Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Review 2010

  • This was the first year that I wasn't in Wyoming (or stuck in the Salt Lake City Airport) for Christmas and it was one of the best holidays I have had in a very long time. Christmas always makes me really sad. It's the biggest reminder to me of what my family's life used to be like before my mom got sick. She would make sure we had the most special Christmas we could and it was awesome. This was the first Christmas I got to spend with Z.! I also spent it with his family, who I adore. They remind me so much of my family, just a little classier and a little less hillbilly. 
  • Z.'s mom and grandma asked me if there was a special dish that my family always has at Christmas. Well, there always is Grandma's jello salad. I think she finally stopped putting carrots and celery in it a few years ago. It still may have cottage cheese. I have never tried it and don't plan on it, so I don't think that would be what I want at Z.'s family meal. My other Grandma makes a salad that we call Papa's Salad. It was my Grandpa's favorite salad and we always had to have it. I loved it, too. This is going to sound gross but it works out to be tasty. Papa's salad involves orange jello, cool-whip, canned mandarin oranges and fruit salad, tapioca, and I don't know what else. Food changes is strange ways when you move from the Pacific Northwest towards the mid-west I couldn't think of anything that I liked that Z.'s family wouldn't already be serving. Then, it was like the angels started singing and you know what they sang, "Sweet-and-sour meatballs" to the first three notes in Strauss' opera, Elektra. I had my meatballs at Christmas dinner, made by Z.'s mom! They were really good and hit the spot.
  • Growler the Cat went to cat camp while we were gone (i.e., boarding). I am convinced he got a bath. He is soft and fluffy in a way he never has been before, and he smells like pet shampoo. And, he lost three pounds. This is great! He's such a brat when he doesn't get the amount of food he thinks he should get, so I'm glad they could do it.
  • The last week or so has been an amazing time for food. On the way up to Z.'s family we stopped at the Flying Pie Pizzeria for their lunchtime special. Yummy and awesome deal. 
  • Z.'s mom always has goodies waiting for us. It's all the junk food we each enjoy but our too cheap to buy for ourselves. Plus, her homemade fudge is great. Loved the peanut butter fudge the most! 
  • Besides my beloved meatballs, one of the most exciting things I ate was fresh crab that had been caught just a few days earlier. I have never had crab that fresh. It was the most delicious and rich crab I have ever had. Me, the bottomless abyss, who always has room for more food, only ate a couple legs and one of those things the legs attach to and I was completely satisfied, it was that rich.
  • I made Apple Cake for Christmas dinner. I thought I was being clever when I used extra apples. When I tried to remove the cake from the pan, only the bottom half came out! Z.'s mom and I had to do a little prying to get the top half out of the pan. I think I tried removing the cake from the pan when it was too warm. I was so embarrassed. Z.'s mom was so sweet about it and lined up the two halves as best we could. My Apple Cake may have been a little funny looking but everyone thought it was delicious.
  • I also had a Salumi sandwich made with mole salami that I purchased from the Metropolitan Market. Salumi is a restaurant in Seattle owned my Mario Batali's dad that specializes in Italian cured meats. Z. had one before and has been raving about it ever since. It's the kind of sandwich I love: simple with a few high-quality ingredients. Besides crusty bread brushed with olive oil, it had three thin slices of salami and two slices of provolone. Amazing.
  • Messing up this timeline, I have to mention the few days before we left for Christmas. Z. got me a spice grinder for Christmas! I'm super excited. Before we left, we found the deal of the month at Devi, the Indian market we love so much, a fourteen ounce package of cumin seeds for $5.99. We just recently started cooking with whole cumin seeds and there is no turning back. They add another layer of deliciousness.
  • We both got lots of kitchen gadgets from Z.'s family for Christmas! A rubber spatula is a very effective discipline device for misbehaving boyfriends. Okay, he was sitting there quietly opening his presents, I had to see if it would work.
  • Once Z. and I got back to Corvallis, we had some awesome market adventures. The first adventure involved procuring noodles and sesame oil. We first started out at Trader Joe's. They didn't have what I wanted, so Z. suggested we go to Rice 'n' Spice on Van Buren. We've been wanting to go there for awhile and it comes highly recommended but the outside is rather frightening. We used to make a point of going to new markets on a regular basis. Not necessarily to buy anything, just to see what it's like. We went and it was a great experience. I found the ingredients I wanted, which by the way, we made an awesome dinner with last night, and we will definitely be going back.
  • After we left the store, we decided to continue our culinary adventure by going to Bazaar International Market which is a part of Al-Jebal's. Here is a nice article about the place. We didn't eat at the restaurant, I had just eaten lunch before we left home but we will definitely be going there soon. The menu had everything on it that I love and at reasonable prices. Most telling, there were other people eating there, who looked like they had a nice meal. I am in love with the market. I left with a package of cardamom tea and two pounds of moong dal. My Go Ducks! Curry uses yellow split peas but Aarti's Beatnik Spinach actually uses moong dal. When spinach goes on sale, I will make her recipe! I've never cooked with moong dal but I'm super excited to start trying recipes. Bazaar had a very nice selection of dals, very similar to what you can get at Devi. The prices on the dals and besan flour were some of the lowest I have seen. They carry the same brand of curry powder as Devi, for $1.09 a box but not nearly as many as Devi. Then there is the meat. Oh my goodness. The owner supplies the meat at the store from his own farm. The nice and helpful cashier was telling us how the owner had just recently delivered the beef and it probably wasn't completely frozen, yet because it was so fresh. I can't wait to get some lamb. I definitely recommend going here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recipe Review: Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

Source: Vegetarian Times, 7/08
Tastiness: Super Tasty!
Make Again: Definitely 

Z and I were having a bunch of people over for dinner, so I decided to try these bars. By the way, here is a link to the recipe. I think they went over well. I love baked goods with oatmeal. I think it's always tasty but oats are cheap and always in our cupboard. I am sure I added more than 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. I also added a little cardamom, since I have it and I love how it tastes. I would make these even if I didn't have jam, they were that good. Try making these!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tomato Soup and Pasta

Ahhh, tomato soup and pasta. Another one of our favorite pantry meals. Hey, we do eat fresh food. Sometimes. Have you seen my Millet Salad recipe? Z and I eat tomato soup and pasta about twice a week. 1st, it tastes really good and we both like it. 2nd, it takes no effort and hardly any time. 3rd, we have a heck of a lot of pasta. That we didn't pay for! Thank you coupons!!! The one hundred fifty boxes of free pasta we got this year deserves its own post sometime. And, 4th., probably most importantly of all, it's cheap.

Campbell's condensed tomato soup, which tastes just fine to me, is regularly on sale for $0.50 per can. Of course we didn't pay $0.50 per can. Every once in awhile I see coupons for it in the Sunday coupons or there were some at a couple of months ago. I would suggest keeping an eye on the Shortcuts website, especially if you shop at Safeway or Fred Meyer's. Fred Meyer brand goes on sale every few months. We bought a ton when they were $0.25 per can last year. I have seen them on sale twice this year for $0.33 per can. It wasn't great but we only have two cans of it left. We have been surprised by how good the Albertsons brand tomato soup tasted. We paid $0.33 per can sometime last fall. We haven't been anywhere near an Albertsons in ages so I don't know what their prices are like.

Our favorite spices to add are a dash or two of cayenne, Italian seasoning blend, smoked paprika, and black pepper that was too shy to have its photo taken. The cheese is a nice treat we don't add every time. If I'm feeling particularly frisky, I'll add about two tablespoons of half-and-half. Enjoy!

Tomato Soup and Pasta (for two)
  1.  Pour soup into a pan over low. Add one can full of water.
  2. Season soup to taste. (I like to do this when it is slightly warm.)
  3. Start boiling water. While water is heating up, measure two servings of pasta. 
  4. Cook pasta according to the package directions and your preference. A little underdone works great here.
  5. Combine pasta and soup in a bowl. Add grated cheese if desired.

