Wednesday, February 29, 2012

greenhorn gourmande is on a budget- episode 3

Hello WIAW friends, this post is part of my week long series on how I manage to feed myself and my boyfriend for about $60 a week in New York city.  See the previous posts <<here>> and <<here>>.

In my last two posts I discussed the importance of planning and meal types (less meat more grains).  Today's post is about the importance of selecting recipes that have ingredients in common so that you waste less, and save more.

Now some may think that this will involve a lot of repetition, but it doesn't need to be the case!  Today's recipe is Roasted Garlic, Leek, and Purple Potato soup.  Believe it or not, it was made with ingredients left over from my last two posts.  



Roasted Leek and Purple Potato soup


Let me explain.  That tasty bread stick perched on the edge of my bowl is made from the other half of the pizza dough recipe I had made and froze.  I used the chicken carcass (after picking off the remaining meat) to make a delicious homemade chicken stock.  

I'm actually quite pleased with myself over this stock.  I used the tops of the leeks, which are inedible, giving me the perfect base for a leek soup.  Don't be disturbed by the white layer that sometimes forms on homemade stocks.  It's the gelatin and fat from the chicken that makes homemade stocks so rich and flavorful.

These strange beauties are purple potatoes.  I had read about them online- they apparently taste just like regular potatoes, so when I saw them at Whole Foods for $0.99lb (a whopping $0.50 less than all the other varieties) I figured, why not?

I'm glad I did, I can confirm that they do in fact taste like your everyday spud, with the added bonus of an awesome hue.  

Okay, I've put you through enough ;)  On to the recipes!

Roasted Garlic and Leek Soup

*This soup calls for two heads of roasted garlic.  Don't be intimidated by that amount, roasting really mellows the flavor and makes them subtly sweet.  To roast simply slice off the top of the head, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes at 400F.

2 leeks, tops removed, thoroughly cleaned, and diced-$1.60
2 heads worth of roasted garlic cloves*- $0.50
3 large potatoes (about 1.5lbs), cubed (if you want a perfectly smooth soup you can peel them.)-$1.40
1 tbsp butter-$0.10
5 cups homemade chicken stock- $0.50
kosher salt and black pepper-$0.10
1/3 cup half and half- $0.25
3 strips bacon for garnish (optional)- $0.80
Total cost: $5.25

1.  In a large pot or dutch oven melt the butter over medium heat, and add the leeks cooking until softened.  Next add the potatoes, garlic, chicken stock, and 1 tsp of salt and a 1/2 tsp of pepper.  Bring mix to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
2.  Remove pot from heat and allow to cool slightly.  With an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth and return to a low heat.  Stir in the half and half and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with a half strip of bacon.
Serves 6.

Happy WIAW everyone!!!  As always thanks to the wonderful Jenn over at Peas and Crayons for hosting!

Monday, February 27, 2012

greenhorn gourmande is on a budget- episode 2

This post is part of my week long series on how I manage to feed myself and my boyfriend for about $60 a week in New York city.  See the first post <<here>>.

In my last post I emphasised the importance of planning out what you are going to buy.  Pick your meals and stick to what's on your list.  I briefly mentioned that it's important to be wise about what you pick.

Now anyone with a soupçon of common sense could tell you that you are not going to be munching on organic grass fed porterhouse.  However it is a little bit harder than that (but not much).  When I look at recipes (which I'm pretty much constantly doing) I immediately look at the ingredients list and ask myself "does this list have things I know I can't afford?"  i.e. fancy cheese, expensive cuts of meat, or a super special ingredient.  When I see these little red flags I then ask myself can I make a substitution and still maintain the integrity of the dish.  For example, bacon instead of pancetta, or swiss/ cheddar instead of gruyere/comté.  If the answer is yes, then it is one I can put on my list.

Another way I help keep my budget under control is by eating mostly "vegetarian" meals.  Now I say "vegetarian" in quotes because many of my meals will not feature a main protein, but will have maybe a little bacon or chicken stock in them.  The point for me is to not maintain a completely vegetarian diet, but to reduce my meat consumption.  This is good for a multitude of reasons:  meat is generally very pricey, it is not very environmentally sustainable, and most of what I can afford is of inferior quality (read: factory farmed and loaded with antibiotics).

