At least I’m on vacation

July 3, 2009

I think “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” is the best word to describe the way I’m feeling right now. The week before vacation always leaves me a little frazzled, probably something about the way I leave myself 261 “loose ends” that I could have tied up, I don’t know, ANY OTHER TIME. This is all exacerbated by the fact that my body has pretty much decided to shut down its sleeping function, leaving me with a combined total of about six and a half hours over the past two nights. But hey, who needs to sleep when you can use the time you’re not sleeping to tie up loose ends??

I don’t know if it’s related to any of that, but I’ve only been interested in side dishes lately, save for the monster-sized order of vegetarian fajitas I got at La Fiesta the other night, the remains of which landed on the floor tonight while I was cooking dinner and completely interrupted my culinary flow. Landlords, take heed: fajitas are reason # 17894 that “oatmeal” kitchen carpeting is not a good idea. If for no other reason than that Martha Stewart does not have a section devoted to fajita stain removal on her website.

Dinner was okay anyway, just a repeat of potato/chickpea salad with some different kind of potatoes from the farmer’s market this time. Plus, cheesy polenta (bring some water to a boil [4x the amount of polenta you want to use], stir in polenta, stir stir stir, add cheese, salt, pepper, oregano [or whatever], stir stir stir; serve).

a bowl full o' starch

a bowl full o' starch

Those carbs really comforted me in my time of kitchen carpet stress.

I also tried my hand at braising a few days back, after a stellar experience with braised spinach during my birthday dinner last weekend.

brown rice, braised green beans and summer vegetables, tomato/avocado salad

braised green beans with summer vegetables (and some other stuff)

When the braised vegetables (delicious) were done, I realized I hadn’t made any plans for what else we would eat, as I was heavily involved in making a fruit salad for a barbecue. So I grabbed the rice from the refrigerator and chopped up some tomato and avocado for a “salad.” I’m lucky I hadn’t already made my simple syrup for the fruit salad dressing, because I might have panicked and added that in there, too.

Also, we survived our frugal June and now it’s July and I fully intend to splurge on stuff like peaches from now on. I have some math that’s strategically designed to show how awesome we are, but I’ve been up since 3:30am and people have been setting off fireworks outside for the last 5 hours and I just don’t have it in me. But rest assured, I’ve sent off for my very own bindle. I earned it.

Maybe dreaming of it will lull me to sleep. Tomorrow we might attempt to tackle the interstate again to go celebrate Matt’s birthday, and I’m going to need all the energy I can rustle up just to yell over the roar of the car.


A gallery of cheap eats

June 19, 2009

I am seriously exhausted, but I also have anxiety issues, and these pictures piling up, plus all that math that isn’t going to do itself, well. It’s getting to me.

pesto vegetable soup, or, a rare moment of foresight

pesto vegetable soup, or, a rare moment of foresight

This seems a little pricey at $10.06 for the whole recipe, but it actually made 10-12 servings, which makes it around $1.01 per serving. And also very handy to have around when you’re too tired to cook.

matt's request: spring rolls

matt's request: spring rolls

Because the stupid organic shrimp that is so delicious we can’t quit it costs $8.75 for a half pound, these were on the pricey side. The total was about $11.39 for 14 spring rolls, which I’d call at least 4 servings, but, in the interest of full disclosure, I ate 3 and Matt ate 11. So I don’t know if I can call it 4 servings in good conscience. Although later, he did say something about them expanding in his stomach, so maybe that was a little much, even for him.

couscous/lentils/chickpeas/delicious things

couscous/lentils/chickpeas/delicious things

This one wins the cheap contest. I used this recipe and it came out to a total of $4.09 for 4 servings, for a total of $1.02 per serving. Also, I loved it, but Matt found it bland. I think maybe those spring rolls were still expanding in his stomach.

looks can be deceiving

looks can be deceiving

I know this looks like someone already ate it, but seriously. It was really good. I’ve never cooked with garam masala and it made everything smell good and taste even better. Plus, there are apples in there. I used a version of this recipe, which is an adaptation of another one. Also, they did the math for me. Which is great, because I lost some receipts and I also bought those red lentils about 6 months ago.

Tomorrow marks a year since we legitimized our union in the eyes of the state of Kansas, which is a great reason to go out for dinner and split a bottle of prosecco if there ever was one. After that, and some cake that I’m crossing my fingers isn’t too freezer-burned, it’s back to the frugal gourmet.

Potato salad doesn’t have to be gross.

