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Penny Pinching Epicure: January 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Recipe 2-fer: Washington's Green Grocer Produce Box Adventure

I recently signed up to have a vegetable and fruit box delivered to me from local farms through Washington's Green Grocer. It doesn't cost too much more than I usually spend on produce in a given week, and it's local and organic!

I got my first box yesterday, and it had so many beautiful fruits and veggies including huckleberry potatoes (never even heard of them before--they are pink inside!), purple potatoes, purple top turnips (yikes don't usually cook with those), and kale.

Having never used turnips before in anything but chicken soup I was skeptical, but they were really flavorful, and in a good way! I peeled them after reading they have a tough and sometimes bitter skin, then roasted the turnips and potatoes simply with olive oil, salt, garlic powder and Aleppo pepper (you could substitute red pepper flakes).

For protein I decided on a stovetop chicken rubbed with a spice mix of smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt and mustard seed (gave a great crunchy texture!), and then did a quick braise on the kale in the leftover juices.

All in all delicious, and I'm so glad I decided to do this local farm produce delivery!

Roasted Purple-Top Turnips with Huckleberry & Purple Potatoes


2 large turnips, peeled and cubed
6 huckleberry potatoes, cubed
6 purple potatoes, cubed
1 Tbsp light olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Aleppo pepper

  1. Place veggies in a roasting pan. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with spices, mixing to coat.
  2. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes covered, 20-25 minutes uncovered or until veggies are tender.

Smoked Paprika & Mustard Seed Crusted Chicken w/ Braised Kale


1 Tbsp olive oil
6 scallions, chopped (or 1 onion, I just didn't have any)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
3 boneless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp vegetable stock
1 bunch of kale, cleaned

  1. Heat oil in large saute pan and saute scallions and garlic 4-5 minutes.
  2. Combine paprika, mustard seeds, garlic powder & salt in a bowl. Pat chicken breasts dry, then dip into spice mixture, rubbing and massaging into chicken.
  3. Add chicken to pan and cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from pan.
  4. Remove kale leaves from stalk and tear leaves into bite-sized pieces (discard stalk or save for making soup stock another time). Deglaze pan with soup stock and add kale, turning to coat in juices. Cook 1-2 minutes until tender but still very green.

The cost:
veggies: $9.00 (1/4 of box)
chicken: 6.17

Grand total: $15.17; serves 2 + lunch leftovers :)

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pantry Raid: Tomato & Chickpea Stew

I went to a tweetup last night sponsored by a cool foodie group engaging in community service; I had to leave pretty early to metro there, but wanted to make sure I had a good dinner first so I threw together this tomato & chickpea stew from what I had in my pantry/fridge. It was easy, filling and super cheap. I haven't cooked much with smoked paprika, but the package said it's good with tomato based sauces--and it was!

Tomato & Chickpea Stew


1 tsp light olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 can chickpeas
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup water
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
chopped parsley or cilantro (optional garnish)

  1. Heat oil in saucepan and saute onions until soft, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine and bring to a boil. Simmer 20-25 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over rice or quinoa with freshly steamed spinach.

The cost:
onion: .45
chickpeas: .69
tomatoes: 1.00

Grand total: $2.14; serves 2-3

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chicken w/ Exotic Mushrooms & Green Swiss Chard

The wonderful thing about swiss chard is that it has a great flavor on it's own, and doesn't need too much accompaniment. I've done a mushroom & kale dish before (I'm sure the recipe will make it up at some point :)), and I've done chicken and exotic mushroom dish (yeah, that one will make it too), so I decided to put everything together and make chicken with exotic mushrooms & swiss chard. I use simple flavors--salt, pepper, rice vinegar--but you can add soy, sriracha, sesame oil, or any other flavors if you like.

Note: I call them "exotic mushrooms" because that's what the package at TJ's with cremini, oyster and baby shitake mushrooms is called. You can really use whatever mushroom variety you like, but I like how an assortment livens up the dish.