I now currently make meat (poultry, beef, pork, or seafood) about one to two times a week.  In the beginning reducing the amount of meat in my diet was strange, but now I find that I really don't have the desire to eat meat very often.

Of course to compensate for the lack of animal protein I make a lot of protein rich "vegetarian" meals.  In the past six months I've exposed myself to a veritable cornucopia of legumes, pulses, and grains.  I've found that lentils, beans, and quinoa can be equally satisfying to meat and incredibly delicious.  (Visit my recipe page to see a few of my favorites.)

Anyway, I'm beginning to feel like a bit of a self-righteous prig so to make it up to you, feast your eyes on this:

Roasted Chicken.  Perfection in a pan.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

greenhorn gourmande is on a budget- Episode 1

Picture this:

The year- 2010, the place- a small town in upstate New York, the person- a stressed out college Senior trying to figure out how to feed herself for the first time in her life.  This individual, as most college students, found herself in a perpetual state of being broke.  It was time to buckle down, to be a grown up, to have a food budget!  So she proudly refrained from all of the 'luxury' goods at the grocery store and managed to stick to a very respectable sum of $60 a week.

Flash forward to 2012, a tiny (yet adorable) apartment in the middle of Brooklyn.  This same womyn, a little wiser to the ways of food, still finds herself with a respectable budget of about $60 a week.  Except now this budget is for two!  She's shacked up with a bottomless pit- the notorious Mr. greenhorngourmande.  How on earth has she managed to double (*cough-triple-cough*) the amount of food she buys in a city that has some of the highest food costs in the good ol' US of A?

One simple word friends: planning.

Well actually it's not really quite that simple, but planning is crucial to manage this budgetary feat.

Managing how much I spend on food (among other things) has been pretty crucial in my ability to support myself without a real job (temp work FTW!).  This week I am going to write a series about my budget, showcase the meals that I've planned out for this week, and give a run down of their cost.

Why am I doing this?  In part because I want to show that it is possible to have a healthy and varied diet on a tight budget.  There is a pervasive myth in this country that "junk food is cheaper."  I myself find this impossible to believe after six months of living on a strict budget- processed food is expensive as hell!  (If this topic is of interest to you please read this wonderful article by Mark Bittman.)  Of course I realize that I have a lot of resources that many others do not: a pretty good understanding of basic nutrition, cooking skills, a fully furnished kitchen, etc.

Okay, I'm stepping off my soap box.  Let's get to the details.

The photo listed above is of my secret weapon- my notebook of lists.  Each week (usually Friday or Saturday morning)  I come up with about six meals that I know I want to make each week.  Of course the selection of these meals themselves is quite important- no expensive meats, cheeses, etc. (more on this in later posts).

After I've figured out what I want to make I write down the ingredients and pantry basics I need from each store I go to.  (I shop at the farmer's market, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's- again more on this later.)

Then when I go shopping I STICK TO MY LIST.  This is probably the most important step- I mean what the hell is the point of making a list if you're going to buy a bunch of stuff you don't need and can't afford!

This is how this week's budget was spent:

I spent $14.91 at Whole Foods plus $44.20 at Trader Joe's for a grand total of $59.11.  Now obviously there are going to be some things in my pantry already (spices, oils, vinegars, etc), and leftover things that I have purchased in previous weeks.  All of these things were purchased within my budgetary constraints at one time or another, so they aren't to be considered 'extras'.  

Okay, so this post is getting rather unwieldy, and I haven't even mentioned what I'm cooking!  Tonight's recipe (or rather Saturday night's) is homemade pepperoni pizza.  

Pizza Saturday has become somewhat of a tradition at chez greenhorn.  It feels slightly celebratory, and it's easy enough after a day filled with errands i.e. grocery shopping.  I normally just buy the dough for the pie at TJ's, but yesterday they were completely out of dough, so I made my own!  It is absolutely delicious, and cheaper than the store's- which is really saying something since TJ's dough is a whopping $0.99.

