Tuesday, June 23, 2009


This weekend I made hummous for the first time, following a recipe from The Greens Cookbook and a helpful thread from Chowhound: Home made hummous just not as good as restaurants.

The takeaway from the Chowhound thread was: to get the desired consistency, do not be afraid to blend everything together for a long time (my handheld blender was fine) and add as much water from the chickpeas as it takes.

My hummous was definitely as good as any I've had. It was so exciting I kept tasting it to make sure it really was that good and by the next day it was gone. Next time I'll make a double batch and hopefully the novelty will have worn off...

...and for when the novelty does wear off, Casual Kitchen has a hummous blogroll of 16 different hummous recipes (many of which may upset the purists at Chowhound).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

30 Bucks a Week

I was intrigued to discover the blog 30 Bucks a Week, fellow Brooklynites who spend less than 30 bucks a week on food - that's $15 each. I spend $20 a week, and people are usually horrified when they find out, so part of why I started this blog was to document my cooking, even though I didn't want to talk about the exact amount I spend.

Twenty dollars was the minimum I felt comfortable spending, and I will admit it has not been easy. Like 30 Bucks a Week, my $20 doesn't include liquor, eating out or entertaining. But I am a grown single female who doesn't need to eat a lot or stick to a certain diet to stay healthy. All bets are off if you have a teenage boy in the house! Every situation is different, but everyone benefits from being mindful of ways to eat well while saving money.

Also, 30 Bucks a Week belong to the famous Park Slope Co-op, which I've inwardly debated joining for years. Mostly I notice it allows them to buy very small amounts of food that stores only sell as pre-packaged sizes. This may be the deciding factor to get me to join the Co-op, because I've long known that my friends who are members get pretty good prices on high-quality fruits and vegetables. Other frugal bloggers talk about farmer's markets, but the ones in NYC are pretty expensive; coupons are usually for things I don't want in the first place, and the grocery store scene in the big city is not good. I make a weekly trek to Atlantic and Court Street to shop at Trader Joe's, Sahadis, and a couple of good fruit and vegetable stands nearby, which is about a thirty minute walk each way. Taking the bus or subway there and back would add $4 (soon to be $4.50) and isn't worth it.

In addition to finding cheaper places to buy your food, one of the biggest things anyone can do to save money is to learn how to waste less in the kitchen. It's no joke to throw out food that was perfectly good when you bought it, but you forgot about it for six months while it rotted in the back of your refrigerator.

I don't want to feel deprived (eh, who does), but I don't mind being disciplined, mindful, and spending more time in the kitchen. To think that 3 years ago I could go for days without setting foot in my kitchen! Seriously!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Strategies

Bitten Blog - NYTimes.com: Featured Recipe: Bean Salad

I am thinking this will be the summer of the bean salad. One of my favorite summer dishes is a chickpea salad that I make with canned chickpeas, but I have been looking to expand my repertoire. This recipe from Mark Bittman is more a template that I'm sure I'll be referring to many times over the next few months.

Tonight I have chickpeas soaking to make hummous tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


If you are like I was, you need to be told how to make a quesadilla, and yet it is one of the easiest, quickest and cheapest things I know how to make for dinner. It is faster than waiting for takeout and easier than making a grilled cheese sandwich (which is basically what it is).

My most basic quesadilla is a flour tortilla and pepper jack cheese, folded in half and cooked with a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium flame for about 3 minutes on each side. I nearly always make two at once; the two half-moons fit neatly in the pan and it's just the right amount that seems to satisfy me.

If I have enough coriander I put a few springs on top of the cheese; I've also included chopped spring onions, chives, sauteed sweet onions or diced red onions. You could also include chopped jalapenos or some chili powder.

When they're done I'll top them with salsa or mashed avocado.

Quesadillas were one of the first things I taught myself to make when I got back into cooking, when time was more of an issue than money, but now that money is the issue quesadillas are still on heavy rotation.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Guardian readers' feasts for a fiver

Those grumpy Guardian readers came up with their own cheap meals, and they are even better than the professionals, all on one page:

Crostini with cherry vine tomatoes and basil with a rocket (arugula) and parmesan salad
Rigatoni with tomato, aubergine (eggplant), basil and mozzarella

Courgette (zucchini) soup with garlic croutons
Spaghetti with crab, chilli and garlic

Spinach, lemon and peppered mackerel pilaf
Berry ice cream

Cabbage bhajis
Chana masala (chickpea curry) with rice

I'm most intrigued by the chana masala, which I may try very soon. Aubergine and courgette sound so much prettier than eggplant and zucchini, don't they?