding just the same.Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom: Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole (scroll down)Sub in fat-free evaporated milk and make sure you use 2% cheddar.Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom: Turkey StockCooking Light: Cold Soba Noodles with TurkeyCooking Light: Fiery Turkey-Pâté CrostiniCooking Light: Turkey PizzaCooking Light: White Turkey ChiliEpicurious: Turkey Burritos with Salsa and CilantroHumina.Epicurious: Turkey and Sweet Potato SandwichFabulous Foods: Turkey PastiesFine Cooking: Turkey Soup with Ginger, Lemon, and MintFine Cooking: Turkey and Sweet Potato HashFine Cooking: Turkey Tortilla SoupFood Network/Cathy Lowe: Turkey Soup with RiceFood Network/Cathy Lowe: Turkey Stuffed PeppersFood Network/Emeril Lagasse: Turkey and Vegetable SoupFood Network/Michael Chiarella: Next Day Turkey SoupFood Network/Ocean Spray: Smoked Turkey and Cranberry Gourmet PizzaFood Network/Rachael Ray: Turkey Corn ChiliFood Network/Rachael Ray: Turkey and Stuffin’ SoupFrankly, the picture kind of squicked me out here. But the reviewers (and there are quite a few) seem to LOVE it, so go nuts.Food[...]

For Those About to Gestate, We Salute You

Mon, 14 Nov 2011 14:56:00 +0000

“Aw, look. You’re having a Hellboy.” – our friend ChadThere comes a time in a young-ish married lady’s life when she looks at her husband and has to make a choice, to a) beat him in Scrabble, b) mold his beard into funny shapes, or c) do it. And sometimes, choosing “c” results in being 12 days late with her ladytime, taking four negative pregnancy tests followed by a fifth positive one, and then gaining 400 pounds, roughly half of which is fetus and its accompanying goo. (Note: The other half is burgers and lemonade.)Which is to say, I’m knocked up. (Due on Cinco de Mayo! Break out the virgin margaritas.)Yay! Husband and I and ESPECIALLY OUR PARENTS are thrilled with this development, as it means our familial line will continue for at least another generation, or in nerd terms, through iPhone57G. We look forward to all the cuteness and wonder and giggles and poop, which we've been assured there will be lots of. In fact, we’re even looking forward to the inevitable moment when the baby pukes into our open mouths, which, if friends and family on Facebook are to be believed, happens alarmingly often. And while we're over the moon, I gotta tell you guys – pregnancy is kind of funky. Don’t get me wrong - the prospect of introducing a new human to the wonders of Pixar and brownies is dumbfounding in its awesomeness. But my first trimester was a little rough. Meaning: I did not take the Barftrain all the way to Vomitville, but I did make a month-long stop in Queasytown. (Motto: “Where you always feel like s**t.”)There was a span of about two weeks during which I slept negligibly, ate weirdly, and cooked nothing – not a slice of toast, not a bowl of cereal, not liver with fava beans with a nice Chanti. We subsided mainly on Chipotle and the kindness of passing Chinese takeout delivery boys, who, as it turns out, prefer to be paid for their troubles. My diet was neither cheap, nor healthy, nor particularly good, unless you count the burgers. And there were many.It’s Month #4 now, and the nausea has finally begun to subside. I’m cooking again, and my appetite has returned with all its friends and relatives. According to the medical books (a.k.a. Manuals of Horror) I've read, the rest of my pregnancy should proceed thusly:Month 1: Sore bosomMonth 2: FatigueMonth 3: NauseaMonth 4: Raging indigestionMonth 5: Pregnancy … thing … bus … uh, brainMonth 6: Carpal Tunnel BodyMonth 7: Hormone conflagrationMonth 8: BeatlemaniaMonth 9: GigantismMonth 10: Pass a human through my nethersI'm looking forward to it - the pregnancy, the birth, and especially the whole "raising a child" part. Because I've tried to teach the cat how to read, and he's just not getting it.In the meantime, I'll blog when I can, hopefully regarding food. And if y'all have any suggestions? I'm all ears. And abdomen.[...]