Chicken w/ Exotic Mushrooms & Green Swiss Chard


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, cut into quarters and sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 large bunch green swiss chard, cleaned
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
12 oz assorted mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
sea salt & pepper
1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips

  1. Heat oil in large saute pan and saute onions until soft, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove stems from swiss chard and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add stem pieces and garlic to onions and cook 6-8 minutes more until onions are caramelized and stem pieces are soft.
  3. Deglaze pan with rice vinegar and add mushrooms, stirring to scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom. Cook 8-10 minutes until mushrooms are very soft and have released their juices.
  4. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pan and cook covered 5-6 minutes until it is no longer pink in the center, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add swiss chard leaves, turning to coat in pan juices. Cover for 1 minute until leaves are slightly wilted. Remove from heat immediately.
The cost:
onion: .45
garlic: .10
chard: 2.29
mushrooms: 2.99
chicken: 5.99

Grand total: $11.82; serves 3-4 over rice or quinoa with a side of roasted veggies

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Penny Pinching Tip #7: Invest in Good Quality Pots

I've said this before, but I make a point in buying good quality kitchen implements because it makes my time in the kitchen infinitely more enjoyable, and it's well worth it in the long run.

I've talked about knives, and now I'm going to talk about pots.

Penny Pinching Tip #7: Invest in Good Quality Pots

Good quality pots will make your food better by heating and cooking more evenly, decreasing the chance your food will dry out or burn.

I have separate pots for dairy, meat and pareve (neutral), which can get expensive; how do I do it?
  1. I'm not vain about my cookware. I don't care if my pots match. I'd rather have a mismatched set of good quality pots than a mediocre set of matching ones. In addition, I prefer to choose what kind of pots I get rather than taking what comes in a set even if I'll never use one of the pieces.
  2. I shop around. Discount stores like Marshall's sell of good quality pots piecemeal if something in the set was broken or damaged.
  3. I buy pots that are versatile. My favorite pot is a 12-inch skillet/saute pan about 2 inches or so deep, with a lid (similar to this one). It allows me to fry, braise, saute, even cook rice. The skillet is in fact the only piece of meat cookware I own, but I can use it for almost anything I want to make.
Just a note about non-stick--I am not a fan because you have to be careful not to scratch it, and once you do you shouldn't really use it anymore because it can flake off into your food (also there has been a significant amount of research on toxins from non-stick coatings). I just invest in a little steel wool in case things get cooked on :)

Do you have any good tips about cookware?

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Dinner Party (5 of 5): Cinnamon Banana Cake w/ Candied Walnuts

I've been remixing this recipe a lot because I love banana muffins/cake, and this recipe has been great in every variation I have tried. As the final course of my dinner party, I wanted something sweet but not too heavy since we had already eaten so much. I used oil here since it's a dessert, but you can also substitute applesauce for a lower fat version.

P.S. In case you missed them, check out the other dinner party recipes here!

Cinnamon Banana Cake w/ Candied Walnuts


3 overripe bananas, pureed
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp cinnamon
zest and juice of 1 meyer lemon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 + 1/4 cup flour (I used gluten free)
1/4 cup candied walnuts

  1. Blend bananas, eggs, oil, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon zest and juice.
  2. Sift together BP, BS and flour. Stir into wet mixture. Fold in walnuts.
  3. Pour batter into greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees 15-20 minutes until edges are browned and top is firm and golden.
The cost: about $4.00

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Dinner Party (Part 4 of 5): Coconut Curry Chicken

I'd had a can of coconut milk sitting in my pantry for months; I'll admit, I was a bit trepidatious about using it (not sure why). Seriously, I shouldn't have waited so long--it made this chicken dish so rich and delicious. And there weren't any leftovers :)

Coconut Curry Chicken


1 tsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1.5 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 Tbsp curry powder (more if you like it hotter)
1 tsp sea salt
shot of sriracha
1 can coconut milk (I used light, lower in fat)
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

  1. Heat oil in large skillet and saute onion until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and carrots and cook 7-8 minutes until onions are caramelized.
  2. Add chicken, spices and sriracha, stirring to coat. Add coconut milk, mix and bring to a boil. Simmer 2-3 minutes then add cauliflower. Cook an additional 5-6 minutes covered until chicken is cooked through and cauliflower is tender.
The cost:
onion: .45
garlic: .15
carrots: .99
chicken: 8.99
coconut milk: 1.99
cauliflower: 1.99

Grand total: $14.56; serves 8

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dinner Party (Part 3 of 5): Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas w/ Red Swiss Chard

I had originally planned to do roasted brussel sprouts for my dinner party veggie side dish, but the red swiss chard looked so amazing I just couldn't resist (it hasn't looked good in MONTHS). I decided to pair the chard with chickpeas for texture, and caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar for flavor. It was the hit of the night! (Note: So I didn't realize I had already posted a similar recipe, but this one uses a different kind of chard, and has a super awesome picture!)

