Tag Archives: food

Gram’s Cranberry Salad Sauce

Photo of a totally gratuitous California sunset, because well, it’s pretty.
OK, super lucky readers, my auntie, the daughter of my third grandma, is kindly allowing me to share her mother’s salad sauce that normally accompanies her amazing cranberry salad (I think hers does not have cinnamon). So here it is!
GRAM’S CRANBERRY SALAD SAUCE
 
COMBINE in medium bowl:
1 cup canned (evaporated) milk
2 TB sugar
1 TB yellow mustard
 
ADD, very slowly, via tiny drizzles from bottle, 
cider vinegar to bowl of milk, sugar and mustard,
to thicken the mixture.  
 
OPTIONAL: Add small dollop of sour cream or
plain yogurt to mixture.  
 
SERVE OVER CRANBERRY SALAD.  
 
 
–Gram (Jacqueline Barnard) c. 1950’s
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Roasted Cauliflower – Too Delicious to Ignore

Roasting cauliflower is akin to transforming an unappreciated commoner like Eliza Dolittle into an empress. Perhaps I should mention that I never had anything against cauliflower – I just never sought it out before now.

I happened to somehow end up with three or four cauliflower at once – so…what to do? Yes, why not try roasting? Brings out the sweetness of the vegetable and gives it a great texture. Yummy, yummy. I’ve decided it will be a non-guilty pleasure, what with the all vitamin C and other nutritional goodness it represents as a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables.

cauliflower slathered in olive oil and salt

on the grill/cookie sheet

roasted cauliflower

Ingredients/Tools:

  1. 2 cauliflowers;
  2. approximately 1/4 cup of oil;
  3. salt;
  4. mixing bowl/zippered plastic bag; and
  5. toaster oven.

Directions:

  1. Set your toaster oven to broil. While that’s getting hot, get into the prep.
  2. Break off the cauliflower florets and slice the largest into quarters, cross-wise.
  3. Pour some oil into the zippered bag, then add 2 teaspoons of salt.
  4. Add the florets and shake the bag! Cover all the florets with this oil mixture.
  5. Pop the cauliflower pieces into the toaster oven. (I did this in 2 batches, 30 minutes apiece).

It’s so easy. What about sauces? I was thinking about glazing the cauliflower with some miso butter – haven’t gotten around to doing that, mostly eating it just roasted. Squeezed some home-grown lemons (gift from a friend) onto the roasted cauliflowers with some dashes of soy sauce – worked great!

Miso Butter Asparagus Tart Experiment (why does David Chang have to be an evil genius?)

Miso. Butter. Uh…those are the ingredients for…miso butter. This is why David Chang is an evil genius. Way back when he was just a non-famous kid*, learning all about ramen in Japan, he happened upon the Sapporo stylings of miso ramen: finished off with a “knob” of butter and some corn. David notices the flavor combo is  crazy good.  He and his friends abbreviate the flavor insanity to miso + butter. Well,  I have both butter and miso in the fridge, so why not? Doesn’t cost me anything.

What does miso butter taste like? It tastes so good it’s just WRONG!!! The umami in the butter melds with that of the miso to create this uber-umami whirlwind of deliciousness.

He has a fancy recipe for poached eggs with miso butter on asparagus, in his Momofuku book – I decided to try something more basic, elemental: why not just go for the miso butter as the major taste?

Miso Butter Asparagus Tart

Ingredients: (these are very very approximate measurements, due to this being an experiment)

  • 1 yellow onion;
  • two or three handfuls of asparagus pieces**;
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry;
  • 1 tablespoon of dark miso; and
  • 2 tablespoons of butter.

Slice a whole yellow onion and saute until translucent. Allow to cool completely.  Wash and slice the asparagus spears. If they are thicker than 1/3″, you may want to halve them.

Take the puff pastry out of the freezer and allow to thaw for the required time. Cut the puff pastry into modest rectangles (like 3″x2″) – I was using Pepperidge Farms puff pastry, which yields about 12 pieces. Transfer the pieces to a cookie sheet.

