Friday, November 30, 2007

$2.00/day Food Challenge Post #13: Day 7 Recap

Am eating dinner and it'''s something new! Yowza! I made a batch of lentil soup...recipe is pretty much identical to the one I made a few weeks back but I did not include butter. Instead, I used a bit of turkey fat to start the soup...George and I have decided that turkey fat doesn't have an associated cost which is one of the big reasons why I chose to include it. The other difference is that I included a can of tomato puree in this batch. Other than that, it's identical. On the side, some homemade pita crisps. Pita bread, split in half and those halves cut into wedges. Brushed each wedge with some homemade garlic oil. Sprinkle with ras-el-hanout and salt. Into a 350 degree oven for 7-10 minutes. Done! Ahhh, more goodies tomorrow...

One other thing...My new pictures are 16x12 instead of 10x7. I've noticed that, when you click on a picture, the browser now asks you to open or save and brings up an external application if you want to view the pic. This did not happen when I was using 10x7 pics. Does this annoy anyone? I can resize the new pictures to a lower resolution but if no one cares, I'll save myself the hassle and upload as is. Let me know.

$0.19 1 cup oats
$0.04 2 tbps cranberries
$0.02 1/8th cup milk.
$0.25 Total

$0.43 1 cup white beans and sausage
$0.10 rice
$0.05 miso broth
$0.58 Total

Afternoon snack
$0.20 2 slices of toast
$0.04 apple compote
$0.24 Total

$0.36 2 Ladles of soup
$0.25 1 Pita bread...somewhat expensive, yes?
$0.61 Total

$1.68 Total...rolling over $0.32. $4.05 for tomorrow.

Here's how George did.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

$2.00/day Food Challenge Post #12: Day 6 Recap

I am going to cook tomorrow! Yes! Here's a picture of my "Things to Cook List." I've been hard at work figuring out budget foods so it's got quite a lot on it. However, if you click on the picture and zoom in, right at the top, you'll notice "d=vt." Yep, I was trying to figure out a physics problem before I started putting together this list. As for what I will cook, I'm leaning towards kibbeh, lentil soup and some stir fried greens...mmm...greens. Just had a great idea...if any of you take the time to click the pic and read the list, leave a comment with what you'd like me to cook! This is my reward to you for being an actively engaged reader!
Here's what I expensive day!

$0.19 1 cup of Oats
$0.04 2 Tbps Cranberry Sauce
$0.02 1/8th cup Milk
$0.25 Total

$0.20 2 Pieces of Whole-Grain Toast
$0.43 1 Cup of White Beans with Sausage
$0.63 Total

Afternoon Snack
$0.20 2 Pieces of Whole-Grain Toast
$0.04 1 Tbps of Apple Compote
$0.20 Coffee Beans
$0.44 Total

$0.22 1/2 Cup of White Beans with Sausage
$0.20 Rice
$0.40 Stewed Cabbage
$0.62 Total

Total for the day: $1.94...rolling over $0.06, $3.73 for tomorrow's meals.

Here's another bonus picture...tonight's "study area." I usually head to a local coffee shop but decided to stay at home...Pay attention to the flashlight on the bedside table...not quite sure why it's there...

Here's how George did.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

$2.00/day Food Challenge Post #11: Day 5 Recap

Still no camera, still no matter because I've been eating nothing but leftovers. I'm starting to actively dread mealtimes due to the damned stewed cabbage. Could be worse tho, right? At least I have food to eat. Having said that, I can't wait until I can cook (and eat!) something new...definitely making smaller portions next time...

$0.19 Oatmeal
$0.04 Cranberries
$0.02 Milk
$0.25 Total

$0.43 White Beans w/Sausage
$0.15 Rice
$0.05 Miso Broth
$0.63 Total

$0.40 Cabbage
$0.20 Rice
$0.60 Total

$1.48 Total, rolling over $0.52 so $3.82 for tomorrow's meals.

edit: had a little snack when i got home: $0.05 in rice, $0.05 in miso broth, $0.05 in sprouts...$3.67 for tomorrow's meals.

