Category Archives: frugal

Sunday Gathering Frittata

frittata extreme closeup

frittata extreme closeup

Artichoke and Broccoli Frittata*

I made this dish for a Sunday afternoon gathering – and people seemed to like it! Oh, and someone made mention of my blog there so I thought it might be nice to update it in case anyone takes a look….kinda like housecleaning and setting out fresh flowers before company arrives!

Ingredients: (warning: these measurements are very, very approximate – I am guesstimating them after the fact)

  1. 5 or 6 jumbo eggs;
  2. 1 whoppingly large yellow onion;
  3. 3 cloves of garlic; (I used 3, and I think it was not enough…might want to beef it up to like 5 or 6 cloves!)
  4. 1 cup of marinated artichoke hearts, and a few tablespoons of the marinade;
  5. 1 enormous Russet potato (weighs around 1 pound);
  6. 2 cups of broccoli;
  7. 1 cup of Vintage White Tillamook cheddar (any cheese will do, this just happens to be a favorite of mine and I believe it is good value for the expense);
  8. cooking oil;
  9. roasted almonds (optional – but adds a nice crunch and sweetness); and
  10. saltiness – I put a few dashes of soy sauce and some sea salt (likely about 1/4 teaspoon).

Instructions:

1) Prep

  • Garlic and Onions: Remove the skins (I used a big heavy rock on the garlic) and chop broadly, discarding the hard ends. Then sweat the onion and garlic. Of course, when I say “discard” I mean, toss into a compost bin if you’ve got one.**
  • Broccoli: While you are letting the onions sweat, it’s a good time to tackle washing and slicing the broccoli florets into halves or quarters even. I chopped off the longer stems because they just add extra bulk.
  • Artichokes: Slice the marinated artichokes. I bought mine in halves and quarters so I ended up slicing each piece no more than twice at the most.
  • Potato: Wash the potato, and remove any sprouts. You might know, but I will gently remind – the sprouting “eyes” are poisonous! Slip it into a bowl with 1/2 cup of water. Microwave for 6 or 7 minutes.
  • Slice the cheese into 1/2″ cubes (or smaller).
  • If the almonds are salted, rinse them in a little water. Drain, then crush with the big rock.

2) Assembly

  • Beat the 5 eggs in their own mixing bowl.
  • While the potato is still piping hot, peel off the skin and chop it broadly. Toss it into a bowl with the reserved artichoke marinade.
  • Set aside enough cheese and crushed almonds to set on top. Toss everything else into the bowl with the hot potato mix.
  • Pour the eggs into the potato mixture. The mixture should now be totally coated with egg and definitely shiny. If it looks too dry, crack and beat another egg and toss that in too.

3) Cooking

  • Heat up a large skillet (mine is 10″ in diameter) to medium-low. Once the pan has heated up, pour in a little olive oil and smear with a bit of paper towel, coating the entirety of the inside.
  • Pour in the mixture.
  • Cover with a lid, and turn the heat down to low – err on the side of lower rather than higher heat. Let this cook for a good 30 minutes. Set the lid at an angle to let water escape.
  • Get the oven to 250 Fahrenheit.
  • Remove lid.
  • Broil the frittata for 15~20 minutes, until the mixture is fully cooked. Turn off the oven. Garnish the frittata with the reserved cheese and crushed almonds, and allow the cheese to melt for a few minutes in the residual heat.
  • Sit back, and await accolades :-)!

I served directly from the skillet, but I suppose you could plate it up in wedges. For this event, people served themselves. If you are serving directly after cooking, the cast-iron skillet retains heat for a good while.

***********************

Cost Breakdown

The costs of the almonds and garlic are missing from the below, just FYI.

