Another reason to love the Ripper

I must say, I was smitten with Eric Ripert’s blog from the beginning. His use of a toaster oven to create delectable little meals (and his accent while describing the process) is great! I believe that watching one of his videos led my friend to go out and buy that Cuisinart toaster oven, which is a whole other story. I haven’t checked it out in a while and they’ve changed the layout a bit and have opened it up to the readers. What struck me was this great post on the pleasure of cooking for friends, enjoying food and using seasonal ingredients.  After claiming that he will create a menu and an easy plan to prep everything, Ripert wants to actually include people in on the process:

“I invite you to join in this experience and document your party. After your individual dinner party is over, return to the site and share your highlights. I hope that you will post pictures and write about your experiences here on the site through our new gallery feature. There will even be a food photo contest that I hope you will enter. Submit your favorite picture of the beautiful food you have prepared and you could win something special.”

I don’t know if he’s actually writing this or someone else is pulling the strings, but I think its a fantastic idea and love the progression of the parties through the winter season.  While this won’t fit into our budget, maybe we’ll make an exception and host a Ripper dinner party (sans meat).  His October menu:

Caramelized Onion and Olive Croustade

Endive Spears with Blue Cheese and Duck Prosciutto

Fall Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Fingerling Potatoes and Marinated Market Vegetables

Maple Roasted Pears with Bourbon Chocolate Sauce (YUM!)

Salads and Sandwiches

This week has been a bit crazy as it was Phil’s birthday yesterday, I had a babysitting gig on Tuesday and now we’re off for some long-weekend fun.  There hasn’t been much cooking.  Monday’s dinner was a huge salad and yummy sandwiches; Tuesday was a breakfast of oatmeal and dried fruit & nuts and lunch was leftovers and a quick couscous salad I made on Monday night…there have been some hard boiled eggs, salad and oatmeal and fruit eating for Wednesday (as well as a homemade birthday cookie cake and some Mexican food).  Not much excitement, I’m afraid.  But there will be.  I leave you with this delicious photo of an egg topped swiss chard tart – recipe to come next week.

The Other Delicious

If you look over to the right, you’ll see a new widget on the sidebar called “Recent Reads.” These are our bookmarks. We’ll be linking all manner of fascinating food-related content over there, so keep an eye out.

Social bookmarkers, we welcome your networkery.

10/27 Receipt

Total: $26.67.

Honestly, we had hoped to come in way under budget for this trip because we’re going to be out of town at the end of the week, so we weren’t really shopping for a full week worth of meals. Nothing we got was too expensive on its own (except maybe the cashews), but somehow we still ended up pushing $30. Oh well…that bottle of ketchup will last a good long time.

Welcome, Redditors and Stumblers

We noticed that our hit count had increased by a couple orders of magnitude over the last couple of days thanks to link on Reddit and Stumble Upon. Hi everybody – thanks for visiting!

We also noted that the comments attached to our link on Reddit involved a lot of speculation on how exactly it is that we manage to eat for so little money, with most people of the opinion that the key is not eating meat. This is probably not entirely off the mark. Meat can be really expensive, assuming it’s from a reputable source. But I’d also point out that while we’ve been on this budget for a little over a month, I’ve been vegetarian for over a decade and easily spending twice (or three times) as much for weekly groceries.

Another factor that helps us get food on the cheap is our membership at the Park Slope Food Coop. This is a members-only coop, so everybody who shops there has to work a 3 hour shift once a month. As a result of the low labor overhead, the markup from cost (usually 50 to 100% in regular supermarkets) is fixed at, I believe, 21%. The coop’s most recent price comparison shows an average savings of 40% off of regular New York City supermarkets. Shopping at the coop helps us substantially reduce our grocery bill because, like cooking at home rather than eating out, it involves an investment of time rather than money.

In fact, spending time rather than money is a strategy that can help you reduce your food budget in all sorts of ways. One idea we’ve had for this site is to start sharing some ideas (some from us, and hopefully some from readers) about basic kitchen skills that allow you to save money by spending a little more time in the kitchen. For instance, we’ve mentioned a couple times that you can save a lot of money by making your own seitan rather than buying it (for non-vegetarians, we can also provide a little introduction to seitan, which is mock meat made from wheat gluten…don’t be scared). Also, using dried beans rather than canned and growing your own herbs. Any other suggestions, we’d love to hear them.

