Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best of CHG: January 2010

It’s been a banner month here at Cheap Healthy Good, with record subscribers, more than 200,000 pageviews, and enough oatmeal to turn us all into Mr. Ed. Thank you, sweet readers. So much. You are, as always, the freakin’ best.

Dijon Roasted Potatoes
Lemon Pudding Cakes
Palak Paneer (Indian Cheese and Greens)
Paneer (Fresh Indian Cheese)
Roasted Delicata Squash with Thyme
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Puree
Tomato-Avocado Salsa
Veggie Burgers


This month, we learned How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off: 10 Rules to Live By.

A good way to accomplish those goals: make Cheap, Healthy Master Recipes: Eight Versatile Dishes Entirely Adaptable to Your Tastes.

A good way to not accomplish those goals: follow the recipes in Vintage Cookbook Hoedown: The Quick Cook Book (1961) by Lois S. Kellogg.

Of course, maybe your family likes that kind of stuff. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe they hate food! In which case, Overcoming Your Cooking Obstacles, Part II: So, Your Family Doesn’t Cook is for you.

And if you want to save some cash on it all, try Meal Planning – An Experiment and Conversion.

Remember, though: the internet is always here to help. In this month’s Ask the Internet columns, we explored:


1) Have your say!
We love reading creative comments and participating in thought-provoking discussions. There’s even a fabulous new Ask the Internet column, where readers can write in with various inquiries and/or offer helpful suggestions. Sweet.

2) Spread the word!
Like us? Link to us! Refer us to a bookmarking site! (We have StumbleUpon and Digg buttons now!) Or just talk us up to your mom. That’s nice, too.

3) Behold: our social networking!
Subscribe to our feed, join our Facebook page, or check out our Twitter … thing. They’re super fun ways to kill time, minus the soul-crushing frustration of Bejeweled.

4) Buy from our Amazon Store!
If you click on the Amazon widget (lower left hand corner) and buy anything from Amazon (not just what we’re advertising on CHG), we get a small commission. And that’s always nice.

5) Use the word “literally” correctly!
Because when you don't, bunnies die.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Top 10 Links of the Week: 1/22/10 – 1/28/10

This week, we question authority, stand up to The Man, and discuss some lovely options for midday snacks. Tally ho!

1) Serious Eats: How Do You Eat for a Week for $50?
I think this thread might be longer than the Constitution. And the ideas are just as excellent. What, me exaggerate?

2) GMA: Grocery Bill Was 'Out of Control,' but Year-Long Meal Plan Saves Texas Woman Time and Money
Leslie Chisholm, mother of four boys, started planning her family’s dinner a year in advance. It took some time, but she’s managed to reduce her grocery bill by half. Moms take note! (Note: it’s a video.)

3) Slashfood: What Can I Get You Folks – Using Your Coupon
“For whatever reason, coupon users tend to be among the most impolite diners,” says Slashfood columnist/waitressing vet Hanna Raskin. Here, she suggests ways to avoid being that guy. A solid comment thread follows the post. (Incidentally, when I worked in the food industry, the very best and very worst customers were almost always senior citizens.)

4) Jezebel: OK Helps Kourtney Shed Baby Weight with Photoshop Phony Diet
This whole piece is just emblematic of why I love Jez, but especially this sentence: “Since women have already learned from other magazine covers to loathe their ‘bikini bodies’ and that they should be wrinkle-free after 40, why not send the message that their bodies aren't good enough mere days after they've brought forth life?”

5) Jezebel: Whole Foods Employee BMI Discount Raises Legal Concerns
Whole Foods is giving discounts to workers in good shape. Normally, this would anger me, since it seems like discrimination. But here’s the hitch: if you’re trying to project a certain image with your business, does it make sense to encourage employees to uphold that impression? Hooters does it. (Note: This is a devil's advocate kind of question. IMHO, it's discrimination.)

6) The Kitchn: Quick and Light – 14 Ideas for Fresh and Easy Snacks
All of a sudden, I’m hungry for kale chips. And roasted chickpeas. And granola. And … you get the idea.

7) The Simple Dollar: Trimming the Average Budget – Alcoholic Beverages
For all this talk about frugal food, you don’t see booze mentioned very often. Trent attempts to remedy the situation with smart tippling strategies. As always, the comment thread is required reading. Drink up!

8) Coupon Sherpa: Recipe for Survival - 23 Ways Restaurants Save Money
Restaurants have taken some serious hits these last few years, so it’s logical they’re making cutbacks. Many are pretty reasonable, but a few border on unethical, e.g., the porcelain plates with bumps built in to make it look like you have more food. (Thanks to Simple Dollar for the link.)

9) Consumerist: You Ignore Calorie Info for Yourself, but Not Your Kids
Oh, man. So interesting. Parents buying fast food dinners for their kids saved 100 calories per meal when the nutritional data was posted on the menus (670 calories vs. 570 calories). Apparently, this can mean 10 pounds per year, ungained by children.

10) Serious Eats: Taste Test – Veggie Burgers
Morningstar Grillers: still the best! Even after all these years out of college, when vegetarian friends taught me they were totally the best!


Boston.com: Weight Watchers Sues Jenny Craig
It’s like the ‘90s East Coast/West Coast hip-hop feuds, starring Valerie Bertinelli instead of Suge Knight.

The Kitchn: 6 Ways to Reuse Oatmeal Tins
As someone on an oatmeal kick of epic proportions, this will come in handy.

Neatorama: Brain Slug Cupcakes
Because sometimes, you just want a cupcake shaped like a brain slug.

New York Times: The New Old Way to Tote Your Beer
If you’re a serious microbrew fan, growlers are your best friends. They’re essentially gallon jugs that you can refill at local pubs/specialty stores. One of roommates does it, and it’s saved him quite a bit of cashola.

Serious Eats: Finally, a Heavy Metal Cookbook - 'Hellbent for Cooking'
For those about to cook, we salute you.

Wise Bread: Frugal, Gluten-Free Living – Kitchen Tools That Stretch Your Budget and Time
Celiac folks! Look here! I swear it's not weird.


McSweeney’s: Benefits Not Provided by “Friends with Benefits.”
My most excellent and hilarious friend Tony got a piece in McSweeney’s! This is the link to it. Because that’s what we do here.

Thank you so much for visiting Cheap Healthy Good! (We appreciate it muchly). If you’d like to further support CHG, subscribe to our RSS feed! Or become a Facebook friend! Or check out our Twitter! Or buy something inexpensive, yet fulfilling via that Amazon store (on the left)! Bookmarking sites and links are nice, too. Viva la France!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Veggie Might: Meal Planning - An Experiment and Conversion

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

For years, I have been brown-bagging my lunch, cooking most meals at home, and living what I thought was a fairly frugal existence, especially when it comes to food. But I’ve been living a lie.

