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.