Best Singles of 2008

This year my weekly radio show, Beef Jerky Time, really concentrated on ferreting out a certain kind of pop. I like lots of layers, strange noises and as much 80s synth nostalgia as possible. Here is a highly subjective list of the 15 Best Songs From My Show for 2008. Each comes from an album released in 2008. They're supposed to be in chronological order by release date, not order of preference.

Keep Your Eyes Ahead: Helio Sequence
Beat (Health, Life and Fire): Thao with the Get Down Stay Down
M79: Vampire Weekend
Time to Pretend: MGMT
On the Lam: Panther
Stop Being Perfect: The LK
Think I Wanna Die: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
So Haunted: Cut Copy
Little Bit: Lykke Li
L.E.S. Artistes (XXXChange remix): Santogold
Fugaz: The Pinker Tones
GfC: Albert Hammond Jr
My Alarm: New Faces
Shaded Forest: Deastro
Balloons: Foals

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here's to a fabulous 2009. Cheers!

Butternut Cranberry bake

Here's a great winter side dish. I like how the sour cranberries cut the sweetness of the squash (and the sugar).

  • 1 small butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 T butter or olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 cup cranberries, sliced in half
  • 2 T brown sugar (or brown rice syrup)
  • thyme
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/2 cup water

  1. Heat oven to 350˚.
  2. Rinse the halved cranberries under cold water to wash away some of the tiny seeds. Drain.
  3. Heat the butter or oil in a skillet and add the onions and cranberries. Stir together until glassy and soft (about 5 minutes). Then, sprinkle with brown sugar, a generous dash of thyme, a small dash each of cinnamon and nutmeg, and the cloves. Mix all together and cook another minute or two. Turn off heat.
  4. Put squash chunks and water in a glass oven dish. Top with onion/cranberry mixture. Cover all with foil and place in oven.
  5. Check in about 20 minutes and stir everything together. If there seems to be a lot of water in the bottom, you can pour some off. Otherwise, keep baking for another 15-20 minutes. When the squash is fork-tender, you're done!
Serves 4 as a side dish. Good for vegetarians--or if you use olive oil and brown rice syrup, it can even be vegan/macrobiotic!

Lamb-stuffed Grape Leaves

I love this recipe because it involves meat. Many recipes I see for grape leaves are vegetarian, involving lots of rice and sometimes currants or tomatoes or pine nuts or something to make things interesting. But I like the substantial tang of a nice meaty bite when I sink my teeth into a fat little grape leaf roll. My recipe is largely based on the one from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines (William Morrow, 1989). I have scaled it down so it just requires 1 jar of grape leaves, and I have also changed it to use brown rice.

  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • juice of 2 lemons, divided
  • dill
  • allspice
  • olive oil
  • chopped parsley (optional)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 jar grape leaves (8 ounces—or some have 7.7 oz)
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock


First, parboil the rice for 20 minutes. It doesn't matter how much water you use since it will be drained--just be sure the rice is covered with water. I recommend using a heat disperser underneath, if you have one.

Drain the rice and let it cool.

When rice is cool, combine it in a large mixing bowl with lamb, a few generous shakes of dill and the same of allspice, the onion, garlic, parsley (if using), salt, pepper and juice of one lemon. Cover all with a generous pour of olive oil.

Roll up your sleeves, wash your hands and squish everything together thoroughly. Don't be shy.

Here is a very important step. SORT the grape leaves. They are probably all rolled up in your jar. Some are perfect, some are torn, some are huge, some are tiny. I recommend setting up 2 plates and putting all the most "normal" leaves on one plate. Put the freaks on another plate as your B list. This would include anything that is ripped or shredded, leaves that are really tiny and ones that are huge and veiny. You will use the strangest leaves for the layers under, between and over the rolled grape leaves. (This recipe makes 2 layers of grape leaves in my big Dutch oven.) You will probably also end up stuffing some leaves from your B list, but at least you'll get to use all the normal leaves first. Here are my 2 plates, with the A list in the foreground.

Take some of those B-listers and make a layer on the bottom of your cooking pot. You can place the rolled up leaves in here as you make them.

I'm sure most people know how to roll a grape leaf, but I can't resist a blow-by-blow. It's so "food blog"! So. Start with a leaf, smooth side down, on a flat surface. The top point should be pointing away from you.

Put down your filling right at the bottom "crook" of the leaf. How much you need will depend on the size of the leaf. I just try to visualize what the rolled up leaf will look like, and then put down that much filling. Make it a bit "tubular."

Fold up the bottom of the leaf over the filling.

Then, you guessed it, fold each side over the filling.

Roll everything away from you toward the top point. Here it is en route.

And here it is rolled up.

Tuck the rolls together in your pot. Here's my bottom layer.

When you have a full layer, cover it with B-list leaves and start another layer. Keep going until you've used up the filling. Then, one last layer of leaves on top.

Finally, pour the 1.5 cups of chicken broth and juice of 1 lemon over all. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour on low heat--use a heat disperser if you have one. After an hour, turn off the heat and let the leaves sit for up to an hour before serving.

My cookbook says to serve these with a traditional egg-lemon sauce, but I prefer just plain extra virgin olive oil. Even better is rich green nutty hempseed oil. Kala! (I think that means "good" in Greek.)

Happy solstice, 2008!

OK, the sun can start coming back now. That's what this evergreen Yule thing is about after all--the fading away of all this DARK and COLD. (Except first we have to get through winter. Happy winter!)

I am looking out on the same amount of snow that we had last March after a 3-month onslaught of winter. Except this time the snow accumulated within 5 days. Insane 6 foot drifts. Cars that won't start. Icy wind chill on the clear sunny day when it finally stops snowing. I have been supporting the various snow removal duties of my household by holding down the fort and eating cookies on the couch while watching Food Network. For some reason, that's all I can do when it gets too wintry. Did you know the Food Network turns off at 4AM?! The nerve!

Here is the playlist from last week's show, Christmas themed though I'm no Christian. Please note there won't be a show on 12/24 as I'll be busy eating cookies on someone else's couch.