Okay. Maybe “lie” is too strong a word. I’ve been living a fib, though. My big weaknesses are the inability to get a handle on weekly meal planning, reign in my impulsive food shopping, and stop eating cookies for dinner when I’m too tired to cook.

I’ve read and reread Kris’s article on meal planning, but to no effect. I wander aimlessly through the grocery store trying to remember what’s in my kitchen and then buy what I already have. I waste food—particularly produce—because I buy what looks good instead of what I need and often can’t use it before it goes bad. And when I’m tired, I stare into the abyss of my fridge, then eat cookies instead of cooking something.

Well, a few weeks ago, a delightful convergence occurred. I woke one morning with the compulsion to clean all the clutter off my fridge: sticky old magnets, food-stained recipe clippings, out-dated coupons.

I took a quick scan of the cupboards, looking for oatmeal, and realized I had two huge containers of kasha. I’ve never used kasha before, and I’m not quite sure what to do with it. Direct evidence of shopping without a list.

So I went online to look up a kasha recipe. But first I checked my Google Reader. There I saw an online posting (by Kris’ Husband-Elect—cue Twilight Zone music) of this totally rad magnetic clipboard and pencil cup at Design Sponge via LifeHacker.

The Hypothesis
I was in love with the jazzed-up office supplies and clean, visually compelling, downloadable menu and shopping list templates. Kate from Design Sponge stole my heart.

This is the kind of thing I need to get me to plan my meals: it’s simple, allows my list-making flag to fly, and it’s pretty. I really just needed someone to SHOW me what to do. With pictures. And a craft project. Because I’m 4.

Overcome with enthusiasm, I decided to plan my meals for the week and set several goals for the project.

1. Weeklong success
2. Less food waste
3. Savings on the grocery bill
4. Lower rate of cookies-for-dinner consumption

The Preparation
With orange and red paper and recycled magnets, I had tricked out my old, graffitied, high school clipboard and converted an old Tootsie Roll bank into a pencil cup. Pretty!

Then, I got (really) busy: I pulled down a few of my favorite cookbooks for perusal, scoured my cabinets and fridge for main ingredients, and started list making. It only took about an hour to come up with a viable menu. I was stoked!

And I couldn’t believe how many groceries I Didn’t Need to Buy. My pantry was so well stocked, my weeklong grocery list only had about 10 items, including produce and fresh herbs for four recipes and several miscellaneous items like seltzer, dog treats, and, yes, cookies.

The Results
1. Weeklong success—achieved. To my great surprise, I stuck to the menu all week. I loved looking at my pretty clipboard and checking off the days when I ate the meals. Some of the leftovers from scheduled meals out pushed back a couple of recipes into the next week, but …

2. Less food waste—achieved. Nothing spoiled in my fridge! Nothing! I only bought what I needed (sorry beautiful cabbage…maybe next week), so nothing went to waste. I really turned a corner.

3. Savings on the grocery bill—achieved. My total food bill for the week was $23.57, a savings of at least $15.00. I’m such an impulse food shopper, having a list was a godsend. Plus, I finally started making a dent in my overflowing pantry.

4. Lower rate of cookies-for-dinner consumption—achieved. I ate a grand total of 0 cookies for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I ate cookies, but at more appropriate between and after meal times. And they were so much better that way.

Bonus result: Conversion—achieved. I am a meal-planning convert. I haven’t been to the store without a plan or a list (except for seltzer) since. I’ve saved a considerable amount of cash and tossed out much less food. And this week, I haven’t even bought cookies.

If you dig this article, you might also like:
Photo from Design Sponge.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cheap Healthy Master Recipes: Eight Versatile Dishes Entirely Adaptable to Your Tastes

Cooking at home is a stellar way to drop weight and save money at the same time. Consequently, there are a few basic recipes every frugal, healthy eater should have in her repertoire; recipes that are cheap, simple to make, and easily tailored to fit specific tastes. Recipes like (coincidentally): chili, salsa, frittatas, dip, soup, and all kinds of pasta, bean, and grain salads.

What follows, then, are master recipes for those eight dishes. We give you the ratios and cooking instructions, you provide the ingredients. What you should know about them:
  • I made all of 'em up, based on experience. If there are problems with the directions, it’s totally my fault (and please let me know). If there are issues with the ingredients, er, remember: experimenting is fun!
  • Try to match flavors you think will go well together, like tomato/basil, olives/feta, or lime/cilantro.
  • Try to avoid flavors that might bomb together, like capers/cucumbers, parmesan/apple cider vinegar, or broccoli/olives.
  • Cost and nutritional calculations will vary based on individual tastes, so add what’s best for you.
  • This doesn’t include Amy Dacyczyn’s universal casserole recipe, because I’ve never attempted it myself. However, many zillions of other cooks swear by it, and the directions can be found in this Simple Dollar post.
Before we get to the festivities, do you have any favorite master recipes? Post ‘em in the comment section!

Grain Salad
1 cup whole grain, uncooked
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or citrus juice
1 cup fresh vegetables, chopped small
2 or 3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 or 3 tablespoons fresh leafy herbs, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 cup chopped add-ons.

Cook grain as directed. Drain (if necessary) and spread on a pan or cutting board to cool. In a medium bowl, whisk olive oil and vinegar/citrus together. Add cooked grain, chopped veggies, and scallions. Stir to combine. Add herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir again. Top with add-ons.

Grain suggestions: quinoa, barley, bulgur wheat, etc.
Fresh veggie suggestions: tomato, avocado, corn, etc.
Fresh herb suggestions: parsley, basil, cilantro, tarragon, etc.
Add-on suggestions: dried fruit, chopped nuts, crumbled cheese, etc.


6 large egg whites
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup any grated cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 to 3/4 cup veggies, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup diced onion

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and cheese together with a little salt and pepper. In an oven-safe medium pan, saute vegetables (except onion) in 1 teaspoon olive oil. When tender, remove from pan. Add remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil. Saute onions until a little soft and translucent. Spread onions out in pan. Add egg mixture. Let set, about 3 or 4 minutes, or until the sides start to firm up a bit. Sprinkle veggie mixture evenly over top. Broil 2 or 3 minutes until risen and slightly browned. Remove pan from oven and immediately remove frittata from pan. Serve.

Fresh veggie suggestions: mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, etc.
NOTE: if using pre-cooked veggies (roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, etc.), skip the sauté part and just arrange them on top of frittata before it hits the broiler
NOTE #2: you can sprinkle the cheese on top (after the vegetables) before placing the pan in the broiler if you wish.


