Lightly Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Hello!

Today we’re tackling a relatively simple soup with a relatively long name.

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Lightly Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Lots of words, lots of flavour

You’ll find Lightly Curried Butternut Squash Soup on page 39 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at leannebrown.com) and page 25 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
This soup takes:

  • butternut squash
  • onions
  • green bell pepper
  • garlic
  • coconut milk
  • spices

I mostly stuck to the recipe, but a relative who over-bought for Easter dinner plunked a pair of free yams in my lap, which I thought I could safely substitute them for the butternut squash. And I had a red bell pepper to use up, so that took the place of the green one. 

How Did it Taste?
This is a really nice soup that would be great in the early fall. The one thing I’d change is to take out the cayenne pepper that the recipe calls for. I cut it in half and still ended up with a medium level of heat that overpowered the curry flavour.

I need to experiment a little more, but I really do think this soup can stand on its own without additional spiciness.

Time and Money
Instead of peeling and cubing the yams, I baked them. This added an extra step but made them super-soft and easy to work with. (See page 57 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap”, or page 64 of the print version, for instructions.) Altogether, it took about 45 minutes to make up the soup.

I made a half-recipe and the total cost was $5.19, or $2.60 per generous serving. (I costed the yams at the current price in Save-On Foods.)

A Little Experiment
Awhile back, we took a look at a jalapeño & cheddar scone recipe. I loved these and pondered an alternate version that used asiago cheese and lemon zest.

I finally tried it out this week and I’m pleased to say that this was a highly successful experiment. I used the same quantity of cheese, but grated it, and zested a small-ish lemon. (Asiago is a drier, more crumbly cheese than cheddar and it doesn’t lend itself well to being cubed.) I also added about a tablespoon of flax seeds that have been hanging around in our pantry.

The lemon flavour is quite subtle and the saltiness of the asiago cheese makes for a nice savoury scone. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.

That’s it for today. Next up is a 1960’s classic — tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Join us for this retro double header!signature

Dollars and Cents: March Recap

Hello! I thought it would be a good idea to devote one post each month to taking a look at how close my grocery spending comes to the $6 per day that I targeted.

With 31 days in the month, my total grocery budget in March was $186.

When I posted my February spending, I set a goal not to go over budget more than 20%. I am sure there’s an old Gaelic proverb somewhere that says “If you set ambitious goals, don’t post them in a blog, because you’ll look silly if you blow it.”

If you haven’t guessed by now, I blew it in a big way. March found me spending freely in restaurants on three occasions. However, I was determined not to go over budget on actual groceries by more than 20%, and I managed to squeak across that finish line with 88 cents to spare.

What To Do, What To Do?
I’ve had multiple discussions with myself about how to handle restaurant spending during this year-long project, all with no clear resolution. When I decided to do this, I knew that I would need to make some lifestyle changes but I didn’t necessarily expect my friends and  family to have to go along with me every step of the way.

So … as hypocritical as it might appear right now, I won’t expect everyone in my social circle to give up eating in restaurants if they want to spend time with me. And I won’t entirely give up eating in restaurants. As I move into the second quarter of the year, I’ll try to keep the dining out toned down but I’m going to focus primarily on my grocery bill.

A Note About Restaurants
That $159.56 you see below represents three meals: one in an upscale restaurant and two in more modest establishments.

And I have to tell you that I spent the money in that upscale restaurant without an ounce of regret. It was the birthday of a very dear friend, the food was fabulous and the service impeccable. Truth be told, I’d much rather spend $100 on one really memorable meal than $100 on five mediocre meals.

Actual grocery expenditures = $222.32
Restaurants = $159.56
Grand total = $381.88

So, when we crunch the numbers, my total food spending in March was 195.88 and a full 105% over budget. *ouch*

What’s Changed For Me?
Although the numbers for March are not that impressive (at all), I’m finding that I’ve become significantly more conscious about not wasting food. “Good and Cheap” has been instrumental in getting me to stretch my brain and think creatively about how I handle those bits of extra zucchini, pepper, onions and so on.

I’m also cooking more than I have in years, which has led to the happy fact that I’m consuming a lot less packaged and processed food.

As we close this post off, my goal plan for April is to not spend more than $180 on groceries. In the meantime, I’ll continue to work my way through the “Soup and Salad” chapter. What’s up next? A curried squash soup — yum!

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French Onion Soup

Bonjour!

