Vegetable Curry

Another great way to use up whatever odds and ends are left in the kitchen at the end of the week is a nice big pot of curry! This week, I picked up a jar of Patak’s Hot Curry Paste to make my life a little easier.

Image from amazon.com

Image from amazon.com

And it worked! I chopped up potatoes and carrots and threw them into a hot pot with a little canola oil and sauteed them for a few minutes until they were starting to soften. Then I added several tablespoons of the yummy curry paste and a can of diced tomatoes. I cooked a pot of instant brown rice alongside the big pot of bubbling curry. I added my frozen green beans, frozen corn, and a can of chickpeas. When the potatoes were tender, I added the chopped broccoli florets and a few already-cooked leftover green peas and cooked the curry for another five minutes or so. Then I turned off the heat and added about half a bag of spinach and a bunch of chopped green onions, stirring it all together until the spinach wilted. Aaron and I ate the curry on top of the hot cooked brown rice.

Lots and Lots of Vegetables Curry!

Lots and Lots of Vegetables!

I loved eating this because there were so many different colors, flavors, and textures in the bowl, and it makes me feel good to eat a meal with so many different types of vegetables.

I took this picture shortly before I had the idea of adding a few tablespoons of plain nonfat yogurt and a sprinkle of cashew nuts to the top. The yogurt added a lovely creamy texture and a tangy flavor that matched the flavor of the curry nicely. Be careful when adding yogurt to anything that is hot and bubbly, however. It can curdle!

Extreme Curry Close-up!

Curry Close-up!

The verdict on the Patak’s Curry Paste is a big thumbs up. It is much easier than me attempting to understand the mysteries of Indian spices, and it tastes very good. Previously, I had either tried to season curries on my own, or bought a jar of Patak’s Cooking Sauce. A jar of the cooking sauce costs about $3.50 and contains enough for about 3-4 servings, but a jar of curry paste costs around $4.25 and contains enough for 10 servings. Since I find that the paste is more cost-effective, that is definitely what I will buy from now on.

Scromblette with Onion, Zucchini, Tomato, and Cheddar

I used to make omelettes with vegetables and cheese and good things inside. But they always seemed to fall apart and get very messy, because I was horribly inept at flipping them. So now when I make eggs with veggies and cheese and good things, I make something in-between an omelette and scrambled eggs, and I really like it. I call them scromblettes, for scrambled + omelette. They are sort of scrambled up (I have accepted my inferior flipping skills and now make the most of the situation) but sort of flat and fluffy like an omelette. Here is a scromblette I made recently with two eggs, sauteed red onion, zucchini, fresh tomato, and 2% cheddar cheese.

Garden Veggie Scromblette!

Garden Veggie Scromblette!

After typing a draft of this post, I became curious about whether anyone else makes something like this. On urbandictionary.com there is an entry for “scromlette,” which reads as follows:

“Scrom-let – A sumptuous dish served only (as far as I know) at Kingfisher B&B in Worcestershire. It is essentially the bastard child of scrambled egg (scrom) and omelette (lette). It was created one bleary eyed morning after a heavy night on the good stuff as a result of a complete lack of culinary dexterity. Despite it’s shaky beginnings frankly scromlette is infinitely more delectable than either of it’s two inferior egg based parent dishes.”

So, apparently I am not the only one doing this! Scromblettes / scromlettes are happening in Richmond, Virginia and at a bed and breakfast in England. Interesting, although I could find no mention on scromlettes on the Kingfisher Bed and Breakfast website.

Scromblettes are Scrummy!

Scromblettes are Scrumderful (that's scrumptious + wonderful)!

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

On Saturday, Aaron’s family came from their hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia to visit us in Richmond – the occassion was that Aaron’s birthday is on Tuesday. After some goofing around at our apartment, we all went to Short Pump Town Center, which is an upscale shopping center in the west end of Richmond. It has a Williams-Sonoma. I went there and oohed and ahhed for a good while. I didn’t buy anything, though – keen observers will notice that the word “cheap” is in the title of my blog.

We ate lunch at a place called Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in the mall. I’ll go ahead and add a disclaimer that this meal was probably not the healthiest ever (it’s Aaron’s birthday, after all). But it was cheap, since it was a birthday thing for Aaron – it was free for both of us, in fact. And as I’ve said before, you can’t beat free. Thanks, Aaron’s mom and dad!