Here's how George did.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

$2.00/day Food Challenge Post #10: Day 4 Recap

My mom loves to use parables as teaching tools. Here's the Cliff's Notes version of a particularly good one:
There was once an extremely rich Chinaman. Such was his wealth that his table was always set with a bounty of food. He would eat his fill, the rest of the food would be thrown away and the process would repeat with the next meal. Much food was wasted. Eventually, his wealth disappeared and he found himself living on the streets. An unsuccessful beggar, he was extremely hungry. Fortunately, he happened upon a fellow homeless man who seemed to have a surfeit of rice. The generous homeless man shared some of his rice and the formerly rich man exclaimed "This rice is magnificent! Wherever did you find it?" The other beggar said, "Why, this rice used to be yours! You wasted so much food that it has kept our bellies full for quite sometime!" Upon hearing this, the formerly rich man became extremely embarrassed at his lavish lifestyle and killed himself.
Great story, eh? I'm not quite sure what the lesson is but I relay it only to help explain why I REFUSE to throw away any stewed cabbage even though I'm really sick of eating it. I will power through the remaining portions so if I am ever a homeless San Franciscan, I won't feel obligated to kill myself after dining on my own leftovers.

Anyhow, here's how I did:

1 cup of oatmeal- $0.19
2 tbps of cranberry sauce- $0.04
1/8th cup of milk- $0.02
Total- $0.25

$0.08 in Bean Sprouts
$0.20 Rice
$0.40 Stewed Cabbage
$0.04 Miso Broth
$0.72 Total

Mid-Afternoon Snack
$0.22 White Beans

$0.20 Rice
$0.13 Sprouts
$0.20 Cabbage
$0.05 Miso Broth
$0.58 Total

Daily Total- $1.77. Rolling over $0.23. I have $3.30 for tomorrow's meals.
Here's how George did.

White Beans with Sausage

Have any of you ever read the essay George Orwell (I think) penned about cooking on a poverty level budget? It goes a little something like this: Some writer for a UK newspaper devised a diet which could be purchased and cooked under poverty conditions. Orwell analyzed the writer's work and admitted that the math was correct and the nutritional content was sufficient. However, Orwell concluded that without the added spending money for an occasional splurge, humans would never be able to subject themselves to that dietary regimen. Orwell believed that humans needed that extra bit of spending, a taste of extravagance in order to keep their spirits up.

It was with this story in mind that I purchased and added Russian garlic sausage to this bean dish. Omitting the sausage would have made the dish half as expensive (and doubled my portion size) but I figured that I would hate my life if I skipped out on the pork. Remember, I'm the guy who lives for pork sausage...yummy.

Take a pound of beans and soak in water overnight. Here I am picking through the soaked beans to make sure there aren't any pebbles or other unsavory items hidden in there.
Add a carrot, a halved onion and two bay leaves.Cover with water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until beans are tender. You can figure out how long that is. After about an hour of cooking, add a few large pinches of salt.

While this is taking place, roast a head of garlic. Here's a pretty good recipe.

When the beans are tender, start getting the rest of the ingredients together. I skinned and chopped about a pound of kielbasa-style sausage.
I also medium diced an onion and chopped up a carrot. Just little bite sized nibs of carrot.
I then added olive oil to my wok and tossed in the onions. I cooked them until they were a bit soft. Toss in the carrots and cook until slightly softened. Season with salt. Toss in the sausage and heat just to warm through. Turn off the heat and allow to cool a bit. Drain the beans with a slotted spoon and discard the onion, carrot and bay leaves. Reserve a bit of the cooking water.
Time to make the sauce. Take about two large spoonfuls of beans, maybe a cups worth and toss into a blender. Add in the cloves of roasted garlic, a large swig of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of prepared horseradish and a swig of vinegar. Blend until smooth. If it doesn't want to blend, add a bit of the reserved bean cooking water. You want a puree that will cling to the beans and sausage. The sauce should be fairly aggressive in flavor as it needs to flavor the rest of the beans and the sausage/veggie mixture. I prefer it on the spicy side with lots of horseradish kick and vinegar. Here's a pic of some of the garlic clovesand the finished bean puree.Time to put everything together. Mix the drained beans with the vegetable/sausage mixture. Mix in the bean puree and mix well to coat everything. Taste and add extra salt if necessary. Maybe some black pepper as well.

Toss in a handful of chopped fresh herbs. I had dill in the fridge so that's what I used. Voila!

