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!