Beef Jerky Time
  • Misteriou Joaius (Joyful Mysteries): Ensemble Choral Du Bout Du Mond
  • What Child is This: Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing: "played superbly" by Felix Vance on organ
  • Here Comes Santa Claus: Elvis Presley
  • Silver Bells: Doris Day
  • Go Tell It On the Mountain: Harry Simeone Chorale
  • On Christmas Morning: Raffi
  • The 12 Days of Christmas: John Denver & the Muppets
  • Good Christian Men, Rejoice: The Robert Shaw Chorale
  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus/Here Comes Santa Claus: Al Hirt
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: Ferrante & Teicher
  • Jingle Bell Rock: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
  • The First Noel/Mary Mary: Sarah McLachlan
  • Santa & the Kids: Charley Pride
  • Sleighride: Liberace
  • Do They Know It's Christmas?: Band Aid
  • The Christmas Song: Nat "King" Cole
  • Good King Wenceslas: John Fahey
  • Nedeleg War Ar Mor (Christmas At Sea): Ensemble Choral Du Bout Du Monde
  • It's a Marshmallow World: Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin

Build Me Up Butternut

While contemplating what to do with 13 butternut squash, I found myself singing "Build Me Up, Buttercup." Thought I'd pass that along before going any further.

When a local farm stand closed for the season around Halloween, they had a bushel sale and we picked up a bushel of butternut squash for $18. Since then I have used exactly 1 squash: half cooked with aduki beans and half made into buckwheat soup. I know I can always make these again. But what ELSE can I do with so much butternut squash? It seems like a great opportunity to experiment, ask around and find some new recipes.

I may have a bit of a disability when it comes to butternut squash because I have the opposite of a sweet tooth--call it a "savory tooth." When it comes to entrees at least, I am not big on sweet stuff, like sweet potatoes, brown bread, cranberry sauce, sweet & sour pork, etc. I prefer my main dishes and sides to be salty, garlicky, cheesy, herbed or spicy. I searched at TasteSpotting for butternut squash (which seems pretty similar to Food Gawker, what's the difference?). I found a certain uniformity among the choices--several seem to go with bleu cheese or sage as main ingredients. I can see how these would offer a nice counterpoint to the squash sweetness, but my dining partner won't eat bleu cheese and it's not sage season around here. There are also several recipes for sweet muffins, pureed soups, risottos and pastas all heavily featuring BS (I will now use this as my acronym). These just seemed too "sweet squashy" to me. Out of all, I was intrigued by the use of brie, kale, onions, sausages and shallots in some recipes. Here are a few I might try to make or riff from:

Scraping the Skillet has a recipe for Rustic Butternut Squash Tart with poblano peppers and cilantro

A Series of Kitchen Experiments made Herbed Ravioli with Butternut Filling and Beurre Noisette

Dishing Up Delights posted about Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette in Rosemary Pie Crust

Miami's Bitchin Camero made Butternut Squash Tortilla Soup

Kumquat Connection wrote up a fascinating take on BS with pizzettas featuring pistachios & basil

Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Ham & Swiss Palmiers: Perfect Appetizer

I got this hors d'ouevres recipe from a friend in catering and it's really fabulous. I can tell I'll be playing with it and modifying it for many app-friendly gatherings to come. But I want to share now--maybe you've already heard of Ham & Swiss Palmiers?

There are just 4 ingredients. Puff pastry, mustard, sliced Black Forest ham and Swiss cheese. In particular, I used Dijon mustard and Finnish Swiss (I know! but it was cheap). Thaw puff pastry as directed, slather with mustard, layer on grated cheese and ham slices, roll in from either side, slice onto a greased cookie sheet, bake at 400˚ for about 20 minutes.

These are like a ham-sandwich worth of warm savory mouthfeel: melty, crunchy, buttery, hammy. I feel strange saying "palmiers"... maybe I'll call these "hammies." Notes for next time: try gruyère, try honey mustard, try less ham and tighter rolls, try thinner slices. These are just tweaks though, the basic recipe is already top-notch and got many compliments!

Happy birthday, Frank

Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, NJ, 93 years ago on December 12, 1915. He's one of my major idols. I know he maybe wasn't a great guy to everyone, but his voice is so fabulous that's all I care about. I'm also a big fan of his messed-up and gorgeous second wife, Ava Gardner. This week's Beef Jerky Time was my annual tribute to the life and work of the Chairman of the Board. I do tend to like the Swingin' Sinatra from the 60s--arranged by Nelson Riddle or on Reprise Records or both. GOOD STUFF. Here's the meagre playlist (aired 12*10*08), just a tiny slice from so many great options:
  • I've Got the World On a String
  • I'll Be Seeing You
  • It's Only A Paper Moon
  • You're Driving Me Crazy
  • Mistletoe & Holly
  • My Baby Just Cares for Me
  • Always
  • Nice 'n Easy
  • Makin' Whoopie
  • Our Love Affair
  • Pennies from Heaven
  • Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week
  • I Believe
  • I've Got You Under My Skin
  • Luck Be a Lady
  • I Won't Dance
  • The Continental
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Enchanted Elf

Ever noticed that the movie "Enchanted" (2007) is pretty much the exact same story line as the movie "Elf" (2003)?
  • Both start with our protagonist living in a fairy tale world that contains talking animals.
  • Then, circumstances propel our character to New York City where she or he gets a good dose of the "real world,"
  • including the sad fact that animals can't talk.
  • In each movie, we see a character experience the modern technical wonder that is a revolving door.
  • A love interest is skeptical about the protagonist's apparent insanity, but is charmed rather than scared or annoyed.
  • A young child is able to understand and connect with the protagonist more immediately than surrounding adults, presumably because children are still moist from immersion in the world of fairy tales.
  • Both protagonists are introduced to the alien concept of a "date" or "going out for food."
  • At the end of each movie, the fairy tale world enters the real world: either in the form of an angry female dragon climbing a building like Kong (Enchanted) or Santa crashing his sleigh in Central Park (Elf).
  • Both movies also show the main character appearing on live television and
  • have a fair amount of singing.
So which do I like better? Well, "Elf" has more slapstick, more sight gags and more jokes. In other words, it has more Will Ferrell. That means I like "Elf" better. "Enchanted" was cute and put me in a good mood, but I'm not running out to buy the DVD or anything. "Elf"? Already have that one in my WF library.

I also wonder, as a post-script, what other movies use this Fantasy segues to real world segues to Big Mix-Up segues to LOVE format. Maybe not "Babe: Pig in the City." But I'm sure there's something obvious I'm not remembering at the moment. I may have to check out "My Stepmother is an Alien" or something.

