Sunday, February 28, 2010

The $25 Food Project: Day 5

I’m attempting to feed my 6-foot, 205-pound fiancé for one week for $25. This is our story.

I suddenly understand why Ma fed me PB&J sandwiches from kindergarten clear through junior high. Because Day 5, my friends? Was brought to you by peanut butter.

We cleared the 2600 minimum by more than 200 calories, thanks to six tablespoons of Jif Extra Crunchy spread among various dishes. (Er, plus an enormous brunch - picture to the right.) The Husband-Elect loves him some peanut butter, especially on banana bread, so he didn’t mind one bit.

He does mind the lack of grazing. “I feel good,” he says, “but I miss the simple pleasures of snacks and random eating.” When we started this, I didn’t realize how often we take food when we want it, as opposed to when we’re allowed. Now, I have a lot more sympathy for people who don’t have that option.

There are two more days to go, but this is already an eye-opening experience. Looking forward to sharing with yis all on Wednesday.

In the meantime, have a lovely night, and here are Sunday’s numbers.

DAY 5 TOTALS: 2824 calories, 123.3 g fat, 26.8 g fiber, $3.27

2 jumbo eggs: 191 calories, 12.8 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.41
2 tablespoons peanut butter: 190 calories, 16 g fat, 2 g fiber, $0.13
1 piece Light Banana Bread: 197 calories, 3.3 g fat, ~1.7 g fiber, $0.20
1-1/3 potato’s worth homefries: 209 calories, 0.3 g fat, 4.9 g fiber, $0.15
2 ounces Tasty Kitchen Puerto Rican Pork: 153 calories, 5.8 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.30
1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil: 192 calories, 21.7 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.14 (1/2 for eggs, 1/2 potatoes, 1/2 for pork)
1 apple: 77 calories, 0.3 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, $0.17
TOTALS: 1209 calories, 60.2 g fat, 12.2 g fiber, $1.50
PREP TIME: 30 minutes, mostly to roast the homefries

1 serving Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream: 216 calories, 8.4 g fat, 4.5 g fiber, $0.30
1/2 tablespoon mini chocolate chips: 35 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.07
1 Snickerdoodle: 150 calories, 6.8 g fat, 0.5 g fiber, $0.10
TOTALS: 401 calories, 17.2 g fat, 5 g fiber, $0.47
PREP TIME: 5 minutes

2 ounces Tasty Kitchen Puerto Rican Pork: 153 calories, 5.8 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.30
1/2 tablespoon peanut oil: 60 calories, 7 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.06
6 oz pasta: 631 calories, 2.6 g fat, 5.4 g fiber, $0.25
1/4 serving Vegan Peace peanut butter sauce: 305 calories, 24 g fat, 3.2 g fiber, $0.42
2/3 cup Earthbound Farms mixed baby greens: 5 calories, 0 g fat, 1 g fiber, $0.20
1/2 tablespoon olive oil: 60 calories, 6.7 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.06
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar: 0 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.01
TOTALS: 1214 calories, 46.1 g fat, 9.6 g fiber, $1.30
PREP TIME: 20 minutes, mostly waiting for the pasta to cook

  • Try the Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream. It's just bananas and peanut butter, and it’ll knock your face off.
  • Will you LOOK at that brunch tally? Who knew that eggs and meat fried in oil could have so many calories?
  • The uncontrollable apartment heater fused my mini chocolate chips into one big chunk. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

CHG Best of February 2010

Another month, another fabulous round of posts and comments from readers. February is the greatest, and not just because of the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, the Olympics, and Pa’s birthday. It’s the greatest because y’all make it that way. I’m mentally sending warm fuzzies as a thank you gift.

Baked Loaded Potato Skins
Cremini Mushrooms, Roasted Red Peppers, and Feta on Ciabatta Bread
Gingersnap Oatmeal
Kasha with Root Vegetables and Dill
Oatmeal with Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, and Scallions
Sardine Avocado Open-Face Sandwiches
Seitan Carolina Barbecue Bites
Southwestern Chicken


This month, we tackled CHG’s core mission with Food Money Matters: Why Healthy Eating Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive.

Then we spread the love with Eat Cheap and Healthy – How to Help Others?

Leigh taught us the ins and outs of our favorite cooking liquid with Olive Oil - Buying, Storing, and Using it, Demystified. Gotta love that lady.

Super Bowl Recipes: 50 Cheap and Healthy Party Foods guided us to the light.

We’re right in the middle of The $25 Food Project: One Man, Seven Days, 21 Meals. It should finish up Tuesday, with a full report on Wednesday. In the meantime, here’re the wrap-ups from first four days, :
This month’s Ask the Internet was all over the place. In a good way, of course. We addressed:


1) Have your say!
We love reading 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, and no one will ask you to join Farm Town or Mafia Wars or whatever.

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. Maybe shilealagh for St. Patrick’s Day? That'd be nice.

5) Go see Shutter Island!
But don’t bring the kids. Some guy in our showing had his three-year-old in tow. I like to think that CPS was waiting for him outside the theater.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The $25 Food Project: Day 4

I’m attempting to feed my 6-foot, 205-pound fiancé for one week for $25. This is our story.

We’re more than halfway through our experiment, and things are mostly pretty swell. Admittedly, I’m developing a little agita. The planning and math are fairly intense, and I’m kicking myself for not including protein in my calculations. Maybe I’ll remember next year, when I try to feed the Chicago Bears for eight weeks on 80% of a May 2007 Euro.

On the bright side, this is only due to the blog element. I think the non-obsessive layperson would have a much easier time, as you wouldn’t be calculating the price of 3/4 of a pineapple ring.

But enough whining! On to today.

We don’t really eat lunch on weekends, preferring instead to do a big brunch. Husband-Elect also had two cups of coffee, creating another caloric obstacle. As a result, we missed the 2600 minimum and failed miserably on the produce front.

After much therapy, I am okay with this. He’s far from hungry, and our fridge is filled with leftovers. It’s entrancing, really. Like a lava lamp made of pork.

And with that, the numbahs!

DAY 4 TOTALS: 2454 calories, 95 g fat, 28.1 g fiber, $3.58

5 homemade pancakes (Betty Crocker recipe): 550 calories, 21.5 g fat, 1 g fiber, $0.50
1 banana: 121 calories, 0.4 g fat, 3.5 g fiber, $0.23
1/2 tablespoon butter: 51 calories, 5.8 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.03
1/3 cup Aunt Jemima butter lite syrup: 131 calories, 0 g fat, 1.3 g fiber, $0.25
1 cup coffee: 2 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.22
TOTALS: 855 calories, 27.7 g fat, 5.8 g fiber, $1.23
PREP TIME: 15 to 20 minutes

1 cup coffee: 2 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.22
1 tablespoon Coffee mate: 25 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.05
2 Snickerdoodles: 300, 13.6 g fat, 1 g fiber, $0.20
TOTALS: 337 calories, 13.6 g fat, 1 g fiber, $0.47
PREP TIME: 2 minutes