In an attempt to be somewhat healthy we had this for an appetizer:

Organic beet greens and stems simply sauteed.  These beauties were atop the beets that I bought for a recipe later in the week.  The greens of beets (and many other root vegetables) are edible and actually quite tasty.  Since these were attached to the beets - I think they count as free!  Right? Right.  They were very delicious sauteed in a little olive oil, red pepper flakes, and lemon.

On to the pie!

Homemade Pepperoni Pizza 

I've actually written a post about this beloved pie, but I only shared my favourite sauce recipe.  This time I'll share the recipe for the dough, and attempt to cost out the entire pizza.  I had a lot of these things on hand (spices, pepperoni, etc.) but I will try and give a good estimate of their cost for the amount used.

1 sauce recipe- found <<here>> - $1.50
pepperoni- $0.75
1/2 pizza dough recipe- found below- $0.65
Total cost: $3.90


1.  Roll out dough and top with sauce, cheese, and pepperoni (or whatever toping you like).  Place on a slightly greased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes at 500F.  Let rest a few minutes before slicing.

Homemade Pizza Dough alla Mark Bittman

3 cups all purpose flour- $0.60
2 tsp salt- $0.05
2 tsp active dry yeast- $0.35
1 small clove of garlic, minced- $0.05
2 tbsp olive oil- $0.20
Total cost: $1.25

2.  Place dough on a slightly floured surface and briefly knead until the dough fully comes together and is smooth.  Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set it aside somewhere warm and let it rise for an hour or so.
3.  Divide the dough (which should have about doubled in size) in two and form into balls.  Cover one ball with plastic wrap and let sit 20 minutes and wrap the other and freeze it for up to one month.
4.  Once the dough has rested roll it out with your hands or a pin until it is your desired shape and size.  Proceed with the Pizza recipe.

This dough is flavorful, soft, and gets a nice bake.  It's definitely worth the minimal effort.

Tune in tomorrow to learn more about meal budgeting and to see my Roasted Chicken and Vegetables!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pinto Beans and Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

This post should be titled "Caramelized Onions and what I had left in my pantry."  Seriously though, I think I may have an addiction.

Anyone who has every experienced the sweet, salty, melt in your mouth wonderfulness of a caramelized onion will understand my predicament. All this week I've found myself fantasizing about what concoctions I could come up with to justify the manufacture of these savory goodies.

After coming up with countless creations, all of which involved some ingredient I didn't have on hand, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just say "f*ck it!  I'll just make the damn onions and invent the dish as I go!"

I'm happy to say that this abandon was rewarded greatly with a dish that is satisfying both in taste and texture.  Unfortunately it doesn't make it into the 'eat with your eyes' category, this dish is uggglllly.  However it is so delicious it would be criminal to not share the recipe, beauty or no.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

WIAW seventeen- The Wednesday that snuck up on me

Happy WIAW everyone!!!  I seriously can't believe that it's already Wednesday.  Although I enjoyed my three day weekend immensely, it has definitely thrown me off beat.  So much so that I actually thought today was Tuesday, and I spaced on taking photos, so some of this weeks pictures are recycled (sorry!)

Just because I've been a tad forgetful doesn't mean I've become long winded- let's get to the eats!


Old Fashioned Oats with Peanut Butter and Turbinado Sugar

This has become my go to breakfast.  It's tasty, fast, and super filling.  I paired it with a cup of joe and a glass of oj.  Normally I don't drink orange juice, but I find it keeps me from completely feeling like death when I get the sniffles. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Roasted Tomato Soup

I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so I'm going to keep this post bare bones.  The soup is adapted from the Sandwich King (I know, I know), but seriously it sounded so good I just had to try it.  My instinct was right, and this soup paired with a grilled cheddar cheese (almost) made me forget about my stuffed sinuses.

It all starts out like this:

Is transformed into this:

And is served up like this:

The first picture is a little misleading because a) it doesn't feature all of the ingredients I used, and b) it features one that I didn't end up using.  Can you guess which one?  Read the recipe to find out, you super sleuth.