I actually forgot to bring my camera with me to the mall, so Aaron’s mum took these pictures with her fancy fancy camera. They turned out very nicely, especially considering that it was super dark in the restaurant. So, many thanks to our guest photographer!

Aaron’s mom ordered the baby back ribs, which came with fries, cider slaw, and a moist towelette.

Ribs, Slaw, and Fries

Ribs, Slaw, and Fries

Aaron and I both ordered the same thing. The turkey club came on jalapeno corn bread (not cornbread, but regular bread with corn and jalapenos!), smoked turkey, applewood bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and roasted red pepper mayonnaise. The fries were crisp on the outside and fluffy and hot on the inside. I asked for a little of the red pepper mayo on the side to dip my fries into. I believe Aaron’s mom described the fries as “worth falling off the wagon for.” I assume she means the healthy eating wagon, or perhaps the french fry abstinence wagon. Either way, I agree, although today I’m right back on again. 🙂

Those eager little hands clasped around the fork in the background belong to Aaron, who is probably thinking something like, "Please hurry up with the pictures and let me eat!"

Those eager little hands clasped around the fork in the background belong to Aaron, who is probably thinking something like, "Please hurry up with the pictures and let me eat!"

Aaron’s brother ordered the smokehouse chicken sandwich, which came with applewood bacon, barbeque sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, and red onions. He also got a nice pile of the yummy fries, of course. This is the only photo on this post that I took, since I was sitting next to the sandwich and its owner.

The Smokehouse Chicken Sandwich

The Smokehouse Chicken Sandwich

Aaron’s dad ordered the soup of the day (chicken tortilla with sour cream), and the Firebirds BLT salad, which came with roasted garlic ranch dressing. Aaron’s mom took this awesome action shot of our server grinding some fresh black pepper onto the salad. The service was excellent, by the way.

"Just say when!"

"Just say when!"

I think Aaron had a very tasty birthday lunch and a fun day at the fancypants mall. I know I did. 😀

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

In the interest of finding new recipes to use with my new crock pot slow cooker, I checked out a couple of books about slow cookery from my local library. I picked up Cooking Light Slow Cooker and Fix-it and Forget-it Lightly. Cooking Light Slow Cooker is a hardcover with full-page, glossy pictures of each recipe, which I really like. I also like that I was able to get both of these for FREE at my library. (Since I’m currently working in a library and studying for my Master’s degree in Library Science, don’t be surprised to hear me toot the horn of the public library from time to time!) I just have to be careful not to spill any gravy on them.

Last night I made a recipe from Cooking Light Slow Cooker – Red Beans and Rice. You can view the recipe online here.

Red Beans and Rice with Turkey Sausage

Red Beans and Rice with Turkey Sausage

I made just a few minor changes to this recipe. I found that the beans were pretty much cooked after only 3 hours on high, so I turned it down to low for the remaining two hours. The beans had a great texture, very creamy and bean-y. I also used some Oscar Meyer turkey sausage. I couldn’t find the Healthy Choice brand the recipe mentions, and the turkey sausage seemed to have wayyy less fat and saturated fat than anything else in the sausage department. The nutrition facts are available from www.thedailyplate.com. It also tasted delicious, and I would definitely buy it again. I used Uncle Ben’s instant brown rice instead of white rice for a little extra fiber and nutritiousness, and I splashed on a little Tobasco chipotle pepper sauce when this dinner made its way to my bowl. Oh, and in my excitement to eat, I forgot the sprinkle of green onions. I don’t think the dish suffered as a result. Aaron loved this dish, he raved about it the entire time we were eating and had two gigantic bowls of the stuff. I thought it was good, too, though enthusiasm like that was hard to match. 😀

You can view the nutrtion informaton for this dish on the same page as the recipe. It’s got 413 calories, with only 5% of those coming from fat, and a whopping 10 grams of fiber. I looked up the Healthy Choice sausage that the recipe suggests, and found that it has a little less fat than the turkey sausage I used, but just by one gram of total fat and .5 grams more saturated fat. The dish is still very lean. I also added a gram or two of fiber by using brown rice instead of white.