3 ounces Tasty Kitchen Puerto Rican Pork: 229 calories, 17.3 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.46
2 corn tortillas: 100 calories, 1 g fat, 2 g fiber, $0.09
1/4 teaspoon Adobo sauce: 2 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.01
1 pineapple ring: 30 calories, 0 g fat, 0.6 g fiber, $0.18
1 cup brown rice: 219 calories, 1.5 g fat, 3.5 g fiber, $0.15
1 serving refried black beans: 220 calories, 7.9 g fat, 10.5 g fiber, $0.39
2/3 cup organic mixed baby greens: 5 calories, 0 g fat, 1 g fiber, $0.20
1/2 tablespoon olive oil: 60 calories, 6.7 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.06
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar: 0 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.01
TOTALS: 875 calories, 34.4 g fat, 17.6 g fiber, $1.55
PREP TIME: about 15 minutes for everything but the rice, which took another 15 or 20 minutes of waiting

2 tablespoons peanut butter: 190 calories, 16 g fat, 2 g fiber, $0.13
1 piece Light Banana Bread: 197 calories, 3.3 g fat, ~1.7 g fiber, $0.20
TOTALS: 387 calories, 19.3 g fat, 3.7 g fiber, $0.33
PREP TIME: 2 minutes

  • I scored a 5-ounce clamshell of Earthbound Farms mixed baby greens for $0.99 this week. It was in the markdown bin, presumably because it hit its inspiration date. The greens were perfectly fine, though. So, YAY! Organic greens for less than a buck!
  • Our favorite Mexican place makes a dish called Tacos al Pastor, which is basically spicy pork with pineapple. I tried to mimic it with leftover pork and pineapple juice mixed with a little adobo sauce. All considering, it worked well. It’ll never be confused for the real thing, but I’d eat it again and twice on Sunday.
  • The refried beans are basically: beans, olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat em, mash ‘em, and *poof*, there you go. Easy and delicious.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The $25 Food Project: Day 3

I’m attempting to feed my 6-foot, 205-pound fiancé for one week for $25. This is our story.

Day 3 is almost over, and Snowmageddon 2010 proved to be excellent for slow cooking a pork shoulder. It ultimately yielded about 26 ounces of meat, meaning we have more than enough leftovers to get us through the week. This is excellent, as is the garlicky fragrance wafting through the apartment. Honestly, I think most people buy crockpots for the free deodorizing.

Husband-Elect is feeling “a little peckish, but not weary or whatever.” I see his point. While the $25 project is working well so far, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for grazing. When this is all over, I’m going to sit him in front of the fridge with the door open and let him pick to his heart’s content.

Also, there will be beer. MARK MY WORDS, SWEET MAN.

But first, today’s numbers!

DAY 3 TOTALS: 2613 calories, 78.2 g fat, 37.7 g fiber, $3.43

1-1/2 servings Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal: 526 calories, 16.9 g fat, 11.2 g fiber, $0.60
1 apple: 77 calories, 0.3 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, $0.17
TOTALS: 603 calories, 17.2 g fat, 14.8 g fiber, $0.77
PREP TIME: 8 minutes

4 oz pasta: 421 calories, 1.7 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, $0.17
3 tablespoons Ragu: 30 calories, 1 g fat, 1 g fiber, $0.09
1/4 bag carrots: 44 calories, 0.2 g fat, 3 g fiber, $0.22
1/4 cup Ellie Krieger’s White Bean Dip: 115 calories, 4.5 g fat, 4 g fiber, $0.28
2 Snickerdoodles: 300, 13.6 g fat, 1 g fiber, $0.20
TOTALS: 910 calories, 21 g fat, 12.6 g fiber, $1.07
PREP TIME: during breakfast, plus 3 or 4 minutes

5 ounces Tasty Kitchen Puerto Rican Pork: 381 calories, 28.8 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.77
4 ounces No Yolk egg noodles: 420 calories, 1 g fat, 6 g fiber, $0.17
1 tablespoon horseradish: 7 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.5 g fiber, $0.13
2/3 cup string beans: 30 calories, 0 g fat, 2 g fiber, $0.21
1 clove garlic: 5 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.05
1/2 tablespoon olive oil: 60 calories, 6.7 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.06
TOTALS: 903 calories, 36.7 g fat, 8.6 g fiber, $1.39
PREP TIME: 10 minutes the night before, about 20 the day of

1/10th loaf Light Banana Bread: 197 calories, 3.3 g fat, ~1.7 g fiber, $0.20

  • It was a starchy day, punctuated by an unexpected request by the Husband-Elect for egg noodles. I was all set to go with a chickpea salad, but the stomach wants what it wants. (Or was that the heart? I forget.)
  • Speaking of egg noodles, they were a fantastic bargain this week. Bags were on sale for $1 each, with a coupon for $1 off two. So, $0.50/bag. Noice.
  • I made up Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal. It’s mostly, uh, bananas, peanut butter, and oatmeal. Go literal or go home, yo!
  • Tomorrow: BACON.

Top 10 Links of the Week: 2/19/10 – 2/25/10

Brooklyn is in the smack middle of Snowpocalypse ’10, and I sound like Kathleen Turner if she swallowed Stevie Nicks. (If someone knows a good sinus extraction method, call me at 1-800-BAD-FACE.) But neither sleet, nor snow, nor the infection of a thousand cranial cavities can stop us from bringing you … the links!

1) Serious Eats: Do Drinks and Food Taste Better When They’re More Expensive?
Good question! If you pay more for a meal, do you like it better because you need to feel you’re getting your money’s worth? Most SE commenters say no, but a recent wine experiment proves otherwise.

2) Huffington Post: The Week of Eating In
In conjunction with Cathy Erway (of Not Eating Out in New York fame), HuffPo is sponsoring a weeklong challenge to eat at home for every single meal. There are a bunch of related articles, including this excellent piece by Erway herself. It’s already halfway over, but it’s never too late to join!

3) Consumerist: Is it Okay to Switch Out Eggs at the Supermarket?
I never knew swapping bad eggs was a controversy. Folks, is this poor form? I freely admit I’ve done it, and no one ever shot me with a supermarket taser. Well, for switching eggs, anyway.

4) New York Times: Another Cable Helping for Food Lovers
Ladies and gentlemen, coming to your cable boxes on May 31st, 2010, it’s THE COOKING CHANNEL! Think of this Food Network spinoff like ESPN 2 or VH1 Soul: it’s more of the same, except with occasional appearances by Sade.

5) The Kitchn: How to Learn Basic Knife Skills – the Video
Proper knife technique is the most important kitchen skill you can possess. Cooking becomes about a billion times easier when you can dice an onion in 30 seconds instead of five minutes. Not to mention, there’s less bloodshed, too. Watching this video is a good first step.

6) Bon Appetit: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Grocery Shoppers
Some out-of-the-box supermarket strategies here, including “Buy fragile items last” and “Make a list of what you already have.” The latter seems time consuming, but I understand the benefit.

7) Serious Eats: Anthony Bourdain as Dr. Tony on Yo Gabba Gabba!
My friends’ little boy is a huge fan of YGG, which rivals Twin Peaks in its unadulterated trippiness. It comforts me he’ll know who Tony Bourdain is, much like Vincent the Vegetable Vampire on Electric Company introduced me to the wide world of Morgan Freeman.

8) Slashfood: Fast Food Breakfast Declines as Unemployment Rises
As both an unemployed person and a veteran of the McDonald’s morning shift, this alarms me more than it should, probably. In my experience, senior citizens keep fast food breakfasts going. But there’re only so many discount coffees a place can sell before it sinks into the red. Save the McMuffin!

9) Lifehacker: How to Cook Something in the Dishwasher
Fuh real? Fuh real. Mmm … Palmolive Chicken.

