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Penny Pinching Epicure: April 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Basil, Ginger & Pine Nut Crusted Salmon

I love doing crusted fish; it adds such a great texture, and you can do so much with different flavors. Last night, I decided on one of my favorite flavor combinations--basil, ginger, garlic & pine nut. It's pretty much a pesto coating, with ginger added for an extra little kick. I used my immersion blender attachment to grind everything into a paste, smeared it on the salmon, then baked it open in the oven. Yum!

P.S. I made this recipe with macadamia nuts over Passover and it was a huge hit. You can also use one whole fillet rather than a few smaller ones.

Basil, Ginger & Pine Nut Crusted Salmon


12 large basil leaves
1/4 cup raw pine nuts
1 garlic clove, peeled
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1/8 tsp salt
pinch black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
fresh salmon (about 16 ounces)

  1. Finely chop ingredients (excluding salmon) by hand or grind in an immersion blender.
  2. Place salmon on a baking sheet, spread basil-nut crust over fish, and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until salmon is cooked to your preference.
The cost:
basil: 1.99
nuts: 4.99
ginger: .89
salmon: 8.99

Grand total: $16.86; serves 2 + lunch tomorrow

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Chewy Maple Nutmeg Granola Bars

I've probably mentioned this before, but I love granola bars. Unfortunately, I have not yet found a gluten-free and dairy-free store bought version that I like, so I continue to experiment with homemade (also, so much cheaper this way!).

This time I used maple syrup, nutmeg and chopped almonds, with a honey-brown sugar mixture as a binder. I have to say, I think it's my best batch yet! I upped the honey content so these came out nice and chewy, just how I like them :)

Chewy Maple Nutmeg Granola Bars


2 cups oats
1/2 cup rice bran
1/2 cup almond pieces
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

  1. Place oats in a 9x13 inch pan and toast in the oven at 300 degrees for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Place honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, nutmeg & salt in a saucepan. Heat over low flame until sugar has dissolved and mixture is smooth.
  3. Remove oats from oven. Stir in bran and nuts, then pour into saucepan with honey-sugar mixture, stirring to coat.
  4. Pour oat mixture into 9 x 13 inch greased baking pan, pressing firmly to compress a bit.
  5. Reduce over temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, then cut into squares or whatever size granola bars you prefer (I usually do 18 or so).
The cost:
oats: 2.99
rice bran: 2.99
almonds: .65
maple syrup: 5.99

Grand total: $12.62 (about 0.70/bar)

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Recipe Remix: Indian Spiced BBQ Tofu

For dinner a few nights ago I wanted something quick and easy, but also delicious. I've had some garam masala sitting in my cabinet that I've been using much more slowly than the other spices from my Penzey's purchase (smoked paprika, mustard seed, sesame seeds, spicy cinnamon, Aleppo pepper), so I decided to do another version of my Baked BBQ Tofu, this time with an Indian-inspired bbq sauce.

Indian Spiced BBQ Tofu


1 block extra firm tofu
1/4 cup ketchup
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garam masala
2 shots of sriracha

  1. Cut tofu to pieces of your liking (I cut it into 2 flat sheets then 6 equal sized pieces for a total of 12 pieces)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk remaining ingredients together; add tofu, turning pieces to coat.
  3. Pour tofu and sauce into large greased skillet. Cook over medium-high flame 4-5 minutes on each side until edges are just a bit crispy.
The cost:
tofu: 1.99
other ingredients: <1.00

Grand total: $2.99; serves 3-4 over rice or quinoa with a side of steamed veggies

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Crispy Roasted Carrot Chips

I was going back through a bunch of my old food magazines and found a great recipe in Cooking Light for smoked paprika roasted carrots.

I made a lot of modifications: I halved the recipe since I only had just over a pound of carrots; I scrubbed rather than peeled the carrots so I wouldn't lose all of the vitamins and nutrients; I cut down on the oil because it felt like way more than I needed (isn't Cooking Light supposed to be, well, light?); I thinly sliced the carrots and baked them low and slow so they would get all crispy.