Ingredient price # type unit price: units used costs
Jumbo Eggland eggs $2.99 12 egg 0.25 6 $1.50
Russet Potato $0.89 1 oz 0.89 1 $0.89
Yellow Onion $1.49 1 oz 1.49 1 $1.49
Cheddar Cheese $8.99 32 oz 0.28 8 $2.25
Marinated Artichokes $9.99 32.5 oz 0.31 8 $2.46
Broccoli $4.00 48 oz 0.08 16 $1.33
Recipe costs: $9.91
servings (appetizer sized) 15
cost per serving: $0.66

***********************

Shopping Notes

The broccoli, Tillamook cheese, and marinated artichokes were from Costco. Be warned that the jar for the artichokes is extremely difficult to open! Also, the jar says 65 oz, but I think that includes all the liquids so I’m guessing that the usable portion is about half that. The eggs were from Safeway.

* Was this truly a frittata? I didn’t actually fry it. One can argue that this is a riff on a tortilla de patates, due the inclusion of the potato and onion.
** My county waste management service gives everyone an organic waste bin (as large as a garbage can!) and it really really cuts down on trash.

frittata on the counter

frittata on the counter

Photo credits: I’m using these photos by kind permission of the hostess’s husband.

P.S. Was googling about one of my great loves, canned fish, and landed on these awesome Japanese Sardine Rice recipes from Miss Baby Sunshine and Tomo - and I knew I had to give the linky love!

Chicken for 77 Cents per Pound…nostalgia and inspiration!

chicken and kimchee lettuce cup

Chicken at Safeway this week is 77 cents per pound – seems like Safeway changes the chicken price to this level from time to time. I remembered that long, long, LONG ago, I bought a whole chicken and froze it. I figured that I should use it…nearly a year later?

chicken price sticker

So I defrosted it overnight, and then brined it. Didn’t follow a recipe for the brine – just threw everything (for just a few hours, with salt, sugar, and apple cider) into a large stockpot, stuck it in the fridge for about 4 hours. I figured the apple cider vinegar would help liven up the taste if the chicken had fallen victim to freezer burn.

Someone had given me many bags of veggies, including a wealth of root veggies: fingerling and purple potatoes, as well as carrots. I decided that they would form a bed for a roast chicken. While the chicken marinated, I soaked the root veggies which were a tad dried out.

potatoes

carrots

bed of root veggies

After quickly rubbing it with some chilic powder I got for $1.00 at the dollar store, I put the 4 lb chicken on a bed of root veggies into the 450 degree oven. About 75 minutes later, it was all quite roasted. The feedback on the chicken? No one knew it was previously frozen!!! I could have roasted a (previously frozen) woolly mammoth if I brined it first!!! Brining is truly magical.

roasted chicken on a bed of root veggies

Roasted chicken was part of one day’s meal (yesterday’s). And what about the second day of roasted chicken? Why not make lettuce cups? That’s right, slather that chicken with kim chee and roll it up in some lettuce. And call it a day. So so easy.

chicken and kim chee lettuce cups

I can see doing something similar with cold, drained, firm tofu. Hm…maybe I’ll have to try that.

Thanks for still reading my blog, despite my inattention! Here’s a totally gratuitous photo of some California goodness.

sunset

Extremely Easy Salmon Salad with Sweet Potatoes

I’m kinda like a cat. I love fish. When I was a vegetarian for a few years, I resisted burgers, hot dogs, steaks and even pork chops without any trouble.  But fish? I remember pining away for albacore sashimi, when everyone else in my family enjoyed platters of it, on gorgeous beds of freshly-picked chiso.

I’m not a vegetarian now, so, I don’t have to resist eating fish. Sigh of relief! Recently, one of my friends gave me a can of wild Alaskan salmon. And I have been roasting sweet potatoes in the toaster oven like there is no tomorrow. Naturally, these must come together in a salad.

Salmon Salad  with Sweet Potatoes

  • 1/4  cup of canned salmon; (1/4 of $2.69* = = $.67);
  • 1/2 of a roasted** sweet potato, sliced broadly (half of a 2/3 lb potato x $1.99/lb = = $.66);
  • dab of mayo;
  • dab of grainy mustard;
  • greens/herbs to garnish.