10) Yelp: Where in NYC Can You Get Full for $2?
New Yorkers, take heed! Maybe not today, though. You’re better off with that Eat at Home thing.


Stephen Colbert at the Olympic International Houses
Serious Eats posted this yesterday, but it needs to be shared. Colbert’s round of Fondue Pong at the Swiss House is classic. “You think I’m afraid of your boiling cheese? In America, we use that to fry OTHER CHEESE.”

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Olympic International Houses
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

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, February 25, 2010

The $25 Food Project: Day 2

I’m attempting to feed my 6-foot, 205-pound fiancé for one week for $25. This is our story.

Okay. That’s more like it, baby. There’s a loaf of Banana Bread in the oven, and by the time Husband-Elect is done with it, we’ll end the day with some excellent numbers.

Despite a sinus issue that’s threatening to take over my soul, Day #2 was a bit easier than Day #1. I think I got it into my head that I’m not cooking for myself, which helps. Also helping: pasta. It's cheap, it's tasty, and if I could, I'd live in a house made of penne. You know how we roll here.

With his customary eloquence and panache, Husband-Elect notes, “I feel great. I’m [expletive deleted] excited about it.” I will now bestow on him a noogie of love.

But first, today’s info!

DAY 2 TOTAL: 2594 calories, 59.2 g fat, 38.2 g fiber, $3.50

2 servings Maple Morning Polenta: 516 calories, 9.2 g fat, 8.2 g fiber, $0.63
1 banana: 121 calories, 0.4 g fat, 3.5 g fiber, $0.23
TOTALS: 637 calories, 9.6 g fat, 11.7 g fiber, $0.86
PREP TIME: 10 minutes

1 apple: 77 calories, 0.3 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, $0.17
1 serving Easy Vegetarian Bean Chili: 243 calories, 6.6 g fat, 9.1 g fiber, $0.70
1 medium baked potato (5.7 oz): 157 calories, 0.2 g fat, 3.7 g fiber, $0.11
2 Snickerdoodles: 300, 13.6 g fat, 1 g fiber, $0.20
TOTALS: 777 calories, 20.7 g fat, 17.4 g fiber, $1.18
PREP TIME: 0 minutes (did it while prepping breakfast)

6 oz pasta: 631 calories, 2.6 g fat, 5.4 g fiber, $0.25
2 jumbo eggs: 191 calories, 12.8 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.41
1/2 cup peas and carrots: 38 calories, 0 g fat, 2 g fiber, $0.22
1 teaspoon vegetable oil: 44 calories, 5 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.03
Salt & pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.02
1/2 ounce grated parmesan: 79 calories, 5.2 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.33
TOTALS: 983 calories, 25.6 g fat, 7.4 g fiber, $1.26
PREP TIME: 20 minutes (mostly waiting for the pasta to boil). I got dishes done in the meantime, which was exciting to a disturbing degree.

1/10th loaf Light Banana Bread: 197 calories, 3.3 g fat, ~1.7 g fiber, $0.20

  • We’ve been buying humanely raised eggs ever since watching Food, Inc., and I got a fantastic deal on ‘em this week. $2.50 for a dozen Jumbos! They will be used wisely. Except for the one I broke on the counter. I salute its sacrifice. Godspeed, Bob the Egg.
  • Thanks to my sinus monster, dinner was a bit simple tonight. Pasta and veggies topped with two fried eggs and parmesan. (It makes its own sauce!) Tomorrow, though: slow cooker pulled pork. Color me excited.
  • A little clarification on nutrition and price calculations: if I make a recipe already posted on CHG, I’m using those numbers. That is, unless I: A) find a much cheaper ingredient, or B) change the dish significantly. For example, I left the milk out of this morning’s polenta, which lowered the price and calories quite a bit.

Veggie Might: Olive Oil - Buying, Storing, and Using it, Demystified

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

As with wine buying, olive oil shopping can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Until about a year ago, I would buy overpriced olive oil because I thought that’s what real cooks did. I would agonize at the market for hours, staring at the beautiful labels, reading about “cold pressed” and “first cold pressed” and “extra virgin” and “unrefined” and “estate bottled” oils until I didn’t know I still had eyes.

Then I started reading cookbooks. Turns out, even the best chefs buy mid-priced oil for everyday cooking, saving the expensive, boutique oils for special occasions. So what do they look for? How can you shop like Lidia and stay in budget? And once you’ve plunked down your hard-earned green for the green-gold, how do you keep it fresh? Read on, my darlings, read on.


The International Olive Oil Council has strict guidelines as to how olive oil is produced, packaged, and sold. Essentially, the lower the acidity and less refined the oil, the higher the quality.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is obtained by pressing olives at room temperature to extract the oil without the use of heat, chemicals, or solvents. This process is called cold pressing.

Extra virgin olive oil is the most expensive and, generally, most flavorful of the olive oils, ranging from gold to deep green in color. Taste a few and find out what you like. Sometimes you’ll see unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, which Lidia Bastianich calls olio novello, with a cloudy, green, opaque appearance. She raves about its flavor and freshness. Extra virgin olive oils are best used raw, which allows their striking, individual flavors to shine.

How to Read the Label: first cold pressing, less than 1% oleic acid
Uses: dressing, dipping, some cooking

Virgin Olive Oil is also achieved by pressing but may involve the addition of heat or chemicals in the process. Virgin olive oil commonly has a milder flavor than extra virgin and is less expensive, which makes it great for cooking.

How to Read the Label: first cold pressing with 1% to 3.3% oleic acid
Uses: cooking

“Pure” Olive Oil/Olive Oil is chemically refined using solvents that evaporate away during the heating process. It is then blended with virgin olive oil to boost the color and flavor. Because of the processing, these oils are more economical and ideal for everyday cooking, like sautéing and stir-frying.

How to Read the Label: oleic acid content higher than 3.3%
Uses: cooking

Pomace Olive Oil is made from heating and extracting the remaining oil from the paste of crushed olives used to make extra virgin and virgin olive oil. It is then blended with virgin oil, resulting in bland, mostly flavorless oil. The Joy of Cooking warns it’s “of no culinary interest.”

Uses: avoid

“Light” Olive Oil is American marketing speak for chemically refined olive oil. “Light” olive oil has very little flavor and is only light in color, not in calorie or fat content. Again, The Joy of Cooking, says light olive oil is “a culinary waste of time and money.” It may or may not be cheaper than it’s “pure” or undesignated counterparts, but it is likely not worth any savings.

Uses: avoid


Cool Dark Place: Light, heat, and oxygen are the enemies of olive oil. Keep your oil in a cool, preferably dark place, and as your supply dwindles, decant your oil in smaller bottles to avoid exposure air. It will stay fresher longer.

Cooler Darker Place: The refrigerator is a great place to store oil of any kind. If your oil gets cloudy and congealed, just leave it out for a bit to warm up before use.

Oil Gone Bad
The worst place to store oil is the most convenient for cooking: on top of the stove. (I learned that the hard way.) You will have a bottle of stinky, rancid oil before you can say Bastianich five times fast.

Rancid oil smells like petroleum. If you’ve had a bottle of olive (or any kind of oil) for more than a year, give it a sniff. If it smells like you could pour it in your car or grease your bike chain with it, it’s time you parted ways.


Olive oil is low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fat, which makes it a healthy choice for people watching their cholesterol. It’s also versatile for cooking because of its high smoke point.

