Thursday, September 30, 2010

Veggie Might: Top 5 Reasons I Love New York + A Recipe

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

Today, my Fair Readers, is the 15th anniversary of the day my pal JBF dropped me, my two milk crates of books, and my dreams in front 201 W. 91st, New York, NY. Our journey originated in Orlando, took side trips to our respective familial homes in North Carolina and Virgina, and ended with JBF settling in Princeton, NJ and me in the Big City. Fifteen years, three apartments, and 17 roommates later, I’m still here and loving New York.

Top 5 Reasons I Love New York

1. Each neighborhood is like its own little city. Residents get to know their neighbors, the best places to buy groceries, which laudromat gives the most time per quarter, and the coffee shop with the most lenient WiFi/purchase policy. New Yorkers are as proud of and loyal to their neighborhoods as Europeans or South Americans are to their countries during the World Cup. HELL’S KITCHEN RULZ!!!1!!1!

2. Public transportation! Not only does the MTA get you from point A to point B (most of the time), it’s a world-class entertainment venue. Nowhere else can you learn cutting-edge modern dance moves, stay abreast of the hottest indie music, and have your picture made for $2.15 a pop.

3. Governors Island, the car-free, bike-loving island oasis in New York Harbor. Governors Island is dotted with art installations, criss-crossed by bike paths, and inviting for a picnic or just chilling.

4. The food, of course. In one afternoon, you can grab brunch at one of a million amazing restaurants, pick up your fresh produce at the farmers’ market, snag a homemade popsicle from a street vendor, and hit the Mexican/Korean/Indian/West African/Chinese grocery for the spices and miscellany needed to make a delicious home-cooked supper.

5. Dinner parties/potlucks/game nights in cramped apartments with brilliant friends and home-cooked food. No one who lives in New York on a work-a-day budget can afford to eat out all the time, so the best way to socialize and economize is to cook for each other. Juggling plates while 4-to-a-couch with a few folks on the floor is part of the charm. Karaoke is a bonus.

Happy anniversary, New York. I made you this mushroom quinotto.


If this post tips your canoe, swim on over to
Pumpkin Orzo with Sage
Butternut Squash Risotto
Swiss Chard with Mushrooms


Quinoa-Millet Mushroom Risotto (Quinotto)

adapted from Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero
serves 4

Note: The recipe calls for white wine, but I used a substitution of apple juice and apple cider vinegar. I used a blend of quinoa and millet because I was low on the big Q; go all the way with one or the other and my blessing. I also tossed in a few beet greens, which go nicely with this dish, but I would advise against going overboard with the greens. The mushrooms should be the star.

1/2 lb crimini mushrooms
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup quinoa, rinsed in a mesh strainer
1/3 cup millet
1/2 cup apple juice + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or 1/2 white wine)
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
3 cups hot vegetable broth or stock
1 cup beet greens, shredded (or any leafy green)
1 tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
fresh cilantro or parsley to garnish

1. Brush or wipe dirt from mushrooms and slice into matchsticks. In a large saucepan, sautee mushrooms in half the olive oil over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Put mushrooms in a bowl and set aside.

2. In the same saucepan, heat the remaining oil and sautee shallots and garlic for 5-7 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add quinoa and millet to onion/garlic mixture. Cook for 2 minutes or until grains become golden.

3. Add apple juice + vinegar to deglaze the pan, and stir. Add dried spices and jalapeño and cook for another minute. Stir in mushrooms.

4. Here comes the real stirring: pour in about 1/4 of broth to grain/vegetables. Bring broth to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and, stirring frequently, allow grain to absorb the broth. Then add another fourth of the broth, stirring until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process until all the broth is absorbed and the grains are light and fluffy, about 30-35 minutes.

5. Salt and pepper to taste along the way. Cover and allow quinoa/millet to rest for 10 minutes. Drizzle with lime juice, toss in beet greens, and fluff with a fork. Serve with fresh cilantro. Your guests will be impressed that you made such a brilliant, flavorful, earthy dish in such a tiny kitchen.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
282 calories, 7.7g fat, 5.15g fiber, 7.6g protein, $1.31

1/2 lb crimini mushrooms:: 64 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $2.00
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil: 180 calories, 21g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.12
3 shallots: 90 calories, 0g fat, 9g fiber, 6g protein, $0.60
2/3 cup quinoa: 417 calories, 6.7g fat, 8g fiber, 16g protein, $0.97
1/3 cup millet: 251.7 calories, 2.7g fat, 5.6g fiber, 7.3g protein, $0.28
1/2 cup apple juice + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar: 57 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.41
1/2 tsp dried thyme: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1/2 tsp dried oregano: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1 jalapeño pepper: 4 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.16
3 cups hot vegetable broth: 60 calories, 0.3g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.57
1 cup beet greens: 8 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, 1g protein, $0.16
1 tbsp lime juice: 4.75 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.05
salt and pepper to taste: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
fresh cilantro or parsley to garnish: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
TOTALS: 1128.5 calories, 30.7g fat, 20.6g fiber, 30.3g protein, $5.24
PER SERVING (totals/4): 282 calories, 7.7g fat, 5.15g fiber, 7.6g protein, $1.31

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Creating a Global Pantry

Exploring a new cuisine can be exciting and intimidating. Flavors and ingredients are sometimes unfamiliar, and the techniques can be tricky. But trying new food is an adventure, and it’s less stressful when you realize that the strange is not so strange at all.

American food is a mishmash of influences, primarily western European: English, French, German, and Italian. We use lots of parsley, oregano, garlic, and onions in our everyday cooking, with a little sage thrown in at Thanksgiving. So do many other cultures.

When I first started cooking Indian food, I was worried that I would blow a week’s pay on spices just to learn a few dishes. Not true. I found after reading a few recipes that I had several of the Indian staple ingredients in my kitchen already. The same was true when I first tried Caribbean and Middle Eastern.

As you can imagine, many spices and/or staples are used in a variety of cuisines--and therefore worth your investment. Dried chilies, cayenne/red chili powder, and cumin make endless appearances across nationalities. If you like fiery, flavorful food, you won’t be sorry you splurged on the big bag of dried chilies. They’ll take you all the way around the world.

Fresh items like garlic and onions are featured in nearly every culture. You’ll almost always need one or both of these alliums. Other chart-topping fresh ingredients are parsely, cilantro, and ginger.

Sure, there are some exotics that are specific to particular regions, and as you advance, you may want to indulge in mango powder and a box of Kaffir lime leaves from the Internet. But to get started, your local grocery, spice market, and ethnic shop are all you need.

To create this list, I read over 200 recipes to cull the most commonly used staple ingredients, primarily spices, of 10 regional cuisines. (I purposefully left out our western European favorites, Italian and French.) Once you have these staples in your pantry, if you don't already, you'll be ready to begin countless culinary adventures, jet-setting around the globe without leaving your kitchen.

