Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Date with Soup

This soup has all the features I'm looking for in a meal: fast, full of veggie goodness, thrifty ingredients, filling. In short, my perfect lunch date.

** This photo looks like yellow mush. It's really more like orange mush. I tried.

Carrot Soup
Serves 1 nicely

1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 c. baby carrots, sliced
1 c. chicken stock
1/2 pink grapefruit, membrane removed
Salt and pepper

In a saucepan, cook onion and ginger in olive oil over medium heat. When they start to smell great and look a little cooked, add carrots (I used baby carrots because that's what I usually buy for $1) followed by chicken stock.

A note: I make my own chicken stock not to be fancy pants about it, but as part of my no ingredient left behind program. That chicken I was picking apart last week? Its last bits and bones went into the stock, which I'll post about later. I like to freeze the stock in ice cube trays or in one cup measurements, since I rarely use one whole pot but rather throw it into multiple dishes.

Let the carrots simmer and when they are almost fully tender add the grapefruit. This is a subtle flavor, so you could try adding more, but I don't like overwhelming the carrots and ginger. Or skip the grapefruit altogether.

When the carrots are fully tender, turn off the stove and let the soup cool a little. Then transfer to a blender and puree or liquify. Me? I puree since I'm ok with a little more texture.

Return the mixture to the pan and simmer, adding salt and pepper to taste. I walked away and it thickened more than I wanted. Solution? I added about 1/4 c. water to the blender, ran it to gather up some of the soup that was left behind and added it to the saucepan. Bonus: the blender was that much easier to clean!

And then I got fancy...
I thought about veggie soups I'd had at restaurants and how they get dressed up. The answer:
Chive Oil

8 chives
1 1/2 Tablespoons walnut oil
Salt and pepper

I had never made chive oil and I couldn't believe how simple this was going to be. A little internet searching turned up a recipe on the Oprah site (not where I usually go for recipes, but it had the easiest instructions). The recipe from a book called The Conscious Cook is here. Did I follow all the steps? Of course not. Too many dirty dishes for my laziness.

Here's what I did instead: I didn't blanch the chives, I put them in a strainer, balanced it on top of the already steaming soup mixture and covered the strainer with tin foil. I let it sit there for about 1 minute and then removed the strainer from the heat and ran it under cool water from the tap.

Cut up the steamed chives and put in a mortar. Add the walnut oil and salt and pepper and then grind away. I was surprised at how quickly the oil turns a pretty green shade. Strain and drizzle on top of carrot soup.

The chive oil added a nice contrast to the spiciness of the carrot soup, looked pretty and made this an omega-3 rich dish.

Veggie-tastic lunch
Bunny food that's spicy and filling
Pretty way to use up carrots and other leftover ingredients

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fork, Knife, Spoon, Salad

In trying to keep us on The Fat Resistance Diet and its impressive number of fruit and vegetable servings, I've come up with one easy out: salad as place setting.

What I mean by this is I consider a salad a requirement for eating all the other food on the table. I (generally) wouldn't eat without utensils, and we usually don't dine without a salad.

I find this fitting because I had two very loosely-enforced responsibilities in my house growing up: set the dinner table and make the salad. A lazy cook from way back, I'd cheat and make the salad as quickly as possible, lobbying for iceberg not because I preferred the taste, but because it was faster. But no more.

Now, my salads have standards: variety, flavors that complement the main dish, multiple textures and--if I have it--a salty topping (think capers, olives, nuts). Here's a Latin-ish salad we ate alongside a chicken and black bean chili for lunch the other day:

lettuce, green cabbage, oranges, cilantro, onion, celery, Spanish olives + lime-cumin vinaigrette

3 veggie servings down, 5 to go!
$10 to fill the veggie drawer = a week of no excuses
Making up for the recent dietary indiscretions=worth the chopping.
So fast and easy, you can make it while the main dish stews

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fish Tail(ends) at Twilight

I feel sorry for leftovers. They get such a bad name.

I prefer to view them as a reason to party. What better way to use smidgens of ingredients than to turn them into nibbles for cocktails? In fact, maybe they should be called invite-overs, because that's exactly what we did last night when a dear friend came over to celebrate the beginning of a new week and watch the sunset from our terrace.

We still had 3-4 small pieces of the poached salt cod from our Baked Cod Cakes. Just enough to turn out some Brandade, a French cod-potato spread:
No, these aren't blue--that's the lovely outdoor light at 7pm last night. I love that it is still light out so late in the evening! Summer is so close I can taste it.