The smoke point of oil is the temperature at which the oil breaks down, causing the flavor and nutritional aspects of the oil to disintegrate—and turn to smoke.

Olive oil’s smoke point, between 405°F and 460°F, is above the recommend temperature for deep frying (350°F –375°F), making it is great for high-heat cooking, like sautéing and frying.

Choose Wisely
Olive oil has a distinctive, fruity flavor that carries through to the dishes it’s used in. That may sound obvious, but for a long time, I used olive oil in everything because I thought that’s what those real cooks did. Turns out there are times when I want a different flavor, or neutral oil, like canola, that doesn’t inform the flavor of my dish.

“I save my most beautiful oils for salads or special effects. For other uses, like sautéing, I use a modestly priced olive oil, of whatever official grade (extra virgin, virgin, or pure), so long as it’s fresh.”—Julia Child from Julia and Jacques: Cooking and Home

The master has spoken. Go (eat bread dipped in olive oil) in peace.

If you like this article, you may like

How to Read a French Fry, Russ Parsons, © 2001 Houghton Mifflin, New York
Lidia’s Italian Table, Lidia Bastianich, © 1998 William Morrow and Company, New York
The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker, © 1997 Simon and Schuster, Inc., The Joy of Cooking Trust, and The MRB Revocable Trust, New York
Julia and Jacque: Cooking at Home, Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, © 1999 Alfred A. Knopf, New York

(Photo credits: flickr members lynette henderson and Luigi FDV.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The $25 Food Project: Day 1

It’s Day 1 of the $25 Food Project! I’m excited! Husband-Elect’s excited! This is gonna be a good time! However…

Already I’m about $0.40 off. Yikes. This isn’t insurmountable, but I don’t like starting behind the curve. Fun fact: if I was feeding myself (with a 2020 calorie requirement) instead of Husband-Elect, I’d be right on target.

So here’s what happened. I made a few major tactical errors right off the bat. Well, it was actually just one mistake made several times, like so:
  • Instead of buying a bag or two of dried beans, I figured I could use canned beans from my stash. (Er ... pantry.) They’re not expensive in the grand scheme of things, but for this experiment, compared to bagged beans, they may as well be caviar.
  • Same thing went for cheese; I got really great deals on Cracker Barrel a few weeks ago, but it’s still pricey compared to generic cheddar.
  • Oatmeal … same. I could have had the store brand but … moving on.
Essentially, I got cocky. It wasn’t catastrophic, though, especially since Husband-Elect "feels that I have been sated." (He's a peach, that one.) I think I can make up the slack through the rest of the week, too. (Woot!)

That said, here’s the breakdown from today:

DAILY TOTAL: 2739 calories, 67.6 g fat, 57.1 g fiber, $3.96

2 servings Gingersnap Oatmeal: 526 calories, 6.4 g fat, 9 g fiber, $0.84
1 apple: 77 calories, 0.3 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, $0.17
TOTAL: 604 calories, 6.7 g fat, 12.6 g fiber, $1.01
PREP TIME: 9 minutes

PB&J on whole grain bread: 510 calories, 19 g fat, 8 g fiber, $0.46
10 Triscuit Thins: 103 calories, 3 g fat, 2 g fiber, $0.20
4 ounces carrots: 44 calories, 0.2 g fat, 3 g fiber, $0.22
1 apple: 77 calories, 0.3 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, $0.17
1/2 cup White Bean Dip: 230 calories, 9 g fat, 8.1 g fiber, $0.56
TOTAL: 964 calories, 30.5 g fat, 24.7 g fiber, $1.61
PREP TIME: 0 minutes (made it while breakfast cooked)

1 serving Easy Bean Chili: 243 calories, 6.6 g fat, 9.1 g fiber, $0.70
2 med. baked potatoes (14.1 oz): 388 calories, 0.4 g fat, 9.2 g fiber, $0.22
1/2 grated cheddar: 45 calories, 3 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.12
TOTAL: 721 calories, 10 g fat, 18.3 g fiber, $1.04
PREP TIME: 30 minutes active prep, 20 minutes waiting for it to cook

3 Snickerdoodles: 450 calories, 20.4 g fat, 1.5 g fiber, $0.30

  • Oven Stuffer Roasters and pork shoulder were on sale this week, both for $0.79/lb. I went with the pork, because I did chicken once before and wanted to challenge myself.
  • I started prepping last night for today. I made an adapted version of Ellie Krieger’s White Bean Dip and skinned and chopped a pound of carrots. All told, this took me 13 minutes, with another 5 added for dishes. BAM, yo.
  • For a treat, I made the cheapest cookies I could think of: Snickerdoodles. It took probably 30 minutes prep time (mixing & rolling), plus another 15 minutes for baking and storage. They're really good! The recipe (from Recipe Zaar) is highly suggested

The $25 Food Project: One Man, Seven Days, 21 Meals

This is the Husband-Elect.

(With Han Solo’s head.)

Over the next week, every single meal he consumes will come from our kitchen. If all goes well, it will cost under $25, total.

He is six-feet-tall, 205 pounds, and in his mid-30s. According to WebMD and a few other sites, he requires around 2600 calories each day. According to the USDA, it’s a little over 3000. I’m going to shoot for somewhere in the middle.

I’m doing this for two reasons:
  1. I’m used to feeding myself, and it ain’t no thang. But being a stunning, brilliant, muscular dude, Husband-Elect’s needs are very different. Once we have a better idea of what he requires in a given week, it’ll help us eat for the rest of our lives.
  2. Writing this blog, I tend to go on all like, “Why don’t people just EAT HEALTHIER? It’s so much CHEAPER and EASIER than they think and blah blah blah presumptivecakes.” With this experiment, I’m (hopefully) putting my money where my keypad is.
As part of the experiment, I’ll post at the end of every day. Husband-Elect will chime in occasionally, as he is erudite and good at words and stuff. Beyond our comments, these entries will include:
  • The content of each meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks).
  • The cost of each meal.
  • The time it took to prepare each meal. (And maybe for the dishes? I haven’t decided yet.)
  • The nutritional aspects of each meal. This will definitely include calories, fat, and fiber, which is what we usually list after recipes at CHG. Other than that, I’m not sure.
  • Miscellaneous shopping and prep notes.
Next Wednesday, we’ll do a final tally of cost, time, and nutrition, as well as recipes, a shopping list, and a breakdown of what we learned. It’s gonna be a good time.

Of course, like everyone, we have benefits and drawbacks related to our income, location, space, transportation, etc. The biggest ones are as follows:

  • He’s not a picky eater, except for bottled raspberry dressing. Boy, he hates that.
  • He was a vegetarian for six years in his early-to-mid twenties, and has no problems with beans, produce, or weird soy products. (We’re still going to incorporate meat, though.)
  • We’re both water and occasional coffee drinkers, meaning I don’t have to buy soda or juice.
  • There are two decent supermarkets within a half-mile of my place, and they’re both running pretty sweet sales this week. ($1.49 for 5 lbs potatoes, $0.66 for pasta, etc.)
  • I’m using my pantry, which is well stocked with herbs, spices, vinegars, and oils.
  • We share a small Brooklyn apartment with another couple and their barky little dog. Storage and prep space are extremely minimal.
  • Husband-Elect likes beer. I have no idea how to include this, and it made him tear up a little.
  • I walk to my grocery stores, so I only buy what I can carry. That makes bulk purchases fairly difficult, unless I'm feeling cavalier about my vertebrae.
  • It’s February, which means most fresh produce is out of the picture. I’ll be leaning pretty heavily on frozen veggies.
  • We do not have a dishwasher. Tragic.
  • In the midst of all this, I hafta come up with two new recipes for CHG and Serious Eats. Yoinks.
So far, I can tell you this: it’s Day 1, and I’m already in trouble. I figure we have about $3.55 per day to work with, and I’m going to end up around $4, with nowhere near as many calories as he needs. But more on that later this evening.

