We’re baaack – this week’s receipt

After an intense 3-day, 275 mile (or so), bike ride in the rain with a fabulous cast of characters, Phil and I are back and ready to eat some real food. Chowing down on steamed vegetables and some sort of pasta every night was not ideal. To see some of our photos from the Braking the Cycle AIDS ride, go here. The LGBT Center also has a page up with photos.

Groceries were bought yesterday, with a nice focus on veggies. The checkout lady was impressed with the amount of groceries that I bought and the total of my bill. When I told her that I was in the fourth week of this project she looked amazed and said “that’s crazy.” It’s really not that bad.

Total: $29.98. I bought milk today ($1) to make yogurt, so we’ve got .02 cents left for this week. However, there is last week’s surplus of .24 cents. So: .26 cents in the kitty. Wahoo!


No Brainer Bread

This is the bread I have been making consistently since starting the $30/Week challenge. I did a google search to find a quick rise/yeast bread recipe and found a few. The best is one from the comments section from Serious Eats. I’ve tweaked it a bit and it is really a no brainer. The bread comes out a little dense, slices well and depending on the flour you use (I use a combo), tastes great.

No Brainer Bread

The easiest sliced bread ever.

Ingredients:

1 packet active dry yeast
500g flour (I use a combo of AP and whole wheat and throw in some vital wheat gluten flour too)
300-305g warm water (start w/300g and add a bit more if you need to)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
bit of butter and olive oil

To Do:

Preheat the oven to 200F while you prep dough.

Note: I have a stand mixer, so this is really easy and quick. Since the dough is rather sticky, you can mix it with your hands in a large bowl and it will all turn out all right too.

Combine the dry ingredients and the yeast in the the bowl of a stand mixer (or a big bowl) with a fork. I put the sugar, yeast and salt in the mixing bowl and then set my kitchen scale to 0 and measure out the dough. This recipe is pretty versatile, so use whatever flour(s) you want.

Put on the dough hook and start the mixer. Add the water, mix until well kneaded with dough hook. Alternatively, use your hands to knead the dough if you don’t have a mixer. The dough should be nice and smooth and come together easily. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water. If you think it’s too wet, just keep kneading it – it’s okay if the dough is a bit wet.

Turn off the oven. Lift dough out of bowl and add a few drops of olive oil. Plop the dough back in the bowl and shake it around. Cover it with a dishtowel and place in the warmed oven for at least 30 minutes (for superquick bread), up to an hour. I usually leave it in for 40 minutes.

Take dough out of oven. It should have risen! Punch it down and knead it with your hands a few times (or put the bowl back in the stand mixer and use dough hook to knead it some more). Form it into a cylinder and place in a loaf pan that you rubbed with some butter. Cover up the loaf pan and let it rise until doubled (30-40 minutes). Heat the oven to 350F.

Brush top of bread with a bit of milk (I use soy). Pop in the oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool and place in a paper bag for storage.

Makes: 1 loaf


Or Else You Can’t Have Any Dessert

Go-to example for the vegetable phobic, the brussels sprout is much maligned. This recipe is for the brussels sprout skeptic (Jon, we’re lookin’ at you). This recipe has one huge advantage over most other ways to cook the sprouts and that is this: they don’t end up tasting like pee. This recipe might have come from somewhere – maybe Bittman, I can’t remember.

Brussel Sprouts That Really Taste Good

Brussles sprouts (washed)
Butter (2 tbsp, maybe 3)
Salt and Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Take the sprouts, cut the hard stem ends off, then cut them in half lengthwise. Put them all into a casserole dish. Cut the butter into 1/4″ cubes, and distribute them among the sprouts. Dust with salt and pepper, then put them in the oven and cook them for about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. If you prefer your sprouts on the dry side, cook them uncovered. Or cook ’em covered if you’re feeling saucy.

Sprouts pictured here with an improvised cous cous and veggie dog casserole with caramelized onions and toasted fennel seeds. Equally appropriate with a bottle of Rioja and a Basil Hayden’s on the rocks.


Back to Basics

Since me and Phil are leaving for our Braking the Cycle bike adventure on Thursday, this week’s trip to the Coop was for the basics.  See below for all of the exciting purchases.


Chapatis

Tina picked up some flour at the coop yesterday so that we could have some bread over the weekend, but having gone out to for drinks at Franklin Park last night (good thing we’re not counting drinks out toward our grocery total – I don’t think our 30 cents would have gotten us very far), we didn’t actually get around to doing any baking last night. Point being, when we got up for breakfast this morning we didn’t have anything bready to put our last two eggs on top of.

We decided to make some chapatis, since they’re so quick and don’t require anything ingredients beyond flour, water, and salt. We took Mark Bittman’s recipe as a basic guide, but simple as that is, our version is even faster.

