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Penny Pinching Epicure: February 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Penny Pinching Tip #9: Your Freezer is Your Friend

Have you ever bought too many fresh vegetables and kicked yourself later watching them go bad in the fridge?

I don't do this too often, but occasionally I'll end up either eating out more than I thought I would for a given week, or just not cooking as much for one reason or another. So what to do with my leftover veggies?

Penny Pinching Tip #9: Your freezer is your friend.

I frequently freeze bananas and pull them out at some later date for banana bread, but I had never really thought about freezing veggies until my friend RHG told me she throws peppers in the freezer if she thinks she won't use them up before they go bad.

Now, defrosted fruits or veggies do not have the same consistency as before they went into the freezer; since they have so much water in them, and water expands when frozen, cell walls get broken and fruits & veggies end up rather mushy (i.e. don't expect to be able to defrost and then julienne a red bell pepper for a salad). They are however great for dishes that involve heat like stir-fries, casseroles or soups. You can pretty much throw any veggie in the freezer--if nothing else, it'll be great for making soup stock.

Check out my other tip about buying in bulk and freezing.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

20 Below: Basil, Ginger & Garlic Stuffed Chicken

Upon request (and somewhat of a challenge) from one of my lovely readers, I'm going to start a series of "20 Below" posts where I will highlight an entire meal for 4 people that costs less than $20 ($5.00 per person). I hope all of you penny pinchers enjoy these posts--and if anyone else has a particular blog topic request, please let me know!

Boneless chicken breasts are simple and quick to cook up, but there are merits to making chicken on the bone (in addition to it being quite a bit cheaper), like all of the tasty bits you can stuff under the skin (although you can also pound boneless chicken breasts thin, fill them with goodies, roll them up and then bake them).

You can stuff chicken with pretty much anything; here I use basil, ginger & garlic, but you could do:
  • Rice cooked with onions, mushrooms & grated carrots
  • Rosemary & whole garlic cloves
  • Lemon slices & black peppercorns
  • Mustard seed, garam masala and onion slices
Just to name a few :)

Basil, Ginger & Garlic Stuffed Chicken


16 large basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
4 chicken quarters, skin on
salt & pepper

  1. Stuff 1/4 of basil, garlic and ginger under the skin of each chicken quarter.
  2. Place chicken in baking pan and sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  3. Bake covered at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
The cost:
basil: 1.99
ginger: 1.39
chicken: 7.42

Grand total: $10.80; serves 4

Add roasted brussel sprouts ($2.49) & rice (1.99)

Meal grand total: $15.28

Price per person: $3.82

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Vegan Palak Paneer

I love palak paneer, but sadly have gone almost entirely dairy free so I can no longer eat paneer (homemade Indian cheese). I had the idea a while back to figure out a dairy free version; it took a couple of tries to get the seasoning and texture right, but I was very happy with the results :)

In order to replicate the consistency of the paneer, I cubed extra-firm tofu; definitely not the same flavor, but roughly a similar texture. I also found that frozen spinach worked better than fresh in order to get the texture I'm used to.

Vegan Palak Paneer


1 Tbsp light olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, cracked & peeled
1 block of extra-firm tofu
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
12 oz. frozen spinach
4 Tbsp vegetable stock or water

  1. Heat oil in large saute pan and saute onions and garlic slowly over low heat until onions are soft and caramelized, 10-12 minutes (it takes a while, but the flavor is worth it).
  2. While onions are cooking, press tofu to remove extra water, then cut into small cubes.
  3. Add tofu and spices to pan, stirring to coat (gently so as not to break the tofu).
  4. Add spinach and stock/water and bring to a boil. Simmer 30-40 minutes over low flame, stirring occasionally.
The cost:
onion: .45
garlic: .05
tofu: 1.99
spices: <1.00
spinach: 1.99

Grand total: $7.47; serves 4-6 over white or brown basmati rice

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Healthy Eating for Penny Pinchers: Iron-Rich Foods

I've had anemia problems for a number of years (runs in my family), so I'm careful in making sure I eat iron-rich foods.

