Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Can’t Beat Beet Greens May 11, 2010

Filed under: easy,fast,locavore,thrift,Uncategorized,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:04 pm

good greens: good and green!

Local beets be ’bout gone, but big ruby beauties beckoned this past Saturday, all coyly coiffed with scarlet-striped greens atop scarlet stalks.  Who would dream of throwing away those leafy lagniappes?  I save the edible greens from most of my produce:  all the root veggies plus kohlrabi, and leek tops go straight into the freezer to await the stockpot.  Carrot tops I utilize the least, but I try to get to them as well.

Easy for creamin’, beet greens quickly cook up tenderly toothsome without disintegrating.  For my last batch I  wilted the rinsed leaves in hot olive oil (Central Market’s organic brand offers a great value or try Texas Olive Ranch for local), added a splash of organic cream (Organic Valley’s my top choice) and a small chunk of organic cream cheese (CM’s own brand is usually cheapest).  Seasoned with a dash of garam masala and salt to taste, these greens didn’t even need a squeeze of fresh lemon for brightening at the table, but it’s up to you!

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Cornporked—a Texas Casserole May 10, 2010

Filed under: Dai Due,easy,eggs,locavore — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:34 pm

this was one (c)ornery subject!

My long lost relatives from Wisconsin came down for the weekend, bringing with them a welcome, if blustery, dip in temperature.  We met at the SFC farmers market in Sunset Valley, affording me the opportunity to show off not only the kindergartner’s soccer game across the street, but Austin’s own Dai Due.  Naturally they ordered the brats!  The unexpected chill called for a steaming cup of gumbo, comforting and thick with local meats and shrimp.  A hearty way to warm up for a Saturday of reconnecting, and enjoying and entertaining children.  This week’s charcuterie offerings from Dai Due included salt pork and tasso (fashioned from local Richardson Farms pork), so I stocked up (both keep fine in the freezer), armed to enrich my flexitarian diet.

Tomorrow’s the last day of HEB’s sale on Texas-grown corn at 4 for $1, and the days of comfortably heating up the big oven are becoming a memory.  So grab yourself a couple bucks of ears and pud(ding) ’em together with that salt pork.  Add local cheese and eggs, backyard herbs and organic creams and you’ve got an easy side dish that you might even make a meal out of.  We did!

CORN PUDDING serves plenty

  • 6 cups local corn kernels, from about 8 medium ears of corn.
  • 6 local eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup organic cream.  I like Organic ValleyClick for a coupon.
  • ½ cup organic sour cream. Farmers’ Creamery brand of luxurious slow-cultured cultured cream, crafted without thickeners or stabilizers, is available at Natural Grocers uptown.
  • 6 ounces local cheddar (1½ cups shredded).  I love Full Quiver Farms extra sharp version.  Look for their booths at Barton Creek and Austin Farmers Markets.
  • 7 slices Dai Due salt pork, rendered.  I slice and fry the whole chunk ahead of time and refrigerate whatever we don’t eat or use right then.  Remember to save that precious grease!  Fry your eggs or saute your bean base in it and feast like royalty.
  • 1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk and bring in my own (large) container.  The staff tares the weight.
  • scant teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.  Whole Foods sells this in bulk for the best deal.
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika.  For the lowest prices, I buy the majority of my spices in bulk, usually at Central Market.
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh backyard herbs.  Basil, chives and thyme combine well.

Preheat your oven to 350°.  Butter up a 2-quart casserole dish.  Set it inside a roasting or cake pan (at least 9″ X 13″) to configure a bain-marie (water bath).  Start heating up water, most coolly accomplished in your microwave.  I use a 1-quart Pyrex glass measuring cup.  A couple or three of those should give you enough very hot water to come halfway up the sides of your casserole.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the corn and return to a boil.  Cook the kernels for 1 minute and drain well.  Process about 3½ cups of the corn in your food processor to yield a rough puree.  Combine the puree with the whole corn kernels and the remaining ingredients.  Turn the mixture into the casserole dish.