P.S. Check out parts one and two of the dinner menu, and stay tuned for coconut curry chicken and banana cake with candied walnuts later this week!

Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas w/ Red Swiss Chard


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, cut into quarters and sliced thinly
1 large bunch red swiss chard, cleaned
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp honey or agave
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
pinch of black pepper

  1. Heat oil in large skillet and saute onion until soft, 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove stems from swiss chard and cut into bite-sized pieces; add pieces to onions and cook 6-8 minutes more until onions are caramelized.
  3. Add chickpeas and honey/agave and stir to combine. Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar, then add salt and pepper. Cook 5-6 minutes until liquid has reduced.
  4. Tear or cut swiss chard leaves into bite-sized pieces and add to skillet, turning to coat in balsamic reduction. Cover with a lid for 1 minute, just until leaves are wilted. Remove from heat immediately.
The cost:
onion: .45
chard: 2.29
chickpeas: .79
other ingredients: <.50

Grand total: $4.03; serves 8

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dinner Party (Part 2 of 5): Twice Baked Parsnip & Sweet Potato Mash w/ Pecan Streusel Topping

Dear Readers,

For the first time since I started tracking my blog with Google Analytics, I have surpassed 1,000 visits in a 30 day period. And it's because of you! Thank you so much to all of my loyal followers (and first-time visitors too!), and please continue to enjoy my recipes and ideas :)

Dinner Party Menu:
Cucumber, Fennel & Radish Salad
Twice Baked Parsnip & Sweet Potato Mash w/ Pecan Streusel Topping
Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas w/ Red Swiss Chard
Coconut Curry Chicken
Banana Nut Cake w/ Candied Walnuts (Recipe Remix from this Recipe Remix)

I've been wanting to try something with parsnips ever since I used them a while back and asked people for recipe ideas. For this dish, I baked them with sweet potatoes and mashed everything together, then topped it with a mixture of oats, cinnamon, pecans and honey. I popped it back into the oven just to brown the top and get the streusel all crispy.

Note: I thought this dish was great, but it would have been spectacular had I thought to stir in a Tbsp or so of fresh ginger or lemon zest.

Twice Baked Parsnip & Sweet Potato Mash w/ Pecan Streusel Topping


1 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup oats (I used gluten free)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey, brown sugar or agave
pinch of salt

  1. Place sweet potatoes and parsnips in a 9 x 13 pan and drizzle with oil. Cover and bake at 400 degrees 20-25 minutes until veggies are very soft, stirring occasionally.
  2. Mash (or I used my immersion blender) veggies until they are smooth. Stir in cinnamon and salt and spread into back into pan.
  3. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over mash. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake 8-10 minutes or until topping is golden brown and crispy.
The cost:
sweet potatoes: 1.49
parsnips: 1.99
other ingredients: <1.00

Grand total: $4.48; serves 8 as a side dish

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dinner Party (Part 1 of 5): Cucumber, Fennel & Radish Salad

I hadn't hosted a meal in a while, so I decided to host a dinner party last night--thanks to both JG's, JK, LM, and RK for letting me cook for them, and especially to AK for washing the mountain dishes :).

The menu was:

Cucumber, Fennel & Radish Salad (Recipe Remix from this)
Twice Baked Parsnip & Sweet Potato Mash w/ Pecan Streusel Topping
Balsamic Glazed Chickpeas w/ Red Swiss Chard
Coconut Curry Chicken
Banana Nut Cake w/ Candied Walnuts (Recipe Remix from this Recipe Remix)

Sorry, you won't get all of the recipes today--but check back, because you'll get one recipe a day for the rest of the week!

P.S. If you haven't yet filled out my reader poll, please do by clicking here!