Readers, any tips? Have you ever tried anything like this? I’ve done my shopping, but need all the help I can get.


If you like this article, you might also dig:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ask the Internet: Three Food Choices - a Hypothetical Question

This week, it’s a hypothetical question that came up during a lovely, bacon-soaked Valentine’s brunch.

Q: You can only eat three dishes for the rest of your life. They’re dishes, not single foods; this means you can choose bananas, but you can also opt for Spaghetti Bolognese. You must consider proper nutrition. Side dishes are not allowed. Which three do you choose?

A: This took both of us (me and Husband-Elect) a surprisingly long time to answer. If we were just choosing our favorite foods, it would have been easy, but the nutritional aspect is such a killer. After much discussion, we finally came up with:

Husband-Elect: vegetarian burrito, bean chili, and fruit salad.
Me: vegetable stir-fry over rice, chicken fajitas, and Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing.

Leaving out macaroni & cheese was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and that includes that time I burnt all my fingers at Wendy’s and kept working the register.

Readers, how ‘bout you? Three dishes from here TO ETERNITY.

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, February 22, 2010

Southwestern Chicken: a Foil Dinner Recipe

Today on Serious Eats: Banana Nut Oatmeal and French Toast Oatmeal. Both easy, both tasty, both make we want to eat right now.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I camped. A lot. I was a Girl Scout, see. And when I wasn’t pushing Thin Mints on the unsuspecting elderly, I was deep in the woods, playing Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board and doing everything I could to avoid roaming packs of Daddy Longlegs.

I was also eating, as freakishly tall 13-year-olds are wont to do. Back then, my troop’s campsite meals were limited to sandwiches and granola bars, along with the occasional S’more-a-thon.

However, as we got older, we also got smarter, and began booking a large cabin with a fully functioning kitchen. (Note: I grew up on Long Island. This still counted as roughing it.) Spaghetti dinners became much more common than burgers and dogs. As approximately 400% of Long Islanders are at least part Italian, this was greatly appreciated.

Honestly (and I’m positive my leader will know for sure), I don’t remember ever cooking anything in a tin foil pouch, over a campfire or otherwise. I wish we had, though, because this Southwestern Chicken from About.com would have been great. With only four major ingredients, it’s stupefying in its simplicity, but rewarding in its … uh … tasteicity.

Baked in the oven at a high temperature, the salsa steams the chicken, keeping it pleasingly moist without overcooking. It flavors the dish, too, meaning the higher the salsa quality, the better the meal. While you could definitely serve Southwestern Chicken with rice or a salad, the corn and beans make it a fairly complete dinner. I give it a foil-packed thumbs up.

Readers, do you have any favorite foily meals? I have Reynolds wrap, and I’m not afraid to use it. There’s a nation of eager Girl Scouts out there waiting for your suggestions. (And for you to shoo the spiders away. *shudder*)

If you like this recipe, you might also like:

Southwestern Chicken
Serves 2
Adapted from About.com.

2 12x18-inch rectangles aluminum foil
2 5-ounce pieces boneless skinless chicken breast (or, 1 10-ounce breast cut in half)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup chunky salsa, medium heat

1) Preheat oven to 450°F.

2) Generously salt and pepper both sides of each chicken breast. Place each smack in the middle of its own sheet of tin foil. Top each with 1/4 cup beans, 1/4 cup corn, and 1/4 cup salsa.

3) Seal the packets. Bring the long ends together and double fold them. Then double fold sides. Don’t make them too snug – make sure you leave some space in there for steaming.

4) Bake 35 minutes. Remove from oven and give the foil a minute or two to cool. Release your chicken and serve over rice.

NOTE: Thinner cuts of meat will cook for less time. Mine was about 1-inch at its thickest part.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
269 calories, 2.4 g fat, 6 g fiber, $0.98

2 5-ounce pieces boneless skinless chicken breasts: 312 calories, 3.4 g fat, 0 g fiber, $1.06
Kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber per serving, $0.01
Freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber per serving, $0.01
1/2 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed: 114 calories, 0.4 g fat, 7.5 g fiber, $0.19
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed: 76 calories, 0.6 g fat, 2.3 g fiber, $0.20
1/2 cup chunky salsa, medium heat: 35 calories, 0.3 g fat, 2.1 g fiber, $0.50
TOTALS: 537 calories, 4.7 g fat, 11.9 g fiber, $1.97
PER SERVING (TOTALS/2): 269 calories, 2.4 g fat, 6 g fiber, $0.98

Friday, February 19, 2010

Top 10 Links of the Week: 2/12/10 – 2/18/10

Before we get to today’s links, the results are in from Tuesday’s Ask the Internet question. We queried: do you include tax when you tip a restaurant server?

THE READERS HAVE SPOKEN, and between thread comments and Facebook replies, it came down to a single vote. A single vote! No kidding:
  • Yes, I include tax when I tip: 29 VOTES
  • No, I don’t include tax when I tip: 30 VOTES
Henceforth, you don’t have to include tax! (Unless you want to.) With that dilemma solved forevermore, let’s go to el linkage.

1) River Front Times: 20 Unholy Recipes – Dishes So Awful We Had to Make Them
Possibly the post of the millennium: St. Louis bloggers attempted 20 different vintage recipes of varying awfulness, from Vienna Sausage Shortcake to Pickle-Stretcher Salad to Asparagus-Macaroni Loaf. The results are the culinary equivalent of Kurtz’s death scene in Apocalypse Now. (Thanks to Neatorama for the link.)

2) The Atlantic: The Great Grocery Smackdown
Great piece on Wal-Mart’s new produce initiatives, which include more organics and locally-grown fruits and veggies. In a blind taste test, the author matches some of the megacorp’s products up against Whole Foods' versions of the same things. The results are surprising and encouraging. A must-read.

3) New York Times: When Children Are Overweight, Changes for the Whole Family
Solid piece on how a family’s lifestyle changes when it's trying to correct a child’s poor eating habits. While you should never put a minor on a medically unsupervised diet, these subtle switches seem to make sense.

4) Wise Bread: 7 Ways to Cut Your Food Bill Without Clipping a Single Coupon
Quick-but-thorough primer on the basics of frugal grocery shopping. Definitely check it if you’re new to the field. (Which I call “grocerologyiatry.”) (I'm still working on the name.)

5) GOOD Magazine: The Emotional Quotient of Soup Shopping
This is super interesting, and probably emblematic of how food graphic designers work nowadays. Campbell’s just redesigned their label to appeal more to shoppers’ emotional reactions. Did you know, neurologically speaking, that we don’t give a crap about spoons? It’s true.

6) New York Post: My Personal Kitchen Confidential
Not Eating Out in New York blogger Cathy Erway saved $7200 over two years by cooking at home, avoiding takeout, and skipping restaurant meals. When you live here, it’s so, so, so super easy to blow all your dough on food. This is a valuable reminder that there's another way.