Place your bain-marie setup on a middle rack in the oven and pour the heated water into the roasting pan.  Bake for 45 minutes or so, until the pudding is set and browned.  You can test it for doneness with a bamboo skewer to be sure.

Carefully remove the casserole from the water bath and place it on a cooling rack.  Let cool and set for 10 minutes before serving.

Tastes great at room temperature too!




 

Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive May 6, 2010

Filed under: capital area food bank,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:39 pm

booty for my bag

Time again for the 18th annual National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, the largest one-day food drive in the country.  Your mail carrier has already dropped off a paper grocery bag with your mail.  On May 8, you just leave your bag, filled with healthy non-perishables, next to your mailbox.  Your mail carrier picks the bag up and the post office delivers it to your local food bank (Capital Area Food Bank for my area).

I like this setup.  Picking out whichever nutritious foods you can afford and keeping an eye peeled for special finds, you can really personalize your donation.  No need to break the bank when shopping for your bag—hit up your nearby BigLots.  You never know what exactly you’ll come across there.  Organics, exotics, and even luxuries like Poppycock (I am a total sucker for toffee popcorn!)—all this and more for bargain prices at your local closeout store.  After filling your donation bag, you might even have some cash leftover for a couple of goodies for your own household.  The kindergartner picked out a big bag of sunflower seeds for only 80¢, and I went ahead and bought two jars of all natural Peruvian red and green chile relish at $1 each—one for the bag and one for me.

I was shooting for a $20 load.  Here’s what $20.45 got me:

  • 3 cans assorted tropical fruits—mango, papaya and tropical mix
  • canned peaches
  • canned mandarin oranges
  • raisins
  • canned green beans
  • canned peas
  • 2 cans organic garbanzo beans
  • 2 cans organic black beans
  • 4 jars organic turkey veggie baby food
  • 1 large can pink salmon
  • 1 can sardines in water, 1 can sardines in mustard sauce
  • 1 large can spaghetti sauce
  • 1 jar all natural Peruvian red and green chile relish
  • 1 bag walnut pieces

I went straight for the fruits first, as I saw from the Hunger Awareness Project that fresh produce can be lacking in food pantry allotments.  I was thrilled to find the tropical fruits.  BigLots offered even more varities than what I purchased.  Raisins are great on the go, couldn’t pass ’em up.  Canned veggies and (organic!) canned beans  are true staples.

Organic baby food was another good deal.  I wonder if the food banks get enough baby food.

I’m big on canned salmon (although I’m lucky to be able to shell out for the red stuff—sockeye reigns supreme in the world of shelf stable salmons.  Even so, it’s still cheap!), and $2.70 for the 14.75-ounce pink is a decent deal.  Sardines are another very healthy (one of the few foods to boast a naturally high vitamin D content), sustainably fished resource.

The spaghetti sauce is an obvious choice for getting nutritious tomatoes into hungry bellies.  Easy money.  And that jar of Peruvian chile relish?  Chiles are great for you (with vitamins A, B’s and C) and they sure do perk up a meal.

Lastly, the walnuts.  I love all kinds of nuts and eat a handful every day.  They store well in the freezer so you can stock up when you find them on special.  Walnuts are particularly good for you, and I hate to think some folks never get to eat any.  I’m happy that a hungry person here in Central Texas will enjoy them.

I had a blast shopping for my donation bag, even with the kindergartner helping!  It made my day.  I hope my effort does the same for a fellow Texan.

Please remember to set out your bag of non-perishable foods by the mailbox Saturday morning.  Let’s Stamp Out Hunger!

 

Wing-it Bicuits May 4, 2010

Filed under: biscuits,bread,breakfast,easy,fast,locavore,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 1:34 pm

Why yes, I would like some biscuit with my butter!

OK, so I was VERY hungry and late on my lunch this afternoon, having flowered and delivered a cake for the Teachers Appreciation lunch at my kindergartner’s school.  (My carrot cake really “rose” to the occasion—see photos.)  But biscuits never fail me—butter and starch, spread with more butter and maybe even some honey?  Bring it on, honey!

