Being Frugal

  • Being Frugal,  Recipes,  Vegetarian Recipes

    Sooo many jam puns to make.

    All of them along the lines of: aw yeah, this is my jam… 

    But it is!

    Making jam has been on my list of things I’ve been meaning to try for a long time now, so when I came home with about 4-5 pounds of Italian plums, I figured there was no time like the present.

    Ordinarily, jams need pectin in order to be more like jelly and less like, well, hot fruity goo. Plums (and apples) are naturally high in pectin so no need to go to several different stores looking for pectin only to come up empty-handed, and yes, I’m looking at you, local Target that sells canning supplies but not pectin.

    As it turns out, making jam is ridiculously easy. People should stop saying “easy as pie” because pie crust is a bitch to make and everyone should start saying “easy as jam” instead.  Because that’s how easy it is.

    Way-easier-than-pie plum freezer jam

    Combine 4 cups plums (skinned, pitted, and chopped) with 2 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Bring to a slow boil and let cook for 25-30 minutes, skimming off any foam that appears. After 25 minutes, start testing the jam to see if it’s set. (I use the plate-in-the-freezer method.) I did not process this in a water-bath to be shelf stable; I just put it in jars and put one in the fridge (will last for 3-4 weeks) and another in the freezer (will last for several months assuming you don’t eat it way before then).

  • Being Frugal,  Recipes,  Vegetarian Recipes

    DIY Muesli

    My kid loves muesli.

    No, you read that right: my kid loves muesli.

    “I don’t know,” she says. “I just like it.”

    That’s all well and good but damn, a serious muesli habit can be expensive.  Our local supermarket sells it for $5.79/pound — and that’s the cheapest one they have.

    Muesli is so simple to make… provided you can find its ingredients. In my case, I already had rolled oats but I could not find any other flaked/rolled grain nearby.

    Fortunately, my supermarket carries a small selection of Bob’s Red Mill products, where I found their 5-Grain Rolled Cereal (rolled whole wheat, rye, oats, flaxseed, barley, and triticale).

    What you see on the right is:

    a 16-ounce package of 5-Grain Rolled Cereal
    1/2 cup raisins
    1/2 cup date pieces
    2T flax seeds

    The next time I make a batch, I’ll get the exact weight of the finished product, but I’m pretty sure this comes in under $3/pound.

    I think I might make it with almonds or maybe sunflower seeds next time, just to boost its protein content a little, but you could feel free to add… well, anything you like: brown sugar, other dried fruits, different seeds, whatever!

  • Being Frugal,  Recipes,  Vegetarian Recipes

    Gigantes Plaki (and the Food Blogger’s Lament)

    It is a constant struggle for food bloggers to take appealing photos of food. In my five-plus years doing this, I’ve deleted innumerable photos of food that tasted amazing but photographed horribly.

    This is one of those times.

    Fortunately for me (and you!), Wikimedia Commons had a photo of this Greek tomato-and-bean dish which means I can now share one of the best recipes I’ve tried in ages.

  • Being Frugal,  Recipes,  Vegetarian Recipes

    Best. Banana cake. Ever.

    best banana cake ever

    Bananas don’t last long in our house. The bowl of fruit is just steps away from the front door, and it seems like I’m always saying “take a banana with you! we need to go now! here! eat this on the way!”

    But occasionally, a banana will get too ripe before we can eat it, at which point I peel it and freeze it, assuming I will use it at some point in the future. (Okay, so… sometimes I just find the frozen bananas at the back of freezer, have no idea how old they are, and chuck them, but I do usually use them. Eventually.)

    Yesterday, there were actually two bananas in the fruit bowl that were headed for the freezer — and with another two bananas there already, it seemed like a perfect time for a banana cake. This theory was immediately borne out by the fact that the entire cake disappeared within 24 hours.

    This cake is really that good: somewhat lighter and less sweet than a banana bread, but with big chunks of melty chocolate. You could probably even skip the chocolate if you don’t have any on hand and it would still be a lovely cake.

    The recipe is based on the already excellent UBC Cake posed over on Everybody Likes Sandwiches:

    3 or 4 very ripe bananas
    2 eggs
    1.5 c. flour (I used a mix of all purpose and whole wheat)
    1 c. sugar
    1 tsp. baking soda
    2 tsp. vanilla
    1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
    1 c. chocolate chunks

    Mash bananas and mix in eggs. Add vanilla. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and cinnamon in a separate bowl, then add dry ingredients to banana mix. Mix well then fold in chocolate chunks. Pour batter into a buttered cake pan. (I used an 11″ x 7″ pan, but you could also use an 8″ or 9″ square pan.) Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

  • Being Frugal,  Recipes,  Vegetarian Recipes

    “Supermarket Vegan” by Donna Klein

    supermarket vegan recipes

    So, remember a while back when I showed you my dinner list and it was almost all recipes from Donna Klein’s book Supermarket Vegan?


