Friday, February 27, 2009

Indonesian Curried Bean Stew: Mmm … Fiber

Let's cut to the chase: there are 18.7 grams of fiber in each portion of this stew. That’s more than a regulation can of black beans or a serving of Fiber One cereal, which has “fiber” RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE. There are wheat fields with less roughage, and upon scarfing a bowl, I was reminded of this SNL gem from the ‘90s:



While the calories and fat are a little high, no doctor, nutritionist, or Oprah in America would call this an unhealthy dish. Beany? Yes. Energy-packed? Of course. Farty? Most definitely. But unhealthy? No. It’s a meatless, dairy-less, powerhouse that will keep you sated (and, er, regular) clear into next week

This is to say nothing of the taste. The stew’s a sweeter variation of Curried Black Beans and Chickpeas, defined mostly by the inclusion of peanut butter, a bell pepper, and a little cilantro. (For some reason, I can see raisins working very well here, too.) I’m not sure if that makes it Indonesian, per se, but it does make it flavorful and a nice change-up from the standard curry dish. Speaking of curry, you can change the quantity however you like. I’m a 2 teaspoon girl myself, which was just enough so it wasn’t overwhelming.

Further proof of the stew’s goodness: the recipe comes from The Boyfriend’s mom, who picked it up from a friend, who read it in either the Toledo Blade or Recipe Zaar. That’s four different four-star reviews right there. And if you can’t trust The Boyfriend’s mom, who can you trust?

So go forth and fiber up, folks. The dish is aces. (Er, just make sure you don’t drink any coffee with it. I’m just saying.)

Indonesian Curried Bean Stew
Makes about 6 cups of stew – 4 main servings, or 6 sides
Adapted from Recipe Zaar, and possibly the Toledo Blade

1-1/2 cups brown rice, uncooked
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion (for about 1 cup chopped)
1 large bell pepper (for about 1 ½ c. chopped) (I used red – Kris)
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 15-oz. can light red kidney beans, UNdrained
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained
1 15-oz.can chickpeas, drained
3 Tbs. peanut butter
½ to 1-1/2 tablespoons curry powder (depending on your taste)
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger root (or 1 tsp. bottled fresh)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

1) Cook rice according to package directions.

2) While rice cooks, get out a large, nonstick skillet. Add oil and heat over medium heat. Add onion. Cook 3 or 4 minutes, until starting to soften, stirring occasionally. Add pepper. Cook 3 or 4 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic. Cook 30 to 60 seconds, until fragrant, stirring frequently.

3) Add tomatoes, kidney beans, and kidney bean juice, "breaking up any large tomato pieces with a spoon." Stir. Add chickpeas, black beans, peanut butter, curry powder, cumin, and ginger. Stir gently, until peanut butter is thoroughly blended. Drop heat to low.  Simmer about 10 minutes.

4) Kill heat. Stir in cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
4 SERVINGS: 637 calories, 13.7 g fat, 18.7 g fiber, $1.22
6 SERVINGS: 425 calories, 9.1 g fat, 12.4 g fiber, $0.82

Calculations
1 cup brown rice, uncooked: 685 calories, 5.4 g fat, 6.5 g fiber, $0.32
1 Tbs. olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.11
1 large onion (for about 1 cup chopped): 63 calories, 0.2 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.25
1 large bell pepper (for about 1 ½ c. chopped): 43 calories, 0.5 g fat, 3.4 g fiber. $0.48
2 tsp. minced garlic: 8 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.08
1 15-oz. can light red kidney beans: 367 calories, 2.7 g fat, 19.3 g fiber, $0.66
1 14.5 oz. can stewed tomatoes: 107 calories, 0.8 g fat, 4.1 g fiber, $0.79
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained: 350 calories, 1.8 g fat, 17.5 g fiber, $0.66
1 15-oz.can chickpeas, drained: 500 calories, 4.6 g fat, 18.5 g fiber, $0.75
3 Tbs. peanut butter: 282 calories, 24.2 g fat, 2.9 g fiber; $0.08
1 tablespoon curry powder (depending on your taste): 20 calories, 0.9 g fat, 2.1 g fiber, $0.10
1 Tbs. ground cumin: negligible calories, fat, or fiber, $0.05
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger root (or 1 tsp. bottled fresh): 2 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.06
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional): 1 calorie, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.49
Salt and pepper to taste: negligible calories, fat, or fiber, $0.02
TOTAL: 2547 calories, 54.7 g fat, 74.6 g fiber, $4.90
4 SERVINGS: 637 calories, 13.7 g fat, 18.7 g fiber, $1.22
6 SERVINGS: 425 calories, 9.1 g fat, 12.4 g fiber, $0.82

Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Splurging

My Pa is my idol. He’s a funny guy, with the patience of Gandhi and the work ethic of an Iditarod sled dog. Even on bad days, he makes Atticus Finch look like an angry slacker. And last week, he turned 60. This is significant for many reasons:
  1. Senior discounts galore. (Hello, IHOP!)
  2. He’s halfway through his quest to become the world’s oldest man.
  3. Sandals! Over black socks! No one gives a damn anymore!
  4. He’s the same age as Sean Connery in Hunt for Red October, Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and, er, Harrison Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker. Barring that last one, that’s pretty cool.
  5. I wasn’t around to celebrate. Instead (with his blessing, but still), I was oogling mountains in the Pacific Northwest.
To make up for my absence, I needed an extraordinarily special gift: something better than anything he’d ever received, or could even dream up. For obvious reasons, gold-plated golf clubs were out of the question, as was a warm, fuzzy hug from Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who once sparked this conversation between the two of us:

PA: Did you see Jeter's catch last night? It was just like Willie Mays. He ran 50 feet into the outfield and caught it with his back turned. And THEN he nails the guy at second. It was great. Great catch.

ME: If you ever left Mom for a man, I'm pretty sure it would be Jeter.

PA: (thoughtful pause) … You think he'd have me?

That left one other option: Le Bernardin.

You need to know: Pa is a seafood fanatic. He inhales shrimp, and once, I witnessed him down two-dozen Maryland blue crabs in a single sitting. (To compare, I had four. Ma had eight.) Le Bernardin seemed like a good choice.

LB is Eric Ripert’s phenomenal seafood restaurant on the north end of Midtown Manhattan. It’s has four stars from the New York Times since 1986, and is one of only a trio of Big Apple eateries to boast three Michelin stars. Calling it a good place for fish is like saying the Pope only kind of digs Jesus. It’s a TEMPLE to fish, and Pa and I were eager to pay our respects. So, we chose a random Wednesday (coincidentally, the same night Ripert appeared on Top Chef), donned our best snow boots, and got subway-ing.

(SIDE NOTE #1: I worked in Midtown for nine years, on the SAME EXACT STREET as the restaurant, and never knew it was there. This is partially because the whole gorgeous, warm, wooden room is tucked modestly away in the first floor of a ginormous skyscraper. There’s a sign outside, but it’s easy to miss among Times Square’s shiny bustle. Also, I’m not very observant.)

Once we arrived and our coats were checked, the host ushered us to a neat, crisp table with more silverware than I've ever seen for two people. We settled in, and the meal began with an amuse-bouche, a tiny pre-appetizer that psyches your palette up for the rest of dinner. In this case, it was lobster cappuccino. Lobster. Cappuccino. Oh, it sounds bizarre and gross, but understand this: if God had come down from heaven and offered to rub my mouth with diamonds, I still would have opted for the shellfish coffee.

Next up was a choice between 14,000 different types of bread, served to us by one of our 17,000 suited waiters. On the side: butter, presumably churned from a cow they kept behind the bar. I’d never had fresher dairy, and Pa practically spread it on his tongue. So far, so good.

(SIDE NOTE #2: It was around this time we spilled a drop of … something [I forget what] … on the tablecloth. Like quicksilver, a waiter was over to brush it away, smooth the offending wrinkles, and hide the faint remaining stain with a snow-white linen napkin. Pa and I looked wide-eyed at each other: “Well, this beats the crap out of Olive Garden.”)