This turned out to be a very cheap meal. I used $0.50 of dried red beans, $0.50 of green pepper, $0.25 of celery, $0.50 of red onion, $1.25 of turkey sausage, $1 of instant brown rice, and perhaps $0.50 for bay leaf, thyme, paprika, tobasco, garlic, and whatever else. The total cost of this dish, then, was about $4.50. Even though the recipe says it makes four servings, it looks more like five to me since we polished off three servings last night (due to Aaron’s great enjoyment of the dish and hunger from not bringing a lunch to work that day) and there looks to be plenty for lunch for both of us. Assuming there are only four servings, the cost per serving is about $1.13. If you get the five servings that I came up with, the cost is even better – just $0.90 per serving. Awesome. This is one of the cheapest meals on the blog so far, if not the cheapest.

What is the cheapest meal you make at home?

Cool Pasta Salad with Lime, Salmon, and Chickpeas

As you may know, Monday nights are my nights to do what fellow food blogger Wasabi Prime has termed “MacGyver Cooking.” This term comes from a television show called MacGyver that ran from 1985-1992. If you are unfamiliar with the character for which the show is named, here is a little blurb from wikipedia: “MacGyver employs his resourcefulness and his knowledge of chemistry, physics, technology, and outdoorsmanship to resolve what are often life-or-death crises. He creates inventions from simple items to solve these problems. These inventions became synonymous with the character and were called MacGyverisms by fans. MacGyver was unlike secret agents in other television series and films because, instead of relying on high-tech weapons and tools, he carried only a Swiss Army knife and duct tape.”

MacGyver is an extremely resourceful person who uses what he has on hand (things which are usually cheap, by the way!) to solve a problem. So, MacGyver cooking, or “MacGyverizing my dinner” is something that I do almost every Monday night when all that’s left in the kitchen are a few odds and ends and I have a dinner problem to solve. This week, I had half a box of bowtie pasta (I’ll post about what I did with the other half of the box later!), two cans of salmon, a can of chickpeas, some red onion, celery, parsley, a lime, and half a bottle of that yummy Newman’s Own lime vinaigrette from the spinach salad with avocado post a few days ago. Using my santoku knife rather than a Swiss army knife (as MacGyver would), this is what I came up with:

I'm calling it "Cool Pasta Salad with Lime, Salmon, and Chickpeas

I'm calling it "Cool Pasta Salad with Lime, Salmon, and Chickpeas."

I absolutely loved eating this. The textures were so interesting and pleasing – crunchy celery and onion, al dente pasta, meaty salmon chunks, and chickpea-textured chickpeas. The fresh lime and lime vinaigrette made the whole dish tangy and bright with just a little hint of sweetness (from the dressing). It looks very pretty, too. I was very impressed with this dish and would make it again for a pot-luck or picnic in a heartbeat. There are tons of leftovers, and I’m so looking forward to having another bowl for lunch. 😀

The pasta I used was Barilla Plus, which contains more protein, fiber, and Omega-3 than regular pasta. It tastes and looks virtually identical to regular white pasta. The boneless, skinless canned salmon was Chicken of the Sea brand. All Chicken of the Sea canned salmon is wild, Pacific salmon, which makes me happy because it is much cheaper than fresh wild salmon, and the Environmental Defense Fund says that, “Salmon caught in Alaska … are among the better-managed fish stocks in the U.S. They are also low in contaminants.” They say that it is safe to have four or more meals of wild salmon per month. Farmed salmon is a very different story. The EDF warns that adults should eat no more than ONE meal per month of farmed salmon, and that salmon farms “pollute surrounding waters with waste and chemicals.” By using canned wild salmon, I can enjoy a healthy, cheap meal with one of my favorite types of fish. The chickpeas are, of course, very healthy too. Nutritiondata.com says of chickpeas, “This food is very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin B6 and Folate, and a very good source of Manganese.” They also taste great and have a texture that I really enjoy.

pastasalad2

This meal was a cheap one indeed. The entire dish used about $1 of pasta, $3 of salmon, $0.75 of chickpeas, $1 of dressing, $0.30 of fresh lime, and $0.75 of celery, parsley, and onion, which brings the total cost to $6.80, if my math is right (and I’m always worried that it isn’t – Aaron will check in a moment when I get this posted, I’m sure). We will probably get five servings out of this. That means that this dish costs $1.36 per serving! You can barely buy a 24-ounce soda out of a vending machine for that. Wouldn’t you rather have a nice bowl of Cool Pasta Salad with Lime, (wild!) Salmon, and Chickpeas? 😀

pastasaladclose

Extreme Pasta Salad Close-Up!