Melt the butter in the microwave – try it like 15 seconds at a time – and mix in the miso. Mix. Mix. Mix. Baste the miso butter onto the puff pastry with a brush. Put a thin layer of carmelized onion onto the pastry. Then top with the asparagus pieces. Baste the asparagus with yet more miso butter.

Set your oven to 425 Fahrenheit. (I fiddled with the temperature, all the way down to 350 at one point). Bake. Remove once the puff pastry has puffed (about 15 ~ 20 minutes, depending on how heavy the asparagus and onions are).

Remove, and wait for praise and adoration!!!

Notes – I cooked this in an oven with a see-thru door to help keep a vigilant eye over the tarts so that they did not burn too much. The miso burns mercilessly fast.

Taster Feedback:

One taster (who weighs no greater than 110 lbs, I believe) ate portions intended for three adults in one sitting! One taster complained that the tart should be more attractive, perhaps with carrot or something pretty. One taster liked the flakiness of the pastry and the nice taste of the asparagus and how it was all bound together with the miso. All tasters eagerly ate MULTIPLE servings!

* His dad ran golf businesses and David played competitive golf as a kid…I guess he had to get out because he could read the writing on the wall when Tiger Woods‘ face would be on the brochures…for the tournaments he was competing in!

** The asparagus in the picture consists only of the tips because I had used the stems for another dish. I was lucky enough to find it on sale for under $2.00 per pound during a weekly special. You could probably swap in summer squash or even scallions for a more frugal take.

P.S. Here’s a link to the Kitchen Window story from yesterday that has some background info on miso (and hastened my decision to post about my miso butter experiment)!

Holiday-Friendly Recipes + Umeshu-kan (Japanese vegan jello shot)

Cream Puff

Just thought I’d round up some holiday-friendly recipes before the Thanksgiving whirlwind (recipes from this blog and tasty-looking recipes from other bloggers).

Note – The holidays are probably not the time you want to experiment with recipes you haven’t mastered, but it can be nice to try out new things!

make ahead dishes, for the day or two before

oven multi-tasking

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Umeshu-kan

Umeshu-kan mise en place

Umeshu-kan

I have read about people using umeshu (Japanese plum wine) to make kanten desserts. It went on sale the other week, so I pounced on it! It’s been many, many, many years since I’ve had umeshu. I quite forgot that it is VERY potent, like any other fruit-based liquer.

I made a very small amount of umeshu-kan, just enough to test. I’ve never had a Jello Shot, but I think it’s similar…except that it’s fancy and delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup boiling water;
  • 1/2 cup of umeshu;
  • 1″ x 2″ rectangle of agar-agar if using the sheet form (least expensive form of agar-agar).

I poured out all of the boiling water into a large mug, then returned 1/4 cup to the saucepot. I threw in the agar-agar, making sure it really melted all the way. Then I added the umeshu, let it heat up, and put it in a mold. I let it set in the fridge for about 1.5 hr. It was ready for eating. So I and my taste testers sample it. It was SO good. But I could not have very much of it because of the potency (made with distilled liquor!). Very good with a big cup of black tea.

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Container Gardening Update

My two first broccoli rapa (container-grown). They were delish!

in the container

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

The Foodie Handbook Book Reading (with Queen Pim)

My friend said we should go to a book reading, since it was by a food blogger.  I actually didn’t know who Pim Techamuanvivit was but I thought it sounded fun. So off we went!

We chose our seats and thumbed through her book for a while, trading laughs and funny quotes from her book, “The Foodie Handbook: The (Almost) Definitive Guide to Gastronomy.”  Reading the book was a good time.  Her storytelling is effortless. It seemed like the book’s mission is to deflate some of the stuffiness associated with foodie-ism.  OK, so I didn’t buy a copy but my enjoyment was genuine.* I could totally understand why Pim is a star.

About ten minutes before the reading, a bookstore employee announced that three of the bookstore’s employees kindly prepared recipes from the book: roasted vegetables with dates; alfajores; and bread soup. The small crowd lined up. All of the food was so, so delicious. I loved the soup especially.