Probably no-salt canned chickpeas would be a great addition to this salad. For visual interest, I added a stem of yu choy, chiffonade-d, fresh from the farmer’s market. By the way, Trader Joe’s canned salmon is great. Bay Beauty (a.k.a., Ocean Beauty) brand, which I used in this recipe, is decent quality.*** FYI, I googled around and found that warm potato/salmon salad is pretty common. So, feel free to change out the sweet potatoes for plain ones. I happen to love it cold, straight out of the fridge.

P.S. It’s a really lovely mix of sweet and savory. Kinda reminds me of Japanese food!

Also – I would love to try making a bean pie, but I want a recipe that someone can recommend personally. If you have one, please share!

*I think that is the cost of the Trader Joe’s wild Alaskan salmon. There are definitely cheaper brands.

**I usually roast a few sweet potatoes at 450 F for 1 hour in the toaster oven.

*** These opinions are not the result of fees/gifts.

Kotonk Chow Fan // Spam Fried Rice

Beware of Hawaiians. They will laugh at your “mainlander” accent. They thought I talked funny because I am a kotonk. I speak native Californian! Meanwhile, they spoke pidgin. Who’s right? Ah, when in Rome…do as the Romans do. And in Hawaii, that means, fall in love with Spam. From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

Hawaii residents consume nearly 7 million cans of Spam a year, an average of about six cans for every man, woman and child.

Not a fan of spam musubi (mandatory for Hawaiian residency). But, I do love it in my fried rice, as do many Hawaiians. Putting spam in your fried rice is a modern nod to the more traditional char siu. Plus – spam costs a lot less!

Kotonk Fried Rice

  • 3 cups of cooked, refrigerated Japanese rice;
  • 1/4 of a full container of Spam (thanks mapgirl!) ham / other savory meat-like thing;
  • 4 green onions, sliced moderately thin;
  • 2 eggs, beaten like they owe you money;
  • salt and pepper – be generous!

Use your favorite skillet – for this, I used a cast iron pan. I like to start off by frying the Spam. Then, add the rice – use your spatula vigorously! Add vegetable oil whenever necessary. Ideally, you would scramble the eggs separately, but, let’s not get too crazy here. Add the green onions when the rice is hot and the eggs are scrambled. These will wilt in a matter of seconds. You are done! Season with plenty of salt and pepper!

(My mis en place…well…minus the rice, salt, pepper and vegetable oil for frying…)

(action shot of beating the eggs)

(plated, just for you!)

P.S. I’m going to have to do the price calculations later. But, I think this is quite inexpensive to prepare! I think 1/4 of a container of Spam is going to work out to less than $1.00.

My Mom’s Kohi Kanten – Coffee Pudding (Vegan – and about $.10 per serving!)

Kanten…so many reasons I love it:

  1. it’s a naturally ZERO calorie food. That’s right. I said, ZERO!
  2. it’s filling and yet not wiggly-jiggly (unlike gelatin);
  3. even the laziest prep yields yummilicious results; and
  4. I grew up eating it!

Below is a picture of agar agar in stick form.

At any Asian market you can find premixed packets of almond kanten for less than 2 or 3 dollars – really tasty with even the least interesting fruit cocktail. Growing up, we had that all the time. Perfect summertime dessert. Nice and cool! But avoid buying agar agar at Whole Foods. I have seen the Eden versions for almost 6 dollars!!! You should be able to buy the stick agar agar for $2.00 or less per 10 grams (.35 oz). the urban vegan recommends buying the stick format and sticking the sticks into the food processor to make flakes.* I’m used to the stick forms, but, I think this is a great tip for people accustomed to the flake format. Also, people can get quite glamorous with agar agar (also known as kanten in Japanese). I am stockpiling ideas for what do with it. And coffee kanten is a classic (kohi = coffee in Japanese). So here it is!