Turkey & Bean Chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
2 cans (14-oz) beans, drained and rinsed
1 or 2 cans (14-oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Cayenne pepper to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until a little soft and translucent, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add turkey and saute until browned. Add beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Drop heat to medium low, and simmer until desired consistency, at least 30 minutes. Serve with desired toppings.

Bean suggestions: black, pinto, kidney, white
Optional bulk items: corn, pumpkin puree, sautéed bell peppers
Optional flavorings: beer, 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, diced chipotle in adobo
Optional toppings: cilantro, low-fat sour cream, diced red onion, shredded cheese


Bean Salad
2 cans (14.5-oz) beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup mixed crunchy vegetables, chopped small
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup fun add-ons

In a medium bowl, whisk vinegar and olive oil together. Add beans, vegetables, and scallions. Stir well. Add herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir again. Top with add-ons. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Bean suggestions: chickpeas, black beans, cannelini beans, etc.
Crunchy vegetable suggestions: corn, bell pepper, red onion, celery, cucumber, etc.
Vinegar suggestions: white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, etc.
Fresh herb suggestions: cilantro, parsley, rosemary, basil, etc.
Add-on suggestions: feta cheese, olives, etc.


Pureed Vegetable Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
3 or 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 pounds root vegetables or winter squash, chopped into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions. Saute 4 or 5 minutes, until soft and a little translucent. Add garlic. Saute until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add stock and vegetables. Bring to a boil, turn heat to medium-low, and simmer until vegetables are tender. Once tender, puree soup with an immersion or regular blender until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. If it’s a little too watery, let cook for another few minutes so liquid can reduce.

Root vegetable suggestions: potatoes, butternut squash, turnips, carrots, etc.
Optional seasonings: curry powder, brown sugar, nutmeg, etc.
Optional toppings: drizzle of olive oil, drizzle heavy cream, cilantro, etc.
NOTE: Alternately, you can roast the veggies in a 400°F oven until tender, add them to the boiling stock, and simmer for 20 minutes.


8-16 ounces tomatoes, chopped small
6-8 ounces bulk veggie, legume, or both mixed together (optional)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup any onion, diced small
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 or 2 tablespoons lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

Bulk veggie/legume suggestions: corn, bell peppers, tomatillos, avocados, black beans
Onion suggestions: shallots, yellow onion, red onion


Bean Dip
1 can beans, drained and rinsed
1 small clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fat-free chicken broth, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine beans, garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon broth in a food processor. Puree, adding additional olive oil and chicken broth as needed, until you reach the consistency you like. Salt and pepper to taste.

Bean suggestions: chickpeas, cannellinis, pinto beans, etc.
Optional flavorings: lemon juice, cayenne pepper, tahini, cumin, curry, wilted spinach, roasted red peppers, cilantro, balsamic vinegar


Mayo-less Pasta Salad
1 lb medium-sized pasta, uncooked
3 or 4 cups assorted vegetables, chopped
1/4 olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar or citrus juice
1/4 to 1/3 cup parsley, cilantro, or basil, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup add-ons

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk olive oil and vinegar/juice together. Add pasta and veggies. Stir to combine. Add herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir again. Top with add-ons.

Pasta suggestions: penne, rotini, farfalle, wagon wheels, etc.
Veggie suggestions: bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, scallions, etc.
Vinegar suggestions: white wine, balsamic, red wine, etc.
Add-on suggestions: olives, crumbled cheese, pine nuts, capers, etc.
Optional seasonings: red pepper flakes

And that’s a wrap. What about you, sweet readers? Do you have any master recipes to share? We’d love to hear, and the comment section is open.

If you like this article, you might also dig:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ask the Internet: Light Super Bowl Snack Ideas?

You guys! Apparently, there’s some kind of sports game coming up? With men wearing helmets? And a ball that is also a foot? Hm. Perhaps I’ve been misinformed. But I’m also told that watching this game necessitates some inspired gorging. Subsequently, today’s question is a two-parter:

Q1: What is your favorite light Super Bowl snack?

Q2: Which traditional Super Bowl snack (pizza, wings, dip, etc.) would you most like to see lightened up?

Q1: A few years ago, I made a Seven-Layer Taco Dip that I have not yet stopped eating. I would spread it on toast and take it on an island getaway.

Q2: Artichoke dip, hands down. I’m trying the Cooking Light version for next week’s Serious Eats column. We’ll see what happens.

Readers, how about you? The comment section is ready for some footBALLLLLL. (Also, comments.)

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lemon Pudding Cakes and Ramblings

Today on Serious Eats: Winter Vegetable Chili. Sweet, smoky, substantial, and ridiculously low in Weight Watchers points.

For about 100 years running, my favorite blogger has been ESPN’s Sports Guy. One of his running bits is The Ramblings, in which he just kinda barfs up whatever he’s thinking about at the time. It’s fun! So I thought I’d try it.

-Did anyone catch Joe Buck repeating the phrase “muffed punt” during last night’s Vikings/Saints game? I used to think “tight end tackle” was the dirtiest football term I’d ever heard.

-Last night, I dreamt the Husband-Elect and I found the perfect house, but we didn’t buy it because it was too big to clean. I hate when my subconscious make practical decisions. Shouldn’t it be climbing ancient ruins with Indiana Jones or something?

-Comedian Michael Ian Black had an interesting theory about the whole Conan thing: people are so riled because it’s a microcosm of current labor situations. Here’s a hilarious, industrious, by-all-accounts nice guy who’s spent 17 years working towards a single goal: putting out the best product he possibly can. He’s rewarded with the surest bet in TV and drags his staff across the country to make it awesome. NBC then takes away all his ratings support and wonders why he’s not pulling big numbers. It’s like seeing your Dad get the job of his dreams, on the condition that he performs entirely in the janitor’s closet.

-P.S. Shut up, Jerry Seinfeld. Your lead-in was Cheers.

-Has anyone ever been to Italy? What’s it like? Do you have any suggestions about where to go? Especially for food? Er … I ask for no reason.

-Of Rachael Ray’s Top 10 Recipes of the Year, about five of them were for some form of chili mac. I will defend RR to the end, but I don’t know how to feel about this. There was just so much cheese. (Am I knocking cheese? Tell me to shut up.)

-Understand (though don’t necessarily support) the opposition to the health care bill. But how can anyone protest the pre-existing conditions clause? This seems so logical, especially since everyone’s potentially affected. (Obligatory “I know a guy” stories:) I know a guy who was rejected for health insurance because he was 25 pounds overweight. I know a woman who was covered for chemo only because her second bout with cancer occurred in a different place than the first. (She went broke the first time, btw.) Can anyone out there explain this to me?

-Just a quick housekeeping thing: if you leave a comment on a recipe post, please specify the recipe to which you’re referring. There’s a lot of odd spam coming in lately, so I'm deleting suspicious/vague comments. Apologies for the legit ones that get lost in the process.

