Beet and Chickpea Salad

Hello and Happy Friday! We’re closing out the week with a vividly-colored salad that will look smashing at summertime dinner parties and potlucks. (The fact that it’s dirt simple to make and really inexpensive will be your little secret.)

beet+chickpea salad

Pretty in Pink: Beet and Chickpea Salad

You can find it on page 53 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap”. (This wonderful cookbook is a free download at leannebrown.com.) In the print version of “Good and Cheap”, it’s on page 33. And by the way, you can find the print version at most libraries. (Strathcona County, my home library, has seven copies.)

Ingredient Notes
This is another fast & easy recipe that takes:

  • beets
  • chickpeas
  • peanuts
  • olive oil
  • lime juice
  • chili sauce

Contrary to the instructions, I took the traditional route and boiled the beets prior to peeling them. I also added some fresh dill, because I think it goes well with beets. (And because I had a pot of dill that was growing out of control.)

How Did It Taste?
I’ve made this twice and both times, proudly served it to guests. It’s an unusual combination of flavours, but it’s very good. A couple of thoughts:

  • I tried the recipe once with canned chickpeas and once with dried chickpeas that I’d cooked from scratch. The scratch ones taste much better and it’s really not that much work.
  • The dressing component calls for a teaspoon of chili sauce. I think that’s too much. I’d cut back to at least half a teaspoon (or less) and increase the amount of lime juice. You can also add some lime zest.

Time and Money
The recipe knocks together in about twenty minutes and the total cost was $3.09. This served three people quite comfortably, so I’ll peg it at $1.03 per serving.

Interestingly, this is one of those rare instances when the price per serving is actually much cheaper what’s quoted in “Good and Cheap”. ($1.75 per serving.)

A Little DIY — Using Dried Chickpeas
Here’s how you cook with dried chickpeas, in two easy steps.

  1. Measure your chickpeas into a bowl. The ratio is roughly 2:1. For example, if your recipe is asking for a cup of chickpeas, use a half cup of the dried ones. Cover the chickpeas with water and let them soak overnight.
  2. The next morning, drain the chickpeas, put them in a saucepan and cover again with water. Put the saucepan onto medium heat and bring to a boil, then simmer for about ninety minutes. Once you’ve hit the one-hour mark, check the chickpeas for firmness every fifteen minutes.

And that is literally it. Try it! You won’t be disappointed. These ones have a rich creaminess that is totally absent from the canned version. And (no surprise) they’re much cheaper.

Ta dah! We’ve now come to the end of today’s colorful salad report. Thanks for reading all the way down here. Next up is a look at how the dollars and cents of this experiment played out in the month of June. But until then, have yourself a very good weekend!
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Kale Caesar Salad

Hi!

I’ve been absent from the blog for awhile. And for this, I do apologize. I won’t give you any lame-duck excuses, but I do apologize. I’m not giving you any lame-duck recipe reviews either. Today, we’re cooking up a super-healthy version of a classic salad that dates back to the Prohibition era.

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Kale Caesar Salad
Even Julia Child would approve

You can find it on page 44 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap”, where it’s simply called “Kale Salad”. (This wonderful cookbook is a free download at leannebrown.com). In the print version of “Good and Cheap”, it’s on page 31.

Ingredient Notes
This is a fairly simple recipe that takes:

  • kale
  • homemade croutons
  • homemade dressing
  • Romano cheese

The dressing is a fairly typical Caesar salad dressing and I made three changes to the ingredient line-up. One, I substituted Polish mayonnaise for the raw egg yolk. The mayo is probably not a perfect stand-in for the yolk, but I’m just a little squeamish about raw eggs. Two, I used Giovanni’s All-Natural Anchovy Paste in place of an anchovy fillet. I like the taste of the anchovy paste and because it comes in  a tube that can be stored in the fridge, it neatly sidestepped the issue of leftover anchovy fillets. And three, I substituted mozzarella for the Romano cheese the recipe called for — because in true “Good and Cheap” style, that’s what I had in the fridge and wanted to use up.

How Did It Taste?
There’s one universal law about Caesar salad dressing. Homemade always tastes better than store-bought. Always. In fact, the gap between homemade and commercial Caesar dressing is so broad that a person might be convinced to forever banish store-bought from their table.

I’m not the world’s biggest kale fan, so even with a yummy handcrafted dressing, I went into this experiment with some skepticism.

But … my skepticism is once again proven wrong! This is really quite good. I’d happily serve it to guests and I love the taste of the homemade croutons.

Time and Money
All in, Kale Caesar Salad takes about 25 minutes to create. I made a full recipe, which came out to two fairly generous meal-size servings. The total cost for this was $5.32, which works out to $2.66 per serving.

A Little History
I had assumed that, like many other classic dishes, Caesar Salad had been invented in a restaurant in New York. Wrong! The original Caesar Salad was the creation of  an Italian-American restaurateur named Caesar Cardini. Cardini lived in San Diego, but owned a restaurant in Tijuana, as a way of getting around the Prohibition laws in the U.S.

The back story is that on the Fourth of July weekend in 1924, Cardini threw together a bunch of ingredients he had on hand and served the salad to his friends. It became a sensation. Even Julia Child’s parents travelled to Cardini’s to try out the Caesar. In her cookbook From Julia Child’s Kitchen, the American culinary icon recalls her encounter:

My parents, of course, ordered the salad. Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl, and I wish I could say I remembered his every move, but I don’t. They only thing I see again clearly is the eggs. I can see him break 2 eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them. Two eggs in a salad? Two one-minute coddled eggs? And garlic-flavored croutons, and grated Parmesan cheese? It was a sensation of a salad from coast to coast, and there were even rumblings of its success in Europe.

