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Penny Pinching Epicure: May 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roasted Radishes w/ Garlic & Thyme

At a recent trip to an Indian restaurant, I had a delicious dish of tomatoes, potatoes and radishes. I'd never had anything but raw radishes before (in fact, I'd never even contemplated cooked radishes), but they were really good; the cooking makes them a lot less bitter. After reading this article in the NYTimes about roasted radishes, I decided to try something new.

The result was awesome! After a slow roast in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, cracked whole garlic cloves, lots of thyme, and salt and pepper, the radishes were sweet but still a tad bit crunchy, and absolutely delicious. I could barely resist eating the whole batch at once.

Note: The first time I made this, I trimmed all of the radishes (the fuzzy tops don't appeal to me). The second time, I didn't feel like trimming them. I should have (the tops bothered me; weird, I know), but feel free to use your discretion. You can also substitute out 1 lb of radishes for 1 lb of quartered baby potatoes. They don't look too pretty but they taste great!

Tip for removing thyme from the stem: Drag your fingertips down from the top of the stalk down to the bottom so you are removing the leaves without breaking the stem at the same time; this works great for rosemary too.

Roasted Radishes w/ Garlic & Thyme


2 lbs radishes, cleaned and trimmed
5 garlic cloves, cracked and peeled
3 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

  1. Place radishes in a 9x13 inch baking pan (you can use 2 smaller pans if necessary, try and make sure they are roughly in a single layer).
  2. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with spices, and toss to coat.
  3. Roast at 375 degrees for 60-75 minutes until skin is wrinkled and radishes are tender.
The cost:
radishes: 1.98
thyme: 1.99

Grand total: $3.97

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Spicy Coconut Carrot Soup

I wanted a cold soup for a first course over the past holiday, but AK isn't so into fruit soups so I needed something different. Both potato and carrot are great cold, but I decided on carrot since it's light, and the weather is getting warm (although this soup would be great hot too). I used a combination of coconut milk and soy milk for a silky smooth consistency, and the curry adds a spicy balance to the sweetness of the carrots.

I finished my soup with a dollop of sour cream (feel free to use dairy free or regular) to temper the spiciness of the curry, and in honor of the nice weather, a sprinkle of freshly chopped green herbs.

Spicy Coconut Carrot Soup


1 lb carrots, scrubbed & chopped into large pieces
1 can coconut milk
1 cup soy milk
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste
dairy-free sour cream
chopped fresh herbs

  1. Roast carrots in the oven until tender, about 1 hour at 400 degrees.
  2. With an immersion blender, blend carrots with coconut milk, soy milk and spices until smooth. Add additional liquid to achieve your desired consistency.
  3. Serve chilled with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped fresh dill, cilantro, chives or basil.
The cost:
carrots: .89
coconut milk: 1.49
soy milk: 1.99
sour cream: 1.39
herbs: 1.99

Grand total: $7.75; serves 8

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Creamy Lemony Cheesecake

I usually don't make things I can't eat, but for Shavuot I decided to go all out and make cheesecake! It was certainly worth all of the Lactaid pills :) [Note: You can also make this cheesecake with dairy-free cream cheese and sour cream]. This cheesecake is dense but still creamy, and the lemon zest really makes it.

A couple of tips to making the perfect cheesecake:
  • Bring all of your ingredients to room temperature before you start to ensure as little mixing as possible--overmixing will lead to you cheesecake cracking. You can just let everything sit out, or I like to put everything into a warm water bath.
  • After baking, turn the oven off and let the cheesecake cool in there. This helps to ensure the cheesecake cools very slowly and doesn't crack.

