Tag Archives: frugal

Weekend Reads

sweet potato heart

This week was full of sweet potato love here at Humble Foodie, starting with 5 Uses for Sweet Potato Puree and followed by my new favorite recipe: Sweet Potato Brownies. Hearty servings of this scrumptious tuber (especially mixed with cocoa…) kept me going through a front-loaded week. Friday came to a close with a glorious dinner table laden with Thai food and a trip to the symphony.

To be honest, I don’t listen to classical music on my own. Last night’s performance might have changed that. Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest, Op. 18 and Symphony No. 4 in f minor, Op. 36 (listen here) were powerful pieces that pulled to the surface memories and emotions I didn’t remember feeling. Tchaikovsky’s written program for Symphony No. 4 shed light on the rollercoaster and ended with the first weekend read I want to share. His explanation of the fourth movement would make a beautiful meditation and reminder for difficult times:

The fourth movement: if within yourself you find no reasons for joy, then look to others. Go among the people. See how they can enjoy themselves, surrendering themselves wholeheartedly to joyful feelings…O, how they are enjoying themselves! How happy they are that all their feelings are simple and straightforward. Reproach yourself, and do not say that everything in this world is sad. Joy is simple, but powerful. Rejoice in the rejoicing of others. To live is still possible.

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

My practical side also thinks that The Tempest would make a good running soundtrack.

When you’re done swaying to the music above, start your Saturday with a few fun reads and recipes from around the web.

Recipe: Green Avocado Frosting
Perfect for your St. Patty’s Day treats!

Daring you to disagree, Terri Trespicio writes that Hobbies Are For Losers.

…chances are the thing you want to do, that you feel most passionate about, that you would love to do “for real,” is something you’re calling a hobby because it lowers the stakes.

New wardrobe on a budget: do a clothing swap!
Spring cleaning has me ready to unpack my summer frocks and gallivant around with bare legs. Get with the picture, 30-degree weather. Organizing a swap is a way to clean out your closets AND get awesome free stuff. Win-cute-dress-win.

5 Things to Eat in Virginia
Love the shoutout to my home state. It makes my heart pine for peanuts from Williamsburg, waffles at my favorite greasy spoon, and David‘s peach cobber cooked in a dutch oven over the campfire.

Introduction to the Paleo Diet
I love posts on paleo written by real people. Not that Robb Wolfe or Chris Kresser aren’t real…but it’s refreshing to read something written by someone who doesn’t live and breathe perfectly paleo all the time. Julie lays out this lifestyle/diet in real talk.

On my nightstand: Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin. I am fast becoming a food and agriculture nerd, so not all of the material is new to me, but I appreciate Salatin’s practical steps for reestablishing a conscientious and sustainable farming and land management system/attitude. It starts at home.

And finally, cheers to the freakin’ weekend, from the band I can’t stop listening to:

Brown Bag Tuesday: Broiled Salmon and Butternut Squash Risotto

Eating on a budget is anything but boring! Brown Bag Tuesday is a weekly peek into my lunch bag to see that saving time, money, and energy still means getting to enjoy real food. Share this effort and treat yourself to a fabulous lunch from home today!

broiled salmon with butternut squash risotto

This Tuesday’s lunch is broiled salmon with butternut squash risotto. Cooking the salmon in less than 15 minutes makes up for the fact that the risotto took about an hour and a half (worth it)! I’ll share the risotto recipe this Thursday along with the secret ingredient that makes it the perfect fall dish.

frugal simple brown bag lunch

Brown Bag Tuesday: Butternut Cocoa Chili

As a way to eat food I enjoy while saving money, I pack a lunch from home to bring to work every day. Bringing lunch from home is a great way to save time, money, and energy. Brown Bag Tuesdays are meant to encourage you to share this effort and treat yourself to a fabulous lunch from home at least once a week.

How many blog posts can I write in which I rhapsodize about the many wonderful vegetables that fall brings to my meals?

That’s a rhetorical question…my favorite fall vegetables are slightly sweet and easy on the budget, so butternut squash, pumpkin, and root vegetables are going to be all over my plate this season. I suggest you hit the farmer’s market and do the same.

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I used my slow cooker (Crockpot) to create this tasty butternut cocoa chili. After making Paleo Butternut Squash Lasagna last week, I had some chunks of squash left and didn’t know what to make. My copy of Practical Paleo again proved its worth with a recipe for chili including bison, butternut squash, and cocoa powder. I used what I had on hand to whip this up in the Crockpot with about five minutes of preparation: grass-fed ground beef, canned tomatoes, and plenty of delicious spices. Sitting down to a hot meal provides great comfort in the middle of a bustling work day, so chili was the perfect choice for this week’s Brown Bag Tuesday.

Need inspiration for your next lunch? See past lunches here, or share in the comments!
frugal simple brown bag lunch

Brown Bag Tuesday: A Little Help from Practical Paleo

As a way to eat food I enjoy while saving money, I pack a lunch from home to bring to work every day. Bringing lunch from home is a great way to save time, money, and energy. Brown Bag Tuesdays are meant to encourage you to share this effort and treat yourself to a fabulous lunch from home at least once a week.