7) Re-Nest: How to Buy and Store Bulk Foods
As my storage is limited to whatever I can cram in an unplugged toaster, this wonderful post doesn’t apply so much to me. But sweet readers, with your newfangled “pantries” and “shelves,” might find it super helpful.

8) Jezebel: Jared Fogle and the Plight of the Celebrity Dieter
Subway’s weight loss poster boy has gained back 40 of the 200 pounds he lost. In the grand scheme of things, this is still a huge triumph: the guy lost 160 pounds and kept it off. However, advertising-wise, this means big trouble for Subway, much like Kirstie Alley’s gain was bad news for Jenny Craig. It’s a warped, twisted way of looking at dieting, but an interesting media discussion nonetheless.

9) The Simple Dollar: The Minimal Tip
Rounding out our discussion on restaurant tipping: have you ever given nothing? Trent has, and here, he discusses the reasons. (Honestly, it sounds merited.) Followed by a massive comment debate.

10) CNN: Jamie Oliver: 'Eat your chips,' just not every day
Go for details on Jamie’s victorious TED plan for correcting childhood obesity in America. Stay for the accent. Roit!


Dad Cooks Dinner: Weekly Dinner Plans
A different way of attacking menus. I like.

Hillbilly Housewife: 5 Steps To Safely Disinfect Your Wooden Cutting Boards
Non-bleach secrets to purifying your chopping blocks. (Note: not with hellfire.)

The Kitchn:
Quick Reference – A Guide to Herbs and Spices
30 Gold Medal Tips that Pack Some Punch in the Kitchen
What’s the Deal With Reactive and Non-reactive Cookware?
This week’s highlighted posts include an excellent primer on jarred flavors, kitchen hacks galore, and a question that has puzzled pan purchasers since the beginning of time.

Money Saving Mom: What is Your Stock-up Price on Toilet Paper?
If you ever wanted to learn about price discrepancies across the nation, read this comment thread. Mine: $0.66/roll. It don’t get much better in BK.

The Simple Dollar: Optimizing Your Grocery List
There’s efficiency, and then there’s EFFICIENCY. These strategies fall into the latter category.


Hey! We made some blog carnivals this week! Check ‘em out yourselves for a cornucopia of craft and personal finance articles, from every corner of the interweb.

Esquire: Roger Ebert – The Essential Man
A few years ago, film critic Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw to a series of cancer-related surgeries. Since then, he hasn’t had a bite to eat or a drop to drink. He’s completely lost his ability to speak. Yet, he’s living louder than ever, mostly through his blog, his movie reviews, and his prolific Twitter feed. This moving, revealing article chronicles a day in the life of new Ebert, and if it’s not too cliché, it gets a huge thumbs up.

Chicago Sun-Times: Roger Ebert’s Last Words
Here's Ebert’s response to the Esquire piece. Filled with astute observances, including but not limited to, “Low self-esteem involves imagining the worst that other people can think about you,” and "Resentment is allowing someone to live rent-free in a room in your head.” Win: Ebert.

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, February 18, 2010

Veggie Might: Kasha with Root Veg and Dill Recipe - Bland vs. Subtle

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

In healthy, vegetarian cooking—in any cooking really—there is a shade of difference between bland and subtle. Conventional wisdom holds that if food is good for you it has to taste like a craft project. Well, I like to keep my craft projects and cooking projects separate, unless Amy Sedaris issues a challenge.

That is why I am known to tweak all recipes, especially vegetarian ones, written before 2005. Vegetarian recipes are notoriously bland. I mean, y’all know. We’ve all tried to cook quinoa with spinach, mushrooms, and tofu for unsuspecting carnis, only to have it backfire on occasion.

So this week I was trying to get whittle down the abundance of kasha in my pantry. Kasha, in the U.S. anyway, is buckwheat. In my old Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook, I found what I thought was the perfect recipe to start with: Kasha with Potatoes and Dill.

It uses the classic Eastern European flavors of onion and dill, which are a bit out of my usual comfort zone, i.e., no garlic, parsley, or cilantro, and it will challenge me to follow a recipe. When working with new flavors, I don’t experiment much.

Well. It turned out to be that textbook hippie food that turns people off of healthy cooking: bland, mushy, with the distinct flavor of Aleene’s Tacky Glue. My Charming Dinner Guest was so polite, adding extra salt and telling me that “No, really, it’s good.” But I knew.

And I was determined to make it good.

Back to the recipe, I was ready to up all the seasonings and adjust the kasha:veg ratio by adding a turnip. I did those things, but I also realized something very important. I screwed it up the first time.

Going through the instructions again, I discovered that I had cooked the kasha way too long the first time. I got paste because I overcooked the grain. The recipe was still light on the onion and dill, but my error took away the subtle, nutty flavor of the kasha, which absolutely makes the dish.

The second go-round was delicious—light and fluffy, with a hint of sweetness from the onion and a counterbalance of tang from the dill. This dish makes a lovely alternative to a potato side, and packs in way more nutrition with the high-fiber kasha giving it a boost.

That is not the first time my hubris in the kitchen has resulted in a grain FAIL. But it’s cool. These little experiments are how I learn. But next time, I won’t jump to blame the recipe before I check my work.

Now my pantry is nearly kasha-free, and my fridge is well full. My menu is set for the week.

If you like this recipe, you might enjoy

Kasha with Root Vegetables and Dill
Adapted from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook.
Serves 6

1 medium potato (about 8 oz), chopped (peeled, optional)
1 medium turnip (about 8 oz), peeled and chopped
water to cover

1 cup kasha
2 cups water
1 tsp salt

1 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
1/4–1/2 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp salt

1) In a small saucepan, cover chopped potatoes and turnips with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a rolling simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until just tender. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set root vegetables aside.

2) In a skillet, toast kasha over medium high heat for 7–10 minutes or until you smell the roasted grain fragrance. Stir and toss regularly. Set aside kasha.

3) Bring the 2 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt to boil in a small saucepan. Stir in the kasha, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

4) While your kasha is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet and add the onion. Cook until onion is soft, about 7–10 minutes. Add water as necessary if the onion starts to stick.

5) Once all your components are ready, combine in the skillet over medium heat. Add to the onion the kasha, root vegetables, dill, and salt to taste. Toss to combine.

6) Serve as a side with a hearty entrée and vegetables. This goes great as a potato alternative with Bean Burgers and a vegetable.

7) Marvel at the subtle flavors and your finely tuned palate.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price per Serving
158 calories, 1.6g fat, 6g fiber, $.44

1 medium potato: 164 calories, .15g fat, 5g fiber, $.15
1 medium turnip: 39 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, $0.37
1 cup kasha: 567 calories, 4g fat, 17g fiber, $.83
1 1/2 large onion: 136.5 calories, .5g fat, 75g fiber, $1.00
1 tsp olive oil: 40 calories, 4.7g fat, 0g fiber, $.03
1/2 cup fresh dill: 2 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.25
2 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and price per serving
Totals: 948.5 calories, 9.35g fat, 24.5g fiber, $2.63
Per serving (totals/6): 158 calories, 1.6g fat, 6g fiber, $.44

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eat Cheap and Healthy: How to Help Others?

Last week, we posted Food Money Matters: Why Healthy Eating Doesn’t Have to be Expensive, in which we asked readers if you thought eating healthy and frugally was possible.