Price Breakdown (no couponing):
$.26 two servings pasta (if paid $1 for 1 lb.)
$.33 store brand tomato soup
$.38 cheese (2 x 1 1/2 servings if $3.99 for two pound brick - common sale price of Tillamook)
$. 11 half-and-half
Spices - negligible

Total: $1.08 or $0.54/serving

Price Breakdown - What Cheap not Frugal Eats Pays
$0.00 two servings pasta
$.25 Fred Meyer brand soup
$.23 cheese (2 x 1 1/2 servings for $2.49/ two pound brick) 
$.11 half-and-half

Total: $0.59 or $0.295/serving

Friday, December 10, 2010

Totally Unrelated to Food

Please help my talented friend Louis become a member of the Youtube Symphony Orchestra 2011 by voting for him. If you use Facebook, here is a link to the Fb page to learn a little more about Louis. It also has a link to the page where you can watch his audition video and vote. Or, here is a link directly to Louis' Youtube page. Enjoy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Enchilada Sauce

 I have had an enchilada sauce recipe in my recipe folder for quite some time that I have been wanting to try. Originality is not one of my strengths, unless it's thinking of original ways of being awkward. I'm a natural. I am a compendium of cheap recipes. I will search high and low for amazing frugal recipes. Anyways, this recipe is one of those that I picked up from someone who got it from someone else and they don't remember who. I really do love how recipes develop a life of their own.
Ingredients for enchilada sauce

I didn't need enchilada sauce for enchiladas. While I really enjoy enchiladas, they are not something I am going to make at home because it would require way more cheese than I am willing to use and pay for to make enchiladas the way we would like. I did discover that cheese and this enchilada sauce do go great together while eating my fajalada. Fajalada term we coined to describe fajitas with enchilada sauce.

Flour and chile powder toasting
I used to enjoy the packets of Taco Bell taco sauce. I'm sure I still do but I don't get to eat at Taco Bell anymore. I don't know if don't get to is the exact way to put it. It's terrible for you, Z hates it, there is nothing there that he would like to eat, and in this town, if I am going to eat, I'll save my eating out funds for one of the several restaurants that I absolutely love. Back to the sauce. Whenever I would go, I would take tons of those little sauce packets, keep them in my cupboard, and use them on my burritos or fajitas. Besides, they are probably as not as good as I remember. I love our fajitas but I thought a little sauce would be spectacular. I love salsa. Let me rephrase that. I love good salsa and it's expensive. No salsa for me, this is where the enchilada sauce enters.

Enchilada sauce after adding the water, tomato sauce, and spices
A couple of thoughts on the recipe. This is the first time I have made and both Z and I loved it. The sauce was amazing when we made it and even better the next day. What I really liked about the sauce was that it didn't taste like the enchilada sauce from the can. You knew it was enchilada sauce but was different. The recipe called for 4 tablespoons of flour. I am curious if 3 tablespoons would work just as well. Same with the oil. We followed the recipe exactly (we did add some extra spices) since it was our first time. Also, I am guessing that if you prefer a more tomato-y sauce, I would try using 2 cups of tomato sauce and approximately 1 cup of hot water, more or less depending on how thick you want the sauce.
Some sauce hanging out in a bowl looking saucy

Enchilada Sauce
4 tablespoons white flour
1/4 cup cooking oil
2 tablespoons chile powder
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt (or less)
cayenne pepper to taste
2 cups hot water
Optional: smoked paprika, cumin, black pepper (we added these)

  1. Over low heat, brown the flour and chile powder.
  2. Then add the oil and mix into a paste.
  3. Slowly add the water (don't add it all at once - you can always add more of something, you can never take it out) and tomato sauce, stirring frequently until smooth and the consistency you want. It will thicken as it cooks. Add the garlic cloves, salt and cayenne to taste. 
  4. Simmer on low until thickened slightly. It will probably take about 20-30 minutes. We simmered ours for longer just because we could.
  5. Take it off the heat to let cool a bit and remove the garlic cloves. Or don't. Eat them. I did.
Price Breakdown
.03 flour
.02 oil (bought on sale with coupons)
.20 chile powder (Market of Choice bulk spices! Yummy!) 
.10 garlic
.33 tomato sauce
.10 (guess on the high side for the other spices)

Total: $.78

In the near future: Tomato Soup and Pasta. I talk about all the time so I will explain what is so special about Cheap not Frugal Eats' version. Hint: It probably has to do with being cheap and making it more tasty.

    Saturday, November 27, 2010

    Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

    Fresh brussel sprouts, straight from the refrigerator

    Cleaned and cut

    Happy little brussels roasting in olive oil with black pepper
    Brussel sprouts appeal to me in many ways: the way they look - they're small, round, and green - the way they grow - they grow on a stalk! - and most of all, the way they taste. Growing up, my family was definitely all about the meat and potatoes but we always had to have vegetables at dinner. My dad's favorites were spinach and brussel sprouts so we had those frequently. Even though they entered the house frozen and were reheated by being boiled, I grew to love brussel sprouts. I have to accept this, my parents didn't know any better. When I finally tried fresh brussel sprouts for the first time, my life was never the same (I have also come to accept that enjoying good food is a more dramatic experience for myself than it is for other people). Z and I made balsamic-glazed brussel sprouts and red onions with Z's delicious yellow rice. It was the sexiest dish we ever made. When I find the picture, I will share. I will also share the recipe for balsamic-glazed brussel sprouts because I think I have referenced it only a million times. What I am trying to get at is try fresh brussel sprouts, especially pan-roasted brussel sprouts. There is something about being lovingly coated in olive oil and being caramelized that makes magic happen. Some folks like to roast brussel sprouts in an oven. This works, too. Cooking them on the stove-top is still my first choice.

    P.S. I haven't tried this recipe in a non-stick pan. I have always used Z's heavy metal pans. They hold the heat really well and I know I can get some browning or caramelizing to take place in these pans. I don't know that I would get the same result in my non-stick. Whatever you have, use! You're still cooking yummy vegetables at home, you can't go wrong with that! Also, I add some of the black pepper to the pan as the brussel sprouts are browning because I think pepper tastes a little                                                                                        different when it's been cooked but you season                                                                                        them the way you like.

    Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

    Fresh brussel sprouts
    Olive oil
    Peeled and chopped garlic (optional) and however much you like (I think the more the merrier)
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Chili flakes or a dash of cayenne if you like a little heat

    1. Prepare fresh brussel sprouts by washing the outside, if you so desire. Make sure they are dry when you cook. When shopping for brussel sprouts, I prefer the smaller brussels and I like to get them all as close to the same size as possible. I like to peel off the outer layer of leaves. This can be time consuming but it's what I like to do. Cut off stem. Cut brussel sprouts in half. To keep everything relatively the same size, I slice the great big brussels into thirds.
    2. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
    3. Place the brussel sprouts cut side down in the hot oil. I suggest tongs. Turn the heat down slightly.
    4. Cook until browned to desired color, turn over (tongs work great), and turn down the heat a little.
    5. When almost done cooking and the pan isn't so hot it will brown the garlic, add the salt and garlic. 
    6. When finished cooking, season to taste with salt, pepper, and chili. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    We're Still Here, I Promise!!!

    Good morning, Friends!

    I haven't forgotten about you! I even have been cooking lately and have a couple of recipes to share, I just have to write out the riveting and charming (I tell you, I'm not great at getting sarcasm across) commentary. If you are lacking Cheap not Frugal Eats commentary in your life, I have a Facebook page that has some stuff that hasn't been on the blog, it's just little thoughts here and there that I thought I would share.

    These last two weeks have been the busiest I have had in months and months. Keep in mind that I live a privileged life where for the past while I only work when school is in session and then, only during the school day. I am usually in bed reading by 8:30 and lights out well before 10. So, having orchestra rehearsals for the past week that didn't get me home until 10:00 has been a little challenging and doing this thing called working. It's a little foreign to me.

    The business wasn't the worse part. I have been having an anxiety problem. When I get nervous, my weird and uncomfortable mannerisms and quirks are exasperated. Z has sure been enjoying himself. First, there was the orchestra concert that we have been preparing for that by the way, was great. I was excited and nervous about how I would do that I was losing sleep over this thing for the two weeks prior, we were playing Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, after all. Even though I play in a section with at least nine other amazing people, I wanted to rock my part.

