Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Apologies and a Mahmudiye Recipe

I must apologize to my faithful readers that I ended this week early. I will post some more budget recipes including a super soup that is nutritionally loaded.

My world exploded early this week with phone calls, meetings, interviews etc. and I just could not manage to keep tracking and posting.

Another Turkish dish.
I was a lucky man, to be visiting Istanbul at the time of the year when every night ended with a feast as we broke fast, I probably had the best possible food in every household I was in. 
When I was told we were being served chicken with grapes my stomach did a turn. It did not sound good at all.
However Mustafa was quite excited about sharing this dish with me so being a culinary detective I asked if I might come early and watch him prepare it. 
“Yes my brother, we will make it together.” 
I have reduced his quantities as he was making it for 18 people, however the proportions are quite right and I encourage you to try this odd sounding recipe. 
Because when it comes to chicken with grapes my brother Mustafa knows his stuff. He told me that he typically makes this dish for a small crowd he uses boneless, skinless chicken cut into cubes. Feel free to bone your chicken.
I prefer it cooked on the bone, but hacked. I find a butcher who can do a Chinese duck cut for the chicken so it is in very small pieces. 1 hacked chicken serves six amply.
1 chicken cut into little pieces with or without bones, skin removed and saved
2+1 tbsp butter
30 pearl onions, peeled (Listen to Sandra Lee for once in your life and buy them frozen, they are a pain to peel)
12 dry apricots finely chopped
30 seedless grapes
1 1/2 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1-teaspoon cinnamon
3 ounces slivered almonds
Saute the chicken in 2/3 of the butter in a Dutch oven. When brown add the pearl onions, the apricots, the honey, the lemon juice the broth and some salt and pepper. Put a lid on it and cook for about 40 minutes, make sure it is done. When fully cooked sprinkle on the cinnamon and stir again.
Warm the rest of the butter in a pan and toast the almonds and the grapes. Spoon the chicken to a serving dish and garnish with almonds and grapes. 
6 very nice servings at 465 calories each.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Part 2 Day 5

Coffee with cream .34
Grapes .70

Not a complete breakfast by any means. Have I told you that this has been a mad busy week and I am eating for speed; during the day anyway.

Lunch was cabbage soup and a Vietnamese baguette with a sausage. I pulled the soup from the freezer and had a lot of it...delicious.
Sausage .99
Soup 1.24
Bread .25
Total 2.48
Once I total my week I think this indulgence will be okay.

Today's recipe: Spaghetti with chicken livers

There is a Tuscan dish made with spaghetti, pancetta, chicken liver and cream. I was not in the mood for anything creamy so I made my own version and it was incredibly delicious.  Serves 4

8 ounces spaghetti .76
1 lb chicken livers .99
4 bunches green onions 1.00
4 cups Swiss chard finely chopped 1.69
1 head of garlic chopped .25
Olive oil
Splash of pasta water, stock or white wine if you have it.
Garnish of parsley or basil if you have it.

Put your water on to boil. Clean your liver in water and cut off any fatty or spongy bits. Section into bite sized pieces.

Salt your liver and put a splash of olive oil into the pan. When the oil is very hot sear the outside of the liver (Do NOT overcook) they should still be rare inside. Remove and lower heat, add another splash of oil and the chopped garlic, saute very low while the pasta cooks.

Drain pasta and turn the heat up on the garlic, Toss in the chard and the pasta and toss. Add a splash of water, wine or stock and then the chopped scallion and the chicken liver. Toss together and serve with a bit of garnish if you have it.

This along with the cabbage soup gave me close to a home run for my daily nutrition. Chicken liver is an inexpensive protein source that is loaded in a good way. As for $$ 1.17 per serving.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Part 2 Day 4

For Breakfast

Coffee with cream .34
Grapes (about 8 oz) .70

I wanted more to eat but needed to time my food for a dinner with a friend who eats dinner 3 hours earlier than is my custom.

For lunch I had a leftover quail. 1.41

Dinner was a different story. I prepared a meal at a friend's house. A Sezchaun pork dish. He had purchased the ingredients but it was not an expensive dish to make. I cost it out and it fits the food stamp budget when preparing for 4. It may be cheaper for Asian families who will have some of the ingredients in house.

8 ounces of pork (any cheap cut) shoulder can be had at 2.99 a pound or 1.50
ginger root .25
Soy sauce
Baby Bok Choy (1 lb) .79 at Asian markets
Scallions .33
Sweet Red pepper .99
Fermented black beans .25 (A jar will cost about .99 and you use 1/4 jar)
Hot pepper
Rice .20

Marinate the pork for about an hour in soy with ginger grated or diced.