June 3, 2009

I was sick yesterday, and we ended up eating leftovers for dinner. That’s even cheaper than I planned, so, score one for us.

I feel like I should warn you that 85% of the food I’ll be making from now until, I don’t know, September, will be __________ Salad. Or ___________ Salad with ___________ and ____________. I love a main dish salad, and it’s usually about 15 degrees too hot in the apartment to do anything else.

So, tonight, we had Potato Salad with Chickpeas, from Vegan Italiano, which I love but haven’t used in awhile. A while? Awhile? As far as I can tell, the only thing that’s bad about this book is that it doesn’t involve cheese (and yes, I understand why). Easily remedied, so it’s a winner.

potato salad with chickpeas

potato salad with chickpeas

I truly hate traditional potato salad. I am physically repulsed by mayonnaise, and most of the potato salads of my youth had a ton of it. But I love potatoes, so I started trying new combinations last year. This is a really good one, with a light red wine vinaigrette dressing, some red onion and tomato, and chickpeas for protein. I give the chickpeas two thumbs way up, as they take something usually relegated to side dish status and move it into the realm of the main dish. You could have it as a side, or as part of a meal, but I like to go whole hog. The recipe indicated that this was 6-8 servings, but since it was in the side salads chapter, I estimate 3-4.

Even with that adjustment, it still made a fine showing in the cheap department, especially for something with so much produce:

1.45 lb little new potatoes @ 1.29/lb = $1.87
.75 lb tomatoes @ 1.99/lb = $1.49
1/2 red onion @ .89/lb = $.49
1 cup of chickpeas (cooked from dried @ 2.68/lb) = $.45
and some pantry staples (red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil)

grand total = $4.30

That breaks down to $1.08 per serving if you serve 4 and $1.43 if you serve 3. Not bad, either way. Though, if we stretch it to 4, we’ll beat the current record of $1.15/serving from Monday.

Us: 2. June: 0.

The end of roasting season

May 28, 2009

I’ve had this weird stomachache since yesterday, potentially aggravated by the piece of cake I had at work, followed by the basket of tater tots and bourbon chocolate pecan pie I had for dinner last night. But whatever.

Anyway, I needed food tonight that wasn’t going to make me feel like puking, so I went for something simple that wouldn’t need any spicing up.


roasted brussels and chickpeas over quinoa

I roasted the brussels and chickpeas at 400 for about 30 minutes. I thought of it as my last hurrah with the big oven for a little while at least. And what a way to go out. It was like eating popcorn for dinner. But with extra nutrients.

I think my stomach may be recovered enough to eat a brownie now?

I just can’t get enough of this dal

May 4, 2009

I try to limit my posts about repeat meals (which, honestly, is increasingly difficult now that every meal I eat is some kind of variation of rice and beans), but this dal is just so good I had to make it again. Fortunately, this coincided with May’s Hobo Monday over at Thursday Night Smackdown (fyi: I wouldn’t click on that right now if your boss can see your computer. Or your ten year old daughter who is really good at spelling.).¬† And, what do you know, this week’s featured ingredient is chickpeas. How could I make anything else?

I mean, this is seriously good

I mean, this is seriously good

I did a few things differently this time. For instance, I actually followed the recipe a little more closely and threw the onion and ginger into the food processor for a few seconds. I thought, why not? It requires very little effort on my part, really. I had to chop the onion less, which means less crying, and Matt does the dishes so I don’t have to worry about that. It also made the whole thing a little saucier, which I liked.

I have a lingering fear of putting something red in the food processor and having it explode all over the kitchen. And you know it’s carpeted in there for no reason that I can even begin to comprehend, and I think that a giant red stain would pretty much guarantee that we wouldn’t get our security deposit back.

Which is to say, I still used crushed tomatoes instead of processing them.

Okay, in order to be eligible for Hobo Monday, this meal has to serve 2 people for under $5 or 4 for under $10. This made 4 servings, so I’ll say it served 4, but all 4 of them are the 2 of us: 2 of us today for dinner and 2 of us tomorrow for lunch. Got it? ETA: Okay, it actually made 3 servings. What can I say? We like to eat a lot. I think that technically gives me $7.50 to work with.