Solid Gold Dancer wannabe

Every song a classic. Every dance sequence bizarre.

That's how Solid Gold seems to me now, 20 years after it ended. I was reminded of the show by song 5 in my playlist below. I used to watch Solid Gold every week, secretly, just before Star Search. (Secretly because I was not allowed to watch TV.) Then I would practice my Solid Gold Dancer moves. What I didn't pick up at the time is that it seems odd to have scantily-clad women on primetime TV doing provocative dance routines to random 80s hits, from James Taylor to Madness to Elton John to Asia. I think if I were just going to spontaneously whip off a novel about something, today it would be about a Solid-Gold-like dancer and her mixed-up life on and off stage. Dancing! Dating! Late nights with celebrities! Wholesome crafting hobbies! Sparkly legwarmers! (My imaginary novel topic varies on a daily basis.)

Watching a bunch of "best of" videos also makes me realize how many 80s songs I've plain forgotten. I'm going to have to start hitting the dollar bins again for more vinyl! (Also I totally totally loved Rick Dees.) I just wish Mel Slurp had hosted an episode.

This past week's Beef Jerky Time has little to do with the 80s. Here's the 12*3*08 playlist:

You just can't go wrong with 80s music

It was the day before Thanksgiving. I was feeling a bit excitable. So Beef Jerky Time, my weekly radio show, became an 80s party full of the vinyl hits that I love. There's the new wave stuff that we all remember--lots of synthesizer and handclaps. There's also the pickup truck music: I mean the "hockey hair" and acid-wash-jeans arena rock. And then there are the pure America's Top 40 confections and weirdnesses that Kasey Kasem would shuffle up for us each week. Can you tell which is which? Does it matter any more?! It's ALL good. Here's the playlist!
  • 1984: Van Halen
  • The Sun Always Shines on TV: a-ha
  • Mickey: Toni Basil
  • I Go Crazy: Flesh for Lulu
  • Word Up: Cameo
  • Jenny/867-5309: Tommy Tutone
  • Friend or Foe: Adam Ant
  • Please Please Tell Me Now: Duran Duran
  • Let's Go to Bed: The Cure
  • PYT: Michael Jackson
  • Tenderness: General Public
  • Automatic: Pointer Sisters
  • Heat of the Moment: Asia
  • Mexican Radio: Wall of Voodoo
  • Everything's Gone Green: New Order

Trying to Eat Cheap series

Here are links to the posts from my "Trying to Eat Cheap" series in one place for easy reference. I've decided to describe what the post is about rather than giving the titles, because the titles are like "Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 26." Since I was doing a series this naming system made sense at the time, but maybe not so useful for archiving purposes. Here's what I wrote about/ate in chronological order--I also include prices because that was a main point of this series!

Dal with kale & brown rice under $10
Mac & cheese with broccoli $13
Aduki huevos rancheros under $10
Cheese melts with kale $9.50
Slow Cooker Barley Soup $12
Dining on hors d'oeuvres at an opening, fundraiser or other event FREE
Dinner down the pub $40.06
Pasta bake with ham $10.25
Butternut buckwheat soup with wakame $6.75
Salmon patties & salad $10.59
Garlic sliders with beans & waffle fries $11
Turkey tacos $8.85
Beef stroganoff with kale $9.69
Cheesecake for a potluck $8.50
Leg of lamb with scalloped potatoes & greens PRICELESS
Turkey chili $12 for 2 night's-worth
Pork chops with cabbage $10.95
Lentil soup with cheese melts $6.75
Homemade pizza $11.75
Jessica Seinfeld's meatball & bowtie soup $11.47
Brown rice casserole $5
Notes on how eating seasonal is part of eating cheap
Leftover casserole plus Indian flavors $5
Gilfeather turnip soup with crab $14
Spinach-bacon quiche $9.35
Slow cooker chuck roast stew $13

Slow Cooker Chuck Roast Stew: Trying to Eat Cheap, A Month of Dinners Day 30

I didn't post dinner #29 because it was Thanksgiving dinner all over again--we reheated and re-enjoyed the leftovers that our Thursday hosts graciously packed up for us to take home.

This is the last day of my "Month of Dinners" series, exploring how to cut food costs while still keeping our family meals as tasty and healthy as I can. As I mentioned in my mid-stream review, "It's All About the Seasonal," I'll write more about trying to eat cheap as the types of available foods change with the seasons.

Looking back, I see that 13 of my homemade meals cost less than $10. (That includes the $12 chili that we ate for 2 nights.) None of the at-home meals were over $14 (that was the turnip-crab soup). Factors that made a meal expensive were 1. meat and 2. multiple ingredients (like the whole-wheat mac & cheese on day 2 and the bowtie soup on day 22). However meat didn't always put a meal over the $10 mark--the turkey tacos on Day 12, the beef stroganoff on day 13, and the turkey-bacon quiche on day 28 were all under 10 bucks. There were 6 nights where I ate a shared meal or potluck or was treated by others for some reason, so those are hard to calculate. That's not exactly "frugal," it's more like "blessed." Of course we try to host and treat others, too, we just didn't happen to do so in the last 30 days.

So here's tonight's meal--slow cooker chuck roast stew. One big thing I like about slow cookers is that they can take a cheap (and usually tough) cut of meat and render it like buttah over the course of 8+ hours. So chicken thighs will melt in your mouth just like the juiciest breast, and tougher beef cuts like a chuck roast turn out as fork tender as a prime filet mignon. (Of course another thing I like about my slow cooker is the "fix it and forget it" aspect--you've already done 3/4 of your dinner dishes before dinner is even served, and you can come home from work and just relax until you're ready to spoon up your meal.)

The smallest chuck roast at the store was a monster that was over 3 pounds and cost 3.99 a pound. I cut the roast in half and froze half of it, and cut the fatty bits out of the rest. (Put those trimmings in my freezer-stock-bag to add a bit of oomph to the usual combination of carrot tops and onion skins.) So that's $6.50 worth of meat. Then I added 2 potatoes, 1 red onion, 2 stalks celery, 1 parsnip and 5 carrots, plus a bay leaf, a small can of chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of thyme, and about 1/2 cup of wine to deglaze the pan. All told I'd say that's another $6.50 for the rest of the ingredients. So $13 total, with a bit of leftovers besides. Here it is with the festive angel chimes I broke out this weekend.