The Easiest Possible Chapatis
1 1/2 whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup warm water

1. Put the flour and salt in a food processor. Turn the processor on and slowly add the water. That will leave you with a slightly sticky dough ball.

2. Put the ball on a floured surface, under a towel, and let it sit for 15 minutes or so.

3. Pinch the dough into small pieces (about the size of a big marshmallow) and roll each one out to a round, about 3″ in diameter.

4. Heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Put a round in the skillet and let it heat until the dough start to puff and bubble a bit, then flip it and it within a minute it should balloon up from the skillet. Each side should be lightly charred.

5. Put the finished chapatis in a small basket and cover them with a cloth until they’re all cooked.

Finished. They’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and they go perfectly with pretty much anything. We had some with our eggs and faux canadian bacon, and then more with Tina’s homemade apple ginger jelly. You just can’t find a quicker and easier bread.


Update: $0.30 Left

I went to the Coop early this morning and got whole wheat flour, cornmeal and 4 packets of Emergen-C as I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather and need all the vitamin C I can get.

The grand total? $3.20

FLOURS!

Orzo with Mushrooms, Hazelnuts, Parsley, and Tofu

This was a recipe that I wanted to make on Friday with white beans, but after coming home a bit late from work, I decided my original Thursday night recipe (including brown rice) would take too long. Adaptation! I decided to toast the orzo a bit and then cook it in loads of water and it added a nice nutty flavor to the orzo.

Orzo with Mushrooms, Hazlenuts, Parsley, and Tofu

Cooking Soundtrack: Bjork – Live Box

Ingredients

Tofu Marinade (Phil’s creation, not sure about portions, but a lil bit of this and that)

Rice Vinegar
Sesame Oil
Soy Sauce (just a small dash)
Agave Nectar
Crushed Red Pepper
White Pepper
Garlic

The Rest of the Stuff

1 block of extra-firm tofu

1 cup orzo

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp fennel seeds

8 white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1.5 cups chopped parsley

handful of chopped toasted hazelnuts with skins rubbed off

squeeze of lemon

salt & pepper

To Do:

First, squeeze out as much water as you can from the tofu. Cut into thirds lengthwise and then into triangles. Heat a nonstick pan and put the tofu in the pan (no oil, nothing). This will help dry out the tofu and enable it to absorb the marinade better. Cook on both sides and press down with a spatula until the tofu looks toasted and dry. While it’s cooking whip up the marinade. Put all marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork. Place dried-out tofu in a pan and cover with marinade. The longer you soak the tofu, the more flavorful it will be (I only did it for about 20 minutes though).

While the tofu is marinating, heat up the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Sautee the garlic and fennel seeds over medium heat and then add the orzo. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until orzo is toasty. Add a whole lot of water and some salt. Cook until al dente (about 7-8 minutes). Drain (reserve some liquid in a cup) and cover to keep it warm.

Finish up with the mushrooms while the orzo is cooking. Heat up a tiny bit of olive oil (I have an olive oil spray bottle and just used a quick spray) – you don’t need much because mushrooms contain a lot of moisture. Sautee the mushrooms until they’re a lovely brown color and squeeze a bit of lemon juice if they appear to stick to the pan. Add some salt and pepper to the mix. If the orzo is still cooking, steal a bit of the pasta water and add it to the mushrooms. If you already drained the orzo, use some of the pasta water you saved. The mushrooms should be browned and reduced in size.

Toss the orzo, parsley, mushrooms and hazlenuts (toast them in oven or toaster oven and use dishtowel to rub off skins) together. Add more lemon and salt and pepper to taste. Top with slices of the tofu. Eat!


Update: $3.50 left for the week

I bought 4 challah rolls yesterday for $1 for the “turkey” burgers. Which means $3.50 left for the week…what to do? Eggs or flour? I might have people over for dinner on Sunday too. Yipes. In terms of vegetables, all is well, but I’m glad that we’ll be out of town for the bulk of next week.

Phil and I are participating in Braking the Cycle, a 275-mile bike ride/fundraiser for HIV Services at The LGBT Center in Manhattan. We managed to raise over $3,500 each and I’m pretty proud of us and the rest of our team members (go RIMS!). We leave Thursday at 1pm and get back late on Sunday – this means that next week’s food money can go to buying bulk items that are going quickly (i.e. flour, rice, dried beans, etc.).

It’s pretty amazing how you start using everything in the pantry when you do a crazy project like this. Granted, during the summer we subsisted on lots of salads of fresh veggies and sandwiches and didn’t use many of our languishing grains, but brisker weather and this project have me dipping into our bulk jars. I’m also looking forward to using some of the money to buy Emergen-C packets which are about $9 for a big pack at the Coop.