The response was overwhelming, wonderful, and skewed towards “Heck yeah!” While I know CHG readers may be a tad pre-disposed, it's comforting to think we’re not taking crazy pills over here.

However, my post was a little short on solutions, and one of the last commenters, GrowingRaw, brought up an excellent question. If y’all are up for it, this week I would love to brainstorm some ideas:

What are the best ways to identify and offer help to people who may be interested in improving their eating habits and health? Given other difficult stuff that goes on in people's lives, how reasonable is it to expect their diet to be a priority? What's a reasonable amount of support to offer without being patronising or creating dependencies?

Michelle Obama’s obesity initiative is a solid start to long-lasting institutional change. But on a personal level, the issue is (as always) fraught with tension and complicated emotions. So, how can we help others to eat healthy and inexpensively without being jerks about it?

Though I don’t know the answers, I have some ideas (listed below), and I’d super-like to hear more from y’all. Together, I think we can do a lot of good.

Don’t assume folks want to be helped.
They may be perfectly happy the way they are. They may be completely knowledgeable about nutrition and finances. They may just be trying to put food on the table. They may be too dang busy. They may have four kids and one stream of income. They may have genuinely attempted to change their eating habits, with little luck. They may be using food as an affordable form of comfort (which is totally fine). Situations differ, and that's okay. If someone isn't receptive to your ideas, now may not be the time.

Don’t assume your experience is universal, or that you know better than others.
Entering a situation assuming you’re the expert can be a turnoff. Because the stay-at-home mother of four in Tallahassee leads a very different lifestyle than the single Brooklyn food blogger (represent!). Our income, routine, storage, time, skills, transportation, and nutritional needs don’t match up, and what applies for me may not apply for her.

Cook for someone.
Make a wonderful, inexpensive meal for someone you love. Casually mention the price tag, maybe? If it doesn’t take too long, definitely mention the time of preparation. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, maybe the roasted chicken or turkey chili.

Start a potluck.
Try to incorporate a theme. Put a cost cap on the dishes, or have everyone make something from scratch. Offer ideas to others, if they need ‘em. Turning food into a social event is a good way to get people involved in its creation.

Take somebody grocery shopping.
She/he might be wowed by how much food you buy for so few dollars. One of the reasons I started cooking more frugally was seeing what Crystal could snag for $60. I didn’t know it was possible.

Be available for questions.
Answer them to the best of your knowledge, and without judgment.

Start a multi-family shopping pool.
This idea comes from reader chacha1: “Once a family decides to eat healthy they will find a way to get to the places where they can buy proper food. I think this is something churches could be organizing, but individuals [can] think creatively about doing multi-family shopping pools, etc.”

Last week, a lot of commenters mentioned that cooking and shopping classes could be helpful. If you have the knowledge, skills and time, why not share ‘em?

And with that, the comments are open. Assuming they want to be helped, how can we assist others in their quest to eat healthy and frugally?

If you like this article, you might also dig:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ask the Internet: How to Tip a Waiter?

This week, I’m asking the internet to settle an argument once and for all.

Q: At a restaurant, do you include tax when you calculate the tip for your server?

A: My sister (an ex-waitress) and I believe you should include tax. Others whom we love and admire say, "Nuh-unh."

What about you, sweet readers? Do you include tax? Why or why not?

I’ll tally the votes/opinions and reveal the winner in Friday’s Top 10 post. It should solve this debate forevermore, for the rest of eternity, until the end of time. No one will ever ask the question again.

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, February 15, 2010

A Delightful Alton Brown Recipe: Sardine Avocado Open-face Sandwiches (No, Really)

Today on Serious Eats, it’s Mexican Chocolate Cake. Delicious, dairy-free, vegan, less than $2 to make.


I want y’all to hear me out here.

This is gonna sound weird. And your first instinct might be to throw your computer across the room, narrowly missing your houseplant or receptionist, depending on whether you’re at home or the office. (Or if you have a home receptionist.)

However, this Sardine Avocado Open-faced Sandwich is quite delicious.

You still with me?

Okay, good.

Here’s the story: about a year ago, Good Eats host/food nerd king Alton Brown found himself becoming a little poofy around the edges. So, over the next nine months, he endeavored to drop 50 pounds. During this period, one of his favorite dishes was … you got it: Sardine Avocado sandwiches.

As Alton is my food brother from another mother, and Serious Eats had nothing but good things to say about it, we had to try said sandwich.

And to my surprise, I really liked it. So did Husband-Elect. Whereas mayo-based salads can taste heavy and dull, this dish is kept fresh and lively by the cider vinegar, parsley, and lemon juice. Seasoned correctly, it’s an excellent alternative to tuna fish sandwiches.

Speaking of which, let's compare some numbers:

Alton’s Sardine Avocado Open-faced Sandwich
276 calories, 15 g fat, 7.5 g fiber

Panera Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat Bread
391 calories, 24.5 g fat, 3.1 g fiber

Subway 6-inch Tuna Sandwich on Whole Wheat
530 calories, 30 g fat, 5 g fiber

Right? Not to mention, the nutritive qualities are pretty out of this world. You want heart-healthy fats? This is your sandwich.

In the end, yes, this is an ugly food. And yes, its name sounds like a Dead Milkmen album. And yes, if you have issues with canned fish and/or whole animals than can be mushed with a fork, you may not like this recipe.

But I’m tellin’ ya: give it a shot. You might be pleasantly surprised.


If you like this, you might also like:

Sardine Avocado Open-Face Sandwich
Serves 2.
Adapted from Serious Eats and Good Eats.

1 (3.75-oz) tin sardines in water
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 lemon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 ripe medium avocado
2 slices whole wheat bread

1) Drain the sardines, reserving 1 tablespoon of sardine water. Zest the lemon, but reserve the fruit itself for later. Toast the bread.

2) In a small bowl combine sardines, reserved sardine water, parsley, vinegar, vegetable oil, lemon zest, a little salt, and a little pepper. Mash the sardines with a fork until you have a fairly chunky spread.

3) In a separate small bowl or on a small plate, mash the avocado with a fork until it becomes a fairly chunky spread.

4) Spread the sardine mixture on the pieces of bread. Spread each with avocado. Top with a little salt, a little pepper, and a good squeeze of the lemon. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price Per Serving
276 calories, 15 g fat, 7.5 g fiber, $1.59

1 (3.75-oz) tin sardines in water: 140 calories, 7 g fat, 0 g fiber, $1.89
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped: 1 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.17
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
1 teaspoon vegetable oil: 44 calories, 5 g fat, 0 g fiber, $0.03
1/2 lemon: 6 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, $0.30
Kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
Freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $0.01
1/2 ripe medium avocado:161 calories, 14.8 g fat, 6.7 g fiber, $0.45
2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted: 200 calories, 3 g fat, 8 g fiber, $0.31
TOTAL: 552 calories, 30 g fat, 14.9 g fiber, $3.18
PER SERVING (TOTAL/2): 276 calories, 15 g fat, 7.5 g fiber, $1.59

Friday, February 12, 2010

Top 10 Links of the Week: 2/5/10 – 2/11/10

First off, thanks to everyone commenting on Wednesday’s post. I’ve rarely read such a thoughtful, well-reasoned discussion on the internet, and it’s wonderful beyond words. (Er, except these words.).

Second, on to the links!