Food Cost- Sausage doubled the cost but it's still only $0.43 for a 1 cup serving. Really delicious and quite filling. I keep it in the fridge and warm it up for a bit in the microwave before serving.

Not much active cooking time. 2 hours for the beans and most of the other stuff can be prepared while the beans are cooking...chopping veggies and sausage etc.

Monday, November 26, 2007

$2.00/day Food Challenge Post #9: Day 3 Recap

Day 3 come and gone. The issue I'm currently facing is that I've made too much cabbage and white beans...I am already looking forward to eating something different.

Still no camera so there are no new pics. However, this isn't necessarily bad because I haven't cooked anything new so you guys aren't missing out on anything exciting. Here's a small brag...I was able to get this camera for $147.00. I know, doesn't seem like much but consider that the $147 includes a 1 gig memory card, a protective carrying case, tax and 3 day shipping and you can see why I'm excited. That and I now own a more mooching off of other people!

A small wrinkle to the rules. Remember how George and I each had one exception? George was allowed protein shakes and I was allowed coffee shop coffee? Well, those exceptions didn't apply to the other person so when I learned that George drank some coffee shop coffee (cheater!), we revised the rules so he wouldn't exceed his daily limit and end the contest. We decided that we are both allowed dietary supplement shakes and coffee shop coffee.

Also, my impression is that I am taking this contest more seriously than George is. I'm counting/pricing every morsel and measuring everything that I put into my mouth whereas he seems to be more casual about things. When I told him how I am pricing everything that passes down my gullet, the expression on his face and his subsequent flippant comment told me everything I needed to know. I can honestly say that I have neither taken a single bite nor cooked with an ingredient that was not properly accounted for. I even text messaged him to find out if we were counting breath mints and gum! I am debating whether or not to continue on with my current rigor.

If I lose (I'm not going to, btw) I will at least have moral superiority on my side. Haha.

Here's what I had:
1 cup of oatmeal- $0.19
2 tbps of cranberry sauce- $0.04 (This is much, MUCH better than the apples...the tartness of the berries really perks up the whole bowl. I am going to see if I can make some sort of ghetto fruit crumble with the apple compote.)
1/8th cup of milk- $0.01
Total- $0.24

Mid-Morning Snack
1 cup of miso broth, basically miso soup sans tofu- $0.10
1/8th cup of spicy, Korean soybean sprouts- $0.07
Rice- $0.10
Total- $0.27

Early Afternoon Snack
1 cup of white beans with sausage- $0.43

1 1 cup serving of cabbage- $0.40
1 serving of rice- $0.15
1 bite of flan- $0.05
Total- $0.60

Daily Total- $1.54 leaving me $0.46 to rollover.
Combined with yesterday's rollover, I have $3.10 ($3.07 when corrected for the milk) for tomorrow's food. At this rate, pork or chicken liver might be on the weekend menu...

Here's how George did...

We also have a correction to our milk cost. It is actually $0.16 per cup so I have reflected the rollover to accommodate the correct price.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

$2.00/day Food Challenge Post #8: Day 2 Recap

Eating dinner right digital camera so no pic.

Dinner consists of:
$0.10 worth of rice
$0.28 in miso soup...this is the last, I'll have to make more tomorrow.
$0.43 in white beans with sausage. Recipe isn't up, will be soon.
Total- $0.81

Lunch consisted of:
$0.28 in miso soup
$0.15 worth of rice
$0.20 in stewed cabbage.
Total- $0.63

This has already been posted here.

If everything holds, I will end the day at $1.73 or $0.27 below the limit. Add yesterday's rollover dollars and I have $2.69 available for tomorrow's meals.

Most of you are probably wondering, jeez, are you full? Are you getting enough to eat? Do you miss meat? Yes, yes, no. Yep, I feel full. In fact, after lunch, I was positively STUFFED. Am also pretty full right now...gotta love soup! Don't really miss meat. I get enough here and there to satisfy my urges and it doesn't hurt that I'm not the sort of guy who craves a big, bloody steak. Let's put it this way: I'd rather eat a well-prepared mostly vegetarian dish than a well-prepared meat-based dish any day of the week.

Anyhow, one last picture for the day, I was able to rescue it from the camera. Anyone wanna guess what I made as a side dish? Joo? James, get Joo to take a guess?
edit: bite of flan. -$0.05, $2.64 for tomorrow.