Brandade Toasts

1 cup poached salt cod
1 medium potato
4-5 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
Ground black pepper
1 baguette

Shred salt cod into small pieces and set aside.

Meanwhile, boil potato until very well done. While the potato is cooking, place 4 cloves of the garlic and olive oil in a heavy saucepan and over low heat cook until the garlic cloves soften (but are not brown.)

Peel the potato and while still warm mash it together with the garlic. Add 2 1/2 Tablespoons warm olive oil a tablespoon at a time.

Add the cod and combine well. If not garlicky enough, grate in half a clove of garlic raw. I did this because I love garlic. Keeps the vampires away. Refrigerate if using later (can be made ahead.)

Cut a baguette into thin slices. Spread brandade on each slice to cover fully. Sprinkle with remaining olive oil and broil on low for 3 -4 minutes. (These burn easily, so you'll want to watch them.) They will be golden on top. Serve warm.

We also enjoyed crudite with Herb Yogurt Cheese Dip (so easy!!) and some very fruitful Pear White Sangria. I'll put those recipes up soon.

Not totally FRD-friendly nibbles (white bread, potato): Bad.
Omega-3 rich fish and olive oil provide healthy fats: Good!
Leftovers find their purpose and only one $2 purchase
Great excuse to invite a friend over

One Fish, Two Fish, Pink Fish, New Fish

More fish? More fish!

Recently I've been on the hunt for ways to get more omega-3-rich fish into our daily meals and I had to come back to my old favorite: salmon. Salmon's not the most thriftastic fish around, but it sure is delicious.

I had been dreaming of salmon ever since we enjoyed the most delicious Japanese salmon dish at our friends' house the other week. The salmon had been marinated overnight in another old favorite: miso.
I'm not so patient, so here's my quicky-version of Miso Glazed Salmon.

Miso Glazed Salmon

1/2 lb. filet of salmon
1 Tablespoon white miso paste
2 Tablespoons mirin
1 Tablespoon water to thin glaze

Mix the miso paste and mirin in a bowl. Add water slowly to slightly thin the glaze. Spread on salmon filet and let sit for 10 minutes. Place on baking sheet and place under a broiler about 10-12 minutes (this could be shorter depending on the heat of your oven--as you can see, my oven was a little too hot! I'm still learning how to use the broiler in this kitchen.)

Ginger Honey Carrots

2 cups baby carrots
4 thin slices fresh ginger
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon honey
salt to taste

Place carrots and thin slices of ginger in a saute pan and add water to pan (not so much that the carrots are submerged). Cook over medium-high heat until carrots are tender. If there's a lot of water left, drain it off. Add soy sauce and honey and stir. Turn heat down to low and cook until carrots begin look lightly glazed, about 5 minutes.

Green Bean Bundles

Green beans
Fresh chives

Run knife or finger along chives to flatten and make the chives more flexible. Tie 3-4 trimmed green bean together with a chive (I wrapped the chive around and then made a little knot.) Place in a steaming basket over simmering water with some peeled garlic until beans are bright green and tender.

A rich dish that's both healthy and satisfying
A slight splurge, but still less than going out
Easy fish fast

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fishing for Recipes

At the crossroads of thrifty and lazy, I often find myself trying to find a recipe that will work with what I already have in my (healthy) larder. What usually happens is a sort of food mash-up, if you will, as I compare a few recipes based on ingredients and then take away the instructions I need to make it happen.

So when I was a bit wistful for a long ago Caribbean sailing trip and wanted to eat something healthy and high in omega-3's, the answer was Baked Salt Cod Cakes.

Epicurious turned up Portuguese Style Salt-Cod Fritters and a little Googling led me to Baked Codfish Cakes. The former provided instruction on poaching the cod in milk and the latter provided a baking temp and time, and the much-needed baking powder-to-potato proportion. Then I added in some of my own ingredients to invoke the salty treats we'd had in the British Virgin Islands. Yum.

Makes 12 small cakes

10-12 inch filet of salt cod, rinsed and soaked for 2 days
1-2 cups milk
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
1 bay leaf
2 medium-sized potatoes
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion minced
1 sweet red pepper (small) minced finely, or 1/4 of a regular red pepper, minced
3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
3 sprigs thyme, leave pulled off
2 sprigs parsley, chopped
ground black pepper

This recipe starts 2 days ahead of time, but is well worth it. Rinse and submerge salt cod filet in in water and refrigerate for 2 days. Change the water 2-3 times. Rinse the cod before cooking.