Treehugger: On Vegetarianism

On the green/sustainability site Treehugger, blog contributor Kelly Rossiter has announted that she’s going to be devoting her blog posts, for some time going forward, to exploring issues of vegetarianism.

Being a vegetarian myself (for about 13 years now), I sometimes find the issue of diet to be a tricky issue. Fairly often, I’m asked about why I’m a vegetarian and I tend to frame my answer in terms of personal choice. In other words, I try to explain why I don’t eat meat without implying that the person I’m talking to shouldn’t eat meat. I assume that a person’s curiosity about my diet isn’t a request to be converted.

Neverthess, I wouldn’t be vegetarian if I didn’t think it was the right thing to do – environmentally, politically, ethically. And the scope and impact of these issues is such that my personal practice is not going to make a difference on its own. Rather, I think there are a number of really strong arguments to be made that the world would be better off if vegetarianism was the rule rather than the exception.

While blunt evangelism is unlikely to win over too many people, I think Rossiter’s gradualist approach might do a lot of good toward convinving people (especially people who already care enough about green issues to read Treehugger) that vegetarianism is a reasonable choice, both as a response to the social and environmental issues facing us today, and as lifesytle.

Here’s a snippet from her introductory post, “On Moving Toward Vegetarianism“:

There’s no question that more people are embracing a vegetarian diet, especially in the under 30 age group, but there is still resistance to it in the rest of the population. There are many people out there who are flummoxed by the idea of cooking and eating a meal without meat. I’d like to change that. The goal is to move toward vegetarianism. I don’t intend to bully you, or guilt you, or scare you into becoming total vegetarians. I don’t expect you to read my columns and eschew the Thanksgiving turkey, but every week I am going to try to make you think a bit more about what you eat and what it means in a larger context. In the coming weeks I’ll be writing about all aspects of vegetarianism; personal, social, ecological, and political.

What might make this project more interesting to a broader (i.e. non-vegetarian) audience is that Rossiter is not a vegetarian. Rather, she’s an omnivore who has been moving steadily toward vegetarianism as she learns more about the provenance of meat and, she seems to suggest, the social, political, and environmental impact of various meat-related industries.

She’s also going to be including weekly “challenges” for people looking to acclimate themselves to cooking meatless meals.

For anybody who’s considered a vegetarian diet, or even for those who have assumed that vegetarianism wasn’t for them, I’d definitely recommend checking back with this column.

Swiss Chard Lasagna

This lasagna was delicious, healthy, and pretty easy to put together. I made the recipe up and while it does seem like there are a lot of steps, it’s not difficult if you multi-task. Caramelizing the onions really gives it a deep flavor for a vegetable dish, so it’s a necessary step, but it can be time consuming. My advice is to just make a whole bunch of them at once and store them in the fridge in a container. Onions are extremely cheap and caramelizing them adds a sweeter, smoky dimension to their flavor. Once stored, you can use them in omelets, pasta dishes, sandwich/burger/potato topping, add-on to cooked greens, salads, pilafs, couscous, risotto….the list goes on.

Swiss Chard Lasagna

1 bunch of swiss chard (substitute spinach, or really any greens if you want)
olive oil
3 medium onions
no-boil lasagne noodles
1.5 cups chopped seitan (or veggie crumbles or ground beef/turkey/chicken)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tsps. (or more) crushed red pepper
salt & pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
grated Parmesan cheese

To Do:

This may seem like a lot of work, but I promise it’s not too bad (really). It takes a little time to set up, but once the set up is done, you can throw it in the fridge for later or even the freezer for much later. And remember, if you have canned tomato sauce or frozen spinach or broccoli, feel free to substitute those in. Fresh definitely tends to be better, but work with what you’ve got around.