The Global Pantry

Mexican/South American
achiote (annato)
corn tortillas
dried beans
dried chilies (ancho, serrano)
corn meal/masa harina
oregano (Mexican varietal, if available where you live)
Fresh ingredients: chilies (poblano, habenero, and jalapeno), cilantro, epazote, garlic, lemons, limes, onion
Extras: adobo, sazon, recaito
Recipes: Esquites, Fresh Salsas, Quick Red Posole with Beans

Caribbean/Central American
bay leaf
coconut milk
dried beans
Fresh ingredients: cilantro, garlic, ginger, lemon, lime, onion, Scotch bonnet/habanero peppers
Recipes: Nuyorican Rice and Beans, Gallo Pinto, Jamaican Cook-up Rice with Callaloo

Eastern European
bay leaf
caraway seeds
Fresh ingredients: dill, garlic, onion, parsley, sour cream
Recipes: Kasha with Root Vegetables, Sweet Potato Kugel, Red Cabbage with Apples

bay leaf
Fresh ingredients: garlic, mint, onion, parsley, yogurt
Extras: grape leaves
Recipes: Greek Tofu Salad, Greek Antipasto Pita, Tzatzki

North African
cous cous
dried beans
Fresh ingredients: garlic, ginger, onion
Recipes: Roasted Butternut Squash with Moroccan SpicesNorth African-style Chick Pea SaladTunisian Beans and Greens

Middle Eastern
chick peas
Fresh ingredients: cilantro, garlic, mint, onion, parsley
Recipes: Falafel, Shaksouka, Chicken Shawarma

basmati rice
coriander seed
cumin seed
dried chick peas
dried chilies/cayenne
garam masala
mustard seed
Fresh ingredients: chilies, cilantro, garlic, ginger, onion
Extras: asafetida, cardamom, curry leaves, mango powder
Recipes: Cauliflower with Garlic, Ginger, and Green Chilies, Beets and Greens Curry with Chick Peas, Pindi Chana

Southeast Asian
jasmine rice
sesame oil
soy sauce
Fresh ingredients: chilies, cilantro, garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, onion, parsley, Thai basil
Extras: peanuts, tamarind paste
Recipes: Indonesian Curry Bean Stew, Noodles with Lime and Peanut Sauce, Tofu Bánh Mì

dried chilies
rice vinegar
sesame oil
sesame seeds
soy sauce
Szechuan peppercorns
Fresh ingredients: cilantro, garlic, ginger, onion, parsley
Extras: Chinese Five Spice, fermented black beans, rice noodles, wheat noodles
Recipes: Hot and Sour Soup with Baby Bok Choy, Vegetable Lo Mein, Orange Sesame Stirfry with Shirataki Noodles

dark sesame oil
dried chilies
kombu seaweed
miso (soybean paste)
rice vinegar
sesame seeds
soy sauce
Fresh ingredients: garlic, ginger, onion
Extras: Japanese Seven Spice, mirin, nori and wakame seaweed, sake, wasabi
Recipes: Vegetarian Miso Soup, Miso Mashed Potatoes, Bare Bones Miso Soup

Resources/Further Reading
International Vegetarian Union Recipes
Cook’s Thesaurus Herb & Spice Mixes
Rick Bayless’ Mexican Food Glossary
Hooked on Heat: Intro to Indian—Know Your Spice
Just Hungry—Back to Japanese Basics
Tigers and Strawberries: Staple Ingredients of the Chinese Pantry
How to Stock the Middle Eastern Pantry

Readers, what’s missing? Are there must-haves missing from this list? What international cuisines need more love? The comments await your expertise.


If you dug this article, you may also dig
Pantry of the Gods
Save Money on Seasoning: Make Your Own Mix
When to Clean Out the Pantry

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Green Kitchen: Chunky Spiced Unsweetened Applesauce

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

I'd like to take a moment to think on the lessons of zucchini.

I greet the first greenmarket zucchini with excitement – just like every vegetable's first seasonal appearance, this is a momentous occasion. Fresh and bright and less than $2 a pound, I take them home in big bundles, sauteeing them simply for the sweet zucchini flavor.

Fast-forward to August and we're like, Uggh, please, no more zucchini! I know you are cheap, summer squash, but I am sick of you.

Friends, let us not let the apple fall prey to the same late-season disenchantment.

We must take action now, at the start of apple season, to ward off an early winter apple fatigue. Apples, like zucchini, are cheap. They are delicious. They are healthy. But they also survive storage really, really well, and will still be around in cheerful piles come, like, February. Fruit in February! It seems amazing now, but the midwinter farmers market devotee looks at apples like cockroaches after a nuclear winter – their fortitude is admirable, but what you wouldn't give for a delicate berry.

So I say to you now, stop apple fatigue before it starts! Don't binge on raw honeycrisps for the next two months, only to fight tears and a slight gag reflex when they're the only non-potato thing at the greenmarket this winter. Bring to the start of apple season the creativity that usually marks the end of a fruit or vegetable's yearly time, but with excitement and ingenuity rather than bleary-eyed desperation.

We must take advantage of the autumn's apple bounty, lay in stores of this cheap, healthy, delicious fruit, and get creative with it!

Also I've come up with an apple sauce recipe that's really, really good. Like, I just had to take a break from writing about it to go get some from the fridge good.

Awesome things about this apple sauce, other than it being so tasty:
—No sugar! Apples are plenty sweet on their own.
—No milling, grinding, processing, or whatever! This sauce is nice and chunky, which also makes it more versatile than a smooth puree. I've been mixing it in with Greek yogurt all week.
—So cheap! I got my apples for $0.37/lb in a big 4lb bag. Applesauce apples don't need to be pretty, or even the tasty, crisp, sweet apples you'd choose for raw eating. Get 'em cheap.
—It freezes well! I spooned some into a quart freezer bag and used this method for rice-freezing to separate it into individual portions. Come March when the memory of fresh apples grows fond and crappy supermarket produce beckons, I'll have this tastiness stowed away, ready to defrost.
—You may feel like a prairie homesteader while making it, which is silly, because apples are not a prairie thing, but it feels good old-timey domestic. Or maybe that's just me. But it was fun.

(PS: Do plumped-up raisins remind anyone else of Danny, the Champion of the World? God, that book is the best.)


If you like this recipe, you may enjoy:
All Night Apple Butter
Maple-Ginger Applesauce
Autumn Apple Salad


Chunky Spiced Applesauce (Unsweetened)

makes approximately 1 quart, or 8 1/2-cup servings

4 lbs apples (about 10 cups chopped)
1 cup raisins
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
a few dashes cayenne
a dash of salt

1. Core and chop the apples. The larger your chunks, the chunkier your sauce. Unevenness is fine, too.

2. As you collect your chopped apples in a large bowl or whatnot, add a tablespoon of lemon juice every few apples. This keeps the apples from browning and is good for the sauce.

3. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the apples, stirring to get them all hot.

4. Once the apples start to release some water, add raisins and salt.

5. Cook 20-30 minutes, until apples reach your desired mushiness, stirring every so often. If things look dry, add a half cup of water.

6. Stir in spices; taste. Adjust as necessary.

7. Try not to burn your mouth.

Approximate calories, fat, fiber, protein, and cost per serving:
128 calories, 0.4g fat, 4.1g fiber, 0.9g protein, $0.35

4 lbs apples: 567 calories, 1.9g fat, 26.2g fiber, 2.8g protein, $1.50
1 cups raisins: 433 calories, .5g fat, 5.4g fiber, 4.5g protein, $1.19
3 tbsp lemon juice: 3 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.04
2 tsp cinnamon: 2 calories, 0g fat, 0.5g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
1 tsp ground ginger: 6 calories, 0g fat, 0.2g fiber, 0.2g protein, $0.03
1 tsp nutmeg: 12 calories, 0.8g fat, 0.5g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
a few dashes cayenne: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
a dash of salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01

TOTAL: 1023 calories, 3.2g fat, 33.1g fiber, 7.5g protein, $2.81
PER SERVING (TOTAL/8): 128 calories, 0.4g fat, 4.1g fiber, 0.9g protein, $0.35

Ask the Internet: How Do You Organize Your Recipes?