Richardson Farms locally grown whole wheat flour (available at their Barton Creek location) shines its fresh and sweetly wheaty glow onto every recipe it touches.  These super easy, quick as a flash, homey drop-style biscuits are no exception.  With a light and fluffy texture (not at all heavy, despite their whole grain content), these fast little breads fill you up like royalty when spread with great butter and local honey or your favorite fruit preserves.  Let ’em cool down and you can even shortcake ’em!  Plenty of local strawberries teasing at our farmers markets lately.  And dewberries!  We’ve been keeping an eye on our patch in the woods and so far have collected two—berries that is.  But our pint from Naegelin Farms (SFC market at Sunset Valley) this past Saturday helped put the color in our kids faces, literally!

WING-IT BISCUITS makes 8 biscuits

  • 140 grams organic all-purpose flour
  • 100 grams organic or local (Richardson Farms) whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder, sieved.  I prefer Rumford, aluminum-free and non-GMO.
  • ½ Tablespoon organic sugar.  Widely available in bulk departments around town.
  • generous ½ teaspoon baking soda, sieved.
  • scant teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 1 cup yogurt.  I make my own from local goat milk.  Check out how.  The folks at Swede Farm Dairy just had a baby and Wateroak Farms will be taking a two-month break.  I’ll let you know how our options are faring.
  • 1 stick organic butter, cut into bits and well-chilled.  Organic Valley is my favorite.  Natural Grocers has OV butter on special for only $3.99 a pound through May 15.  Closer to my hood, Sprouts counters with a price of $4.49, through May 5.

Preheat your toaster oven to 425°.  You can use your full-size oven, of course, but it’s May and warm here already.  I use the toaster oven whenever I can in hot weather as it heats up the kitchen less.  Plus it uses less energy than the big oven.  Have a 9″ round cake pan handy and get out your ¼-cup scoop.

Combine the dry ingredients (flours through the salt) in the bowl of a food processorRun the machine to thoroughly mix them.  Add the butter and process for a few seconds to cut it in.  Turn the flour mixture out into a bowl and pour on the yogurt.  Stir together quickly to moisten all the flour.

Using your scoop, preferably spring-loaded, scoop out 8 rounds and place them in a 9″ pan.  You’ll have seven mounds around the perimeter and one scoop in the middle.  Bake at 425° for about 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 400° and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until biscuits are browned and cooked through.

Place pan on a cooling rack for a few minutes before carefully loosening biscuits from pan.

Fill your belly!

 

Rosy Carrot Cake—cover me with roses

Filed under: cake,gardening — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 11:12 am

bed of roses

organic roses from our backyard---easy to grow, pretty to show

petal power

See Broccoli Bonus for cake recipe.  Triple the frosting recipe at Broccoli Brings It for the easy and luscious cream cheese icing.

 

Nasi Goreng-ey…Fry that Rice! May 2, 2010

Filed under: easy,fast,leftovers,locavore,rice — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 8:08 pm

go nasi goreng!

Although I try to approach cooking and eating, and life in general, from an eco-friendly angle, thrift has always informed my style.  To that end, this blog aims to help folks find, afford and enjoy sustainable foods, i.e. local and/or organic.  In this society, where a truly bewildering variety of choices both tempts and confounds eaters, lucky cooks can find themselves overwhelmed by options.  Our full cups may runneth over us, laden with delicious novelties from far-flung cuisines.   Those less fortunate, the food-insecure, must make do with what they have, when they’re lucky enough to find something in their cupboards.

On this happy Sunday morning the toddler let me sleep in about an hour and a half later than usual.  I feel nearly human!  Coming into the kitchen area, I noticed that our pot of rice, just cooked last night, had been left out.  Although the house still isn’t warm at night, it’s definitely not cold.  So I put the pot into the fridge, determined to re-cook this rice soon.  Nasi goreng-style fried rice coming up!

Inspired by last week’s Capital Area Food Bank Hunger Awareness challenge, I’ve been trying, even more than usual, to make use of odds and ends stashed away, maximizing my thrift.  Nearly forgotten condiments, combined with cheap seasonal produce, the incredible, affordable egg, and leftover meats or inexpensive soy foods, resurrect abandoned rice.  Lubing the lot with a lagniappe of sustainable fats utilizes even more precious foodstuffs that might some folks just discard.