I expect you’ll be wanting a recipe now. Here it is.

Recipe for Cool Pasta Salad with Lime, Salmon, and Chickpeas (makes about 5 servings):

What you need:

  • 1/2 box of Barilla Plus bowtie pasta
  • 2 5-ounce cans of wild salmon, excess liquid drained and fed to the cat
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 ribs of celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup of parsley, finely chopped
  • juice of one fresh lime
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of Newman’s Own Lighten Up Lime Vinaigrette (or make your own lime dressing)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

How to do it:

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling, lightly salted water until al-dente. Drain and rinse with cold water, until pasta is cooled off. Place pasta in a large mixing bowl and combine with the salmon, chickpeas, celery, onion, parsley, lime juice, and 1/2 cup of the lime vinaigrette. Toss the ingredients together to combine. If the pasta salad seems too dry, add more lime vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  2. You can enjoy this right away, if you like, or allow the salad to get really good and cold in the fridge for a couple of hours before enjoying.
  3. Enjoy!
Try it. You'll like it.

Try it. You'll like it.

Fried Egg, Tomato, Mushrooms, and English Muffin

Yesterday I had to leave Richmond for most of the day, and since Aaron and I usually spend Saturdays together, this made me feel a little sad. I figured since I was leaving in the morning, I should make a big breakfast for us both, on account of how Aaron is notoriously bad at cooking. In a big skillet, I fried a couple of eggs, some fresh tomato slices, and some mushrooms in a little bit of light margarine and olive oil. I also toasted some whole-grain English muffins. We had a bowl of organic red grapes and glasses of orange juice as well (not shown).

Big Giant Breakfast

Big Giant Breakfast for the Boy who Can't Cook So Great.

The yolk oozed its yellow goodness onto the plate, where it mingled with the hot tomato juices and was sopped up with the crunchy English muffin. Aaron’s favorite part of the breakfast was the mushrooms, which soaked up a lot of flavor while sauteeing in the pan with the other good things.

breakfastcloseup

My favorite part, of course, was the egg. Aaron admitted that he cannot cook an egg sunny side up. He says that when he attempts it, the top does not get cooked at all, but the bottom burns. I admitted that I have real trouble cooking an egg over-easy, because I always manage to break the yolk. Sunny side up is no problem, though, as you can see!

eggcloseup

Readers, over the next couple of days I will be extremely busy. Tomorrow I start a new job AND I have my first day of online classes for my Master of Library Science. If you do not see another post from me until Wednesday or Thursday, or if my heart explodes from the stress of it all before I get to post again, please enjoy these breakfast photos. I will be having more eggs tomorrow morning to give me the energy to face The New Job and The New Classes all in one day. 🙂

breakfast3

Spinach Salad with Avocado, Turkey, Swiss Cheese, and Tomatoes

Also known as “It’s too hot to cook!” dinner. The night before last, I wanted to eat something cool and refreshing, so I made a couple of salads for Aaron and me. I don’t know whether Aaron also felt like eating something cool and refreshing, but he eats what I make and always seems to enjoy it. This meal was no exception.

Spinach Salad with Avocado, Turkey, Swiss Cheese, and Tomatoes

Spinach Salad with Avocado, Turkey, Swiss Cheese, and Tomatoes

For each salad, I spent $0.50 for the avocado, $0.50 for the spinach, $0.25 for the tomato, $0.75 for the cheese and turkey, and $0.25 for the dressing, which was Newman’s Own Lighten Up Lime Vinaigrette (tastes amazing with avocado!).  That means this meal cost about $2.25 per person. Not bad!

I love avocado – it’s great on sandwiches, in sushi, in salads, and as guacamole. I could eat it every day and never get tired of the cool, buttery, avocado-y flavor. It’s also a food I like to include in my diet for health reasons. According to nutritiondata.com, one cup of avocado contains 25% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, 40% of the daily intake of fiber, 30% for folate, and 39% for vitamin K. Wikipedia states that, “Avocados also have 60% more potassium than bananas… [and] have the highest fiber content of any fruit.” So, you can always expect to find lots of avocados on my plates and on my blog. 🙂

Something interesting I’ve just noticed… I always write “avocados,” but wikionary.org says that “avocadoes” and even “avocadi” are both correct. I’m curious to see what you think, dear Reader.

Let me see if I am smart enough to figure out how to add a poll…