    Plus, an organization that I volunteer for was having a huge fundraising event that I was a part of. It went wonderfully because there were so many wonderful and talented people working on it.

    In the midst of all this, we were hosting a get-together for our friends at our place because two of them who moved away to Alaska - nothing against Alaska except that it's ridiculously far away - and the gang was going to be together for an evening. This was the good kind of anxiety and excitement. I exhaust myself when I get excited. It was awesomely fun and great to see them.

    Then, the bit of news that has me the most nervous: my first holiday with Z's family and the first time meeting some of them, including his grandparents that he really likes. For the past month, I have been freaking out about what to make and bring, what will best show off my cooking skills but still be appetizing to the most people. If someone is having me over for dinner, I would like to be bring my hosts a small present, whether food or wine. I didn't think wine would be appropriate so it was food. Finally, I decided I make nothing that will last a five hour car ride that doesn't compete with the things Z's mom and grandma make. So, the food anxiety is gone but I've still been nervous about the holiday. I just want everyone to like me. On the other hand, I have been looking forward to this like nothing else. Family plus deep-fried turkey plus other yummy food plus getting to spend Thanksgiving with Z = I am excited beyond belief.

    Have a safe and wonderful holiday and don't forget to enjoy your food as much as possible!

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Back to the Coconut Lime Cupcake

    I have been really obsessed with this cupcake, similar to the way I am obsessed with my caramel sauce. I don't want blow you over with this one or surprise you too much but I had a thought. I know, pick those jaws up off the floor. Last night, while I was daydreaming (is it daydreaming while you're laying in bed waiting to fall asleep?), I realized why I was so obsessed with the cupcake. I had no idea cupcakes could be that good. It was that simple. My world was rocked and I'm making sense of it again with the new information and new experiences I have. That's all. Enjoy!

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    The Most Amazing Cupcake in the World

    I am not a cupcake or cake person. It's just not my favorite, I tend to prefer pie and pastries. I had the best cupcake I have ever had or imagined ever having. It was baked wonderfully but the flavor combination was exquisite. It was coconut and lime with cream cheese icing. I had no idea that coconut and lime went so well together. A local lady who is making the deserts for an upcoming event also made the cupcakes. As I am thinking about sharing this, I am realizing how weird it is that I don't have a picture, I don't know who made it, I don't know much about anything  except that I had a life-changing cupcake that involved coconut and lime.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Millet Salad

    Ahhh, millet salad. I love it! It's simple, fresh, and reminds me of my little home. Combining some grain with vegetables and a light vinaigrette is not too original but I came up with my millet salad all on my own. My favorite veggies to add to my millet salad were on sale this week so I thought it was the perfect time for millet salad.

    Let's talk a little about millet. First of all, millet tastes good. It has a very mild taste that's slightly nutty. Secondly, millet is super cheap, at least in part of the world. I haven't bought some in months but in the spring I think it was $.42/pound at Winco and $.72/pound at Fred Meyer. A pound of millet goes a long way. I think of millet as a great foray into exploring grains (or in this case, that may be unusual to you. I think it's a great starter grain because the taste is approachable and it's quick cooking compared to some grains. I had always seen millet in the bulk sections I frequent and was curious about it but never bought any until last spring and fell in love. I was reading an autobiography, The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend by Phoolan Devi, Marie-Therese Cuny, and Paul Rambali. Very powerful but for our purposes here I won't digress but say read it. Phoolan and her family grew and ate lots of millet. I was curious about all this millet so I did a little research. The only thing I knew about millet at the time was that millet was mostly considered bird food in the states. Turns out, millet is a major food source for some parts of the world. So I don't know that much more but that opened my eyes. I asked one of my friends who had recently discovered they were allergic to gluten and were exploring lots of grains about millet. Turns out, they really enjoyed millet! She used it cooked and also ground as a flour. The next time I went to the store, I got myself some millet. I had no idea what to do with it. Millet salad was the creation!

    This is one of the recipes that you can vary the filling according to what's in season, on sale, or what you like. I kept this one pretty simple. Okay, I forgot the beans. I lost my mind and wasn't thinking. What I was probably thinking was that spinach was on sale and I was going to eat my millet salad on a bed of spinach and was distracted. I have made millet salad with fresh grilled corn and grilled anaheim peppers. Bell peppers are a great addition, as are navy beans or garbanzo beans, avocado, cilantro instead of parsley, carrots, radish, and scallions. I speak from experience, I've made millet salad with all of those things.

    I have a big, fat secret for using raw onions and other pungent ingredients in something like a salad. It's such a secret that I only found out about it by making someone else's recipe that's posted on the internet. Okay, it's not a secret and it's not my idea. But it's brilliant! I love The Choosy Beggars and love their recipe for Sweet Potato and Navel Orange Salad. Make it! They make the dressing and let the onions, garlic, and jalapeno sit in the dressing for at least a half-hour. The acid works magic on these things and they come out milder and won't overpower the other ingredients, especially the onion. It's crunchy and delightful! In the case of my millet salad, I put a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar in the bowl and threw in the diced onion, garlic, and jalapeno. I feel so strongly about this that I daydream about serving my onions to Scott Conant on the Food Network show, Chopped. Whenever he is served raw onions, he has a fit. I get it, raw onions aren't everyone's favorite thing. I happen to love raw red onion and think this marinated onion would win him over.

    Onto the recipe. I like my millet al dente for this recipe. I cracked the lid,  more than just a little. I think 15-17 minutes works for the cooking time. With this, babysit the pan and keep trying it until it's the texture you like. After it's cooked, I take the lid off, and place the pan on a cool burner, stirring occasionally to release some of the heat while evaporating the remaining water. When I made the vinaigrette, I just added enough lemon juice until the salad reached the moisture level and tartness I wanted. I used bottled lemon juice which isn't as strong tasting as fresh lemon so I could add a lot more. If using fresh citrus juice, always zest the fruit first and add that to the salad. You're getting the most bang for your pennies. Here's the recipe for this week's version of millet salad. I didn't put amounts of anything because I would change it according to how much each item was on sale that week. What can I say? I'm cheap. Enjoy!

    Millet Salad

    2 cups millet
    3 1/2 cups water
    lemon juice, to taste
    2-3 tablespoons olive oil
    vinegar (rice vinegar or white vinegar)
    garlic (minced finally or grated)
    salt and pepper, to taste
    dash cayenne

    1. Cook millet with the water, between 15-20 minutes, depending on desired texture. Less time = more crunchy. Crack the lid on the pot to let steam escape. After cooked, remove from burner, take off lid, and let cool.
    2. While millet is cooking, prepare onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Put in dish with two tablespoons or so of vinegar and let marinate.
    3. Combine cooled millet with marinating vegetables, olive oil, and remaining ingredients. May be served immediately or allowed to sit before serving.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Bacon Chocolate

    I've been talking a lot about bacon lately: bacon pizza and now, bacon chocolate. I am okay with that. I tried chocolate with bacon (and alderwood smoked salt!) for the first time over the weekend and wanted to share my thoughts. Z got a bar of Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar for Christmas. We're too cheap to buy chocolate this nice ourselves. He's been saving this chocolate bar to have with a nice bottle of Saint-Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone (I don't know how to add the symbol thingy over the o) that we've also been holding on to for a very long time. Perfect pairing for the chocolate, by the way!

    I was very concerned about the bacon chocolate being good. I have heard lots of folks say how much they enjoy these kind of chocolate bars, so I thought it wasn't too scary, right? I had no idea if it would be a strip of bacon in a chocolate bar. The bacon turned out to be tiny little pieces in the chocolate. That was nice. The chocolate itself was delicious. I don't have the vocabulary to describe chocolate. What do I say? The flavor profile was complex, yet approachable. I tasted the chocolate notes with just a hint of the sweat of the people who harvested the cacao. I just know that it was yummy. The first bite was a little porky, which was a little strange but I don't judge how I like something by the first bite, I'll give it three to really decide unless it is something unworldly delicious or nori or fish sauce, which there is no hope for me ever liking. My favorite part was the smoked salt. Oh my goodness! The salt and the chocolate was amazing! I had never had salt and chocolate together before, either. I live such a sheltered and deprived life. Sarcasm is not my strong point, so I hope it's coming across clearly. Totally recommend chocolate and salt! I haven't even tried caramel and salt. I've heard that's amazing, too. What is this world coming to? 