Apple Hacks: 39 Apple Recipes, Games, Activities, and Crafts

Fri, 14 Oct 2011 14:44:00 +0000

This piece comes from October 2007, which was nice when you think about it.The U.S. produced more than 9,816,000,000 pounds of apples last year, or just about 28,854,000,000 individual pieces of fruit. That’s a lot of apples. Maybe too many to eat.Fortunately, there are dozens - no, hundreds - wait, THOUSANDS of other uses for those delightful orbs of deliciousness, and CHG has 43 of ‘em right here.1. Predict your romantic fortune. According to, throwing an apple peel over your shoulder could reveal the identity of a boyfriend-or-girlfriend-to-be, since it, “would form the initial of your lover’s name.” I’m guessing X and Q don’t show up much.2. Practice your pumpkin carving. Test-whittle a pumpkin pattern on its smaller, cheaper fruit cousin, and you’ll make fewer mistakes when it’s showtime.3. Teach someone how to bunt. One of baseball’s most overlooked skills is also one of its most important, especially if you’re into squeeze plays. But bunting too hard is a surefire way to waste an out. At your team’s next practice, toss apples to your bunters-in-training. If the fruit gets smashed, the kids are using unnecessary force. If the apples fall and roll away unharmed, they’re halfway to Butlerville.4. Play a Flexibility game. This is an easy, creative brain exercise revered by one of my favorite elementary school teachers. Place an apple in front of a few kids. Give them ten minutes to come up with as many non-food uses as possible. The winner gets the apple. (And gets to write a blog entry twenty years later about the many uses of apples.)5. Practice magic. Nourish your inner Harry Blackstone with the good ol’ Orange to an Apple trick. (Scroll down for details.)6. Shrink some heads. Both hideously effective and just plain hideous, shrunken apple heads are guaranteed to scare the beejeezus out of someone this Halloween. Fab Foods has instructions.7. Exfoliate. Wikihow gives DIY instructions on a neat facial scrub. Make sure you’re not allergic before giving it a try. That would be bad.8. Prevent every disease known to man. Apples’ health benefits are too numerous and mind-boggling, to list here, so I’ll let’s hand it over to the Apple lobby.9. Teach a student driver how to accelerate and brake smoothly. The apple’s stable bottom and heavy top makes it a perfect balance tool. Place one on top of the driver’s car. In an unoccupied parking lot, have him speed up, speed down, and finally, brake. If the apple’s knocked off, he loses. If it stays on, it’s apple pie for all.10. Soften brown sugar. Oh, Reader's Digest, you crafty minx. I had no idea it was possible to do this: “place an apple wedge in a self-sealing plastic bag with the chunk of hardened brown sugar. Tightly seal the bag and put it in a dry place for a day or two. Your sugar will once again be soft enough to use.” Now, if you could only improve that joke page…11. Facial! According to the Washington Post, apples make people look pretty. Mix a grated one with a little honey and apply it to your face. Poof! Instant beauty. (Or at least, a very tasty visage.)12. Stick ‘em in a vase. Pretending you’re on Trading Spaces has never been so easy. Grab a dozen Granny Smiths, pile them in a clear, tall container, and place strategically. Instant class for less than $4.13. Make a stamp. Apples make great (albeit temporary) decorative stamps. Whether it’s cards, letters, or wrapping paper, the Washington Post claims all you have to do is, “[Sli[...]

My Dinner with Aline

Wed, 14 Sep 2011 14:10:00 +0000

This post was written by Leigh, who usually pens CHG's Veggie Might column.Greetings darling CHG readers! I've missed you ever so. The most exciting thing happened since I was here last. I went to Rwanda to teach crochet to the girls of the Ubushobozi Project, and I'm bursting with joy to share with you a first-hand account of your generosity in action. You may recall that Ubushobozi is a vocational training center that teaches at-risk teenage girls sewing and life skills that set them on a path of empowerment and self-sufficiency. Students are provided lessons, materials, a sewing machine, a salary and a daily meal, health care for themselves and members of their households, and so much more. They learn to be independent, how to run a business by selling the tote bags and clothes they make, and that people are invested in them and their success. And they dance…do they ever dance!Back in the spring, Kristen and I introduced you to Aline, who was in particular need of a kitchen. Aline studies and works at Ubushobozi to support her two sisters and ensure the youngest, Diana, gets the formal education not afforded to Aline and Olive, the older sister.The sisters' house was in disrepair. The roof leaked, the windows had no shutters, the door had no locks, and of special interest to the CHG community, the house had no kitchen. The girls cooked on a charcoal stove outside in the elements rain or shine, and when the rain was too much to light a fire, they took their cook pot to a neighbor or, as often, went without supper. You rallied to Aline's aid and quickly raised $200 so Aline and her sisters could build a new kitchen. Immediately, after the fundraiser in March, a terrible rainstorm took off Aline's leaky roof and damaged the walls of her house. With our blessing, the Ubushobozi directors allowed Aline to use the kitchen money to make emergency repairs to her roof and walls, and as soon as the rains passed, replenished the kitchen money from the general fund. Cut to August: Aline has one of the swankiest houses in her village, with doors that lock and everything.On my visit, our crew, that included me, directors Betsy and Dolinda, and founder Jeanne, rode on motorcycle taxis (oh dear Maude, I thought I was going to die) to the girls' village to check out their digs. Our first stop was Aline's house. The village was immediately abuzz with the news that "mzungus" (non-Africans) had arrived.Escorted by a number of small children from the village, Betsy and I almost burst into tears when we saw Aline's house. The crumbling mud bricks we'd seen in photos were smoothed over with an adobe-like clay. A new tin roof gleamed in the sun. Doors and shutters were obviously new, with shiny locks to protect the girls at night. Diana took us around back. There it was: Aline's kitchen, a brand-new mud-brick structure standing fresh and bright among the banana trees and bean poles. It had ventilation windows near the roof and a stone floor. Since it was the dry season, the stove was still outside, but the kitchen stood ready to withstand the rains to come—the rains that are pounding them now.Aline poked her head from inside the house, just emerging from a bath. "One minute," she said smiling, and popped back inside. A few minute later, she joined us outside, draped in vibrant fabric, showing off her kitchen and posing for pictures. She disappeared again and Diana led us to the living room.Their tiny house was neat and tidy. The only light came thr[...]