Soon enough, our sommelier (a lady!) visited the table, bearing our half-bottle of German white wine. She taste-tested the vino before pouring it, and finding it unpoisoned, gave us generous sloshes for the meals to come.

Which? Holla!

What followed were three courses of fish prepared in a variety of heart-stopping, face-melting ways. Organic raw salmon with green apple? Check. White tuna lightly poached in olive oil with dime-sized potato chips adorning each piece? Check. Crispy bass that dismantled our taste buds, rearranged them, and then built them back up into newer, better taste buds? Oh god, check.

And to top everything off, dessert. I had an architecturally stunning dark chocolate ganache with sweet potato sorbet. Pa had a hazelnut and banana combination that … I just openly drooled on my chest. Who discovered the hazelnut, and how can I give him my life’s savings? If anyone can answer this, please call me. Collect.

(SIDE NOTE #3: In the bathroom? Free tampons. Pa was not as impressed at this as me.)

In the end, we walked out full, dazzled, and with the understanding that this was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. Calories didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. Money didn’t matter.

Oh, and about that bill.

Woof. It was big. A good portion of my monthly rent.

But it was also for Pa, and that made every cent worth it. Yeah, I save and scrimp and regularly frugalize my pants off, but I’d do Le Bernardin again tomorrow if I could. We value good food. We love trying new restaurants. We both knew we probably wouldn’t have that kind of opportunity again. And hell, you only turn 60 once.

And that’s when splurging is okay.

(Photos courtesy of Confessions of a She-Fan and Servers and Shakers.)

CHG Favorites of the Week

Yesterday's long-promised article is coming in a bit, but first: this week's favorites!

Food Blog of the Week
Brokeass Gourmet
What I appreciate most about this blog, besides its solid writing and good-lookin’ recipes, is that there’s no inappropriate dash in the title. Because “Broke Ass-Gourmet” would be a very different ball of wax.

Food Comedy of the Week
Making Chocolate Mousse with The Swedish Chef
Because sometimes, we all need some antlers in our dessert.



Food Quote of the Week
From This is Spinal Tap:

David St. Hubbins: What's that on your finger?
Nigel Tufnel: It's my gum.
David St. Hubbins: What are you doing with it on your finger?
Nigel Tufnel: I might need it later.
David St. Hubbins: Put it on the table, that's terrible.
Nigel Tufnel: No, I might forget it on the table.


Food Movie Clip of the Week
The Lobster Scene from Annie Hall
In which a lobster trapped behind a refrigerator inspires one of my favorite lines, ever.



Totally Unrelated Extra Special Bonus of the Week
For Your Consideration: The Westminster Dog Show from Best Week Ever
It was either this or last night’s bizarro, alternate-reality version of “And I am Telling You” by American Idol’s Normund Gentle. The puppies were cuter, plus blogger Michelle Collins gives them hilarious high school-style superlatives, like “Captain Lou Albanoiest”:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Veggie Might: Relaxed Kale and Root Veg Salad - A Relaxing Evening with Kale

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism. It's being posted a day early this week because I (Kris) am mercilessly behind in blog writing, and Leigh is more prepared than a battalion of Boy Scouts. The regular Wednesday article will appear tomorrow. (Thanks, Leigh!)

Thank you, Dear Readers, for the encouraging comments about Curry Fest 2009. I’m so glad you’re on board; it’s going to be great fun. To do proper justice to the subject matter, I’ve decided to make it a monthly (and occasionally bi-monthly) feature. Not only will this keep us from burn out, we can take advantage of in-season fruits and veggies as they come around. So keep checking back for more coriander- and cumin-scented food and fun.

Speaking of in-season vegetables, I love that it’s leafy-leafy green time. (It needs a theme song as catchy as this.) And I am not alone. While we love to love the leafy greens here at CHG, we cannot compete with the folks at I ♥ Kale. They have a great relationship with produce and really know how to treat it right.

You’re right, it’s not a competition. There is enough kale (and Swiss chard and turnip greens and collards and spinach) to go around. So, I took this opportunity to learn and grow. I got to know kale just a little bit better, and we grew closer. Much, much closer.

Since it’s prime green time, kale is at its best. And as I learned from the post/recipe Massaged Kale Salad with Grated Root Vegetable at I ♥ Kale, it’s a great time to eat it raw. Now, I’ve struggled through raw kale before, loving the taste, but wishing the texture was less like tarp. Little did I know, all the kale leaves need is a little rub to loosen up.

A quick stroll around the Interwebs revealed that massage is a common raw food technique for tenderizing greens. You get the texture of cooked with the flavor and vitamins of raw. I enjoy playing with my food, so I was excited to try it.

Apparently I was the last to know about this trick. Even my mom had heard about it. When I mentioned the recipe to her on our biweekly 3-hour phone call, she was all “Oh yeah, I get something like that at the natural food bar all the time.” Oh really, CJ, do you? Well, then.

Here’s how it went down:

The I ♥ Kale salad calls for avocado, sesame seeds, and a rutabaga, which, to be honest, I’ve never eaten or even seen. Mom (who apparently knows everything) said it looks like a big turnip, but I couldn’t find one. I opted to substitute it with celeriac (celery root)—a root veg I’ve always wanted to try.

Since I was already making replacements, I went all the way and did a spin on the classic American dinner salad: carrot, parsnip, celery root (Jabba the Hut in vegetable form), sweet red pepper, and scallion. Then I went in with both hands.

I gave the kale a cold rinse, toweled it off, and removed the stems. Then I chopped the pieces in a ribbonesque fashion. Finally, thanking my sweet lord for the welcome distraction from E!’s painful red carpet Oscar coverage, I tossed in 2 teaspoons of oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and massaged that kale until it relaxed and fell asleep.

While it rested, I prepared the rest of the veggies. The kale woke up just in time for the main Oscar event. Good thing, too because The Roommate and I were starving. We each scarfed down a big bowl while we waited for our burritos to arrive. (A New Yorker has to order take out sometimes...)

The kale was exactly as promised: crunchy without being tough, sweet, and delicious. Because the veggies were grated and thinly sliced, all the flavors came through in each bite. The celeriac gave just a hint of celery without being overpowering.

TR loved it too, especially with the grapefruit dressing I made for the Kismet Salad a couple of weeks ago. The tangy citrus played nicely off the sweetness of the carrots and peppers.

This salad holds up amazingly well too. I’ve had it for lunch two days in a row, and it’s stayed crisp. I shared it with a coworker who gave it two thumbs up. That’s a total of 6 thumbs for one very chill salad.

Relaxed Kale and Root Veg Salad
Adapted from I ♥ Kale’s Massaged Kale Salad
Yields 6–8 servings

1 large bunch curly green kale (about 5 cups), chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 carrot, grated
1 parsnip, grated
1 medium celeriac, grated
1/2 sweet red pepper, sliced
4 scallions
Dress to taste

1) Wash and remove stems from kale. Chop into ribbons.

2) In a large bowl, combine kale with oil and salt. Massage with your hands for 2 to 3 minutes. Allow kale to rest while you prepare the rest of the salad or up to 20 minutes.

3) Grate carrot, parsnip, and celeriac. Slice red pepper and scallions.

4) Toss topping vegetables with kale.

5) Dress with your favorite salad dressing.

6) Chow down. You too will ♥ kale.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
66 calories, 0.85g fat, $0.56 (8 servings)

Calculations
1 large bunch curly green kale: 165 calories, .06g fat, $1.49
2 teaspoons olive oil: 80 calories, 4.67g fat, $.05
1/4 teaspoon salt: negligible calories and fat, $.01
1 carrot: 30 calories, .2g fat, $.16
1 parsnip: 50 calories, .2g fat, $.18
1 medium celeriac: 145.2 calories, .9g fat, $1.81
1/2 sweet red pepper: 26 calories, .2g fat, $.46
4 scallions: 32 calories, .03g fat, $0.33
Totals: 528.5 calories, 6.8g fat, $4.49
Per serving: 66 calories, 0.85g fat, $0.56 (8 servings)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday Megalinks

This week, it's multiple links from Consumerist and the ever-informative New York Times, along with a killer Salon post and the prettiest kitchen ever, courtesy of The Kitchn (naturally).

