Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Well, hi there!

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


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 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.


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!


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 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

Broiled Grapefruit (and an Easter Egg!)


Today, we’ve arrived at the very last recipe in the Breakfast section of “Good and Cheap.” And … this post contains an Easter Egg!


Broiled Grapefruit
A little brown sugar, a tiny bit of salt, and a whole lot of yummy

You’ll find Broiled Grapefruit on page 16 of the PDF version of “Good and Cheap” (a free download at and on page 18 of the print version.

Ingredient Notes
It doesn’t get any simpler than this: one grapefruit,two teaspoons of brown sugar and a pinch of salt. I used a ruby grapefruit and I think that was a good choice.

How Did it Taste?
These are good. They are very good. The caramelized brown sugar and just a hint of salt elevates the humble grapefruit into something quite sophisticated. The heat of the broiler also causes the fruit to puff up a little and become quite juicy. Needless to say, I liked these a lot.

Let’s Do The Math
A grapefruit currently sells for $1.49 at Save-On Foods in my hometown of Edmonton, and two teaspoons of brown sugar cost me 3 cents. I considered half a grapefruit to be one serving, so this recipes rings in at 76 cents per serving.

And Now … the Easter Egg!
In geek-speak an “Easter Egg” is a surprise bonus hidden in a DVD, computer program or video game.

Although it’s not exactly hidden, this Easter Egg is a surprise bonus recipe for a double-layer Rice Krispie Cake. It’s easy to make and a lot of fun. The original version of this recipe used Betty Crocker tinned frosting and was decorated with a whole variety of candies. Admittedly, this approach wasn’t overly economical, and also left me with a big pile of extra candy.

So, in the names of frugality and creativity, I’ve re-jigged it to something that looks good, is still decadent, but doesn’t cost as much.

A 700 gram box of Rice Krispies and two 400 gram bags of marshmallows will get you two Rice Krispie cakes. Frosted and decorated, they’ll cost you $10.28 each and serve at least eight. That’s $1.29 per serving.


Rice Krispie Cake, all dolled up with M&M candies
My very own version of an electronic Easter Egg

Rice Krispie Cake

Part 1 — Create the layers
Ingredients per layer:
1/4 cup of butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups miniature marshmallows
5 cups Rice Krispies

  1. Melt the butter in a good-sized pan over medium-low heat and add the vanilla and marshmallows.
  2. Allow the marshmallows to melt, stirring occasionally (and watching that they don’t start to burn to the bottom of your pan.)
  3. When all of the marshmallows have melted, take the pan off the heat, and stir in the Rice Krispies, one cup at a time.
  4. Let the mixture stand while you generously grease an 8″ round cake pan.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the greased cake pan. When everything is in the pan, use your hands to pack down the mixture and spread it out to the edges, making sure that the top surface is flat. (If you find that the mixture is sticking to your hands, give it a few more minutes to cool.)
  6. Once you’re done, put the pan aside and let it set for 20 minutes. About 15 minutes in, you can start the next layer.
  7. After 20 minutes, invert the pan over a plate and tap the bottom. If you’ve greased the pan well, the layer should pretty much pop right out. If you’re getting resistance, try running a knife around the edge of the pan.
  8. Repeat Step 1 to Step 6 for the second layer.
  9. While the second layer is cooling, you can make the frosting.

Part 2: Frosting, Assembling and Decorating
Ingredients for frosting the full cake:
1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
2 cups of icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
About a tablespoon of milk or cream
One bag of Easter-themed M&M candies

  1. If you have a mixer, use it. Everything goes a lot faster and the end product is light and fluffy. If you don’t have a mixer, cream the butter by hand until the color lightens.
  2. Add the icing sugar, a cup at a time. Beat each cup in until smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla and beat.
  4. Add the milk and beat.
  5. Check the consistency. Too stiff to spread nicely? Add a little more milk. Too runny? Add a little more icing sugar.
  6. When the frosting is ready, put a few small dollops around the center of a plate.
  7. Take your first layer of cake and center it on the plate. Apply a little pressure to help the frosting glue it down.
  8. Spread a layer of frosting on the top of the first layer. You can use a little less than half your recipe.
  9. Now, center the second layer of the cake over the first. (Because of the way cake pans are shaped, it likely won’t be a perfect fit. Don’t sweat this.)
  10. Using the rest of the frosting, ice the top of the second layer.
  11. Now, you can take the M&M candies and decorate the top. I made stripes, but I’m willing to bet that you can be even more creative!

And that’s it. If you make a Rice Krispie cake, I would love to see a picture of it. Thank you for reading all the way down to here, and a very Happy Easter to you all!

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 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!