Veggie Turkey Burgers

Last night we had “turkey” burgers for dinner. I just kind of threw things together and hoped for the best and damn! they were awesome. The problem with a lot of veggie burgers (with mock meat or otherwise) is that they tend to fall apart. Precooking them in the oven helps out with this issue, but you need to be careful not to dry them out completely.

Out of the oven and into the frying pan!

Faux “Turkey” Burgers


Ingredients:

1 package of Yves Meatless Ground Turkey (or other veggie crumble-type product)
6oz beer
1/2 cup bread crumbs (preferably homemade)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
fresh ground pepper
2 tsp. salt (less or more to your liking)
squirt of ketchup

To Do:

Preheat oven to 325F. Mix together all ingredients with your hands in a bowl. If the mixture is too dry, add more beer or ketchup (usually, I would use an egg to bind everything, but with the 30 a Week Project going, I only have 3 eggs to last me the week). Form into 4 patties.

Place patties on parchment paper or silpat and then on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes to firm them up. Spray a cast iron skillet with olive oil spray (or just a few teaspoons of olive oil) and heat until a drop of water sizzles on the skillet (alternatively, use any frying pan you’ve got). Put patties on the skillet and lower heat to medium. Cook on each side for about 7 minutes or so.

Top with cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, whatever you want!

Serves four.


Homemade Yogurt

Making your own yogurt really isn’t that difficult.  There has been a lot of posts out in the food blog world about making your own and, of course, Mark Bittman has a great bit in his How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I used the basics from 101 Cookbooks and have been making my own for a while.  Phil posted a pic of the homemade yogurt already, but I thought I would just write out the process and also how to strain yogurt to make Greek-style yogurt.

Homemade Yogurt

Homemade Yogurt

Ingredients:

  1. 1 quart of milk (I usually use skim, but used 1% last time and it came out great.  Obviously, the more rich your milk, the more rick your yogurt)
  2. 2-3 tablespoons of Stonyfield Plain Yogurt (lowfat, fullfat, JUST NOT NONFAT)

Good Things to Have:

  • You should also have a food thermometer.  They’re pretty cheap.  Buy one for the upcoming recipe on caramels.
  • A wide-mouth thermos to incubate your yogurt or a yogurt maker is a wise investment if you dig making your own yogurt.  They can be had cheaply on amazon.  I have a Salton that appears to be out of stock forever as it is now $500 (I paid $16 for it).

To Do:

Pour the milk into a microwavable glass bowl.  Microwave for 8 minutes.  You don’t want the milk the boil, but it needs to heat up enough to kill any remaining bacteria.  I usually heat it between 180-185F, which is about 8 minutes in the microwave.  Alternatively, use the double boiler method and stand over the milk and stir it constantly so that it doesn’t scorch.

Take out the bowl of milk and let it hang out until it hits 110-112F.  Don’t let it get under 110!  If you’re in a hurry, put the bowl into an ice water bath (a larger bowl filled with icecubes and cold water) and cool the milk down to 110-112F.  If your Stonyfield yogurt isn’t already on the counter, take it out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature.  Also, preheat your yogurt maker or pour some boiling water in a thermos and keep it hot.

Once the milk hits 110-112F whisk in the yogurt a bit at a time.  Try to make sure the yogurt dissolves in the milk.  Pour into yogurt maker and let sit undisturbed for about 6-8 hours.  The longer the time, the tangier and more solid the yogurt.  *If you’re using a thermos,  empty out the boiled water, shake it vigorously to dry out a bit, add the yogurt mixture and cap tightly.  Wrap in a blanket and keep in a warm, undisturbed place overnight.

The next morning, you should have yogurt!  It might look weird, lots of liquid on top, kinda grainy and smell tangy, but that’s okay!  Stir it all up and put it in a container and leave it in the fridge for a few hours.  It should thicken up.

The yogurt will be less thick than most commercial yogurts because there is no added pectin or other things to solidify it.  I usually make the yogurt, take two tablespoons out to start my next batch (so you don’t have to go out and buy more yogurt!), and strain the remaining yogurt into a thicker yogurt.

How Do I Strain Yogurt?

Easy.  You can use a cheese cloth, coffee filter or some paper towels.  Line a seive with one of the three items I mentioned in the last sentence.  Place seive over another bowl.  Pour yogurt into your lined seive.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp paper towel or coffee filter.  Leave in fridge for a few hours and up to overnight.  The longer you strain it, the more dense it becomes and forms a type of yogurt “cheese” that you can combine with herbs and use as cream cheese.  I have one of those coffee filters you don’t need a liner for, so I usually use it to strain the yogurt instead of using up paper products, but whatever works!

*I’ve never tried this thermos business, but after reading a bunch of blogs, it appears to work.  For more ideas on how to keep yogurt incubated for the right amount of time and a much more detailed tutorial, go here.