    My chocolate bar, the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie (86% cacao!), was a present from Z. We love dark chocolate, the darker the better is our standby. This bar was awesome. We tried some, then he put away the chocolate and left town a couple days later. And I couldn't find my chocolate. I was convinced he had taken my chocolate with him, just to be mean. It's how we show our love for each other, after all. Finally, I asked him where it was and the world was better. I like this chocolate even more now. It's super dark and has that nice bitter chocolate taste. Some super dark chocolate I've had, tastes grainy but this is super smooth. It has more of a lighter chocolate feel in the mouth with the intense taste of chocolate with 86% cacao.

    I couldn't leave out something about being frugal. I think spending a few dollars on a really good bar of chocolate occasionally is well worth the money. It's delicious and because it is a few dollars, I get to try lots of different kinds and brands. A bar of decent chocolate and a bottle of wine (thank you Grocery outlet) can make for a cheap date night. Enjoy!


    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    My True Love

    Oh, Market of Choice challah, I love you so much. And I have proof. Earlier this week, I got a call to be at a school for the morning, in addition to the afternoon. In order to be on time, I had twenty minutes to get myself together, take care of the cat, pack a lunch, and make a mug of coffee. I am a breakfast person. There was no time but as I was about to dash out the door, I remembered the two challah rolls left. I stuffed the bag into my purse, planning on enjoying some challah during the students' recess. That didn't happen and I totally forgot I had amazing challah sitting in my purse. So lunch rolls around, I'm just about to rip open my package of instant oatmeal when I realize I have challah in my purse in the classroom. I inhaled/gasped like an American Dream staff person carrying my large double bacon pizza with extra sides of ranch was tripping and falling in slow motion (that's the best analogy I could come up with, I'm sorry). The point was, it was loud and dramatic and I did it in front of other people. They thought something was wrong! Why yes, something was wrong! There was challah in my purse that I could be stuffing into my round, squirrel cheeks. I quickly explained that I had challah rolls in my purse and that I should eat those for lunch instead of instant oatmeal then I dashed out to retrieve my rolls. As I was leaving the room, I heard someone say, rather dryly, "Those must be some good challah rolls." Oh yes, my friends, I had the best lunch there.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Date Night = Bacon Pizza

    Bacon pizza. Do I have you drooling yet? How about, amazing pizza with chewy garlic crust AND deliciously thick bacon that cost $11.95 (from 7:30 pm to close) and that includes a fountain soda. Here's a napkin. Oh yeah, there's also 17 microbrews on tap. I think you need a tablecloth size napkin, now.

    A few weeks ago Z and I celebrated our anniversary! As much as he tries, he just can't get rid of me. And he tries pretty hard sometimes. Anyways, we didn't want to do anything too extravagant since he was leaving to catch a plane at like 3 the next morning. We went to our go to spot: the American Dream Pizza near campus (the downtown American Dream doesn't have this special). Look at that gorgeous pizza! The first picture is Z showing his approval with both our HUB Ipas. In addition, we get some ranch on the said ($0.25 for a little cup). Their ranch is amazing. That's all I have to say about the ranch, it's that good.

    True to our frugal ways, Z bought the pizza and ranch, I bought the beers, and we split the pizza in half so we each could eat what we wanted to for dinner then have leftovers. For us, this large pizza provides us each a huge dinner, breakfast/lunch the next day or two, and a couple of pieces to freeze. Cooked pizza freezes fantastically. I stuck a couple of slices in a plastic bag (when they're cold), get out as much of the air as I can, and stick it straight into the fridge. When you want to eat it, pull the pizza out of the bag, put it on a microwavable plate, and microwave until the desired temperature. I'm sure it would reheat just fine in the oven if that's what you prefer. Just make sure to label the bag so each person knows whose pizza is whose. If you're curious, the one on the right says Princess Peppadew. If I were a fruit or vegetable, I would so be a peppadew.

    I can't even think of some ridiculously verbose way to describe the deliciousness that is this pizza. I just know in my soul it's amazing and wonderful and makes for the perfect date night. I'm not even going to sully this post with suggesting you take a portion of your restaurant dinner home to freeze for another night (ziploc freezer bags work wonderful and can freeze flat, making for efficient freezer storage). That's all.

    -Ace of Peppadew

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Caramel Sauce Success

    I made caramel sauce and it wasn't an accident that it turned out! For me, homemade caramel sauce is one of those things you know it's going to be tasty but the finished product is great beyond my imagination. After failing at my last attempt at making caramel sauce, here, I had many conversations with the awesome Chef Steph who suggested Cardamom Glaze for the Orange Bread. We spent lots of time talking about each step I took and what I could do differently next time I tried making caramel sauce. Thank you, Chef Steph! Here are the things I did differently and a link to the recipe I used.

    1. I increased the amount of water to 1/2 cup. I think one of the problems I have had was not dissolving the sugar so some of it would start to caramelize and some of the sugar was not up at a high enough temperature and would begin to crystallize.
    2. Before I tried making caramel sauce for the first time I read lots of reviews and suggestions. Some folks said it was important to use cane sugar and that you might not get the results you want with beet sugar. This time, without even thinking about it, I used the sugar that was in the pantry. It was store-brand sugar. I'm sure it was beet sugar. It worked just fine. It reacted the way I was expecting.
    3. I mixed the sugar and water in a bowl first. Then, I added the sugar and water mixture to the pan. Stephanie also mentioned to make sure the sugar was dissolved before it boils. I thought to mix it in a bowl.
    4. Before even turning the oven on, I measured the cream and let it sit out (I add the vanilla to the cream so I don't to measure anything after I add the cream to the sugar). By the time I added it to the sugar, the cream was almost room temperature. Using room temperature or slightly warmer cream was something else Stephanie the Pastry Chef highly recommended.
    5. I set the heat higher, too. I started out a medium heat and increased it slightly when the sugar started to bubble. I think this made a huge difference.
    6. I have no idea if this made a difference but I added the cream in thirds, not far apart.
    7. When you add the cream to the sugar, a lot of steam will be generated and it is really hot. Please be careful! When you pour in the cream, don't have your hand or any fingers over the pot because the steam might burn you.
    8. I used heavy whipping cream, just like I did in the failed attempt. It wasn't anything to do with the cream that made my sauce not turn out. By the way, Market of Choice has an awesome deal on heavy whipping cream. The one cup cartons were $.95 (I think I remember correctly) and the pint was $1.83.

    I'm sorry I don't have step-by-step photos of the process. Once the sugar starts cooking, the whole things starts to move fairly quickly. Once the sugar is caramelizing and turning brown, it moves really fast. I hope these tips and suggestions are helpful. Enjoy!


    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Caramel Sauce Teaser

    Being a food blogger is so rough sometimes. I had to take a picture of my pie while the light was decent. I didn't think about how the seasons would affect me. In this part of Oregon, there are two seasons: summer and the rest of the year. The rest of the year, where it is drizzly and gray, and there isn't much light. Oh my. What to do with a slice of delicious pear pie drizzled with caramel sauce? Eat it, of course! Sorry, Z. There's still some in the fridge.

    Oh by the way, I made caramel sauce. It is absolutely amazing and delicious. Z loved it!!! I love watching people enjoy my food. He provided lots of entertainment. In a couple days, I'll share my experiences making caramel. I need to catch up on some Young and the Restless before orchestra rehearsal. Enjoy!


    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    One More Thing about Market of Choice

    I knew I had forgotten to share something about our experiences at Market of Choice. If you forgot what it was like, go here. While Z and I were standing outside the doors, drooling at the bit, I was texting with my mentor and friend, Kathleen - Music Teacher Extraordinaire. She and I have had many conversations about my love for Market of Choice. I figured she was probably on her way to work at that hour so I texted her that we were outside the store waiting for it to open. We chatted a bit. Turns out, she hadn't made it past the store yet. When she drove past, she honked her car horn repeatedly to us, since it was too dark to see waving. So folks, also waiting outside the MOC Friday morning, that crazy car horn, that was for me.