Trying to Eat Cheap: Spinach-Bacon Quiche

Frozen pie crusts are on sale this month: two for $2.99. And they're whole wheat! Here's a quiche recipe that I invented, with help from a couple cookbooks. I'll also add prices as I've been doing all month in search of the key to cheap-o dining. I used turkey bacon as an experiment, and liked it, but regular bacon would be fine too.

  • 1 frozen pie shell ($1.50)
  • 4 slices turkey bacon ($2.00)
  • 1 10 oz. pkg frozen spinach ($1.99)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar ($1.75)
  • 3 eggs ($1.26)
  • 1/2 cup milk (.50)
  • 1 T flour (.10)
  • paprika, dill, salt, pepper, thyme (.25)

  1. Heat the oven to 425˚.
  2. Fry the turkey bacon until it is browned. I didn't use any oil, but you could put a bit of cooking spray in if you're using a non-non-stick pan. (Would that be a "stick pan"?) When cool, slice it up into very small pieces. (I used kitchen shears for this.)
  3. Prepare the spinach according to the package. Mine said to boil the spinach in its plastic bag for 18 minutes. Then I squeezed it out in a fine-mesh sieve to get it as dry as possible.
  4. Place the frozen pie crust in the oven (still in its foil pan) for 5 minutes. Take it out and poke some holes in the bottom with a fork, then bake it for another 5 minutes until it's no longer doughy. Turn the oven down to 350˚.
  5. Beat the 3 eggs together and add enough milk to make 1.5 cups of liquid. Add salt and pepper to the mixture.
  6. Toss the grated cheese together with the flour. (I believe this makes the quiche "gel" better and not be runny.)
  7. Spread the spinach in a layer all over the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle on a tiny bit of thyme and a tiny bit of dill. Then, spread on the cheese and put the bacon pieces on top of that.
  8. Pour the egg-milk mixture evenly over all. Sprinkle all over with paprika. Bake for about 35 minutes--until a bit browned on top.
  9. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
This cost $9.35! For some reason it reminds me of that great Beatrix Potter story The Pie and the Patty Pan, where the little dog made herself a ham pie when she went to tea at the cat's house, because she didn't want to eat mouse pie. Pie mixups and hilarity ensue. Gammon!

Cheese straws: What to do with leftover pie dough

My contribution to Thanksgiving dinner was an apple pie and vanilla ice cream. Baking is not my strong suit, but I think the pie turned out OK. My foodie pal ValleyWriter posted a blender pie dough recipe, so I tried that (though did not add sugar because Betty Crocker doesn't). As I was trimming the dough around the edges, I remembered that my mother makes delicious savory cheese straws from leftover dough like this. So I whipped up a batch. All you need extra is cheese and paprika--here's how.

First, I combined all the cuttings and rolled them out. The timing is perfect for these, because unlike with pie crust, it's good if the dough is a bit warm. After working it into a pie and trimming, dough should be just the right temperature and texture for cheese straws. Anyway, I rolled out the leftover dough and grated my favorite cheese onto it. That would be sharp cheddar.


I folded it in half over the cheese. That's not whole wheat dough, by the way, but something called "white flour with germ."


Then I rolled it out again and grated cheese on--twice more. I don't advise more than 3 layers of cheese because I believe otherwise the cheesestraw would slide apart uncontrollably once the cheese melts. After 3 layers of cheese, I rolled it out one last time and dashed paprika everywhere. Then I cut it into strips.


Now I had a quandary. I had just put a pie into a 425˚ oven on a cookie sheet. There was no way I could put my cheesestraws on that same cookie sheet with my bare hands without burning myself. Fortunately, a beloved burger flipper came to the rescue. I slid several cheesestraws onto it at a time...


... and placed them in a blazing hot oven right next to the pie.


I baked them about 10 minutes until the cheese was starting to ooze out the sides and singe, and the top looked a bit browned. To avoid another awkward transfer, I just took the pie off the cookie sheet and put it back in the oven, and let the cheesestraws stay on the cookie sheet and cool. I bet these would make a great hostess gift if tied with a ribbon and presented in a cute box!


Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 26—Gilfeather turnip soup, part 3

This is my third post about the same recipe, Gilfeather Turnip Soup with Sea Legs. First the recipe, posted 4 years ago. Then, a little how-to followup posted last month. Well, we had it for dinner again tonight. Let me say once more, this soup is So Good! The sweet strange tang of the turnip goes perfectly with the smooth seafood bites here and there. The potato and carrot give everything heft and carry the game along. This is a fine soup. I mentioned last month that I used "an excellent crab from Vietnam in a refrigerated foil pouch." We got that again this time and I'll document it for the record.

Here's the drawback: This stuff is expensive. At $5.99 for a 6 ounce pouch the crab comes in at around $16 bucks a pound. That's a lot more than the $1.39/lb that I pay for aduki beans. But then there's my 80/20 rule (that I just made up) about frugal cooking: it's OK to have an expensive thing if it's going to be a small percentage of the whole. The turnip, potato, carrot, onion, and box of chicken broth (You di'n't! Yes, I did) cost about another $6.00. Then there was the ubiquitous toast side dish.* So let's call this about $14. I think that's the least frugal yet...

Because I'm posting so much about Gilfeather turnips, I thought I'd do some research on them using the Google machine. I found that they come from Wardsboro, Vermont, and are celebrated there annually at a turnip festival. They are beloved by both deer and humans and are said to taste just a little bit better after a good frost. One site said that these were "developed and named after John Gilfeather," which made me giggle. There are a few good-looking recipes at this soup/scalloped/soufflé post: Gilfeather Turnip Recipes from "The Heart of New England."

*Seems that if it's not lentils with me this time of year, it's toast. We found some really good Irish butter to go on it though, to replace the golden farm butter that's now out of season. Here's a shot of said farm butter by the way. It really is this color! I love the clover leaf pressed into it.