Recipe Remix: Cucumber, Fennel & Radish Salad


1 large fennel bulb + 1 Tbsp fennel fronds
8 radishes
1 English cucumber
1 orange bell pepper
zest of one lemon
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp honey or agave
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

  1. Cut fennel bulb in half and peel off outer layer. Slice thinly into half-rounds (I used my mandolin). Slice radishes and cucumber into thin rounds, and julienne the orange pepper.
  2. Blend together lemon zest & juice, oil, honey/agave, salt & pepper and pour over salad veggies. Serve immediately.
The cost:
fennel: 2.29
radishes: .89
cucumber: 2.00
pepper: 1.00 (on sale $1 each)
lemons: .78

Grand total: $6.96; serves 8

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Reader Poll: Dish Inspiration Challenge

I found this fun new blog recently that challenged readers to think of a hobby other than cooking, and then create a dish inspired by that hobby.

I thought about this for a while--I've been focusing on cooking/baking and general food-related stuff for the last few months, so it took me a while to figure out a hobby of mine that does not involve food :-p

Anyway, I'm taking a poll. Which of the following hobbies would you like to see me use as my inspiration for a new dish?

Playing guitar
Listening to music
Graphic design

Feel free to comment here, or tweet me @RellaBellaK!

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Pine Nut, Parsley & Mustard Seed Crusted Salmon

My Penzey's purchase this past weekend also included a bag of yellow mustard seeds (smells like pickles, or rather pickles smell like it because it's a common pickling spice! A little spicy, a little bitter, really great flavor). After browsing the internet for some uses, I decided to use it to crust fish; I wanted to make sure there was enough texture so I added pine nuts, and for color and flavor: Parsley, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper (sort of like a parsley pesto--I should try it with basil next time!).

Pine Nut, Parsley & Mustard Seed Crusted Salmon


1 lb salmon fillet
2 Tbsp pine nuts, coarsely crushed
2 Tbsp mustard seed, coarsely crushed
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
pinch of cracked black pepper

  1. Place fish skin-side down on a baking sheet.
  2. Roughly blend together remaining ingredients to form a paste  (I used my immersion blender attachment, but you can also finely chop everything then mix together); spread over salmon, pressing firmly to coat.
  3. Broil 4-6 minutes until fish is cooked through and nut/seed crust is toasty brown.
Serve over rice or quinoa (1 cup = .99) with roasted brussel sprouts (2.49)

The cost:
salmon: 6.99
parsley: 1.00 (on sale at Shoppers)

Grand total: $7.99 ($11.47 for the whole meal); serves 4

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Balsamic Glazed Chicken & Peppers

I took a trip to Penzey's spice store this past weekend and came away with a great haul of fresh spices including spicy-lemony Aleppo pepper. Its inaugural dish was last night's dinner, balsamic glazed chicken breasts with pepper in 4 ways--red, yellow, orange, and Aleppo :)

Balsamic Glazed Chicken & Peppers


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, cut into quarters and sliced thinly
1 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 each red, orange and yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 chopped green onion (for garnish)

  1. Heat oil in large skillet and saute onion until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and peppers and cook 8-10 minutes more.
  2. Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of chicken breasts. Add to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes on each side to brown. Add vinegar to deglaze pan, turning contents to coat. Cover and cook 3-4 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Garnish with chopped green onion.
Serve over rice or quinoa with this citrus-y fennel salad or this zesty cucumber salad.

The cost:
onion: .45
garlic: .5
bell peppers: 3.49
chicken: 5.99

Grand total: $9.98; serves 2 + lunch for tomorrow (well, for AK anyway :))

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gluten-Free Snack Challenge: Cranberry Almond Granola Bars

I've been craving granola bars recently. I've tried some of the prepackaged gluten-free variety, but I'm not so much a fan of toasted cardboard. In fact, there are very few prepackaged gluten and dairy free items I really like.

So I decided to make my own granola bars. I scoured the internet; I must have looked at over 100 recipes, studying the varying techniques and trying to figure out how to make the best gluten free and dairy free granola bars possible.

A few notes:
  • I read in a number of places that it's better to use thick-cut oats, otherwise they tend to melt away and get mushy.
  • It took me a number of tries to get this right; granola bars are like cookies in that they continue to bake even after you remove them from the oven, so beware not to overbake (I did with my first couple of batches). The top of the bars should be firm but still a little spongy, the oats toasted a crispy but not too brown.
  • I opted for a home-made version of store-bought granola bars I used to love (toasted oats with cranberries and almonds), but you can mix and match as much as you'd like with grains, seeds, nuts and dried fruit.

