Frugal cooking: When it doesn’t work out

I’d mentioned that a friend gave me a huge bowl of veggies for Christmas/Birthday. Mostly they were root vegetables, which keep. I’ve used all of it except for two turnips. I’ll make something out of them tomorrow.

I used the acorn squash last weekend. I’d looked up a recipe to use it in a different way than the usual ‘cut in half-scoop out seeds, roast’ kind of cooking.

So I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and then sliced it into crescents. THEN I roasted! LOL, kind of the same but different. I thought the slices would make a nice side dish of portions that would be easy to drop in my lunch bag each day.

I followed the recipe, but maybe I sliced the cuttings too thinly, because they came out sort of dry. Hmmm. What to do.

The other day when I was home on a snow day, I peeled the skin edges off and I was left with a mound of dry-ish squash slices. I decided to make a soup. I had some good chicken broth left so I put a sliced onion into the pot and cooked until it was translucent, added an already baked potato, cut up into cubes, and the squash. I simmered that at very low temp with some spices. I put half of it into the blender when it cooled, and left the other half to make a texture of smooth chunks. It was very good! Saved the squash, I’m brilliant!

I then promptly ruined it by adding some milk (as the recipe suggested). It just tasted funny to me, squash and milk. It wasn’t good like a bisque or a chowder. It was just funny. So I saved my squash only to ruin it again. I’m an idiot! I should know when to quit while I’m ahead! LOL.

What will I do now that it didn’t work out, twice? Why, eat it of course. No waste. I’ll live, it only tastes a little bit funny. Maybe I’ll add a melted bouillon cube broth to it to think the milkiness of it. Anyway, tomorrow I’m making lentil soup. Back to familiar ground.

I’d bought some tilapia and I baked it a few days ago. I had one slice left yesterday. Without being able to eat bread, I couldn’t make a sandwich out of it like I enjoy doing, with cheese and a tomato. (mmm). Just a slab of fish meat doesn’t really appeal to me all that much. I decided to use my last two mushrooms and the rest of a tomato and make a little salad with the fish, cut up. I added Italian dressing to it and a bit of salt, and voila, a chilled salad that was easy to prepare, tasty and healthy. I enjoyed it. I’ll do that some more. Tilapia is usually low-cost and available at the grocery store.

I still love a fish sandwich though, one of my favorite lunches.

I’ll make the lentil soup tomorrow, and I have some green beans and tofu that I’ll make into a stir fry with rice noodles. I also have a good bit of fruit which includes fresh pineapple, and with the ripening bananas I’ll make two-ingredient banana-oatmeal cookies.

After an unusually frigid period of temps in the low teens and wind chills in the single digits, we have a reprieve of temps in the 60s. It is going to be a nice day. I went outside at sunrise and took a few photos of my yard.

This is my favorite view. I LOVE this birdhouse.

 

yard 1

 

yard7

 

yard 6

 

yard 5a

 

yard 3

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The Classics Club: The Spin List, and other Saturday activities

I like reading. I don’t often read as much as I would like because…I don’t know. I guess the days just get away from me after I’ve worked, studied, written a blog essay, prepared dinner, done chores, engaged in real life ministry…and if after all that when I sit down to read usually either my eyes are too weak or my body and brain is too tired.

I have to remedy this.

Reading is WHO I AM. It sustained me through a difficult childhood, carried me through a painful divorce, consoled me on lonely post-divorce evenings, provided inexpensive entertainment and travel as a rejuvenated carefree adult, allowed for mind expansion (Read Flatland, just read it!) as a new Christian, and generally offered lots of fun hunting up the next book. There’s always books.

I found this blog called The Classics Club. The About page for this blog states its purpose:

The Classics Club was started on March 7, 2012 by a blogger who wanted to see more people posting about classics literature in the blogosphere. Her goal was to, “unite those of us who like to blog about classic literature, as well as to inspire people to make the classics an integral part of life.” She thought about several ideas but finally settled on inviting people to make out a list of (at least 50) classic titles they intend to read and blog about within the next five years.

I’ve often wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a challenge where a person is challenged to attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. Just write! But I’ve written close to 4000 essays almost every day for the last 9 years, issuing millions of words, so I think I’ve got the writing habit well cemented in me.

So, on to reading.

The Classics Spin Reading Challenge is

Come up with a list of 20 classics still on your to-be-read list and post these books on your blog before Nov. 17. This is your “spin” list! You can choose any books that you actually already have or books you’ve been waiting too long to read or books you really want to get through before the new year. Then, on Friday, Nov. 17, the Classics Club will randomly select a number from 1 through 20 and post it on their blog. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by Dec. 31, 2017. It’s all for fun so no pressure to participate but thought it would give me a boost to get reading done with others.

Specifically, here is how to participate:

Go to your blog.
Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
Try to challenge yourself: list five you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, re-reads, ancients — whatever you choose.)
Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Friday, November 17th.
That morning (11/17), we’ll announce a number from 1-20. Go to the list of twenty books you posted, and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
The challenge is to read that book by December 31, even if it’s an icky one you dread reading! (No fair not listing any scary ones!)