Trying to Eat Cheap: A Month of Dinners, Day 25

It's simple. Take leftovers—say a rice & legume casserole. Open a can of Indian food... mattar paneer does nicely (peas and cheese in curry-type sauce). Heat together. That's dinner! My helper-in-life prepared this for us and it was pretty good. I also found some black pepper papads in the cupboard (a thin cracker-like thing that bubbles and crisps in the toaster-oven), so made those as a side dish. There it is. Looks kind of canned, but tastes great. And since I didn't have to cook, I'm all the happier!

Trying to Eat Cheap: It's All About the Seasonal

Just a note that I'm not going to try to monetize tonight's dinner as I've been doing most of this month, because I went to a family birthday party. We all had yummy Chinese takeout and a nice thick tall chocolate cake.

Instead, I want to do a quick mid-series review of my "Trying to Eat Cheap" posts. I'm getting to the point where I'm looking back over the 20-odd dinner posts I've made and thinking that we eat a LOT of lentils and squash and kale and cheese. Where are the exotic stir-fries and coconut soups? Where are the simple salads with bacon and eggs thrown on for protein? Where are the vegetable focaccias or pasta primaveras or the grilled marinated veggie-meat kebabs? Where is the COLOR? Then I remembered. It's November. And part of eating cheap (and in my opinion, part of eating healthy) is eating with the season and trying to eat locally or at least mindfully. That means that a November dinner series is going to be a lot different than a May one or an August one. At this time of year in my part of the country, the crops are apples, butternut squash, pumpkin, kale, and lots of roots (potatoes, beets, turnips, etc.). Combine these with bulk items like brown rice and beans, and you're eating cheap. It's just doesn't seem very exciting sometimes!

Future goal: I would love to assemble a pan-seasonal "cheap eats" recipe list, with emphasis on local healthy foods along with plain cheap foods. I love garden-based cookbooks, but they sometimes don't account for the 6 months of the year when everything is under snow and we're faced with cold storage veggies--or splurging on avocadoes at $2.50 apiece! I think there is a lot of value in knowing what to do with beans and grains. They are not exotic, but neither is my heritage, which is haggis-based. So look for "Trying to Eat Cheap" posts past the month of November, as I work on assembling a solid repertoire for the whole wheel of the year.

Missing Toronto: About Arts & Crafts

Sometimes you like a bunch of different bands, and you try to find out more about them, and you find the record label for one of them, and then you realize that all the other bands are also on the SAME record label, and then you feel like you might not be so alone in the world after all, and that there might be some master plan in the universe, or at least some other people in the world who are kind of like you. And maybe, if you lived in a big city or something, you'd even get to see some of those bands live when they came through town, or if you happened to live in the same town they do, you'd get to see them all the time. This is the kind of stuff that goes through my head when I look at the Arts & Crafts roster, a label from Toronto, Ontario, the beloved city where I used to live. Unfortunately, right about the time when I want to be living in Toronto again and getting into the music scene for reals, it's also right about the time I've pretty much settled down in an entirely different country and am--let's face it--no longer living a late-night life in da club like I used to do.

All I know about Arts & Crafts I learned from their Web site, I first visited it when one of my favourite favourite (pls note Cdn spelling there) bands Stars moved from Le Grand Magistery label to Arts & Crafts. It was one of those fancy sites with lots of Flash animation and music that started playing very loudly as soon as everything had loaded, even if you were at work and weren't really supposed to be visiting record label Web sites, especially not ones that play loud music just spontaneously. Since then the site has become a bit more "normal" looking and less arty, and that's OK. Anyway, I was looking up some of the new music that made up the 2 shows below, and I found several links back to Arts & Crafts. I was like, "Who is Brendan Canning anyway? Wha--he's part of Broken Social Scene? On Arts & Crafts just like BSS? And this Apostle of Hustle sounds like Feist is singing in the background. Wait, this guy is from Broken Social Scene too? And on Arts & Crafts? And that really is Feist? Who is also on Arts & Crafts? And... OMG, The Stills are on Arts & Crafts too? What is going ON? And of course there's a new Stars EP Sad Robots, the existence of which means I am not one but TWO discs behind on one of my allegedly favourite favourite bands?" Like that.

Beef Jerky Time playlist, 11*12*08

Beef Jerky Time playlist, 11*19*08
  • Juicy: Rafter
  • Churches Under the Stairs: Brendan Canning
  • Real Animal: The House of Love
  • Kings & Queens: Apostle of Hustle
  • The End: David & the Citizens
  • My Alarm: New Faces
  • Publish My Love: Rogue Wave
  • Neo Violence: The Tough Alliance
  • Lay Down Your Weapons: Scissors for Lefty
  • God Has a Voice, She Speaks Through Me: CocoRosie
  • Independence Day: David Byrne
  • The Ghost of Genova Heights: Stars
  • Missing: Beck

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 23

Let's face it, macrobiotic food, aka "health food," is really cheap. I think tonight's meal comes to about $5, and we only ate half of it. That's because basically it's a bunch of brown rice with some veggies and lentils (again with the lentils...). It's another household staple of ours and excellent stick-to-your-ribs fare for the long bone-cold winter nights we get around here. Welcome to the darkest 2 months of the year, my hearties. (The blur on the right is not a ghost, it is steam.)

Here's what's in this bad boy: golden beet, parsnip, carrot, red onion, brown rice, lentils, water, wakame, rosemary (free from the garden). Throw together in an oiled covered dish and bake at 375 for at least 90 minutes. We like it with umeboshi paste and tamari.

It is not a coincidence that we are having cleansing whole grains and root vegetables practically moments before one of the biggest eating days of the year...

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 22

This is called "Meatball Soup" from Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook Deceptively Delicious (Melcher Media 2007). As you may have heard, Mrs. Seinfeld's idea is to put pureed vegetables into "normal" food so that children are sure to get at least some vegetables during the day. Other recipes include chocolate cake (made with beets) and pizza (with a hidden layer of spinach). This meatball soup contains carrot puree in the broth and sweet potato puree in the meatballs. I am not a huge convert on the hidden vegetables thing, but I do like some of these recipes and bowtie pasta is popular with my audience.

3 oz. pasta: .90
1 can tomatoes: 2.19
3 cups chicken stock: 2.00
1/2 lb ground turkey: 2.75
1/2 onion, 2 cloves garlic: .75
sweet potato: .33
1/2 carrot: .50
milk & parm: $.75
3 slices bread: .80
oil, spices: .50
Total: 11.47
Closing argument: I find this a frugal recipe for 3 reasons. One, it's a meal on its own. Two, there are tons of meatballs in it, but they're actually mostly bread, so quite thrifty. Three, leftovers!