Cranberry Almond Granola Bars


2 cups thick-cut oats
1/2 cup rice bran
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup almond pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries

  1. Place oats and rice bran on a 9x13 inch baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Place honey, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon in a saucepan. Heat over low flame until brown sugar has dissolved and mixture is smooth.
  3. Remove oats from oven and immediately add to sugar mixture along with almonds and cranberries. Stir until everything is well coated.
  4. Pour oat mixture into 9 x 13 inch greased baking pan, pressing firmly to compress (I stuck my hand inside a ziploc bag to keep the oats from sticking to me).
  5. Reduce over temperature to 300 degrees; bake for 6-8 minutes (do not overbake, see note above).
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, then cut into squares or whatever size granola bars you prefer.
The cost:
oats: 2.99
rice bran: 2.99
almonds: .65
cranberries: .45

Grand total: $7.08; makes 16ish servings (that's only .44 per bar!)

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From the Peanut Gallery: Boosting Protein Intake

Note: This is the inaugural post in a new post category, "From the Peanut Gallery," in which I will answer questions I have received from my readers. If you have a question you'd like me to answer, please let me know, either by leaving a comment or by tweeting me @RellaBellaK!

This question is from my friend JG:

I really want to start concentrating on eating more protein, but I don't know what that ACTUALLY means in terms of what to make.

JG, the truth is, there are a lot of very simple ways to boost your protein intake without having to deliberately go out of your way to do so. Here are a few tips and recipes.

Modify your existing routine rather than radically changing your diet.
Do you frequently eat salads for lunch? Do you eat a lot of pasta for dinner? Instead of radically changing how you eat (much less likely you'll stick to it), you can very easily add an extra kick of protein to your regular routine.

Easy ways to add protein: Legumes like chickpeas, kidney beans, corn, or lentils; tofu or edamame; lean proteins like salmon, tuna, chicken or beef; hard boiled eggs; a handful of nuts; dairy like goat or feta cheese.

When I make tofu, chicken, or fish for dinner, I'll frequently put some aside for the following day's and have it over mixed baby greens with some other fresh veggies. That way, I don't feel like I'm eating leftovers, and I made 2 meals in one :)

These chicken, tofu, and fish recipes are great the next day.

Grains have protein.
Many people don't realize that grains can have a lot of protein. Oats, wild rice, millet, quinoa (my favorite), and barley all have a significant amount of protein. Eat oatmeal with a dollop of Greek yogurt for breakfast, and make a pot of quinoa to go with dinner. Protein is hiding in places you never knew!

Jazzed-Up Breakfast Oatmeal

1 serving size of oatmeal
hot water
1 apple (or peach, strawberries, etc.), chopped
fat free Greek yogurt
2 pecans or almonds, crushed

Cook one serving size of oatmeal according to package directions. Stir in apple, and garnish with a nice dollop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nuts.

Easy Quinoa

2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup quinoa
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch of pepper

Place ingredients in a small stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low flame and cook 10-12 minutes, until quinoa is tender and liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Dairy is your friend.
Well, not mine. But if you don't have a milk allergy, dairy is a great way to get protein without a lot of fat or calories. Fat free yogurt or greek yogurt, fat free cottage cheese, low-fat string cheese, even a glass of milk gives you a lot of protein (or go back to eating that bowl of cereal and milk for breakfast)! And these aren't hard on your wallet either :)

If you are a lactard like myself, you can get protein from any of the other categories I've listed here, and also by drinking soy milk or almond milk.

Be a Squirrel.
Well, not literally. But nuts and seeds have a lot of protein, although also frequently a lot of fat, so make sure to eat in moderation. Mix up a healthy trail mix of assorted dried fruit and nuts (much cheaper to buy the separate components and create it yourself, plus you get to put in only the things you like!).

Snack Smartly.
A well-rounded snack should have protein, fiber, and a little in the carb area. Having an apple for a snack? Eat it with 1 Tbsp of peanut butter or 1/2 cup of fat free cottage cheese. Munching on baby carrots or carrot sticks? Eat them with a few Tbsp of chumus or a small handful of almonds (for more snack ideas, see my previous post).

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Ginger Chicken w/ Braised Baby Bok Choy

As you may have already figured out, I'm a big fan of Asian food. This recipe was my attempt at recreating a dish from one of my favorite Asian restaurants. I figure, for what I pay for one serving, I can make myself with enough to serve 4.