Mom’s Kohi Kanten

  • 2 cups of boiling coffee – sweeten to taste (pennies);
  • 5 grams of powdered agar agar (about 1/2 of a stick of agar agar – about $.50 worth); and
  • coconut milk – this is optional (about 10 teaspoons – roughly 1/4th of a 13 oz can – $1.59 = $.40 cents worth).

Dissolve the agar agar in the boiling hot coffee in a saucepot. Mix mix mix. Add your sweetener. Mix. Pour the piping hot mixture into a pie plate. Alright, just cover and chill it for about 2 hours. Done. It’s traditional to cut it into squares (as you see above). Splash on a teaspoon of coconut milk per serving. If you have them around, put a roasted coffee bean on top. Makes eight~ ten servings, depending on the size (less than $.10 per serving – half of that if you do not use the coconut milk of course). Be sure to have this with some lovely tea!

(you can also cool it into cute little cups for individual servings)

* the urban vegan’s post is actually VERY helpful for gaining a good understanding of agar agar. Read it and let the erudition flow!

P.S. I don’t really follow diet news, so, maybe someone can tell me if there are any standards for what is “low-carb”? My very casual research shows me that the FDA hasn’t made a decision yet, but, I’m guessing that might not be the latest info.

Update: VegCookingBlog, thanks for linking to this post! My stats are blowing up :-) !!!! I’ve also written a post on making Mango Kanten.

————————-

Housekeeping notes:

(1) I’ve added a “Tips” page to the blog to park handy things I learn about (and/or blog about). For example, last week, limes went on sale – 10 for a dollar. So…I’m not going to use ten in a given week…and they don’t last forever…but they can last longer if you slice them and freeze them. Like so:

Might be better to peel skin off – haven’t tried it that way yet. Works grrrrreat in iced tea. (This is a tip contributed by my mom.)

(2) Not sure why, but Feedburner sent off an old post (from April ’07) on May 10. It wasn’t my doing! I’ll try to find out why that happened.

Luxurious, Lazy and Thrifty – Poached Eggs

If you have a little vinegar, and a small pot, you can have the most glorious poached eggs. Do you need silky golden yolk slipping away from a firm white? Don’t get me started!

Poaching away. Happily.

Adorned with a stripe of salt and black pepper.

Digging in!!!

Lately, I have been thinking about lowering my fat intake by just a little bit. Having fried eggs all the time is no path to glory. So I thought I might try poaching eggs instead. Many many ugly eggs later, victims of my experiments, I realized I needed perhaps to actually learn how people do it. I got a serious bee in my bonnet after fixating on …Lisa’s… eat, drink and be a fat bastard photostream on Flickr, where she displays her first proper set of poached eggs. I was totally inspired! After a few more tries, I feel like I have it down to a science!*

Poached Eggs

  • 2 eggs; (about $.16)
  • water in a pot, enough to cover the eggs by 1/2″ or so – about 2 cups;
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar (the very cheapest distilled or apple cider is fine – mere pennies, if at all).

Bring the water to a boil. Shut off the heat. Wait until the bubbles stop. Add the vinegar. Crack each egg carefully and slip them in. Wait about 5 minutes, if you like them a teensy bit runny (as I do). Fish them out of the pot with a flat spatula. If you have some roasted garlic or garlic butter lying about, drop a teaspoon or two on the eggs. I like my poached eggs with some pita bread (about $.10 per pita) – costs less if you use regular bread (shown above with a toasted white roll). Lot of goodness for less than fifty cents. Enjoy!!!

*With practice, it’s totally multi-tasking friendly. For example, the other day, I started the water, made a short phone call, checked email, plopped in the eggs. I was done with the eggs at the end of the call!