Chow: 10 Things to Cook for One
Is one the hungriest number you have ever known? No worries. This nice linkfest from the Chow folks will help you through dinner, AND BEYOND.

Consumerist: Buy In Bulk With Friends From Warehouse Clubs
Neat idea for apartment-dwellers, and/or folks who just won’t finish 3,000 capers all by their lonesome.

Consumerist: Learn To Make Depression Era Recipes With 93-Year-Old Clara
You’ll want Clara to be your grandma by the time this video is over. She wields a potato peeler pretty well for a nonagenarian.

Consumerist: Man Sues Walmart After Being Bitten By Snake, But Keeps Going Back For The Deals
a.k.a. When Frugality Goes a Tad Too Far. Just a Tad.

FiveThirtyEight: Beer No Longer Recession-Proof
Hm. If stripping and the mafia start to see losses, we could be in real trouble. I cite The Sopranos as proof:
Tony Soprano: Sil, break it down for 'em. What two businesses have traditionally been recession-proof since time immemorial?
Silvio Dante: Certain aspects of show business and our thing.


Free Money Finance: Paying Off a Mortgage by Brown Bagging Your Lunch
Dude bags lunch. Dude banks money saved by bagging lunch. Dude pays off mortgage seven years early, pockets $14,000 in interest. Dude wins!

Frugal Upstate: Homemade Bisquick Substitute
Why buy the box when you can DIY in 30 seconds? Here, Jenn tells you how.

The Kitchn: 15 Tips for Easier, Quicker, and More Delicious Soup
Solid link comp on the wonders of watery meals.

The Kitchn: How to Make Over Mom’s Kitchen in One Weekend
Alix overhauled her ma’s tiny, messy kitchen in three days for only $275, and the results are stellar. For kicks, compare it to five similar (and presumably, pricier) redesigns from the This Old House website. You’ll be even more impressed.

Like Merchant Ships: Ultimate Lego Birthday Party
AUGH! I can hardly stand how cute and inventive and frugal and awesome this is. Party planners, take notes.

New York Times: Even Top Chefs Have Picky Kids
Quick-n-dirty interview with The Bald One on feeding his teen. If this guy has problems, we’re all doomed. DOOOOOOOOMED.

New York Times: No Lunch Left Behind
Slow food doyenne Alice Waters argues for healthier school meals. Perhaps a bit unrealistic financially, her plan is thought-provoking nonetheless, especially if you have elementary-aged kids. This interview with South Beach Diet creator Arthur Agatston makes a nice companion piece, as well. (Side note: I worked in a high school ten years ago, and vividly remember the cafeteria offering soft pretzels with dipping cheese as a weekly meal option. That’s messed up for so many reasons, it’s hard to count.)

New York Times: Tropicana Discovers Some Buyers Are Passionate About Packaging
You know the new Tropicana cartons? The ones that look like they were designed by a C-average art student? They’re gone, yo. Trop’s moving back to the old logo, thank goodness.

New York Times: Tipping and the Recession
Frank Bruni, the most powerful food critic in the Milky Way, reminds you to tip your waiters.

NPR: Downturn Drives Shoppers to Frozen Food Aisles
I’m not crazy about the interviewee’s tone (Cooking at home? THE HORROR.), but this five-minute audio piece summarizes Americans’ new shopping habits pretty well. Special emphasis is placed on frozen dinners, where folks can get decent quality for a fraction of the price of a restaurant.

Salon: How to Live What Michael Pollan Preaches
Both The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food are incredible books, full of crazy-valuable information and wonderful ideas. Still, their strategies remain out of reach for most of us. Half essay, half review of Mark Bittman’s new Food Matters tome, this Salon piece examines a compromise. Great stuff.

The Simple Dollar: Bulk Breakfast Burritos: Convenient, Cheap, Healthy, and Easier Than You Think
I’m pretty down with this thoughtful, comprehensive post on easily assembled morning meals, though the food itself is a little calorie-laden, thanks to the tortilla. To save 50 calories or so, I might opt for a soft taco-sized wrap.

Slashfood: What is Natural Food?
Newsflash: the word “natural” on food packaging means absolutely nothing. You’d be better off licking a sweater for the nutrition it promises you. Slashfood's Emily Matchar examines the labeling process, and then asks a great question: “Forget the FDA - what does "natural" mean to us, as it applies to our food?”

Times UK Online: 50 of the world's best food blogs
Have a couple of hours to kill? This is a good way to do it, and it’s much more entertaining than a nap.

(Photos courtesy of Mat and Carly, The Kitchn, and Right at Home.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pasta Puttanesca: Fancy Food for Frugal Entertainers

I’ve learned many things since moving out on my own (make the bed, don’t do drugs, etc.), but perhaps none have been as vital as the following excerpt from a 2003 life skills instruction manual. It was written by a wise, wonderful, unassuming literary icon (note: me) upon her brother’s college graduation, in hopes of inspiring him to put pants on:

“Learn to be at least marginally entertaining. Even if you are aggressively anti-social or covered in boils, the time will come when people want to see you. You must be prepared. Clean your place and don’t leave them to entertain themselves.”

See, with great power (adulthood) comes great responsibility (hosting friends and family). And occasionally, that means feeding people.

Which is why sometimes, in my darkest hours, when all else seems lost, I turn to Rachael Ray. I have conflicting feelings about RR, mostly because she invented “yummo,” which should be banned from all lexicons, everywhere. Still, she knows how to please a crowd. And I respect that.

I respect this Pasta Puttanesca, too. The recipe comes from an episode of 30-Minute Meals called “Quick Italian Classics,” and for the time involved, it’s outstanding. I made it for The Boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, and we almost had babies on the spot. (We didn’t though, Ma.)

Beyond the salty, briny wonder, the best thing about it is the serving size. It will feed roughly 3,000,000 people, and impress at least 2,999,990 of them. When you’re entertaining as a young’un, quality and quantity are good to have.

Should you try it on your own, know the following:

1) If you’re averse to seafood or olives, run far, far, far away. Don’t look back. Then stop and take a breath. Then start running again.

2) Just to restate: this is A LOT OF FREAKING FOOD. The Food Network site claims this will make four servings, which might be true if you live in a family of insatiable giants. In my phenomenally humble opinion, it’ll serve a minimum of six, especially if you include garlic bread or a salad or something.

(THINGS TO PONDER: Can one claim to be “phenomenally humble”? It’s essentially saying you’re the absolute best at being modest, which negates the whole thing. Discuss.)

3) For kicks, we added a drained can of quartered artichoke hearts. (The Boyfriend loves ‘em.) They’re not listed in the original recipe, and are only included as an option here, because they’re somewhat pricey (but highly suggested).

4) I used half black olives and half kalamata. BECAUSE I COULD. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

So, next time you're forced to feed a crowd, consider the Puttanesca. It could be a valuable part of your adulthood.

Pasta Puttanesca
Makes 6 servings
Adapted from Rachael Ray.