Get a wok or pan very hot with oil, it should just begin to smoke. Toss in pork and stir to brown and cook. When done add in the vegetables holding back the scallions. When vegetables are hot throw in the black beans and scallions and a few tosses with the spatula and you are ready to serve with rice. 1.07 per serving.

To bump the nutrition higher feel free to augment with other vegetables, chard will give you E, Carrots A.

1, 252 calories.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget part 2 day 3

'Twas a busy day. I began with coffee and berries.
Coffee with cream .34
Blackberries .99

Then shopping. I would encourage any of you on a budget to seek out ethnic stores in your area if you have them. Often deals can be found that won't be in the grocery chains. I found 6 qail (frozen) on sale for 5.99. That makes them 1.00 per bird. Quail on a food stamp budget? Yes!

For lunch I had a Polish Keilbasa with some cheese and a tortilla. All rolled up it tasted great but I should have had an apple or something with it.

Tortilla. 20
Cheese .31
Keilbasa .99
Total 1.50

Quail for 6
6 Quail 5.99
1 Lemon .20
1 bunch Rosemary .69
Garlic clove diced
Bunch Chinese broccoli .80
4 carrots .80
Rice for 6 .20
Total 1.41 per serving

Take the quail and marinate them in the lemon with the rosemary, salt and a little garlic for a few hours or overnight.

Sear the quail in a very hot pan or wok with a little oil remove when crisp but still pink at the bone. Toss in the vegetables and a little soy sauce if you like stir til crisp tender and serve with quail and rice.

A meal like this will not make you feel that you are on a budget.

I did okay on nutrition but way too low on calories.
1,233 calories.

Below is a recipe sent by my sister Elaine. Saurkraut in addition to being a wonderful tasty food is filled with probiotics and very healthy to eat.

Put about 4 lbs of sauerkraut (never on sale, but usually about $1.10 per pound) in a colander with and fill with cold water. Repeat after the water drains  - 2 or three times.

Fry about ½ a pound of the cheapest fattiest bacony stuff you can find in the biggest pan you have with a couple of onions. Remove bacon when it is crisp.

Squeeze water out of sauerkraut and add to the bacon fat. Stir. Repeat until all sauerkraut is added.

Add a big bottle of the cheapest vermouth you can find to the sauerkraut mixture.  And the crumbled bacon. Also add (wrapped in cheesecloth – if you don’t have cheesecloth add an ounce or two of gin, eliminate the juniper berries, and be prepared to scrounge out the bay leaves -  10-20 juniper berries, a couple of bay leaves, some thyme, and whatever else works well with pork and sauerkraut. Now add the pork you’ve purchased on the cheap.  I’ve got some chops at $1.49 per lb. (family pack on sale compared to $3.99 today), brats at $1.99 per pound, ham at $.089 per pound, and ribs at $.089 per pound.

Cook for a day or two or three. Serve with boiled potatoes and a green, green salad. Maybe some tomatoes.

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Part 2 Day 3

I had a lot going on today and I did something I typically do not do. Unconscious eating.

I had people coming in and out and had the rest of the bread with goat cheese bit by bit by bit by bit along with a black plum, and far too much tea. I had to count the bags.
Coffee with cream .34
6 cups of tea .18
Bread .44
Goat Cheese .50
Total 1.46

Then later after the last of the work men left I had some of the salami.

No proper lunch. I did not get to thinking about the gym until late in the day and I had a proper lunch at 5:00, some of the pork from Monday.
With Rice 1.24

Of course even though I had something ready to cook for dinner I was not hungry and waited until the only reasonable thing to eat was popcorn with butter.
Popcorn .11
Butter .30
Total .41

The bottom line is that my day was a nutrition and caloric disaster. However I did promise a recipe a day that fits the budget and this is one that does it. It links you to the basic congee recipe. When you have only bits and scraps in the house at the end of the month this soup will take them all. Think if like stone soup. There is almost nothing you can put in it that will ruin it. Any bit of vegetable meat or flavor just makes it better. You can use up all the bits in the refrigerator and depending on what those bits are it can be highly nutritious.

Back to mine...2,066 calories with this to show for it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp Budget Part 2 Day 2

I will add up my totals at the end of the week, since this is a short term 2nd project. I will continue to give the price per meal.

