Is this thing on?

February 19, 2010

Uhhhhh. Okay, I have a prepared statement about my absence that includes overwrought phrasing like “settling into the rhythms of my new life” and has lots of excuses about my health and my fatigue and why I basically stopped cooking. But it boils down to: “we moved and I am lazy.”

I’ve been cooking off and on, really simple things fit for our wee new kitchen.

like this sweet and sour red chard with soba

It was my first attempt at sweet and sour sauce, and it was way more sweet than sour, but it tasted great and held me over for about 2.5 seconds before I cracked into a family sized bag of Kettle Chips.

and this bowl of mush

Which is actually curried red lentils with spinach. The timing of this particular meal is important, as I made it soon after passing out over the credit card bill. So this $1.50 dish was actually priceless – a triumph of willpower when it would have been so easy to call out for another eggplant sub.

And with that, I have shared all of the meals I’ve cooked since early January. The shame! I fully expect someone to come any day now to take my apron, my food processor, my brand new bright green spatula, and my home cook’s badge.

Until next month…


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.

Back on the wagon

June 10, 2009

Last night, I was so tired and so hungry when I got home that I caved. We went to La Fiesta and I got my greasy Mexican food and a mix and match six pack and I came home and went to sleep. I got the vegetarian #3 which was a burrito, some rice, and a stuffed poblano pepper, which is my new #1 cheese vehicle. I mean, it was amazing. So there was the pepper, which was just kind of an afterthought, really, filled with cheese, rice, maybe some spinach, and something the menu referred to as “butter egg.” Which is either a buttered egg, or butter formed in the shape of an egg. Either way, frighteningly delicious. With emphasis on the frightening.

Tonight, I was equally tired, but I forced myself to go to power yoga to get a little energy and sweat out some of that stuffed pepper. Seriously, nothing makes you feel like a pansy quite so much as having every single muscle in your body shake during Warrior One. I guess I’m not the finely tuned machine I think I am.

What better way to refuel after such an intense experience than with… beans.

I know! I eat beans every day. But at least it wasn’t a salad.

pasta with lentils over lemon-garlic spinach

pasta with lentils over lemon-garlic spinach

This obviously isn’t my first pasta with legumes dish, and I’ve even made pasta with lentils before, but I liked this iteration a lot better than the last time I tried it. It was super garlicky, which I love, and the acidity of the tomatoes and a little red wine vinegar balanced out the earthiness of the lentils. I’ll try to add in the recipe later, WHEN CARLA STOPS CRYING on this rerun of last season’s Top Chef finale. She’s making me cry. AGAIN. Unless that’s still sweat from the yoga.

Let’s get to the important stuff.

the breakdown

1/2 bag spinach = $.99
8 oz random pasta = $1.00 (estimate)
1 cup green lentils = $.31
1 can stewed tomatoes = $.63
1/4 cup diced onion = $.10
a few shavings of Parmesan = $.25
and some pantry staples (garlic, vinegar, oregano, olive oil

grand total = $3.28

Lentils are so cheap. And, luckily, I’ve got a freezer full of them, filed between bags of chickpeas, white beans, black beans. So, this serves 4, for a per-serving price of $.82. That helps to make up for last night’s relative extravagance.

And did I mention the lentils only cost 31 cents?

Suffering succotash

April 19, 2009

This week was a little too heavy on the pain and fatigue for my taste, but I’m pretty proud of myself for actually managing to cook some easy meals that were healthy, too. It’s easy for me to lose focus when I’m fatigued, to go out to eat (usually not something balanced or even healthy) or to just eat peanut butter and ice cream for dinner because it’s so easy (and, let’s face it, delicious). But I try to remind myself that eating real meals with actual vegetables and proteins and  grains is almost guaranteed to make me feel better, even if it takes effort.

orzo succotash

orzo succotash salad

The “succotash” is kind of controversial because I used black beans instead of limas, but, what can I say? I like to think outside the box. And we didn’t have limas. And I wanted it to be kind of Mexican themed. I made this Wednesday night, which was probably the peak of my fatigue, when I came home and sat down and didn’t think I’d be able to get up again, ever. There may have been some tears of frustration. But I’m strong-willed, so I pushed myself up and made this dinner in about 7 minutes. All I did was cook 1/2 cup of orzo and then add it to a can of black beans, a can of corn (both drained and rinsed), and a half a pint of grape tomatoes, which I quartered. I wanted to make a nice lime dressing for it, but the bottled lime juice I had is past its date. So I tried to just spice it up with some cumin and cayenne, but it was still bland  and emotionally unfulfilling. I had to follow it up with a bowl of cereal.

stir fry salad

stir fry salad

This one was inspired by a wakame rice salad recipe from Clean Eating. But that one takes two hours, and requires wakame. This one took about 20 minutes and required whatever I had on hand. Basically just brown rice mixed with stir fried tofu and veggies (peppers, onions, carrots, mushrooms) and dressed with a tasty soy sauce/rice vinegar/oil/ginger combo, the only part of the recipe I actually followed.