Here’s this morning’s fried rice, Indonesian-inflected and fortified with goods on hand.  Just a general guideline for creating your own tasty and budget-conscious quick meal.

NASI GORENG-EY

  • rice, cooked and chilled, I love Lowell Farms Texas-grown organic jasmine rice.  Don’t use fresh-cooked rice.
  • organic coconut oil, peanut oil, or local pork fat (Dai Due‘s salt pork yields a wonderfully savory grease, compatible with many cuisines.  Don’t throw this rendered gold away!)
  • organic tempeh (or tofu), cubed and tossed with 1/8 tsp. ground star anise, 1/8 tsp. ground roasted Szechuan peppercorns, ¼ tsp. ground turmeric and some kosher salt.  Or you can use up leftover cooked meats such as lightly seasoned chicken, pork or duck (lucky you if you’ve got duck!), cut or shredded into bite-sized pieces.
  • several local eggs, widely available at our farmers markets or maybe your own backyard, beaten thoroughly with a little salt.
  • minced scallions or spring onion greens.  Gorgeous alliums galore at our markets and Central Market is selling Texas 1015 spring onions for $1.69 per bunched trio.
  • a couple Tablespoons kecap manis, which I never keep in my cupboard, or dark soy sauce mixed with about ½ Tblsp. palm sugar (I very rarely buy this) or turbinado sugar (now that I always have!) and a bit of ground star anise.  Whatever you use, mix in about ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. ground coriander and a pinch of salt, too.  To keep this dish kid friendly, I add 1 tsp. paprika.  You can use spicy peppers, dried or fresh, depending on season, to your own tolerance.
  • about a Tablespoon minced fresh ginger root.  If you’ve been following this blog for long you know that I almost never peel fresh ginger.  Neither did Barbara Tropp when she cooked at home.
  • minced garlic.  Lots of local garlic available again!  Check out Tecolote Farms at the Sunset Valley location.
  • Small dab of shrimp sauce or paste.  I use Lee Kum Kee shrimp sauce, readily available at my work, and it flavors fine for my purposes, although it’s not the same as the more solid shrimp paste of Thai and Indonesian cookery.  I bought the little jar and it will probably last my lifetime.  Use what you have—if your cooking encompasses Southeast Asian specialties,  not only should you already have all the ingredients necessary for nasi goreng, you don’t need my guidance.  Carry on!
  • 1 Texas 1015 onion, either from your spring onion bundle or a mature specimen (on sale for $1.29 a pound through Tuesday at CM), halved pole to pole, each half bisected at the equator and sliced medium-thin
  • ¼ of a medium-sized head of Texas-grown cabbage (not available much longer this season), halved and sliced thin.  In another season, use any stir fry-suitable local veggie, and/or Austin-grown (or homegrown!) mung bean sprouts.

If using tempeh or tofu, brown it up in your fat of choice in a large well-seasoned or nonstick skillet.  Place the browned chunks on a plate and set them aside.  If using leftover meat, toss it with the tempeh seasonings and add it in later.  In the same pan, saute your minced scallion greens in a little more fat before adding your eggs.  Give the eggs a few stirs as they cook before letting them set into a kind of pancake.  I like to put the lid on the pan and turn the heat off so the eggs can finish cooking.  Flip the pancake to brown the other side if desired, then turn the eggs out onto a plate and set aside.

Combine the minced garlic and shrimp paste/sauce.  Heat up some more fat and sizzle your ginger.  Add the garlic mixture and stir it around to release the fragrance before quickly adding the onion slices.  If you’re using spicy chiles, fresh or dried, add them as well.  When the onions are ’bout done to your liking, add the tempeh or tofu chunks (or cooked meat) and stir the mess around.  Dump in the rice and continue to fry, breaking up the clumps.  Add the kecap manis or soy sauce mixture and stir fry until everything is well-coated with sauce.  Turn mixture out onto a large platter.