-Re: Idol. Paula who?

-Re: Idol. Don’t you want to take Kristin Chenoweth home and keep her on your nightstand? She’s so tiny and cute and talented. How does that noise come out of that 85-pound woman?

-Speaking of tiny women making noise, I would also like to keep Lady Gaga on my nightstand, to scare away the monsters. I simultaneously adore and fear her. So far, she’s the Madonna of the ‘10s.

-Lemon Pudding Cakes! Suggested by occasional CHG contributor Rachel, these neat little lower-calorie treats are appropriate for company, but easy enough for weeknights. Rach compared them to cmolten chocolate cakes, and she’s right on. The tops are spongey and cakey, but the bottoms are essentially a tart, sweet pudding. I might add a little more lemon zest next time, but that’s the only change.

That’s it, folks. What’s on your mind today? The comment section is awaiting your brain dumps. (…ew.)

If you like this recipe, you might also dig:

Lemon Pudding Cakes
Serves 2.
Adapted from Food & Wine.

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg white
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened (but not melted)
1/3 cup skim milk
1-2/3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Large pinch salt

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 ramekins with cooking spray. (If you don’t have ramekins, you might try oven-safe teacups. Though I didn’t use them in this recipe, I used them for Chocolate Soufflés and had some success.)

2) In a medium bowl, combine sugar and flour. Whisk together.

3) In a small bowl, combine egg yolk and butter. Whisk until smooth and butter is fully incorporated. Add milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Whisk until that’s all blended. Pour this into flour mixture. Stir or whisk until it’s blended, and you have a non-lumpy batter.

4) In a different medium bowl, combine egg white and salt. With a hand mixer, blend them together until you have stiff peaks. (This took me 4 or 5 minutes.) Then, using a spatula, “gently fold” the egg whites into the lemon batter.

5) Pour lemon batter into ramekins. Place the ramekins themselves in a roasting pan. Fill the pan with warm/hot water, until it hits halfway up the ramekins.

6) Bake 30-35 minutes, until the top is slightly browned and the pudding cakes have risen. Remove from oven. Remove ramekins from pan (carefully – don’t get burnt here). Set ramekins on wire rack and let cool at least 15 minutes. Serve in ramekins, with berries if you have ‘em (but don’t worry if you don’t).

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
224 calories, 6.4 g fat, 0.3 g fiber, $0.58

1/4 cup granulated sugar: 194 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.08
2 tablespoons cup all-purpose flour: 57 calories, 0.2 g fat, 0.4 g fiber, $0.02
1 large egg white: 17 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.25
1 large egg yolk: 55 calories, 4.5 g fat, 0 g fiber, Free (with egg white)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter: 68 calories, 7.7 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.05
1/3 cup skim milk: 30 calories, 0.2 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.08
1-2/3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice: 7 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.66
1/3 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest: negligible calories and fat, 0.1 g fiber, Free (with juice)
Large pinch salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
TOTAL: 448 calories, 12.7 g fat, 0.6 g fiber, $1.15
PER SERVING (TOTAL/2): 224 calories, 6.4 g fat, 0.3 g fiber, $0.58

Friday, January 22, 2010

Top 10 Links of the Week: 1/15/10 – 1/21/10

We had a wonderful week here at CHG thanks to oatmeal, Lois S. Kellogg, and y'all. In gratitude, Im sending a tray of Cholives to everyone who logged on. But before that...

1) Fed Up: School Lunch Project
Mrs. Q is a teacher at an unidentified school in Chicago. This year, she’s eating lunch from the kids’ cafeteria and documenting the whole ordeal. It ain’t pretty, folks. Bagel dogs, ahoy! (Pic from the Mrs. Q.)

2) Parent Hacks: Let little kids "help" with cooking by placing the mixing bowl on the open dishwasher door
Simple. Brilliant. Different. Better. Moms and dads (especially of brilliant little girls named Julia), read on!

3) The Kitchn
Warm and Restorative – 15 Favorite Soup Recipes
Fresh and Flavorful – 15 Lighter Recipes From the Kitchn
Two more recipe countdowns from the Kitchn. I’m gonna start just reserving them a spot here.

4) New York Times: Snack Time Never Ends
The revelations in this article: better than “The Song That Never Ends,” but still pretty irksome. Almost half of U.S. children eat three snacks a day? That seems … excessive. (*Runs off to eat snack.*)

5) Washington Post: Michelle Obama Promises Childhood Obesity Plan
MObama’s launching a new initiative focusing on health and activity in schools, communities, and beyond. Say what you will about recent political developments, but this woman is kind of my idol.

6) Chow: How to Eat Less Meat - Tips on de-meatifying your favorite dishes
Smart, helpful slideshow discusses principles that might make you crave meat less, eat more veggies. Umami, texture, and acid figure prominently. Mmm … acid.

7) Slate: How Do Companies Determine Serving Size?
So this is interesting: did you know that a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is supposed to contain four separate servings? And that these, and pretty much all portion sizes, are determined by guidelines established in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when we were all eating much less? Hunh.

8) The Atlantic: Calorie Labeling Works
According to a new study, “people do change their ordering behavior when they see calorie counts [on menus] —though not the first.” Slow and steady, guys! The more people are aware of their food, the better. Except maybe at Taco Bell. Denial is kind of helpful there.

9) Philadelphia Enquirer: Eat Up, Be Well
You read a lot of “What CAN we eat?” rants these days, but they’re rarely phrased as well as this piece by Dianna Marder. Diet is not a one-size-fits-all kinda thing, bucko.

10) The New York Times: If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online
Jaw. Dropping. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “[Kids] ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with … a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device.” Are we officially in the Matrix now? When do they sleep?


344 Pounds: Guide to Losing Pounds
Tyler may be the most prominent dieter/lifestyle changer in the blogosphere right now. Here’s how he dropped 125 pounds. (Thanks to Casual Kitchen for the link.)

The Atlantic: School Gardeners Strike Back
I like to imagine this is about superhero gardening strike teams, fending off the forces of evil using only hoes (heh) and radioactive packets of tomato seeds, but it’s actually a response piece to Caitlin Flanagan’s hatchet job from last week. My dreams, deferred.

Get Rich Slowly: The Art of the Potluck
Confucius say: if inexpensive, fun, creative family gatherings are what you’re looking for, access your inner potluck planner. Then go eat.

Hillbilly Housewife: Foraging for Food in My Kitchen
In a world ... littered with "eat from your pantry" posts ... comes a woman ... who did it successfully. This is her story.

Kalyn’s Kitchen: How to Make Ham Stock (and Recipe Ideas)
Chicken stock gets too much play. Get out and ham it up, everybody!