I think I did a pretty good job :)

Ginger Chicken w/ Braised Baby Bok Choy


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
10 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced into very thin strips
3 baby bok choy, sliced in half lengthwise
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

  1. Heat oil in large skillet and saute onion until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 5-6 minutes more. Add mushrooms and cook until they are soft and have released their juices, 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add soy sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, & ginger, stirring to combine.
  3. Add baby bok choy, cut side down. Cook 2 minutes, then flip over and cook 2 minutes on the other side. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  4. Add chicken to skillet, stirring to coat in sauce. Cover and cook 5-6 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Serve over brown basmati rice for a healthy and flavorful dinner!

The cost:
onion: .45
mushrooms: 1.99
baby bok choy: 2.49
chicken: 5.99

Grand total: $10.92; serves 4

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Ginger-Lemon Tuna Steaks & Roasted Vegetable Medley

Thanks to everyone who has sent me feedback about the blog, both publicly and privately. It really helps to know what people are enjoying, and what they'd like to see more of!

This blog post is for you, DSK--one non-vegetarian full dinner menu coming right up! (P.S. I didn't know you always wanted to be in my Home Ec group. Thanks for sharing that with me :))

I had a long day at work and came home with the overwhelming desire to make a flavorful and healthy meal. I had a lot of leftover veggies from my soup earlier this week, as well as tuna steaks in the freezer, so I decided on ginger-lemon tuna steaks, a roasted vegetable medley, and brown basmati rice.

Ginger-Lemon Tuna Steaks


2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp honey or agave
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 lemon, sliced
2 tuna steaks, defrosted

  1. In a shallow dish, combine all ingredients except tuna.
  2. Place tuna in dish and coat both sides with marinade. Allow to sit in marinade for at least 15 minutes (while you prep your veggies!).
  3. Cook tuna on the stove 3-4 minutes on each side (more or less depending on how you like your tuna), or roast in a foil packet in oven 8-10 minutes at 425 degrees (layer lemon slices on tuna while it steams if you do it this way).
Roasted Vegetable Medley


10 baby potatoes, cubed
1 sweet onion, chopped into large pieces
4 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 parsnips, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper and garlic powder

  1. Place veggies in a baking pan; drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt, pepper and GP.
  2. Bake in oven at 425 degrees, 50-60 minutes or until roasted and tender (I like to roast 30ish minutes covered, 30ish uncovered).
Serve over brown basmati rice.

The cost:
tuna: 4.71
lemon: .29
veggies: already paid for in previous recipe
rice: .55

Grand total: $5.55

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Living (& Cooking) Dairy-Free: My Go-To Subs

As many of you may have noticed, my recipes are almost all dairy-free; this is because I developed an allergy about 2 years ago and have had to cut almost all dairy from my diet.

Do I miss it? Most assuredly. But my stomach is ever so much happier.

What are my go-to dairy substitutes?

Soy milk: For recipes that call for dairy in order to make a dish richer and creamier (like soups, although allow cooling to avoid curdling).

Rice milk: It's thinner than regular milk and not great for baking, but it's very nice in smoothies (blend together rice milk and frozen fruit of your choice). Before I got used to drinking my coffee black, this was also my go-to coffee whitener.

Almond milk: I find it a little bitter to drink plain (although my nephew loves it), but it's great in cereal. Not too good for cooking as it tends to separate easily.

Non-dairy yogurt, cream cheese, & sour cream: I wouldn't eat any of these plain, but they can sub for themselves (i.e. I've made really good non-dairy cheesecake with fake cream cheese and sour cream, banana bread with non-dairy yogurt).

Applesauce: The creaminess dairy adds to baked goods can be somewhat mimicked using applesauce (it's also a great sub for oil or butter, although it will also increase density).

The cheapest place I've found to buy most of these items (at least in my area) is Trader Joe's, although you can sometimes find them on sale at other stores for a good price (usually located in the "organic" or "health food" section).

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Recipe Remix: Zesty Banana Nut Muffins

I had an abundance of brown bananas desperately calling to me last night (thanks EZRJ :)), but halfway through my batter mixing process I realized I was out of chocolate chips! Banana nut muffins without the chocolate chips just don't do it for me, so I had to quickly think of another way to jazz the muffins up.