Using a large skillet again (I prefer not to use nonstick for this step), heat the pan up very hot on HIGH.  Add a little cooking fat (organic peanut oil is great here) quickly swirl to coat the cooking surface and briskly stir fry the cabbage.  Add a pinch each of turbinado sugar, kosher salt and ground roasted Szechuan peppercorns while you’re cooking.  Turn the cabbage out onto the fried rice mixture.

Slice the egg pancake into bite-sized strips to top off the nasi goreng.  Let your diners add soy sauce, salt, sugar, a little lemon juice and Asian-style chile sauce to taste to their own portions.

 

Cheap Tricks—Maximizing Micronutrients on a Budget April 27, 2010

Filed under: capital area food bank,hunger awareness project,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:03 pm

For folks in direst need, the main food goal is obtaining sufficient calories.

We Texans face another frustrating dichotomy in that our citizenry ranks 14th nationally in obesity rates for adults despite our next-to-the-bottom food security standing.  Again, problems with resource distribution and food quality (to oversimplify the situation, mind you) pave the path to an underfed/undernourished population.  Coupled with a pandemic lack of knowledge of nutrition and health, often compounded by inexperience in good food preparation and lack of time to cook, these features of the modern Western world lead to both an unhealthy, overfed burden on our health care system as well as the unacceptable hunger accompanying poverty.  Regardless of circumstances, education or income, an empty belly begs for fullness, without any bargaining power to negotiate macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), let alone micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytochemicicals.  The USDA’s MyPyramid Food Guidance System may as well be in Egypt, as far as the hungriest Texans are concerned.

spaghetti special supper

Fortunately for the hungry in central Texas, a respectable 80% of the Capital Area Food Bank’s provisions place in the top 1 or 2 nutritional scoring categories (out of 5).  But for fresh produce, the sample food pantry distribution for our Hunger Awareness Project offered only a five-pound bag of potatoes.  Fairly full of nutrients, and certainly belly-filling and high in energy value, spuds have nearly single-handedly sustained entire populations.  We humans derive maximum health benefits, however, from a polychromatic plate—taste the rainbow.  (Skittles® was right!)  A typical food bank allotment provides deep red in the spaghetti sauce, the sunny yellow of canned corn, and even a bit of green from canned green beans (and jalapeño slices for those who can take the heat).  The canned fruit, with its diluted pastels, certainly seems to promise less nutrition than peak of season local glories such as strawberries, peaches, melons, apples and citrus, but current theory (and the gastric growlings of empty bellies) behooves us to accept its comparability to fresh.

But what’s for dinner?

Spaghetti and “spaghetti sauce” of course.  There’s our scarlet, loaded with lycopene, actually rendered more bioavailable by the cooking and canning process.  Tonight there’s no meat on the table (remember the food pantry allowance must be stretched for an entire month), but we’ve got our brown in the form of meaty Texas-grown portobello mushrooms, purchased on sale (today’s the last day!) at Central Market for $3.99 a pound.  That comes out to about a dollar per large ‘shroom, each one sufficient for an adult.  Quickly sauteed with a spot of olive oil plus a pinch of thyme and antioxidant champ oregano (bought dried in bulk for just pennies), the seared chunks lend textural and nutritional heft to our simple pasta meal at minimal cost.

these roots were made for plantin'

We’re fresh out of canned green beans around here, and in the spirit of the challenge I’m shopping minimally.  So broccoli stems it is!  Hastily trimmed and coarsely shredded from a $2 locally grown (and chemical-free) head, this throwaway vegetable contributes good green while bulking up our sauce.  Brown it a bit in a hot pan, the same one you just used to cook your mushrooms, with a restrained drizzle of olive oil.  Add a little more verdigris to the mix by topping each portion with fresh basil chiffonade.  Basil grows easily in our long season here, even in a pot.  For our garden we never purchase a plant or even seeds.  We buy fresh local basil from the produce department (located with the other herbs) for a dollar or so and root the fecund fronds in a glass of water at home.  Pluck leaves as you need them, and the readily rooting cuttings will be primed for transplanting in three weeks or so.  Fancy and nearly free!

Buon appetito!