Lemony Cheesecake


4 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup sour cream
4 8 oz. bars of cream cheese
2 pre-made graham cracker crusts
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. With an immersion blender, blend eggs. With a wooden spoon, in sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream.
  3. With a mixer (or I use the electric whisk attachment on my immersion blender), beat in cream cheese until smooth, careful not to overbeat.
  4. Divide evenly into 2 graham cracker crusts. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, then turn oven off and allow cheesecakes to cool in oven 5-6 hours. Chill before serving.
The cost:
eggs: .40
lemon: .29
sour cream: .99
cream cheese: 5.56
crusts: 1.98

Grand total: $9.92 (makes 2 cheesecakes)

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Easy & Delicious Baked Apples

[This isn't exactly my recipe, but since I have participated in the buying of ingredients and it was baked in my oven, I figure it counts :)]

AK first made these divine baked apples for me a few months ago (it's his mom's recipe, thanks JW!), and it's a great alternative dessert if you don't want to serve baked goods, or if you have vegan friends but don't want to just serve raw fruit.

AK's mom uses Rome apples, but I have also tried these with Braeburn apples and they were great. Whatever apples are good for making apple pie will work. Just hollow out the center, fill them with raisins, sprinkle with cinnamon, drizzle with agave and them bake them in the oven until they are soft and sweet. Yum!

I like eating the apples as is, but I bet they would be great chopped and served over oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast, or over ice cream for dessert!

Easy & Delicious Baked Apples

6 large apples
dark raisins
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup agave

Core the apples so you remove the seeds and most of the core, but don't cut all the way through to the bottom. Place in large baking dish.
Fill apple centers with raisins until they are full (amount will depend on how big the apples are and how much you cut out). Sprinkle with cinnamon, drizzle with agave and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes until the apples are soft. Serve hot or cold.

The cost:
apples: 3.54
raisins: 1.99
agave: 1.99

Grand total: $7.52; serves 6-8

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Food Musings: The Bane & Blessing of Food Allergies

I eat in a pretty healthy manner. I cook most of my own meals, and even when I eat out or at other people's homes I'm careful what and how much I eat. [I also keep kosher, so I guess by definition I think a lot about what I eat or don't eat, but it's rote by now--I've been doing it most of my life.]

As you probably know if you've read any of my posts before, over the past few years, I've developed a host of food intolerances/allergies (still not sure which they are yet, still working on that part) and in addition to making sure I eat healthily, I also have to make sure I don't eat things that make me sick.

I've gone through fits and spurts of eating organic, cage-free, preservative free, artificial flavors & ingredients free, get the idea. It's not that I don't care about environmental sustainability, or even the fact that organic, cage-free, or local produce is more expensive or not as accessible; honestly, for better or worse, it's just not in my frame of reference. I buy things without thinking how far my bananas have traveled to get to me, or how the field workers who picked my grapes were treated.

Having food allergies has made me infinitely more mindful about what I'm putting in my mouth because of the ill effects certain things can have on me. But it has also made me think a lot more about food sustainability and food ethics in general, and how the choices I make about food impact others. Sure, I'm only one person, and what kind of environmental impact am I really having by buying bananas that have been shipped from Chile? What point does it make if I buy ethically raised meat? But if everyone thinks like that, then everyone is contributing to problems rather than helping to solve them.

At this point in my life (and budget), I can't commit to completely changing the way I shop and eat; I know it wouldn't stick. But I'm taking small steps to buy more local produce, ethically raised meat, and free trade items, and plan to incrementally adapt my habits in the long term.

Food allergies have made my life complicated, but they've also opened my eyes to how the choices I make about food can have a significant impact on more than just myself. Silver lining, I guess?

(This blog post is also posted on the Jew & the Carrot, which has lots of information about food security, food sustainability, and Jewish ethics)

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Basil & White Bean Dip

Basil & White Bean Dip

I like chumus but have been wanting to try a white bean dip for a while. I made my ginger, basil & pine nut crusted salmon earlier this week and had some leftover basil, so I decided on a basil &white bean dip. All I used was a can of white beans, fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt to taste (canned beans can be pretty salty already so taste before you add any salt). You can also add olive oil for extra richness, but I didn't want to add the fat that goes with it.


1 14-oz. can small white beans
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1 garlic clove
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
salt to taste

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender, food processor or immersion blender attachment.
  2. Chill and serve with crudite, pita chips or crackers.
The cost:
beans: .69
basil: 1.99
lemon: .19

Grand total: $2.87

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Penny Pinching Tip #10: Meal Planning

Now that I've started a new job that has me working some long hours, I've had to get smarter about planning my meals, i.e. I'm too tired to go shopping after work and then make dinner like I used to, so I'm doing a lot more pre-planning and pre-shopping.

