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Friday, April 30, 2010

CHG Best of April 2010

April: there were showers. There were flowers. There were even the New York Mets, exercising their baseball powers. And here at CHG, it was a lovely month. Let us now look back on 30 days of local produce, questionable food photography (see: recipe #1), and the best little ol’ posts you ever did see. To borrow from the great Stan Lee, excelsior!

APRIL RECIPES

Breakfast Couscous Custard with Peaches
Crustless Spinach Mushroom Quiche
Lemon-Ginger Dressing
Roasted Asparagus with Chickpeas
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Sweet Potato Kugel
Tofu Bahn Mi
Whole Wheat Pasta with Asparagus and Turkey Sausage


APRIL ARTICLES

‘Twas a month of lists here at CHG, and it all started with The 10 Cheapest, Healthiest Foods Money Can Buy.

Then we moved on to Cheap, Healthy Asparagus: 81 Recipes for the Springiest of Spring Vegetables.

And ended up at … oh, wait: Couponing for People Who Hate Couponing: A Zero-Stress Guide to Clipping Big Bargains isn’t a list. We’ll mention it anyway.

Hey! Remember On Progress? No? In retrospect, a more descriptive title would have helped. But don't be afraid to refresh your memory!

Leigh told us all about Vegetarian Meal Planning for Meat Eaters, which was super helpful (as she tends to be).

Jaime asked: Why Eat Local? Then she answered her own question! Girl knows her stuff.

As for Ask the Internet, we wondered about all sorts of things. Like, f’r instance:

FOR MORE CHEAP HEALTHY GOODNESS...

1) Have your say!
We love reading creative comments and participating in thought-provoking discussions. There’s even our fabulous Ask the Internet column, where y’all 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 Girl Scout Troop. 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 guilty feeling that you're missing something much more important!

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) Remember: Don’t spill Nerds (the candy) into a baby’s diaper while you are changing him.
Don’t ask me how I know.

Top Ten Links of the Week: 4/23/10 – 4/29/10

Happy Friday, folks! Quick update on Tuesday’s Ask the Internet question: the broth and new ratio totally worked with the polenta, and the addition of pancetta provided some much-needed depth and textural variation. Howevs, the spinach still needs work. I sautéed it much faster this time, using the oil left over from the meat, but the aftertaste remained. I’m thinking a switch to either kale, chard, or baby spinach is in order. Almost there, though! Look for the final version on Monday.

Meanwhile, BEHOLD! Here’re the links.

1) Oregon Live: Meet some of Portland's radical homemakers
A fantastic piece. Just stellar, and I love the reconceptualizing of domesticity as, “living by four tenets: ecological sustainability, social justice, family and community.” It’s extreme and ideal at the same time. An absolute must-read, though I do wish it brought a few guys into the picture.

2) The Local Cook: Top 10 Things to Do Before CSA Season
Just signed up for your first CSA? Don’t know how you’re going to handle it? No worries, sweet kale lover. This resourceful rundown will steer you in the right direction.

3) Serious Eats: Why Ben & Jerry’s Relationship with Wal-Mart is Actually Good for the Future of Food
Sometimes, the little guy can best change the big guy by working from the inside. If there’s ice cream involved, all the better.

4) The Atlantic Food: Message to Food Editors - What 30-Minute Meals Really Mean
In which Michael Ruhlman makes a decent point – learn to prioritize food – and obscures it in a cloud of unpleasantness. Dude, you want people to listen to your message? Try not to insult them in the process. Enh. Debbie says it better than me

5) Jezebel: Spoon Fed – When Food is About Love, Not Disorder
I like this whole piece on learning to reconcile personal food issues with eating’s social nature, but this statement struck me most: “I find that when we cook together we encourage each other to enjoy food for what it is — a source of nourishment and even excitement, not an enemy.”

6) Slashfood: Cook’s Illustrated vs. food52
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to RUMBLE. In this corner, Cook’s Illustrated, the venerated trial-and-error foodie mag headed up by bowtied culinary lovegod, Christopher Kimball. And in the opposite corner, food52, the new-ish website with the many-people-one-recipe mentality. Who will win next week’s cooking throwdown? Only your hairdresser knows for sure. (Pic from Village Voice.)

7) Chicago Tribune: The 50 Worst Restaurants in the World
In response to San Pellegrino’s recent naming of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, folks at CT came up with this creative list. My favorites:
24. Haggis Hut
21. Actual Panda Express
20. Fraulein Sauerkraut’s Thwap and Serve
9. Le Jirque
3. Friday’s based on the novel Push by Sapphire

8) Wise Bread: 10 Ways to Cut Waste When Feeding Kids
These smart tips might seem pretty intuitive to experienced parents, but I’m babysitting a lot more now, so they’re spectacularly well timed. I have no idea what I’m doing, see. (Just kidding, Mary! Ha?)

9) A Good American Wife: Nutritional Values
Speaking about feeding kids, Anne has some valuable insight.

10) Serious Eats: How to Toast Spices
Toasting spices is an inexpensive, easy way to bring out their flavor. Also, “mellow, toasty complexity” is my new favorite phrase. You know what I like about 30 Rock? It’s mellow, toasty complexity. And nuclear physics? It’s mellow, toasty complexity. And socks? Guess.


HONORABLE MENTION

BoingBoing: Unicorn Meat
Finally!

Consumerist: Baseball Park Food is So Overpriced. Do I Still Have to Tip?
Yes!

Food Politics: The 2010 Dietary Guidelines – Some Hints at What They Might Say
Useful!

The Kitchn: 10 Tasty Dinners to Serve on the Cheap
Tasty!


AND ALSO

The 120 Minutes Archive
Eep! Well, slap me with a moog and call me Matt Pinfield. Someone, somewhere, is cataloguing every episode of MTV’s seminal indie/alternative music show. With video and occasional performance links! (Though, this is undoubtedly the best set in history. Johnette 4-evs. Imma let you finish, but she's the most underrated rock vocalist of all time.)

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, April 29, 2010

Veggie Might: Tofu Bánh Mì - Spicy Vietnamese Sandwiches

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

Living in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, I’m surrounded by restaurants of nearly every nationality. I’m proudly well versed in Indian, Korean, Japanese, Ethiopian, Afghan, Thai, and all manner of Mediterranean delicacies. One cuisine, however, is conspicuously missing from my neighborhood United Nations: Vietnamese.

I’ve had many a phō when venturing beyond these borders; but I just recently had my first bánh mì, the outrageously spicy, Vietnamese baguette sandwich, piled high with pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, and, your choice of protein, traditionally paté, pork, headcheese (blargh), or tofu. Guess which I one got?

Sandwiches are the perfect foodstuff—they’re like eating the whole food pyramid with your hands. And báhn mì, my new obsession, may be the ideal sandwich. It’s spicy, tangy, and rich, all on light and fluffy bread.

Ever since my first one at the Vietnamese sandwich shop in CB’s ‘hood, I’ve started seeing bánh mì everywhere, except Hell’s Kitchen. So—you know what’s coming—I’ve started making it myself.

Turns out, bánh mì is pretty easy to make at home, if a little time consuming, but totally worth the effort. Plus, these guys are the perfect party food if you want to impress the pants off your friends. (Believe me.)