Sweet Angela, Bea, and Rosalind, readers! Ask and ye shall receive. Last week, I threw myself at your feet and you lifted me up with more slow cooker tips and recipes than I can use in this lifetime. I am heartily grateful.

This week’s multi-part question is born out two-parts need for decluttering solutions and one-part sheer curiosity:

Q: Readers, I gotta know, 1) how do you keep track of your recipes and 2) what’s your favorite method for reading a recipe while cooking? Dog-earred cookbooks? An index card file? Are you going digital? 3)What are your favorite recipe organization tools/applications?

A: My 1-ft by 1-ft countertop makes using cookbooks cramped and messy. Recently, I used Charming Boyfriend’s smartphone to pull up a recipe while at the farmer’s market and then in the kitchen while preparing the dish. (See last week’s Top-Crust Peach and Cardamom Pie on Serious Eats.) More and more, I find myself replacing my tried-and-true (and recklessly scattered) index cards, which I magnetize to the fridge, with my laptop, which I set it on top of the fridge and use as a recipeasel (though I fear one day it may meet a fiery end).

What about you, beloved readers? Do you still prop up the cookbook on the counter with a canister of flour and a wooden spoon or is the iPad-integrated kitchen on your wishlist? The comments are ready to accept your wisdom.

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, September 27, 2010

Broccoli Quiche

Please welcome Michele Laikowski, actress, voiceover artist, mom to the cutest boy in the Tri-State, and forever friend of CHG. And today on Serious Eats: Shredded Beet, Apple, and Currant Salad with Apple Vinaigrette. I made, ate, and loved dried fruit in a salad. Is that a horseman, I see?

Hi CHG readers! The last time I was here, my son was 7 months old and I was discovering ways to make baby food. Actually, I discussed making pureed peas and lamented the lack of space in my Brooklyn apartment.

Well, now, we’re at the stage in his life where he eats big-people food, and he wants to eat it NOW. That leaves a working mom, who picks up her kid at 6 pm, trying to figure out how to distract him for as long as possible while cooking a nutritious and healthy meal. (Thirty minutes is the longest I’ve ever distracted him. It’s in shame I tell you that I use The Wiggles.) What’s a Working Girl to do?

If you said, Harrison Ford, you are only partially correct. OK, you aren’t correct at all! But you guys, remember in the movie when he explains how he got the cut on his chin*? How cute was he? Well, dreamy, actually. Kris, I’m sorry but Harrison Ford showed George Clooney how to be a great big sexy star! Now, I know what I’m doing this weekend. I am watching Working Girl. I’m cooking ahead.

During the week, while I slave for The Man, I think about what my kiddo will eat and what my husband and I will also enjoy. Many times, its pork chops, rice, and frozen spinach (I mean, I totally heat it). That takes almost exactly 20 minutes with prep and everything. So, that’s good—but it’s also labor intensive. Please don’t laugh, but when you’ve got an almost-2-year-old pulling on your leg not wanting to just watch The Wiggles but actually interact with you, you really want to comply. And you especially do not want your kid with you while you’re near a stove. (TODDLERS ARE CRAZY AND WANT TO TOUCH EVERYTHING.)

So, here’s a meal that is toddler- and daddy-approved: Broccoli Quiche. You can make it on Saturday, and it will hang out in your fridge for about four days. Or you can make two and freeze one for the future.

I’ve adapted Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything; and by adapted, I mean I added broccoli. I make it while the kiddo is napping or when the other working person in my house and life, the daddy, has taken him outside to chalk up the sidewalk. Then on Monday, Tuesday, and/or Wednesday I can pull it out of the fridge and reheat it in my oven for 20 minutes.

This is probably not your go-to for really healthy, but for a toddler, it’s pretty darn good. And for your *ahem*-year-old mom and dad, it’s something you want to eat occasionally. That being said, you can totally healthy this up by using low-fat cheese, 2% milk, and/or cutting out a few of the egg yolks.

My husband, a real man, fought against this quiche. Now, he asks for it.

* Interesting (to me) fact: they also explain that scar in Indiana Jones.


If you like this recipe, you may also enjoy:
Mark Bittman’s Baked Eggs in a Dish
Crustless Spinach Quiche
Tofu Veggie Scramble


Broccoli Quiche

Photo: Melissa Sanders via Flickr

Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Yields 8 servings

6 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup broccoli (frozen and defrosted or fresh)
1 1/2 cups milk, heated gently until just warm
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
frozen pie shell (or homemade, if you’re ambitious)


1. Heat the oven to 325º and set the rack in the middle. Set out the frozen pie crust that you bought because you’re me and can only really tackle pie crusts on holidays. If you make your own pie crust, I bow to you—just remember to leave out sugar.

2. Beat the eggs with a fork or whisk. Stir in the milk, and add the cheese, broccoli, salt, and cayenne. Stir until well blended.

3. Put the pie crust on a baking sheet and pour in the egg mixture. When you put it in, you MAY have a little left over. I’m sorry, I add broccoli and Mark doesn’t. Scramble up the remainder in a pan to hold the kiddo tight until the quiche is ready.

4. Bake for 30 to 40 min, or until almost firm (it should still jiggle just a little in the middle) and lightly browned on top; reduce the oven heat if the shell’s edges are darkening too quickly. Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before wrapping it in plastic wrap, or it will get wet on top. (It may anyway, but the cooler the better.) Put quiche in fridge.

5. When you’re ready to eat it, take it out of the fridge and reheat at 325 for 20 – 30 min. If you guys are making it in the next couple weeks and live in the Northeast, serve with a honey crisp apple. They are the bomb right now.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
251 calories, 17.3g fat, .6g fiber, 12.4g protein, $2.07

6 eggs: 426 calories, 30g fat, 0g fiber, 36g protein, $1.25
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese cheese: 682.5 calories, 55.5g fat, 0g fiber, 42g protein, $1.39
3/4 cup broccoli: 30.75 calories, 0g fat, 3.75g fiber, 3g protein, $0.25
1 1/2 cups milk: 219 calories, 12g fat, 0g fiber, 12g protein, $0.43
1/2 tsp salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1/4 tsp cayenne: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
frozen pie shell: 649 calories, 41g fat, 1g fiber, 6g protein, $2.48
TOTALS: 2007 calories, 138.5g fat, 4.75g fiber, 99 protein, $12.46
PER SERVING (totals/8): 251 calories, 17.3g fat, .6g fiber, 12.4g protein, $2.07

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Throwback: Weekly Menu Planning for Singles, Couples, and Working People

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG archives. This one is from March 2009.

Spend an afternoon perusing family-oriented frugality blogs, you’ll discover there are a few recurring themes. Among them: yard sales, thrift store shopping, a widespread love of free shampoo, and of course, weekly menu planning.

Menu planning, it’s argued, will streamline evenings in the home. Ma and Pa are saved money, time, and mounds of frustration because they know what the brood’s having for dinner days ahead of time. There’s no scrambling in the kitchen or supermarket, since both shopping and cooking are refined to a science. Kids (sometimes) get to have a say in what they eat, too, which makes the whole thing a family activity rather than merely a parental chore.