Warning: It took a lot of willpower not to eat these all at once (although it's pretty healthy, so I guess it wouldn't have been so bad :)).

Crispy Roasted Carrot Chips
Inspired by "Carrots Roasted w/ Smoked Paprika," Cooking Light, December 2009


1 lb carrots, sliced lengthwise (~1/8 inch thick)
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp black pepper
  1. Scrub carrots and slice thinly (about 1/8 of an inch, using a mandoline is best) and place in a large zip-top bag.
  2. Add oil to bag and toss to coat. Sprinkle in spices and toss to coat.
  3. Lay carrots in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turning once during baking, until chips are crispy.
The cost:
carrots: .89
other ingredients: <1.00

Grand total: $1.89

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Sneak Preview of My New Look & Blog Update

Dear Readers,

I a very excited to show you a sneak preview of my new look! I've been working with a fantastic designer to give my blog a visual makeover. Over the next few months I'll also be working to transfer my blog over to my own hosting, with a new url,

In other news, I'll be starting a new job next week that will probably be some long hours, at least for the first few months. I probably won't be posting every day for the foreseeable future, but I'm hoping to still post at least 2-3 times per week. Thanks again for being a loyal reader!

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Tomato Basil Scramble

I spend the first half of Passover with my sister and her family in Dallas. Her in-laws have a sheep farm where they also raise chickens, and we took a trip up there to visit. And brought back some beautiful eggs my nephews collected that morning!

If you've never had a farm-fresh egg, I highly suggest you do. The yolks are a richly dark yellow, almost orange, and the flavor--well, it's worlds above store-bought.

For breakfast the next day I made myself this tomato basil scramble. Vine ripened tomatoes + fresh basil + farm-fresh eggs = WOW.

Tomato Basil Scramble


1 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
4 basil leaves, chopped

  1. Heat oil in small skillet and saute shallot until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add tomato and cook 2-3 minutes more.
  2. Combine eggs, salt and pepper and add to skillet, then sprinkle basil on top. Stir and cook until done to your liking (you could also do an omelet).
  • Add some sliced mushrooms in step 1.
  • Sprinkle in a little cheese.
  • Experiment with other herbs like dills, cilantro or chives.
The cost: <2.00

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fire-Roasted Tomato Chicken w/ Capers & Onions

As you may have noticed, I'm a big fan of fire-roasted tomatoes (see previous recipe). They provide this chicken dish with a wonderful depth of flavor, and the capers a nice vinegary bite. At the last minute I also threw in some mustard seed because I really like the texture it adds.

One thing to remember whenever using canned tomatoes (and other canned vegetables) is to check the sodium content--you made need to adjust the salt in a recipe if an ingredient has already been seasoned.

Fire-Roasted Tomato Chicken w/ Capers & Onions


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, quartered and sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 boneless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp capers
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seed (optional)
1 14 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

  1. Heat oil in dutch oven or large skillet and saute onion until soft, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 3-4 minutes more. Add chicken and brown on both sides.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

The cost:
onion: .45
garlic: .10
chicken: 8.99
capers: 1.99
tomatoes: 1.00

Grand total: $12.53; serves 4 over rice or quinoa with a side of roasted veggies

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Smoky Rosemary & Fire-Roasted Tomato Beef Stew

The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

This month's challenge didn't really appeal to me since I would have to make so many changes in order to be able to eat it, but it did inspire me to make this delicious rosemary and fire-roasted tomato beef stew!

The secret ingredient here: Smoked paprika that gives the stew a rich flavor (fine, it makes it taste like it's been simmering for 18 hours rather than 2, but you don't have to tell anyone :)) I also browned the meat first which adds an incredible depth of flavor, I highly recommend it even though it takes some extra time. I also had meant to add potatoes to this stew but ran out of space in the pot!