Place the cod, bay leaf and garlic in a saucepan and cover with milk. Add water until the cod is covered. Bring to a boil, turn back to simmer for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, boil the potatoes until very well done. After the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and mash in a large bowl.

Remove the cod and once it is cool pull away any remaining skin. Flake the cod (a nice way to check for bones, for us neurotic cooks!) and add to the potatoes. Add 4 teaspoons of the milk-water cooking liquid and the olive oil. The mixture should start to stick together.

Add in remaining ingredients. Form into cakes and place on a greased (olive oil), foil-covered baking sheet. (Parchment paper would be better and might not require the olive oil.) Bake in 375F oven for 15 minutes. Turn over and bake 8-15 minutes more. **My baking sheet is thick, so a thinner sheet may cook the cakes faster.

In terms of health, the potatoes aren't great, but in this amount they aren't a huge carb intake either. Plus, baking the cakes offers the crispiness of cod fritters without the fat. I made these small so we felt like we were eating more and the smaller cakes would also be great for entertaining. Larger cakes might need some more "glue" in the form of more oil or an egg. I'll have to try that next time. This recipe was meant to have leftovers, but of course we ate them all.

I served the cakes with some roasted broccoli to make the meal healthier and a little rum cocktail to complete the Caribbean escapism. The cocktail was another mash-up, landing somewhere between a Painkiller (the drink we had at every port of the BVI) and a banana daiquiri. I had coconut milk to use up from a previous recipe, so this wasn't exactly healthy. In fact, you could call this the Diet-killer: 2 ounces coconut rum/rum + 1 banana + juice of 2 oranges + 2 Tablespoons lime juice + 1/2 can coconut milk + 2 cups ice. Blend it. Drink responsibly.

Omega-3's from an inexpensive pantry item
Fried fun without the fat
Fruity cocktail on the terrace -- worth every fattening sip

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Hello, my name is Lady Lemon and I am a vegetable shopaholic.

I was just minding my own business (honest!), running out for some more yogurt, when I was blindsided by vegetable deals. So last night, the fridge overstuffed with green perishables, turned into a veggie night.

I'm a big meat eater, so veggies usually can't compete.What I like about the occasional veggie night is that I find I pay more attention to making our green friends more interesting. So here's the menu from last night:

Citrus-Celery Salad: grapefruit and orange sections + 1/2 small onion + celery hearts/leaves + olive oil + ground pepper + 1 teaspoon mustard + 1 T. rice wine vinegar (champagne vinegar would be great, too.) Refreshing and tangy. Tarragon or thyme would be a nice addition.

French (Bean) Fries: slim French green beans + salt & pepper + 1 T. olive oil + 1 T. water; 400F for 12 minutes on a foil-lined baking sheet; they will wrinkle and get brown and go slightly nutty.

Stuffed Mushrooms
I always look for good stuffed mushroom recipes, and they seem to inevitably include a lot of ingredients that I don't have. That's how this recipe came about because I prefer to stick with what's on hand. If you have red pepper, breadcrumbs, other herbs, cheese, etc -- all would be good to add.

Makes 10-12 mushrooms

1 package white mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 T. olive oil
1/2 rib celery heart, finely chopped
1 T. parsley, chopped
3 stems thyme
1 T. flour
1/4 c. whole milk
Salt & Pepper

Wipe mushrooms and stems with a damp towel. Remove stems and mince (as small as you can cut them!). Reserve caps.

Heat olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat and add chopped mushroom stems. Add garlic and celery and cook until vegetables soften and begin to look translucent. Add parsley and thyme and cook for a minute or two more.

Sprinkle mixture with flour and let cook 1 minute. The flour will start to absorb some of the moisture from the vegetables.

Pour in milk while stirring mixture. Add the milk a little at a time so it can be absorbed. The flour and milk combine to bind the mixture together. You will not have a white sauce -- just a sticky veggie mixture which is what you want to hold together in the mushroom.

Stuff the mushrooms with the mixture and place on a foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet for 20 minutes in a 375F oven.

The mushrooms will still be juicy and the stuffing is garlicky. If you want something less messy, add breadcrumbs.

Once again, my photography doesn't do the colors of this justice, so you'll have to take my word that this is a bright pretty plateful of green goodness.