1 pound spaghetti 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained
1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
20 oil-cured black olives, cracked away from pit and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers
1 (28 to 32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
A few grinds black pepper
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
OPTIONAL: 1 14.5-oz can artichoke heart quarters, drained

1) Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2) In a large skillet, combine oil, garlic, anchovies, and red pepper and heat over medium heat. Cook about 3 minutes, until anchovies are completely dissolved. Add olives, capers, tomatoes, black pepper, and parsley (and artichoke hearts, if using). Once it starts to bubble, drop the heat to medium-low and cook 8 or 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) Add pasta to pan. Toss to coat. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
434 calories, 9.3 g fat, $1.50

Calculations
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil: 239 calories, 27 g fat, $0.23
4 to 6 cloves garlic: 22 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.20
1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained: 119 calories, 5.5 g fat, $1.59
1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
20 oil-cured black olives: 175 calories, 15 g fat, $1.84
3 tablespoons capers: 6 calories, 0.2 g fat, $1.64
1 (28 to 32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes: 279 calories, 0 g fat, $0.98
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained: 82 calories, 0 g fat, $1.19
A few grinds black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped: negligible calories and fat, $0.49
1 pound spaghetti, cooked to al dente (with a bite): 1680 calories, 8 g fat, $0.80
TOTAL: 2602 calories, 55.8 g fat, $9.00
PER SERVING: 434 calories, 9.3 g fat, $1.50

Friday, February 20, 2009

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower and Food Phobias

“I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.” –George H.W. Bush

Much like our 41st President, cruciferous vegetables haven’t always been my thing. Broccoli and cauliflower kind of grossed me out as a kid, as they were A) healthy, B) not made entirely of sugar, and C) shaped like flora. Back then, I climbed in trees. I didn’t eat them, much less drown them in cheese.

Fortunately (unlike G.H.W.B.), I got over the broccoli aversion pretty fast, since it could be added to pasta, thus disguising its prolific nutritional value. Cauliflower, on the other hand? Not so much. Up until late last year, it still gave me the willies pretty consistently (though not as much as mayonnaise).

Then, on Christmas, family friend Mrs. D (hi, Mrs. D!) made Cauliflower Gratin. (I’m think it was Ina Garten’s recipe, but I’m not 100% on that.)

Dude, have you ever had one dish – a single serving – change the way you felt about a food? This was that good.

Sadly, as is endemic of nearly all Ina’s recipes, it had a little too much butter, milk, and delicious, delicious cheese to reproduce for this blog. So, since then, I’ve been searching for recipes that would build on that experience. Y'know? Expand my cauliflower mind a little.

Then it happened: Roasted Garlic Cauliflower. A lovely, lower-fast dish from All Recipes, it derives most of its flavor from olive oil and copious amounts of garlic, along with a semi-generous roasting time. The combination emphasizes the cauli-flavor without hitting you over the head, which I can get down with.

As far as a verdict, I would gladly eat it again, and not spit any out into my napkin. The Boyfriend, a certified (and certifiable) caulif-lover, declared it, “really good.” So – triumph!

For future dishes, I’m thinking of trying Curried Cauliflower Soup and Leigh’s Indian-inspired dish from yesterday. If y’all have any suggestions, please send them along. Because when it comes to my food phobias, I need all the help I can get.

P.S. Nutrition numbers came from All Recipes, so only the price is calculated here.

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower
Makes 6 side servings
Adapted from All Recipes.

2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large head cauliflower, separated into florets
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a baking dish or pan with cooking spray.

2) In a medium mixing bowl or large Ziploc bag, combine olive oil and cauliflower. Mix thoroughly. Spread in dish. Salt and pepper to taste.

3) Roast 25 minutes, stirring the cauliflower about 12 or 13 minutes in. When finished, remove from oven. Sprinkle parmesan  and parsley on the top. Broil 3 to 5 minutes, until parm is lightly browned.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
127 calories, 8.7 g fat, $0.49

Calculations
2 tablespoons minced garlic: $0.16
3 tablespoons olive oil: $0.35
1 large head cauliflower, separated into florets: $1.49
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese: $0.91
Salt and black pepper to taste: $0.02
TOTAL: $2.93
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): $0.49

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Veggie Might: Curry—The Very, Very Beginning

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a regular Thursday feature about all things Vegetarian.

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about (and eating a lot of) curry. There are so many countries and regions that are known for it: Thailand, the Caribbean, Japan, and of course, India. So I made one of my new year’s resolutions to explore the Curries of the World.

Well. That is a big task, my friends, not to mention somewhat misguided. I have so much to learn, and I’m a bit overwhelmed. Please bear with me.

My mind reels with questions: What makes a curry curry? How are they different? Is there a common link? Is it possible for one New York vegetarian to eat them all?

Let’s just hang out here at the beginning for today, shall we? The very, very beginning; before Maria even thinks about singing.

Not surprisingly, the word curry is an Anglicized term for kari, a Tamil word meaning either spiced sauce or black pepper, depending on who you ask. (Once source I read says kari means “flesh,” (Ed., ew) but “sauce” seems to be the consensus.)

In a nutshell, 16th to 19th century Europeans, sitting down to a meal after a long day of colonizing, said “Mmm...this is good. We wish we could eat this flavorful, awesome food all the time, instead of our boring sausage, mushy peas, and snert.

So they invented the concept of curry—meat and veggies stewed in spiced sauce and plopped on top of rice—plus its easy-to-use, turmeric-heavy powder, and sent it back to their homelands.

Trying to break out of the “curry” mold, I tried a cauliflower dish this week that was neither saucy nor accompanied by rice. This is a straight up side dish that has many of the flavor elements (cumin, ginger, chilies) one expects from Indian cooking, but none of the “curry powder.”

(Mea culpa: I did use a garam masala mix I picked up in Jackson Heights, an Indian neighborhood in Queens, but only because it was so much cheaper than making my own mix—$2.99 for 12 oz. Here is a link to a garam masala recipe for the DIYers.)

At first, I was nonplussed. As is often the case with misplaced expectations, I was also a bit disappointed. At first. But the more I ate, the more I loved.

Despite what I said I was looking for—more “authentic,” less British—deep down I expected something on the saucier side. There is no sauce in this dish. It is more akin to a stir fry than anything I’ve eaten on 6th St. or 74th St.

Once I got past the sauce thing, I realized that it tasted really good. The flavors of cumin, garlic, and ginger are present but not overpowering, it is zingy from the chilies, and the cauliflower really comes through. The texture was perfect. (I like my veggies on the al dente side.)

If you don’t like much heat, skip the chili powder. The green chilies add a nice amount of warmth. I used a few dashes myself, but I like things kicky. (PS–If you don’t have straight-up red chili powder, use cayenne pepper. American chili powder is usually mixed with cumin, oregano, and salt. Check the ingredients to be sure.)

This dish would make the perfect accompaniment to lentils and rice, or as a side to just about anything. I almost ate the whole pan at once, and like it would matter. It’s so light, with only 1 teaspoon of oil, you can eat it all guilt-free.

So we’ve begun our adventures in curry, um… I mean, flavorful, awesome food of the Great Subcontinent and beyond. There is much more to learn. Let me know if there is anything you want to know along the way. Or if you have any wisdom to share. This is going to an amazing journey.

Cauliflower with Ginger, Garlic, and Green Chilies
Adapted from Kate Pugh at International Vegetarian Union
Who adapted it from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cookery
Serves 2–3

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
1 1/2-inch cube fresh ginger root, peeled and finely diced
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp canola oil
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1–3 hot green chilies, left whole
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garam masala
red chili powder or cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

NOTE: It is best to cook this dish in a wok, but a large skillet will do the trick. I used my big cast iron pan.

1) Heat a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add the oil to the pan. Once oil is really hot, add cumin and mustard seeds. Cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) When the mustard seeds start popping, add garlic, ginger, cauliflower, and chilies. Cook until cauliflower starts browning, 5 or 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. If things start sticking, add some water.

3) Add salt, pepper, garam masala, and chili powder (optional). Add 4 tbsp water*.  Cover. Simmer 2 minutes or until cauliflower is the texture you prefer. Serve as a side dish with dal (lentils) and basmati rice if you can keep from eating the whole bowl of cauliflower before it gets to the table.