A few ingredients distinguish bánh mì from other sandwiches: the bread, the daikon and carrot pickles, and cilantro. Everything else is about personal taste, though some would argue spiciness is a requirement.

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED

Baguette
Andrea Nguyen of Viet World Kitchen says, “Light, crispy baguette (not the chewy, rustic kind) is essential for encasing without overshadowing the other ingredients.” No arguments here. She even provides a recipe if you want to go all the way with the DIY.

Veggies
As we’ve learned recently, some folks have a switch in their brain that flicks to “soap” when cilantro collides with their taste buds. That’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard, because cilantro, along with English cucumbers, provides fresh, cool counterpoint to hot peppers (I used jalapeños).

Sauces
Soy sauce, mayonnaise (or butter), and sriracha sauce are recommended condiments. Sriracha is the Vietnamese version of hot chili sauce. It will set your mouth on fire, so caveat diner.

Protein
Choose your own adventure. I made a killer baked tofu with this lemongrass marinade. Veg and nonveg party-goers gobbled it up, and I left with many new pairs of pants.

Daikon and Carrot Pickles (Do Chua)
These pickles are why we’re here. I could (and have) eat (eaten) these alone (in my room) with a fork. Daikon is a root vegetable from the radish family; it’s a bit strong of smell and flavor, particularly when crossed with vinegar, but so, so delicious. Combined with sweet carrots, you’ve got a mighty fine pickle. I used this recipe, with a couple of minor alterations.

With these components, you’re ready to add a new sandwich to your repertoire, wherever you live. So go: amaze your friends as you spread the bánh mì love far and wide.

~~~

If you dig this article, you may dig:
~~~

Quick and Dirty Daikon and Carrot Pickles
Yields approximately 1 quart.
Adapted from Viet World Kitchen.


1 large carrot
2 medium daikon
1 tsp salt
2 tsp + 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup warm water

1) Wash and peel the vegetables. Cut into thick matchsticks and place in large bowl.

2) Add salt and 2 tsp of sugar. Knead with your hands until carrot and daikon for about 3 to 5 minutes. The salt will pull the water from the vegetables making them soft and pliable. When the daikon is bendy, you’re ready to brine.

3) Drain the water and rinse the veg.

4) Dissolve the 1/2 cup sugar in warm water and pour over the vegetables. Then add the vinegar. Stir well.

5) Decant in a glass jar or container and refrigerate until you are ready to serve, at least 2 hours or up to 1 month.

6) Cry, it’s so good…and strong…and a little bit smelly, but worth it.


Baked Tofu with Lemongrass Marinade
Yields approximately 4 servings.
Marinade adapted from Battle of the Báhn Mì.


16 oz firm tofu
3–4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
3 stalks lemongrass

1) Preheat the oven to 400

2) Press the tofu between two plates while you prepare your marinade. Place something heavy, like a cast iron skillet, on the top plate to squeeze out the excess water. This will give your tofu a chewy texture.

3) Peel off the hard outer layers of the lemongrass stalk. Chop coarsely. You only want to use the tender parts closer to the bulb.

Food Processor Method
4) In a food processor, combine garlic cloves, soy sauce, salt, sesame oil, and chunks of lemongrass. Zap for 1–2 minutes or until garlic and lemongrass are finely chopped.

Manual Method
4) Mince garlic and lemongrass. Combine garlic, lemongrass, soy sauce, salt, and sesame oil in a bowl.

Everybody Now
5) Drain water off tofu and slice into 1/8” thick pieces. Baste both sides of slices with marinade and allow to tofu slices soak in remaining marinade for 30 minutes or until absorbed, turning once.

6) Place tofu slices on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. If necessary, turn pan halfway through baking.

7) Allow to cool to room temperature before serving. Eat. Pray. LOVE TOFU.

Calculations
Quick and Dirty Daikon and Carrot Pickles
1 large carrot: 30 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 1g protein, $.25
2 medium daikon: 122 calories, 0g fat, 10g fiber, 4g protein, $1.20
1 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
2 tsp + 1/2 cup sugar: 417 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.29
1 1/4 cup white vinegar: 43 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.60
Totals: 612 calories, 0g fat, 12g fiber, 5g protein, $2.36
Per serving (totals/16): 38.25 calories, .8g fiber, .3g protein, $.15

Baked Tofu with Lemongrass Marinade
16 oz firm tofu: 320 calories, 16g fat, 4g fiber, 32g protein $1.50
3–4 cloves garlic: 13 calories, 0g fat, $.036
1/3 cup soy sauce: 66 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 12g protein, $.20
2 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1 tsp sesame oil: 40 calories, 4.7g fat, 0g fiber, $.03
3 stalks lemongrass: 30 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 5g protein, $1.00
TOTALS: 469 calories, 20.7g fat, 4g fiber, 49g protein, $2.80
PER SERVING (TOTALS/6): 117.25 calories, 5.2g fat, 1g fiber, 12.25g protein, $.70

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cheap, Healthy Asparagus: 81 Recipes for the Springiest of Spring Vegetables

Despite the snow that fell in Syracuse yesterday, spring is pretty much upon us. And along with the warming sun and astronomical pollen count comes that earliest of vegetable bloomers, asparagus.

I don’t know about you guys, but during April and May, I buy as much asparagus as humanly possible. (Perhaps an exaggeration, but you catch my drift.) What's more, I’m always looking for different ways to prepare it. Because I loves me some roasted shoots, but after awhile, you know – variety, spice of life – all that jazz.

This may be coming a week or two early in some areas, but this compilation of 81 asparagus recipes should keep you in the culinary clear until next year. FYI, the criteria for each chosen dish were as follows:
  • It had to include inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients.
  • It had to be healthy according to how we usually do it on this blog. Meaning: mostly made up of whole food ingredients, lower in fat and calories, high in vitamins in minerals, etc.
  • If it came from an aggregate recipe site (Cooking Light, All Recipes, etc.), it had to have had a high approval rating from reviewers. If it came from a food blog, I just trust it. We’re trustworthy people, see.
  • No Cream of Anything soup or mayonnaise. Because I hate them.
So, without further ado, here you go. If you have any other suggestions, or great recipes from your own blog, feel free to add ‘em in the comment section.


BREAKFAST

CHG: Asparagus, Mushroom and Parmesan Frittata: Basements and Breakfast

CHG: Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg & Parmesan

Food Network: Asparagus, Canadian Bacon, and Cheese Frittata
Use egg whites for a lighter dish.

Kalyn’s Kitchen: Asparagus and Tomato Frittata with Havarti and Dill
Sub in a few egg whites and reduce the cheese for a lighter dish.

Kalyn’s Kitchen: Breakfast Casserole with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Cheese
Sub in a few egg whites for a lighter dish.

Real Simple: Asparagus and Soft Eggs on Toast
Use four eggs and 1/3rd of the olive oil for a lighter meal

Real Simple: Asparagus Spinach Pancakes
Halve the oil (at least) and use a nonstick skillet.