Satisfying meal that's low in fat
Lots of variety with mostly on-hand ingredients
More veggies than I can count

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Shiny Happy Food

"Put down the phone." We are tired, home later than expected and wondering what's for dinner. Mr. Lemon is ready to order in.

And some delivery guy has kindly pushed a bunch of suggestions under our apartment door. Thanks, delivery guy! Way to help us stay focused on healthy eating.

My favorite take-out menus feature pictures of the food, which are invariably kind of shiny. Now that I'm photographing what I cook with somewhat shiny results, I totally relate to the photos and love them a little bit more. Maybe there's a career move here. See below:

But I don't love blowing money on take-out. Not anymore. And there's no telling how much fat and salt we're getting with each slug of noodles or General Tso's. So we'll be doing Fake Out, not Take-Out.

Sweet & Sour Chicken Stir Fry
Serves 4 or 2 very-hungry people

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 c. baby carrots or 1-2 regular carrots peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/3 c. water
1 c. shredded cooked chicken (Sunday's roast chicken, take 3: the dark meat)**
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tablespoons Grapefruit Ginger Preserves (leftovers...) or sweet marmalade + 1 T. honey
1 c. brown rice

Get the brown rice into the microwave. I just follow the instructions on the box and it comes out ok. It's not sticky or as tasty, but it's fiber-licious. And it's done in about 30 minutes, right in time for your stir fry.

In a large saute pan over high heat, heat oil, grated ginger and garlic. While that's getting soft and making the kitchen smell good, slice onions and celery and add to pan. Toss in the baby carrots. (My street fruit vendor has these for $1 and honestly I use carrots more when they are already peeled and so cute.)

Toss the mixture around and let it cook for a couple minutes. Then add water to keep the veggies from drying out as they continue to cook. Cook until veggies are tender--about 8 minutes. The water should evaporate. If there's a little extra it will combine into the sauce.

Add in the chicken, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and preserves. I had some more of my Grapefruit-Ginger Preserve left over from the weekend, so I threw that into the mix.

Allow mixture to cook for several minutes, turning back the heat. Serve hot over brown rice.

**You can use more meat -- didn't mean to look chintzy. While dark meat is nutritious, it also has more fat, so I split the difference. 2-3 cups of white meat would be perfect and healthy, too.

Healthy cheap Chinese food. Shiny happy husband.
Reusing my standard veggie supply for new flavors
Fiber-licious whole grains covered in tasty sauce
Leftover chicken, leftover preserves, more room in the fridge

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We Have Met the Enemy...

..and it is my baking.

Flour, butter, sugar, eggs -- please meet some of my very good friends. In thrifting mode, baking's a great way to make something that's tasty and satisfying, and it can even be a sophisticated departure from the hum drum of home-made. (Don't get me wrong: Home-made is great, until you crave a little going out grub...I have a solution for that dilemma, now.)

So when I started cutting back on food bills, my baking got the best of me. And now that I'm cutting back on the calories, baking's taken a back seat in my kitchen and only comes out to play when we have friends visiting.

Which is how this divine jam cake materialized. The last piece is pictured above, but this bit of yumminess was made for our Sunday dinner with a friend. And best of all, this cake came together using one of my favorite thrifty tactics: find recipes that use as many of the ingredients you already have on hand.

So, I had the makings for a cake (the aforementioned baking buddies butter-flour-sugar-eggs) and found a really straightforward Yellow Cake from the good folks at I baked the cake in one 9-inch pan, for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe calls for. Then split it in half to create two layers. I didn't have cake flour and it worked fine with regular.
But I needed something to put between its buttery and pretty moist layers. That's where the Grapefruit-Ginger Preserves came in. I made the preserves to compliment a pan of Rosemary Cornbread that I brought to a picnic on Saturday. I preserved (ha!) about half the batch and its sweet, slightly spicy flavor soaked into the yellow cake beautifully once I spread it between the cake's layers and on top. The preserves were inspired by...yes, ingredients I had on hand, which over the weekend were a ton of grapefruit that we'd ignored all week. After locating the recipe at a site called and purchasing a little ginger, I had everything I needed for this gooey goodness.
Sweet Ending...
With all that sweetness, I needed to add some creaminess. Cream? Yeah, that's good. 1 pint whipped cream + 2 T. granulated sugar. Whip it. Dump white cloud of goodness on top of cake. Cream was the sole ingredient I had to purchase.