Pop on a beret and light up a Gitanes, because today we’re going to France, with a quick stop at Funkytown.

French Onion Soup  Tres tres bonne, mes amis

French Onion Soup
Tres tres bonne, mes amis

You’ll find French Onion Soup on page 39 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at leannebrown.com) and page 25 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
I went with white onions and used beef broth. I also added the optional red wine. (My success with the “Good and Cheap” beef stroganoff recipe has made me a permanent convert to the idea of cooking with cheap reds.) I hit the jackpot and found a Naked Grape Malbec on sale for $6.99. 

I also treated myself to a loaf of French bread and some Emmenthal for the cheese toast.

How Did it Taste?
Back in the very early 1980’s, one of my first adult jobs saw me working in the Capital Square building in downtown Edmonton. On the main floor was a restaurant called Hawkeye’s and they served a wonderful French Onion Soup. I spent many a lunch hour there, eating that soup and imagining myself to be quite sophisticated.

And why do I tell you all that? Because when I took the first taste of this soup, I instantly time-travelled back to those lunches in Hawkeye’s. It’s delicious. Before I knew it, I was shimmying around the kitchen, singing “Funkytown”. Merveilleuse!

Time and Money
Between the base of the soup and the toast, the prep work for this recipe took a grand total of 35 minutes. Yes, it takes time to caramelize the onions and simmer everything, but it’s so worth it. You can spend that time watching a movie* or really, whatever you like, as long as you come back every 20 minutes to stir. I should also add that this recipe leaves you with remarkably few dishes to clean up.

I made a half-recipe and the total cost was exactly $7.00, or $2.23 per serving.

*I actually did watch a movie while I was making this. It was Woody Allen’s “Shadows and Fog” — four stars from the Library Life Hack Test Kitchen.

Some Random Thoughts
When I was cooking, I stopped and pondered the history of French Onion Soup. Was it originally peasant food, inexpensive but hearty and tasty? I think it could have been. Onions would be cheap and plentiful in the French countryside, and you could add stale wine, stale bread and dried-out cheese and still come up with a winner.

Seriously, how inventive is that? It’s stuff like this that always makes me admire the culinary ingenuity of peasants. No wonder they’ve spent most of history kicking the butts of the lazy aristocracy.

That’s it for today. Next up is Lightly Curried Butternut Squash Soup. I dare you to try saying that five times really fast. Or in French.signature

Corn Soup

Hello!

corn_soup

Corn Soup
Pretty — and pretty darn good

Today, we’re tackling Corn Soup. You’ll find the recipe on page 36 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at leannebrown.com) and on page 22 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
This one has a simple ingredient list, but there was one wrinkle. Fresh corn is only available in my hometown of Edmonton during the summer. The solution? I bought frozen corn.

I also used organic chicken broth. It was on sale, which made it almost the same price as the chicken broth of heathens.

How Did it Taste?
This is my favourite recipe in the “Soups and Salads” chapter so far. The contrast of the sweet corn with the savoury flavours of the other vegetables is great.

My one complaint was that I found this soup to be just a little bit bland. That was very easy to fix with a small dollop of sour cream and some smoked paprika.

Aha.

Did you see what I just did there?

This is another one of those subtle side effects that’s starting to appear as a result of cooking my way through “Good and Cheap”. Without thinking about it much, I knew exactly what to do to take the Corn Soup recipe from so-so to scrumptious. I’m just a tiny bit awestruck by that.

Dollar and Cents
The recipe made three generous servings for a total cost of $5.55, or $1.85 per serving. It was very quick to knock together too — 30 minutes prep and 30 minutes more to simmer.

A Short Diatribe on Frozen (No, Not the Movie)
The frozen corn that I bought for this recipe brings me to a little opinion paragraph on fresh vs. frozen vegetables. While fresh vegetables are truly wonderful, I think that a single person looking to save money should keep a small stock of frozen vegetables on hand, especially if that single person lives in a place where the produce supply can be a little shaky in the winter. If you’re careful not to overcook them, frozen veggies are really quite good.

Frozen also neatly skirts the problem of accidental over-buying.When there’s more than one of you, using up extra vegetables is not a big task. When there’s only one of you and you’re staring down that leftover broccoli yet again … well, you get the picture.

And that’s it. Next, the Library Life Hack Test Kitchen is cooking up one of the great classics: French Onion Soup. Oo la la! See you soon.
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