The Kitchn: Extra-tall Cutting Boards for Extra-tall Cooks
As a potential Harlem Globetrotter myself, I declare this winner of the Meadowlark Lemon Award for Achievement in Making Tall People’s Lives Easier.

Lifehacker: Make Five-Minute Sorbet in a Ziploc Bag
Any budding Alton Brown’s out there willing to try this? I’ll provide the plastic bag and intricate cheers during the shaking portion of the program


Epic Win FTW
An entire blog filled with awesomeness. Scroll through back posts for instant day brighteners like:

Thank you so much for visiting Cheap Healthy Good! (We appreciate it muchly). If you’d like to further support CHG, subscribe to our RSS feed! Or become a Facebook friend! Or check out our Twitter! Or buy something inexpensive, yet fulfilling via that Amazon store (on the left)! Bookmarking sites and links are nice, too. Viva la France!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Veggie Might: Palak Paneer - World Curry Tour ‘10

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Last we left World Curry Tour ‘09, I was experimenting with asafetida and curry leaves alongside my imaginary mentor, Madhur Jaffrey. Well, it’s a brand new year and it’s time get the band back together.

Last week, I showed you how to make easy-and-delicious paneer with just milk and a little lime juice. Now, let’s put the cheese of that labor into its proper place: palak paneer, courtesy of Mahanandi, shared by the delightful Anand.

Palak paneer is the classic North Indian spinach and cheese dish ubiquitous in Indian restaurants across America. It’s (generally) mild, always delicious, and can be healthier than the cheese suggests. This recipe is spicier than most restaurant versions (as my charming dinner guest [CDG] will testify), so cut back on the chilies if you want less heat.

For this recipe, I used homemade paneer made with 2% milk and substituted the ghee (clarified butter) with a splash of canola oil. The original recipe also called for optional cashews, which I omitted for fat and calories sake.

I made two other divergences for convenience and seasonality: jalapeños for green chilies (I looked at 3 shops without success!) and canned crushed tomatoes for fresh (It’s January in NYC!).

Even with the modifications, the palak paneer was a success. Savory, spicy, and creamy, it went perfectly with the urad dal (split black lentils) I bungled by going off on my own and veering from this Mark Bittman recipe. All was not lost; CDG was still impressed.

Oh Hey, This Is Fascinating: Until this writing, I always thought “saag” was spinach. Well, live on the Internet and learn. Turns out, “palak” is spinach, and “saag” or “sag” is greens, like collards, mustard greens, spinach, etc. Thank you, InterWeb.

And thank you, Anand, for sharing this recipe. It takes a little bit of work, but the payoff is worth it. World Curry Tour is back. Next stop…only Madhur knows for sure.

If you like this recipe, you may enjoy

Palak Paneer
serves 4
Adapted from Mahanandi's Palak Paneer.

2 tsp canola oil
6 cups spinach (one large bunch), washed and torn
5 oz paneer, cubed
8 oz canned crushed tomato
5 green chillies or 3 jalapeños, finely diced
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic-ginger-cilantro paste (or more to your taste)
1/2 tsp coriander powder (or freshly ground coriander seeds)
1/2 tsp cumin powder (or freshly ground cumin seeds)
1 tsp salt

1) In a large skillet, heat a teaspoon of oil over medium heat and sauté chilies for 2 minutes or so. Add spinach and toss until wilted. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes.

2) Blend the spinach and chilies with a pinch of salt in a food processor, blender or food mill until smooth. Set aside.

3) In the skillet, heat a teaspoon of oil over medium heat and sauté onions until translucent. Add the garlic-ginger-cilantro paste, cumin, and coriander, and continue to cook for 2 – 3 more minutes.

4) Add the pureed spinach and crushed tomatoes to the onion mixture along with 1 tsp of salt. You may add a bit of water, if necessary, but it should not be runny or soupy. Simmer for 5–10 minutes.

5) Add paneer cubes and simmer for 2–3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

6) Serve with dal (lentils/beans) and rice for delicious meal that is sure to impress.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price per Serving
162 calories, 10.3g fat, 4.25g fiber, $1.16

2 tsp canola oil: 80 calories, 9.3g fat, 0g fiber, $0.05
6 cups spinach: 42 calories, .75g fat, 6g fiber, $1.50
5 oz paneer: 331 calories, 26g fat, 0g fiber, $1.50
8 oz canned crushed tomato: 72 calories, 0g fat, 8g fiber, $.50
3 jalapeños: 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.24
1/2 large onion: 40 calories, .2g fat, 3g fiber, $.50
1 tsp garlic-ginger-cilantro paste: 3 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.012
1/2 tsp coriander powder: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.02
1/2 tsp cumin powder: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.02
1 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.02
Totals: 580 calories, 36.3g fat, 17g fiber, $4.36
Per serving (totals/4): 145 calories, 9g fat, 4.25g fiber, $1.09

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vintage Cookbook Hoedown: The Quick Cook Book (1961) by Lois S. Kellogg

A few months ago, I fell into possession of The Quick Cook Book by Lois S. Kellogg, a 1961 paperback filled with hundreds of convenient and occasionally jaw-dropping recipes.

There are Mayonnaise Mounds. There are Corned Beef Cobblers. There's even Prune Whip. And I'm pretty sure we can trace America's obesity problems directly to the Canned Chicken section.

To be fair to Lois, she seems to specialize in baking. The cake and cookie recipes look tasty and are mostly made from scratch. Some aren't, but ... we'll get to that later.

First, let's pretend we're hosting a party on Mad Men. And what better way to kick off a soiree than Cholives?

Of course, if you're not fond of olive and cheddar finger foods, deep-fried whole chicken sandwiches make an excellent light appetizer.

The meal really begins with soup. Tomatoes and pineapples are delicious, inexpensive, and come in cans. They should be lovely together.

Side dishes are vital to the success of any meal. I like to make a lot of them, since they're less expensive than meat.

I'd love to serve macaroni and cheese, but I find the garish yellow hue too distressing. How do I cope?

Of course, the most distressing part of hosting a party is that I never know what to serve for the main course. Jellied Meat Loaf? Corned Beef Corn Ring? Ham Wheel Pie? Corned Beef Cobbler? So many options, and all on the same page...

I know! We'll do breakfast for dinner! With a twist!

It's important to end the meal with a wholesome, appealing dessert. Since I believe halitosis is a myth, (like morally upright socialists), this should fit the bill!

You know, Onion Ice Cream is definitely going on the menu, but Bob really prefers treats that keep him regular. Maybe this would please him?

As for my son ... be careful, Danny. This peach pie is "Different" from all the other peach pies. You're such a good student. Don't let it ruin your future.