All in all, it’s a fantastic strategy. Even better, EVERYBODY can use it.

See, while weekly menu planning for non-families is a rare topic around the blogosphere, it’s just as monumentally helpful for post-collegiates, office workers, struggling singles, and young couples. It even offers extra benefits, mostly involving time management. Like:
  • You’re saved from 8pm post-work dinner freakouts, because dinner is ALWAYS planned.
  • Ingredients are guaranteed to be on hand.
  • Cooking goes much faster, since you go in knowing how to prepare a meal (by instinct or through print-out recipes).
  • You eat healthier, as home-cooked meals are generally much more nutritious than calorie-laden takeout or heat-and-eat dinners (Hot Pockets, Hungry Man, etc.).
  • Grocery shopping goes waaaaay faster. You go in knowing exactly what you want, and don’t have to blow an extra half-hour wandering around. Case in point: last night, using my weekly menu plan, I did all my shopping in 59 minutes, door to door, WALKING. In that time, I hit two stores, the further of which is about a half-mile away. Woo!
  • Extra trips to the grocery store are mostly eliminated.
  • You can plan for leftovers for office lunches. This is huge, personally speaking, because turkey sandwiches get tired 40,000 times in a row.
  • You always have food for those bag lunches (the night before, no less), saving you $30 per week, or around $1500 per year.
  • For budgeting purposes, you can pretty much estimate the cost of your bill to the dollar.
  • There’s less food waste, because you’re buying only what you need.
  • It allows for variety during the week, since you’ve got all the ingredients on hand anyway.
But how to begin? How do you organize this stuff? How do you create a weekly menu and grocery list without it taking a billion, gazillion years?

The answer: I don’t know. Everybody has their own system, based on what works best for them. But here’s what The Boyfriend and I do currently:

Create a new word document
This is what you’ll be typing, cutting, and pasting to. It’s much easier than writing everything down, and at the end, you can print out the grocery list, weekly menu, and recipes all at once.

Make a quick grocery list of what you need

What groceries are running low? What foods do you eat regularly from week to week? This is my most recent list:

Deli ham or turkey (for lunches)
Fruit (for breakfast and lunch)
Meat (general)
Yogurt (for lunches)

Brainstorm the dinners you want to eat this week

New dishes? Old favorites? Seasonal experiments? Whatever you’re in the mood for, list ‘em here, with special attention paid to food you need to use up before it goes bad. This is also a good time to take a cursory glance at your local online circulars. Entire menus can be built around loss leaders (biggest bargains).

This week, our dinner list includes:
For the sake of convenience, cut and paste each new recipe IN ITS ENTIRETY into your document. That way, you can print it up and consult it when you’re cooking.

(Note: I cook a lot of new dishes for both Serious Eats and CHG, so chances are your list will be a lot less complicated.)

Make a rough menu

Based on what you have in the fridge, what you’re planning for the week, and what you usually have, create a weekly menu. Take care to note when you won’t be home for a meal. Yours can be simple or complex, but I might start off pretty low-key until you get the hang of it. Here's ours:

Lunch: sandwich, leftovers yogurt, Kix, fruit
Dinner: Spinach Rice Casserole with leftover Irio

Lunch: Leftover casserole, salad, fruit, yogurt
Dinner: The Boyfriend OUT; Me - Chickpea and Bread Soup w/asparagus

Lunch: Leftover soup and/or casserole or sandwiches, fruit, yogurt
Dinner: Both OUT @ comedy show

Brunch: Brunch Clafouti
Dinner: Both OUT @ friends’ house for dinner

Brunch: Omelets, toast, and fruit
Dinner: Spiced Chicken Breast w/tangerine Sauce and Cauliflower-Honey Soup

Lunch: Leftovers, crackers, fruit
Dinner: Pasta with veggies

Lunch: Sandwiches, popcorn, fruit
Dinner: Turkey burgers with rice and frozen veggies

(Note: 90% of our weekday breakfasts consist of cereal [or homemade whatever], so we don’t list them. Also, we keep our beverages limited to coffee, beer, and water. This way, we’re always awake, tipsy, and hydrated, just the way we like it.)

Add additional ingredients to the grocery list
Now that you have a concrete menu, add your new needs to the foods you listed in STEP 1. Mine are at the bottom here, for the recipes I plan to make:

Deli ham or turkey (for lunches)
Eggs (for Clafouti and otherwise)
Fruit (for breakfast and lunch)
Meat (general)
Yogurt (for lunches)
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas (for Chickpea Soup)
4 cups beef stock (for Chickpea Soup)
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (for Cauliflower Soup and Tangerine Chicken)
3/4 a baguette (for Chickpea Soup)
9 or 10 ounces fresh spinach leaves (for Casserole)
1 1/2 cup fresh fruit (for Clafouti)
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (for Tangerine Chicken)
1/2 cup tangerine juice (for Tangerine Chicken)
2 tangerines (for Tangerine Chicken)

Go through circulars (thoroughly this time)

Now that you have a general plan, comb your online (or paper) circular for sale items corresponding to your list. If you have coupons, this is a good time to see if there are any good discounts.

One more thing: if you see something you love but don’t need on mega-sale, go for it. For example, I don’t NEED red peppers this week, but I use them frequently for salads, pastas, and whatnot. So, I’ll probably pick up a few because $1.99 is a good price. If beans were on sale, I’d be all over that, too. But they’re not. Boo.

This week, this was on sale from my list:

Chicken Breast - $1.69/lb (for Tangerine Chicken)
Bananas – 2lb/$1 (for breakfasts/lunches)
La Yogurt – 2/$1 (for lunches)
Oranges – 8/$2 (for breakfasts/lunches)
Red Peppers - $1.99/lb (for whatever)

Cantaloupe - $0.99/ea (for breakfasts/lunches)
Blueberries - $1.99/6oz (1-1/2 cups for Clafouti)
Eggs – 2/$3 (for Clafouti and otherwise)

Finalize the list

Okay, stocks weren’t on sale. Neither were tangerines, chickpeas, baguettes, cold cuts, or spinach. So now, I assign them to a grocery store that I think will have the lower price.

In the end, my list looks like this:

Chicken Breast - $1.69/lb (for Tangerine Chicken)
Bananas – 2lb/$1 (for breakfasts/lunches)
La Yogurt – 2/$1 (for lunches)
Oranges – 8/$2 (for breakfasts/lunches)
Red Peppers - $1.99/lb (for whatever)
2-15 oz. cans chickpeas (for Chickpea Soup)
2 tangerines (for Tangerine Chicken)
1/2 cup tangerine juice (for Tangerine Chicken)

Cantaloupe - $0.99/ea (for breakfast and lunch)
Blueberries - $1.99/6oz (1-1/2 cups for Clafouti)
Eggs – 2/$3 (for Clafouti and otherwise)
Cold cut ham or turkey (for lunches)
4 cups beef stock (for Chickpea Soup)
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (for Cauliflower Soup and Tangerine Chicken)
3/4 a baguette (for Chickpea Soup)
9 or 10 ounces fresh spinach leaves (for Casserole)

(Note: I get cumin in bulk from an ethnic grocer on the walk home, so it’s not included here.)


And that’s it. Now, after only 40 minutes of planning, I have an exact grocery list AND menu for the whole week. Plus, I’m guaranteed to save money on sale items, prepare healthy foods, and have plenty to bring to the office. And that’s good for everyone involved.