Delicious mix of sweet, crumbly, creamy.
Under $3 of purchased ingredients.
Sweet ending to a lovely evening. Sweet start as leftovers on the two mornings thereafter.
Nutrition: 0.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cheap and Cheerful

It's raining hard here today. Time to brighten this gray day up with some:

Yellow Pepper Curry Soup

There's no photo because my food photography skills are slim and certainly not good enough to capture the bright yellow color of this soup. So you'll just have to trust me -- it's pretty!

Serves 2 for smaller bowls, 1 for a large bowl
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1-1 1/2 cups roasted yellow peppers (1 large pepper)
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/3 c. 1 % milk (or what have you)
Salt and pepper to taste

Roasted Peppers: Now, this normally wouldn't be a budget-friendly ingredient. *However* Mr. Lemon and I happened upon a lovely feature of the gourmet grocery blocks from our house: the bargain produce bin. It is hit or miss, but this means we sometimes find veggie gold -- in this case about 12 yellow and red peppers in mid-March for $1.50. Some need a little love and trimming, which Mr. Lemon reminds me of often as I have sympathy for the discarded produce and tend to be too gentle. Poor abandoned peppers!

When we made this haul I roasted in bulk (400F for 30-40 minutes, or until the skin blackens; steam skins off by placing peppers in a paper bag or make a pouch with parchment paper; peel away skin when cool.) Since we had such a large bounty, I pureed the roast peppers and froze them in 1 cup portions for later use. Especially with the bargain bagged produce, because it is sometimes a bit, ahem, mature, it's good to use it quickly or process it in a way that it can be frozen.

1. Assemble the soup: In a saucepan over medium heat, saute the onion, celery and ginger in olive oil until the vegetables become translucent. It will start to smell very good!

2. Add the peppers! Today I dropped the frozen pepper puree right in the pot and let the stove do all the work, but I could easily have defrosted in the microwave. I'm a lazy chef, what can I say? If the peppers are in pieces and freshly roasted, just give them a quick chop and add them to the veggie mixture.

3. Blender time: Once the peppers are either fully melted or have sauteed with the other vegetables for about 3 minutes, take the mixture off the stove and transfer to a blender to puree. Today, since I used pureed pepper, I skipped this step and had some nice, slightly chunky soup. But if you like smooth, thick soups, the blender is the way to go. Personally, I like having something to chew on in my soups.

4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, add the curry powder, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add milk and bring back up to simmer.

I add a dollop of plain yogurt in the center when I plate this and then swirl it into the soup. Usually I have Greek yogurt (my favorite!), but we recently have been leaning toward a less expensive brand. A little chopped cilantro also looks nice against the bright yellow of the soup.

Today I had just a tiny bit of a yogurt cheese dip I'd made for a dinner party on Sunday (a super easy recipe I'll post at some point!) I literally saved 1 Tablespoon of dip...saving even a little bit can go a long way in adding flavor and cutting down on waste. I once wondered that my beloved Grammy, who had lived through the Depression I, saved one single lima bean. Now I think of her when I put away even small servings of food and ingredients.

Curry's spiciness plays nicely off the sweetness of the peppers
2-3 servings of vegetables, most of which I usually have on hand
Creaminess, but low in fat and very filling

Healthy Is As Healthy Does

Many years ago, in an economy far far away, I worked on marketing over a dozen diet, nutrition and fitness books (as well as a ton of other titles.)

As a serial dieter yo-yo-ing from healthy-curvy to chunky monkey, I've tried many programs over the years. So I was all too happy to put my mouth where my marketing was and become the in-house guinea-pig testing out many of these expertly-researched books.
And one really did the trick: The Fat Resistance Diet.

Without going into the technical nitty-gritty of it (you can get that info at Dr. Galland's website that I linked to above or buy the book here), FRD offers a plan that promotes anti-inflammatory health and in the process produces real results. Can you tell I'm a fan? I lost about 25 lbs. the first time, lost my way (weigh?) and revisited the plan before my wedding with impressive results. And this is what I mean by healthy because it isn't a "diet" but a way of eating and cooking that improves health, not just your waistline. Here are the basics:
  • 8-9 serving of fruit or veg. a day
  • Balancing omega-6 and omega 3's in your diet
  • Lean proteins, portion-controlled
  • Whole grains instead of processed foods with white flour and sugar
There's a lot more to it and the book is filled with interesting nutrition ideas and facts that I've never seen anywhere else. But in my lazy-cook way, I've interpreted it as these four basic ideas and adapted it to my style of cooking--although Dr. Galland's son and co-author provides dozens of delicious recipes and menus. (No, really, they are super tasty and not your typical rabbit food!)