And to cap it all off, coffee. But drinking it just seems so ... pedestrian. Isn't there a better way to get that caffeine fix?

Mmm ... delicious. I bet the Jell-O company will pay me at least one hundred dollars for this recipe.

Cheers, everyone!

If you like this article, you might also like:
(All photos from The Quick Cook Book by Lois S. Kellogg)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ask the Internet: Favorite Oatmeal Recipe?

Hi, readers! Today’s question stems from a comment made yesterday. It's a short one.

Q: What are your favorite things to add to plain oatmeal?

A: Ahhh ... oatmeal. It's nutritionally sound, cheaper than water (er, in some areas), and a perfect canvas for delicious add-ons. Personally, I’m a peanut butter fan, but I’ll never back away from a good banana or a handful of dried cranberries.

What about you guys? Any good oatmeal combos or recipes? Fire away in the comment section!

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dijon-Roasted Potatoes PLUS Sweet Potato and Chickpea Puree: Two Recipes for the Price of One

Today on Serious Eats: Bulgur Wheat Salad with Avocado, Raisins, and Almonds. You will still feel full for three months after eating it. In a good way.

When it comes to white starches like pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes, I’m a bit like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I’ll hoard it, possibly kill for it, and occasionally beat up Elijah Wood just to be in its vicinity. Somewhere, I like to think there exists a 60-minute VHS tape of me scurrying away from the buffet table at a family event. I’m cradling plates of spaghetti to my bosom, angrily hissing “The pasta is THE PRECIOUS!” over and over until I’m disowned.

But … what was I talking about? Oh yeah – starches. I like ‘em. Maybe too much. Subsequently, I’m attempting to A) cut back, and B) be more creative with what I do make. I have a feeling this will involve a lot of bizarre grains and unorthodox purees, but this is okay. After all, what is Brooklyn, if not home for the bizarre and unorthodox? (He agrees.)

Today, both recipes - Dijon-Roasted Potatoes and Sweet Potato and Chickpea Puree – are excellent departures from the norm. The first dish, adapted from Weight Watchers, is a sophisticated alternative to plain ol’ oven fries and baked spuds. The recipe asks you to coat small red potatoes in a tangy, savory marinade, and then roast them to tender-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside perfection. The result goes beautifully with frittatas or lean meats, and can be served with barbecue sauce or ketchup. Gollum would approve.

The second recipe comes from O Magazine, which I adore, despite being a childless, apartment-dwelling cynic. (Harrumph!) Many people accuse Oprah of many terrible things (like thoughtful discussion and creative empowerment), but the woman can produce a dang magazine. It’s nice to read a lady-oriented publication that doesn’t begin with the assumption we’re morons.

Tangent aside, the Sweet Potato and Chickpea Puree is sweet and savory, and another solid pairing for lean meat and produce. A little tahini could even turn it into more of a hummus-esque concoction, so go nuts with the experimentation.

(To know: the original recipe called for 1/2 cup of olive oil, which seemed Smeagol-level insane. So, using a trick from a pesto recipe, I subbed out half the olive oil for fat-free chicken broth. For comparison, I made the full-fat version as well. The Husband-Elect and I both agreed: the chicken broth adaptation was far superior. Sweet.)

That said, how’s everyone doing with resolutions so far? Any fun ideas for white starch substitutions? I’d love to hear, and the comment section is THE PRECIOUS. Er … I mean “open.”

If you like these recipes, you might also like:

Dijon-Roasted Potatoes
Serves 3 or 4
Adapted from Weight Watchers.

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (like Grey Poupon)
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed in your hands
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-1/2 pounds small (3-inch) red potatoes, cut into eighths

1) Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.

2) In a large bowl, whisk mustard, olive oil, paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper together. Add potatoes and stir until well-coated. Spread across baking sheet in a single layer. Roast 15 minutes. Remove and stir. Drop oven heat to 350°F. Roast for 20-25 more minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through. Serve.

NOTE: The Dijon is pretty subtle here. You can double the coating if you want a more assertive flavor.

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Puree
Serves 6-8 (makes around 2 cups).
Adapted from Oprah Magazine.

1 medium sweet potato (about 14 ounces), scrubbed
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small clove garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fat-free chicken broth
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 425°F.

2) Prick sweet potato all over with a fork. Roast about 45 to 50 minutes, or until potato can be easily run through with a knife. Set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove flesh from skin. (It should slip right out.)

3) In a food processor, combine chickpeas, garlic, salt, sweet potato, and a little chicken broth. Get it going, and slowly add olive oil as it’s running. When olive oil runs out, slowly add the rest of the chicken broth.

4) Pour into a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste, and add a little hot sauce if you’re in the mood.

According to O Magazine: “Store any leftovers in the refrigerator, and when ready to serve again, bring puree to room temperature and thin with extra olive oil."


Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber and Price for Potatoes
141 calories, 1.4 g fat, 3.1 g fiber, $0.71

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber and Price for Puree
221 calories, 9.9 g fat, 5.1 g fiber, $0.33

Calculations (Potatoes)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (like Grey Poupon): 30 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.27
1 teaspoon olive oil: 39 calories, 4.5 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.12
3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika: 4 calories, 0.2 g fat, 0.6 g fiber, $0.03
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed in your hands: 1 calorie, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.03
1/2 teaspoon table salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
1-1/2 pounds small (3-inch) red potatoes: 490 calories, 0.7 g fat, 11.6 g fiber, $2.35
TOTAL: 564 calories, 5.4 g fat, 12.3 g fiber, $2.82
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 141 calories, 1.4 g fat, 3.1 g fiber, $0.71

Calculations (Puree)
1 medium sweet potato (about 14 ounces): 341 calories, 0.4 g fat, 11.9 g fiber, $0.69
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained: 500 calories, 4.6 g fat, 18.5 g fiber, $0.66
1 small clove garlic: 4 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.05
1 teaspoon salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
1/4 cup fat-free chicken broth: 4 calories, 0.3 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.10
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil: 477 calories, 54 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.46
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.03
TOTAL: 1326 calories, 59.3 g fat, 30.5 g fiber, $2.00
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 221 calories, 9.9 g fat, 5.1 g fiber, $0.33

Friday, January 15, 2010

Top 10 Links of the Week: 1/8/10 – 1/14/10

First, thank you guys so much for your responses to Tuesday’s Ask the Internet question. They helped a lot, and I feel much more confident hitting up Crate & Barrel with a scanner gun. I think the Oxo company will be very, very pleased by the time we’re finished.

Second, Haiti’s been on a lot of people’s minds this week. If you’d like to pitch in, Epi-Log has a good rundown of donation sites for food relief, and Partners in Health is looking for any help they can get.

