Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Version of Hot and Sour Miso Soup

I've discussed my adventures and new-found love of miso a few times. I shared how I used miso in my Persimmon and Parsnip Stir-Fry to tie together all the sweet and earthy flavors I had going on. I have been trying to create citrusy dressing with miso: here dressing a soba noodle salad. By far, my favorite way to enjoy miso is in a soup.

There is nothing traditional about this soup; I combine the flavors I enjoy, which are miso and rice vinegar, and combine them with the vegetables I have on hand. My favorite way to make this soup is to use leftover stir-fry vegetables. Not only am I re-purposing leftovers, I only have to heat up some vegetables.

I have learned a few key lessons from making this soup over and over again.
  • Real miso soup uses dashi, a stock made from seaweed and dried tuna. I am too cheap to do this. I use one-half of a chicken or vegetable bouillon cube.
  • Dried mushrooms really do add a lot of flavor. Before starting the stock, I soak 3 or so pieces of dried mushroom in a small bowl. When I begin to heat the water or stock up, I add the mushrooms and the soaking liquid. Dried mushrooms can be pricey. I have found the cheapest dried mushrooms to be dried shitakes from the Asian market.
  • The miso I like to use isn't completely smooth. I have a small, fine-mesh sieve where I place the miso. Using the back of a spoon, I make sure not to completely submerge the strainer in the broth and negate the whole point of this step, and push the miso through the strainer leaving behind the fine bits of rice.
  • To make it hot, freshly ground white pepper is frequently used. I buy just a bit in the bulk. This stuff is spicy! Use with caution. If available, I prefer to add spice with fresh chilies. About 1/4-1/3 of a jalapeno is enough to add spice without being overpowering. Red jalapenos or Fresnos are especially tasty in this soup.

Hot and Sour Miso Soup

by Ace Nation
Ingredients (serves 1)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4-1/3 chile, seeds removed and finely minced
  • 1/4 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup zucchini, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup kale or other greens like bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup edamame, thawed
  • 1/2 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube
  • 2 tablespoons miso
  • 3 cups water
  • White pepper, freshly ground, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, more or less to taste
In a small soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat water in a separate pot or hot water kettle while vegetables are cooking.
Add the remaining vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add water and bouillon cube, bring to a gentle boil, and make sure the bouillon is dissolved.
Remove the pot from the heat and add miso. If a smooth consistency is desired, place miso in a small fine-mesh sieve and push through into the soup. Mix until combined.
To serve, garnish with freshly ground white pepper, if desired. Add rice vinegar.
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Receipe Review: Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe from Taste of Home

Source: Taste of Home

I have been wanting to revisit my Stovetop Tuna Noodle Casserole and create some variations. In this case, I found someone else's recipe that sounded like it had promise. I loved the ingredients list of the Taste of Home recipe because I didn't have to leave my apartment to get any ingredients because it just uses:
  • onion
  • butter
  • flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • milk
  • noodles
  • tuna
  • peas
  • cornflakes (this is a common old-school topping but I just went with some seasoned breadcrumbs)
I did make two additions. I added finely minced garlic and cayenne pepper.

Who wins in the case of Cheap not Frugal Eats Stovetop Tuna Noodle Casserole v. Taste of Home's Tuna Noodle Casserole? Mine, definitely. Don't get me wrong. The Taste of Home version is solid and I enjoyed my meal. I just find milk sauces without a lot of other flavorings too sweet for my taste.My Pasta with B├ęchamel Sauce and Spring Vegetables works because it has lots of sauteed onions, garlic, and tons of vegetables to balance the sweetness milk acquires as it cooks. I find the Taste of Home version needs something bright. In my tuna noodle recipe I add brightness two ways: Dijon mustard and sour cream.

I made this meal with spaghetti and I found I really liked that. I'm not normally a big fan of spaghetti or fettucini, it's too messy to eat for me, an already messy eater. A few years ago, Z. and I had a chance to stock up on pasta for almost next to nothing (and some was free) so we have tons of thin, long pasta to finish. I liked the texture of the pasta after it baked. I got several ideas just from making this dish and can't wait to share them with you. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

You Should Check Out...

No, this blog has nothing to do with food or cheap living tips but the subject is very near and dear to my heart (and the blogger just might be, as well). If you enjoy classical musical, whether you are a consumer or connoisseur, the writer's thoughts and points will give you something to think about. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Restaurant Man