The key to meal planning but not spending a lot of money is to buy ingredients that are versatile, and to make dishes that can double as lunch or dinner the next day but don't feel like you are eating leftovers. [When you plan multiple meals in advance, it also helps to make sure you don't buy ingredients without an idea of how you are going to use them and they just end up going bad in the fridge.]

For example, if you're making my dutch oven chicken, throw in an extra thigh, shred it, and eat it over leafy greens, tomatoes, sweet peppers, artichoke hearts and a vinaigrette for lunch the next day. Or, if you're making my basil & nut crusted salmon, bake an extra portion and eat it over chopped romaine, cucumbers, and avocado--the fish is already so flavorful you won't need a dressing!

You can also save a lot of money by buying items in bulk, like a family pack of boneless chicken cutlets. You could eat chicken all week but it wouldn't feel like it if you made sure your recipes were really different--baked with a spice rub or a sesame-soy glaze; stove-top with stewed tomatoes and garlic; stir-fried with onions, mushrooms, sweet peppers and snow peas...the combinations are endless :)

Oh--and pack your lunch the night before in case you decide to hit the snooze button, or are running late and don't have time to put something together so you end up needing to buy lunch.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sweet Potato Muffins

Annoyingly, grocery stores seem to think that people don't use canned pumpkin year-round since I haven't been able to find it in any stores near me. Thus, I decided to make sweet potato muffins instead! I used fresh sweet potatoes that I boiled and then pureed, but if you don't have time, you can use canned, just decrease the sugar by 1/4 cup since it usually comes canned in a sugar or corn syrup.

  1. These muffins are soft and creamy inside, and a little dense; if you prefer a drier muffins, increase the flour by 1/4 cup (but they will come out a little heavy).
  2. To really kick these muffins to the next level, add 1 tsp of lemon or orange zest.
Sweet Potato Muffins


1 1/2 cups cooked, pureed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup soy milk or other substitute
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans

  1. Mix together sweet potatoes, soy milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar.
  2. Sift together baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, flour and salt and stir into wet mixture.
  3. Fold in pecans. Divide evenly into 12-muffin tin; bake at 350 18-22 minutes or until tops are browned.
The cost:
sweet potatoes: .98
soy milk: 1.99
other ingredients: <2.00

Grand total: $4.97

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Sesame-Soy Tofu w/ Asian Mustard Greens

I was at Shoppers last week and was pleasantly surprised to see that they had expanded their Asian vegetable section! They had lot of different sizes of bok choy (including teeny baby ones the size of my thumb!), and Asian mustard greens which I just had to try. They are a lot more mild than regular mustard greens, and a lot of the bitterness cooks out. To go with the greens, I made a sesame-soy tofu and served everything over red quinoa (TJs just started carrying it, a lot more texture [similar to how brown rice has more texture than white] and really good).

Sesame-Soy Tofu w/ Asian Mustard Greens


2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 onion, quartered and sliced
4 garlic cloves, cracked & peeled
1 block extra-firm tofu, cubed or sliced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 shots sriracha
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Asian mustard greens, cleaned & chopped
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Heat oil in large skillet and saute onions 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2-3 minutes more.
  2. Add tofu and brown 1-2 minutes on each side (if you cubed the tofu, don't worry about browning on all sides as that could take a while, just cook 3-4 minutes, stirring carefully).
  3. Combine soy sauce, sriracha and rice vinegar and add to skillet. Stir to coat, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 5-6 minutes until tofu is heat through. Remove to a dish.
  4. Place mustard greens in skillet and cook in remaining liquid 2-3 minutes until wilted.
  5. Serve tofu and greens over red quinoa (or rice or pasta), topping with toasted sesame seeds if you like.

The cost:
onion: .45
garlic: .10
tofu: 1.99
mustard greens: 1.99
red quinoa: 2.99

Grand total: $7.52; serves 2 with leftovers for lunch

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