A lot of people think that the only way to get iron is through red meat, but there are actually many sources of iron outside of meat and liver, which can be both expensive and not too healthy in large quantities. Here are some items that will ensure you are getting a good amount of iron but not breaking the bank.

Iron-rich foods include cooked & canned beans, cooked lentils, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit like prunes & raisins, baked potatoes (skin on), beets, and breakfast cereals that are iron-enriched (i.e. manufacturer adds iron to them). Most of these will cost you less than .50 per serving.

It's important to note that when you eat iron-rich foods, it's also a good idea to pair them with with foods that have lots of Vitamin C, which helps you absorb the iron you are ingesting (especially with non-heme [not from an animal] iron). Citrus fruits, tomatoes, red & green bell peppers, brussel sprouts, and broccoli are all good sources of Vitamin C.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dinner Party Dessert: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Cake

Yes I know, you've seen to many banana baked goods recipes, and you're right, this is another variation of plenty of previous recipes. What can I say, bananas make a great base for baking, and frankly, I never have any leftovers :)

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Cake


3 overripe bananas, pureed
2 eggs
1/4 cup applesauce
splash of vanilla
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 + 1/4 cups gluten free flour
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree and spray a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, blend bananas, eggs, applesauce and vanilla.
  3. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, salt & pepper. Add baking soda and baking powder.
  4. Stir in 1 cup of flour; the batter should be pretty thick, so if you had large bananas add up to 1/4 cup more flour.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  6. Pour into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until edges are browned and top is firm.
The cost: $4.00, give or take

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dinner Party Side Dish: Sriracha-Spiked Corn Muffins

I like corn bread, but it frequently suffers from being dry and crumbly. I got the idea a while back to make corn bread with creamed corn to give the corn flavor but keep it nice and moist, and it was a total score! The corn chunks also added a nice texture.

Corn bread does nicely when it's spicy (jalapeno corn bread is pretty popular), and I really like the play of sweet and spicy together, so I decided to kick the flavor up with a couple shots of sriracha (or you can use hot sauce). As usual, when given the choice I baked these as muffins :)

Spicy Corn Muffins


2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 can creamed corn
1/2 tsp salt
pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp sriracha
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour (I used gluten free)

  1. Blend together eggs, oil, sugar, creamed corn, salt, pepper, and sriracha. Stir in baking soda, baking powder and flour.
  2. Pour into greased muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes until edges are golden brown and tops are browned and firm. Cool on a baking rack.
The cost:
eggs: .28
corn: .79
flour: 1.15
other ingredients: <1.00

Grand total: $3.22; store muffins in airtight container

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dinner Party Main Dish: Crock Pot Spice-Rubbed Chicken w/ Garlic, Onions & Blood Oranges

I don't use my crock pot nearly enough, so I decided to make a crock pot chicken for my main dish. I layered the bottom of the crock pot with sliced onions and baby potatoes (red bliss, purple & yukon), stuffed the chicken (under the skin and inside the cavity) with sliced blood oranges, onions &amp, and whole garlic cloves, then rubbed the whole thing with a spice mixture of garlic powder, salt, pepper, curry and garam masala. After 8 hours on low, it was succulently delicious, the meat literally falling off the bone, and the potatoes underneath had absorbed all of the wonderful chicken and spice juices.