My list of 20 classics I’d like to read are as follows. Some I own already, some I bought for free on Kindle today, and some I’ll wait to buy or borrow until it is by chance announced. Sometimes I wonder, wouldn’t it be nice just to go to my Amazon WishList and just buy everything on it all at once? Sigh. But poverty avails.

  1. Austen, Jane: Northanger Abbey
  2. Baldwin, James: Go Tell it on the Mountain
  3. Bengtsson: The Long Ships
  4. Braddon, Mary Elizabeth: Lady Audley’s Secret
  5. Buchan, John: The Thirty-Nine Steps
  6. Burnett, Frances Hodgson: The Making of a Marchioness
  7. Equiano, Olaudah: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
  8. Faulkner, William: As I Lay Dying
  9. Jewett, Sarah Orne: The Country of the Pointed Firs
  10. Jerome, Jerome K: Three Men in a Boat
  11. Kipling, Rudyard: The Man Who Would Be King
  12. le Carre, John: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  13. Melville, Herman, Redburn
  14. Milton, John, Paradise Lost
  15. Mitchell, David: Cloud Atlas
  16. Muir, John: Nature Writings
  17. Pound, Ezra: Personae: The Shorter Poems
  18. Proust, Marcel, Within a Budding Grove
  19. Wharton, Edith, The Decoration of Houses
  20. Wright, Richard: Native Son

We’ll see how it goes.

Meanwhile I have frittered away my day. On the good side, I listened to two Sinclair Ferguson sermons. He is a man whose knowledge of the Bible is solid and his pulpit demeanor is calm and assured and comforting, even when he speaks of convicting things, as he did in the first sermon I listened to: The Priority of Worship. The second was Christ’s Message to the Church, from Revelation 2.

I made split pea soup with carrots and peppers, field pea hummus, eggplant and peppers in tomato sauce, gluten free strawberry cobbler, and 2-ingredient oatmeal banana cookies. The cobbler rocks. I will get more of Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour!

I’m still in my jammies and probably will head back to bed for a short nap. When I get up I’ll take a shower and then read for the evening. I’d like to finish Moby-Dick since I put another Melville on my list, one that RC Sproul had recommended, called Redburn.

I hope there is a nice mix on my Reading Challenge list. I have a few about the Black experience, some poetry, female literature, an adventure or two. I do like an adventure story. Farley Mowat, Jack London, Jon Krakauer… Into Thin Air and Grey Seas Under are two great adventure stories that come immediately to mind. Also London’s To Build a Fire. I also like a good marine tale but I didn’t see any on the list, though admittedly I’m not familiar with every single title.

Television and movies have increasingly been disappointing. I hope this is an indication of increased sanctification and not simply a lull in tv programming that entices my fleshly desires, only to be re-ignited if some other program comes on.

I didn’t watch Project Runway this week, even though it is part 1 of the finale. I also stopped listening to Tom & Lorenzo post-mortem on PR, since they take the Lord’s name in vain too much. I’ve started and stopped watching several movies for similar reasons. So books it is. That’s a good thing! I’ve noticed I’m calmer when I don’t consume too much media.

I have 5 more days of school then we are out for the week of Thanksgiving! I can’t wait! Here is Principal Gerry Brooks on the long month of November. It is long. Really long.

Enjoy, and till next time, ponder this:

It’s the week before Thanksgiving. Why did the turkey cross the road?
To prove he was a chicken!

books 2a

Frugal Cooking: Inexpensive proteins

If you’re like me, you struggle to stay within budget and maintain healthy fridge levels of fresh veggies, fruit, and proteins. Proteins especially are just so expensive. I’m talking about pork, steak, chicken, etc. We need a certain amount of protein each day in order to fuel our bodies appropriately, but buying enough to stay within financial limits is increasingly difficult as prices rise.

I live alone and this essay is aimed mostly at those who live alone or perhaps in a pair. I shop at Kroger. At Kroger, in almost every section, they have a small set-aside part where they put the marked down items. This is true for produce, cheese/cold deli, bakery, hot deli, flowers, gourmet/organic, and fish. One clerk told me that buyers like the marked down items and Kroger likes them because they hardly ever have to throw anything away. If you shop at a different store, I’d encourage you to search out if they also have a marked down/nearly expired section. If they don’t, you could always ask them to start.

A while ago I discovered the fish section’s marked down area. I do not eat meat, but I do enjoy fish. If anything, fish is even more expensive than meat! In the regular section of the fish cooler, Kroger has a pre-made ready for the grill skewer of medium to large shrimp. Five shrimp for $1. Five medium to large shrimp is a portion. I learned years ago that one protein portion should be about the size of your palm. Even more enjoyable, they are already de-veined. Ick, I hate deveining shrimp.

Here are my dinner proteins for the week:

The above represents 6 dinners this week with a fresh protein, for $5.50 total. Not bad, eh?! I try to stay under $40 for the week, and aim for $35, so $5.50 represents a good balance of the total budget.

Any time you can get a protein serving for a dollar or less it’s frugal.