Readers, how about you? Do you menu plan? What’s your plan like? How might you change this one? Fire away in the comments section.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Top Ten Links of the Week: 9/17/10 - 9/23/10

1) BBC: UN Holds Key Meeting on Food Prices
Today in Rome, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is gathering, “sparked by global fears about high food prices.” Among their concerns: the Russian export ban due to recent drought, riots in Mozambique over high grain prices, and the continually rising price of grain-currently at a two-year high.

2) Food Politics: A Decent Food Safety System: Will we ever get one?
Marion Nestle explains how politics shapes and hinders U.S. food policy, and wonders if we will ever get it right.

3) MOMA: Counter Space: Design + the Modern Kitchen
A new exhibit at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art explores how the kitchen influences politics, design, pop culture and vice versa. The images curated here are captivating, even on the website. I can’t wait to see them in person.

4) Jezebel: Why Should Home Cooking Be Women’s Work?
Jezebel takes a reasoned and level pick axe to the arguments in a piece that calls for a return to “feminine cookery.” In the Daily Mail op-ed, writer Rose Prince blames feminism for obesity, fast food, and Gordon Ramsey. Hey, now that’s going one step too far.

5) NYT: Our Towns — Fresh Vegetables Where Fast Food Reigns
A low-income Long Island community embraces its new farmers’ market, made possible by by local revitalization and sustainable agriculture groups. “‘There seems to be this perception that low-income communities don’t have the same needs and interests when it comes to food, and we do,’ said Clara Gillens-Eromosele, one of the leaders of the Roosevelt revitalization group. ‘We’re not looking to have more fast food in our community. We’re looking to educate people about alternatives.’”

6) Boing Boing: Four Reasons Why High Fructose Corn Syrup Is Probably Not the Devil
Balanced take on why HFCS is no reason for dietary panic. But the over consumption of sweeteners could, in fact, be...Satan.

7) FDA Won’t Require GM Label on Salmon
Salmon: the new mystery meat.

8) Slate: How Can the FDA Tell Whether GMO Fish Are Safe?
It’s all just fish parts, right?

9) Serious Eats: A Preliminary Canned Tomato Taste Test
Bloggers from Serious Eats’ pizza-focused sister Slice tasted a bunch of tomatoes, ranging in price from $0.99 to $12.39, and rated them in categories, like sweetness, acidity, texture, and color. The results: spendy does not equal a good tomato.

10) BBC: Why Do So Many People Like Toast?
A study by Cardiff University found that when we smell the chemicals released as the sugars in the bread caramelize, our memories of childhood are triggered. Nutshell: toast reminds us of home.

HuffPo: 6 Biggest Food Myths, Busted
From eggs to microwaves, Eating Well’s Joyce Hendley challenges some of the conventional wisdom about food and cooking.

How Stuff Works: 10 Most Common Fast Food Ingredients
This list of the most ubiquitous fast food components contains many of the usual suspects (sodium and HFCS) and a few rogue entries I did not expect.

Gothamist: Sandwich Shop Turns Health Dept. “B” Lemon into Lemongrade
It’s all in how you spin it!

Slashfood: World Record Mac’N’Cheese
I’m bringing the world’s biggest spoon!

The Kitchn: 6 Ways to Tidy Your Pantry in 10 Minutes
Another awesome list of tips from the The Kitchn.

Craftzine: Maker Faire CRAFT Demo Profile: Tugboat Printshop

If you’re a DIY geek in the New York City area this weekend, you must check out the World Maker Faire, hosted by Make Magazine at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, NY. There will be demos, exhibits, and amazing wonders of the old-school and high-tech to behold.

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, September 23, 2010

Veggie Might: Easy Tomato Sauce

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

For years I avoided making my own tomato pasta sauce based on several misconceptions:
1) Jarred sauce is fine
2) Making homemade tomato sauce is hard
3) You have to be Italian with instinctual sauce know-how

Let’s debunk these one at a time.

1) Jarred sauce is fine if you like bland sauce and don’t mind spending just as much time and effort “perking up” what comes out of the jar as you would making a batch from scratch. Plus, jarred sauces are high in sodium and preservatives that keep the smiling at you on the shelf for a good long time. They can also get expensive.

2) Making homemade tomato sauce is hard if you think chopping is hard. The rest is putting stuff in a pot and stirring. Really! Now what you put in the pot takes a little thought and alchemey, but there are recipes and gurus out there to guide you. Find one you like and make it your own. Before you know it, you’ll be making sauce without a recipe, just like an Italian auntie.

3) You have to be Italian with instinctual sauce know-how like I am Italian. There is not a twig or bit of Latin bark to be found anywhere on my Anglo-Saxon-Scots-Irish family tree, and I wear long sleeves to the beach. But I finally got over the fact that the absence of a sauce gene and an Italian nana shouldn’t stop me from kicking out some great sauce. My pal SL, her mama, and her Zia Stella would be proud.

My easy tomato sauce is so simple and pretty fast. You can make it with canned or fresh tomatoes, and it only takes about 40 minutes. You can cook the pasta while the sauce simmers. It’s ideal for a weeknight supper and keeps well for leftovers and lunches.

I made two versions of this sauce and both were delicious. You can mix and match ingredients and essentially choose your own adventure. Herbs can be swapped out based on your personal preferences or what you have around the kitchen.

Version 1: Fresh tomatoes and balsamic vinegar made a chunky, sweet sauce with loads of flavor. I used a 1/2 tbsp less sugar for this version, since balsamic vinegar is much sweeter than other vinegars, especially as it cooks down. The rosemary got a bit lost, but it was still quite delicious.

I forgot to peel or remove the seeds from the fresh tomatoes, and it wasn’t too much of an issue, but I recommend you do both of those things for a saucier sauce. Peeling tomatoes is so easy. Just drop the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds, remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and allow to cool. Then pierce the skin with a knife and the skin will peel right off.

Version 2: Canned diced tomatoes with red wine vinegar made a tangy, bright sauce that really highlighted the fresh rosemary. This sauce is gorgeous over sauteed vegetables and whole wheat pasta.

So that’s it. Cast away whatever crazy notions have been keeping you from making your own sauce and be Italian.


If you like this recipe, you may enjoy:
Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca
Pasta with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Mushrooms
Tomato Sauce II:Light Lidia’s Tomato Sauce


Easy Tomato Sauce

Serves 8

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (or 2 lbs fresh, diced + 1/4 cup water)
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar (or 1 tbsp if using balsamic vinegar)
1 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tsp fresh, chopped)
2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed (or 1 1/2 tbsp fresh, finely chopped)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook together for about 4 minutes or until onions are soft and translucent. Add oregano and rosemary to onion and garlic and cook for another minute or two.

2. To the vegetables, add tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, and sugar. Stir well, combining all flavors. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes up to 1 hour, adding water, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary. (I only added water when I used fresh tomatoes.)

3. Serve over your favorite pasta and vegetables, top with fresh basil or parsley, and share the story of how your zia from the old country taught you how to make sauce.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
52 calories, 1.8g fat, .75g fiber, .75g protein, $.64

Note: This recipe can be made with canned or fresh tomatoes. Cost was calculated based on recipe made with canned tomatoes.