    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    The Way to a Man's Heart: is Through his Stomach

    It's true, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach (and it helps if he thinks you're pretty) and was reaffirmed tonight. The first time Z and I hung out, just the two of us, was after an orchestra concert, to have pie. If Z were telling the story, I kidnapped him with pie. That's a story for another time. That homemade pear pie totally helped me woo him (it would be months before we were even an item) and he remembers our time together very vividly. Recently, we celebrated five years together. By the way, the our celebratory bacon pizza is a future post. My present was going to be a homemade desert. I was thinking this would be a great time to try something new. When I asked what he would like, he wanted my pear pie.

    I made the pie today! I can't remember the last time I made pear pie. It's a family recipe that did not come from my family. I was only given the recipe when I promised not to ever share it. If I can change it enough to claim some originality, I will share, until then, you'll just have to take my word for how good it is. Imagine a custardy filling with lots of little bits of pear with a slightly crunchy, sweet topping. To make this pie over the top, I decided homemade caramel sauce was in order. The sauce is amazing! Pear pie with caramel sauce is super awesome!!! I think I made Z love me just a little more tonight. Thank you pear pie!

    Morning, Noon, and Night at the Corvallis Market of Choice

    The grocery store, Market of Choice, opened yesterday in Corvallis!!! Z and I have been waiting for this day for a long time. We would always say to each other, we love living in Corvallis but it is missing a Market of Choice. When I moved to Corvallis away from Eugene to start graduate school (and shack up with Z), we would make occasional trips to Eugene to visit some friends but mostly to pick up some groceries from the Market of Choice.

    Z was the very first customer into the Market of Choice and I was the second! But I was the first customer to visit the beer section. We wanted to be the first customers into the store on opening day so we got to the store at about 6:45 in the morning and waited outside the doors. We thought we would be the only people waiting for the store to open. We weren't! By the time the doors opened at 7, I think I saw around ten to fifteen people waiting around our entrance. No matter what, Z was going to be the first customer in that store. I loved seeing him so happy yesterday!

    The store is everything I hoped for and more. I wanted to take some pictures of our experience but I didn't bring my camera. When we left, it was still dark outside and really foggy so I thought the pictures of the outside wouldn't turn out. I thought I would look too silly taking pictures inside. I saw plenty of people throughout the day with huge grins on their faces while they were taking pictures inside. I wouldn't have been alone! That's why I only have a picture my naughty challah rolls. I wasn't going to share a picture of them because no matter how I arranged the challah, they still looked like body parts. Every time I go to a Market of Choice, I always either get a loaf or a few rolls of challah if there is any left. It is absolutely delicious and always fresh. The rolls have never looked like this; they are normally little knots. Whatever, they taste amazing.

    Let me start with the building itself. The building is beautiful. If you are familiar with Markets of Choice, it looks similar to the store on Willamette in Eugene. There is a nice seating area next to one of the entrances, with some more tables above. You can look out over the entire store from up there. Then, there are the groceries. Oh my goodness! There were a few specific things we wanted to make sure the store carried. We perused the beer selection. Excellent! I made sure there were peppadews in the olive bar. Of course there were beautiful peppadews! We found our coffee filters at the same price as at the Eugene stores. Awesome! By the way, if you use the cone-shaped filters, the Market of Choice has the best price for I think high-quality filters. These things matter. When you love coffee and want to make the best possible cup of coffee you can at home, things like filters matter. This store doesn't carry our curry powder but after talking to the grocery manager, they will. They have Melindas Hot Sauce! For the longest time, Markets of Choice were the only places I could find this sauce. We have both been looking forward to living in a town where we could buy a variety of Umpqua dairy products. This sounds crazy but keep in mind we are obsessed with having yummy food, we were excited to be able to get Market of Choice brand milk whenever we want to. When it's on sale, it tends to be a really great deal. And once again, it tastes great.

    Every time I mention the Market of Choice and the amazingness of its selections, I always talk about what an amazing bulk section it has. The Corvallis store has a great selection and awesome prices on the things we regularly buy. Cheapest baby chana dal (little chick peas) I have seen!!!

    The produce looked great, too. One of the things I love about Market of Choice is the care they take with their products. The chile peppers were so carefully arranged and were so inviting! If we didn't already have a few jalapenos in the fridge, we would have gotten some of their beautiful red chile peppers. I think we counted 17 different KINDS of fresh mushrooms, not to mention all the dried options. I had never heard of about six of them. That made me happy. We tend to judge our grocery store experience on the quality of the shallots. If you haven't noticed, we have some weird quirks. They looked great by the way.

    Let's see, I think I covered everything. We did go to the store three times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the morning, I bought challah. For lunch, we got Umpqua half-and-half and heavy cream (for another try at caramel sauce). I also bought some hard cider and olives and figs in a balsamic syrup from the olive bar. For dinner, Z bought some beer. In the next couple of days we will be going back for some gelato.

    As we were leaving the third time, one of the managers, started talking to us, he said something like, "Three times? Is that right? I think I have seen you guys three times today." And then we had an awesome conversation with him. So, if you are shopping at the Corvallis Market of Choice and see duck fat available for sale in the cheese section in the future, you can thank Z since he was the once to suggest they stock duck fat. I can only imagine what potatoes fried in duck fat tastes like. I'm drooling at the thought.


    Tuesday, October 26, 2010


    One of the books I am currently reading is Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods by Gary Paul Nabhan. There has been a quote that has stood out to me and has got me thinking. "What do we want to be made of? What do we claim as our tastes? And what on earth do we ultimately want to taste like?" (27) I have been thinking about what do I taste like right now? Hmm.... Well, the blue Gushers in my lunch aren't doing too much for me. They do make my lunch break so cheery. What do YOU taste like and what do you WANT to taste like?


    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Dried Apples and Pears

    I love this time of year! There are lots of fresh apples and pears at great prices. You will also see more varieties of apples now then later in the year. Two years ago we noticed a handful of varieties of apples we either had never heard of or never tried before. We went on an apple tasting adventure. I found I really enjoy Ambrosia apples but my absolute favorite are Jazz. Basically what I am getting at, take advantage of the bounty and try the different apples, you may find something delightfully surprising.

    We took advantage of the sale at Fred Meyer and bought about 4 1/2 pounds of organic apples, mostly Golden Delicious and a few small Honeycrisps, and about 3 1/2 pounds of organic pears. We will be keeping an eye out for more sales. Z's dehydrator has four trays so we did two batches of apples yesterday. I washed the apples, he sliced them very thinly, I tossed them in a little lemon juice to prevent any browning, and we placed them on the trays. The picture, above, started out as about three pounds. Who knows how long we'll be able to make that last but if kept in an air-tight container, the dried fruit should last for a few months. Enjoy!

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Potato Soup

    Last Saturday I was home all by myself. Z's traveling season for work is in full swing. So, he was going to be home a few hours Sunday before he had to leave again. And, no, he's not a truck driver. I wanted to make something for myself that would have provide a couple of meals over the next few days and possibly enough to freeze a bowl. We have had a bag of potatoes that we hadn't finished yet for a ridiculously long time. We bought it on sale for $0.98 for a ten pound bag. Awesome! Soup has been on my mind since it is fall and everything. Potato soup sounded like it would hit the spot.

    My mom wasn't the greatest cook but she managed reasonably well. My dad was the one who really taught her to cook. Let's see, what would my grandma have to teach? Red jello with carrots and celery, anyone? I must add, one of the awesome things about my parents was that they encouraged me to get in the kitchen and help and learn to cook. The first thing I ever learned to cook: an veggie omlette in fourth grade. Thanks, Dad!

    My parents shared the cooking responsibilities. Soups and (red) chili were dishes I can remember only my mom preparing. When she made potato soup I would get really excited. I wasn't excited for the soup, I was dying for the little bits of bacon she would fry up to put in our soup. First, she would fry the bacon, set the cooked bacon to the side, and fry the vegetables for a few minutes in the bacon fat. That part was excellent. I just didn't like how runny her soup was. I was inspired by my mom's potato soup. I knew I had to change it enough to make it thick and creamy. Thus, my potato soup was born. Enjoy!