I know I am eating less than I can and am going to consciously eat more. I understand why; it is the same fear someone who is using a snap card has, the fear of running out before the end of the month. I don't want to exhaust my funds before the end of the week so I am buying and consuming consciously.

Before I made coffee I started some bread. I did a yogurt,yeast, flour and sugar starter with warm water and let it bubble while I got my breakfast.

Coffee with cream .34
A huge black plum .50
Salami (yes I made it myself and it was just dry enough to slice).30
Cheese .31
Total 1.45

I ended up making a baguette of a sort out of the starter and had about 1/3 of it (still warm) for lunch with some Goat Cheese and a fresh tomato.
Goat Cheese .25 (1 oz)
Tomato .20
Baguette .22

Dinner...Pistachio Pesto with vegetables for 4.

Before I give you this recipe please make substitutions, no basil, use parsley, no snow peas, use cabbage or broccoli. Recipes are just blueprints and I don't want you to think you can't make a substitution. It will come out great with whatever ingredient tweaking you might make.

1 cup pistachios 2.50
Thai Basil 1/2 bunch .55
Olive oil about 4 tablespoons (part of the .33 daily)

Pulse in food processor. That's it your pasta sauce is ready.

Chop 4 roma tomatoes for garnish .80
Put on water to boil and ad 8 ounces of pasta .76
Ready 4 cups of vegetables I used pea pods and shoots 1.00

Put the pesto in a warm bowl and the vegetables in the pasta water for the final minute or so to cook with the pasta. Temper the pesto with a little pasta water, drain, toss and top with chopped tomato. You have a fresh, gorgeous meal. This comes to 1.41 per serving. With all the vegetables the serving appears massive but is reasonable on the calorie scale.
II know I have the funds so I will try to eat more and see how close I can come to maxing out my nutrition tomorrow. 1,412 calories.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget Part 2 Day 1

I learned that everyone else began this yesterday and my pledge is off for one day.

I have always marched to the beat of a different drummer so today it is.

I begin the day with 4.39 and get an e mail that includes some critical comments from someone named hungry girl. I won't quote her as someone was re-blogging her notes and I can't find her blog.

However her complaints if I understand them correctly are that I ate too much fresh food during the two months I did this originally and I did not mention Smart and Final as a source for cheap food, specifically their mixed bag of apples and oranges for 5.99 at 5 lbs.

After my breakfast of
Coffee .34 (with cream cost)
Rice (leftover)
Chinese broccoli .23
2 poached eggs .20
Blueberries .99
Total 1.76

I set out for Smart and Final. IF you buy huge quantities of certain foods of uncertain provenance there are a few deals here. They advertise heavily that they take WIC and EBT (food stamp) cards and then they proceed to overcharge for many items.

Roma tomatoes at .99 per pound range from .33 to .79 at cheaper stores.

Their big flyer touts bananas at .50 per pound but around the corner they are .39.

That mixed bag of fruit the poor girl lives on was disgusting. Red Delicious (They are red) and Granny Smith apples and naval oranges. All obviously from cold storage and not fresh looking at 1.20 a pound very overpriced.

At stores right around the corner I found a lot of fresh local fruit for .99 a pound, black plums, grapes, Nectarines, white peaches, Kiwi, and Pluots.

Stupid and Overpriced, not smart and final.For poor girl's sake I hope whatever area she is living in opens up soon with a better option than this store.

I had a doctor's appointment so I had more snack than lunch. A soft pretzel I had baked yesterday with extra cayenne and onion powder and some cheese.
Pretzel (Ingredient based) .22
Cheese 1.5 ounce .46
Tea .03
Total .71

I set out to make a highly nutritious dinner for 4. This recipe is open to total interpretation. If you have soy sauce, hot pepper, and any kind of basil you can make a reasonable facsimile.

Twice cooked Sezchaun pork with vegetables

1/2 pound pork finely chopped 1.95
1/2 bunch Thai Basil .55
1 large onion .20
Ginger root sliced .22
Thai pepper .07 (3 are enough, or some cayenne if you don't have fresh hot peppers)
1 lb. Green beans cut into thirds .79
1/2lb Chinese Broccoli .40
12 small Garden Zucchini .10
Garden Swiss chard .10
1 large carrot sliced .20
Seasonings include garlic, sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce or an anchovy if you have it. 4.58 total divided by 4 is 1.14.

You can use the toughest cheapest cut of pork. I used some shoulder (Berkshire Heirloom organic, thus the 3.99 pound price). Chop the pork into small pieces or give it a quick grind in the food processor.