*I brewed some ginger in water for tea while I made this dish. When it came time, I added ginger water instead of plain for a little extra kick.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving:
(2 servings) 98.5 calories, 2.8g fat, $0.71
(3 servings) 65.7 calories, 1.9 g fat, $0.48

Calculations
4 cloves garlic: 16.8 calories, 0g fat, $.05
1 1/2-inch cube fresh ginger root: 13.5 calories, 0g fat, $.05
1 medium head cauliflower: 144 calories, 1g fat, $.99
1 tsp canola oil: 40 calories, 4.7g fat, $0.03
1/2 tsp cumin seed: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/2 tsp mustard seed: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1-3 hot green chilies: 18 calories, 0g fat, $.16
1/2 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $.02
freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1 tsp garam masala: negligible calories and fat, $.02
red chili powder: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/4 lemon (juice): negligible calories and fat, $.025
TOTAL: 197 calories, 5.7g fat, $1.43
PER SERVING: 98.5 calories, 2.8g fat, $0.71 (2 servings)
65.7 calories, 1.9 g fat, $0.48 (3 servings)

CHG Favorites of the Week

Food Blog of the Week
The Kitchn
We link to the Kitchn all the time in Tuesday’s Megalinks comps, but never highlighted it on its own until now. Part of the Apartment Therapy empire, it’s a gorgeous, well-designed cooking blog that, in past years, has been a little upscale for my everyday use. Lately, though, it’s been on a total roll. Recent articles on rental kitchens, ways to build flavor, and stocking a vegetarian pantry have been aces, to say nothing of the recipe lists. Definitely worth a daily visit.

Food Comedy of the Week
Jim Gaffigan on Food
I love Jim Gaffigan. I love food. Together, they’re an unstoppably delicious comedy force. From Indiana.



Food Quote of the Week
This week, it’s three from the greatest romantic comedy ever, Say Anything:

Diane Court: I just can't have any social life right now.
Lloyd Dobler: Don't worry about it. We're just having coffee. We'll be anti-social.
Diane Court: Be friends?
Lloyd Dobler: Yeah. With potential.

Constance: Why do you eat that stuff? There's no food in your food.

Lloyd Dobler: I got a question. If you guys know so much about women, how come you're here at like the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?
Joe: By choice, man.

Food Movie Clip of the Week
The Critic’s Dinner scene from Ratatouille
Another fantastic suggestion from the Julia Child cookbook giveaway. If you haven’t seen the movie, DO NOT watch this. It’s a key scene - possibly the best in a great film full of ‘em.



Totally Unrelated Extra Special Bonus of the Week
The Simpsons New Main Title
This past weekend marked Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie’s first venture into high definition television. To celebrate the milestone Groening & Co. redesigned the intro for the first time in almost 20 years. Be on special lookout for the crazy cat lady, the evil monobrow baby, and myopic comedy sensation Hans Moleman. Great stuff.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

1 Chicken, 17 Healthy Meals, $26 Bucks, No Mayo

The stretchability of a whole chicken is a frequently discussed topic among food and frugality bloggers. It’s commonly accepted that a single fowl will feed a family of 11 for weeks, years - even millennia. Even after 20 months of keeping CHG, I’m constantly gobsmacked by how moms and dads can create dinner after dinner from the same bird.

Here’s the thing: sometimes, those dinners aren’t the healthiest meals in the world. There tend to be a lot of quesadillas and casseroles whenever these type of posts pop up, not to mention chicken salads drenched with full-fat mayo. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this whatsoever (except the mayo - blech), but I wanted to see if I could put a healthier spin on it.

In a sentence: I wanted to find out if it was possible to create a gaggle of inexpensive, lower-fat meals with the leftovers from one big ol’ chicken.

Here were my rules:

  • The budget – for EVERYTHING - was $25.
  • I had to use as much food already in my pantry as possible. (Which accounted for a lot, and saved me mad dough in the long run.)
  • Each meal had to feed at least two people (The Boyfriend and me).
  • Bonus points for leftovers.
  • The chicken had to be used up within a few days, so it wouldn’t go bad.
  • The meals had to have reasonable variety, preferably from a range of cuisines. It couldn’t be Chicken with Spaghetti on Day 1, then Chicken with Penne on Day 2.
  • The meals had to have very little added fat, since the leftover chicken would provide most of it.
And? Victory, for the most part. I ended up cooking five distinct, delicious, largely healthy dinners with PLENTY of leftovers. And miracle of miracles, there were no duds in the group. (Thanks, online reviewers!)

However, I did go $0.86 over budget. I’m okay with that, though. Between what we consumed each night and ate for lunch the next day, that $25.86 made 17 full meals, which works out to $1.52 each. That’s less than a cup of Starbucks coffee, so … aces.

What follows is the menu breakdown, complete with pictures and links to four of the five recipes. The last, a Cook’s Illustrated curry dish, isn’t online, so I transcribed it at the very bottom of this post. There’s also a master grocery list, so y’all can see the price breakdown of everything.

With that said, let’s get started with introductions: Charles, these are the CHG readers. CHG readers, this is Charles. He’s my chicken. He’s 6.99 lbs.

He will not look like this for long.


Day 1
Marcella Hazan’s Lemon Roasted Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes
2 servings
Chicken consumed: 10 ounces

We kicked everything off with Marcella’s Lemon Roasted Chicken. It’s been featured on the blog before, with good reason. In a world of dry, lame-o poultry, it is the Queen Mum of moist, flavorful goodness. Plus, when you add a few thick-cut carrots and quartered (unpeeled) red potatoes to the pan before it starts cooking, it becomes a whole meal. (Seriously, that’s all you have to do.) Together, The Boyfriend and I polished off all the vegetables and 10 ounces of chicken (five ounces each) for a Sunday night meal.

Afterwards, we stripped the chicken bare. Nude. Butt-naked. There was nothing left on that carcass but skin and gristle. It was a little hyena-like, honestly, but fun nonetheless. In total, our booty came to 2 pounds, 4 ounces of pure, straight-up leftover meat, mostly from the breast. Here’s a shot of the carnage.

If I had half a brain, I would have saved Charles’ bones to make stock. But I forgot.

To quote the bard, “Duh.”


Day 2
Cooking Light’s Chicken Picadillo with Rice and Black Beans
3 servings
Leftover chicken consumed: 1 pound

(Note: The experiment almost ended here, since I didn’t go grocery shopping in time for Day 2. Fortunately, for this particular recipe, everything was in my pantry already. [Woo hoo!])

Going in, I had mid-level expectations for Chicken Picadillo, and was super-pleasantly surprised by the results. All in all, it’s supremely easy to cook, and a nice change from the average Tex-Mex dish. Ground chicken, salsa, raisins, and almonds make up the main ingredients, but a dash of cinnamon ties it all together, giving everything a warm, lovely flavor. We ate it with plain rice and mashed black beans (to prepare: heat in pot, mash with masher, add salt and pepa), and used the leftovers to create a chicken/lettuce/salsa wrap the next day for lunch. Good times.


Day 3
White Chicken Chili
2-3 servings
Leftover chicken consumed: 1-1/2 cups

This tangy, mild, ridiculously simple chili was The Boyfriend’s favorite dish of the bunch. (He is the Chili King. He can do anything.) He slurped a bowl in record time, scarfed leftovers for lunch the next day, and openly wept when I told him he had finished it all. Poor guy.

The key to keeping this dish low-fat is the beans. By lightly mashing them, you create a thicker chili consistency, and don’t have to add as much cheese. FYI: If you like your chilis a little spicier, the heat is eminently adjustable here: just include the jalapeno seeds OR add another pepper altogether.


Day 4
Food Network’s Sesame Noodles with Chicken
5 servings
Chicken consumed: 1 cup

Three days into this thing, and we were barely halfway through Charles’ leftover meat. That started to change here.

It must be known: I loooooooove noodles. I luff them. I lurve them. I want to kiss them, but they keep falling through my fingers. (Ooo … deep.) Naturally then, this dish from Food Network was my favorite of the experiment. It’s a cross between Ellie Krieger’s Aromatic Noodles and this Noodle Salad from Cooking Light, with just a little more tang. The whole shebang is a tad higher in fat than the experiment’s others (see: butter, peanut), but it’s the healthy, protein-y kind, so I wouldn’t worry too much.

One note: I substituted a pitted, sliced regular cucumber for the Kirby. No harm, no foul, and it worked just fine.