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 21

I have been making this pizza since at least 1983. The recipe was in World magazine back then and I took a shine to it. I followed it religiously until the mid-90s, when I started mixing things up--like pre-cooking the crust, adding strange ingredients like radicchio and seafood, and trying different kinds of flour. I've pretty much gone back to the original recipe at this point (dough, tomato sauce, "normal" toppings), but I'm working on a blender version of the dough. It's still a work in progress (it gets really elastic-y in its current incarnation, and is hard to spread to the edges of the pan). I'll keep you posted.

Toppings tonight were turkey sausage, red pepper, garlic, and mushrooms.


This is a handy dish because it's an all-in-one. Vegetables, dairy, protein can all be piled on, and you don't even need a fork. Here's my cost breakdown:
yeast, sugar, salt: $1.00
flour & oil: $1.00
pizza sauce: $2.49
part-skim mozzarella: $2.94
1/3 red pepper: .75
garlic: .25
5 mushrooms: 1.32
3 turkey sausage (1/2 package): $2.00
Total: 11.75
I guess one area where I could cut back is the pizza sauce--I could use plain tomato sauce sprinkled with oregano and basil. But I have a strange weakness for canned pizza sauce. I just like the idea of it, though my own homemade sauces are probably tastier... and cheaper. Also there don't have to be so many toppings, of course!

Here's another shot of the pizza--I was trying to get the whole tray from end-to-end in this one shot. The cut-up pizza makes 8 rectangular pieces--we ate 6 of them.


Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 20

The big eater of the house was out at a meeting tonight (the kind with free pizza!) so I made a spontaneous soup for myself and the little one. Basically, we foraged for dinner. What I ended up with was a pretty good lentil soup and, of course, my favorite side dish of toast--this time with melted cheddar.


I liked this soup. I had about 2 cups of cooked lentils sitting around. (I remind myself of Neil from The Young Ones with my constant LENTILS.) I combined them with sautéed celery and red onion, some water, and threw in dulse (seaweed, yeah), turmeric, crushed garlic and marjoram for flavoring. I also added a little of the red pepper tapenade that was featured back on Day 4. I threw in some thinly sliced kale to force some veggies on us. I served it with some grated parmesan on top. Even my sometimes picky companion said it was good! I was glad there was a bit of that tapenade left to try in another way, because it really blossomed in this soup and had a nice smoky flavor that I didn't notice on Day 4 when it was covered with cheese.

Here's my breakdown:
lentils: $1.00
celery & 1/2 onion: $1.00
kale: $2.00
garlic & dulse: .50
spices: .25
parmesan & cheddar: $1.50
1 slice bread: .50
Total: 6.75
Frugality lesson for the day: Dinner may already be lurking in your kitchen. If you don't know what to eat, don't despair. Start opening cupboards and taking things out of the fridge and it will be unable to hide any longer.

Honey Lager: Tried Too Early?

My second batch of beer this season was a Honey Lager from Charlie Papazian's book The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing (Avon Books 1991). The ingredients are very simple: light dried malt extract, 2.5 pounds of clover honey, Cascade hops and yeast. The brew supply store fellow sold me a very nice packet of yeast which (bad!) I forgot to write down. (See my "lessons learned" post about keeping good brewing notes!) But I did write down the original gravity and the finishing gravity, so I should be able to figure the alcohol content. Let's see, with the help of Beermath:
Percent alcohol=5.1%
That's cool. My problem right now is that I can't wait to try it! I bottled on Wednesday, 10/29. I ran out of will power and cracked open a bottle on Sunday, 11/16--that's about two and a half weeks later. But... it had a strange sharp pong to the aftertaste that wasn't pleasant. I don't think it's ready yet.

My personal rule is to wait 4 weeks, so I'm just learning yet another lesson by drinking too early. I just need to sit tight for the full 4 weeks before I try again. Thanksgiving weekend, you are honey lager. One note: This isn't a "real" lager because I didn't brew it in a refrigerator. I guess it is more "lager-esque"--light and sharp. Supposed to be, anyway.

Plotting my next batch as soon as I can afford the ingredients. I'm thinking about something dark and spicy. Thoughts?

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 19

One word: leftovers. The chili from Day 17 was reheated, covered with more cheese and filled us right up. I also stir-fried some thinly sliced zucchini in lots of butter, just for variety. The little one ate most of that, which is what I was hoping. So: 1/2 cup grated cheese=$1.00 and 1/2 squash = $1.10. Tonight's dinner cost $2.10. (Or I could cut Monday's costs in half--Monday is now $6 and today is $8.10.)

Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 18

This is kind of the opposite of last night, which was a little bit of meat with a lot of other less expensive stuff. This time the main feature was 2 nice juicy pork chops, with just a few cheap sides. I think the results are comparable in terms of both satisfaction and price. Here's my plate: boneless pork chop (cut in two), kale (my fave!) with big pats of farmer's market butter, and a mix of red onion, red cabbage and apple that I caramelized along with the pork.

Here's my cost breakdown:

2 pork chops: $5.45
1/2 red cabbage, 1/2 red onion, 1 apple: $2.00
cloves, brown sugar, s&p: .50
1/2 bunch kale: $2.00
pb&j that the little one ate as a snack and then wouldn't eat dinner: $1.00
Total: $10.95
That seems like a pretty good price for such a meaty meal. We definitely comparison shopped the price per pound of this pork with no bones compared to bone-in chops and other cuts. We decided to pay a little more but avoid the bones. Seemed like a better deal in the long run, since who knows how much the bone weighed--it looked like it took up a quarter of a chop!

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 17

Tonight's meal was slow cooker chili. I make this recipe at least once a month. I use bulk beans--always kidney and pinto beans, sometimes I'll also add black beans if I have them. I am a little picky with prepping the beans. First I soak them overnight (or longer if I forget about them). I put them in canning jars full of water and just let them swell up for at least 8 hours. Then, I cook them--separately. I just don't like the red kidney beans (or dark black beans) to dye my light pinto beans. Not sure why I'm so particular since everything turns out chili-colored in the end, but that's just my way. For meat, I use ground turkey instead of ground beef. It tastes pretty much the same, but is apparently healthier.