Over the weekend, I received a package containing a couple books I had ordered. One of them was Practical Paleo, a new book containing page after page of nutritional wisdom and amazing recipes. This week’s simple lunch contained two of her recipes: Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins and Rainbow Red Cabbage Salad.

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To be honest, I wasn’t sure about the cabbage salad…but it was awesome! I subbed sesame oil into the original recipe and loved the combination of a sweet and tangy dressing on crisp raw vegetables. I’m glad to have tried something new and happy to incorporate more raw vegetbles into my routine. And don’t worry…four muffins came to work with me, but they weren’t all for lunch. I brought in a tin of them for a quick Paleo breakfast to have on hand this week in case I didn’t get the chance to eat at home. The recipes in the book seem approachable- fairly simple and not too time consuming or demanding- but delicious. I’m excited to make savory Zucchini Pancakes and Mediterranean Lamb Roast.

Need inspiration for your next lunch? See past lunches here, or share in the comments!
frugal simple brown bag lunch

Brown Bag Tuesday: The Best Lunch Yet!

As a way to eat food I enjoy while saving money, I pack a lunch from home to bring to work every day. Bringing lunch from home is a great way to save time, money, and energy. Brown Bag Tuesdays are meant to encourage you to share this effort and treat yourself to a fabulous lunch from home at least once a week.

If you follow us on Twitter, you may have seen that I had an extra special lunch this week…

brown bag tuesday sushi lunch botsThis past weekend, my roommate Emily taught me how to make sushi! We made both sushi and maki (rolls) with salmon and yellowtail, and I also made some octopus sushi. Learning how to make something new was a ton of fun, and so was sharing what we made with our friends! We had a huge feast of sushi with a few types of mochi for dessert.

brown bag revolution making sushiI learned that a container full of fresh sushi is a great cure for the Mondays. I won’t be able to enjoy this lunch every week, but I’m so glad I got to try it! It’s surprisingly easy to make and a fun meal to prepare with friends.

Need inspiration for your next lunch? See past lunches here:

frugal simple brown bag lunch

Brown Bag Tuesday: The Crockpot Wins Again!

frugal simple brown bag lunchAs a way to eat food I enjoy while saving money, I pack a lunch from home to bring to work every day. Bringing lunch from home is a great way to save time, money, and energy. Brown Bag Tuesdays are meant to encourage you to share this effort and treat yourself to a fabulous lunch from home at least once a week.

brown bag tuesday chicken enchilada soup

I can never get enough avocados!

On Sunday I brined some chicken breasts, meaning to come home and grill after a work event. Five minutes before running out the door, I realized there was a much easier way to deal with the situation: Crockpot! I threw the chicken in my slow cooker, raced to open a can of diced tomatoes, and threw them in there with chopped onion, jalapenos, bell peppers, and vigorous shakes of chili powder, cumin, garlic, and red pepper flakes. By the time my carpool honked, I had the promise of a week’s worth of lunches simmering away in the slow cooker.

For lunch, I packed the tender, shredded chicken with sliced avocado and a little snack container of baby bell peppers. I also made a few containers with torn chard underneath that will steam/boil as I heat things up. Though the picture isn’t the prettiest, this chicken for this lunch took all of 20 minutes and can be turned into many different dishes. Last night, I had chicken “enchiladas” wrapped in chard leaves!

Need inspiration for your next lunch? See past lunches in the Brown Bag Revolution category at Jaybird.

Barely a Recipe: Heirloom Tomatoes & Dressing

Everywhere I look, blog posts are popping up about using up tomatoes from the summer harvest. While I have canned tomatoes this summer and would love to make homemade marinara, sometimes a light snack is all I want from this tangy summer fruit. Heirloom tomatoes combined with high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar, mixed with a few pinches of fresh basil, hit the spot for a classic appetizer.

mini heirloom tomato salad with basil

The ingredients for this dish are so simple they barely require a recipe. You can adjust the quantity for however many people you want to serve.

Mini Heirloom Tomatoes and DressingServes 2 as a side dish
Prep time: 5 minutes (no cooking)

Two handfuls miniature heirloom tomatoes (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
several leaves fresh basil
fresh cracked pepper

Wash and dry tomatoes, then halve or quarter as desired. Chiffonade the basil (we’re getting real classy) by stacking several leaves, rolling them up, then cutting thin strips. Add basil to a small bowl with olive oil and vinegar, then add tomatoes and toss til evenly dressed. You’ll have a little extra dressing sitting at the bottom- more tomatoes, anyone?

mini heirloom tomato salad ingredients old town oil chicago

If you live in the Chicago area, I highly recommend olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Old Town Oil. Their products are well worth the splurge, and you can taste in the store before buying!

Introducing…Brown Bag Tuesday!

I hate admitting this to anyone, but I’m a picky eater. Not in the traditional sense-I’ll try almost any kind of food you put in front of me, and I’m ecstatic when I see things like spinach, beets, or liver on my plate. What I’m picky about is taste: I want every meal to be delicious, colorful, and nutrient-dense, and a takeout salad just will not do!