  1. Chop the onions into slivers. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium frying pan over high heat. Add the onions, turn heat to low, stir a bit and cover with a lid. Let the onions sweat until they become caramelized. Keep an eye on the onions and stir them every once in a while and prep the tomato sauce and chard.
  2. Pour tomatoes into a small saucepan, add some salt and pepper, the minced garlic and crushed red pepper (add more or less depending on your spice tolerance). Let simmer over very low heat while you…prep the chard!
  3. First, preheat the oven to 375F if you’re going to cook the lasagna. Wash the chard thoroughly. Chop the stems into small pieces. Place about 2 inches of water in a medium pot and place the stems in the pot (covered) over medium heat while you prep the leaves. Just chop them roughly into medium sized bits and then throw them into the pot too. Sprinkle some salt and pepper in there and then let it cook for 3 minutes or so (until it gets wilted). Put in a strainer and squeeze the juice out of the chard. You can do the same thing with spinach or any other leafy green.
  4. Once the onions have caramelized, put the ground seitan into the pan and mix around a bit. Add some salt and pepper and cook until seitan browns.
  5. Time for the fun! Spray a 9×9″ baking dish with olive oil or whatever you prefer. Pour some sauce on the bottom and spread it around. Place 2 noodles on top of the sauce. Put a bit more sauce on top of the noodles and place half of the chard mixture on top. Sprinkle some mozzarella cheese on the chard and place 2 more noodles on top. Put 1/2 of the caramelized onion/seitan mixture on top. Place two more noodles on top of that mixture and add some sauce and mix the chard and the onion/seitan together and put that on top of the sauce. Sprinkle some cheese (just a little) and add two more noodles. Cover with sauce, a bit of mozzarella and some shredded Parmesan cheese.
  6. *Wrap the top of the baking dish with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes. Take off tinfoil and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Mangia!

*If you want to make this ahead of time, it can be well wrapped and stuck in the fridge for up to a day. If you want to freeze it, prep all the layers in the baking dish wrap tightly with plastic wrap, then tinfoil and if you can stick it in a large ziplock, that would prevent freezer burn. If not, just make sure you wrap things TIGHT. Freeze for up to three months (write date on foil/wrap). When you want to cook it, remove plastic wrap and follow instructions above, increasing the first cooking time by an hour or so and the second cooking time (sans foil) to 30 minutes.

Food for Hard Times

At Casserole Crazy, Emily Farris directs us to a short video series on “Depression Cooking” by a 91-year old woman named Clara.

This is exactly the kind of kitchen knowledge I was talking about in my Pollan post yesterday. It’s simple cooking rooted in memory, history, and family. And the recipe is vegetarian! Also, I would like to point out the bonus-point awesomeness that is Clara’s removal of the (presumably branded) label from her can of peas, replacing it with her own black marker label.

Clara’s video series can be found here.

Updated: Money Left

I went to Trader Joe’s and then to Key Foods today and got some more foodstuffs.  I saw the no boil lasagna noodles and thought that a swiss chard lasagna would be nice.  Plus I found some frozen mozzarella and leftover broccoli pesto in the freezer that could be utilized.  TIP: Search through your freezer, fridge and pantry for things to use.  You might be surprised what’s edible and useful or what you actually have.  Case in point: after ransacking the pantry for some pickling spice, I found packets of yeast.  Bread baking baby!

The lists:

Trader Joe’s

  • Lasagna Noodles: 1.99
  • Rice Sticks: 1.39
  • Frozen Edamame: 1.69
  • Pizza Dough, Whole Wheat: .99 (that’s actually probably cheaper than making it at home…maybe)

Total: 6.06

Key Foods

  • Gold Medal AP Flour (5lb): 1.99 (ON SALE w/card)
  • Sclafani Tomatoes: 1.00 (ON SALE w/card)

Total: 2.99

The Week:

  • 20.35 (previous Coop Bill)
  • 6.06
  • 2.99


$$ LEFT: .60

Chewy Ginger Cookies (dressed up for Halloween)

Adapted from Isa Moskowitz’s Vegan with a Vengeance, these ginger cookies are a delight.  I made quite a few differences to make them a bit healthier.  Check out the recipe below.

Sparkled Ginger Cookies (adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance)


sparkling sugar
3 cups whole wheat flour (pastry is best)
1 tsp. baking soda
2.5 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground cloves and allspice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple butter
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup vanilla soy milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1.5 teaspoons vanilla

To Do:
Preheat oven to 350F.  Put sparkling sugar in a small bowl.

Combine the dry ingredients (except the sugar).  Mix together the oil, apple butter, molasses, soy milk, sugars and vanilla (I use a stand mixer).  Pour the dry mixture into the wet and mix well.  The dough should be NOT be super wet.  If it is, add more flour until it is doughy.

Place in fridge for an hour or freezer for 15 minutes.  Take a large spoonful of dough and roll it between your hands into a ball.  Squish the ball into the sparkling sugar so it forms a cookie shape and put on silpat or greased parchment paper.  Repeat with remaining dough.  BIf the dough becomes too sticky, put the bowl back in the fridge to cook.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes and then cool on baking sheet for a few minutes.  Place and cooling racks.  Admire the sparkles.  Dunk in milk or tea.  These cookies are extremely chewy!!