Third, my fellow compatriots of Team Conan, it’s time for the links.

1) Food Politics: Genetic Causes of Obesity – 1%
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition just found that only 1% of us can blame obesity on genetics, thus obliterating my last excuse for not exercising. Of course, environment (where family plays a huge role) is still a significant factor, but it seems that most of us can no longer say we’re fat because our grandmas were, too.

2) Mark Bittman: A Sound Piece by Russ Parsons
Guest blogger Parsons proposes some ground rules for discussing large-scale farming in the new decade. Actually, these sound, forward-thinking ideas would help navigate just about any disagreement. Just replace “food” with “boss,” and you’re good to go.

3) NPR: Going with Whole Grains
Excellent introduction to the wonderful world of amaranth, quinoa, and farro. Includes cooking methods, recipes, and a nice narrative from writer Nicole Spiridakis.

4) The Simple Dollar
Trimming the Average Budget – Food at Home
Trimming the Average Budget – Eating Out
Trent recently did a breakdown of the average household budget. Now, he’s going over each budgetary area, post by post, and offering hints on how to trim expenditures. A neat series overall, with quite good entries on food.

5) Queen of Shake-Shake: Proof that God Exists – He Loves a Housewife Martyr
Heather bought AN ENTIRE SET of Le Creuset cookware off Craigslist for … are you ready for this? … I don’t know if you are … brace yourselves, because here it is anyway … $200. I’m still gasping three days later. (Thanks to Meredith for the link.)

6) Lifehacker: Make Your Own Snack Packs to Lose Weight
If you did everything Lifehacker suggested, you’d be ruling the planet by now. Here, they highlight a smart Parent Hacks post that could help you drop some pounds and save some dough.

7) The Atlantic: Cultivating Failure
Look, writer Caitlin Flanagan, your largely insane article does contain one or two valid criticisms of Alice Waters and the school garden movement, but insulting your readership right off the bat ("ACORN-loving"?) doesn’t do wonders for your argument. May I suggest not starting your next book, about the emotional lives of teenage girls, with “We all know an emotionally volatile and somewhat promiscuous 14-year-old space cadet”? Ed Levine has a full breakdown/takedown.

8) Food Network Humor: How to Make an Episode of Barefoot Contessa
The only thing that would have made this better is a stand mixer appearance. If you’re an Ina fan, definitely check it out.

9) Science Daily: Restaurant and Packaged Foods Can Have More Calories Than Nutrition Labeling Indicates
The title is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case, here’s a follow-up from the article itself: “Measured energy values of 29 quick-serve and sit-down restaurant foods averaged 18% more calories than the stated values. Likewise, measured energy values of 10 frozen meals purchased from supermarkets averaged 8% more calories than stated on the label.” Crap!

10) Boing Boing: “Cruel Kindness” – a 1967 UK Educational Film About Childhood Obesity
I’m a sucker for educational films (“Meat and You”), but the most interesting parts about this video are the kids themselves, who were apparently considered overweight in 1967. Maybe it’s a testament to our shifting culture, or maybe the film itself is a little skewed, but they look like pretty average compared to children in 2010. Is it just me?

via videosift.com


Casual Kitchen: How to Feel Less Hungry on Fewer Calories – Hacking the Satiety Factor of Foods
What’s filling? What’s not? Break it down with Dan.

Dad Cooks Dinner: Rules for Losing Weight
Nine more basic tenets for healthy eating.

The Kitchn: 20 Recipes for Roasted Vegetable Roundups
I seriously need to stop reading The Kitchn, because I inevitably end up linking to half the dang blog. Anyway, it’s another great recipe roundup, this time on roasted winter veggies.

The Kitchn: Alton Brown on Eating at Home and Eating Light
Breakdown of and links to Alton Brown’s Good Eats weight loss ep.

New York Times: Michael Pollan Offers 64 Ways to Eat Food
The high priest of healthy eating is back with a new book. The Gray Lady gives us an interview/preview.

Re-Nest: Green Eating – Leon Seasonal Food Chart
In-season chart that as pretty as it is useful. So, very.

Serious Eats: Is Heirloom Wheat the Next Big Baking Trend?
Neat piece shows that how you cook something is often just as important as what you put into it (if not moreso.)

Serious Eats: What Kitchen Items Would You List on a Bridal Wedding Registry?
Adam Kuban and I are in similar situations this week! See how Serious Eaters responded.

Wise Bread: Sex Up Your Sandwich – Ideas for Budget-Conscious Brown Baggers
Please read the article, so you don’t accidentally sex up your sandwich in the wrong way. It could have some weird consequences.

Thank you so much for visiting Cheap Healthy Good! (We appreciate it muchly). If you’d like to further support CHG, subscribe to our RSS feed! Or become a Facebook friend! Or check out our Twitter! Or buy something inexpensive, yet fulfilling via that Amazon store (on the left)! Bookmarking sites and links are nice, too. Viva la France!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Veggie Might: Make Your Own Paneer (Fresh Indian Cheese)

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

Back in November, my company held its annual Multi-Cultural Feast. It’s a fun, food-centric celebration to which everyone brings a dish from their homeland—be it Indiana or India.

One of my favorite dishes this year was Anand’s palek paneer (spinach with fresh cheese). It was spicier and tastier than any I’ve ever had in an Indian restaurant. I asked Anand if he would share the recipe, expecting to get one passed down from his grandmother or an auntie or something.

“Sure,” he said, a little sheepishly. “I got it from the Internet. I’ll send you the link. I put in too many chilies, though; you’ll want to use less.”

I had to laugh. That’s how so many of my “family recipes” return to my rotation. I’ll call my mother to get the recipe for grandma’s pound cake or Aunt Jane’s pimento cheese and I’ll realize she’s reading to me from All Recipes.

Whether a generations-old family favorite, or right off the Web, Anand’s palek paneer was awesome and I had to try it. I followed the link (to the charming and informative Indira’s cooking blog, Mahanandi) and found it, to my delight and terror, called for homemade paneer.

I’ve always wanted to make my own cheese, but excused myself because my kitchen is Too Small and rennet is Gross and Horrifying. Well, turns out my kitchen Just Fine and rennet is Mercifully Unnecessary. Here’s what you need for homemade paneer:


Large, heavy-bottom pot
Large spoon or spatula
Cheese cloth (for its intended purpose!)

1/2 gallon of milk (whole or 2% work best)
juice of 1 lime (about 2–3 tbsp)

And time. It takes time, but much of that is waiting—for the curds and whey to separate, for the whey to drip away, and for the curds to solidify. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s do this.

Squeeze the lime juice in advance.

Step 1
Over medium heat, slowly bring the milk to a boil in the heavy bottomed pot. Stir with spoon or spatula often to avoid scorching. This takes about 15 minutes.