1) Jezebel: “Let’s Move” - Michelle Obama’s Anti-Obesity Program Looks Promising
Post of the week, man. This breakdown of MObama’s obesity initiative covers much of the same territory Marion Nestle does (see #2), but with the added bonus of hundreds of excellent comments discussing all sides of the issue. Even better, Jez goes on to post an excerpt from a National Review piece by Julie Gunlock, who has absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. It’s opposition for opposition’s sake, and it’s heinous.

2) Food Politics:
The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation
Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity: Applause!
What Mrs. Obama’s Campaign Does Not Do: Food Marketing to Kids
Everything you ever wanted to know about this week's newly unveiled anti-obesity program, but were afraid to ask/attempt to navigate government websites.

3) The Atlantic: How to Wield a Knife
Gory and fascinating look at knife safety in a butcher shop. The tips will help you remain injury-free. The scar stories will fascinate and repulse you. (The guy buried a cimeter knife in his arm! GAH.)

4) Oregon Live: Thin Budget, Smart Choices
Maybe the best article about healthy budget grocery shopping I’ve ever read, and an excellent companion piece to Wednesday’s CHG article. Expert Ellen Damaschino buys a full week of food for a family of four on a food stamp budget. (P.S. We get a mention at the bottom! Woo!)

5) AVClub: Taste Test - MREs
The sensitive palates at The Onion tried six different MREs, the military-issued ready-to-eat meals legendarily loathed by the fine members of our armed forces. Hilarity ensues, with reactions ranging from, “The cheese spread is almost exactly like a chunk of Velveeta that’s been left out too long and is starting to sweat” to lots (and lots) of disgusted cursing.

6) Chow: Know Your Legumes
A virtual encyclopedia of beans, lentils, and split peas for those looking to expand their legumic consciousness. Trippy, man.

7) BoingBoing: Highlights from TED 2010 - “We Can Eat to Starve Cancer”
So, check this: cancer needs angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels) to grow and spread. The produce-heavy foods listed herein slow the process, and consequently, could help slow cancer. I don’t know how thoroughly researched this is, but if it’s appearing at TED, there has to be some legitimacy there. Plus, it kinda makes sense, doesn’t it?

8) The Kitchn: How to Select the Best Produce – Fruit and Vegetables
Print out this convenient pair of rundowns, stick ‘em in your wallet, and *poof*, you’ll never buy an unripe cantaloupe again! (Also: I just forgot how to spell “cantaloupe.” I think I’m getting dumber.)

9) New York Times: One Bowl = 2 Servings. FDA May Fix That
The feds could ask manufacturers to provide more accurate, prominent calorie/portion labeling on food packaging. Because who eats half a can of soup?

10) Money Saving Mom: How Buying Less Can Set You Free
Let this zen post be your frugalist mantra from now on. All will be well. Ohm.


BlogHer: 44 Chili Recipes for Super Bowl XXLIV
Awesome! Just in time for the big game! (*Husband-Elect whispers in ear*) Uh … awesome! Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Don’t forget a breath mint.

Cooking Light: Food Court Survival Guide
Quick slideshow highlighting the healthiest choices at eight major fast food chains.

EcoSalon: Want to Lose Weight? Eat a Really Big Breakfast.
Kicking your morning off with a large meal will help keep you sated throughout the day. Another pancake, please. (Thanks to Casual Kitchen for the link.)

MSN Smart Spending: Organic Economics – The Budget Version
Nice beginners guide to buying organic food with limited finances.

Mom Advice: The Best Steakhouse Dining Experience on a Poor House Budget
Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Neatorama: Lose Weight Without Exercise While Eating All You Want – For Real! Yay, Science!
All you have to do is move to a much higher altitude. This must be why Coloradoans are so thin and sporty and stuff.


Fat Nutritionist
Smart, informed, non-judgmental, body positive, occasionally profane, Canadian. What more could you want?

(Photos from WhiteHouse.gov and Wikimedia.)

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Veggie Might: Make Your Own Ketchup

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

For most people, ketchup and French fries go together like peanut butter and jelly. For me, ketchup and jelly can both take a hike. French fries are better with malt vinegar or mayo, and peanut butter is just fine all by itself.

But I also hate bananas and strawberry ice cream, so what do I know?

It’s not that I hate ketchup, lest you think me the Andy Rooney of condiments, it’s just I find it bland and not really worth the effort. I’d rather have a little zing or richness with my fried potatoes.

I only buy ketchup to make BBQ sauce or my Dad’s BBQ slaw. Last week, I had flames on the sides of my face buying a bottle of bland ConAgra tomato sauce, chockfull of high fructose corn syrup and “natural flavors” just to make the BBQ sauce for the seitan bites.

Then it occurred to me that if I can make my own mustard, I could surely make my own ketchup. So I did.

I found several recipes on the InterWebs that looked promising: Homemade Ketchup from Epicurious, Homemade Ketchup from Kiss My Spatula—which was an adaptation of this recipe from Saveur, and this no-cook ketchup recipe from Hillbilly Housewife.

Between them, I came up with my own, and wow!

This ketchup has amazing flavor from the spices, tanginess from the cider vinegar, and just the right amount of sweetness from the carrot and molasses. You can substitute brown sugar—all the recipes called for brown sugar, but I swapped it out.

Homemade ketchup is not necessarily cheaper than store-bought, but it is certainly tastier, and in my opinion, worth the effort. I will never buy ketchup again. And, who knows, I may start eating it on French fries.

If you like this recipe, you might also dig

Emperor-worthy Tomato Ketchup
Yields 3 cups/48 1-tbsp servings

28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3–4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1/2 large carrot, finely chopped
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp sea salt
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 dried red chili
4 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp brown mustard seed

1) In a medium saucepan on medium heat, sauté chopped onion for 3 minutes. Add minced garlic, celery, and carrot. Continue to sauté until soft for another 3–5 minutes.

2) Add crushed tomatoes and stir. Then add tomato paste, vinegar, molasses, and salt, stirring well.

3) Make a spice sachet with a piece of cheesecloth. Place cinnamon, allspice berries, dried chili, bay leaf, cloves, and mustard seeds on the cheesecloth and tie tightly. Drop into pot of tomatoes.

4) Simmer for 1 hour or until desired consistency.

5) Remove from heat. Allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove spice sachet and pour mixture into blender. Puree until smooth.

6) Chill for 2 hours to allow flavors to blend.

7) Serve as desired or eat with a spoon. Your choice.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price per Serving
14.6 calories, .3g fat, .26g fiber, $.09

Commercial Ketchup: 15–20 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.06

28 oz can crushed tomatoes: 143.5 calories, 0g fat, 7g fiber, $2.49
1 tbsp tomato paste: 11.5 calories, 0g fat, .5g fiber, $.20
1/2 cup cider vinegar: 25 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.08
1 tbsp olive oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, 0g fiber, $0.08
1 medium onion: 40 calories, .2g fat, 3g fiber, $.50
4 cloves of garlic: 16.8 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.05
1 rib of celery: 5 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, $.025
1/2 large carrot: 15 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber $.08
1/3 cup molasses: 325 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.75
1 tsp sea salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $.02
4 cloves: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $.02
1 bay leaf: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $.02
1 dried red chili: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $.02
4 allspice berries: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $.02
1 cinnamon stick: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $.02
1/4 tsp brown mustard seed: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $.02
TOTALS: 701 calories, 14.2g fat, 12.5g fiber, $4.21
PER SERVING (TOTALS/48): 14.6 calories, .3g fat, .26g fiber, $.09