|In the coming months, Library Life Hack will be cooking & blogging its way through “Good and Cheap”, Leanne Brown’s groundbreaking cookbook, designed to help people who are living on the tightest of food budgets to eat well. You can find out more at the first post in this series.|
I know that I promised you more oatmeal reviews, but I’ve decided to take a little detour and talk about a dinner party I threw two weekends ago.
Casting caution to the wind, I made up my mind to cook everything for this dinner party (except the appetizers) from “Good and Cheap”. Even the fact that I was about to serve guests food made from recipes I’d never tried didn’t dampen my
Here’s the menu:
- Red Pepper Dip
- Blue Cheese
- Chickpea and Beet Salad
- French bread
- Beef Stroganoff
- Caramelized Bananas with Vanilla Gelato
Here’s a quick rundown on each of the recipes:
Chickpea and Beet Salad
Quite nice. Owing to the current shortage of produce in my hometown of Edmonton, the beets I bought were pretty pock-marked. As a bonus, the recipe has you shred the beets, which completely erased that unsightly problem. I added double the amount of lime juice that the recipe called for.
Math-wise, it worked out to $1.07 per serving
I really liked this recipe! I bought a loaf of French bread and toasted four slices to go into the salad. (The rest of the bread went on the table with some butter.) It’s best to make exactly what you need, as the leftovers were pretty soggy by the next day. The bread still tasted great but the tomatoes and cucumber were a little soft.
This recipe came to $1.39 per serving.
This was fantastic. Beef Stroganoff has officially unseated Egg Sandwiches as my favourite “Good and Cheap” recipe so far. I used stewing beef and a full cup of an inexpensive red wine. The beef was tender and I think the wine was at least partially responsible for that. Plus, red wine just gives beef dishes this amazing flavour that you don’t seem to get from anything else. I wasn’t entirely clear if the “mustard” the recipe called for was powdered mustard or hot dog mustard. I used French’s prepared mustard, and cut back to 2 tablespoons instead of 3.
Although the recipe says it serves 6, I would say that the reality was closer to 8 (my housemates had some of the leftovers, and there was still enough left for 3 lunch-size portions). When I’d finished crunching the numbers, it was $2.92 per serving. (Remember that the addition of a cup of red wine added close to 50 cents per serving. But totally worth it, in my opinion.)
Super-simple to knock together, but I think it’s best if you cook and serve them right away. Which means that you need to leave your dinner guests to chat among themselves for about 10 minutes or move the party into the kitchen. (My guests have all known each other for years, so my absence was hardly an issue.) This was delicious with vanilla gelato and a nice light dessert to pair with the hearty stroganoff.
Including the gelato, the recipe was a bargain at $1.00 per serving.
All in All
I was pretty pleased with how everything worked out. If I was going to serve this meal again, I think I’d re-work the appetizers to make them fit a little better with the rest of the meal, and maybe look at a vegetable side dish that wasn’t a salad. But those are minor tweaks.
The total cost came to $6.38 per serving (I didn’t count what we drank). This is admittedly more than the $6.00 I’ve given myself as a daily budget. However, I think that with careful planning, I could fit a dinner party into a month’s grocery purchases and still stay on track overall.
If You Want to Try This Yourself
All of the main dishes I’ve tried from “Good and Cheap” have been very tasty — food that I would be happy to serve to guests. The mains also seem to make consistently generous serving sizes. Don’t worry about starving anyone. My advice? Be brave! You can throw a dinner party out of this cookbook. And when you do, write and let me know how it went.