I’ll likely cut the plain tilapia into nuggets and lightly fry them, the other half I’ll cook as a filet and serve with a salad. The seasoned tilapia will halved and sauted. Inside the brown paper package are the two skewers of shrimp. I ate one last night in Pad Thai, which consists of rice noodles, pea pods, tofu, lemon juice and shrimp covered in a Pad Thai tamarind sauce. The other skewer I’ll saute and serve with rice and veggies.

For the protein during the rest of my day, I’ll have quinoa-oatmeal in the morning, and there’s tofu, eggs, chia seeds, peanut butter, nuts, and other kinds of proteins I can combine, like beans and rice, cottage cheese with fruit, etc.

You might wonder how I’ll keep the fish fresh for 6 days when the common advice is to use it up within three. Well, the first 3 days I’ll cook it as the evening comes. On day 3 I’ll cook the rest and then eat the cooked versions as the other 3 days go by.

Now you know why this works for a single person. You can’t do the same frugal shopping with a family, buying one filet at a time! When shopping for a family there are different skills and tricks to employ so as to stay within budget.

Now, I can’t be this lucky every week. Sometimes the sale sections are picked over by the time I get there. Other times, things are on sale that are still too expensive for me, like lobster. Sometimes there are good reductions in price on items I just don’t like to eat. Frugality can be tiring because it demands a constant vigilance and planning ahead. But the results are worth it.

Bon appetit!

Frugal cooking: Making crispy eggplant and roasting peppers; also, fish

Even though it’s hot, I cooked today, meaning: baked.

You gotta do what you have to do.

It had been a while, making do on the stove, eating cereal, sandwiches, cold salads. It’s summer.

But at some point you do have to bite the bullet and turn on the oven and this morning was that time.

It all starts at Kroger. If you hit the reduced produce section at the right time, i.e. just as they stock it, it looks like this:

The cart is not my cart. It’s part of the reduced section, an overflow that would not fit on the regular shelves.

Anything in a red net bag is 99 cents. I bought a bag of red peppers and a bag of orange peppers. I got a bag of lemons, a bag of two eggplants, two trays of cherry tomatoes- one red and one orange- and regular tomatoes.

See? They look perfectly fine. Usually red peppers are $1 each or even more. In the bag they are 33 cents. I saved $12 on produce with what I got.

Anyway, if I buy the reduced produce I am essentially making a commitment to it, both as a promise not to waste food, not to deny someone else the opportunity to buy fresh produce for a good price, and also to financially shepherd my resources well. So that means use it/cook it/eat it in some way.

The produce is the first stop. Depending on what I can get, I make my menu from there. Sometimes soon I’ll get a shallow dish frozen pie crust and make a red pepper tartlet. For now, I roasted the peppers and I’ll use them in antipasto and in scrambled eggs.

I cut them up into strips, toss them with oil, salt, and pepper, and roast till soft and the edges are brown.

Since I got tomatoes and eggplants, I’d decided to bake the eggplants and use the crisp rounds in sandwiches. I’ll need cheese. I headed over to the reduced cheese section

Mozzarella and provolone are both great with eggplant. I went to the reduced cheese section and what did I find? Mozzarella and provolone. 50% off, down from $4 to $1.99. There’s enough to even make a casserole later if I want. Since I already cooked the eggplants, making a casserole would not take long, essentially I just need to heat it through and melt the cheese. I bought a tiny can of tomato sauce just in case I want to do that later in the week.

Here is how I bake eggplant. Cut into rounds. You can peel or not peel. I peel. Sometimes I peel each round after I slice them or sometimes I peel the whole eggplant first.

Dip rounds in egg scrambled with milk, and then bread crumbs. 2 eggs were enough with the two eggplants. Do not use a fork. Once you pierce the eggplant, whether frying or baking, it makes the eggplant round soggy as the oil or the egg-milk mixture seeps into the flesh. Use tongs or your fingers to dredge and turn over the rounds. You can add spices like oregano or salt-pepper to the bread crumb mixture, also Parmesan cheese too. Or you can sprinkle your preferred seasoning over the cookie sheet rounds.

I try to maximize space by filling the cookie sheet but also try to have the rounds not touch each other or overlap. It causes uneven cooking. As the baking process progresses, the eggplants shrink since the heat evaporates the water int he flesh. So if they are touching a little bit, that’s OK. They’ll each be an island unto themselves soon enough, lol.

Two smallish eggplants filled three cookie sheets (of varying size). Bake until crisp on one side then flip. Depending on your oven and the temperature you bake them at (I go 375) it might take 7-10 min on one side then 5-7 on the other.

Yum! Crispy eggplant! I pop two or three of these onto some crispy bread, a couple slices of tomato, and cheese and make a panini on the griddle. You can also use tomato sauce and make a sub sandwich. Or just eat them on the side as a vegetable. You can re-crisp them in the toaster oven, on a griddle, or bake or roast for a few minutes.

I drifted over to the fish section and got a stuffed crab for $1, a salmon filet for $2 (2 meals), and a tilapia filet for $1.35 (fish chowder, 3 meals). 3 proteins for $4.35 and will last for 6 meals.

Tomorrow I’ll reveal a cute, perfect, zen cabin in a bamboo garden I plan to vacation in next spring!