Saturday, June 26, 2010


So after the past few weeks, I've come to the conclusion that with a few exceptions (such as fettucini alfredo and a really authentic marinara dish), anything you can do with pasta, you can do with chickpeas.  But chickpeas are healthier (less processed, higher protein).  Let's face it, pasta, especially white pasta is not that great for you.  But it's tasty and a large part of that is due to it's versatility.  Enter chickpeas, another bland, and hence versatile starch/protein (whole wheat pasta has a decent amount of protein).  The idea struck when a friend and I tried to find a use for pesto that wasn't pasta, so we paired it with chickpeas and cauliflower.  That was tasty and satisfying.  It wasn't anything worth posting on it's own, and it's something we probably won't make again, but it's a throw together meal that didn't take much time or many ingredients.  Food blogs buzz with Greek salads with chickpeas, olives, feta, garlic, onions, spinach, etc, etc.  This sounds exactly like a pasta salad, but with chickpeas, am I right?  And after thinking about this, I'm not altogether opposed to somehow working out a chickpea type lasagna, though I'll have to think about it more.  But last night's creation, assured me that chickpeas and tomato sauce do work together, it just might take a little creativity.  I was inspired by a few posts I saw a while back about chickpeas and spinach.  One was in a Spanish style and used chorizo and one was from my favorite blog Smitten Kitchen.  The recipes called for fresh spinach, but this is the kind of thing that is just as good with frozen and hey, this is a blog about saving money and convenience, right?  This might be better doubled, but I was working with what I had.

I loved this creation because it was a one pot meal.  A little dicing, and of course, soaking the chickpeas ahead, but it was pretty simple to throw together.  And one of the best uses of frozen spinach I have found so far.

Chickpeas with Spinach (serves 2-3)
1 can chickpeas (I think this is roughly 1/2 c dried and cooked, which is what I do)
5 oz frozen spinach
3 (small) cloves of garlic, sliced thin/minced
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp thyme?
1 4 oz can tomato sauce
cayenne pepper to taste
salt to taste
sausage sliced thin, if desired

Throw everything in a pot, cook until flavors blend 15-20 minutes.

Sounds a little like spaghetti with spinach, right?

Friday, June 25, 2010


As most readers of this know, I love oatmeal.  And I am on a pretty tight budget these days and oatmeal (even with small amounts of toppings) is cheaper than almost any other breakfast.   And it's fun, you can be creative, make it to suit your mood.  So I thought I'd share what I'd been putting in my oatmeal lately.  I try to do this from time to time.  Note that it doesn't usually vary much, I like to stick with staples like cinnamon and walnuts and vary the fruit and (possibly) sweetener.  I also prefer using maple syrup, but brown sugar is much cheaper, and it transports well.  I like to just throw everything in a container and bring it my office with me sometimes, so I can eat a later breakfast.  So my two favorites as of lately:

Blueberry Lemon
1/2 cup oats (whatever your preference is)
2 Tbsp frozen wild blueberries (they are smaller than regular blueberries)
pinch lemon zest
pinch salt
pinch brown sugar
tsp walnuts (optional)

Cook by your preferred method.  I like to switch up between stove top cooking and adding boiling water.  Adding water makes it less soggy, but also give you less volume, so it's less filling.

Coconut Walnut
1/2 cup oats
1 Tbsp dried, unsweetened coconut (you could use sweetened and add less sugar I suppose)
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp toasted walnuts

See above for cooking.  I think this is optimal for bring with you and adding water, that's why I started eating it: coconut was the only dried fruit I had sitting around

Monday, June 14, 2010

Things I keep in my freezer

Because I've realized I keep some useful (and possibly money saving) things in my freezer that maybe not everyone does.