I Made Bread! It Was Easy. You Can Too.

Wed, 17 Aug 2011 14:48:00 +0000

You know when it's August, but your iPod thinks it's December, and it plays "Do They Know it's Christmas," and you find yourself silently mouthing "Tonight thank god it's them, instead of YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU" at a nice Asian man who clearly thinks you're about to steal his bag of lychees?I love that.I also love bread, but have never in my whole puff attempted to make it until this summer, assuming it was roughly as complicated as re-wiring the Hadron Collider. Then, it dawned on me that, a few years ago, Mark Bittman  published a recipe for five-minute, idiot-proof, no-knead artisan bread. It's since been updated and refined by half the population of Guam, but the essentials are there: four ingredients, a bowl, a pot, and time. So I tried it myself, and whaddayaknow? It's the best. Seriously. In all seriousness. Squared. I will eat this and nothing else until I die, presumably, of choking on bread.Here's how you make it. (Do it! We'll have a bread party.)First, gather your ingredients. They are:3 cups of bread flour 1 little packet of active dry yeast 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water If you plan on making this baby a lot in the future, bite the $4 bullet and purchase a package of yeast from CostCo or something. It is approximately four billion times cheaper than buying it envelope by envelope, a.k.a What I'm Currently Doing.Second, you get a large, non-reactive mixing bowl and combine your dry ingredients, a.k.a. The Ingredients You Didn't Get From the Tap.Third, add water and stir until it becomes a spongy, dough-like mass, a.k.a. Mr. Squishy. Don't overstir, or something bad will happen. I'm not exactly sure what, but aren't you scared now?Fourth, cover that baby. With plastic and rubber bands. Then, leave it out for at least four hours, but for as long as several days, refrigerating after those first 240 minutes. (Note: The longer it sits, the better it will taste. I've gone up to three days.) If you have a cat that's prone to eating dough (er, not that I know any cat like that) ...... hide it somewhere, like the Cave of Caerbannog, where it will be guarded by a rabbit so foul, so cruel, that no man (or cat) has yet fought with it and lived. A cabinet will also be sufficient.Eventually, your dough will expand like crazy, to about three times its former size. It will also appear softer and slightly wetter. (Note cat in lower part of photo, stalking wet dough for potential lunching. His lobotomy is scheduled for tomorrow.)Fifth, cover a clean cooking surface (a counter, mayhaps) with a thin sheen of olive oil. Turn the dough out on to the surface, and fold it over two or three times. Cover everything with plastic wrap, and let it sit at least 30 minutes, but for up to 2 hours. If it's been refrigerated, it must be given enough time to come to room temperature. It must!Sixth, while the dough lounges around, move your oven rack to the lower third of your oven. Then, preheat that sucker to 450 degrees F. Grab a pot or Dutch oven, cover it, and stick it in there, to warm along with the oven.This is mine. It's a 3-quart hard anodized piece of Calphalon, but I'm fairly sure any sizable, oven-safe covered pot will do. (Have doubts about yours? Look it up on the interwebs.)Seventh, once everything is good to go, CAREFULLY remove the hot pot from the oven and VERY CAREFULLY place the dough into it. SUPER CAREFULLY cover it, and COLOSSALLY CAREFULLY place it back into your oven. Bake for 30 mi[...]

Little Expense, Big Savings: What's Your Favorite Frugal Buy?

Fri, 22 Jul 2011 15:28:00 +0000

We purchased this toothpaste squeezer doohickey for $0.99 cents about four months ago: 

Since then, we're buying way less toothpaste. It should save us quite a few bucks in the long-term, too, provided we don't lose it / the cat doesn't eat it / it doesn't get sucked into the sweltering pit of despair we call "outside right now."

Which leads us to this softball question for a fiery Friday:

Sweet readers, what's your favorite frugal buy?

Do tell! Pass it on!