Here's how George did.

Miso Soup

Most of you have had miso soup, right? Here's a bit of background on miso for those of you who don't know what it is. Anyhow, most of you probably know miso soup from sushi joints which usually give out an obligatory bowl to the patrons.

It's crazy easy to make, here's what you'll need:
I'm using shiro miso for this soup. Measure out 4 tablespoons of miso and set aside.

Take 4 cups of water and add a teaspoon of instant dashi powder. If you just want to use water, that's fine too. Whichever liquid you choose to use, start bringing it to a boil. Sometimes, when I'm not budget constrained and am feeling ambitious, I'll make my own dashi. Not this time, though!

Cube up half of a block of soft tofu and set aside. Mince 1/2 a green onion top. Place the green onion in your serving bowl. Miso needs to be softened by mixing it into a small amount of the hot dashi or water. Place the miso into a bowl and ladle the liquid over the miso. Using a fork or a whisk, break up the clumps of miso. When this is done, combine the miso/dashi mixture with the rest of the dashi and bring up to a simmer. Drop the tofu into the soup and heat through. Ladle the soup into the green onion bowl and your done!
$0.80 cents for the pot of soup. Takes maybe 10 minutes.

Stewed Napa Cabbage

In this post, I mentioned some stewed cabbage. While it may sound unappealing and also looks a mess, it tastes great. It's extremely flavorful so 1/2 cup is sufficient to flavor a bowl of rice. I've seen various recipes for this dish scattered throughout various cookbooks but this is how I make it.

This is napa cabbage. The thing you have to watch out for when cooking napa cabbage is that it is full of water so it can drown the rest of the dish. However, if you plan for this, you'll be fine. I used a 2 lb specimen. Peel off the dirty, spotted outer layer of cabbage. Cut off the root end. Quarter the remaining cabbage and then slice across into 1 inch wide strips.

Set the cabbage aside.
Soak a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms and a pinch of dried shrimp.
Dice one Chinese sausage:
Mince a walnut sized nugget of peeled ginger:
Mince 3 cloves of garlic:
New ingredient time! Here's a can of Szechuan preserved vegetables. And this is what they look like:
This is about half the can. You have to rinse them of the flavoring residue. I just soak them in cold water for 5 minutes, drain and squeeze out the excess water.

By now, the mushrooms should be rehydrated. Squeeze to remove excess water and cut into strips.Take $0.25 worth of ground pork and sprinkle with Chinese rice wine and a bit of soy sauce. Add cornstarch, about a teaspoon and blend until the pork mixture is sticky.
This is, obviously, before I mixed in the cornstarch.

I've got all the ingredients laid out. They are arranged from top to bottom such that the items at the top are first into the wok.
From top to bottom- Garlic/ginger, pork, drained dried shrimp, minced Chinese sausage, preserved vegetables, sliced mushrooms and green onion. I haven't yet sliced the green onion tops but will do so when the rest of the ingredients are cooking.

Heat up a wok, add some oil and toss in the ginger and garlic. You want it to become fragrant and aromatic. Toss in the pork and allow it to brown a bit. Toss in the dried shrimp and Chinese sausage. Stir fry for a minute. Toss in the preserved vegetables, sliced mushrooms and stir fry for another minute. Turn off the heat and toss in one sliced green onion top. This is what you should end up with:
Taste and add salt. It should be aggressively seasoned because this is what is going to flavor the rest of the dish. Allow to cool for a bit.

Time to assemble the rest of the dish. Take your large pot and throw in a layer of cabbage, enough to cover the bottom.
Take some of the mixture in the wok and sprinkle it over the cabbage:
Add another layer of cabbage, more of the mixture in the wok and build it up until it's all gone. I had three layers of cabbage and three layers of wok-mixture.
Time to add some liquid. I used about four cups worth, I'd use less next time, maybe 3 cups. You can use chicken stock but since I'm on a very limited budget, I used water, a teaspoon of dashi-no-moto and a splash of soy sauce.

Bring to a boil, drop the heat to a bare simmer and pop a lid on the pot. Cook for 20 minutes and this is what you'll end up with:

Good stuff. The entire pot cost about $3.25 or $0.40 per 1 cup serving.
Probably took abut an hour?