Roasted Tomato Soup


2 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained with the juices reserved
4 carrots, roughly chopped
2 large shallots, peeled and quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
20 cranks ground black pepper (about 1/2 tsp)
2 tbsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp dry vermouth
2 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)
6 tbsp sour cream


1.  Heat the oven to 400F.  In a large bowl toss tomatoes, carrots, and shallots with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Arrange on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  Bake for 35 minutes.
2.  When the veggies are almost done roasting melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven.  Once the butter has melted add the garlic and red pepper and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Next add the tomato paste, spreading it out on the bottom of the pan while stirring constantly to prevent burning.           3.  Once the tomato paste is incorporated into the butter add the roasted vegetables, cooking off any extra liquid.  Add the vermouth and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3-4 minutes.
4.  Add one cup of the chicken stock and the reserved juices from the whole tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow the soup to cool slightly, then puree with an immersion blender. 
5.  Once the soup has reached a desired smoothness you can add another cup of chicken stock if you would like your soup to be thinner (I did).  Then stir in the sour cream and salt and pepper to taste.

In the end I decided to just use the juices of the whole tomatoes rather than another 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.  Mostly because I didn't have any on hand, and also because I didn't see the sense in wasting perfectly good tomato juice.  Anyway, this soup is complex, warming, and the perfect accompaniment to a grilled cheese sandwich.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WIAW 16- gratuitous flower shots (because nothing seize I love you like flowers)

Once again I apologize for the lame joke, but like I've said before, I simply can't help myself.  Any who, let me put my money where my mouth is.





The lovely Mr. greenhorngourmande met me after work with these in his arm... well in a whole foods bag (he didn't want them to get crushed), my love is certainly practical.  As pretty as flowers are, they aren't vegetables, and that's what this WIAW is all about.

As always thanks to the wonderful Jenn over at peas and crayons for being the hostess with the mostest (hah was going to type molestation- I think I've been watching a bittttt too much SVU on Netflix)!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Roasted Broccoli and Potato Cheddar Soup

Soup is probably one of my favorite kinds of food.  There are so many different varieties, are generally easy to make, and are usually made in large batches.  Hello leftovers!!

This soup was made one night last week on a pure spur of the moment whim.  I originally was set on making some corn chowder, but then I realized I had a whole head of broccoli just languishing in my crisper.  Okay no big deal right?  I'll just make corn and broccoli chowder.

Roasted broccoli = best broccoli?  You betcha!

One thing led to another and eventually the corn was out and broccoli reigned supreme.  Soup eaters rejoiced throughout the kingdom.  Well... not really, but this soup was so good I had to make it again this week!  The creamy texture, depth of the roasted broccoli, and heat from the jalapeno make this soup positively addicting.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

WIAW quinze- Vegetable Victuals

Happy Wednesday everyone!  This month is a celebration of vegetation, a.k.a Love your veggies month.

This WIAW I had quite a few vegetables, but I will try and do better next week.  I started out my day with one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables: roasted.


Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onion, Uncured Nitrate-Free Bacon, and Fruit Salad

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Black Bean Chocolate Cake- Mom's Crazy Cooking Challenge


This month's challenge is chocolate cake.  While these two words may cause some to quake at the knees, I have to say they hold no such power over me.  In fact, if I'm going to be completely honest, I don't really like chocolate cake (or cake at all for that matter).  I find that they are usually too dry, or generally 'meh'.

I won't lie, this cake did not convert me, I'm still rather nonplussed by the entire subject.  I will however say that this was possibly the most moist chocolate cake I've ever had, and I really appreciated it's subtle sweetness and sponge like texture.  Not to mention it's non-traditional ingredient- black beans- which make this cake gluten free!  (If you're in to that kind of thing ;) )

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mushroom and Thyme Spaghetti

I've been cooking in a serious fashion for a little over a year now, and I have to say I've become pretty confident in the kitchen.  Confident enough to substitute, improvise, and create.  It really is amazing to have an idea and just run with it, to create something all your own.

This recipe is a greenhorn gourmande original, and while not incredibly inventive, it is insanely delicious.

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