MAINS – CARNIVORE

Eating Well: Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Asparagus and Lemon

Eating Well: Wok-Seared Chicken Tenders with Asparagus and Pistachios

Everyday Food: Chicken and Asparagus Rolls

Everyday Food: Sauteed Chicken with Asparagus and Mushrooms

RecipeZaar: Thai Rice Noodles with Chicken and Asparagus

Simply Recipes: Flank Steak Stir Fry with Asparagus and Red Peppers


MAINS – VEGETARIAN

101 Cookbooks: Asparagus Stir-Fry

101 Cookbooks: In a Hurry Green Curry

All Recipes: Asparagus and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

All Recipes: Fresh Asparagus Risotto

Cooking Light: Chili-Glazed Tofu over Asparagus and Rice

Cooking Light: Lemon Risotto with Asparagus

Everyday Food: Grilled Pizzas with Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Use low-fat ricotta.

Everyday Food: Polenta Wedges with Asparagus and Mushrooms

FatFree Vegan Kitchen: Polenta with Lemony Asparagus and Chickpeas

RecipeZaar: Baked Asparagus Spinach Risotto


PASTA

CHG: Whole Wheat Pasta with Asparagus and Turkey Sausage

Cooking Light: Linguine with Asparagus, Parmesan, and Bacon

Cooking Light: Straw and Hay Alfredo with Roasted Asparagus

Eating Well: Creamy Asparagus Pasta

Everyday Food: Asparagus, Snap Pea, and Avocado Pasta

Everyday Food: Spaghetti with Shaved Asparagus

Real Simple: Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Lemon


SALADS - GRAINS

101 Cookbooks: Spring Tabbouleh
Reduce walnuts for a lighter dish.

101 Cookbooks: Ten-Minute Tasty Asparagus and Brown Rice
Add the dressing only as needed for a lighter dish.

All Recipes: Asparagus Cashew Rice Pilaf

All Recipes: Asparagus, Feta, and Couscous Salad

RecipeZaar: Asparagus Pilaf Rice


SALADS - VEGGIE

101 Cookbooks: Asparagus Salad

CHG: Chlorophyll and Awesomeness Salad

Epicurious: Asparagus and Mushroom Salad with Shaved Parmesan

Epicurious: Asparagus Salad with Sweet Balsamic Vinegar

Epicurious: Roasted Asparagus Salad with Tangerine Dressing

Kalyn’s Kitchen: Salad with Asparagus, Cherry Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, and Feta
Ooo … this looks good.

RecipeZaar: Strawberry Asparagus Salad


SIDES

CHG: Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter

CHG: Roasted Asparagus and Chickpeas

CHG: Steamed Asparagus

All Recipes: Asian Asparagus Salad with Pecans

All Recipes: Asparagus with Parmesan Crust

All Recipes: Baked Asparagus with Balsamic Butter Sauce

All Recipes: Cold Asparagus with Prosciutto and Lemon

All Recipes: Grilled Soy Sesame Asparagus

All Recipes: Orange Glazed Asparagus

All Recipes: Sauteed Garlic Asparagus

Cooking Light: Steamed Asparagus with Lemon-Garlic Gremolata

Cooking Light: Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Cooking Light: Mustard-Sauced Asparagus with Chopped Egg

Cooking Light: Spicy Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus

Eating Well: Asparagus with Curry Butter

Epicurious: Asparagus, Peas, and Basil

Epicurious: Proscuitto-Wrapped Asparagus with Mint Dressing

Everyday Food: Broccoli, Asparagus, and Snap Peas in Parchment

Everyday Food: Sauteed Scallions, Mushrooms, and Asparagus

FatFree Vegan Kitchen: Wasabi Roasted Asparagus

Food Network/Emeril: Garlic Roasted Asparagus

Kalyn’s Kitchen: Slow-Roasted Asparagus

Real Simple: Honey Lime Asparagus with Goat Cheese

Real Simple: Pan Roasted New Potatoes with Asparagus

RecipeZaar: Feta Asparagus

RecipeZaar: Foil Baked Asparagus

RecipeZaar: Guilt-Free Guacamole (Asparagus)

RecipeZaar: Ginger Sesame Asparagus

RecipeZaar: Roasted Asparagus with Sage and Lemon Butter

RecipeZaar: Sauteed Asparagus with Red Peppers and Olives

RecipeZaar: Sugared Asparagus

RecipeZaar: Apricot-Glazed Roasted Asparagus

RecipeZaar: Asparagus with Thyme

RecipeZaar: Asparagus Provencal

Stephen Cooks: Grilled Asparagus a la Sutherland


SOUPS

All Recipes: Fresh Asparagus Soup

RecipeZaar: Asparagus Orzo Soup

Simply Recipes: Creamy Asparagus Soup
Reduce some of the cream for a lighter soup.

Yum Sugar: Easy Cream-less Asparagus Soup

And that’s it. Any good recipes you know about, sweet readers? Add ‘em in the comments

~~~

If you like this article, you might also find the following pretty useful:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ask the Internet: Recipe Help?

Today’s question is born of frustration.

Q: Sweet readers! I’ve been working on a recipe for Parmesan Polenta with Spinach and a Fried Egg the past few days, but can’t get it right. It’s driving me crazy.

The polenta seems dry and needs more flavor, the spinach is giving off a weird aftertaste, and the whole thing begs for more textural variety. Can you make some suggestions to improve the situation? (Note: Not this situation.)

A: Here’s the recipe, portioned for one person:

1/3 cup polenta
1/4 skim milk
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons parmesan
1/2 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 ounces fresh spinach, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) In a small pot, combine the polenta, milk, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until all liquid is absorbed. Stir in parmesan until melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a bowl.

2) In a medium nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add spinach. Saute 1 or 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add a little water. Cover and steam until wilted, 5 or 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place on top of polenta.

3) In the same pan or a small nonstick pan, melt butter over high heat. Crack egg into pan. Add 1/2 tablespoon water. Cover and steam until yolk develops a slight milky film. Kill heat. Place on spinach/polenta. Sprinkle with parmesan, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve.

Seriously, I’ll take anything you got. Plus? If your suggestion works out, it’ll be part of Monday’s recipe, and you’ll get the huge, honkin’ credit! (I know, I know: money would be nicer.)

The comment section/weird spinach is awaiting your words.

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, April 26, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp: A Multiple Choice Quiz

Today on Serious Eats: Black Bean Dip. I want to eat it all the time. Even when I’m sleeping. Which is probably ill-advised.

Please mark off the following questionnaire with a #2 pencil. Should that process begin to cause excessive damage to your computer, you may point to your answers onscreen.

This dish seems familiar because:

A) Déjà vu.
B) Leigh posted a similar Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble less than a year ago, and Kris (that’s me) forgot to double check when she was making the recipe. Doy.
C) It is your father.


Rhubarb and strawberries are/is:

A) Mellifluous.
B) Almost in season, and natural sweet/tart compliments for each other.
C) Peaches and Herb’s original name.


The difference between a crisp and a crumble is:

A) Inconsequential.
B) Nothing really, though crumble topping may be a bit more substantial than a crisp. Or maybe it’s the other way around? I forget.
C) Like the difference between Britney Spears and Beverly Sills! How dare you ask such a question, you culinary dilettante! Now abscond from my courtyard, and never use my bidet again!


The recipe comes from:

A) Yemen.
B) Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which we discussed at length last week, to discover that it’s okay to take baby steps when it comes to ethical eating.
C) “The darkest depths of Mordor / I met a girl so fair / But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her....yeah.”
D) None of the above, especially Answer C, which consisted entirely of semi-appropriate Led Zeppelin lyrics.
E) And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.


The 1987 pilot of 21 Jump Street is:

A) Awesome.
B) Notable for launching the career of one John Depp, a dashing young actor who would remain impossibly attractive for the ensuing two-and-a-half decades.
C) Really awesome, because the cops regularly say things like, “It’s not against the law to be afraid.”
D) Really really awesome, because every “high school student” is at least 35-years-old and a dorky sophomore recovers from his heroin addiction and overdose in a single day.
E) Really really really awesome, because after a particularly harrowing police car chase, Mr. Depp breaks for a saxophone solo while the voice of his dead father is piped in over the smooth jazz stylings.
F) In my pants.


People who text and drive, especially on highways and major roads:

A) Duh.
B) Should be heavily fined and have their licenses revoked.
C) Should have their cars pelted with rotten oranges. This will A) teach a lesson and B) do less damage than the humans they will otherwise inevitably hit.


The best Golden Girl is:

A) Dorothy.
B) Sophia.
C) Rose.
D) Not Blanche.

Thank you for taking our quiz. The answer to every question was Z.