Read Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich...unless you're looking for something new or enlightening, ignore my recommendation. It has the required characteristics of the chef-memoir genre:
  • casual narrative: feels like the author is having a conversation with you
  • snarky and snide commentary or observations punctuated by foul language
  • anectodotes about cooking, restuarants, and life.
Here's why I'm suggesting Restaurant Man:
  • Bastianich doesn't discuss being frugal or thrifty, one of the main themes of the memoir is the importance of being a cheap motherf*****r. Not only can I relate, anyone who has any wish or desire at ever opening a restaurant or business, needs to read this book.
  • Ridiculously entertaining. Period.
  • Bastianich's style of snark and wit is one of the keys to this book's success. Anyone can say something rude or colorful but his style makes me want to learn more. The people he has some of the worst things to say about are also people he continues to work with because they are great at what they do (I have his thoughts on his gelato-maker in mind).
  • I love the other memoirs I've read recently (I have Marcus Samuelsson's Yes, Chef in mind) but this is the one that I have learned the most from about tasting food and wine. I actually plan on rereading this pretty soon because I think there's things I missed.
  • I actually didn't know anything about Joe Bastianich except that I've seen him as a judge on Master Chef and that he's Lidia Bastianich's son. Turns out he's actually interesting! Just based on watching him on  Master Chef, I wouldn't have picked up this book. He's dry and to the point in a way that doesn't always come across as engaging on edited television but in writing. Enjoy!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Learn a Little More About Yumm Bowls

A few days ago, I shared a version of homemade Yumm sauce. I don't feel I did an adequate describing how to put together a Yumm bowl. Here is Hannah Hart from My Drunk Kitchen explaining the fine art of Yumm bowl creation. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Attempt at Yumm Sauce

 Reader beware: Yumm Sauce can be addictive. Proceed with caution.

Yumm sauce is the most famous creation from Cafe Yumm, a low-key casual restaurant founded in Eugene, Oregon. Cafe Yumm serves rice bowls which they call Yumm! Bowls, salads, and sandwiches all made with very fresh ingredients.Yumm Bowls are super easy to put together: rice, black beans, Yumm sauce, cheese (Tillamook cheddar is best!), fresh tomato, avocado, sour cream, black olives, and cilantro.

The key to its rice bowls is most definitely their Yumm Sauce. You can purchase the sauce at the cafe or at a few different grocery stores in Oregon but it is expensive, around $5 for a jar. While not exactly the same as Yumm sauce, this recipe comes awfully close. As far as homemade meals go, the ingredients for Yumm sauce are more expensive than many recipes but it's delicious and stretches pretty far. We had Yumm bowls for a few days in a row and still had a bit of sauce leftover.

I have never made my Yumm sauce with soybeans. I didn't know you were able to get them until recently. I have always used soy nuts which you can get at many supermarkets (probably even those in Wyoming). While not necessary, I like to soak them first then drain the excess water. This makes for a smoother sauce. Enjoy!

Copycat Yumm Sauce

by Ace Nation
Keywords: blender sauce
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup, cooked soy beans (not edamame!), or 1/4 soy nuts soaked in water then drained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/8-1/2 cup lemon juice, depending how consistency and how tangy you would like the sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
Combine all ingredients in a blender or small food processor. Blend until ingredients are ground. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the canola oil. Continue to blend until smooth. Taste to adjust salt if needed. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for an hour to overnight to let the flavors combine. Enjoy!
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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

I love this photo. She's beautiful and looks so full of hope.

It’s Mother’s Day. I have an amazing mother. And I never had a chance to tell her how fantastic she is and how much I have grown to respect her. I didn’t actually realize how lucky I was until I was an adult, thinking about someday having children of my own.  The monster that is multiple sclerosis has so ravaged her mind that I don’t think she would totally understand the words I was saying but she would register something of the emotional content. Then she would have her version of a meltdown because that’s what she does in any circumstance with emotional demonstrations and I just can’t handle it. I’m going to make a list of why my mom is so rad and share it with the world.

She put up with me. I can only imagine all the ways that I was completely obnoxious.

She made me feel like the most special person in the world.

She was smart and wise in ways I couldn't understand as a young punk. I didn’t have shoes with laces until I could tie them.

There were a few songs in my piano methods books that she loved but I wouldn’t play them unless she paid me $1 for each song because I didn’t like them. I would give anything for her to ask me to play now.

She did everything she possibly could to make my dreams come true.

I love her smile. She would light up a room with the light of her spirit. It doesn’t happen often but when she laughs, I can see a glimpse of the person who she once was.

The first summer I came home from college, I had a meltdown. I was overwhelmed by living away from the people who had depended on me so much and there was this boy that had graduated and moved away. I thought I might never see him again. That summer, every time mom and I went somewhere, she would tell every stranger who would listen that I liked a boy. She would laugh and have a great time embarrassing me. 8 and ½ years later, I still like that boy.

And, she always loved me unconditionally. That is a gift I will always be grateful for. Happy Mother’s Day, Momma.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What I Have Learned: Tomato Soup

 I made tomato soup again. And, it didn't taste like my first pot of tomato soup.

Let me explain a little more. First and foremost this blog exists for me to share my cheapskate expertise, especially when it comes to food. As I become more serious about creating my own recipes or putting my own stamp on other cooks' recipes, I find there are a lot of surprises to creative cooking. Sometimes these surprises are fantastic and other times, a let down. In the beginning of the blog, if I didn't share my mistakes, I wouldn't have anything to share. As I now have greater command of the kitchen and ingredients, sharing mistakes has turned from digital filler to serious reflection of what transforms a meal from okay to great and how my choices as a cook affect the outcome.

Take Pappa al Pomodoro for example. The first time I made this meal, my world was rocked. I used my basic recipe to make tomato soup. Good but not great.