Day 5
Cook’s Illustrated’s Chicken Curry in a Hurry
(recipe at bottom of post)
4 servings
Chicken consumed: 2 cups

Finally, we had reached the end. Charles was nearly tapped by Day 5, though perhaps surprisingly, we weren’t getting tired of chicken in the least.

It’s a good thing, then, we went with Curry in a Hurry. Served with a side of brown rice, it’s a fast, fantastic, Indian-inspired weeknight meal that will absolutely use up the last of any leftover chicken. Plus, it’s a lot of frigging food. CI claims it serves four people, it’s really more like five or six. Maybe eight or nine if you’re elves.

Note: we skipped the peas because they represent the oppression of the worker by the bourgeoisie, and can only be freed through shared profit and community-wide effort. (Oh wait – that’s not right. Actually, I just forgot to buy them. It didn’t make a difference.)

~~~

And that, my friends, is it. We're full. The chicken's gone. The experiment worked.

Here’s our grocery list (just like we promised!), plus the curry recipe, should you be into it. Comments and questions are welcome, and I'd love to hear what y'all have done with a whole chicken. Enjoy!

~~~

SHOPPING LIST
(* means I already had it in my pantry or fridge)

1 7-lb Oven Stuffer Roaster chicken: $6.92
1 lb thick carrots: $0.67
1-1/2 lbs red or Yukon gold potatoes: $1.42
2 lemons: $0.80
*1 or 2 tablespoons salt: $0.04
*3 teaspoons olive oil: $0.11
*2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil: $0.36
*2 tablespoons vegetable oil: $0.18
*2-1/2 medium onions: $0.30
*9 garlic cloves: $0.30
*2-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin: $0.05
*1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon: $0.01
*1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning: $0.02
*Pinch ground cloves: $0.01
*1 teaspoon crushed red pepper: $0.05
*1/2 to 1 tablespoon curry powder: $0.07
*1 cup bottled salsa: $0.99
*1/3 cup golden raisins: $0.79
*1/4 cup raisins: $0.42
*1/4 cup slivered almonds: $0.73
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts: $0.35
1 large bunch fresh cilantro: $0.99
*1 14-oz can black beans: $0.67
1 can large white beans: $1.39
*1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas: $0.67
*1-2/3 cup uncooked brown rice: $0.95
1 seeded jalapeƱo pepper: $0.25
1 cucumber: $0.80
6 scallions: $0.67
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger: $0.32
1 can (4-ounce) chopped green chilies: $1.49
*2 cups chicken broth: $0.60
*1 pound spaghetti or Chinese egg noodles: $0.80
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter: $0.21
*1/4 cup soy sauce: $0.38
*2 tablespoons dark brown sugar: $0.06
*1 tablespoon rice vinegar: $0.24
*1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (we used low-fat, and it was okay): $0.28
*1/2 cup grated low-fat Monterey Jack or white cheddar cheese: $0.50
TOTAL: $25.86

~~~

Cook’s Illustrated’s Chicken Curry in a Hurry
Serves 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1/2 to 1 tablespoon curry powder (mine is hot, so I only use ½)
Salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
½ cup water
2 cups shredded of thinly sliced cooked chicken
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen peas (I left this out, but please use)
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (we used low-fat, and it was okay)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

1. BUILD CURRY BASE: Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion, curry powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion is browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. ADD WATER, MEAT, VEGETABLES, AND COOK: Stir in water, meat, chickpeas, peas, and raisins. Cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. GARNISH AND SERVE: Off heat, stir in yogurt and cilantro and serve. Over brown rice is a good option.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

City Kitchen Chronicles: Not-Quite Colcannon

City Kitchen Chronicles is a bi-weekly column about living frugally in Manhattan. It's penned by the lovely Jaime.

Every so often I look down at my items on the grocery store check-out conveyor belt, or unpacked onto my kitchen counter to be put away, and I think about starting a blog called Single Girl Grocery Shops. Most recently: one bag of green lentils, one sweet potato, a jar of Goya green olives, a can of vegetarian baked beans.

I’ll set your minds at ease right now by disclaiming that these were not fixins for a single meal. I’m not sure what exactly I went in for – I think to see if there were any good deals on vegetables – but apparently I’ve been in the mood for salt lately. (I also recently acquired a jar of Bac’n Bits. Yup, they’re vegetarian. And tasty.)

Although I was not making sweet potato/baked bean/green olive lentil stew (ew), the ingredients were bumping around in my head, and I got to thinking thinking of some marriage of the sweet tater and baked beans. I still had leftovers to get through, though (mostly some delicious but probably not-so-healthy, if I were to do the math, peanut butter sesame noodles), so I filed it away for later in the week.

In the meanwhile, I came across Mark Bittman’s recipe for Pan-Crisped Potatoes. This reminded me of my college roommate’s specialty, tiny cubes of sweet and white potatoes oven-roasted in tumeric and cumin. At some point, I brought home a surprisingly not-sad-looking bunch of kale from the supermarket, so there was that, too.

Sweet potatoes, kale, baked beans… how this got me thinking “colcannon” I can’t be quite sure. Colcannon is an Irish dish made of mashed potatoes, cabbage, butter, salt and pepper. (I thought bacon was a usual ingredient, but Wikipedia doesn’t mention it. Maybe it’s just an occasional bonus.)

I’ve seen colcannon recipes with kale in place of cabbage, and love combining sweet potatoes and kale, so I guess that’s how this idea got started. I’d steal Mark Bittman’s method, rather than mashing the sweet potatoes, and steal my old roommates propensity for tiny cubes of potato, roast the kale, and replace the bacony element with vegetarian baked beans. It’s miles from colcannon, bastardized and deconstructed, but dang is it good.

Although the tiny cubes of pan-crisped sweet potato are delicious, the roasted kale really stole the show. It’s sort of like kale chips, but miles less fussy. The chips require precision and care – can’t be too wet, can’t cook too long or too short or they’ll burn or be soggy – but when I roasted this kale I didn’t even have it evenly tossed in the olive oil, and it all came out heavenly. Some pieces crisp, some don’t lose all their moisture, but that’s okay! One of the easiest, most delicious things I’ve ever made.

I’m not including the baked beans in the recipe because it’s like: step 1, open beans; step 2, microwave. I do recommend doctoring the beans, though – I find them way too sweet on their own. Once they’re hot, I like to add a big spoonful of cottage cheese – it melts right in and you don’t taste it, just a little extra creaminess and a good added dose of protein. (This sounds like crazy food, but my friend J., who does not have total crazy lady tastes like I do, was a big fan.) A few shakes of chili powder in the beans are also a good idea. (Or, if you’re on a salt kick like a pregnant lady: Bac’n bits.)

From mashed potatoes with cabbage and bacon to tiny cubes of sweet potato over roasted kale with a side of baked beans and cottage cheese… I can’t quite call it colcannon. But “colcannon” is such a fun word to say.

Deconstructed Bastardized Colcannon
serves 2-3

1 bunch kale leaves, torn into pieces (about 5 cups torn)
1 large sweet potato, cut into ½” or so cubes
3 T olive oil (or a mix of olive and vegetable)
cooking spray
salt, to taste (sea salt or kosher, if you can – coarse is good)

[Note: I didn’t measure the olive oil in which I cooked the sweet potatoes. I poured enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet, but then I let the cooked taters drain on paper towel, and took off a good deal of oil that way. I’m going to guess at 3 tablespoons. I’m also of the school of thought (well backed-up by research, btw) that fat is not, in and of itself, bad for you, so don’t be alarmed by the high grammage of the recipe. You can reduce the oil, though, if you want. Your sweet potatoes may not be as browned or crispy, but they will still be quite good.]

1) Preheat oven to 375.

2) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes with a nice sprinkling of salt and cook, tossing and stirring from time to time, until they are nicely browned and cooked through. Depending on the size of your cubes, this will take 7-15 minutes.