~~~

If you like this recipe, you might also be tantalized by:
~~~

Individual Strawberry Rhubarb Crisps
Serves 4.
Adapted from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.


2 cups halved strawberries (or cut into thirds if it’s a big strawberry)
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (NOT melted)

1) Preheat oven to 375ºF.

2) In a medium bowl, combine strawberries, rhubarb, and honey. Stir to coat. Even distribute among four 6-ounce ramekins.

3) In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and allspice. Stir. Cut butter into smaller pieces. Add butter to flour mixture. Using a fork or pastry blender, mash butter and flour mixture until medium-sized crumbs are formed. Sprinkle crumbs evenly on top of the four ramekins.

4) Place ramekins on a baking sheet. (For easier portability!) Bake about 35 minutes, or until rhubarb can be easily pierced with a knife. Topping should be browned and mixture should be bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes. (Trust on this one.) Serve!

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
234 calories, 6.6 g fat, 3.5 g fiber, 2.6 g protein, $0.96

Calculations
2 cups halved strawberries: 97 calories, 0.9 g fat, 6.1 g fiber, 2 g protein, $1.33
2 cups rhubarb, chopped: 51 calories, 0.5 g fat, 4.4 g fiber, 2.2 g protein, $1.70
1/4 cup honey: 255 calories, 0 g fat, 0.2 g fiber, 0.3 g protein, $0.40
1/4 cup flour: 114 calories, 0.3 g fat, 0.8 g fiber, 3.2 g protein, $0.04
1/4 cup rolled oats: 74 calories, 1.5 g fat, 2 g fiber, 2.5 g protein, $0.14
1/4 cup light brown sugar: 137 calories, 0 g fat, fiber, or protein, $0.05
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon: 3 calories, 0 g fat, 0.6 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.01
1/4 teaspoon allspice: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.04
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened: 204 calories, 23 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0.2 g protein, $0.12
TOTAL: 935 calories, 26.2 g fat, 14.1 g fiber, 10.4 g protein, $3.83
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 234 calories, 6.6 g fat, 3.5 g fiber, 2.6 g protein, $0.96

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Throwback: 61 Tips for Travel Eats on a Budget

Hey there! We're trying something new! Each Saturday we're posting an older piece from CHG’s archives. Today's comes from August 2007. Hope you enjoy.

As the summer draws to a close (or begins - Edited 2010), several bajillion Americans (self included) are itching to get out of work; to soak up the last lingering rays of another warm season gone by.

Also, they’re hungry.

Transportation and housing aside, food’s a major budget concern when planning a vacation. Since most travelers are just trying to find a decent, affordable meal, nutritional considerations nearly always fall by the wayside.

What follows, then, is a plan: the ultimate guide to saving dough on food while you’re away, with extra emphasis on healthy options.

BEFORE YOU GO

1. Research. Citysearch, Frommers, Zagat, and Lonely Planet are just a few sites that highlight inexpensive, nutrition-conscious restaurants all over the U.S. Local newspaper sites and area-based blogs can point you the right way, as well.

2. Check for coupons and certificates online. Restaurants.com and eBay can help. Signing up for Entertainment Books is also a big boon to savings, while you’re at it.

3. See if your company can get you a deal. “Some restaurants shave 10% to 25% off the meal cost” claims USA Today. Check with HR before departure, and you might be able to score a bargain.

4. Consider an all-inclusive. Lots of resorts and cruises incorporate the price of meals in their room packages. While you might still be stuck paying for drinks, this can save hundreds in the long run. Most provide tons of healthy chow, too.

5. If you’re a foodie, travel during Restaurant Weeks. Now in Boston, Baltimore, Philly, DC, Atlanta, Dallas, Sacramento, Toronto, Puerta Vallarta, and New York City, Restaurant Weeks provide fantastic deals on four star restaurants. Seriously, we’re talking $20 for lunch at Nobu. Open Table is a phenomenal resource for this.

6. Look for festivals. Upon arrival in Little Rock, Arkansas, my roadtripping friends and I were greeted by Riverfest, a weekend extravaganza of food, music, and people-watching. Needless to say, we skipped lunch and grazed on corn, tomatoes, and good, cheap beer. Check Festivals.com or call the Chamber of Commerce for dates and possibilities.

7. Take Rachael Ray's advice with a grain of salt. While I like the catchphrasey Buffalo doyenne, she cuts a few corners and tends not to tip so well on her $40-a-Day show. There's good stuff there, just beware of going too far in your quest for affordability.

8. Sign up for frequent flier miles. Some credit card companies will give them to you for dining at certain restaurants. Put your stomach to work.

GETTING THERE: IN THE AIR

9. Don’t buy food at the airport. It's ludicrously expensive.

10. Skip the plane chow, too. Airlines need money for gas, and they’re taking it out of your meal budget. Why pay $8 for a sandwich you might not even like?

11. Bring an empty. The TSA will confiscate full water bottles, but not empty ones. Slip one into your bag, and fill it using the airport tap. Voila! $2 saved.

12. Carry snacks. Even if it means raiding the local drugstore, packing your own bites will save big bucks, satisfy cravings, and keep the calorie count down.

GETTING THERE: ON THE ROAD

13. Bring a cooler. Fill it with ice, drinks, fruit, cut-up vegetables, cold cuts, bread – anything easily assembled that can be used for an in-vehicle bite or roadside picnic. You’ll conserve time and cash, and it’s easier to regulate what you eat.

14. Create a Port-o-Kitchen. Stuff a small plastic with meal-making necessities. Travel board poster MJ Hardy brings “a plastic container with a lid that I fill with a small paring knife, wine opener, small can opener, a couple of place settings of study plastic silver ware, packets of salt, pepper, other condiments, individual wet naps, and an assortment of zip lock bags, etc. I then put a small stack of paper plates and napkins in a large zip lock bag, a small plastic cutting board and a partial roll of paper towel.” Handy!

15. Freeze a thermos or two. Fill a reusable plastic water bottle with the drink of your choice and freeze it overnight. After it defrosts in the car, and you’ll have a cold beverage at your disposal.

16. Make a big bag o’snacks. On a recent road trip through the South, my friend S brought a massive backpack of granola bars, baked chips, granola bars, Smartwell cookies, and granola bars. It kept us happy and full for those eight-hour stretches through Oklahoma. Pretzels, nuts, baked chips, low-fat cookies, beef jerky, and popcorn are good, lighter choices here, as well.

17. Consider kids’ meals. If you have to resort to fast food, they’re cheaper and generally healthier than adult meals. Don’t try it at a fancy sit-down eatery, though. Not classy.

ACCOMMODATIONS: SHORT-TERM (ONE AND TWO-DAY STAYS)