Step 2
When the milk starts to boil, add the lime juice and stir constantly. You’ll see small curds begin to develop. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue stirring for 5 minutes. The whey will separate from the curds, which will rise to the top.

Step 3
Turn off heat and allow to sit for another five minutes or so to cool a bit. Line the colander with cheesecloth. You’ll need about a yard, folded in half.

Step 4
Pour the curds and whey into the cloth-lined colander and drain. Pick up the ends of the cheesecloth and give the curds a squeeze. Tie a knot a couple of inches above the curds and allow to hang over the sink for 30 minutes until all the whey has dripped out.

Step 5
Untie the knot and twist the cloth to the top of the curds, squeezing out any remaining whey. Tie a knot at the top of the curds and allow to hang for another 30 minutes.

Step 6
Remove the curds from the cloth and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 2–3 hours to allow the curds to bind together.

Step 7
You have cheese ready for use in recipes or frying.

This cheese has a very mild flavor on it’s own. It tastes mostly like milk, but it adds a delicious creaminess to recipes like palek paneer, which I’ll feature next week.

I made two batches: one with whole milk and one with 2%. There is little difference in taste between the two, so if you want to save calories and fat, go for the 2%. The whole milk cheese is slightly richer, but the main difference: 1/2 gallon of whole milk made 10 oz of cheese, whereas 1/2 of 2% made 8 oz of cheese. Less fat, less cheese.

Since my success with paneer, friends from other countries, like Russia and Ukraine, have shared that “that’s how we made cheese back home.” It’s basically the same recipe as queso fresco and farmer’s cheese. Universally, it seems that milk + acid + heat + time = cheese. That’s some math I can use.

If you like this article, you may enjoy

Nutritional Calculations
Whole Milk Paneer: 795 calories, 62.4g fat, 0g fiber, $2.39
Per 1-oz serving: 79.5 calories, 6.24g fat, 0g fiber, $.24

2% Milk Paneer: 530 calories, 41.6g fat, 0g fiber, $2.39
Per 1-oz serving: 66.25 calories, 5.2g fat, 0g fiber, $.30

Nutritional data source: Raja Foods and my own calculations for the 2% milk paneer. If you find more accurate data, please let me know!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off: 10 Rules to Live By

I’ve been browsing a lot of wedding message boards lately. It’s a fun pastime. You take polls. You read arguments that could only happen in America. You learn what preoccupies engaged folks. Which? Besides the usual etiquette questions and endless recaps of Bridezilla, is losing weight.

To a certain degree, this is to be expected. It’s certainly a concern of mine. (Those photos will last for-freaking-ever.) But there are a disturbing number of fad diets floating around those boards: cheap pills, single-food fasts, and bizarre old wives’ tales. Needless to day, they’re expensive and frequently harmful, and the results are usually only temporary.

Of course, when it comes to successfully losing weight (and more importantly, keeping it off), nothing is written in stone. What works for one person may not work for her twin sister. I certainly don’t know all the answers.

But I kinda know some of them. These ten rules have been echoed time and again by medical professionals, nutrition experts, and the media in general. They’re fairly essential to any weight control. Many have worked for me over the years. Hopefully, they’ll help you along, too.

If you have more rules to add, I'd love to read 'em. Please fire away in the comment section.

1) Seek information.
Read. Research. Watch. Absorb. Flip on your interweb button and learn about food. Get facts from experts, health professionals and reliable sources who know what they’re talking about. Gather good data and apply those numbers and strategies to your own situation. Do not let advertising make your decisions for you.

2) Ignore dumb fads.
A good rule of thumb: if it sounds like something your crazy co-worker would try, keep on walking. This includes master cleanses, herbal laxatives, TrimSpa wannabes, apple cider vinegar diets, grapefruit diets, chicken soup diets, cabbage soup diets, that godforsaken cookie diet, and their ilk. As mentioned above, these are often dangerous, pricey, and based on bum science (when they’re based on any science whatsoever).

3) “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Of all the theories I’ve heard on healthy eating, Michael Pollan’s credo seems to be the most reasonable and potentially effective, not to mention the most conscious of the financial, environmental, and social consequences. Let’s break it down.
EAT FOOD: consume whole foods and/or products with very short ingredient lists. “Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.”
NOT TOO MUCH: check your portions.
MOSTLY PLANTS: eat less meat. Increase your produce intake. Serve more whole grains.

4) Cook.
By cooking at home, you regulate portions, control ingredients, spend less money, and reduce wasteful packaging. It keeps you out of restaurants and fast food joints, where serving sizes are much larger than they were 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. So, experiment with dinner. Learn how to use a knife. Pick up How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. A few minutes in the kitchen could save you a few years of heartache down the line.

5) Get up and move.
To lose weight and keep it off, you must consistently burn more or as many calories as you ingest. This is an unassailable fact, and means some degree of daily exercise, probably for the entirety of one’s life. Use it or lose it, folks.

6) Drink water.
It’s been estimated that soda makes up 10% of all calories in the American diet. That’s practically enough for its own food group. Plus, USA Today and Yale University say: “[Soda drinkers] do not appear to compensate by reducing calories somewhere else in their diets, so they tend to pack on extra pounds.” By replacing pop with water, you’re cutting calories and hydrating your body in a healthy way.

7) Kill your TV.
According to the National Institute of Media and Family, “children who watch more than three hours of television a day are 50 per cent more likely to be obese than kids who watch fewer than two hours.” If TV is that detrimental to kids, you know it can’t have a spectacular effect on adults. Same goes for your computer and/or Playstation. That’s time you could be cooking, moving, socializing, learning, reading … you get the picture.

8) Have breakfast.
The National Weight Control Registry is a reputable organization that monitors people who have kept 30 pounds off for at least one year. (On average, it’s 66 pounds for five-plus years.) Of those successful individuals, 78% eat breakfast every single day. It prevents overeating through the rest of the day, and “may leave the subject with a better ability to perform physical activity.”

9) Remember: everything in moderation.
Are you a cold turkey kind of person? More power to you. But lots of us are baby-steppers, and when we attempt to overhaul everything at once, it results in massive burnout. So, unless it’s a medical crisis, take baby steps. Change your behaviors a little at a time. Don’t starve yourself. Work your way up to more intense exercise. You may not even notice the difference after awhile, because it’s become such a part of you.

10) Don’t diet.
Change your lifestyle. The vast majority of successful dieters gain the weight back, maybe because he very word “diet” implies a temporary modification of habit, as opposed to a lifelong adoption of behaviors. For weight loss to work, it’s gotta be for the long term.

And that’s it. Readers, what would you add to these basic tenets? What essential rules have worked for you? The comment section is open.

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