And that’s it! In my next post, I’ll be catching you up on how the financial end of this year-long experiment has been going. Thanks for tuning in!
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Sweet or Savory Pineapple Salad

Hello!

Today, we’re tackling a salad with a split personality. It can be either sweet or savory. (Kind of like some people.)

pineapple_salad

Savoury Pineapple Salad
Good, fast, cheap … and remarkably photogenic

You’ll won’t find this recipe in the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at leannebrown.com) but it’s on page 30 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
I made the savory version of the salad and it takes:

  • pineapple
  • cilantro
  • chili pepper
  • salt

I used canned pineapple and a tiny Thai chili.

How Did It Taste?
Let me digress for a moment and talk about a concept called the Iron Triangle, which I learned about when I was taking project management. Imagine three sides of a triangle. One side is GOOD, one side is FAST and one side is CHEAP. According to Iron Triangle theory, any project (and this includes recipes) can have two sides of the triangle, but never three. For example, you can have fast & cheap, but you have to give up good. Or good & cheap, but forget about fast.

I believe that this little salad has smashed the Iron Triangle. It’s delicious, it’s cheap, and it goes together in a jiffy. Take that, oppressive polygon!

Now, about the taste. It’s really good. The salt brings up the flavour of the pineapple and I’m completely biased in favour of cilantro. If you use a Thai chili, you’ll get lots of heat that plays off the sweetness of the pineapple. (I’m not sure that I would recommend that you actually eat uncooked Thai chili, however. They’re pretty fierce. If you want to tone it down, I’ve tried this recipe with a jalapeño too, and it’s still really good.)

Time and Money
The salad goes together in less than ten minutes. I made a full recipe, which would serve two people as a side. (I was really hungry and managed to eat the whole thing myself in one sitting.) The total cost for this was $1.41, which works out to 71 cents per serving.

Let Me Tell You the Story of a Man Named Jim
(No, this is not the theme song of the Beverley Hillbillies. The man in that story is named Jed.)

Jim goes to my church and a few Sundays ago, he asked for a quick meeting after the service to talk about a fundraiser. When I got to the meeting space, Jim was standing behind a table with about a dozen different kinds of canned fruit in front of him and asking some of the ladies how much canned fruit costs. (You can probably imagine the question mark now hovering over my head.)

As it turns out, Jim had gone to a public auction for a grocery store that was shutting down in the small town of Andrew. He bought what he thought was three shelves of fruit, but when he went to claim his winnings, it was more like nine shelves of fruit.

Undaunted, Jim hatched a brilliant scheme. He donated the fruit to my church, and has been selling it at the amazing price of 4 cans for $5.00. His timing is fantastic. The pineapple in today’s recipe was purchased this way, saving me somewhere between 75 cents and a dollar on ingredients. I see it as a win-win all around! I save on canned goods, the church gets some easy fundraising and Jim gets his garage back.

And that’s that. I’m very intrigued by our next recipe, which is a caesar salad made with kale. I’ll admit I’m skeptical. Tune in soon and find out if this really works!

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Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Well, hi there!

Today is our first-ever double header: soup and a yummy sandwich.

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Tomato Soup and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich:
A comfort food classic from as far back as I can remember

You’ll won’t find these recipes in the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at leannebrown.com) but they are on page 29 of the print version.

Soup Ingredient Notes
The soup takes:

  • onions
  • tomatoes
  • broth

From the optional ingredient list, I added:

  • heavy cream
  • basil (more about that in a minute)
  • lemon zest

The only detour from the instructions was that I used chicken broth instead of a vegetable broth.

Sandwich Ingredient Notes
The sandwich takes:

  • bread
  • grated cheese

I used an aged cheddar and added the optional Dijon mustard.

How Did It Taste?
The soup tastes great. The only thing I’d change is to cut back on the vegetable broth by about one-third — I found the finished product a little thin, but that was easily fixed by simmering it for awhile.

The sandwich is equally delicious! The technique of using grated cheese is brilliant. It melts much more evenly and quickly than slices. I wouldn’t change a thing here.

Time and Money
I forgot to time myself, but you should be able to knock this together in about half an hour. It’s very easy.

I made a half-recipe of the soup (serves roughly three) and one sandwich. The total cost for this was $7.74, which works out to $2.13 per generous serving of soup and $1.34 per sandwich.

pesto

A small jar of pesto = a world of tasty possibilities


Add Some Zest-o with Pesto
Here’s a way to get a little of the flavour of fresh herbs without the stupidity of supermarket prices. Pesto!

Traditional pesto (which is what this is) is made up of basil, olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese. This little jar cost me $2.98 at the Italian Centre Shop and I used a 2 teaspoons of it in the tomato soup, in the place of  a tablespoon of chopped basil leaves and two cloves of garlic.

You can also use pesto on pasta, sandwiches, in sauces … you name it. And it’s cheap, which is what we’re all about here at Library Life Hack.

Ta dah! That’s a wrap. Next week, we’re headed into the salad part of “Good and Cheap”. See you then!

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Lightly Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Hello!

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

squash_soup

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

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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