18. Book places with free breakfast. When continental and buffet breakfasts are built into the overnight fee, everybody wins. Bed and breakfasts are, of course, included in this category. Grabbing an extra orange or apple for a snack can’t hurt, either. While you’re at it…

19. See if there’s free lunch and dinner, too. According to a USA Today article, one diner, “says he stays at Red Lion hotels and fills up on the free food -- popcorn, nachos or hot dogs -- served during happy hour.” I’m still trying to find the health benefit from that, but the savings are pretty obvious. Of course, if neither of the previous pair of tips apply …

20. Pack your own breakfast. Oatmeal, cereal, English Muffins, and fruit are simple to pack and prepare, and they don’t need massive storage or bizarre cooking utensils.

21. Use your ice bucket. If you don’t have a cooler or fridge for leftovers, the ice bucket is a decent shotgun substitute. Wrap food tightly, though.

ACCOMMODATIONS: LONG-TERM (MORE THAN TWO DAYS)

22. Get a room with a kitchen. Cooking your own meals is the #1 cost-cutting measure whenever and wherever you travel. It makes it ten times easier to monitor your own nutritional intake, to boot. Pack some home-bought provisions or pillage the local supermarket for deals.

23. Ask personnel to empty the mini-fridge before you get there. This way, there’s no temptation from incredibly pricey shots of Jager, and you can stuff it with your own nutritious repasts.

24. Buy beforehand in bulk. If you’re gonna be there awhile, you may as well stock up. Just make sure you have enough storage space.

25. Pack your coupons. Hey, you never know.

26. Check the ‘net for circulars of nearby grocers. Depending on where you’re coming from (say … NYC), supermarkets local to your destination can have much cheaper food than your hometown grocer. Circulars will help procure deals, too. Keep in mind though, it might be best to …

27. Bring condiments from home. Staples like butter, olive oil, and mustard are often costlier than the main meals themselves. If you think you might only use a little of something, portion it out into Tupperware and throw it in the car.

28. Save leftovers. They’re not just for Wednesday night post-work dinner anymore. Whether you’re cooking in your room or ordering out, the extra can feed you for at least one more meal.

RESTAURANTS

29. Browse brochures and newspapers. Often placed in or around rest stops, hotel front desks, and your room, they're chock full of discounts and coupons for local joints.

30. Avoid eateries located by major attractions. I work in a high-tourism area. (Let’s call it Schtimes Square, Schnew York.) The food here is easily twice what you’d pay in any other area of the city, and generally, the quality is the pits. Walking two blocks from a landmark, monument, or sightseeing highlight (say, Schtimes Square, Schnew York) can automatically save 50% off a bill. Special note: in foreign countries, beware of “touristy restaurants with ‘We speak English’ signs and multilingual menus” cautions the Chicago Times’ Rick Steves. They know the game, and will frequently charge more.

31. Don’t eat at restaurants INSIDE tourist traps. Again, pricey. This goes for museum cafes, theme park diners, Graceland, and their ilk. Wait until you’re well outside, then run. On the same note …

32. Skip the dinner shows. Remember the strip club guideline here: The entertainment might be eye-popping, but the food sucks. While you’re crossing things off the list …

33. Eschew mid-scale dinner chains. If you’re vacationing somewhere renowned for its food, stay out of Applebees, Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, Olive Garden, TGI Fridays, Bennigans, Hooters, Pizzeria Uno, Sbarro, Ruby Tuesdays, Red Lobster, Outback, and their ilk. Not only are their prices higher in tourist destinations, but the signature food is rarely health-minded. (Cracker Barrel excepted. Because it is awesome.)

34. Eat a fantastic lunch instead of a costly dinner. A mid-day meal can run half the price of a late-day one. The food is the same quality level, and you’ll often consume less calories, since eateries tend to serve lighter fare for lunch. This goes especially for upscale restaurants.

35. Go ethnic. The best Indian food I ever had was in Glasgow, Scotland. As travel writer Tony Robinson puts it, “Eating in ethnic neighborhoods provides great local color, a chance to meet interesting people, and very low prices as well.”

36. Hit the buffet once a day. Inexpensive and full of options, buffets are a stellar choice for the health-minded. Odds are you’ll be able to skip another meal, as well. I think my parents go to Vegas for this sole reason.

37. Ask for discounts. Are you a Senior, Student, or member of a large group? Excellent. You might be eligible for a chunk off your final bill. “But be warned,” says Steves, “because the United States doesn't reciprocate, many countries don't give their standard senior citizen discounts to Americans.”

38. Doggie bag it. In the U.S., anyway, eat-out meals can be twice the size of a normal, human-appropriate serving. Conserve money and calories by bagging half and stowing it for another meal.

39. K.I.S.S. Really, this is applicable in any restaurant, but coffee, appetizers, and a fourth bottle of wine add to big-time to your bill. If you really want to conserve, split an entrée and drink water.

40. Pay attention to in-season specials. Cheaper, fresh-food-oriented, and often specific to region, the specials give you a great taste of local favorites.

41. Go before the crowds get there. He’s done so well so far, I’ll let Rick Steves explain why: “Most countries have early bird and ‘Blue Plate’ specials. Know the lingo, learn your options, and you can dine well with savvy locals anywhere in Europe for $15”

EATING ON THE FLY

42. Pretend you’re a native. Order like a Parisian. Buy groceries like a Londoner. Grab fish from a Seattleite’s favorite market. Making these simple shifts in thinking will help you garner tasty chow for optimal cash.

43. Hit up an open-air market. Popular in Europe and the U.S., you can score artisanal-quality foods for much lower prices than at a restaurant. Exotic cheeses, crusty breads, cured sausages, fresh fruit – it’s all at your fingertips. I survived in Spain almost entirely on baguettes, cherries, and Nutella, and dang, it was good.

44. Have a picnic. Instead of dining in an upscale boardwalk joint, set a blanket up on the actual boardwalk. Steves (again) says, “$15 buys a hearty picnic lunch for two anywhere in Europe.”

45. Ask a local. A citizen will know far better than any guidebook about where to buy the most delicious, most frugal food, and many will be flattered you thought to explore. If you’re feeling shy, though…

46. Follow the home crowd. Workers, old ladies, moms with strollers, and people who obviously live in your travel destination know where to go. Search for long lines and indigenous-looking folks, and you’ll walk away a sated winner.

