We've both rallied for the final week of our challenge—planning meals ahead of time, shopping frugally, and cooking big dinners (= leftovers) so we can make it to Easter on this limited food stamp budget. That said, Don came home from work last night with organic sour cream ($3.29) and organic salsa ($4.29), two items that—while they certainly make a burrito more appealing—are hardly essential. We're low on staples like milk, eggs, apples, and bread and now we have only $13.39 for the next two days. Last night, as we were falling asleep, Don asked if we had enough money in the account to buy a loaf of bread. "I'll just make a loaf tomorrow," I yawned.
Maybe our newly frugal, homemaker ways will stick with us even after the challenge is over.
Even though we had a full weekend of gardening and other projects, I managed to get to the farmers' market on Saturday and process a bunch of veggies right away. I blanched the purple kale, roasted the cauliflower with some olive oil and cumin (so it would be easy to use on salads throughout the week), and rinsed the radishes, putting them in a tupperware container. The rest, I put in the crisper so it'd be ready to be cooked or eaten raw.
Sunday evening, Don made his leek tart, so we had that for dinner with some miner's lettuce salad (with radishes and candied pecans on top) and leftover tart for lunch the next day.
LEEK TART (adapted from the Joy of Cooking)
Makes one 9-inch tart; 6 servings
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet over medium heat
Add 2 pounds of leeks, trimmed to white and tender green parts only, split lengthwise, cleaned thoroughly, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3 leeks, in our experience)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
ground black pepper to taste
Cover and cook until the leeks are very soft, with little color, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat as they cook, about 30 minutes. After about 15 minutes of cooking time, set a rack in the lowest position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400º F.
Beat together until well combined:
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, or light cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
salt and black pepper to taste
Remove pastry shell from the fridge. (I usually make two pie crusts at a time, so we had one ball of dough in the freezer from a week or so ago.) When the leeks are done, add to the custard and transfer to the prepared pastry shell. Bake until golden and the custard is set, 20-30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes to settle, then cut into wedges and serve.
Because we were short a few ingredients for soup on Monday evening, Don made veggie burritos for Madeleine and I. (I told you it was his fall-back meal!) He usually sautés some zucchini, carrots, onions, and corn for the filling (as well as beans & cheese), but I requested he sneak some of the purple kale into mine. Delicious! Later that evening I made a batch of dough for no-knead bread so we could have it with soup for dinner on Tuesday.
I had found a recipe for a simple (and inexpensive) cream of potato soup in MFK Fisher's book "How to Cook a Wolf" and was eager to try it. About how to survive wartime shortages with panache, this essential little book is full of tricks for making your food budget stretch—and more importantly, for getting pleasure out of what food you can afford. But the soup, which is basically a hot vichyssoise with milk used in place of chicken stock, was bland and underwhelming. Adding salt helped, but I won't reproduce the recipe here, since I think we can all do better. (To give her credit, Fisher seems skeptical of the soup's "freakish" appeal in the U.S. during the '40s.) My dear family—even Madeleine!—gamely ate the soup without complaint and oohed and ahhed over the fresh bread with butter. We had a little salad (miner's lettuce, radishes, and pecans again) on the side. I had splurged earlier in the week at the store, buying some organic Newman's Own sandwich cookies. So for dessert, I made "oreo" milkshakes for all of us, using the organic vanilla ice-cream we had in the freezer. (It must be said that Madeleine knew this dessert was coming. Otherwise, she most certainly would not have eaten the soup!)
Wednesday night, Don made a yummy veggie stir fry with cashew nuts, sesame oil, and noodles. There was enough left over for each of us to have a portion yesterday.
Last night, I was all set to make a white bean and butternut squash soup. I'd let the white beans soak all day so they were ready to cook. But when I called around to Whole Foods and Kruger's Market, I quickly realized that there was no organic squash to be found. It is, after all, officially spring. So I changed my plan. The beans would work perfectly with the kale—sautéed in olive oil and garlic, of course. I've often eaten that, with bread, as a full meal—but you can also put it over pasta (or for a surprising twist you'll never find in Mexico, in tacos!). But then I remembered the poor neglected Brussels sprouts I'd bought at the farmers' market on Saturday. I rifled through my recipe book and found this super easy recipe from one of my favorite Portland restaurants, Ned Ludd. Don't think I'm getting all fancy on you. This took less than 20 minutes to make (including cooking time) and the results are magical.
Ned Ludd's Charred Bruss (from Chef Jason French)
Makes 6 servings
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for finishing
- Pinch of coarse sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
Preheat broiler to high. Place cast-iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven to preheat.
Remove the loose outer leaves of the brussels sprouts and trim the stems. Cut sprouts in half. In a large bowl, toss the sprouts with olive oil, salt and chile flakes. When the skillet begins smoking, add the sprouts and broil, stirring once or twice, until charred and soft but not burnt, about 10 to 12 minutes. The amount of time will depend on the sprouts themselves, as they change throughout the season. Toss cooked sprouts in a bowl with lemon juice, more olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Serve immediately.
So for dinner, I had leftover stir fry noodles (I heated it up in a pan with more garlic and a fried egg) and a big bowl of Brussels sprouts. (Don worked late and made two quesadillas when he got home.) I'll admit that I was craving a hamburger most of yesterday. I held out both because we're so low on money but also because I have a business lunch today (Friday) and a hamburger will certainly be on the menu. ;-)
I'll do one final post to let you know how our last two days go and to reflect on all we've learned during the past six weeks of our food stamp challenge.