3) Meanwhile, place kale on rimmed cooking sheet (it doesn’t need to be a single layer – a pile is fine) and spray with cooking oil, tossing for even coverage. (You can also use a drizzle of olive oil, and you don’t even have to worry about even coverage.) Sprinkle with salt.

4) Roast kale in the oven for 5 minutes. Stir/toss, roast another 5 minutes, or until it’s as done as you like it. (A little browning on the edges is not a bad thing.)

5) Drain sweet potatoes on paper towels, sprinkle over kale.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
Two servings: 368.5 calories, 25g fat, $0.69
Three servings: 245.5 calories, 16.5 g fat, $0.46

Calculations
5 cups kale: 168 calories, 2 g fat, $0.40
1 large sweet potato: 212 calories, 6 g fat, $0.50
3 Tbs olive oil: 358 calories, 40.5 g fat, $0.44
Cooking spray: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
Salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
TOTAL: 737 calories, 50 g fat, $1.38
PER SERVING (TOTAL/2): 368.5 calories, 25g fat, $0.69
(TOTAL/3): 245.5 calories, 16.5 g fat, $0.46

Tuesday Megalinks

This week, it’s all Get Rich Slowly and The Kitchn, all the time. But beyond their seven combined posts (on DIY recipes, winter weight gain, and more), there are some nice entries from Being Frugal on a new coupon service, Like Merchant Ships on feeding your children, and Serious Eats on recession waitressing. Behold…

11th Heaven’s Homemaking Haven: Make it From Scratch Festival
Tons of great cooking and craft ideas from this week’s carnival, hosted by a mother of NINE (so you know she knows what she’s talking about). Leigh’s Vegan Ginger Cookies made the list, so run hence!

Being Frugal: A Full Cup Review
Lynnae’s found a replacement for the Grocery Game. I’ll let her describe: “[A Full Cup] features an easy to navigate message board, coupon database, a list of online printable coupons, online deals, and my favorite feature: grocery lists, featuring items at super great prices, matched with coupons to make an even better deal.” Not bad.

Casual Kitchen: 11 Really Easy Rice Side Dishes
Mmm … Cilantro Lime Rice. I like.

Chow: Single White Vegan Seeks Same - Is it shallow to consider diet when dating?
Beer-loving carnivore asks out girl who won’t eat meat, dairy, sugar, or nightshade (mushrooms), and is allergic to alcohol. Can it possibly work?

Consumerist: Mountain Dew Addiction Helps Rot Central Appalachians’ Teeth
Did anyone see ABC’s Diane Sawyer special on Appalachia on Friday night? It was some really powerful stuff, and portrayed a level of poverty some might not think possible in the U.S. Among the more depressing parts was this bit about children and Mountain Dew. Cheaper than water in some areas, it’s the preferred beverage for kids, and it’s absolutely wreaking havoc on their dental health.

Frugal Upstate: Kitchen Tips
Jenn comps her best cooking posts. Nice!

Get Fit Slowly: The Secrets of the Slim
Consumer Reports did a study on the strategies behind everlasting thinness. You’ll recognize most of the tips, but the methods they found ineffective will surprise you. Cutting carbs? Eating frequently? Making room for lean protein? Don’t seem to work in the long run.

Get Fit Slowly: Ward Off Winter Weight Gain
Ooooo. I need this. But I’m not sure I have the courage to take pictures of myself in spandex. Traumatizing!

Get Rich Slowly: Books With True-Life Stories About Frugality
If you’re looking for some literary entertainment with your frugality tips, you can’t do better than JD’s novel compilation. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn makes the list, along with To Kill a Mockingbird and Angela’s Ashes. Library, ho!

Get Rich Slowly: Confessions of a Butcher – Eating Steak on a Hamburger Budget
Meat-eaters, behold.

The Kitchn: DIY Recipes From The Kitchn
Great googly moogly, it’s the mother of all recipe rundowns, with everything from pesto to potato chips, ricotta to roasted peanuts. Go now. Seriously. Stop reading. Go. (But come back after.)

The Kitchn: How to Save Money by Shopping at Whole Foods
It’s true: the upscaliest of upscale supermarkets can actually save you a buck or two. Stuff your cart with beans, olive oil, and organics, and try to ignore the $12 chocolate bar on the way to the register.

The Kitchn: Ten Kitchen Improvements for Renters
I wish I had written this. For those of us who can’t drastically alter our cooking spaces without incurring the wrath of our landlords, this post is invaluable. And cute!

LA Times: 'Joy of Cooking' or 'Joy of Obesity'?
Could cooking at home be as unhealthy as eating out? (I say no.) The LA Times says maybe. They analyzed The Joy of Cooking, only to find “In the classic cookbook, published since 1931, changes in ingredients and serving sizes have led to a 63% increase in calories per serving in 17 of the recipes.” Ouch.

Like Merchant Ships: 4 Ways to Stop Being a Short Order Cook
When we were growing up, Ma pounded it into our heads that she wasn’t a personal chef. We would eat what she served, and we wouldn’t complain. Here, Meredith shares some of her own you’ll-eat-what-I-make-and-you’ll-like-it tips, with several dozen readers chiming in for their two cents.

New York Times: For Dinner (and Fast), the Taste of Home
What do new immigrants eat for quick weekday meals? The Grey Lady explores and shares their recipes/findings.

New York Post: Eateries Hit On 'Must Tip'
ARG, mandatory tipping makes me crazy. Look, restaurants: we know that you include service charges on the bill to compensate for large groups, tightwads, and non-tipping foreigners. BUT FREAKING STOP IT. I refuse to give some half-assed waiter a 20% gratuity for perfunctorily handing me a plate of eggs. Tipping is dependent on quality of service, and including it on the bill is an insult to the diner.

Serious Eats: Recession Waitressing
On the other hand: DINERS! TIP YOUR WAITERS. These people make $3 an hour. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out.

Serious Eats New York: Fast-Food Yogurt Parfaits
Winners: Starbucks, Cosi
Losers: None. Because when yogurt and nuts are combined, does anyone really lose?

Yum Sugar: At One London Restaurant, the Bill is Up to You
The Little Bay Restaurant is the Radiohead of British cuisine: you eat what you like, then pay what you want. It’s pub food on the honor system, and it’s working: “the restaurant's made above its average spent per head over the last five days.”

(Photos courtesy of eHow, Katara, and Platinum Kuwait.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cheap Healthy Good: Now With Extra Columns!

Happy Presidents Day, universe! To celebrate our fine Commander-in-Chiefs, we here at CHG decided to go live with a brand spankin' new layout. Don't worry; all the extraneous features and sidebar thingies you've come to vaguely know and kinda love are still here. They're just in slightly different locations, with a picture of lasagna on top instead of cherries.

However! The design isn't 100% final yet, and we'd love to know your opinions. Are the colors pretty? Does the font agree with your eyes? Do you find lasagna close-ups to be particularly offensive, since one of them once mugged you in a parking lot back in '76? If so, these are important things to mention, and we encourage you to fire away in the comment section.

Special thanks to The Boyfriend for the web design and J (he of the Summertime Gazpacho) for the new logo. These upstanding gentlemen worked their butts off, and will be repaid with full-fat macaroni and cheese as soon as humanly possible.

We'll be back tomorrow with our regularly-scheduled posting. In the meantime, enjoy the holiday (and the new sidebar).

Friday, February 13, 2009

CHG’s Hall of Shame II: Even Shamier

First, there was the original Hall of Shame.

But now …

In a world …

Where sometimes, recipes don’t work out …

No matter how much you want them to …

It’s …

CHG'S HALL OF SHAME II: EVEN SHAMIER.

To celebrate Friday the 13th, we here at CHG thought we’d bring you even MORE failed recipes. See, in the effort to cook three frugal, nutritional, delicious dishes per week, we create quite a few duds.

But there’s a bright side to those failures: we can post about ‘em anyway, to let you know that we don’t write up EVERYTHING we cook. It’s gotta be good, or it doesn’t make the blog.

So, without further ado…

(NOTE: To protect the innocent, some sources have been omitted. Except Jenny Craig – she can take it.)

Meringue Cookies