I settled on the zest and juice from a meyer lemon (leftover from last week), along with a bit of freshly ground nutmeg. The result: The best batch of gluten free muffins I have made yet!

Zesty Banana Nut Muffins


3 overripe bananas, pureed
2 eggs
1/4 cup applesauce
splash of vanilla (bourbon for the adventurous)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
zest and juice of 1 meyer lemon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 + 1/4 cup flour (I used gluten free bread mix)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Blend bananas, eggs, applesauce, sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest and juice.
  2. Sift together BP, BS and flour. Using a whisk, stir dry ingredients into wet until combined. If the mixture still seems a bit too loose, add a few Tbsp more of flour (you want a pretty thick consistency). Fold in walnuts.
  3. Divide batter evenly into a greased 12 muffin tin. Bake at 350 degrees 12-15 minutes until edges are browned and tops are firm and golden.
The cost: Less than $4.00 per batch.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Shoppers $1 Sale Recipe: Spinach & Red Lentil Soup

I went food shopping last night unclear on what I wanted to cook this week. To my surprise (and glee), Shoppers had many fresh vegetables on sale for only $1! As I walked up and down the aisles, this hearty winter soup recipe formed in my head (the weather is sooo cold outside, I wanted something warm and filling).

The parsnips were not on sale, but I'm glad I splurged as they (with the carrots) add a nice sweetness and texture to this soup. I haven't used parsnips much but I'm going to have to experiment with them (anyone have a good recipe?).

Note: I use red lentils because I like how they melt and thicken the soup, but if you want distinguishable lentils use brown ones instead (you also may need to simmer the soup a bit longer).

Spinach & Red Lentil Soup


1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 sweet onions, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
8 fingerling or 3 small potatoes, cubed
1/2 cup red lentils
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp pepper
4 cups water
2 cups fresh spinach
additional salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

  1. Heat oil in medium stock pot and saute onion until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add chopped parsnips, carrots, celery, and potatoes and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, pepper, and GP and cook 5-6 minutes more.
  2. Add water and bring to a boil. Simmer 35-40 minutes until vegetables are soft and lentils are very tender.
  3. Remove soup from heat and stir in spinach (it will wilt quickly). Add additional salt, pepper, and GP to taste.
The cost:
onions: .64
parsnips: 2.68
carrots: 1.00
celery: 1.00
potatoes: .83
lentils: .42
spinach: 1.00

Grand Total: $7.57; serves 6-8

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Brown Basmati Rice w/ Lentils

I usually stick to white basmati rice, mostly because I'm just used to it, but when they were out of white at TJs this week I decided to be adventurous and grab a bag of brown basmati.

A lot of people don't like brown rice because it has a lot more texture than white, but what they may not realize is that in order to turn rice white, it is stripped of many of its nutrients (see more about that here).

Here is a simple and delicious recipe using brown basmati--the texture is nicely balanced by the sauted onions and lentils.

Brown Basmati Rice w/ Lentils


2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice, rinsed
1/2 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups soup stock
2 1/4 cups water

  1. Heat oil in medium stock pot and saute onion until soft and translucent, 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, stir just to combine and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce to a low flame and simmer 35-40 minutes until liquid is absorbed and rice and lentils are tender.
The cost:
onion: .45
rice: 1.99
lentils: .25
stock: 1.99

Grand total: $4.68; serves 6-8 as a side for fish/chicken and steamed veggies

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Penny Pinching Tip #6: Good Quality Knives

Over the last few months, people have commented on the sharpness of my knives. In truth, I think it's more the dullness of their knives that have prompted their comments, so I just wanted to do a short post on kitchen safety.

Penny Pinching Tip #6: Invest in good quality knives to avoid spending money on ER bills.

Sharp knives are dangerous and you do need to watch your fingers, but dull knives are even more of a hazard in the kitchen. With a dull knife, you need to use more pressure in order to cut, and it is more likely to slip while you are cutting. So protect your fingers! They're the only ones you've got.

I'm definitely not at a point where I can afford a set of good quality chef's knives, but it really is worth it to buy good quality, sturdy knives (honestly, mine are from Ikea, but they are still sharp and not flimsy). When your knives get dull, if you can't sharpen them, replace them. Your fingers will thank you profusely.

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