Put in a very hot pan to brown. When brown add in 1 cup water a sprinkle of sugar and about 1/4 cup of soy sauce. While it is simmering add in the ginger, hot peppers and chopped garlic. Let simmer til tender and filled with flavor. With a slotted spoon remove the pork leaving behind any liquid and fat.

Get a wok or a large pan sizzling hot. Toss in the onions when they just begin to soften add the rest of the vegetables, when they are hot toss in the pork mixture, mix thoroughly and taste, add more soy if needed.

Serve with rice, noodles or in lettuce cups.

With my 1.14 meal I had .10 worth of rice making my evening total 1.24. Under budget and the variety of vegetables boosted my nutrition to a decent level.

Keep in mind that you can use ANY vegetables you can get at a good price. 

Tomorrow we will use the rest of the basil.

I had 1,453 calories but did not spend every dime so I could have eaten more, however I feel quite satisfied.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Living on a Food Stamp budget with a new Agenda

Dear Readers,

Next week people are being challenged all over the country to live on 4.72 a day. This is the recently adjusted figure that the average food stamp recipient has to live on.

The two months I committed to the original food stamp project were physically and mentally exhausting. Since more than one of you has challenged me to do it again and for only one week I will take it on.

However I won't just list what I eat and nutrition content, I will daily publish a recipe that will attempt to pack as much nutrition into the dish as possible.

Again I will deduct .33 for oil and seasonings in house. This gives me 1.46 per meal. For that extra .23 I am going to look purposefully for foods that will bump up the nutrition content so that what I share can be used by any family or person struggling with balancing $$ and nutrition.

I have regained 3 of the 7 lbs I lost on the original project and I am feeling quite well. I can do this.

I give anyone and everyone permission to re-print or re-blog any recipe I come up with this week if you can share it with someone whom it might help.

For those who want to read the original journey begin at July 1.

I am also going to put a shout out to my big sister who is on a tight budget with her daughter and an excellent chef. Elaine if you have a recipe to share, send it to me and we can add it to the collection.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Dear Abby of the Food World

I am sharing this very sweet letter in it's entirety as well as the recipes and budget I came up with.

Dear Karl,

I know you are not the Dear Abby of the Food World but I am hoping you can help.

I am a student and my husband has finished school and is working now. We have no money as you can guess.

His family is Italian and his mother has welcomed us into their home many times for some amazing meals in the past year since we were married. Friends gave us the nicest plank dining table which we normally use as my desk with dining corner but in a fit of madness (I was drunk) I invited my in laws to dinner and now I have less than a week to prepare. With the whole family I am cooking for 8.

In the pantry I have ramen and some great olive oil my husband's Uncle sent over from Tuscany and I made the idiot mistake of asking my father in law what is favorite foods were and he said Veal and started naming all the veal dishes he loves.

My husband says they will be happy with spaghetti, garlic and oil and not to worry but I am worried.

We set a budget of 25.00 and how am I going to feed 8 people for 25.00 but since you are good at budgets can you help?

Who could say no to this stressed and breathless woman? Not me.

First of all, relax. If they invite you over often they probably like you and they would be happy with a bowl of pasta. Every Italian I know is happy with a pasta, but I understand you want to do more, but let's keep it simple.

Have you ever been to a hotel brunch buffet? The ads always show crab legs on ice but when you get there the first table is always bread and pastry and bagels and you can't resist. Then when you finally get your 5th plate you turn the corner and finally you spot the crab, but you are so stuffed you barely take anything.

Learn from the hotels. Fill 'em with cheap carbs and then bring out the meat.

Ask for help. Say to your Mother in law..."You always serve the nicest wine, I've no idea what to serve to you can you give me some advice?

She will offer to bring the wine, let her.

Call up the other guests when someone asks if they can bring anything ask for a dessert. People love to bring things, allow them to help.

Now let's plan a meal.

You are going to need.
Bread 1.99
Garlic 1.00
Chickpeas .99
2 lbs pasta 2.50
1 bunch swiss chard 1.99
2 lbs veal stew meat 14.00
1 large can peeled tomatoes 1.49
4 carrots .79
4 celery stalks .99
2 onion .40
Bottle cooking wine 2.00
Total 28.14 In full retail San Francisco prices. Careful shopping can probably bring this down a bit. Can you make it work?

Puree the chickpeas with a little oil and garlic, a touch of salt and some red pepper flakes and serve with thinly sliced bread. Easy.

Make two pounds of spaghetti with garlic and oil and put in the chopped swiss chard. Serve family style.

