Kale Caesar Salad


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.


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!

Sweet or Savory Pineapple Salad


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


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!


Lightly Curried Butternut Squash Soup


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


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

Whole-Wheat Jalapeño Cheddar Scones


For the next two posts, we’re going to do a little bit of baking. But don’t let that make you nervous! No big fat skills are needed.

Whole-Wheat Jalapeño Cheddar Scones

Whole-Wheat Jalapeño Cheddar Scones
Way sexier than what little old British ladies eat with tea

You’ll find this recipe on page 22 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at leannebrown.com) and on page 15 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
I used Kraft Cracker Barrel extra old cheddar (it was on sale) and I do recommend that you include the egg wash step at the end of the recipe. It made my finished scones look all spanky and professional. Also, make sure you use whole-wheat flour instead of regular unbleached.

How Did it Taste?
Honestly, I haven’t come across a bad recipe in this cookbook yet. All of them are good but some of them are knock-it-out-of-the-park good. This one belongs in the second category. I loved these scones! They’re dense and hearty and spicy and cheesy … the adjectives could go on and on.

I think there’s a world of possibilities here. I’m going to try a variation with asiago cheese and my new favourite free ingredient, lemon zest.

Old Dog, New Trick
I learned a smart new technique with this one. The recipe uses a half-cup of butter, which you freeze slightly and then grate into the dry ingredients. This is really clever — the butter is more or less uniform and the step where you blend butter and flour goes quickly.

When I was taking Home Economics (back in the Middle Ages) we used a hand tool for this job, called a pastry blender. It was time-consuming, gave uneven results and the blenders were notorious for bending and breaking. This grater idea? It’s a keeper.

Show Me the Money
Start to finish, the scones took 45 minutes to whip up. The total cost was $6.41, or $1.07 per good-sized scone.

The Scone that Saved Lunchtime
Following the advice of Steve and Annette Economides, I’ve been creating a lunch plan for each week, basing it around a variety of sandwiches. Although I’m quite happy about getting my afternoon meal more organized and less costly, I was beginning to become bored with five days a week of sandwiches.

Enter this week’s recipe! Although they appear in the breakfast section of “Good & Cheap”, I’ve tucked two of the scones into my lunches, paired with pepper salami from the deli counter at Save-On Foods. It’s a match made in Heaven. I think I should include a scone-based lunch once in each week’s plan, just to break things up.

And that’s all for today! Our next baking adventure will be muffins that feature both chocolate and zucchini. “How does that work?” you might ask. Well, you’ll have to tune in to find out. Until then, have a great week!

Baklava Oatmeal

In early February, I did an interview with Isabelle Gallant of CBC, talking about this project. I’m happy to say that it aired on Monday of last week, and you can have a listen here. (I start at the 9:02 mark.)
Baklava Oatmeal

Baklava Oatmeal
Bringing the humble oat to a whole new plane of existence

So here we are, at Recipe #6 in the Oatmeal Chronicles. You can find this one on page 30 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at leannebrown.com) or on page 10 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
This time, I decided to step out a little and use regular rolled oats instead of quick oats. I also bought crushed walnuts because they were on sale in the bulk section at Save-On Foods — and considerably cheaper than the almonds that the recipe calls for. (My logic was that every baklava I’d ever eaten included walnuts, so I didn’t think I was committing a culinary faux pas.)

How Did it Taste?
Wow. This one is amazing. If you were looking for an oatmeal recipe to serve to weekend house guests (or anyone else you wanted to impress with your mad breakfast cooking skills), Baklava Oatmeal is your go-to. I loved the blend of the flavours, and the large flake rolled oats are much chewier (and truthfully, less gluey) than quick oats. I still like Coconut and Lime Oatmeal for its simplicity, but Baklava is my new favourite. This is oatmeal on a whole different plane of existence.

I have to say that I will probably not be going back to quick oats, now that I’ve experienced large flake. Isabelle Gallant (who is also the voice of The Little Red Kitchen blog) suggested that I try out a 50/50 blend of large flake and steel-cut as well. Isn’t cooking fun? Always something new to experiment with.

Show Me the Money
Zesting an  orange means that there’s a little more work involved in this recipe, and it took about 8 minutes to cook the large flake oats (as opposed to 2 minutes for quick oats). Start to finish, the prep and cooking time was 22 minutes, and the total cost per serving was 88 cents. A bargain for very classy breakfast!

Food Shopping Tip
It’s nothing new, but I’m going to talk about one of the commandments of frugalistas everywhere: Thou Shalt Always Check the Bill.

Last Sunday night, I bought groceries for the coming week. I was a little surprised at the total, but reminded myself that we’re still living in The Time of Really Expensive Produce in my hometown of Edmonton.

When I got home, however, I decided take a closer look and found a $10.95 charge for half a kilo of bulk trail mix. Since I hadn’t bought any trail mix, I knew something was wrong. I checked through item by item and discovered that the half kilo of apples I’d bought were nowhere on the receipt.

In short, I’d just paid $10.95 for three apples.

Now, obviously this was a keying error. It was a simple matter to go back to the grocery store with the apples, show them what had happened, and get a refund. But it does reinforce the idea that it’s not a bad practice to check your receipts if something seems a little off.

And that’s all for today! Next week will bring us the last of the oatmeal recipes and then we’ll move on to some exciting territory that includes muffins, pancakes and grapefruits. Have a great weekend!