    Ace's Potato Soup

    Sausages or bacon, cook enough to render enough fat to use to create a roux
    1/2 onion, diced
    5 cloves garlic, adjust to taste, peeled and minced
    2 tablespoons flour
    2 cups milk, more if you would like it more creamy
    Bay leaf
    Salt and pepper, to taste


    Shredded Cheese
    Sausage or bacon
    Sour cream

    1. Put whole, cleaned and unpeeled potatoes in a pot with a lid. Cover potatoes with cold water by about 1/2 inch. Bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes. KEEP THE COOKING WATER.
    2. While the potatoes are cooking, start cooking the bacon or sausage. I diced my sausages into thin half-moons because I like them to be super crispy. When cooked, set aside and keep the fat.
    3. Cool potatoes until they are able to be handled. Peel potatoes. Mash about 1/2 the potatoes and cut the other half into bite-size chunks.
    4. Saute the onion and garlic in the fat in a soup pot until soft. If necessary, add a little more butter or oil to the pan. Add the flour. Do not step away from the pan. Stir occasionally, until the flour has turned a shade or two darker. Do not burn. Add milk. Stir to combine. Add the mashed potatoes. Add the potato cooking liquid by 1/2 cups until the desired consistency is reached. The roux may not thick the soup immediately but it will. You may have to add more liquid depending on how much it thickens as it simmers on the stove.
    5. Add the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Don't be skimpy!
    6. Add the potato chunks and simmer until warmed through. Serve with garnishes.

    Price Breakdown

    .00 4 sausages (free with coupons)
    .29 Potatoes
    .12 onion (on sale!)
    .14 garlic
    .02 flour (negligible)
    .35 3 cups milk

    Total: $0.92

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Coupon Bystanders

    I had a really funny experience Wednesday night at the store. I was standing in line and there was a really cute guy behind me. Not only was he cute, he was buying a package of filone bread. He has good taste! It's my turn and the checker is taking care of my order of four boxes of Ronzoni pasta. I have gone through this lady's line before so she wasn't surprised when my total came to zero. I loved watching Filone Man's face as the checker was scanning my coupons. He was so expressive! First the manufacturer coupons were scanned and he had this look of "Nice. Impressive." Then she took off the doubler. The look on his face was priceless when the total came to zero and I walked away without paying. He looked confused but I could see the wheels turning. Maybe he was trying to figure out how I did it. If he had spoken to me at all, I would have told him. I just giggled and smiled at him when I walked away. This is certainly not the first time that bystanders have entertained me, the awesome faces this person made stood out.

    I'm not a total jerk. During the earlier grocery trip I had made, I told this really tall, grizzly guy about the deal after he very nicely fetched the pasta boxes off the top shelf that there was no way in the world I was going to be able to reach.


    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Orange Bread

    Oh, orange bread. How delightful you are! I found the original recipe for orange bread in The New African-American Kitchen by Angela Shelf Medaris. I had checked it out from my local library. By the way, libraries are an excellent source of cookbooks. You don't have to buy them and if you return them on time, it doesn't cost anything to borrow them. Libraries are my one of my favorite places on earth. Anyways, back to the task at hand. I added about ten recipes from The New African-American Kitchen to my book of recipes to try. Orange bread was my first pick to try. This bread is delicious and simple! It tastes good and smells divine.

    I love my banana bread and even though I don't think it's too banana-y, Z has never tried it and I am pretty sure he never will because of the bananas. Later he is going to read this and tell me I full of something not very nice but since he isn't here to confirm this statement (he is on a plane coming home from work), I am going to assume he will never eat my banana bread. I tried making zucchini bread once but that was an epic fail. I don't think I used the correct leavening. Ooops. That has potential but oranges were on sale here for $0.88/pound last week. This is the second time I have made this bread with my changes. The original recipe called for 1/2 stick of melted butter. I couldn't bring myself to make it that way. Butter is awesome and delicious. We even have about four pounds of the stuff in the freezer. But, being as cheap as we are, we try to save most of our butter usage for our dal. Instead of ghee, we just use butter. We haven't been able to find butter at reasonable prices. We stocked the freezer with Challenge butter when we got it for $1.25 a pound with a sale and coupons.

    So I had to figure out an alternative. For the first attempt, I used yogurt in place of the butter. I either used too much or yogurt is just not meant for this recipe, it didn't work like I had hoped. It was too gummy. This time, I used one tablespoon melted butter and three tablespoons milk. It worked great. Next time, I think I will try two tablespoons milk. I found that my two oranges yielded the necessary amount of juice but not quite the tablespoon of zest the recipe called for. I just used what I had but if I had extra oranges lying around, more zest would be a welcome addition. I also added vanilla. I love the combination of oranges and vanilla. My best friend, Stephanie the awesome pastry chef and cake creator, suggested a glaze for this bread. I haven't had a chance to try it but it sounds amazing and she's an expert. Here is my variation of the orange bread found in The New African-American Kitchen by Angela Shelf Medaris with Stephanie's cardamon glaze. Enjoy!

    Orange Bread

    1 tablespoon melted butter
    3 tablespoons milk
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    4 tsp baking powder
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 large oranges
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    1. Preheat the oven the 350 degrees F. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray (my preferred method) or grease the pan. If using a metal or glass pan, you may want to line the bottom with parchment paper.
    2. Zest the oranges directly into the bowl you will be mixing the dry ingredients. You don't want to lose any of the essential oils.
    3. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt with the orange zest.
    4. Crack the egg into a separate bowl and beat. To the egg add the orange juice, butter, milk, and vanilla. Combine.
    5. Add the wet mixture slowly to the flour mixture, stirring. When combined, pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean. Cooking times vary with ovens and other variables. Check the bread after 30 minutes of cooking.
    Stephanie's Cardamom Butter Glaze

    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
    1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
    1/4 teaspoon almond extract
    1 to 2 teaspoons warm water

    Mix all ingredients in a bowl then slowly add the warm water a little at a time until it's the consistency you would like. Pour over bread.

    P.S. Stephanie told me you can make your own powdered sugar by grinding sugar in a food processor. Brilliant and cheap!

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Busy Week

    Good morning! I have been cooking a lot lately but my experiments are not yet ready to share. Okay, I didn't cook yesterday. Z cooked a delicious dinner of chana masala and coriander rice. And, to top it off, I get to have the leftovers for breakfast/lunch! One of the experiments I have been working on is an Orange Bread recipe. The loaf I made last night was super delicious but I had changed a few little things and need to try again. I have also been trying to perfect my garam masala veggies. Our theory is that whenever someone on the Food Network starts using what may be an unusual ingredient to some groups of people, the grocery stores start to carry it more frequently. I think decent garam masala will start to be easier to find so I want to have a few more ideas of dishes to make with garam masala. Enjoy your Monday!

    Thursday, October 7, 2010


    This soup was amazing! It changed my life. I had no idea that soup could be like this. Hmmm... That sounds a little dramatic. First, it's true. My life will never be the same in an amazing garlicy, caramelized onion goodness kind of way. Second, I can't express myself without superlatives. I've been experiencing anxiety about my overuse of exclamation points and superlatives. For real. And yes, I lead such an uneventful life (a quiet, drama-freeish kind of delightful life) that this is true. I think I'm just going to have to live with too many exclamation points and abundantly abundant superlatives.

    Back to the soup. I had been playing around with the idea of making a garlic soup for the past year. I wasn't too keen on the recipes in my cookbooks and didn't get around to doing anymore research. On one of the food blogs I read daily, someone had posted beautiful pictures of them making the soup. If I had just seen the recipe, I would have been too scared to try it out but the pictures were amazing. You can see them here. Looking at the pictures, I couldn't find the link to the recipe at first (the link is at the bottom) so I did a little research on the Food Network website to get a better idea about proportions. Eventually, I did find the blog link and became a little disconcerted. At this site, people can post and share recipes. It's not just the host's recipe so she may not have known that the recipe on the blog and the Emeril Lagasse recipe on the Food Network website were pretty much identical.