Full disclosure: While Mr. Lemon and I are back on the fat-resistance wagon these days, I don't put our guests on the plan and most of our entertaining involves some serious butter and pastry. And since this blog is about accountability, I'll post those sweet-filled pitfalls, as well.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Make It Work Meals

When I first started weighing the cooking-cost equation, I realized a few simple changes would make a big difference:
  • Comparison shop: Where you shop matters as much as what food you purchase (even with "specials."
  • Shop for the Bargain, Not for the Recipe: When you go to the store only to shop for a specific recipe, your bill can skyrocket.
  • Wasted Food=Lost Savings: I noticed how much food we were wasting--and subsequently how much money we were losing--in small leftovers and half-used ingredients.
  • Use What You Have: With a good sense of compromise and with some exceptions, you can really make a lot of recipes "work" without all the listed ingredients. I'm the queen of substitutions.
I hadn't thought about these much over the past months...until this weekend when I made a dish that epitomizes this approach:

Polpettine* in Tomato Sauce over Pasta

Serves 2-3

1/2 pound ground chicken
1/3 c. breadcrumbs
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
3 sprigs parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg
1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Mix all ingredients. Add more breadcrumbs if mixture is too wet to form balls easily. Roll into "marble" sized balls. (Who has marbles?? Medium grape -ized is probably a better description!)

Place meatballs on a foil lined baking sheet about 1-inch apart.

Bake in 325F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through. (A good excuse to eat, er, I mean, test a few out.) Cool on sheets.

Tomato Sauce Super Quick

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small can of tomato sauce (I used a "store" brand that I got on sale for $.25)
2 glugs red wine (not necessary...but we had it open for dinner, too. And yes, glug is a measurement, didn't you know?)

Saute the garlic and oregano in the olive oil until the garlic looks slightly translucent (but not browned). Add the tomato sauce. Rinse can with about 1/4 c. water/wine or up to the middle of the can, whichever comes first. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Comes together while the meatballs are in the oven.

Meanwhile...boil a pot of water and cook 4-5 no boil lasagna noodles. Yes, I said boil the no-boil. This is what I mean about using what you have...but any small amount of pasta will do.

Final step: Plate pasta with as many little meatballs as you like, then sauce.

*Ok, so who am I kidding -- Chicken Mini Meatballs is probably more accurate! Just hated to be so boring with the first recipe

So here's the tally:
A healthy cheap protein + pantry ingredients/window box herbs
Bargain tomato sauce from the pantry all dressed up
Pasta leftovers from a long-ago lasagna become small but satisfying portions

Menu for a No-Moneymoon

Brisket started this blog.

Now, to be clear, I'm not a big fan of brisket. But when the economy turned south and I started scouting about for ways to save money on our food costs, brisket just kept turning up -- on my favorite food shows, in magazines, and on the blogs that I follow daily. It was a barrage of brisket.

And it got me thinking, how can I cook healthy meals without spending a small fortune in ingredients? And how can I save money without turning to the fattier cuts of meat and processed foods that are usually cheaper (and sometimes more flavorful!)?

Lost in the (Cream) Sauce
I kept thinking about this, even as I turned to those less-healthy eating options for comfort. Mr. Lemon and I had experienced a recent setback, like so many other people these days. We needed something delicious to soothe our weary souls. We'd call our experience The Troubles, but that's a politically-loaded term. So we'll call it The Woes. And when The Woes began in late November, we ate my home-baked cakes to remind ourselves of happy birthdays and our recent wedding and a dozen other joyful times together. When we realized we shouldn't order in as much as is our habit (we are New Yorkers, after all), I'd try to feed our cravings with home-cooked versions such as deep-fried apple fritters. And when the weather turned wickedly cold as it surely does on this lovely island, we warmed ourselves up with beef stews and all the fixings.

It's no wonder that now, I really NEED to slim down my waistline, while trimming away at my food budget! Plus, Mr. Lemon loves food (and wine) as much as I do. So here's the challenge:

Cook delicious healthy meals for me, my foodie husband and for our frequent dinner guests for approximately $40 a week

I think we can do it. We've been coming close to this number for a while and I've stopped deep-frying, so there's hope yet. I'm blogging to keep on track. And if I can share some delicious easy recipes along the way, then all the better.

So yeah, I'm trying to make some lemonade here. I always do. And sometimes I even spike it with vodka.