This meal is probably over the 10 dollar mark. The beans maybe cost around $3.00 and the turkey another $3. The onion, peppers, carrot, celery, canned tomatoes, spices and grated cheese probably bump things up to at least $10, maybe more like $12. However, this does make a lot and we had leftovers... maybe we'll be revisiting this chili around Day 19.

Frugal lesson from today: Use cheap beans to bulk up and extend other more pricey ingredients. They'll not only soak up flavor, but they can make the meal larger so you can eat it again another day--for free.

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 16

I guess in a way you could say tonight's dinner was "cheap." But actually it was more like priceless. Our fabulous friends cooked us a fantastic spread of leg of lamb, mixed greens, savory creamy cheesy scalloped potatoes (including sweet potatoes), warm artisanal French bread, plus all the red wine and beer we could ever want. And they brought it all to us, because by a fluke their power went out and they weren't able to host at home as planned. Here's my plate, although this picture doesn't do justice to the giant flavors we were having.

Some details: The lamb was thickly coated in chopped garlic and rosemary--all ingredients local and organic. The scalloped potatoes were made with sage, flat leaf parsley and smoked gruyère, which made it taste like it contained bacon. Also I threw together a few hors d'oeuvres--vegetable sticks, hummus and the store's "cheese of the week," a creamy havarti that we ate in big buttery chunks handed around on a small white plate. It was a great evening with amazing food and even better friends--THANKS P&M!! This should definitely be an annual tradition.

In terms of frugality, the lesson here is to share the good stuff with the people you love. We lucked out tonight because we got to be with some of our favorite people AND we got to share some of their excellent food. Real pleasure. Next it's our turn!

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 15—Potluck

You may notice there is no post for "Trying to Eat Cheap, Day 14"--that's because I was treated to dinner and drinks at the local wine bar. Actually, the local wine bar was closed, so we went across the street to a place that serves small gourmet dishes and also good wine. Yum! We tried a couple different reds, and had a mushroom tart, littlenecks in a greens & bacon broth, and a white truffle VEGAN pate. It wasn't exactly frugal, but my companion very generously covered us both. I'd been looking forward to our get-together all week and it was great.

Day 15 is another interesting twist on frugality--mixing things up with a potluck. It was a surprise birthday potluck, so I made a cheesecake with chocolate crust and chocolate marbling.

I'd say the ingredients for this cheesecake cost around $8.50. In exchange, we had a full meal of all the other potluck items--salad, lots of great cheeses and breads, pasta with some sort of caponata sauce, hot cheesy bean dip with chips (that was my favorite!), plus all manner of other desserts. What a selection and what a deal! Probably having a weekly potluck with a group would be a great way to eat cheap and get a LOT to eat. Maybe this will be one of my "save my sanity" projects as the dark days of winter close in on us.

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 13

Just revisited our monthly budget and got some rather harsh news, mainly that my plans to increase food spending by a tiny bit to make things more interesting aren't really feasible. We've got to keep this belt as tight as possible, period. So no chevre-stuffed chicken breasts with sundried tomatoes any time soon. But maybe I can do something with chicken thighs and feta that will be almost as good. I'll let you know!

Tonight's dinner was based on the rest of the ground beef that I used for sliders on Day 11. I bought a pound and only used half, so made beef stroganoff with the rest.

Frugality breakdown:
1/2 lb. ground beef: 2.00
1 can cream of mushroom soup: 2.29
1 onion & 2 cloves garlic: .90
1/2 cup sour cream: 1.00
1 lb bag of egg noodles: 2.00
small bunch kale: 1.50
Total: 9.69

Trying to Eat Cheap: Dinner, Day 12

No photo today as my camera battery kicked out just as I was getting ready to snap a pic of my TACOS. I always use ground turkey (dark meat) for these, plus Casa Fiesta taco seasoning. I don't usually get into brand names on this blog, but I do so love Casa Fiesta taco seasoning. We were wondering once how it could possibly be so good. Turns out one of the ingredients is chocolate! Case solved.

Here's what went into 6 hard corn tacos:
6 corn taco shells: 2.00
1/2 lb. ground turkey: 2.50
1/2 package Casa Fiesta taco seasoning: .60
3 T sour cream: .50
3 T salsa: .75
grated cheddar cheese: 1.50
1/2 avocado, sliced: 1.00
Total: $8.85

Just for the record, one of the things I don't compromise on price-wise is conventional vs. organic food. I strongly prefer organic or local food, and natural chemical-free meats. I shop at the local health food store and the local farmer's market as much as possible. I think this automatically raises my price point somewhat, and that's OK. That's because I believe that it's not healthy or necessary to get the Absolute Cheapest ingredients available. My frugality goal is to not only eat cheap, but to eat cheap quality foods that aren't going to kill me faster.

Panther: The band, not the cat or the OS

I was so obsessed with just a couple new-to-me bands this summer (Cut Copy anyone? Vampire Weekend?) that I skipped over some other interesting outfits. So I'm going back to appreciate some of what I missed in my excitement. One good thing is Panther, whose latest album is 14 kt. God. What I like about Panther is that of the 4 tracks I know well, each sounds like it's by a completely different group. "Violence, Diamonds" is a cheesy symphony by 90s poseurs that you hate to love, but love nonetheless. "Puerto Rican Jukebox" is an ever-ticking funk punk chant. It would be great jogging music. "On the Lam" is totally delicious 80s-style synth-pop with soaring chorus and incessant loops. It would be a great soundtrack for Breakfast Club corridor out-takes. And "How Well Can You Swim" is just modern and strange-sounding, a monotonous yet insidious track that doesn't say much but gets thoroughly stuck in my head. All this diversity of sound says to me this is one cool band. They're from Portland, OR (just like Menomena and The Helio Sequence, hey!). If you want to see into the mind of the lead-singer-guy, visit Rhinestone Neckbrace. Also see

Beef Jerky Time playlist, 11*5*08
  • Wet & Rusting: Menomena
  • On the Lam: Panther
  • All Too Vivid: Vega
  • Black: Okkervil River
  • Ya-Ya-Ya: Larytta
  • Campus: Vampire Weekend
  • Chandelier Searchlight: Deerhoof
  • Make It So (XXXChange remix): Daedelus
  • The Whip: Trash
  • Paper Planes: M.I.A.
  • How Well Can You Swim: Panther
  • Snowblind: +/-
  • Inspiration Information: Shuggie Otis

Trying to Eat Cheap: A Month of Dinners, Day 11

I'm so full after dinner tonight I can hardly move. I was missing "meat" and "American food" so I wrote myself out a week of dream menus that included Quiche Lorraine, cassoulet, tilapia with mustard sauce and chicken breast stuffed with feta and sundried tomatoes. But first up, garlic sliders with horseradish mayo, waffle fries and beans-in-sauce on the side. I couldn't find any official "slider buns" (surprise surprise, I thought modern supermarkets had EVERYthing), so I used small rolls. They were quite soft, but worked fine. I love the horseradish mayo idea--used Tyler Florence's idea from his Ultimate Burger bar (mix mayo with prepared horseradish, chopped herbs--parsley & chives for me, as usual--olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper).