    This could have been completely accidental on the part of the person posting the recipe to the blog. One of the cool things about recipes is that they start to take on a life of their own. They get created and passed on from person to person. The origins can get lost. And that's okay. I promise that if I use someone else's recipe I will do my best to give them credit to the best of my knowledge. If I use someone's recipe or tips as a clear springboard for my own creations, I will pass on that information. There are some recipes that are traditional and the origins are unknown. I will do my best to give credit where credit is due. I will now step off my soapbox. I'm sorry that was kind of a bummer but it was important to me to share.


    This soup was my version of Emeril Lagasse's recipe and the recipe found on the blog. I changed some of the proportions of the recipe and really caramelized the onions but otherwise the recipe is their ideas. I made, devoured, and relished. I thought the time I took to caramelize the onions was well worth it in the end. I think I cooked those onions took almost an hour. Z has always been the one in charge of caramelizing the onions so I took advantage of the fact that he is out of town for work to practice my onion cooking skills. He may cook them a totally different way; I haven't bothered to ask yet since since mine turned out. I heated two tablespoons of olive oil on lowish heat-halfway between off and medium. I was using a heavy stainless steel pot that holds heat extremely well so I decided to play it safe with the low heat. I added the onions to the pot and let them cook, stirring occasionally. When I would start to hear a fair amount of sizzling I turned the heat down. I would turn it back up when the sizzling subsided. Once the onions were on the verge of caramelization, at this point, about 35 or so minutes of cooking, I added the garlic and kept repeating the turning the heat down, turning it back up until everything was caramelized and continued on with the recipe. After I added the garlic, I found my pan did need another tablespoon of olive oil. Simply amazing. There may be a more efficient to do this but I have no idea how. If you have heavy cream, use it. I stood in front of it at the grocery store in agony. I knew how wonderful it would be but I couldn't bring myself to buy it. I used the half and half that's in the fridge for my coffee. I think milk would work great, too, but I haven't verified that. Also, some white wine would be a great addition. I would say somewhere between 1/2 cup to 1 cup. The other recipes call for it but it was great without it, just use a splash more water or stock. Here is my take on garlic soup. Enjoy!

    Garlic Soup
    2-3 tablespoons olive oil
    2 medium onions, sliced
    2 heads of garlic (yes, you do need that much, it mellows out)
    1 quart stock (vegetable or chicken) or mixture of stock and water
    bay leaf
    1/4 loaf of French bread, chopped or torn into pieces
    1/2 cup(3/4 if you want it creamier) half and half
    salt and lots of pepper

    1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. This may take awhile. Be patient and don't let the pan get too warm. Just because it's brown does not mean it's caramelized.
    2. Add the stock and bay leaf to the onions. Bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper. Let simmer about 15 minutes. Simmer longer if you want a mellower flavor.
    3. Turn off heat and add the bread. Let cool until you feel comfortable enough putting it in a food processor or blender. Make sure to remove the bay leaf. Blend until smooth and return the soup to the pan. Add the half and half, or heavy cream, or milk and heat on low, stirring occasionally. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Cheesy Tomatoes

    I am so obsessed with the $0.59/pound tomatoes in Corvallis that the Garlic Soup recipe will have to wait. The Garlic Soup was so incredibly amazing that it deserves my undivided and loving attention. I went back and looked through my recipes and did find a couple of tomato recipes that I hadn't tried yet. Cheesy Tomatoes is one of these recipes. It was a great addition to my garlic soup lunch. Pre.-P.S. That weird looking rectangle next to the tomatoes is a piece of the French bread I used in the Garlic Soup with dijon mustard spread on it.

    I sliced my tomatoes about 1 inch thick and placed them on a cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick spray. If you look at my picture, it looks like something had some sort of accident underneath my tomatoes. I don't have any cookie spray so I poured some olive oil on my cookie sheet. When seasoning tomatoes with salt, use ENOUGH! Tomatoes need a fair amount of salt. When tomatoes are seasoned with the right amount of salt, something magical happens. By magical, I mean they taste even better. Here is my recipe for Cheesy Tomatoes. Enjoy!

    Cheesy Tomatoes
    grated cheese
    salt and pepper
    Italian seasoning
    dried red chili flakes

    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Slice tomatoes into about 1 inch slices and place on greased baking sheet.
    3. Top tomato slices with grated cheese. Season with Italian seasoning, dried red chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Plenty of salt!!!
    4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, for tomatoes that are cooked but still have some bit. 15 minutes for very tender tomatoes.

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    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Tomato Sandwich

    I couldn't write about frugal recipes that I love without talking about the humble tomato sandwich. When tomatoes go on sale for $.98 per pound or less, I am a very happy camper. I was about to list a variety of meal ideas that use fresh tomatoes but I couldn't really think of anything, or at least anything that I have made, besides Go Ducks! Curry. I love, love, love eating fresh tomatoes. On a side note, I feel compelled to use lots of really's and very's because in person the arm gestures and weird faces I make from excitement would get all the really's and very's and love, love, loves. Back to the sandwich. I love a bowl of diced tomatoes with balsamic, olive oil, and salt. Diced tomatoes and a spoon are a better vehicle for balsamic vinegar than a plate and slices of tomatoes. My mouth is watering just thinking about balsamic vinegar. My obsession with vinegar is a whole separate entity.

    I promise I will get to the sandwich!

    The second way I enjoy eating fresh tomatoes is on a sandwich. At home, I love toasted wheat bread, Miracle Whip, and four slices of tomatoes (if using tomatoes on the vine). Some people get fancy and add mustard or cheese or salt and pepper but I like it simple. And plain. I make it the way my Grandpa always ate his tomato sandwiches. I love how recipes remind us of our loved ones and bring back memories. Enjoy!

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Spicy Chickpeas (chole chaat)

    An easy, tasty Indian recipe! I love cooking Indian food. It makes the apartment smell amazing and always makes me happy to make. It's something I have had to turn learn to do from trial and error. I didn't even try Indian food until I was in college. I should probably mention that Z makes most of our Indian food and I get to be his assistant. I may not be able to make dal like him but I sure can bake.

    And, moving on. I've discovered that some folks' chole chaat is more like mine, warm beans in a sauce, or it can be made more like a salad and served room temperature. This is just one variation among many. The chili adds some nice spice and flavor, while the garam masal adds warmth and spice. Then there is the lemon juice. Whoever thought to add lemon juice is brilliant. It adds a brightness and acidity that cuts through everything. My dish is rather beige looking. A little cilantro would be a great addition. Also, if you let your besan or chickpea flour toast more, you will get a deeper color. While we're on the subject of besan...I'm sure you could substitute the besan with another starch. I like it because it tastes good and it's very high protein since its made from chickpeas. It is on the pricey-side. I have never seen it less than $3.25 per pound. Potato is traditional in this dish. I think it's great without potato. Or, when potatoes are on sale, add a little extra to stretch out the beans. Here is one version of chole chaat. Enjoy!

    Spicy Chickpeas
    1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (if using dry, 1 cup dry is probably reasonable)
    2 medium potatoes, boiled or baked, peeled and cubed
    2 generous tablespoons of oil
    1/4 besan (chickpea flour)
    1 tablespoon grated ginger
    1 seeded and diced serrano
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    salt to taste, 1/2 - 1 1/2 teaspoons
    1 tablespoon garam masala
    1 tablespoon lemon juice (2 tablespoons if you really like the brightness)
    1 1/2 cups water

    1. Heat oil in a pan large pan, heat the oil. Add the besan. Toast until it turns golden brown or about 2 minutes.
    2. Add chili and ginger, stir for a few seconds. Then, add the water and chickpeas.
    3. Add the cumin, black pepper, and salt. If you like, mash some of the chickpeas as you mix in the seasonings. Turn the heat down to low and simmer 10-15 minutes.
    4. Add potato, garam masala, and lemon juice. Mix carefully and let simmer about 5 minutes. Serve with rice or bread.