1 tbsp olive oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.08
1 large yellow onion: 52 calories, 0.3g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.65
6 cloves garlic: 25 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.07
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes: 132 calories, 0g fat, 6g fiber, 6g protein, $3.00
1 tbsp tomato paste: 12 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.62
2 tbsp red wine vinegar: 6 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.26
1 tbsp sugar: 67.5 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.04
sugar, granulated, 3 tsps: 45 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.03
1 tsp dried oregano: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1 1/2 tbsp fresh rosemary: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.08
salt and pepper to taste: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.04
TOTALS: 417.5 calories, 14.3g fat, 6g fiber, 6g protein, $5.15
PER SERVING (totals/8): 52 calories, 1.8g fat, .75g fiber, .75g protein, $.64

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trading Butter for All the Broccoli in China: Getting Healthy Takes Practice

Making her CHG debut, please welcome today's guest blogger, Amy Dickenson. Amy is an actor, writer, producer, and mom to the cutest baby girl in the five boroughs.

Forty. Forty is the new 30, right? Well, in my house, 40 is starting to look like the new 60. My gorgeous husband and I have recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol—hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, to be fancy, like certain cheeses which I love and will never be able to eat again.

Photo: Jami Dwyer via Flickr
Let’s jump in the Crisco Time Machine. It all started 18 years ago when our courtship took a decided slant toward biscuits slathered in butter and jam. Have you ever tasted butter? It’s like a miracle married to a unicorn wrapped in a rainbow. Much like its cousin, bacon, which is a miracle married to a unicorn dipped in chocolate, butter’s not so good for your arteries. But it was the early ‘90s and we didn’t know about cholesterol and vegetables back then. Did we?

Back in the time machine to August 2010. My cholesterol is 254. WHAT? I am not a high-falutin’, pin-stripe-wearin’ banker chugging scotch, smoking stogies, eating aged porterhouse steaks with my big wig partners, guffawing over “that deal” that made “lots of money” while flashing my newly laminated AARP card. I am a working mom. I eat veggies. I make sure my family gets a salad at least once a day. So, what gives? And why is my husband’s blood pressure 180/2 million?

My husband (let’s call him Adam) and I do not agree all the time (shocking) but we do agree on one thing: We want to be around for our baby daughter’s graduation from college. And her wedding. And her babies. And their graduations from college. Even if she doesn’t get married or go to college, we want to be around to lament those things.

She is worth all the broccoli in China. And I know they have tons, because, let’s face it, nobody ever eats that side of bright green buried under the General Tsao’s chicken. I imagine the Great Wall as an agricultural implement built to contain the cruciferous invaders from the steppes of central Asia. They must love it as much as I do.

Photo: La Grande Farmers' Market via flickr
Our daughter, however, loves broccoli (a secret point of pride), and for now, she needs us to make it for her. Time to act.

Adam’s doctor put him on the First Line Therapy diet. Mine gave me a prescription cholesterol reducer, a pharmaceutical of the most common side effects reported are headache, muscle pain, abdominal pain...variety.

One of the scariest side effects I read about is birth defects. Since Adam and I are “not not trying” to have another baby, the meds are sitting on my desk, looking forlorn while I debate whether to take it. Or I could give this First Line Therapy diet a try too.

Adam and I are fly-by-the-seat of our pantsers, not planners. I love to cook, but I have been known to open the freezer at 5 pm and stare blankly for three minutes before I reach directly above it for the takeout menus. (OK, the restaurant numbers are in my cell phone.)

How do two nonplanners plan to be healthy, live longer, and learn about nutrition on a diet that requires grocery shopping in advance of the moment we might need said ingredients?
I started by reading the cute little binder Adam got from his doctor. It has menus, recipes, and tips like pretty much every other diet book. I thought, “Hmmm. This looks really great.” And I said to Adam, “Babe, this is really great.” And then I put down the book and we ordered chicken ceasar wraps with feta from Zorba’s. Because you can have fat-free feta on this diet. (Zorba’s doesn’t have fat-free anything.)

Oh I needed a PLAN. I gave myself a goal of meal planning for three days. My mind can grapple with Sunday, Monday and Tuesday just fine. I didn’t want to get too ambitious and hope for a week.

First Line Therapy (FLT) is basically the reduced-carb, high-veggie, lean protein, healthy fat diet that we have all read about, tried, and maybe succeeded at. It’s similar to the South Beach approach or the Mediterranean diet…or Weight Watchers if you do it right.

You aim for a set number of calories per day within a certain set of food groups. For instance, Adam can eat 2000 calories a day, and this is how they break it down:

Servings per Day
3–4 “Category 1” veggies (the green leafies, the zucchinies, the tomatoes, the peppers, etc.)
2 legumes
1 dairy
3 concentrated proteins
2 fruits
4 healthy oils
1 nut
1 grain
1 “Category 2” veggie (the yummy orange ones)

You can read more about FLT here, where people are dangerously perched on two-wheels or here, where they weigh giraffes. I prefer the giraffes.

Among the many challenges of embracing FLT is that it’s kinda pricey. They recommend you eat what they call “medical food,” which includes Ultra Meal 360 Plus shakes with delicious "Selective Kinase Response Modulators,” twice a day and take a variety of supplements. You can indulge in medical chalklate, medical chalkberry or medical chalknilla flavored shakes, which you mix with cold water. Or you can get purse-friendly bars in flavors approximating fudge or apple cinnamon. (We have yet to try the apple cinnamon bars or strawberry shake flavors.) If there is a cookie variety, they are holding out on us.

“Medical food,” in combination with the cost of fresh produce, was looking a little forbidding until we looked at our daily Starbucks intake—$10 easy for both of us, which adds up to over $3600 a year. If we cut that out, along with our takeout habit, we could maybe swing this thing.

I comparison shopped at our local grocery store vs. the health food store vs. the farmer’s market. A head of lettuce at our grocery store costs around $3. I never used to buy a head of lettuce that I’d have to cut up and WASH and spin and hang to dry. It’s like doing laundry. Especially when have these cute little plastic boxes of cut up, triple-washed lettuce. But, they’re $4.99 a box. And, if truth be told, we usually throw away about 1/3 of it when the purple leafy things get all slimy. Hmmm… I see savings in my salad spinner.

The farmer’s market had locally grown lettuce for (drum roll please) $2! And it doesn’t come in those plastic shells which I always feel guilty about buying and tossing. So, not only am I supporting local growers, I can get my green on too? I’m sold. Or least sold on Wednesdays. Because that’s the only day the farmers market comes to my area.

To fill out the week, I decided to go for Romaine hearts at my grocery store, saving roughly $4 a week. Over a year, that’s $200. Which means I can buy those fancy Omega-3s FLT recommends we take. Or the “Medical food,” which is $50 a canister for 14 servings. OUCH, but remember the lettuce. Remember the lettuce!

Here is my 3-day plan:
Breakfast: a medical food shake, plus 2 eggs – anyway you like ‘em
Snack: fruit with a nut butter (Almond butter is pricey, but a little goes a loooong way. Plus, you can only have 1 tbsp.)
Lunch: here’s where the planning kicks in…yesterday’s dinner leftovers
Snack: another fruit
Dinner: a recipe from Adam’s cute binder and a salad
Snack: another medical food (This stuff is pricey.)*

Sunday’s dinner was turkey chili from the book (surprisingly delicious); Monday’s dinner was salad with grilled chicken breast; and Tuesday’s dinner was turkey and bulgur with peas (also yummy).