47. Eat on the street. If you’re unsure about buying from vendors, travel writer Cindy Meyers suggests you “head towards the stand that's the most crowded, find out what everybody's nibbling on, and then point to what you want if you don't speak the language.” Worried about being inadvertently poisoned? Then go with Budget Travel Magazine, which advises: “request that your food be cooked fresh for you. A hot grill will usually eliminate any microscopic bugs that are present. And a plate of steaming noodles is safer than food left out for hours at a hotel buffet."

48. Be a mallrat. U.S. Food courts are a cornucopia of culinary choices. If you go a little before closing, you might even score a deal. (Choose wisely, though. Some of that may have been sitting there awhile.)

49. Skip lunch. A big breakfast and nice dinner mean you can probably get by with a nutritional, filling mid-afternoon snack for the rest of the day. Grab some trail mix or a piece of fruit if you’re feeling peckish.

50. Starch yourself silly. Thrifty, tasty, and easy on discerning bellies, most travel destinations in the world offer some sort of on-the-go starch. Pasta, bread, rice – whatever – the stuff’s universal.

BOOZE

51. Smuggle your own. Especially in non-inclusive resorts, alcohol prices can be super-high. Either bring stuff in bulk from home (a la Trader Joe’s) or find an on-the-road liquor supplier to raid.

52. Go early. Happy hours are a great deal in most major American cities, and HappyHour.net is a good place to start.

53. Try the house wine. Frequently served in a full or half carafe, its freshness and lower price makes it a good buy. Go with red for heart benefits.

54. Sidle up to the bar. According to the oft-cited Rick Steves, “Throughout southern Europe, drinks are cheaper if you're served at the bar rather than at a table.”

55. Stick with local brews. Budget Travel Worldwide claims when traveling abroad, “an imported spirit will be triple the cost of the local tipple,” meaning a Dos Equis in Mexico could be a much better buy than a Labatts in England. Lite beer will often be $1 less, as well.

56. Look for drink specials. Quarter drafts, Ladies Nights, and 2-for-1 deals are just a few of the lovely night-out offerings that can save cash on vacation. Check the local independent paper, or scan bar and club windows for ads.

57. Avoid foofy concoctions. They’re expensive and laden with sugar. Consider: a single pina colada has more than 400 calories, while a margarita can run over 300.

58. Don’t drink at all. The best booze control method is no booze at all, no?

LAST, BUT NOT LEAST …

59. Tip where customary. If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to eat out.

60. Loosen up a little. Whether you’re on a diet or just hesitant to taste something with tentacles, vacations are a one-time deal. You may never get the opportunity again, so go for it. (In moderation, of course.)

61. Get out there and eat. A healthy chunk of travel is experiencing local culture, and that means food. So be thrifty, but have a bite or two in town. Enjoy!


Sources:
  • Button, Kimberly. “Save Money on Vacation Dining,” Bella Online. bellaonline.com/articles/art8245.asp
  • “Eating Well on a Travel Budget,” Budget Travel Worldwide. budget-travel.brilliant4biz.com/Budget_Travel_Dining_Out.html
  • Hardy, MJ. “Tips for Saving Money on Food and Restaurants: Post #16 of 41,” Frommers.com. September 2003. frommers.com/cgi-bin/WebX?13@59.NqW9bnEq2r0%5E0@.eeb2bad
  • “How to Eat Street Food Without Ruining the Trip,” Budget Travel. June 2007.
    budgettravel.com/bt-dyn/content/article/2007/05/07/AR2007050700783.html
  • Khan, Salina. “Eating on the cheap while traveling takes some creativity,” USA Today. October 1999.
  • Maio, Kathy. “Tips for Saving Money on Food and Restaurants: Post #24 of 41,” Frommers.com. September 2003. frommers.com/cgi-bin/WebX?13@59.NqW9bnEq2r0%5E0@.eeb2bad
  • Martin, James. “Saving Money on your European Vacation - 12 Frugal Vacation Tips,” About.com. goeurope.about.com/cs/travelbasics/a/saving_money.htm
  • Meyers, Cindy. “Eating Well on a Tight Travel Budget,” BootsnAll Travel. March 2005.
    bootsnall.com/guides/05-03/eating-well-on-a-tight-travel-budget.html
  • Robinson, Tony. “How To Save Money On Food When Traveling,” SavingAdvice.com. savingadvice.com/forums/travel-vacations/14017-how-save-money-food-when-traveling.html
  • Steves, Rick. “The Thrifty 50: Rick Steves' budget Europe tips for 2007,” Chicago Tribune. March 2007.
  • Wolf, Jennifer “Saving Money on Your Family Vacation,” About.com. singleparents.about.com/od/cuttingcosts/ss/save_vacation_3.htm

Friday, April 23, 2010

Top Ten Links of the Week: 4/16/10 – 4/22/10

Great googly moogly, the links are numerous this week. Meaning there's like, a lot of 'em. Let’s get to it.

1) Jezebel: Can Feminists Wear Aprons?
The recent apron trend (no, seriously) becomes a jumping off point for an honest discussion about cooking and feminism. First and second wavers fought hard to provide work options beyond the home. Many third wavers are finding big-time fulfillment in what's traditionally considered domestic work, like mastering the kitchen. Both, of course, have tremendous value. Maybe feminism's greatest accomplishment is that we have a choice now. (Or we can do both. Why not?)

2) Slate: The Pioneer Woman vs. Thomas Keller
Author Jennifer Reese prepped two fried chicken dinners for her family. The first used recipes from Ree Drummond’s homey Pioneer Woman Cookbook, while the second meal came from Thomas Keller’s upscale Ad Hoc at Home. The verdict: split, leaning towards the cattle rancher. Read on to learn why.

3) Washington Post: Will work for food? Try Food Corps
Starting in 2011, Food Corps (an AmeriCorps program) will seek to place one-year volunteers in schools across America to, “help school food service directors source local food for cafeterias as well as develop healthful-eating curricula that might include school gardens, visits to farms and farmers markets for parents and students.” This … is … genius.

4) The Simple Dollar: Finding Your Own Value Balance at the Grocery Store
This solid posts come down to two key ideas vital to smart food shopping:
-Buy what works for you.
-Do the research when it's important to you.

5) The Kitchn
10 Ways to Eat Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner)
17 Incredible Recipes for the Slow Cooker
Some of Our Favorite Kitchens From Small Cool 2010
Weeknight Dinners – What Throws You Off Your Game?
Another week, another glowing lineup of informative, pretty posts from The Kitchn. The Small, Cool Contest is a highlight.

6) Culinate: Family Food Preferences
On meal planning for a picky family with various intolerances and leanings (gluten-free, lactose intolerant, vegetarian, etc.). Yowza. Tips included, thank goodness.

7) ABC News: School Lunches Pose National Security Threat
Whoa! According to a group of retired military leaders, “Childhood obesity is jeopardizing military recruitment … leaving 27 percent of young adults ‘too fat to fight.’” It’s the “number one reason that young Americans are unfit to enlist.” And they’re blaming school lunches as part of the cause.

8) The Economist: Elmo/Broccoli