  • 2 cans of chickpeas (I know, I know, it would have been cheaper to use dried; I did cut myself on one of the cans so I’ve been punished) 2 x $1.15 = $2.30
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes $.79
  • 1 yellow onion $1.00 (I forgot to look at this but I think this is a solid, if conservative, estimate)
  • I cup of brown basmati rice (1/5 of a bag) .2 x $3.69 = $.74
  • 1 T Patak’s mild curry paste¬† .0625 x $5.99 = $.37
  • pantry staples (ground ginger and olive oil)

Total: $5.20

Unfortunately, I can’t find the receipt from last week’s grocery shop, and the Dillons website is all but worthless, so I’m going to have to update this later with actual prices. I feel pretty confident that it’s going to come in under budget, though.

After reading the post in which I chronicled my first experience making this recipe, I realized that I made this on a Monday last time, too. There’s something about kickboxing class and the imaginary punching and the oddly incongruous aerobics-y grapevines that makes me want to eat this.

I used it as a reward this time. I was so against going to the gym, but in the end I couldn’t think of a really good excuse. My RA isn’t flaring up, I got more than 5 hours of sleep, my gym bag was packed and in the car, Terminator 2 isn’t coming from Netflix for 3-5 days. Plus, the rage has to go somewhere. And Matt really prefers if it doesn’t go home.


April 21, 2009

Ugh, I know. Terrible.

Let’s catch up. Since I last wrote, I’ve made macaroni and cheese, chickpea dal, a number of peanut butter sandwiches, some coffee, and lots of oatmeal. I’ve also eaten basically half a dozen of these cookies:



If not more. That chocolate one in the top right? Solid gold. And I usually don’t like chocolate cookies. I only got them this time because I needed to hit a dozen. If you look carefully behind the sugar cookies, you can see the butter stains they left on the box. That’s how you know they’re really good.

I don’t think I mentioned this, but we watched the original Terminator on Friday, and I really liked it. I haven’t seen any of the Terminator movies, except for bits and pieces of T2, but we’re on a strict plan to get through the first three before we go see the fourth one at the movies. If you haven’t seen the previews for it, it’s called Terminator: Christian Bale. Or something like that.

Anyway, since we watched it, I’ve caught myself a few times wondering what I’d want to be doing if the Terminator came to, well, terminate me. Like if he went through the phone book looking for See Food and I was the first on the list.

I think I’d want to be eating.

Maybe one of the meals I’ve made since Saturday.

mmmmmac and cheese

mmmmmac and cheese

This is from Clean Eating and it’s supposed to be “very low fat.” It probably wasn’t, because I ignored all instructions related to the purchase and use of reduced fat cheeses. Because, really. Come on. Still, it’s cleaned up because I used whole wheat pasta and whole wheat flour for the roux. Which maybe wasn’t really a roux at all because there wasn’t much fat to speak of until I added the cheese. Anyway, the recipe called for something really fancy pants like “stone ground brown rice flour,” which I’m not buying for 1/4 cup worth when I already have a variety of whole grain flours on hand. I don’t think it hurt the dish at all. I mean, with three cheeses (swiss, sharp cheddar, parm), pasta, and breadcrumbs, I’m not sure you can go wrong.

Last night after kickboxing, I made chickpea dal.

chickpea dal with brown basmati rice

chickpea dal with brown basmati rice

I made a few changes from the recipe, namely using crushed tomatoes instead of fresh, not busting out the food processor because I just used it to make that chipotle paste and I did not want to have to hear Matt complain about cleaning it again, and some curry paste instead of curry powder.

This was crazy good. It got me a (completely unsolicited) “This is awesome!” from Matt. So, I think this is what I’d want to be eating if I was about to meet the T-man. Especially if I was going to have to fight him and run and things, because protein is important in those types of situations. In my experience.

I also want to get a dog now. Excellent Terminator spotters.

I’m too tired to think of a title

March 4, 2009

This may be the best dinner I’ve ever made in under ten minutes.

spaghetti with sun-dried tomatoes and chickpeas

spaghetti with sun-dried tomatoes and chickpeas

Here’s the recipe:

  1. Bring 3 cups of broth and 3 cups of water to boil in a large pot with some salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper
  2. While it’s heating, roughly chop a dozen or so dried tomatoes
  3. Add the tomatoes to the boiling water/broth
  4. After another minute or so, add 12ish ounces of spaghetti (most of a box)
  5. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes
  6. Add 2 cups (or a can, rinsed and drained) of cooked chickpeas
  7. Stir and reduce heat
  8. After everything is heated through, serve
  9. With cheese

It tasted good but did nothing to help with my mid-week fatigue. I’ll be back with equally exciting fare tomorrow. Or sometime. Maybe not tomorrow. It’s supposed to be in the 70s here and I’m sure I’ll want to be out in it. Or sleep through it. Whichever.