Not only did we have plenty of chili for lunch, I actually froze two servings for another day. The bulgur recipe looks like it might be another loaves and fishes story. I have never cooked bulgur, which I had to get at my health food store, but it was only $4 for a bag that will last me until the Buffalo Bills win a superbowl.**

Now I have to take a deep breath because today is Wednesday. And I have to plan again. But I did it THREE DAYS in a row. And I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… I talked to my doctor about Adam’s FLT diet, and he asked how it was going. “Well, it’s challenging, figuring out how to cook and plan and get all the food groups in.” He said, “That’s what it is. It’s practice.”

Hmmm... Practice. I can do that.

*According to the American Heart Association, in 1995, the last yearly figures they publish, there were 1,460,000 angiograms performed at an average cost of $10,880 per procedure. This resulted in 573,000 bypass surgeries at an average cost of $44,820, and 419,000 percutaneous transluminal (balloon) coronary angioplasties (PTCAs) at an average of $20,370 each. The total bill in 1995 was $50 billion, or $137 million per day―$5.7 million per hour. The total annual cost of cardiovascular disease in the United States, including medications and disability, is approximately $274 billion per year. And that was in 1995. When we were slathering butter on our biscuits. Good grief.

**Adam and I proudly hail from Buffalo, NY.

If you dug this article, you may also dig:
How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off: 10 Rules to Live By
Weekly Meal Planning for Singles, Couples and Working People
Why Weight Maintenance Is Harder Than Weight Loss, and How to Help It Along

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ask the Internet: Do You Use a Slow Cooker?

Readers, you have installed Greek yogurt as Queen and Supreme Ruler of Mayofreeland and avocado as Prime Minister. Soft, spreadable cheeses and sour cream are their trusted advisers. Enemies of mayo rejoice!

For this week’s question I took a look deep inside (my kitchen):

Q: My mother gave me a slow cooker many years ago, at my request. I use it to make beans, collards, and oatmeal. Up to now, I’ve been fairly content with my alternating shining success/burning failure within this repertoire, but I’d like to expand. (And avoid setting off the smoke detector when I’m not home.)

Do you have any good vegetarian slow cooker recipes or resources? How about general slow cooker tips for expediting mealtime?

A: CHG readers, it’s all you today! The comments await your sage advice. Thank you!

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, September 20, 2010

Janice's Glazed Carrots

Please welcome Cindee Weiss, writer, comedian, and dear friend of CHG, who is here today to knock our socks off with deliciousness. And today on Serious Eats: Top-Crust Peach and Cardamom Pie: the most delectable way to ease the transition from summer to fall.

Hello kind readers! It's nice to be back in the cozy and delicious world of Cheap Healthy Good, as I am in the throes of the Jewish High Holidays. Equal parts celebratory and somber, Fall is peeking in, and there's holiday food. OH THE FOOD! It's not gourmet, or fussy, or experimental.

It's also not a meal one takes lightly. When the appetizer is chopped liver on challah or rye bread, you know that this will be a meal that demands attention. What follows after the chopped liver is something I crave starting in early September: brisket, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and salad.

Much like Thanksgiving, we celebrate the Jewish New Year with a meal that's traditional, comforting, and just plain delicious. I have eaten this exact same meal for almost 40 years. I wouldn't change anything. It's home on a plate.

For today's recipe, I give you Janice's (my mom) Glazed Carrots. It's a simple recipe, and when paired with a savory meat dish, the results are sublime. Traditionally, honey is used in the Rosh Hashana meal to signify a sweet New Year. Jan is not a honey gal (she's extremely sweet though!), so pure maple syrup is our sweetener of choice.

A belated L'shanah Tovah, to you CHG! May your year be sweet, peaceful, and delicious!


If you dig this recipe, you may also enjoy
Carrots and Zucchini with Garlic and Ginger
Honey-Glazed Roasted Carrots
Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes


Janice's Glazed Carrots

Photo © John Kernick for Food & Wine 

Serves 6
3 pounds carrots, sliced on the diagonal into 2–3 inch pieces (you can also use baby carrots left whole)
8.5 ounces (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) kosher 100% maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Salt and nutmeg to taste

1. Pre-heat oven to 350º F.
2. Place carrots in a roasting pan. Add OJ, maple syrup, vanilla, salt to taste, a pinch of nutmeg and toss. Dot carrots with butter.
3. Bake 1–1 1/2 hours, until carrots caramelize and are tender when poked with a knife.
4. Enjoy with brisket, mashed potatoes, and loved ones.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
304.5 calories, 5.2g fat, 7g fiber, 2.3g protein, $2.07

Editor’s Note: Prices for maple syrup vary wildly. Your cost may be different depending on the brand you choose.

3 pounds carrots: 546 calories, 0g fat, 42g fiber, 10.5g protein, $3.36
8.5 ounces maple syrup: 945 calories, 1.125g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $8.49
2 tablespoons unsalted butter: 280 calories, 30g fat, 0g fiber, 2g protein, $0.30
1/2 cup orange juice: 56 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 1g protein, $0.25
1/2 teaspoon vanilla: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
nutmeg: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
TOTALS: 1,827 calories, 31.1g fat, 42g fiber, 13.5 protein, $12.46
PER SERVING (totals/6): 304.5 calories, 5.2g fat, 7g fiber, 2.3g protein, $2.07

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Throwback: Learning to Love the Foods You Hate: A Guide for Frugal Eaters

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG archives. This one is from April 2009.

Up until a few years ago, the list of foods I loathed was a long one. It included, but wasn’t limited to: spaghetti squash, broccoli, asparagus, red cabbage, ginger ale, cauliflower, radishes, lentils, beans, Brussels sprouts, fennel, eggplant, anise, scallops, figs, and of course, the dreaded mayonnaise. The list goes on (and on), but you get the idea: growing up, I wasn’t exactly a daring eater.

I still hate mayo. I will ALWAYS hate mayo. George Clooney could serve me mayo wrapped in chocolate bacon on a gold-plated re-issue of Who’s Next, and I would throw it back in his face. But my opinion’s changed on most of those other foods. These days, I’ll gladly scarf a floret of cauliflower. Brussels sprouts hold a special place on my dinner table. And eggplant? Well, eggplant is my favorite thing ever, aside from the panda song from Sifl and Olly. (In fact, you could say I’m drunk on eggplant mystery.)

Granted, part of it is just me aging. At 31-years-old, my palate’s matured a little, and my tastes now lean more toward savory than sweet. The other part, though, can be directly attributed to recent changes in my lifestyle.

See, a few years ago, I resolved to learn to cook, to eat healthier, and to better manage my money. As it turned out, vegetables and legumes were vital to making this work, since they’re exponentially cheaper than meat and much more nutritious than most starches. So, I had to confront my fears. I had to expand my produce repertoire beyond corn, carrots, corn, and carrots.

These strategies helped. I learned to tolerate, and even love, a lot of foods I had longstanding issues with. Try ‘em for yourself, and please add your own suggestions to the comment section.

Make it unrecognizable.
Case study: Eggplant
Seedy, mushy, and horrifically purple, eggplant appealed to me about as much as a drug-free colonoscopy. Then, in 1997, my friend H hid it in her homemade tomato sauce. And … revelation. Soon, I was on to eggplant dips, eggplant pastas, and finally, plain ol’ broiled eggplant. The trick was getting the image of the vegetable out of my head, and forcing me to associate it with otherwise good food. I suspect it would work beautifully with any vegetable that could be pureed or furtively included in a sauce (butternut squash, bell peppers, etc.).