She read a few excerpts from the book and spent a generous amount of time answering our questions. At one point, she was telling us about visiting a farmer’s market in New York with a famous French chef (I can’t remember his name)  to buy some snap peas. He apparently picked each pea pod individually and was pleased with his purchase. Until he visited another stall, with slightly better peas. Which prompted him to try to return the first set. Ah, not high maintenance at all!

Anyways, she charmed everybody. I think my friend was a little smitten with her.  He kept saying, “Oh, that was really cute! You can take me to these food things if they are cute!”

*In an attempt to save money and cut down on clutter, I try not to buy books anymore. My tendency now is to check books out from the library. If I pine away for a book for a LONG time, then I might consider buying. Sort of like dating the book instead of marrying it right away.

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I’ve put three post-like things about food/money (including most of the “show me the money, part i: finding low-cost recipes” post on their own page “show me the money” instead of publishing three posts.

fyi, I think I’m the last person to learn of Cake Wrecks, but, if not – check it out!

show me the money: part i, finding low-cost recipes

ramen with tofu and gai lan (Chinese Broccoli)

ramen with tofu and gai lan (Chinese Broccoli)

A lot of people are finding this blog by looking for low-cost recipes in search engines, and people are even linking to my site from message boards (I am so honored!) as a good resource for such recipes. So I thought I’d put together a post about low-cost recipes: some sites and my frugal recipes for Part I. Part II will be about deciding if a recipe is for you and your budget. Part III will be a collection of tips/ideas I’ve used myself or have known someone who truly benefitted from the use – not exactly food-related, but, I might as well get it off my chest.

 

Sites with Low-Cost Recipes / Food information

(I haven’t tried all of these blogs personally, but I think they will have decent, cost-sensitive recipes)

  • Hillbilly Housewife Read the $45 Emergency Menu, for feeding a family of 4~6 during a week, including instructions for the cooking and prep. Even if you don’t like the dishes themselves, you will learn something from this menu – time management, how to shop – from the sheer amount of information.
  • AskMetafilter AskMeFi has some excellent threads with dozens of suggestions for low-cost cooking. This thread was about mastering cooking genres, while staying within a tight budget. Another thread focuses on frugal meal planning for a single person. Yet another thread ponders the secrets of saving money at the grocery store. Just goes to show that two heads, or rather, thousands of heads, are better than one.
  • Frugal Cuisine The name says it all. The recipes are always brilliant, clear, and unfailingly INSPIRING. She really focuses on nutrient-dense foods, tending to avoid empty calories. I have blog-envied this blog for YEARS!
  • Consumer Reports CR has a short list of foods, and their nutritional value and cost per serving. Very helpful! It’s quite shocking to see that black beans, which are a nutritional powerhouse, are only $.07 per serving!! I would dispute the cost of the egg (I know for me they cost more than $.09 each) but it’s nice to have comparative data.
  • Could I live on a dollar a day? Hm…well, some other people have done it! Andrew Hyde, (not a foodie blogger) post on how to live comfortably on $36/month impressed me! The bloggers doing the One Dollar A Day Diet Project also impressed me!
  • I love comfy, homey recipes! Heritage Recipes has time-tested, old-fashioned recipes. Low cost is not the focus, but I notice that many of these recipes are very SIMPLE, which tends to run towards frugality. Frugal Recipes is something of a bulletin board with utterly charming recipes, with an eye towards frugality. CHOW has a series on basic recipes . these have pretty illustrations and very simple instructions. Most of them look totally delectable.
  • Cheap Eats documents the blogger’s food choices (there are are a lot of product reviews) and very, very low-cost recipes, including some $3.00 recipes with very explicit cost break downs.
  • $5 Dollar Dinners focuses on meals for 2 persons, and 2 small children for under $5.00. I like the fact that she breaks down the prices for each of the ingredients in the posts.
  • Cheap, Healthy, Good has big, big recipe lists. The one for frugal party foods looks so interesting!
  • Simply Frugal This Southeast Michigan blogger spends $15/per person each week, for 2 people. Her recipes look great! And she has great tips on how to shop for groceries more frugally – to get your cost per serving down to 45 cents. Really wonderful blog!
  • Poor Girl Eats Well The PGEW blogger creates definitely gorgeous, gourmet foods, averaging around $2.00 per serving. This blog is justifiably famous.
  • Casual Kitchen has 25 “laughably cheap” recipes. I also really like his application of the Pareto Rule, or the 80/20 rule, to cooking (as in, 20% of your effort yields 80% of your desired results). The concept of “heavy rotation” – getting your top ten favorite dishes over and over again – holds true with me.
  • Food is always an important expense, and personal finance bloggers always write about food. Frugal Upstate , The Simple Dollar, and Get Rich Slowly, The Frugal Girl, have good, appetizing recipes in the context of frugal living in general. GRS’s post compiling 3 years’ worth of food tips is excellent! My Open Wallet has a great page on frugal recipes, collected from frugal foodies/personal finance bloggers. Frugal Abundance (the blogger is the original creator of the Hillbilly Housewife!) has a great post on addressing the rising cost of meat. The costs in that post are very different from those I experience in California, but the relative prices (whole chicken v. breast filets, etc.) are still applicable and therefore helpful in determing what to buy.