Here's my breakdown:
1/2 pkg frozen green beans: 1.00
sour cream & parm: .75
1/2 lb. ground beef: 2.00
garlic, egg, bread crumbs, basil: .75
9 brown-n-serve rolls: 2.00
lettuce & condiments: 1.50
horseradish mayo: 1.00
1/2 package of waffle fries: 2.00
Total: 11.00
HA! I knew it! It's possible to eat "normal" food for just a few dollars more than a completely healthy, vegan, whole grain, vitamin laden meal. Just the news I needed. Because it's kind of stressful to both feel cash-strapped and to have to eat very plain food. It's not necessary! Stay tuned for more comparisons between "health food" (days 1-6 and 9) and "regular food" (days 10 & 11) in the days to come, as I try to work out exactly what I can do on a shoestring budget.

Trying to eat cheap: A month of dinners, Day 10--Salmon patties

I'm getting sick of looking at my own heavily-vegetarian posts from the last 9 days. This is what I get when I shop for the lowest possible unit price--rice and beans and many variants thereof. I have some plans to mix things up a little in the coming week. My last 7 meals made at home average about $9.86 each. I'm thinking if I raise my sights by about 25% I could incorporate some more interesting foods--like meat, more condiments, heck maybe some SIDE dishes.

As I plan, here's the recipe for tonight's main course. This is based on yet another recipe from Laurel Glen's Quick Food. They suggest serving it with a lime zest mayonnaise, but lately we've just been using tartar sauce.

1 7.5 oz can salmon (bones & skin OK)
1 egg
1/2 stick celery, cut up
2 potatoes (skin OK)
1/8 t dill
chives or scallions
2 T parsley, chopped
salt & pepper
3/4 cup bread crumbs (make your own!)
olive oil or cooking spray
Cut the potatoes into large chunks and boil for 15 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, put salmon in food processor and blend thoroughly. This helps incorporate the bones & skin. Don't worry, salmon bones are usually soft and should blend in well. I think they are a source of calcium in fact! (Of course you can remove if eating them seems weird.) Add the celery next and blend until well incorporated. Then, add the egg and blend for about 10 seconds more--until mixed. Scrape the sides of the food processor if necessary.


In a large bowl (or the pot you boiled them in), mash the potatoes roughly. It's OK if there are some chunks. I used red potatoes today, as you can see.


Mix the salmon mixture in with the potatoes. Add the chives or scallions, parsley, dill and salt and pepper.


Heat a frying pan, preferably a non-stick one. Form the salmon mixture into patties and put in bread-crumbs. Turn to coat the other side in bread crumbs. Add olive oil to pan if you're using it. Otherwise, spray the down-side of each patty with cooking spray. Place patties in pan.


Cook for about 5 minutes on each side. Makes 6-7 patties. We also had salads.


Here are my cost calculations:
salmon: 1.59 (usually 3.59 but we found it at the scratch & dent store)
potatoes: 2.00
bread crumbs: .75
parsley & chives: free from the garden
egg: .50
celery, s&p, dill: .75
salad stuff: 5.00
total: 10.59

Trying to Eat Cheap: A Month of Dinners, Day 9

This is the 5th or 6th Sunday when I've made buckwheat-butternut-cabbage soup. It's yet another meal-in-a-bowl--very easy to make, vegetarian and healthy. This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Kristina Turner's The Self Healing Cookbook. Basically, if you're interested in macrobiotics, this book should be your bible. I had a four-plus month stint about 8 years ago where I was obsessed with macrobiotic cooking. I ate a lot of brown rice and lost a lot of weight. I also learned what it's like to be Really Hungry. But this soup was a later discovery--maybe if I'd known about it back then, I wouldn't have been trying to eat the linoleum just to fill my tummy with something sustaining.


Here's a "frugality breakdown":
butternut squash: 1.25
buckwheat: .25
onion: .75
wakame (sea vegetable): 1.00
cabbage: 2.00
buttered toast: 1.50 (I guess I have to admit I consider this a legimate side dish)
Total: 6.75
I made this for company a few weeks ago and it's easy to make this fancy--just add lamb meatballs (blend ground lamb with 1 egg, breadcrumbs and cinnamon, form into balls and bake briefly til cooked through, then drop into finished soup). One more note: that's my homebrew in the background.

Trying to Eat Cheap: A Month of Dinners, Day 8

Leftover night. We never managed to eat that whole wheat mac & cheese for lunch, so I revived it (and greatly improved it I think) by turning it into a pasta bake.

I followed a recipe from one of my standby cookbooks, Laurel Glen's Quick Food. We still had about 4 cups of cooked pasta. To fix it up, I started by sautéing 1 chopped small onion in olive oil, then adding in 2 thick slices of ham cut into small squares. Then I added about a cup of cream and a cup of frozen peas and stirred everything together, simmering for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile I put the mac & cheese in a big bowl with a generous sprinkle of basil and about 1 cup of grated cheddar. The sharper the better in this dish, cheddar-wise. Mix in the ham/pea mixture and put in an oiled casserole dish. Top with about 1/2 cup more cheese and cook at 400˚ for 20 minutes. Turns into a bubbly cheesy savory meal. This is a great way to use up leftover pasta--or leftover ham.

Here's my cost breakdown:
leftovers: free
onion: .75
cheese & cream: 2.00
ham: 6.00
peas (on sale!): 1.50
Total: $10.25
Guess what--we still have leftovers.