Use it in a recipe with foods you love.
Case study: Brussels sprouts
As far as I was concerned, Brussels sprouts were tiny, bitter cabbages that masochists ate when they ran out of bigger bitter cabbages. Little did I know that slathering them in Parmesan would provide a delicious gateway into healthier, simpler preparations. See also: Red Cabbage (ew) with Honey (nice), Apples (yay!), and Bacon (king of cured meats). It's actually quite scrumptious.

Try it in an ethnic dish.
Case study: Broccoli
Broccoli: looks like trees, tastes like butt, right? Yeah, I used to think like that, too. But in high school, Ma ordered Chicken and Broccoli from our local Chinese joint, Da How. Suddenly, it was broccoli: looks like trees, tastes like HEAVEN (with garlic and brown sauce). Sometimes, a food is more appealing when its paired with flavors you’re not necessarily accustomed to. Like bean sprouts on top of Pad Thai. Or peas stuffed in a samosa. Or tomatillo sauce spread across an enchilada. Pick a cuisine and start experimenting.

Cook the best-reviewed recipe you can find featuring that food.
Case study: Cauliflower
Most aggregate recipe sites like Epicurious, Food Network, and All Recipes have sophisticated rating systems with which home cooks can evaluate any dish. If you’re feeling ambitious, plug an ingredient into one of their search engines. Then, prep the recipe with the best overall reviews. For example, Ina Garten has a Cauliflower Gratin that’s received an average of five stars from 132 people (which is outstanding). I’ve tried it myself, and without exaggeration, it changed the way I felt about cauliflower. I just … I just didn’t know it could taste that good. Now, stuff like Roasted Garlic Cauliflower and Curried Cauliflower Soup with Honey are making regular appearances in my mouth.

Understand you don’t have to eat it the way your Ma (or Pa) prepared it.
Case study: Spaghetti Squash
Across the country, millions of Irish-Americans loathe vegetables because growing up, produce was boiled beyond recognition and then forced by threat of death into their reluctant maws. But take heart, my freckled brethren! It doesn’t have to be this way. Did you know carrots can be roasted? And broccoli rabe, sauteed? And spaghetti squash, combined with red sauce, mozzarella, and pine nuts to create something COMPLETELY DELICIOUS? It’s true. So, love your Gaelic Ma. Embrace her. Call her often. Just … try to forget her cooking. It’ll make this whole process much easier.

Try a dish with a subtler incarnation of that food.
Case study: Tarragon
This one’s a little difficult to explain, so here’s an example: I despise anise. Even thinking about its black licorice flavor makes my tongue curl. Recently though, I discovered a White Bean and Tarragon Soup that I quite like. Tarragon, like fennel, possesses traits similar to anise, but it’s much, much subtler. In the soup, it was complemented so well by the other ingredients, I didn’t even taste the hate. Maybe I'll feel the same way about anise someday. Think of this principle like salsa: you start out mild, and work your way up to medium and hot varieties.

Give it just one more shot.
Case study: Beans
For some inexplicable reason, I always assumed I hated beans. As a kid, they looked funny to me. And in my six-year-old brain, funny-looking food = bad food. It wasn’t until I grew up, sacked up, ate one and didn’t throw up, that they became a regular part of my diet. (Okay, hummus helped.)

If you truly hate it, let it go.
Case studies: scallops, figs, radishes, mayo
Scallops will never be my thing, no matter how fresh they are, how well they’ve been prepared, and how many times I try them. Figs, radishes, mayonnaise – still disgusting, as well. (Which, did I mention I hate mayonnaise? I did? Oh, good.) Sometimes, a certain food just won’t do it for you. And it’s okay. Just move on to the next one.

And that’s it. Readers? Suggestions?


If you like this article, you might also dig
(All images courtesy of NatalieDee.com. Go there now.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Top Ten Links of the Week: 9/10/10 - 9/16/10

1) Food Politics: This Is Good News? UN Says 925 million People Are Chronically Hungry
2) NY Times: Ranks of Hungry Shrink, but Remain Large
Ten years after the world’s wealthiest nations promised to reduce hunger by half in 15 years, there has been .5% decrease in the number of hungry people around the globe. But experts say the situation is not hopeless. “While all the movement in terms of aid is in the right direction, [Jacques Diouf, the director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization] said, the pace needs to be accelerated.”

3) Food Politics: Corn Refiners Ask FDA to Replace “HFCS” with “Corn Sugar”
Big Corn wants a little rebranding for HFCS, I see. Be sure to check out Marion Nestle’s reader updates on the etymology of corn syrup’s moniker. It shows how susceptible we are and always have been to marketing.

4) Lifehacker: Budweiser, Balsamic Vinegar and How Expectations Affect Our Views
Hold up! We fall for marketing because of brain science. Behavioral economics professor, Dan Ariely, explains how our brains use information to make decisions and form opinions with a fascinating experiment with Boston students as his lab monkeys. My guess is the balsamic was a improvement on a classic.

5) The Minimalist: The Food Processor: A Virtuoso One-Man Band
Mark Bittman dedicates a love song to his food processor. Tonight, I’m going sprinkle some rose petals around the kitchen, turn down the lights, and put on some soft music while my Cuisinart and I make sweet, sweet poblano hummus.

6)Chow: How Do You Get Rid of Fruit Flies?
7)Lifehacker: Capture Fruit Flies with a Cup and Apple Cider Vinegar
Dueling fruit fly remedies: which one works best? You be the decider.

8) Science Daily: Only 5% of Americans Engage in Vigorous Physical Activity on Any Given Day
The report also states, “The most frequently reported moderate activity was food and drink preparation.” If we’re not exercising, at least we’re cooking.

9) The Kitchn: Best Way to Keep Greens Fresh? The Bath Towel Method
I can’t wait to try this. My tried-and true-salad spinner just bit the dust, and I’ve been enjoying the space it vacated.

10) Chow: Hazmat Investigates Exploding Sauerkraut
High school science class gets explosivo and requires a visit from HazMat. What was the most fun you ever had in science class?


Food Politics: Department of Talmudic Investigation: Define Candy
For the love of taxes, someone has to draw the line between candy and cookies. The differential ingredient is flour, but as you might guess, it’s not that simple.

Jezebel: The World’s Smallest Cow
Jezebel: World's Tallest Dog Meets Smallest Dog
A banner week for cute and extremely sized animals!

NY Times Diner’s Journal: The Baker’s Apprentice: Peach or Apple Pie
Food writer Emily Weinstein gets a pie-making lesson from Sarabeth Levine of New York’s Sarabeth’s Kitchen. Luckily for us, she shares what she learned.

NYTimes The Curious Cook: For Old Fashioned Flavor: Bake the Baking Soda
Mmm...apparently lye makes good pretzels as well as soap and drain cleaner. Or just use toasted baking soda.

Unplugged: 3 Tips for Efficiently Stocking the Fridge
via The Kitchn
Save money on food and electricity with these oh-duh reminders.

There I Fixed It: So Is this Food Full of Iron?
Brilliant! Where was this hack during No Stove Month?


National Maritime Museum: Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2010

Let's feel small together.

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!