Plugging my own blog

Dude, where’s the Stove? Hey, of course I have to plug my own blog! Here are some of my posts with price breakdowns, that yield meals that cost less than one dollar per serving.

Here are some of my blog posts that may/may not contain price break downs for the recipes (but are very inexpensive to prepare):

My own rough guidelines

I spend about $35 (or less) each week on groceries for myself. (Note – I live in a truly pricey part of California). That figure does not include larger-ticket items like vitamins, a 25-lb bag of rice, oil, and other bulky pantry items. (Yes, I realize a true frugalista would include that – maybe I’ll count that in the future). But that $35/week includes: eggs, tofu, poultry, fruits, vegetables, dry beans, canned foods, dry pasta, soy milk, yogurt, cheese, and impulse(!) purchases of junky snacks.

I tend not to buy red meat. I’m not actually that enamored of beef. But I LOVE pork. Pork makes everything better.I will buy it very eagerly – ONLY if it’s on sale! Mostly, I buy chicken. In my neck of the woods, I notice that the supermarkets are fighting it out on the chicken fronts – each week, at least one of them is selling chicken at less than $.80/lb. I pretty much never buy fresh fish. I love it, but, good fish is expensive. Very, very, rarely, I will buy some fresh wild salmon. The farmed stuff is bland to me, so I tend avoid it. I actually like the canned stuff, because it’s wild. I love canned fish in general, but, I don’t have to drag you into that right now.

I buy fruit very rarely, because I love sweets – but it’s something I should cut down on. I’ve started buying apples recently, due to their high fiber, and high satiety factor. Oh, and it’s apple season!

In general, I eat pretty darn well – my figure is quite well-padded.* I could probably spend less – a truly frugal friend of mine spends about $15-20/week on groceries for herself – but I consider $35 reasonably OK as a guideline – breaks down to daily average of $5.00/day. Also, I will confess that I too could furnish a “Hall of Shame” – when I am busy, or just plain lazy, I often fall into the trap of eating convenience foods that are expensive and junky! Anyways, I’m including this in here so that you can see how my perspective on “low cost” relates your own cooking/shopping guidelines.

Over the last  few years, I’m tried to become a bit more frugal.** Mostly by listening to friends and family who are truly, TRULY frugal. I don’t actually consider myself to be frugal (not YET), so, I’m really happy to see that people have used this blog to help themselves and their budgets! If you have a favorite frugal tip/recipe/etc., please feel free to share. I am always happy to learn. Thanks for reading!

* In the words of Just Hungry, I’m not an Asian gazelle. OK, but if I’m not a gazelle, uh, I’ll have to think of a nice, graceful animal that looks like me.

** The other weekend, you could spot me in the supermarket, with a CALCULATOR in hand. Oh, I felt a tad self-conscious. I told my friend I was reinforcing every stereotype about Asians from teenage 80’s movies!!! How did I get to this point?!?!

P.S. Sorry for the hiccup the other day – the feed software published an old post from last year, and I don’t have any idea why/how that happened!