Last night we got ice cream at the campus dairy bar at 5:30 and when I was finally hungry again, all I wanted were sweet potatoes, so dinner ended up being peppermint ice cream, roasted sweet potatoes, and some random roasted tomatoes. Very fancy.

Tonight, I made something else from the Tropical Vegan Kitchen.

spicy bolivian-style lentils over quinoa

spicy bolivian-style lentils over quinoa

It was supposed to be over rice, but, as you know, we just had rice. And I like to shake things up.

This meal took a little longer, but I had some energy from the gym so I went for it. Totally worth it. What makes the lentils “Bolivian-style”? Chipotle puree! This was so easy. All you do is take a 7 oz can of chipotles in adobo and puree them in the food processor until smooth. I only used a teaspoon of puree here, but it was enough to add a ton of awesome flavor and smokiness to the whole dish. And I have a ziploc bag full of it in the refrigerator, so I need to brainstorm other uses. Any ideas?

We hit up the Tulip Festival in Wamego today, so I think I’m going to go enjoy some of the cookies and wine we brought back. Dessert of champions.

Easter soup

April 12, 2009

Um. So. Yeah. Let’s just call last week my spring break from blogging. Because, honestly, I can’t remember if I cooked anything. There was the whole Carolina winning the national championship thing, and that called for pizza, and then I had a really stressful week, which triggered my fatigue, which called for going out to eat a few times, and then we had to do laundry, and we went to see Adventureland, and then yesterday was Saturday and so I obviously had to lie around and read and eat pizza.

Enough excuses. The good news is that I actually cooked tonight, and I even made up the recipe.

curried vegetable and lentil soup

curried vegetable and lentil soup

I came up with this in a state of semi-consciousness as I was waking up from a nap. I had a ton of vegetables to use up, and some curry paste in the cupboard, so I came up with this.


  • Glug of olive or other vegetable oi
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 T mild curry paste
  • 2 1/2 cups water, separated
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 head worth of cauliflower florets (thumbnail-sized)
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 4 oz frozen cut spinach


  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Toss in onion and carrot. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add 1 1/2 T mild curry paste (I used Patak’s) and 2 cups of water, broth, and can of tomatoes. Heat through, about 2 minutes
  4. Rinse lentils and add to the pot. Crank up the heat to medium-high until the whole thing comes to a low boil. Cover and reduce heat to a hard simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Uncover and add 1/2 cup water, green beans, and spinach. Let the pot get back to a simmer and then stir in cauliflower. Cover and cook over medium-low for about 10 minutes.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more curry paste if needed.

I think it probably made 6 or 7 small bowls worth of soup. I had 2. They were delicious.

I also found this picture in the camera, proving that I did cook at one point last week.

barley salad with roasted cauliflower and asparagus

barley salad with roasted cauliflower and asparagus

I threw this together after the gym on Friday night. I just roasted the veggies at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, shaking once. While the veggies were roasting, I cooked some quick barley, and then when everything was done, I made a red wine vinaigrette, and then tossed everything together. I liked it, but I guess it was a little bland for Matt’s taste. I think what he said was, “Maybe there’s so much flavor, that my brain is registering it as no flavor.” Shaky logic, there.

A detox is in order

March 20, 2009

Y’all. Don’t fret. I am back in the land of the blogging.

Seattle was awesome. I mean, rain and snow and hills and whatever, that place can still rock your face off. The conference was really good, we got to stay with an old friend, and I caught up with lots of my far-flung librarian posse. Good times were had by all. Especially by me, when Matt brought back a dozen cupcakes from Cupcake Royale after an outing in Ballard (Dayna, it was awesome to get your comment since we had totally eaten those and can confirm the rumors you’ve heard about how good they are). Since we were only there until Monday morning, there was a lot of creative cupcake consumption on my part, including cupcake oatmeal. It just felt right.