Crock Pot Spice-Rubbed Chicken w/ Garlic, Onions & Blood Oranges


3 medium onions, sliced into thick rings
1 lb baby potatoes, sliced into thick rounds
1 cup vegetable stock or orange juice
2 blood oranges, sliced into rounds
8 garlic cloves
1 whole fryer (4-5 lbs), rinsed & giblets removed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt

  1. Layer bottom of crock pot with 2 of the sliced onions and all of the sliced baby potatoes. Add soup stock/orange juice.
  2. Stuff remaining onion slices, blood orange slices and garlic under chicken skin and inside cavity. Combine spices. Place chicken in crock pot and rub all over with spice mixture.
  3. Cover and cook 8-10 hours on low.
The cost:
onions: 1.15
potatoes: 1.99
stock: 1.99
oranges: .99
garlic: .15
chicken: 15.63

Grand total: $21.90; serves 8

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Dinner Party Salad: Spinach, Heirloom Tomato & Blood Orange Salad

I am a huge fan of blood oranges. They add great color to any dish, and have a more robust flavor than many other orange varieties, so they are really good salads and salad dressings.

Because of the snow I couldn't get anywhere but TJ's, but I would have added some thinly sliced fennel to this salad, I think it would have rounded this salad out nicely.

Spinach, Heirloom Tomato & Blood Orange Salad


6 oz fresh spinach
1 English cucumber, sliced
8 oz baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 scallion, chopped
3 blood oranges
1 tsp orange zest
1 Tbsp light olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp agave nectar
1/4 tsp sea salt
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of black pepper
1/4 cup candied nuts (optional for garnish)

  1. Place spinach, cucumber, tomatoes, and scallion in a large salad bowl.
  2. Segment oranges (here is a nice little demo), and add to salad.
  3. Take what's left of the orange (center and membrane and such) and squeeze the juice into a small bowl. Add remaining ingredients (except nuts) and pour over over salad, tossing to coat.
  4. Garnish with nuts (optional).
The cost:
spinach: 1.99
cucumber: 1.69
tomatoes: 3.49
oranges: .99
other ingredients: <1.00

Grand total: $9.16; serves 8

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daring Cooks Challenge: Mezze

I know I don't usually post on a Sunday, but I recently became a Daring Cook through a very cool group called the Daring Kitchen, which brings together thousands of food bloggers from around the world and challenges them to cook one new thing every month, and today is the reveal day!

This was my first challenge, and I had a ton of fun with it. The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

I served my mezze as the first course of my first dinner party.

The pita was certainly a challenge as I couldn't get it to puff, but it was still delicious (came out kind of like foccacia).

For dips I made topped the chumus topped with olive oil, toasted pine nuts, and za'atar, and also a roasted red pepper spread (see recipe below).

Being a Daring Cook is fun--looking forward to the next challenge!

Roasted Red Pepper Spread


3 red peppers
1 tsp olive oil
1 small garlic clove
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Broil red peppers, turning occasionally until the skin is blackened. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 5-6 minutes. Cool slightly, peel off skin and remove stem, seeds and ribs.
  2. Blend peppers with remaining ingredients until smooth.
  3. Serve with pita, pita chips, crackers, crudite or other item conducive to dipping.
The cost:
red peppers: 3.00 (on sale for $1 each)
other ingredients: <.50

Grand total: $3.50ish; serves 8-10 as an appetizer

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Dinner Party Appetizer: Sesame-Soy Salmon w/ Crispy Brown Rice Cake

For my dinner party I wanted to start with a fish course; I like Asian flavors for salmon, so I created a sesame-soy marinade with a little bit of sriracha for heat. While the salmon lay soaking up those wonderful flavors, I put together an accompaniment for the plate. I wanted something with crunch and texture to help offset the softness of the salmon, so I decided to make brown rice cakes that I pan fried until they were nice and crispy. I should have made more--they were the hit of the night!

