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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Remembering Paul Newman

My whole life I watched Paul Newman films. His cool blue eyes and often nonchalant, cool, distinctly American persona is imprinted on my brain from watching films like Cool Hand Luke , Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , The Verdict , The Sting , The Hudsucker Proxy and Nobody's Fool . But more than that, I've long admired his charitable efforts. While he could have kicked back, or used his fame for personal profit as so many stars do, he instead chose "shameless exploitation in the pursuit of the common good." The "common good" meant progressive social causes of all kinds--helping children, looking out for the well-being of animals, protecting First Amendment rights and more. The Newman's Own product line started with salad dressing and every time you turned around it seemed there was another product--pasta sauce, lemonade, popcorn, salsa and more. Today there are over 150 different products offered by Newman's Own and according to the company, t...
Saturday, September 27, 2008

Breakfast & Lunch on the Hunger Challenge

Going into the challenge I thought breakfast would be a breeze. I figured I might even save money on breakfast that I could then use on lunch or dinner. Fat chance! If you want to buy premium products, like cage free organic eggs, jam with no corn sweeteners or real butter, you'll be over budget in no time. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but forget about fresh orange juice and coffee most days, on this budget. Lunch was just plain boring. Only a couple of days did I have enough to eat of leftovers. It was hard to come up with interesting recipes on such a tight budget. My experiments with cottage cheese were not very successful. My most creative effort was green pea pesto. I like it so much, I would make it again. This is my last Hunger Challenge post. I hope you have found my insights and recipes to be enlightening and interesting and maybe even helpful if you are on a limited budget. If you are not on a limited budget, please consider donating to the food ...
Friday, September 26, 2008

Green Pea Pesto: Hunger Challenge Recipe

Frozen organic green peas seemed like a bargain. But what could I do with them? I had hoped to come up with a kind of sandwich filling but ended up with a creamy sauce for pasta. It's actually pretty tasty and is perfect for those times when the cupboard is bare, because it uses mostly pantry staples. Surprisingly this ended up being my easiest, fastest and cheapest meal, and one I know I will make again. Green Pea Pesto with Pasta 56¢ per serving Ingredients 1 cup frozen organic green peas, 75¢ 2 cloves garlic, 5¢ 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 36¢ 2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese, 42¢ (note: recipe makes 5 servings of sauce) 1 cup, about 2 ounces penne pasta 24¢ Instructions Roughly chop the garlic. In a small saucepan combine the garlic and green peas with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat then lower the heat to simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 3 minutes or until peas are cooked through and garlic is no longer raw. Drain the p...
Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mushroom Barley Risotto: Hunger Challenge Recipe

This is a recipe I originally made for a friend who was allergic to just about everything. It's an adaptation of a Bon Appetit recipe . She liked it a lot and so it became a regular addition to my repertoire. It tastes a bit like mushroom barley soup and makes a great vegetarian meal with a salad and a glass of wine, but none of those extras fit on the Hunger Challenge budget! Mushroom Barley Risotto $2.00 for 2 servings Ingredients 1 bouillon cube 14¢ 1 teaspoon Smart Balance 3¢ (substitute butter or oil, as desired) 1/2 cup finely chopped onion 13¢ 2 cups water, or more as needed 1/2 cup pearl barley, 25¢ 1/4 lb pound mushrooms, sliced $1 1 garlic clove, minced 2.5¢ 2 Tablespoons grated parmesan, 42¢ Instructions Melt Smart Balance in large nonstick pot over low heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushroom and garlic and cook for another 3 minutes. Add barley and toast in the pan for 1-2 minutes, then add water and bouillon; br...
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pasta Fagioli: Hunger Challenge Recipe

No question, I learned what frugal cooking was all about in Italy the land of "la cucina povera." Soups and salads made from stale bread, beans, pasta with nothing but olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese and the most microscopic portions of meat were all part of my Tuscan diet. But I ate extremely well. I also learned many ways to cook beans. They don't call the Florentines "mangiafagioli" or bean eaters, for nothing. Could this dish be made with heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo and bacon from the Fatted Calf? Absolutely and it would still be a very cheap meal, though not quite $1 per person cheap. Pasta Fagioli $1.98 for 2 healthy servings Ingredients 1 cup pinto beans, 50¢ 2 slices bacon 30¢ 1/2 onion 17¢ 2 cloves garlic 5¢ 1 cup macaroni, 11¢ 1 bouillon cube 14¢ 7 ounces canned diced tomatoes, 50¢ 1 Tablespoon grated parmesan cheese 21¢ Instructions Soak the beans in 3 cups of water in a saucepan overnight (or boil for 2 minutes, cover t...
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lentil & Mustard Greens Soup: Hunger Challenge Recipe

I was really optimistic that I could make a successful lentil soup on a budget. I was pretty sure it would be tasty and it took very little time to make. It was filling and healthy and comforting. Lee said it was delicious. I used 2 bouillon cubes to try and get flavor into the soup, but what it really needed was spices and a bit of lemon juice. Some aromatics like carrots and celery would have been good too, but I was afraid it would push me over budget. Lentil & Mustard Greens Soup Total: $1.81 for 2 servings Ingredients 8 ounces lentils 62.5¢ 2 bouillon cube 28¢ 1/2 organic onion 17¢ 1 clove garlic 2.5¢ 5 cups water 1 Tablespoon Smart Balance 9¢ (you could use butter or oil) 5 ounces, frozen mustard greens 62¢ Instructions Chop the onions and garlic. Heat a large saucepan and add the Smart Balance. When melted, add the onions and cook stirring for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic, water, bouillon cube and lentils. Bring to a boil then reduce and si...
Monday, September 22, 2008