In a recent study, given a choice between broccoli and chocolate, 78% of kids went with chocolate. But when researchers slapped an Elmo sticker on the broccoli, the split became an even 50/50. Moral of the story: Must hire Muppet to endorse this blog.

9) Culinate: Locavore basics - Eight budget tips for going local
Neat, quick rundown of the local eating strategies we’ve discussed the last few days. Read it and take notes. With a #2 pencil. Because they’re fun.

10) New York Times: Newcomer to Food Television Tries for a Little Grit
Food Network’s spinoff Cooking Channel is aiming for a hipper feel, increased culinary focus, and more diverse lineup. Will it work? Probably, I think. Will it be less … loud? God, I hope so.


HONORABLE MENTION

BBC: Jamie Oliver to spend own millions on school meals
The Naked Chef plays it like he lays it. Or something.

Get Rich Slowly
2011 Death and Taxes Poster Now Available
Why I No Longer Track Every Penny I Spend
A pair of good posts from JD. The first, in fine graphic form, will tell you exactly where your taxes go. The second will show you how sweet life can be when you have your own spending under control.

Money Saving Mom: Why it Pays to Watch the Register
I’ve become one of those ladies who speak up when I’m overcharged for food. Don’t hate. Liberate (your wallet).

Natalie Jost: Paint Old Baking Pans for Storage
Cute!

New York Times: The Tables Turn
Hey! Restaurants are doing okay again. That was a close one.

Serious Eats: How to Sharpen a Knife
FYI, do not do it with your teeth. The sound is horrifying, and people will assume you’re an extra for Deadwood.

The Simple Dollar: Does Re-Washing Ziploc Bags Really Save You Money?
Not really. But it does briefly alleviate my crushing guilt.

Wise Bread: 12 Cheap Pineapple Recipes
I’m including this post because I always buy pineapples, thinking, “Oh, man! There’s so much I want to do with this pineapple!” And then we end up eating half of it raw the day before it goes bad.

Words to Eat By: Back in the (Weight Watchers) Saddle, Again
Debbie’s back on the WW wagon, and I can relate. It’s something that should be emphasized more by weight loss programs: maintenance requires constant vigilance, probs for life.


BLOG CARNIVALS

We made two this week!

AND ALSO

Dog Train: A Wild Ride on the Rock and Roll Side
You guys? Though I’m not a mommy blogger (mogger?), can I recommend this CD to all the parents out there? It’s smart, catchy, super fun, and totally un-annoying, as kiddie music tends to be. (Rocks, too.) “Cow Planet” has been stuck in my head for two weeks now, and “Penguin Lament” is downright hilarious. (P.S. It’s toddler-approved! My nephews-to-be freaking love it.)


 [Picture of Jessie Steele apron from Kitchen Critic.]

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, April 22, 2010

Veggie Might: Vegetarian Meal Planning for Meat Eaters

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

Meal planning is a hot topicround these parts; you’d think we’d covered it all. But what if you’re a mostly vegetarian, or a family of omnis trying to work in a few vegetarian meals a week? A reader wrote in asking specifically how to plan for vegetarian meals that don’t involve tapas.

This Veg is here to help. Here are some tips and tricks to help you plan weekly meals that will improve your health, reduce your budget, and satisfy everyone at the table.

Decide How Many Vegetarian Meals/Week
Decide how many times a week you want to eat vegetarian meals and to what degree. Will you eschew all animal products (like dairy and eggs) or just meat?

Mark Bittman endorses a “vegan before dinnertime” lifestyle, only eating meat for his evening meals. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath suggests giving Meatless Mondays a try. Take a poll of your household (or rule like the theistic monarch you were born to be) and decide what works best for you and yours.


Take a Look at Your Pantry
All those staple items are about to come in very handy. Grains, beans, and pastas are your friends when you go veg. If you’re not already stocked, don’t worry: dried beans and rice are about as inexpensive as foodstuffs come.

Compare what you have to the recipes you want to make, and then supplement with fresh or frozen vegetables. You’ll be amazed at how far your food budget goes.

Tweak Your Favorite Recipes
There are probably dozens of meals you love that are already vegetarian or can easily become so: spaghetti with marinara sauce, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…and those are just the beginning.

With minimal effort, you can convert your and your family’s favorite meals into vegetarian delights. Swap meat with spinach or zucchini, and you’ll have a killer veggie lasagna. Chili sin carne is just as delicious as con; and don’t forget, every kid’s favorite: pizza. Just load up the pie with cheese and veggies, like mushrooms, peppers, and spinach.

Try Something New
A common myth about vegetarians is that our diets are very limited. “What can you eat?” I’m often asked. “EVERYTHING!” I say, “except four things: beef, poultry, pork, and seafood. All the other food in the word is available to me.”

Eliminating one type of food forces creativity in other areas. I’ve tried things I never would have otherwise, just to keep things interesting. Explore foods of other cultures or experiment with spices. Vegetable curries, beans and rice, and stir fries are among the most versatile and delicious dishes in my repertoire. Try adding them to yours.

Forget the Food Myths
Worried about carbs? Fear not: complex carbohydrates are energy. Stick with whole grains and you’re golden. “But what about protein?” you ask. “What about it?” I answer. Allow me to put to rest another myth: that of the anemic, peaked vegetarian/vegan. Protein is available in variety of plant-based sources, the key being variety. Ingest a combination of grains, legumes, and nuts throughout the day, and you’ll be mighty and strong.

Know Your Audience
Some meat eaters want a meat replacement with their veggie meals. Some don’t. If you decide to go the meat analog route, please head this warning: Fake meat does not taste like real meat. If you can appreciate the fake meat on its own, you’ll be a much happier omni on the vege path.

That said, don’t fear the bean curd. It’s a beautiful, misunderstood food, and, in the right hands, can make your vegetarian day. Other meat subs, like tempeh or seitan, can add protein and B vitamins, not to mention texture and pizzazz, to your playlist.

Save Money, Eat Well, and Be Healthy
Planning ahead saves time in the long run and money at the market. It curbs impulse buying and keeps you on budget. Decide what you’ll make before you head to the store. Armed with your shopping list and empowered with a plan, you’ll be ready to make healthy, delicious vegetarian meals as often as you like...and hopefully more and more.

Did I leave any unanswered questions? Would you do anything differently? Do you need a recipe for something amazingly veg you’d like to see here? Let us know in the comments.

Happy Earth Day!