Sesame-Soy Salmon


1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar (I used garlic flavored)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp agave, honey or brown sugar
1/2 tsp sriracha (more if you like it spicy)
1.5 lbs salmon, cut into individual portions

  1. In a large ziploc bag, mix together soy sauce, vinegar, oil, sesame seeds, agave and sriracha. Add salmon and marinate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Remove salmon from marinade, place on baking sheet and bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through.
Crispy Brown Rice Cakes


1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
5 cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely grated
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg
oil for frying (I used vegetable)

  1. Heat oils in deep saute pan and cook garlic over medium-low heat until browned, 5-6 minutes. Add mushrooms and carrots and cook 5-6 minutes until soft. Remove from heat.
  2. Combine mushroom mixture with cooked brown rice and salt. Allow to cool (you don't want to scramble the egg). Add egg and stir until evenly mixed.
  3. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in saute pan.
  4. Divide rice mixture into balls about the size of a ping pong ball (I made 15 or so), then flatten into thick patties. When oil is hot, fry patties 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy.
The cost:
salmon: 9.16
rice: 2.99
carrots: .99
cremini mushrooms: 1.99
other ingredients: <1.00

Grand total: $16.13; serves 8-9 as an appetizer

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dinner Partying for Penny Pinchers

So you may have heard we've had a veritable snowmageddon here; I had planned a dinner party for this past Sunday but postponed due to snow until last night--when we had a blizzard. Luckily my dinner guests braved the snow and the show went on (thanks AK, JH, JW, JT & SK for trekking through the snow, and ZFS, DS & RK for walking down all those stairs :))

This dinner party was a challenge to myself to make a really delicious and filling meal with an appetizer, salad, main dish, 2 side dishes and dessert for less than $8 per person. To my surprise, I actually made the party for less than $7 per person!

Here is my menu & shopping list--stay tuned for the recipes over the next few days!

The Menu:

Sesame-Soy Salmon w/ Crispy Brown Rice Cake

Spinach, Heirloom Tomato & Blood Orange Salad

Crock Pot Spice-Rubbed Chicken & Potatoes w/ Garlic, Onions & Blood Oranges

Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussel Sprouts

Spicy Corn Muffins

Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Cake

My Shopping List:

salmon: 9.16
rice: 2.99
carrots: .99
soup stock: 1.99
cremini mushrooms: 1.99
spinach: 1.99
cucumber: 1.69
tomatoes: 3.49
blood oranges: 2.99
chicken: 15.63
potatoes: 1.99
onions: 1.19
sweet potatoes: 1.79
brussel sprouts: 2.49
creamed corn: .79
gluten free flour: 3.45
eggs: .99
bananas: .57
other pantry items: <3.00

Grand total: $59.17 [$6.57 per person]

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Citrus-Dressed Snow Pea & Tomato Salad

I had dinner at a friend's place a few weeks ago and was asked to bring a salad. I had originally planned on a Romaine lettuce salad, but my lettuce was yucky so I had to improvise. Evaluating the veggies I had on hand (I had already been to TJs once that day), I decided on a citrus-dressed snow peas & tomatoes salad w/ navel oranges.

Note: Segmenting a orange isn't too difficult, but it does make salads look really classy. Here's a nice little demo.

Citrus-Dressed Snow Pea & Tomato Salad


2 navel oranges
1 bag snow peas
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1 tsp orange zest
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp agave
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
pinch of black pepper

  1. Segment both oranges, placing pieces in a salad bowl with snow peas and tomatoes; take what's left of the orange (center and membrane and such) and squeeze the juice into a small bowl.
  2. To the orange juice, add remaining ingredients, whisking to combine. Pour over veggies and serve.
The cost:
snow peas: 2.49
oranges & tomatoes: 3.00
other ingredients: <1.00

Grand total: $6.49; serves 6-8

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chocolaty Pecan Granola Bars (Gluten Free & Vegan)

My last adventure with gluten free granola bars went so well, I decided to try another flavor. After reviewing the various options, I decided on chocolate and pecan, with cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla singing back-up.