Oh, man. WHAT did I do wrong here? I used the correct ingredients in the right amounts. I beat the crap out of the batter – there were stiff peaks APLENTY. I left the cookies in the oven for all two hours. They were supposed to look like this. Instead … ack (see: to the right). You need to know: The Boyfriend likes almost all food. He’ll eat anything with sugar, cheese, or barbecue sauce. (Mmm … sugared cheese with barbecue sauce…) He did not like these cookies.

White Bean Cakes
These had promise, and in the end, after a billion alterations, were somewhat vaguely edible. But as written, the recipe simply didn’t work. It called for two cans of drained beans, pureed with a few tablespoons of lemon juice. Alas, with so little liquid, the beans turned to spackle in my food processor, and I had to triple the juice just so they would budge. Still, if you need to repair a hole in the wall with something citrus-scented, it’s highly suggested.

Pommes Anna
This was actually very tasty and so, so pretty. You might ask, “What’s the problem then, jerk?” Sadly, the portions were teeny-tiny. The Boyfriend and I polished off the whole thing in a single sitting, meaning we ingested almost 24 grams of fat each. Great if you don’t care. Not-so-great if you write a blog about healthy eating.

Pumpkin Spice Scones
These baked wonders from Eggs on Sunday were another case of Should Have Done the Numbers beforehand. Delicious, though, and a nice treat if you don’t mind the extra calories.

Mushroom Bruschetta
Oh, Jenny Craig. After I praised you and your floppy hats, why did you dis my kitchen with your dry, pedestrian bruschetta? Granted, it wasn’t inedible. But it was more boring than a Counting Crows concert. And by god, I didn’t think there was ANYTHING more boring than a Counting Crows concert.

Broiled Grapefruit
This was entirely my fault. I tipped over the grapefruit halves in the broiler, causing all the sugary, buttery toppings to spill out. They immediately congealed at the bottom, burning into a pile of black bubbly goo not unlike the La Brea Tar Pits. (We even found a dinosaur femur in the pan later.) And with the sugar gone, all that was left was warm grapefruit. Fail.

Tunisian Chickpea Soup
My fault again. On the bright side, I did find out that red curry paste should never, ever be substituted for chili sauce. But only after the burning subsided. Good times.

Chickpea Puree
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Like hummus, only blander.

Sweet readers, what’ve you messed up lately? Do tell.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

CHG Favorites of the Week

Food Blog of the Week
Healthy Eats
Food Network kicked this blog off just a few weeks ago, and it’s already got some sweet content up there. Destined to be huge, so get in on it now.

Food Comedy of the Week
“Grapefruit” by Gary Gulman
The former Last Comic Standing contestant waxes poetic on his least favorite piece of produce. If you’ve ever brushed your teeth after eating a citrus fruit, you’ll find it hilarious.



Food Quote of the Week
Waldorf: What was that?
Statler: It's called the medium sketch.
Waldorf: The medium sketch?
Statler: Yeah, it wasn't rare, and it certainly wasn't well done.
-The Muppet Show

Food Movie Clip of the Week
Stand By Me’s pie-eating scene
Warning: this is a classic bit, but not for the faint of heart and/or those with an easily-triggered gag reflex. (Meaning: there’s a lot of vomit and a few bad words.)



Totally Unrelated Extra Special Bonus of the Week
“Surprising stories behind 20 Muppet characters” from CNN
It’s like Behind the Music: The Muppets! An excerpt: “Frank Oz once said that Miss Piggy grew up in Iowa; her dad died when she was young and her mother was mean. She had to enter beauty contests to make money.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Veggie Might: R.I.P. Betty, Beloved Hand Mixer (Plus, Vegan Ginger Cookies)

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Friends, we are here to celebrate the life of my dear hand mixer, Betty. She was a more than a kitchen appliance; she was an extension of my culinary arm. I will miss her and remember her fondly.

In 1998, BZ, the fifth in a string of seventeen roommates, brought her into my apartment, only to leave her callously (or generously) behind. Perhaps he knew then what I did not: that we were destined for friendship.

Betty and I didn’t understand each other at first. I cooked so rarely that the effort of taking her out of the cabinet, digging around for her attachments, washing and putting her away seemed more taxing than mixing something by hand. I have arms and a fork (or a spoon, or whisk), I would think.

Betty went neglected on the shelf for years. So many times, between roommates six and sixteen, I thought of giving her to the thrift store.

Then I tried to make a quiche with only a whisk. Betty never laughed. She just calmly showed me that no matter how much I whisked, I could never froth egg whites on my own.

Together we have dashed off a matching set of 3 Barbie birthday cakes in no time flat. We have made hundreds of quiches and cookies. She inspired me to carry on, even after the Unfortunate Whole Wheat Cupcake Disaster of ’04.

The last time we baked, I knew the end was near. Betty made a wheezing sound as she labored through cookie dough and the room filled with the slightly acrid smell of burning mechanics. But, as is often the case when the end is near, we pushed the thought far from our minds and went on living.

This weekend, we tried again. My beloved Betty’s last recipe was a half a batch of vegan gingerbread cookies from the consistently excellent Joy of Vegan Baking cookbook. It was the perfect way to say good bye.

As is my habit, I made a few deviations from the original recipe: I substituted shortening for vegan butter, added vanilla where there was none before, and doubled the amount of ginger. It could still use more ginger, if you ask me, but these cookies are fantastic and worthy of Betty’s toil.

During the cream stage it was like she had never been sick. She whisked through the shortening and sugar until it was light and airy. But as I began to add the flour, the wear began to show.

She held on valiantly until the very end. I added the maximum amount of water to make it as easy as possible. As the last of the flour became dough, a puff of smoke rose from her grill, and she was gone.

The cookies that came from Betty’s final effort are so soft and chewy. My oven tends bake hot toward the front, so halfway through the baking time, I turned the pan. Normally a bit forgetful, I took extra care with the timing. I needed this last batch to be perfect. For Betty. And it was.

My darling hand mixer, Betty, you died as you lived, making life easy and delicious.

Vegan Ginger Cookies
Adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking
Makes approximately 3 dozen; 2 cookies per serving

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp powdered egg replacer (like Ener-G)
2/3 cup molasses
1 tsp vanilla

1) Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl: flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.

2) Cream shortening and sugar (sniff) for 3 to 4 minutes until fluffy. Add molasses, vanilla, and egg replacer and beat for 1 more minute.

3) Gradually add flour mixture and blend (sob), alternating with a little bit of water or soy milk (up to 2 tablespoons) if necessary.

4) Divide dough, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill overnight or for at least 1 hour.

5) When you’re ready to bake, preheat to 350°.

6) With your hands, roll dough into 1” thick rope. Cut into 1 1/2” pieces. Flatten with the bottom of a drinking glass. (This is my preferred, I-don’t-own-a-rolling-pin method.)

OR

6) With a rolling pin, roll out dough to 1/4” thick and cut with cookie cutters of choice.

7) Bake for 10 – 15 minutes. Allow to cool for as long as you can stand it.

8) Eat, remember, and love.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
176 calories, 6g fat, $0.18

Calculations
3 cups all-purpose flour: 1012.5 calories, 2.7g fat, $.63
1/4 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1 tsp baking soda: negligible calories and fat, $.02
4 tsp ground ginger: negligible calories and fat, $.08
1 tsp ground cinnamon: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/4 tsp ground clove: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening: 880 cal, 104g fat, $.62
3/4 cup sugar: 628 calories, 0g fat, $.43
1 1/2 tsp powdered egg replacer: negligible calories and fat, $.02
2/3 cup molasses: 651.3 calories, 0g fat, $1.33
1 tsp vanilla: negligible calories and fat, $1.16
Totals: 3171.8 calories, 106.7g fat, $4.37
Per serving: 176 calories, 6g fat, $.24

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