Cranberry Sauce

Should I even bother? Don't most of you already know how to make it? If not, here we go. 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar a package of cranberries. Pick over the cranberries and remove the squishiest ones. Bring water and sugar to a boil, toss in the cranberries, add a good pinch of salt and simmer until most of the berries have popped. Takes 5-7 minutes. Cool and serve.

Feel free to add a cinnamon stick. Orange zest is also quite nice.


Bag of cranberries was $0.50. Cup of sugar is, what, $0.10? I'm guestimating on that. Cinnamon stick is $0.03. $0.63 total. This recipe yielded 600 grams. A tablespoon is 18 grams. $0.02 per tablespoon. Cheap! Half the price of the apple compote...I might have to make more of this stuff and freeze it!

$2.00/day Food Challenge Post #7: Breakfast

I figured I should dedicate a post to breakfast as oatmeal is what I'm looking at for the next few weeks.

First of all, don't make this noobish mistake.
Yep, the Safeway oatmeal is $1.60/lb while the organic stuff from the local health food store is $0.99/lb. Arghhh, I should have realized that Safeway wasn't the best option but oh well. I can eat it after this food challenge is over.

So here's breakfast:
1 Cup of Oats- $0.19
1/4 Cup of Milk- $0.02
2 tbps of apple compote- $0.08
Total $0.29

Apple Compote

Oatmeal is pretty blah stuff so I thought about what I could do to jazz it up. Fruit jams, syrups and the like immediately came to mind and whenever I go shopping, I can't help but notice how cheap apples are so I settled on an apple compote. (I also have a bag of cranberries but that's for another post.)

This is ridiculously easy. Peel and core 8 apples. I used fuji's and granny smith apples. It's nice to use multiple varieties because they have different flavors and textures when cooked. Makes for a more interesting end result. Cut into chunks. I tried to use my roommate's apple peeler-corer thingy but results were unsatisfactory. Maybe I incorrectly set it up.
Still, a pretty neat tool.

Melt half a stick of butter in a pan and add a few tablespoons of brown sugar. I am using Indonesian palm sugar because it's what we had on hand. I could've used white, refined sugar but palm sugar has a more interesting flavor. Allow the butter and sugar to melt together. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil and reduce down a should slightly thicken. Add 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Add in the apples, a few pinches of salt and your choice of brown spices. I used nutmeg, five spice powder and cinnamon. Season to taste.

Bring back to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook until the apples are extremely tender. I actually used a potato masher to hammer some of mine down. In about 20 minutes, it should be close to done. Allow to cool and store.

Lots of things you can do with this. Top pancakes or waffles with it, pork chops, spread on toast...use it like applesauce. Eat it plain. Eat it with plain, unflavored yogurt or cottage cheese.

The whole pot ended up costing $2.73 or $0.04 per tablespoon.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

$2.00/day Food Challenge Post #6: Day 1 Recap

Okay, here's what I'm eating for dinner:
1 1-cup serving of stewed napa cabbage (hope to have the recipe up sometime tomorrow) $0.40
A serving of rice $0.15
Bowl of miso soup. $0.35
Total cost: $0.90

Didn't really eat lunch...had a 5 cent serving of rice and a 1/2 cup serving of stewed cabbage
Total cost-$0.25

Afternoon snack-
1 slice of toast- $0.10
1 tablespoon of homemade apple compote- $0.04
Total- $0.14

Daily total? $1.29

Since I didn't start this morning, I am going to add in what my breakfast would've cost:
Bowl of Oatmeal- $0.19 (I need to double check this figure, it might be a little high)
Tablespoon of apple compote- $0.04
1/8th of a cup of milk- $0.01
Total- $0.24

$1.29 + $0.24= $1.53. I am rolling over $0.47.

Feeling great right now. Am fully sated and looking forward to cooking more cheap eats tomorrow.

If anyone wants more details on food cost, do ask. I have everything in front of me but don't want to type it all up...seems a bit excessive.
Needless to say, I ain't fibbing on the numbers. Pretty much everything hit the kitchen scale at some point so my numbers are accurate.

edit: had a bite of flan. say, I brought home a third of the flan cut into two pieces so each wedge was 1/6th of the entire flan. my bite was about 1/10th of a wedge so 1/60th of $3.00 is 5 cents. I am rolling over 42 cents.

here's how George