Chocolaty Pecan Granola Bars


2 cups oats
1/2 cup rice bran
1/2 cup raw pecan pieces

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup agave
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

  1. Place oats, bran and nuts in a 9x13 baking pan. Toast at 350 degrees 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Combine sugar, agave, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg & salt in a small saucepan; heat over low flame until sugar is melted. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Pour oats, bran and nuts into sugar mixture and stir to coat. Pour back into baking pan and spread in a thin layer, pressing firmly to pack it in (I stick my hand inside a plastic bag because a wooden spoon or spatula usually sticks).
  4. Lower oven to 300 degrees; return pan to oven and bake 6-8 minutes (a little longer if you prefer more crunchy to chewy). Remove and cool, then cut into desired bar size (I usually do 16 or so).
The cost:
oats: 2.99
other ingredients: <2.00

Grand total: 4.99

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Garlic Roasted Baby Potatoes & Brussel Sprouts

This is an easy, filling and cheap side dish. You can really do this with any kinds of vegetables (sometimes I like to add cubed sweet potatoes) as long as they have relatively the same cooking time (i.e. don't use zucchini, it will be utter mush by the time everything else is cooked through). [pre- and post-oven pictures below :)]

Garlic Roasted Baby Potatoes & Brussel Sprouts


1 lb baby potatoes
20 brussel sprouts
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Slice baby potatoes and brussel sprouts in half and place in roasting pan with garlic cloves. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, mixing to coat.
  2. Roast uncovered at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until brussel sprout outer leaves are crispy and potatoes are tender.
The cost:
potatoes: 1.99
brussel sprouts: 2.49

Grand total: $4.48

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Pantry Raid: Snoverreaction/SnOMG/Snomageddon Soup

Everyone has been FREAKING out about the impending 16-24" predicted in snow. But really folks, instead of buying more, this is a great opportunity to clean out your pantry/freezer. You know, those cans with an inch of dust on them, that bag of peas that's been in the freezer since the beginning of time.

Here's something healthy and filling you can make from your pantry (or, I challenge you to be creative and throw something together yourself!):

Snowverreaction/SnOMG/Snomageddon Soup (thank you EZRJ for correcting me with "snopocalypse is soooo 2009; it's snomageddon now)

Choose any of the following, saute veggies in a little oil, add whatever else you like + 4-6 cups of vegetable stock (or water & salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc.); bring to a boil and simmer 30-40 minutes until everything is cooked and tender.

brussel sprouts
kidney beans
black beans
sweet potatoes
cubed chicken
ground meat
beef cubes

The cost: Free. It's in your pantry.

P.S. If in the process of cleaning out your pantry you find that can of [insert non-perishable item] you bought 3 years ago and still haven't used, think about donating it to someone who needs it.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

One-Pot Wonder: Chicken, Tomato & Red Lentil Curry

I'm a big fan of one-pot dishes--something that I can make in a single pot that serves as a meal complete with all of the important food groups: starch, veggies, good fats and protein.

I've made only a million variations of this dish. My base is sauted onions and garlic, chicken, and canned tomatoes, but you can put any other veggies or starches in that you like (I've added broccoli, zucchini, squash, cauliflower, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.). This time I went with a combination of carrots, celery, brussel sprouts, and added red lentils for texture and curry and garam masala for flavor.

[Doesn't look so pretty but I promise it tastes great!]

Chicken, Tomato & Red Lentil Curry


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
5 carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks
2 celery stalks, sliced into chunks
10 brussel sprouts, quartered
1 lb(ish) boneless chicken, cubed
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup red lentils
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock

  1. Heat oil and saute onion until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2-3 minutes more.
  2. Add carrots, celery, and brussel sprouts and cook 8-10 minutes over medium-low flame, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add chicken and spices, stirring to coat. Add lentils, tomatoes & stock and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then simmer 30-40 minutes until veggies are soft and chicken is cooked through.
The cost:
onion: .45
carrots: .99
celery: 1.99
brussel sprouts: 2.49
chicken: 6.53
lentils: 1.00
tomatoes: 1.00
stock: 1.99

Grand total: $16.44; serves 4 (or 2 + leftovers for 2 tomorrow!)