    Everything I have made from it so far has been really good and crazy easy. 

    I think the secret to this book’s success is that Klein doesn’t try to force recipes to be vegan that weren’t vegan to begin with.

    The only recipes that have tofu are Asian-style recipes which would have tofu in them anyway. There are no vegan substitutes in here either, so no soy milk or fake burger patties. And as it implies in the title, there’s no obscure ingredients in here either — no seitan or tempeh to be found. Everything can be found in virtually any supermarket.

    And everything cooks super fast! All the recipes I’ve tried so far can easily be made on a busy weeknight.

    Clockwise from the top: Greek Chickpeas and Rice (p. 102, which, okay, I de-veganized by adding feta cheese, but it was still good without it), Cuban Style Fried Rice with Pineapple (p. 113), Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon (p. 118), and Orzo with Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Basil (p. 85).

    Also not pictured is the Pasta Puttanesca which is some of the best puttanesca sauce I’ve ever had, vegan or otherwise, which I’ll share with you, if you’re thinking about picking up a copy of the book for yourself:

  • Being Frugal,  Doing More With Less,  Life in Maison Gezellig,  Minimalist Living

    dinner list > grocery list

    dinner list

    Every week, I write two lists: a grocery list and a dinner list.

    I know a dinner list seems a wee bit fussy, particularly from me and my Zero Tolerance For Fuss… BUT I’d say the half-hour I spend writing the dinner list saves me at least a couple hours a week and saves me money besides.

    Here’s how I do mine:

    Step 1: Assess the state of your pantry and jot down any meal idea based on what you can make with what you have on hand (or with the inclusion of one or two ingredients). For example, at the bottom of my list is an entry for tacos (because I found I had taco shells in one of the cabinets), so tacos went on the dinner list and sour cream and salsa went on the grocery list. I usually try to make this list after I hit the farmers’ market that week, but I’m in a kind of Greenmarket limbo since deciding I need to try shopping at a different one.

    Step 2: Pick something new to make. I get bored really easily with the same foods over and over (to the point that I usually don’t even eat leftovers the next day if I don’t have to) so I try to include some new recipe every week. This week’s list is slightly unusual, due to the fact I bought a copy of Donna Klein’s Supermarket Vegan this weekend, and I’m going through a MAKE ALL THE THINGS! phase with it. My parenthetical page numbers on this week’s list are all from that book.

    Step 3 (optional): Check out the grocery sales. I don’t always do this, but if I’m really hard-up for dinner ideas, I’ll go to the supermarket’s site and see what’s on sale that week. Otherwise, I just pick up some sale items while at the store and they end up as part of Step 1 in this process.

    Step 4, possibly the most important step of all: PUT THE LIST ON THE FRIDGE. I don’t even want to discuss how many times I have made the dinner list and then failed to take it out of the notebook and put it somewhere. Seriously. It’s shameful.

    With the dinner list on the fridge, I am saved my usual staring-blankly-into-cabinets-at-5pm-and-sighing time and can just get cooking without having to think about it (last night was the pasta puttanesca and it was crazy good) AND I know that the items that ended up on my grocery list have an actual use that week, which keeps me from buying perishable items on impulse and regretting it later (yeah, I’m looking at you, flaccid carrots).

    What’s your shopping strategy? One list or two? 

  • Being Frugal,  Greenmarket Grub

    Entirely local and under $5 per person? Yes.

    Saturday was Slow Food USA’s $5 Challenge — to serve a meal for less than the cost (per person) of a fast food value meal.

    I spent nearly all of last week catching up with a class I just transferred into, so after cramming about three weeks of work into one week… I had kind of forgotten I had signed myself up for this challenge until I got a reminder email that morning.

    In keeping with the challenge idea of $5 being equivalent to fast food, I didn’t want to make anything fancy or complicated. Just something you could come from work and throw together rather than ring up the pizza place or hit the drive-through. It’s not the prettiest meal, but filling and tasty (and even dessert, too).

    And so, for a grand total of $3.77 per person, I made kale stamppot with some local kielbasa, and an apple cake: