Weekend Adventures in Budget Cooking

It was in the mid-70’s all weekend and I couldn’t bear heating up the apartment any more than absolutely necessary, so yet again I skipped cooking a batch of pinto beans like I’ve been planning for two weeks!  Where’s the March-y weather, March?  For a girl who used to hate beans, I’m sure missing them now.  They’re just so… delicious!  And healthy!  And cheap!  Anyone who claims you can’t eat hearty and healthy meals should try experimenting with beans.  I’m not one to judge though – it took me a full five years of having my own kitchen before I got up the courage to soak and cook beans for myself.  Instead of beans on Saturday, though, I cooked up those tomatoes I picked up last week.  I don’t do much in the way of fancy tomato sauce, because I am an impatient cook.  (That’s also why I’m such a miserable baker.) I just chop, add garlic and herbs, and simmer till they’re a good consistency.  The whole process only takes about 20 minutes.  5 to chop, 15 to simmer.

I have about ten glass jars that used to have peanut butter in them, so I used two of them to store the sauce.  One is already gone because we had pasta for dinner that night.  It’s not pasta night without a little cheese, but the Parmagiano Reggiano blocks at the store were $21.99/lb, and the grated Romano was $5.99/lb.  Guess which one I chose?

On Sunday, I experimented with a new recipe for gluten free waffles.  I was contemplating the “high cost, low preparation” factor of our frozen waffle addiction, I remembered that I actually OWN a waffle iron!  I use it every few months and then put it away and forget about it, which is a shame because it’s a very special waffle iron.  It’s at least 20 years old, and probably older – I hope that means it’s still okay to use!  When my grandparents passed away a few years ago, I chose two items from their house:  the little brass rocking horse that now stands on a bookcase in our apartment, and the waffle iron.  I have vivid memories of breakfasts at my grandparents’ house, and of my grandmother placing a HUGE waffle in front of me.  It was as big as the whole plate!  (There was also always cantaloupe at breakfast… isn’t cantaloupe a quintessentially grandparent food?)  Imagine my surprise when I saw the waffle iron again for the first time in years and I finally realized that it’s really small!   The plate in the picture is a little bit smaller than a typical dinner plate.  Don’t you love the heart shapes?

Unfortunately, Justin’s saying of “low cost, low flavor” was true with this recipe.   The waffles look delicious and have a good texture, but they’re pretty bland.  In the end, though, I didn’t care about the taste or the price at all – the fact that they were cooked on my grandmother’s waffle iron made them perfect.

2 Comments on “Weekend Adventures in Budget Cooking”

  1. ritesofpassage says:

    Congratulations on keeping up with your budgeting! There are bound to be bumps along the way so celebrate your successes and move on past the not-so-successful stuff.

    You might want to look into a slow cooker for the beans. The basic ones are quite inexpensive even new but can often be found in thrift stores and friends or family might even have one sitting unused in a closet that you can have. You can cook the beans overnight or when you’re out during the day, so you don’t need to worry about how hot the kitchen will get. Cook them in big batches and freeze them in recipe-size portions (usually about 1-1/2 cups, which is about what is in a can). I freeze them in glass jars (old Lays dip jars) and no, they don’t break in the freezer as long as you leave some head room for expansion. That way they’re nearly as handy as canned without the price (and the salt). Obviously, slow cookers can be used for far more than just beans.

    Another option would be a pressure cooker, which is definitely more of an investment purchase, but they’re very versatile. Beans are a snap and are done very quickly (1-6 minutes if they’re already soaked (depending on how you release the pressure) or 25 minutes if they’re not already soaked). (See fastcooking.ca for lots of info on pressure cooking.) Modern pressure cookers are very safe.

    Also, a tip on the almond milk, I learned from Chef AJ (through her video series) an easy way to make almond milk — just blend 1 tablespoon of almond butter with 3 cups of water. That’s it, unless you want to add some sweetener (she uses dates, I don’t usually bother). She estimates it’s about 6 cents per serving that way. It’s quick, inexpensive, uses just a regular blender, you can make it as you need it, and no need to lug heavy boxes of almond milk from the store. Plus there’s no trash (you can reuse the jar!).
    (Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?=WhM7GauDP7k).

    I’ll be reading along to see how it goes!


    • Angela Nilles says:

      Hi Debbie! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I like the slow cooker idea a lot – lots of my friends have them and they seem really convenient! And homemade almond milk! I’ve seen people blend whole almonds with water and then strain it, but it makes a lot of sense to just use almond butter! I would LOVE to stop lugging the boxes. 🙂

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