  • Every time (okay, not every time, but often) I eat/juice a lemon, lime, or orange, I first zest it and freeze the zest.  Have you seen the price of citrus zest?  I can't imagine anyone paying that when you get it for free with your citrus fruits.  Plus those are dried and my guess is not quite as flavorful/fresh.  I've accumulated quite a bit of orange zest especially.
  • Ginger.  I've read it's useful to keep it in the freezer and grate it as you need it, but keep the part you are not using frozen, don't let it thaw unless you are using all of it.
  • Frozen cilantro and basil cubes from Trader Joe's.  They also sell garlic.  And next time I finish a tray, I'll probably make my own, but I haven't decided what I'll put in it.  These are great for eggs or soup.
  • I always have a leftover meal in the freezer.  Right now: veggie chili and also sweet potato and chicken enchiladas.
  • Ice cream.  Enough said.
  • Frozen spinach.  One of the cheapest veggies ever and perfect to throw in eggs/soup/casserole/chickpeas.  Did you know spinach has more protein per calorie than beef?
  • Leftover muffins.  I get sick of eating them before I finish a batch, so I freeze maybe 4-6 for a quick on the go breakfast sometime.  I think bran muffins freeze especially well.  They get a little freezer burnt after a month or two.  I don't really care, but other people might.
  • Edamame.  Protein and vegetable ready after boiling water for a few minutes.
  • Veggie burgers in case I'm feeling extraordinarily lazy/I'm too hungry to think of anything better to make or wait for water to boil (and I don't trust myself to cook anything else to a reasonable point).  Some of them go well on a salad (namely the tomato basil mozzeralla).
  • Frozen fruit.  In winter its cheaper than fresh (and sometimes it is even in summer).  It's good to be able to throw together a smooth or berry sauce all year round.  Plus I almost feel bad cooking anything fresh because I would rather celebrate the raw, fresh, deliciousness.
  • I often have frozen stoplight peppers because they are cheap, but they are not very good.  They're fine for eggs since they are pretty soft once you defrost them, and probably work okay for soups.  These are one of the things where Whole Foods is actually a pretty cheap place to get them.  I think a pound is under $2 (and keep in mind, this is a mixed pound with no stems, seeds, or placenta, red peppers are usually around $4 a pound fresh here).
  • Butter.  I read recently that unsalted butter should be used within 2 weeks of purchase and since I've drastically cut down on baking, I go through butter exceptionally slowly.  The two week rule might apply to fresh, unpasteurized butter, you know the good stuff you SHOULD buy, but I've found I use less when I only have a tablespoon or whatever is leftover from last time I used it in a recipe, which saves more money.  Plus I buy ahead when it's on sale.
  • On the same note, cheese is good after it's sell by date if it's been kept in the freezer, so this means you can buy when it's on sale and keep it good.
And what food have I been dreaming about lately?  Ice cream.  I've decided this is a luxury I cannot afford after I finish the key lime pie yogurt in my freezer, unless I stumble coupons to get it free (I may have signed up for every birthday list EVER and lied about my birthday on some of them, so I'll have ice cream coupons periodically for a few months).  But this is irrelevent because the ice cream I've been dreaming of is from Jeni's, not that I've ever been there, but it comes up every time I talk to one of my friends.  Good thing flights to Columbus are cheap and I have a floor to sleep on there.  I'm hoping to make it out there some time, just for the ice cream (well, and to see Katie),  I might have to figure out how to make ice cream this summer.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Spicy Citrusy Black Beans

So I'm poor, but that shouldn't stop me from blogging.  That's what this blog is after all.  So I plan on eating tons of black beans and rice.  Or black beans and cornbread.  Or red beans formed into burgers (that was a slight failure).  But I should share with you what i am actually making.  Tonight modeled an idea I had seen before: spicy citrusy black beans.  I made them pretty spicy, and they could have been more subtle flavored with less intense spice, but that is another option, they were pretty good as they were.  I used a can of black beans because there was little planning, but I usually would use dried black beans.  Fortunately, the can I cooked started pretty firm so cooking for a long time was not an issue.  Anyways, these definitely have room to play.  Also they called for orange juice and I read "lime juice" since I don't have oranges and I really like limes, so there is the option to switch back to orange juice too.  But this is roughly what I did:
1 can black beans
juice of one lime
zest of half a lime
1/2 tsp orange zest
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/3 c onion, minced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 jalepeno, minced

Simmer everything until the onions and garlic are tender (yes, this is how I cook when I'm not following a recipe: throw everything together and cook until done).  I cooked it for about half an hour.  We served over cornbread.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chocolate Tomato Soup Cake

Sounds weird, right?  Well, it's not, I promise.  The tomato soup adds moisture, like a substitute for buttermilk.  This is an extremely moist, soft cake.  You can barely taste the tomato if you know it's there and no one could even guess before we told them.  We made cupcakes, I don't think it would have held its own as a layer cake, especially with a heavy frosting (like what was recommended).

The first time I saw a recipe for Chocolate Tomato soup cake was recipe from Rose's Heavenly cakes, and I bookmarked it in my reader.  But it called for 3.5 sticks of butter.  Really?  That's an awful lot of butter.  It was a layer cake and did have a nice recipe for chocolate ganache, but again, I don't know that would have worked.  So we found a different recipe and made the frosting from what we had on hand, and there was no cream, so we made a chocolate buttercream frosting instead.  But here is the recipe we used:

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Bake this cake for the novelty of using tomato soup in a dessert. Tasters won't be able to put their finger on the mysterious "extra" ingredient.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered cocoa
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 (10 1/4 ounce) can condensed tomato soup
1/4 cup warm tap water
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, and beat until fluffy. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl or mixing cup, mix together the tomato soup and water. Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately to the butter-sugar mixture, beating just to combine between additions. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate buttercream:
1/4 cup butter 
2 cup  powdered sugar
1 tsp vanila
2 Tbsp milk
3 Tbsp cocoa

Soften butter, mush in sugar, then add other ingredients and beat until smooth.