Sunday, February 27, 2011

Potato Pancakes

It has been awhile since I last shared a recipe. The last recipe was this delicious meal from a few weeks ago. Lately, Z. and I have been busy cooking new dishes and perfecting some of our favorites. Z. made an absolutely amazing chana masala last weekend, one of our new standby dishes that Z. has been playing around with the flavors. All of his versions of chana masala have been delicious but this has been my favorite. I think if I keep bugging him he'll share the secrets of his spice blend with me. Z. and I also made our first basmathi pulao. We have also been busy canning! So far, we have pickled two types of garlic, one batch is seasoned with herbs and cayenne, while the other is a plain pickled garlic. We pickled a few jars of Serrano chili peppers as well. I can't wait to try all of them.If you are curious about what we are cooking between posts, check out the Cheap not Frugal Eats page on Facebook.

In the midst of canning and cooking chana masala, I made potato pancakes one evening for dinner. Both Z. and I loved the crispiness of the outside. Exactly what we were going for! I purposefully made the potato pancakes very thin. To measure the potato mixture, I used a measuring spoon I have that holds two tablespoons. I tried three tablespoons but found that I could get a much thinner pancake with two tablespoons. After I spooned the mixture into the pan, I flattened it out slightly with the spatula or my fingers. I made another change to suit our tastes. Traditionally, onion is grated into the potato mixture. I knew we wanted the potatoes crispy, so I left the onion out and incorporated it in another way. We sauteed onions and green bell peppers in olive oil on the side and topped our pancakes with the vegetables and a little cheese. The potato pancakes are crispiest right after you make them but the leftovers still made a very yummy lunch for me the next day. Enjoy!

Potato Pancakes Cheap not Frugal Eats-Style
3 large potatoes (a starchy variety, such as Russet)
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg. lightly beaten
salt and pepper, taste
Canola oil, for frying

  1. Peel potatoes. Place peeled potatoes in a bowl of water to prevent browning. Grate using either a box-grater or a food processor. If grating by hand, place shredded potato in a bowl of water to prevent browning. When all potatoes are grated, drain water, and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Follow this step even if using a food processor to grate the potatoes. Transfer potatoes to a mixing bowl.
  2. Add flour, beaten egg, and pepper. Mix until combined. I prefer to add the salt after the potatoes have cooked.
  3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon or so of canola oil. When hot, for each pancake place 2-3 tablespoons of the potato mixture in the pan, not crowding the pan. Flatten with a spatula and let cook until underside is golden, about 3-4 minutes, flip and cook until golden. Remove from pan and season with salt. Continue process with the rest of the potato mixture. If not serving right away, place on a warm plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Serve with sour cream or topped with sauteed onions and peppers.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Week of Presents

I have had a really nice week, not only did I work a full-day every day, I had quite a few unexpected presents. The only present that didn't involve me eating at some point was from Z. He was away all week for work and brought me back a present! I probably should add that he always brings me back a present when he is gone this long. I think someone might think I am neat-o. Z. found a recording of the cellist Rostropovich performing Gagneux's Trytyque and Shchedring's Sotto Voce, two compositions neither Z. or I had heard before.

I had a large manila envelope from the lovely Mrs. Andrew containing the latest issue of Cook's Illustrated and a second issue dedicated just to soups and stews. She gave me a subscription to the magazine. I am very excited about this. Another present that came in the mail was a card to Z. and I from Z.'s grandma with a Ruby Tuesday gift card. We love Ruby Tuesday's salad bar. Z. also had a Valentine's Day card from his mom with another restaurant gift card. Looks like someone will be taking me out!

The other presents were to Z. from his dad but totally benefit me. Z.'s dad is a lot like us in that he loves cooking and loves trying out new dishes. This last summer, Z.'s dad decided to try his hand out at canning. I was able to taste the results at Christmas dinner. His pickled green beans were amazing. Over the past year or so Z. and I have been discussing possibly canning in the future so we picked his dad's brain about his experience. During this latest work sojourn, Z. was able to stay with his dad. Z. left with a jar of the pickled beans, a couple of jars of homemade blueberry jam, a small pressure cooker, and a pot that will be large enough for us to can a few pint jars. We will be canners soon! We have already procured some of the implements we need and have a rain-check for Fred Meyer's asparagus. The only items left to get are jars.  We used the pressure cooker on Friday to cook a batch of dried garbanzos. It worked great and was way faster than I was expecting. Dried beans here we come.

I will be writing some thank you cards later today. I am never too cheap to not send a hand-written thank you card. A thank you doesn't have to be extra fancy. Possibilities include just be a note saying thank you or an actual thank you card, as long as there there is a hand-written message. It is possible to be cheap and classy.