Kitchen Feng Shui

So…I’m not a resident of NeatFreakStan…I’m sure my friends would be shocked if I even got a tourist visa. But even I know that without some kitchen feng shui, your cooking is dead (or at least, miserable!). A few weeks ago, I helped someone reorganize her kitchen. This kitchen was a rather hardworking one – meal/beverage preparation up to four or five times a day! It’s amazing how many things were so out of reach or otherwise difficult to use.

I told her that the space was limited, and she should treat her kitchen as if it was downtown Tokyo or New York – not a square inch to be wasted! That means…stuff that she uses all the time, she could assign to premium real estate, such as the cabinets nearest the stove or even the countertops themselves .

In deciding where to put things, I weighed a few factors:

  • frequency of use;
  • reachability; (yeah, might not be a real word but this is the INTERNET!)
  • bulkiness, weight or other barriers to use; and
  • visibility.

So…these are the things I did to help…

Prioritized (what I wanted)

I went through a “diagnosis” stage to figure out the major uses and the really big obstacles – just figuring out how she (and everyone else) actually used the kitchen.

Identify the Nonnegotiable (what was not going to happen)

Despite my non-expert (yet fabulous!) opinion, I knew that there would be things that I could not change or affect. It was extremely important to learn what she was willing or able to change: (1) she did not want to spend any money (and we did not); (2) some storage she designated as “off-limits” or display-only; and (3) there were many things she was not ready to throw away (argh!).

Execute (what actually happened!). Lots of decluttering. Out with the unused plastic food storage missing lids, glass jars, containers, or any other things that never get used. Moving things around. As Nike says, Just Do It!

***warning: ranting starts now***

It’s actually pretty frustrating to see clear potential (in this case, in a kitchen) totally stagnated – and rendered into something that hinders people. I saw stagnation, stagnation, stagnation – everywhere! But there were a few standout culprits:

  • Culprit #1 was a large rolling cabinet that never got rolled anywhere. Its depth, one foot, ensured that anytime she reached for plates in the overhead cupboards she was extending her arm fully and possibly having to get tippy-toed to reach certain ones. I moved the rolling cabinet so that it was out of the way.
  • The kitchen had an OK amount of counter space. However, jam jars, peanut butter jars, condiments, and totally miscellaneous snacks (Culprit #2) occupied major aspects of usable space (instead of being relegated to…STORAGE!).
  • The pantry, and other food storage was definitely Culprit #3 – no one could find anything! Marinated artichoke hearts, etc., would simply disappear one week after purchase…leading to repeat purchases of the same items! I found FIVE, five, FIIIIIIVE 28-oz cans of enchilada sauce (or like nine POUNDS of it!!!)…where no one has made any enchiladas…for the last year!

*** end of ranting…almost time for a pretty video…***

As a result of my help, not only does she report that her kitchen is easier to use, she is making changes – on her own initiative! This makes me SO happy, and makes me feel like I helped her get some positive momentum (and gives me greater optimism about my own decluttering!). Sometimes it really does help to have someone else look at your stuff, so that you don’t have to do things the same way, over and over again. You can do it better! That’s pretty much the backdrop of the plot in Kitchen Stories – the Swedes actually studied ergonomics of the kitchen in the 1950′s!

P.S. The music in the film is nice!

P.P.S. Been wanting to write about this book somewhere on the blog – I loved reading Justin Spring’s The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook: Everything You Need to Know About Setting Up and Cooking in the Most Ridiculously Small Kitchen in the World–Your Own. Got it from the library a few months ago because it looked cute. Who knew it was actually useful? He teaches readers how to organize a small kitchen in personable, enjoyable prose. Hello – he even gets into issues like lighting your kitchen! He presumes the absolute worst space situations – and still helps you pull off beautiful dinners. Once you start reading the recipes, it becomes very clear very quickly that he just might know what he’s talking about…the guy grew up on a 36-ft boat. I still need to try his toaster oven Shirred Eggs. Basically, butter a ramekin, put the egg in it, sprinkle some herbs / cheese on it, pop it in the toaster oven and take your morning shower. BRILLIANT!!!