~~~

If you like this piece, you might also enjoy:
(Photos courtesy of Flickr members Steeena [peanut butter],  DodogoeSLR [pasta], Ze Eduardo [veggies].)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On Progress

I’m nearly finished with Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I’d suggest it to anybody. It’s a fantastic book, full of humor, wisdom, gorgeous prose, and excellent recipes. (Seriously, try the Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp.) Still, I can’t help but feel a little guilty reading the thing.

The author is an ardent gardener and regular buyer of all foods organic, local, and humanely raised. She argues that it costs more up front, but the prices – to the environment, to her family’s health, to the local economy – even out in the long run. She is undoubtedly right on, and I agree completely.

But I also write a blog about inexpensive, nutritious cooking. And sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile ethical choices with workable choices.

Is a cheap banana better for us when it exploits workers in a different hemisphere? If we didn’t buy that banana, would they have jobs at all? Can you realistically expect someone to buy a $17 chicken twenty miles away, when a $3 one exists right around the corner?

Honestly, I don’t know.

I do know I would like that $17 chicken someday. Personally speaking, eating cheaply isn’t my ultimate goal. Eating smart, ethically, healthy, and heartily is my ultimate goal. Eating cheaply is a means of getting there. It's saving us money and instilling respect for what we consume.

As for progress, in the last few years, my household (apartmenthold?) has:
  • Cut our meat consumption by about 60%
  • Increased our vegetable and grain consumption drastically
  • Started eating seasonal produce
  • Started using canvas bags instead of plastic shopping bags
  • Made a conscious attempt to buy foods with less packaging
  • Started washing Ziploc bags
  • Started buying Certified Humanely Raised eggs (instead of those mass-produced thingies)
  • Started buying greenmarket meat when we can (which, I wish was more often)
  • Become hardcore menu planners and list makers
It’s been reflected at Cheap Healthy Good, too. When the site began, it was largely meant for budget dieters. The recipes included only calorie, fat, and price calculations. The articles centered more on the ties between financial solvency and weight. As many blogs tend to be, it was a reflection of where I was at the time: a burgeoning cook, newly fascinated with personal finance, attempting to maintain a recent drop in poundage.

Since then, the focus has changed somewhat. Fiber and protein are included in our recipe numbers now. “Dieting” turned more towards “healthy living.” The spending discussions have begun to include mentions of ethical eating, and maybe coughing up a little bit more cash for quality ingredients.

Are we ethically bulletproof? Nope. It’s a work in progress, and we get occasional flack for using cheap chickens. I am okay with this, though. Because ideally, I like to think our mission statement has evolved.

These days, we’re about more than inexpensive, nutritious cooking; we’re about saving a buck now so we can afford something better later. It's kind of like Dave Ramsey's motto: “Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.”

And ultimately, the most you can ask of anyone is to do the best he can with what he has, and realize the value in aspiration.

So, what about you, sweet readers? Do you sometimes feel a disconnect between what you're eating, and what you'd like to be eating? What kind of changes have y’all made to your eating habits? What are you just starting? What will you do in the future? I’d love to hear how you’re progressing, as well.

P.S. Read the Kingsolver book. I’m serious.

~~~

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Green Kitchen: Why Eat Local?

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

Do you feel like all you hear these days is "eat local"? Wondering what all the hype is about? What's the point? Isn't that just a fad for hipsters and yuppies who don't get enough snooty karma from their NPR totes?

Though it won’t cure the common cold or reverse the mortgage meltdown, local food is pretty darn great, and not just because it’s traveled a shorter distance in a gas-guzzling truck or plane. Food from nearby is healthier and tastier, not to mention good for the planet, good for your community, and good for your spirit.

Here’s why.

LOCAL FOOD IS GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Local food has a smaller carbon footprint. Flying bananas in from South America uses fuel for the plane ride AND power for cooling and storing mechanisms. Food from your ‘hood (or nearby) puts much less CO2 into the air with its transport.

Keep in mind, not all local food is carbon-light. Wintertime greenhouse tomatoes may come from the farm down the street, but the power to heat their environments is not negligible. Still, if you stick to local and seasonal food, you’re golden.

Patronizing nearby farms also supports green, open spaces in your area. Farms are susceptible to commercial development and exurb spread. If you help keep them solvent, you ensure your region hangs on to those lovely spreads of farmland and pasture.

Local farms tend to be smaller farms, as well. Big, national suppliers will farm massive tracts of monoculture: acres of soybeans or corn, which isn’t particularly good for the environment or the national waistline. They often use heavy pesticides and genetically-modified seeds. Smaller farms, on the other hand, tend to be much more diverse, and the best ones integrate their production in a symbiosis of fertilization and need, keeping the soil super-healthy and producing awesomer produce and animals. When animals are involved, it means a better life for them before they become dinner, too.

LOCAL FOOD IS GOOD FOR YOUR COMMUNITY

Buying your food from local producers also supports your local economy. Greenmarket farmers take home about 90 cents of each dollar. With supermarket produce, after the marketing, transport, and distributors, the farmer’s getting more like 21 cents. Part of the reason: government farm subsidies are heavily weighted towards grain and meat production.

Buying local also gives you a personal connection to your food. I know that my eggs come from near Ithaca, and my apples a few towns over upstate, and I get to hand my money right to the farmers that raised them. I guess at the supermarket I’m shopping alongside my neighbors, too, but it feels more personal, and features more smiles, when we’re doing it outside, in the sun.

LOCAL FOOD IS GOOD FOR YOU!

Local food is better for you. It's way fresher than what’s transported across the globe to your mega mart. Supermarket produce is often picked a week before it’s ripe, and has to do its final ripening in transport. Local produce is often picked the day you take it home. Nutrients are preserved, and the flavor is often more prominent. Like, amazingly so.

Local food is often, hothouse tomatoes aside, seasonal. Anyone who’s sampled a strawberry in January knows that food in its prime season just tastes better. And, bonus: seasonal food is super-cheap! Right now my supermarket’s red peppers are $4.99 a pound. In August the greenmarket has that down to $1.99. The seasonal price drop happens in grocery stores, too, but it’s way more dramatic at the farmers market. Plus, the apples taste more like apples, and the greens are bright and still have a little dirt on them from when they were picked that morning.

Eating local and seasonal also supports variety in your diet and the food that farmers grow. This happens in two ways: first, when you commit to eating local, you get pushed, deliciously, outside your veggie comfort zone. If you’re used to string beans and zucchini year-round, a local meal in October can broaden your tastes to Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower. (I think this connection with the seasons is good for your soul, too. Especially in the city, it's good to keep in touch with how nature goes.)

The second kind of variety: Local farms, because they’re not beholden to corporate supermarket beauty standards, are also able to sustain uglier, weirder breeds of plants. My supermarket usually has three or four varieties of apples; the greenmarket has at least twelve. Those heirloom tomatoes may be super-unattractive, but they’re also super delicious.

The farmer’s presence at the greenmarket bolsters your sense of community, but also gives you a valuable resource that’s absent from all but the awesomest supermarkets. You can ask, “Hey, what’s the best way to store these carrots so they keep as long as possible?” and also, “What do the eggs who laid these eggs eat? “How much to they get to frolick outside?” Sure, I could share my enthusiasm with the supermarket stock clerk, but I’d rather gush to the person who grew it himself.

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There are ways beyond the farmers market to eat well and cheaply while being good to the planet, and I’ll get into some of those next time. But what do you think, readers? Do you shop at a farmers market or subscribe to a CSA? Do you get local food another way? Why or why not?

Resources:
“If buying locally isn’t the answer, what is?” Grist.org
“10 Reasons to Eat Local” Eat Local Challenge
“Why Eat Locally?” Treahugger
Foodroutes.org
Local Harvest

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