The Hunger Challenge

In the 1970's my dad was out of work for a year. For as long as I can remember, my mother tended an organic garden and baked bread from scratch and during that year my dad fished for salmon and went clamming for geoduck. We ate lots of eggs from our chickens and sold the rest for $1 a dozen. But the truth is there was also a lot of dumpster diving. Actually the guys in the produce department at our nearby Co-op supermarket would set aside the ripest fruit and vegetables that they couldn't sell, for people like my mom and her friends who would stop by and scavenge. I don't remember ever going hungry. My parents used to say we never ate better. We certainly ate healthy food and made the best of whatever we had. With the exception of that year during the recession, the closest I've ever come to living on a limited budget was eating my dinners at a homeless shelter where I worked. There was a lot of cheap food--macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice, tuna noodle cas...
Friday, September 19, 2008

Shopping for the Hunger Challenge

I had a hard time deciding where to shop for a week of meals that were limited to $1 per person. I chose a big supermarket to try and buy a week's worth of food at one time. I don't know if someone on a budget would have the time and transportation resources to go from store to store for the best bargains. Oatmeal Barley Pinto beans Lentils Macaroni Spaghetti Chicken bouillon Organic raspberry jam Organic peanut butter Eggs Cottage cheese Mustard greens (frozen) Organic green peas (frozen) Smart Balance spread Organic milk High fiber bread Cremini mushrooms Organic celery Raisins Carrots Organic romaine lettuce Organic onions Grated parmesan cheese Total bill $55.02. Did I succeed or fail? Hard to say. A family on food stamps might not have $55 to spend at one time on food. But to get the best deals on products I usually had to buy in larger sizes. Some products were inexpensive but many really cost a lot. Rude awakenings: * Frozen vegetable...
Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pasteis de Belem--Lisbon, Portugal

"I just returned from Lisbon and only have one thing to say - Belem Pasteis de Nata" Thanks to a reader for reminding me of what is the can't miss taste of Lisbon. While there are wonderful wines, tasty sausages, perfect cups of espresso and crispy salt cod fritters that all deserve your attention, you haven't truly experienced Lisbon until you have made it through the winding labyrinth of the cafe and bakery, Pasteis de Belem , in a pretty waterfront neighborhood of Lisbon and had a few fresh warm pastries. Belem is a lovely area, right near the river Tagus, with views of the 25 de Abril bridge which looks amazingly similar to the Golden Gate bridge. It's green and spacious and filled with elegant architectural wonders; there are museums, monasteries, gardens and an outdoor market to explore. But one bite of the pastry, and all that is forgotten. Known as Pastel de Belem , Pastel de Nata, (pasteis is plural of pastel) this little egg tart is the original...
Monday, September 15, 2008

The Flavor Bible: Book review

Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page have done it again. They've written yet another book that is sure to be a classic kitchen reference guide for years to come. The Flavor Bible lists thousands of ingredients and what other ingredients complement them. A typical listing? Grits are compatible with cheese--cheddar and parmesan, corn, cream, garlic, mascarpone, nutmeg, black pepper, salt, andouille sausage, shrimp and Southern cuisine. These days I need ideas more than I need recipes so the format is perfect for me. The Flavor Bible helps solve the "what else can I do with brussels sprouts?" question and expands your culinary horizons with entries for unusual ingredients such as quince (which has an astounding 51 ingredients associated with it), or lavender. The ingredient lists came about by reviewing menus, restaurant reviews and cookbooks from all across the country. Some ingredients also have a season, weight, volume, and technique(s) indicated. But there is more to th...
Saturday, September 06, 2008

Off to Portugal!

A few years ago I wrote WinePassport:Portugal . It was a great project, and I learned a lot about Portuguese wines, but there was no budget for a trip to Portugal. Ever since then I've been very eager to visit. I was in Portugal once, 20 years ago and now I am going back! I will be in Lisbon, Porto and the Douro Valley for one week. I may or may not be posting from the road. I will have lots to share upon my return, I'm sure. I don't think I'll have much free time, but if you'd like to share your top tips for Portugal, please feel free to leave a comment....
Thursday, September 04, 2008

Bedside Reading for the Culinarily Inclined

What do you consider a good beach read? Something entertaining? Light and fluffy? What about a bedside book? I like a vacation read that I can completely lose myself in, but next to my bed I need something I can pick up and put down endlessly. Right now I have a few of those books. The first is How to Be a Better Foodie and it's subtitled "a bulging little book for the truly epicurious." Can I just say if there is anything more irritating than someone using the word foodie, it has to be someone using the brand name epicurious as if they made it up. It's a website , ok? Despite the annoying title, the book is a lot of fun. It's filled with little tidbits of information that you will either find essential or completely trivial but either way it is equal parts entertaining and informative. Do you know how mustard got its name? What to savor in Franche-Comte? What and who inspired the famous blue Le Creuset? What season to eat fresh lotus flower root? It's all ...