Smoky Rosemary & Fire-Roasted Tomato Beef Stew

1 pounds beef cubes
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery stalks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
6 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
2 cups soup stock
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large dutch oven over high heat. Brown beef cubes in batches (don't crowd the pan) and remove to a small dish.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining oil and brown onions. Add garlic, celery and carrots and cook 3-4 minutes.
  3. Return meat to pot and add stock, rosemary, bay leaves and smoked paprika. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for at least 1 hour (you can also finish this in a 350 degree oven for 1 to 1.5 hours). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
The cost:
beef: 11.99
onions: .45
celery: 1.19
carrots: .89
tomatoes: 1.00
rosemary: 1.99

Grand total: $17.51; serves 8

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lemony Zucchini Cake

This was the dessert course for my St. Patrick's Day Dinner Party, and it was a huge hit. I'm sure you've heard (or read) me talk about lemon zest before, but it really is a magical ingredient, brightening up an entire dish and taking it to the next level. If you don't like/want lemon, you can reduce the zest for just a hint of flavor, or use orange zest for this recipe. I used oil here for richness, but you can always substitute applesauce or a pureed banana for a healthier version.

Lemony Zucchini Cake


2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups shredded zucchini (~3 zucchinis)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 + 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or raisins (optional)

  1. Blend together eggs, applesauce, oil, sugar, vanilla, salt and zest. Stir in zucchini.
  2. Sift together BP, BS and 1 cup of flour, then add to wet ingredients.
  3. Pour into 9 x 13 greased pan, bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until toothpick from center comes out clean.
The cost:
eggs: .39
sugar: .45
lemon: .23
zucchini: 2.39
flour: .55

Grand total: $4.01

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Garlicky Lemon Caper Chicken w/ Rosemary & Thyme

This chicken recipe is high up on my favorites list along with my onion smothered chicken and mustard seed & smoked paprika chicken. The rosemary and thyme add a nice earthiness, and the capers add just the right amount of mouth-puckering kick.

Garlicky Lemon Caper Chicken w/ Rosemary & Thyme


1 tsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves, cracked & peeled
2 Tbsp capers
2 lemons
1 sprig of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 boneless chicken breasts

  1. Combine all ingredients but chicken in a large ziploc bag. Add chicken and allow to marinate for at least one hour (overnight is even better).
  2. Place chicken in a baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through.
The cost:
capers: 2.99
lemons: .49
herbs: 1.99
chicken: 6.49

Grand total: $11.96; serves 2 over rice + lunch tomorrow

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Hearty "Beat the Head" Salad

Sorry I haven't been blogging, I've been on vacation in Texas and and Florida for the past almost 2 weeks! While the vaca was nice, I have missed blogging so it's good to be back!

On another happy note, thanks for all the well wishes about my blood test for Celiac Disease. I just got the test results back and I don't have it!!! I am very relieved, but still planning to go back to being mostly gluten free since I feel so much better when I am. Thanks again for all of your support!

I got home from work last night and my apartment was stifling; the weather has been unseasonably hot, and the apartment building is not turning on the air conditioning until next week (which may be a good plan considering the temperature dropped back down to the 40's at night). Regardless, I was not willing to turn on my gas stove or oven because it really heats up my apartment, so I decided to make a hearty salad that would serve as dinner.

This salad is big enough for one, but you can easily make it for multiple people as well. I haven't included measurements for the veggies because you should feel free to mix & match or subsitute as you please!

Hearty "Beat the Heat" Salad


lettuce spring mix
baby heirloom tomatoes
orange pepper
hearts of palm
small red beans (or chickpeas or edamame)
dried cranberries

1/2 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp agave
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder
pinch of black pepper
shot of sriracha

  1. Combine salad ingredients.
  2. Blend dressing and pour over salad. Serve immediately.
The cost:
lettuce: 1.99
tomatoes: 2.49
pepper: 1.29
cucumber: 2.29
hearts of palm: 1.39
beans: .69

Grand total: $10.14 (serves 4-6)

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Little Passover Hiatus

Dear Readers,

I am currently in sunny Dallas spending the Passover holiday with my sister, brother in law, and lovely nephews. I am spending so much time jumping on the trampoline, reading stories, and getting some much-needed rest so I probably won't be blogging again until next week. Don't worry, I'll have many more recipes to share when I return.

To those of you also celebrating Passover, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday. To those who are not, please eat some bread for me :)

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