A combination of this food snobbery (wince) and frugality means that I bring my lunch to work every day instead of picking up takeout or eating out. A couple months ago, I started a series on my personal blog called Brown Bag Revolution. Since we at The Humble Foodie also love simplicity, frugality, and plain old good food, this series is moving over here as Brown Bag Tuesday!

Let us know what you’re packing in the comments, or post your scrumptious creations on your own blog and link back. And welcome to week one!

frugal simple brown bag lunchAs a way to eat food I enjoy while saving money, I pack a lunch from home to bring to work every day. Bringing lunch from home is a great way to save time, money, and energy. Brown Bag Tuesdays are meant to encourage you to share this effort and treat yourself to a fabulous lunch from home at least once a week.

brown bag tuesday turkey burger with mango

Cook once, eat twice (or three or four times!)

This Tuesday, I’m having turkey burgers with mango and red onions, along with a side of sweet potato fries. The tip of the week: cook once, eat twice (or more)! I made four of these burgers, ate one for dinner, and stashed the rest for lunches this week. Re-living a really good dinner makes life a lot easier during a busy week. What’s your tip for simplifying lunch from home?

Need inspiration for your next lunch? See past lunches in the Brown Bag Revolution category!

Summer Love: Cold-Brew Coffee

Earlier this summer, I wrote a summer bucket list of things I’d like to do before the season draws to a close. One of them was to perfect my cold-brew coffee process and ratio. Cold-brew is a method used to make iced coffee, and I’ve seen a ton of hype on many different food blogs. The resulting brew features the best aspects of coffee- rich flavor, various notes, and of course caffeine- as well as a wonderfully velvety taste and a less acidic beverage than the usual hot methods.

cold-brew iced coffee with a splash of coconut milk

I have tested several different ratios and methods starting with recipes from Serious Eats and The Pioneer Woman and have finally settled on an easy, unbelievably smooth way to prepare a week’s worth of iced coffees in one go. Depending on who you ask, this recipe either produces coffee or coffee concentrate that should be diluted with water. I love a morning blast of strong coffee and do not dilute the final product, but if you enjoy a gentler coffee, you could add cold water to the finished product to your taste.

Cold-Brew CoffeeMakes 4-5 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes, divided
Rest Time: 10-12 hours

1 quart (4 cups) cool water
3/4 cup coarsely ground coffee
for later: a splash of coconut milk or your favorite coffee add-in, plenty of ice

In a pitcher or large container, combine water and coffee. Cover and allow to steep at room temperature overnight or for 10-12 hours. It’s really that easy!

In the morning, prepare either a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or a pour-over coffee maker lined with a conical filter. Take a clean container and place your straining device on top, then carefully pour the steeped coffee into the new vessel. Place coffee in the refrigerator to chill until you wish to drink.

To prepare ice coffee my way, fill a 16 ounce tumbler with ice and add 6-8 ounces of coffee and a splash of coconut milk. If you prefer more coffee and less ice (or diluted coffee with any amount of ice), you might not get the same amount of finished product- I encourage you to try different quantities, ratios, and steeping times with your favorite roast to figure out how to brew the cup you most want to wake up to.

Save at the Grocery Store: When to Buy Organic, When to Save Your Money

Since we can’t subsist on cupcakes alone, let’s talk about fruits and vegetables. Fresh produce can be expensive when you are trying to stick to a frugal grocery budget, and organic produce can seem like a major splurge as the numbers on the cash register ring up. So, given that it’s often more expensive, what makes organic worth it?

Image from EcoSalon.com

Organic fruits and vegetables are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The use of these substances on so-called “conventional” or non-organic produce means more chemical residues in your body as well as in the farmland and surrounding environment. The Environmental Working Group has spent years testing produce and has come up with two lists to help consumers navigate the produce department: the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. The EWG “found that consumers could cut their pesticide exposure by almost 90% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead” (EWG Press Release.)

Image from EWG.org

The Dirty Dozen are foods shown to contain the most pesticide residue; for example, apples top the list with 98% of non-organic apples tested containing pesticides. Non-organic onions score the highest on the Clean 15 with less than 1% testing positive for pesticides. While I’d love to buy all organic produce (ideally fresh from a nearby farm), my wallet might jump out of my purse and smack me upside the head. Instead, I’ve used these lists as a concise and indispensable resource to determine which items are worth the splurge, and which I’m okay buying non-organic. Here are the full lists from the EWG’s 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

The Dirty Dozen (non-organic produce retaining the most pesticide residue)

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Imported Nectarines
7. Imported Grapes
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Domestic Blueberries
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/Collard greens

and now the good news…

The Clean 15 (non-organic produce retaining the least pesticide residue)

1. Onions
2. Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Domestic Cantaloupe
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

It can be hard to remember which is dirty and which is clean when you’re staring into a crisper full of vegetables. To simplify your shopping, go to http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/ and click on “download guide as PDF” on the lefthand side to download a wallet-sized shopper’s guide with both lists (printable PDFs or an App for iOS or Android). You can also find a more complete listing of non-organic produce found to contain pesticides on the site. Treat yourself right and splurge on organic greens, but don’t feel bad about enjoying conventional grilled asparagus or juicy cantaloupe at a summer cookout.