We also ate all kinds of other amazing non-cupcake food, like sushi from the place we loved last time we visited the city (with an entire television devoted to sumo wrestling), sandwiches from Pike Place Market, fancy crepes, and about four tons of fish. Each. Oh, and I tried Ethiopian for the first time. I’ve always avoided it because I thought it was heavy on the meat, but I split a vegetarian combo with a bunch of other people, and it was pretty much just lentils and vegetables. Oh, and bread. I could eat that every day. In fact, I basically do.

We got back home at 1 on Tuesday morning, and the rest of the week has been a blur. Oh, except that there were more cupcakes. My boss made chocolate stout cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day and I may have brought half a dozen of them home. So worth it.

Anyway, I walked a lot in Seattle, but I haven’t formally worked out in almost two weeks, and, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’ve been eating a lot of cupcakes. So, I’ve been feeling kind of run down and I decided to remedy it by cleaning up my eating a little.

Last night, I did this by making an on-the-fly lentil and couscous dish.

looks pretty clean, right?

looks pretty clean, right?

This is the entire dish, not just my portion. If I had eaten this much, I wouldn’t be typing right now. I’d be in the hospital, in the exploded persons unit. There’s not really a recipe, but it goes like this. Cook some green lentils, make some whole wheat couscous, and throw in some chopped red pepper, white wine vinegar, olive oil, and black pepper. When I dished it up, I also added a generous serving of feta. The cleanest of cheeses.

Tonight, I made this Cajun Red Beans and Rice recipe, which I got from one of the four cooking magazines I bought to read on the plane. I made a few changes, most notably skipping the sausage. I made up for it a little extra mirepoix. And by eating more. I also realized while cooking that, not only do I not have any cajun spice mix, I actually have no idea what that means. So I just threw in a bunch of things that I know are spicy (crushed red pepper, a few generous shakes of chili powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper) and it seemed to work out okay.

more like red beans and spice

more like red beans and spice

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to March Madness.

Titles are overrated

February 9, 2009

I accidentally took the weekend off from blogging. I blame my new doctor, who I met on Friday and who was sending electric currents through my limbs and sticking me with needles within mere moments of meeting me. Buy me a present first, you know what I mean?

Anyway, in the interim I made some food.

pasta with lentils

pasta with lentils

Recipe is here. I think I made some modifications, but I can’t remember for sure. I’m going to think about that while I take an ice cream break.

Nope, still nothing. It was good, though. And I did an experiment and froze some of the lentil ragout for a later date. We’ll see if I remember that in six weeks. That’s the real experiment.

Last night, I went to an inconveniently timed yoga class that ran until 8pm. I wasn’t hungry beforehand, so I didn’t start cooking until I came home (Matt did the prep while I was gone, though). We ended up eating around 9:15. Because of these special circumstances, I forced myself to stay awake until 10:15 to digest. Way past my bedtime.

We had Thai Coconut Corn Stew from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan.

mmmmmm. creamy.

mmmmmm. creamy.

It wasn’t the most visually appealing thing I’ve ever made, but it was really good. I think coconut milk has that effect on foods. We made several changes, including not using lemongrass because I don’t keep that kind of thing on hand, and not garnishing with the lime I bought not six days before, but which had already gone to the dark side. I don’t think I changed it up enough to feel comfortable posting it, but I do highly recommend this book, in case you haven’t noticed yet.

Tonight I took inspiration from a PDQ recipe and made something I’m actually shocked I haven’t done yet. I had my sister in mind as I was making this, so I hope she gives it a shot.

red beans and rice casserole

red beans and rice casserole

The red really refers to the whole deal, not just the beans. It’s pretty complicated and very gourmet, but I’ll try to remember to translate all of the fancy French words.

You need:

  • 2/3 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 can of dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of no salt added diced tomatoes, drained slightly but still with most of their juices
  • chili powder to taste
  • cumin to taste
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar, shredded

And then you:

  1. Cook the rice according to package directions, quitting just a few minutes short of full cooking time.
  2. Stir beans, tomatoes, and spices into rice, cook for 1-2 more minutes.
  3. Transfer to a casserole dish. It should be pretty liquidy. It should seem like you’re doing it wrong.
  4. Cover tightly with foil and cook at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove foil. Cover evenly with cheese. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.