Now a Tuscan Veal Stew
2 lbs veal stew meat, cut into small cubes and dry the meat.
4 carrots
4 celery stalks
4 onions all cut into pieces.
2 garlic cloves chopped
A little fresh or dried Rosemary if you have it
1 can tomatoes chopped
Bottle of Red (two buck chuck is a fine cooking wine)
Olive oil, salt and pepper.
Warm the olive oil and brown the meat. Then toss in the garlic, onion and vegetables. Saute for a few minutes then the wine and tomatoes. Let it reduce a little. Cover the saucepan and cook very gently until the meat is tender, about two hours.

It is that simple. Your guests will be carb filled and a small portion is all they will need. You might even get the veal for less, ask your butcher.

If you can squeeze out a few more dollars add a salad.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Simplicity of Sauce

There is a discussion today on the Huffington Post that began as a criticism of 'celebrity' sauces.

Outraged people are appalled at the suggestion that they make a sauce because the readers need to know THEIR TIME IS VALUABLE and they should not be criticized for paying 8 dollars for a jar of Mario's or Rau's sauce.

Can we criticize them for being unable to think beyond the tomato?

As Julia Child once said..."If you have butter, you have a sauce." she was speaking of fish but the same can be said of pasta.

Yesterday I was back and forth in e mail with friends who live in Italy asking for recipes, suggestions for a pizza oven and sharing memories.

For dinner I felt like having a pasta. I had a little bit of a lot of things and made the most wonderful sauce. I will share the recipe, but I would encourage you to do the same, make your own when you have a little bit of a lot of things. I foraged in the garden, the cupboards and the refrigerator and the resulting pesto was so delicious I would make it again on purpose.

1/2 cup fresh peas
A few mint leaves
A handful of basil
A few sage leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup smoked almonds
3 garlic cloves
1 tomato chopped
A handful of swiss chard

All the ingredients were put in the food processor and made into a pasta and then into a bowl. I cooked the pasta (penne) and tossed it with the chard (uncooked but the hot pasta wilted it) and garnished with the chopped fresh tomato.

Both of us were much happier with this dish than we would have been at a BBQ eating a bad hot dog.

Think beyond the tomato and see what you can create.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mushroom Carbonara

After a few days of eating the simplest, easiest foods I realized that I was really not eating enough. While broccoli, nectarines, tomatoes and cucumbers were good for me.

How do I put this gently. I have reached an age where one has to choose between the face and the waist. While doing my ear hair check (yes men do this, some of us obsessively) I realized that I was looking a little haggard. Time for a pasta.

I didn't want bacon, so I created a vegetarian version of this classic.

This recipe is for one or eight servings. Just add more of each ingredient per serving.

1 cup mushrooms
1/4 sliced onion
1 egg
1 ounces grated Parmesan
Black pepper
A little salt
Pasta water
Olive Oil
2 oz pasta (Fettuccine is nice but any pasta you have will work)

Beat your egg and cheese in a small bowl. Grate some black pepper and add a little salt into the mix. Put your water on to boil and saute your mushrooms in olive oil. I like the mushrooms to cook way down and get a little brown on them, when they reach that point I add the onion and saute until soft.

Before draining your pasta reserve some of the water, it may be needed as part of your sauce.

Pour the drained pasta into the mushroom/onion mix and toss over heat until well blended. TURN HEAT OFF. If you leave it on you may scramble your eggs.

Take a few tablespoons of the pasta water and beat it into your egg mix. Gently begin to slowly pour the egg over the pasta and mushrooms and toss. Add more water if needed.

When pasta is fully coated, serve. More cheese can be added. A little parsley from the garden is also a nice touch.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Somtimes a tomato need be nothing more than a tomato

If you search the archives you will find a plethora of recipes from over the years. Those of you who came here to read about he Food Stamp Budget you can begin on July 1 and read as much as you like.

I have gotten many of your e-mail encouraging me to get back to recipe creation and posting and I will, but I am finding that this week my tastes are very simple.

I have found myself eating rather an enormous amount of fruits and vegetables, not with pasta, in a soup or with rice.

Yesterday breakfast I dined on a nectarine and toast, lunch was at a Chinese restaurant and a huge plate of vegetables, no rice.

Dinner was a 22 oz. tomato. I sliced it and it filled a large dinner plate. I scattered a few capers and some sliced olives on it, gave it a light sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of oil and dined.

There is no dish I could have created that would have improved in any way upon that incredible tomato.