This picture of Growler has nothing to do with presents. He was just being awfully cute last night so I thought I would share. This is a very happy cat after being tucked in by his daddy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dinner for One: Roasted Cauliflower and Garbanzo Beans

Not only is Z. out of town for work, again, leaving me to my own devices, yesterday was my dad's birthday. I couldn't make dinner for my dad since he is in Wyoming, so the next best thing was to make a dinner for myself that he would have liked. When my parents made the trek out to Oregon for my college graduation a few years ago, Z. and I made an Indian feast. Not only was this the first time I had made Indian food for my dad, I think it was the first time my dad ever had curry. He loved it! I knew I wanted to use some of my Indian spices that he enjoyed so much in his/my birthday dinner. While I was pondering what to make for dinner I kept coming back to a few recipes that I had seen in the last few weeks. One recipe was Bon Appetit's Spice-Roasted Chickpeas. Another recipe I had in mind when I was planning my dinner was this recipe from Orangette. I combined these recipes with my own tastes to create Roasted Cauliflower and Garbanzo Beans. Happy birthday, Dad! I love you!!!
A portion of the chickpeas and chopped cauliflower
It was such good looking head of garlic that I thought it deserved its own picture.
Clockwise from top left: garam masala, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes

Spice covered veggies and beans waiting to be put in the oven

Dinner! I know, I need to figure out how to make food on a plate look pretty.

Roasted Cauliflower and Garbanzo Beans (for 2-3)
1/2 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
garlic to taste, peeled and smashed
2 tsp garam masala *
3/4 tsp (1 tsp for me) cumin seeds *
1/2 tsp coriander seeds, optional
1/4 tsp red pepper flake (1/2 tsp for spicy)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil **
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Toss cauliflower, beans, garlic, and spices with olive oil in a large bowl. Spread in a single layer on a sheet pan. Place in oven. Bake about 12 minutes then stir. Bake another 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.Enjoy!
* I love garam masala but my spice blend for this recipe doesn't focus just on the garam masala. If you want a stronger garam masala flavor, I would reduce the amount of cumin. I love cumin seeds so I went heavy on them.
** I tossed the vegetables with two tablespoons of olive oil. When I stirred them, I thought the veggies looked a little thirsty so I drizzled approximately 1/2 tbs over them.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Spinach-Barley Soup

First of all, I would like to thank all of you for reading my little blog! I can't believe how much I am enjoying sharing my cooking escapades with you. Thank you! On to the recipe! Occasionally, my couponing allows me to procure free cans of soup. If you are interested in couponing, some of the brands that I regularly see coupons for are Progresso, Campbell's Select Harvest, occasionally Chunky and Campbell's Condensed Soups. Safeway still accepts Shortcuts electronic coupons, which does regularly have e-coupons for Campbell's Select Harvest and Progresso Soup.

If I am getting Cambell's Select Harvest, I tend to reach for the Italian Wedding Soup. It has some of my favorite foods: meatballs, spinach, rice, and broth. I had finished all the canned soup in the pantry, when it finally occurred to me that I could just make my own variation of the soup. I am not known as the sharpest knife in the drawer so it took me a little while to think of this. What I came up with is a soup that features, you probably guessed it by reading the title, spinach and barley. I also added white beans. I was surprised at how good the barley and white beans were together. I am foreseeing a barley risotto with white beans in my future.

I have tried making soup where I just tossed the veggies, like onion and garlic, straight into the soup. I am finding, over and over again, it is well worth the time to soften the vegetables in some olive oil before adding the broth. Also, since I am new to using barley, I cooked it separately. I wasn't exactly sure how much liquid it would soak up. Next time, I will cook it with the soup's broth; I don't think it will affect the broth ratio too much. For now, my directions are for cooking the barley separately. Enjoy!


The rest of the Ingredients

Chopped Spinach
Finished Soup!

Spinach-Barley Soup
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/3 bag (8 oz. bag) spinach
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can vegetable broth
1 bay leaf (optional)
olive oil
water (I used 4 cups)
salt and pepper to taste
  1. If cooking barley separately, bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil, add barley, stir, and cover with a lid, lowering heat to a simmer. For fully cooked barley, simmer for 35-40 minutes. I cooked the barley 25 minutes. Once cooked, drain.
  2. In soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-low. Add onion and sprinkle with a little salt. Saute a few minutes before adding the garlic. 
  3. Once onions and garlic are softened, add broth, water, bay leaf, beans, and barley. Simmer about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add chopped spinach. Simmer until spinach is wilted and warm.
  5. Before serving, remove bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
Price Breakdown
.23 barley (from the Market of Choice)
.33 spinach
.68 beans
.13 onion (still $.48/pound here)
.06 garlic
.50 broth
.07 olive oil 
Total: $2.00 or $0.40/bowl