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Quinoa Salad w/ Curry-Ginger-Cardamom Vinaigrette

A few weeks ago, AK and I visited his sister (a fellow gluten-freenik) and brother-in-law; Saturday we had a pretty lazy morning (read: slept in very late :)) and decided lunch should be light fare, mostly salads. I whipped up this quinoa salad with chickpeas, chopped pecans, and raisins for lots of texture, and a simple vinaigrette of apple cider vinegar, curry, ginger & cardamom.

Quinoa Salad w/ Curry-Ginger-Cardamom Vinaigrette


1 cup of quinoa, cooked according to package & cooled
1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 scallion, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey or agave
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of pepper

  1. In a salad bowl mix together quinoa, chickpeas, scallions, raisins & pecans.
  2. Blend together remaining ingredients and pour over quinoa mixture, stirring to combine.
The cost:
quinoa: .99
chickpeas: .69
scallion: .10
raisins: .40
pecans: .40

Grand total: $2.58; serves 4-6 as a side dish (recipe is easily doubled for a larger group)

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Penny Pinching Tip #8: Mail-Order Ingredients

I use a lot of gluten free flour, and it can get pretty expensive (retail around me is more than $5/1 lb bag). So last week, I signed up for a bi-monthly subscription through

Penny Pinching Tip #8: Ordering non-perishable ingredients online and through a subscription can save you lots of money, especially on things you use and re-buy frequently.

For those unaware (and I just discovered this recently), Amazon gives you the option to order food and home items (like paper towels) and have them shipped directly to you. Now if you just buy it once, you get a little discount, but if you sign up for a subscription (scheduled delivery that can range from monthly to every 6 months) you get a 15% discount, PLUS free delivery on the items.

For my gluten free flour, that means what normally would cost over $16.25 for 4 lbs (not including shipping) now costs me only $13.81! That's only $3.45 per bag, significantly less than I can find anywhere near me, even on sale. Figuring I use up approximately 1 bag every 2 weeks, I signed to have 1 case (4 bags) shipped to me every other month.

There are hundreds of items for which you can buy a subscription--and you change it any time you need to (for example, if I start using less flour I can change to a delivery every 3 months), or even cancel it.

So, my penny pinchers, take a look in your pantries and storage closets--are there things you use regularly for which you could subscribe and save?

Note: This is NOT an advertisement for Amazon, rather an idea for cost-saving; if you find (or know of) another subscription method, by all means please tell me about it!

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Monday, February 1, 2010

An Adventure in Vegan Baking: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

I've been thinking for a while I'd like to try vegan baking (which mostly means no eggs). Last week when I saw a recipe from my Twitter friend, the Lazy GF Chef, that looked delicious and happened to be vegan, I decided to try it :)

I made a few adaptations: My cocoa looked yucky so I used chocolate chips instead; my vanilla and cinnamon are both very strong so I used half of what the recipe called for (learned from experience on this one); I used a bit less soy milk because my bananas were quite large; I added nuts because I like the texture they add; and I did muffins instead of a loaf because portion (read: self)-control is much easier when I have muffins with finite mass.

These muffins were great--moist and sweet (although a very different flavor with agave rather than sugar, I hadn't baked with agave before as a main sweetener; it also makes these significantly more expensive because agave by volume costs a lot more than sugar does).

Thank you, Lazy GF Chef, for facilitating my vegan baking adventure with your utterly delicious looking chocolate cinnamon banana loaf!

Vegan Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Adapted from The Lazy GF Chef

3 overripe bananas, pureed
1/4 cup light olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup agave
1/4 cup soy milk

pinch of salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup gluten free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Bread Mix)

1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Combine bananas, oil, vanilla, agave and soy milk. In a separate bowl, combine salt, cinnamon, BP., BS and flour. Using a whisk, stir dry ingredients into wet until well mixed.
  2. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Divide evenly into greased 12-muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.
The cost:
bananas: .57
agave: .75
soy milk: 1.79
flour: 1.25
other ingredients: <1.00

Grand total: $5.36

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