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    The Tale of the Quiche that Wanted to be a Spinach Pie

    A few weeks ago, I spent some time visiting my family in Wyoming. My dad is a wonderful cook and an expert at cooking...STEAK. Steak and potatoes are awesome but not every day, or at least I think I don't think so. While I am visiting, I cook something new for my folks that is more in line with what I eat at home on a regular basis. Luckily for me, mushrooms and eggs (.99/dozen!) were on sale while I was there. I had been thinking about making quiche for awhile so this was the perfect opportunity.

    I had found a recipe for a casserole in Vegetarian Times December 2009. I wasn't too interested in the casserole. I did think the crust they made for it had lots of potential. I am always on the hunt for a crust that doesn't involve too much butter or shortening. Since it is not my recipe, I don't feel like I should post it. Here is a link to the recipe, though.

    I found that refrigerating the dough before pressing it into my baking dish made it easier to work with. It wouldn't be enough dough for a larger pan without some adjustments. I enjoyed it and thought it worked well for what I needed.

    For the filling, I sauteed mushrooms with garlic and green onions (they were on sale too). I used frozen spinach that I had thawed and squeezed out as much moisture as I could. I used about 10 ounces of spinach, the amount in a box of frozen spinach. I mixed the spinach and mushroom mixture together with lots of pepper and salt. Then placed it evenly on my crust. I thought for my little dish, four eggs would be plenty. I beat the eggs in a bowl then poured them over the vegetables and made sure they were covered by the eggs. I didn't feel like adding any cheese this time. I popped the quiche into the oven which had been preheated to 375 degrees. I took it out when the middle wasn't jiggly anymore.

    I let it cool down a little before cutting into it. I was so excited to try my quiche. There was so much spinach that it wasn't a quiche. It tasted great! Next time, I am going to use three eggs. All the veggies will be held together but I don't think you will be able to tell that there are eggs in it at all. If Z doesn't notice and still eats it, I will have been successful. Enjoy!

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    More Adventures with Hummus

    Ninja: The coolest kitchen appliance ever!

    I know I have already shared a hummus recipe (Hummus!) Redundancy is not unusual with me. If you can't handle repetition, never ever ask me to tell a story. I have a serious problem repeating myself and telling you the same story over and over again. With food, I love figuring out lots of different ways to use the same basic ingredients or make the same dish taste different. I love my hummus recipe but we had some ideas we have been wanting to try. What would happen if we cooked the garbanzos first? It's amazing!

    We rinsed and drained the garbanzos and added them to a small pot with a fair amount of olive oil and some garlic and cooked it over low for awhile. The beans will release some water so leave the lid off the pot. We let everything cool down before we made the hummus. I always add olive oil and lemon juice to taste and until the it reaches the consistency that we like. Don't forget, lots of black pepper. This new version of hummus was extremely smooth, nutty, and tasted the most like hummus from the store. Enjoy!

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Pantry Meal: Vegetable Soup

    Yesterday I reorganized and took inventory of the pantry. Only the spice cupboard left! I have a stash of various cans that will be expiring soon. Lots of plans for those. Tonight's dinner, Vegetable Soup used only things that we always keep in the pantry and a couple of fresh things. Soup can always be adjusted to what you have on hand and you're own tastes. Our soups turn out differently every time. Here is what was in tonight's dinner!


    2 cans (14 oz. each) veggie broth
    1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    1 can asparagus
    1 can corn, drained and rinsed
    2 fresh carrots
    chopped onion
    2 cloves garlic, grated
    1 serrano chile, diced
    black pepper
    Italian seasoning
    bay leaf

    We started by sauteing the onions and carrot in a little olive oil. When the onions started to get soft, we tossed in the chile and garlic. Then, added everything else and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Z cooked some pasta and added it to his bowl of soup.

    At first, I wasn't going to include a price breakdown of this meal because it is so variable on whether or not you got the canned items on sale, how good the sale was, what you use, and how much. After much pondering, For instance, we could have saved $0.60 is we had only used one can of broth. But, we wanted to use it before it expired and have been saving them for so long we just used them. I realized I was really curious how much this meal cost us. Here it is.

    Price Breakdown:

    1.20 veggie broth
    .48 kidney beans (coupon!)
    .33 canned asparagus
    .33 canned corn (by the way, canned corn is really tasty - it has a nice crunch)
    .10 carrots (.98/2 lb bags at Winco - they are even cheaper at Fred Meyer, though)
    .15 onion (we used most of a small onion. They are .48/lb at Fred Meyer!!!!)
    .06 garlic (.33/head)
    .04 serrano
    spices - negligible

    Total: $2.69 or $.336/serving (8 servings)

    Frugal, fast, and tasty. Enjoy!

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Don't Just be a Coupon Collector...Be a Coupon Scavenger

    In an earlier post, I discussed the importance of collecting and picking up coupons whenever you see them. This week, that tactic has worked out really well for the Cheapskate Household. I was in Wyoming two weeks ago. As I was wondering the aisles of a grocery store, I picked up any coupons I could find. Different markets may have different coupons. I picked up a small handful of coupons for $1 off of Wheat Thins, something both Z and I like. The coupon will expire in two months and is not doubleable so I only grabbed a few. Okay, I grabbed eight instead of twenty. These coupons are going to come in handy in this week's Safeway sale! We can get Wheat Thins at $1.49 a box if we buy five at a time. Between the sale price and our coupons, we will pay $2.45 for five boxes of something that we really like. If I time the grocery shopping adventure just right, we will get cashier who thinks I'm cute and will double my coupons, anyways, bringing the total to $0.45.

    Take advantage of traveling. Check out the grocery stores while you are in new places. Not only will you see what is popular in other places, you might find products you've never seen before, good and bad. And you just might find different coupons!!! About two years ago, Z was on a work trip in Washington. He found a display pad of coupons for Starkist Tuna pouches. He doesn't eat fish but he knew that this was my favorite brand of tuna so he grabbed all of the coupons. I know, we're not the nicest couponers. We held onto those coupons for a long time. Right before they were to expire, there was an amazing sale plus a catalina deal at one of the grocery stores in town. Not only did I get 113 free pouches of tuna that was not going to expire for two to three years, we made $11 with the catalinas. Enjoy!

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    RIP Caramel Sauce

    My life was never the same after making caramel sauce from scratch. I had no idea I could take something so basic as a little sugar and cream and create the most amazing caramel sauce I had ever tasted. I think I told everyone I ran into for the next week about the caramel sauce I made and how proud I was of myself. I would not shut up about this bowl of caramel sauce.

    So, when I was invited to dinner to my friends' home, I really wanted to bring something special. First, I hadn't seen my best friend in probably three years and her mom was kind enough to spoil me with spices.

    They are the best hostesses so I probably wasn't allowed to bring something over but I didn't ask. I was wracking my brain trying to think what would be nice. Caramel sauce and ice cream!!! A fantastic excuse to make caramel sauce.

    I got the Ina Garten recipe I like and have seen her make on tv multiple times.

    The only ingredients are:



    heavy cream

    pure vanilla extract

    I started making the sauce. Everything is going as it should. I start having a problem a with the sugar crystalizing. This happened last time but I kept cooking it and it turned out fine. I keep cooking, it starts to change to that beautiful warm brown color. I add my cream at perfect moment. It's a lovely caramel color and I DIDN'T BURN THE SAUCE. Something is wrong! It is a funny color and doesn't start to get thick like it is supposed to. The sauce smells like amazing caramel sauce but looks funny. It did not turn out and I had to throw it out.

    Learn from my mistakes. I have no idea how each of these things affected the sauce but they were different than what I had done with my successful, yummy sauce. I used imitation vanilla, rather than pure vanilla. I think I chickened out and didn't turn the heat up enough when I was supposed to. I am pretty sure this is what caused the crystallizing. And, I used heavy whipping cream instead of heavy cream. I stood in the dairy row at the store for a good long while staring at these two little cartons deciding what to do. I went back to the house with the carton of whipping cream because it cost half as much as the heavy cream. They seemed pretty similar but must not have been similar enough. Next time, I am definitely getting the heavy cream. RIP Caramel Sauce of September 9, 2010. I will remember you as I eat your successful caramel sauce pal sometime in the near future.