What did I do differently?
  • The ratio of fresh tomatoes to canned tomatoes was different. There was a great deal on roma tomatoes so I went heavy on the fresh tomatoes. I don't often cook with fresh tomatoes. Do I need to learn more about how to balance the acidity in fresh tomatoes?
  • I roasted the tomatoes and red pepper like I did the first time around. They didn't get as charred as the first batch. Does the char really make that much of a difference? I thought I followed the same directions as before. Why didn't these get the same char?
  • I didn't blend bread into the soup. Does the bread balance the acidity of the tomatoes?
Help, please!!!!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Favorite Cheap not Frugal Eats Recipes

One way that I keep my food costs down, is I cook seasonally. The fruits and vegetables that are in season are at their peak of freshness and flavor. Since they don't have to travel as far to get to my local market, they are also cheaper! My favorite veggies of the spring are greens, leeks, and asparagus. Strawberries are in season but may have to travel a ways. If you are in the valley and cost isn't an issue, keep an eye out at your local farmer's market. There have been strawberries at the Corvallis Farmer's Market.

My favorites are the greens. I have already enjoyed mustard greens and baby bok choi from Beautiful Gardens. I have been getting bunches for just $1. I have been enjoying them in stir-fry and lentil salad. One of my favorite vegetables is only available for a short time in the spring: white turnips. I love root vegetables where you can enjoy both the tops and the bottoms. My favorite way to eat the turnip bottom is raw. Baby white turnips are so delicate and tender that cooking them takes away some of their flavor. If you have never had turnip greens, take advantage of the bounty this spring and try them!

Since I cook seasonally, my new recipes come along as the season progresses. I thought I would share some of my favorite spring recipes from years past. Enjoy!

Pasta with B├ęchamel Sauce and Spring Vegetables: This is one of my hands-down favorite meals to make with spring vegetables!

Green Bean Stir-Fry: Stir-fries are always a hit in this household. It's fast, tasty, and uses whatever is in the fridge or freezer. If I am impatient and do not feel like waiting 23 minutes for rice to cook, I use couscous. Not feeling like Asian flavors, I will just saute fresh veggies, add some salsa, and enjoy the combination over whatever grain is handy.

Black Bean Salad: A favorite brown bag lunch that's light, bright, and fresh.

Pasta Salad: I like this for the same reasons I enjoy Black Bean Salad.

Spinach Hummus: Hummus is a great way to enjoy spring vegetables and you are enjoying even more of the season by adding spinach.

Mediterranean Barley Salad: When prepared like this, barley doesn't have to remain a heavy fall or winter staple. The nutty, toothsome grain is mixed with tomatoes, chickpeas, and artichoke hearts that are dressed with a bright vinaigrette.

White Beans and  Turnip Greens: My first adventure with turnip greens, which was just about this time last year! I included tomatoes in this version but if you are not a fan of tomatoes, I bet it would still be delicious.

Millet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette: I kept this version pretty basic with roasted yam, garlic, kale, red bell pepper, and jalapeno. The orange vinaigrette makes this a winner.

Lentil Salad and it's many incarnations: I make lentil salad a few times a month, year round. I have several versions with spring vegetables: Lentils with Broccoli and Asparagus, Lentil Salad with Sauteed Kale, Onions, and Fresh Turnips, and something a little more unusual, Brown Lentils with Grapes and Apples.

Marinated Cauliflower Salad with Chickpeas: Here is another recipe that's great for brown bag lunches. Raw cauliflower becomes more tender and enjoyable when marinated. I combined leftovers with rice noodles to make another meal.

Asparagus Risotto: You will have to wait for our recipe because Z. is the Asparagus Risotto master.

Finally, and certainly not least, is Pasta with Vegetables: The variations are endless.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I promised my crouton recipe ages ago. I thought I was really something with my croutons but after posting my tomato soup recipe, I became self-conscious about sharing something as basic as croutons. Some time has passed, I've done a little more research, and yes, the world needs my crouton recipe. Here's why:
  • Some folks will try to pass toasted bread off as croutons. When I think of croutons, I think of something that if I ate with my fingers, I would need a napkin.
  • Many recipes call for melted butter or cheese. Don't get me wrong, that sounds delicious but I have had great success with my simple recipe.
  • Warm croutons make the meal feel very special and that you went the extra mile. The hardest part about making croutons is making sure they don't burn.

You really can use whatever bread you want. These are hoagie rolls.

What's my secret to amazing croutons? I have two. First, I use whatever bread is convenient. Sandwich bread works just fine, especially if it's one of the heartier breads with lots of nuts and seeds. Secondly and most importantly, make sure each piece of bread is well coated with the olive oil. This is what my croutons taste decadent and special. Enjoy!

Cheap not Frugal Eats Croutons

by Ace Nation
  • Bread of your choice, cubed into bite-size chunks
  • Olive oil
  • Dried herbs of your choice, such as basil, oregano, parsley, or Italian seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, be sure to season the bread well. Add enough olive oil to thoroughly coat each piece of bread.
Evenly spread bread on a baking sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes, precise time depends on your oven, until lightly golden brown.
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