OKokokok…

April 29, 2008

FINE! I’ve revised the budget for the CSA months. $60. That is my final offer. If I go over, I’ll live. It should be fine if we are careful and Boogie’s transition to table food continues to be pretty smooth.

Cheese on a budget may sound like a joke these days but it is possible. The other night I achieved GREAT THINGS with a little planning and some ingrained habits concerning shopping as a poor food lover.

I served the following:

– Montchego
– quince paste
– parm. reg.
– prosciutto
– new “La Tur” type cheese (w/ Goat, Cow and sheep milk)
– water crackers
– rosemary breadsticks
– dried cherries
– pistachios
– spiced nuts
– olives
– grape tomatoes

This was both the appetizer and the first course! Second course was my curry carrot soup with Creme fraiche dollops and some naan on the side. Dessert (that never happened because we were all talking so much) was supposed to be ginger ice cream with Calabrian fig molasses drizzled over it.

First of all, see the Tapas night entry. Notice any repeats? The Montchego, properly stored, lasted the week easily. Simply rough dice your left overs and put it on a serving plate. I then put a portion of parm pieces (approximately 1/5 pd. of the pd. we bought at DiPalo’s for $11. The rest will be snacked on for another week and the ends will be saved to grate on pasta for the month, probably), two tbsps of quince paste, a small handful of dried cherries and a tiny dish of pistachios on this plate. The quince paste was bought at Murray’s two months ago for $6.99. I have about 3 servings left in the container. It is used frequently with cheese but can also serve as a gourmet match on a PBand J (serving as the J). The dried cherries and all nuts were bought at Trader Joes.

ON another small plate I took 8 pieces of prosciutto (had already used the rest for sandwiches and snacks over the past few days) and rolled them into 8 individual rolls. On another small plate I took the new cheese (I had purchased a 1/2 round for $4.99 at DiPalos. After the evening I had 1/3 round left which is now in my fridge and will be snacked on, probably, tonight). On another small plate I put the homespiced nuts (I took 2 handfulls total of walnuts and pecans and toasted them in a skillet with 1 tbsp. of butter, 3 dashes of cayenne pepper, 2 dashes of salt and a little ground black pepper).

Finally, on another medium sized tray I put rosemary breadsticks, water crackers, baby tomatoes and a small bowl of olives in the center.
The rosemary breadsticks come in a box of 6 packs for $1.99 at the grocery store. I used 3 packs for this. I get my water crackers from Trader Joes ($1.29ish) or Whole Foods (365 brand is under $2) and used half a box. The olives were the other half of that two dollar container from Tapas night. The cherry tomatoes were a small portion of a $2.49 container I’d purchased and consumed throughout that week.

I highly recommend stocking up on dried fruit, nuts and crackers at Trader Joe’s. I also recommend breadsticks. I have MANY times put out a plate of rosemary breadsticks, dried cherries and some kind of nut/s when an unexpected visitor has come through and gotten oooo and aaaaah and “how did you manage?”. You can use these for salads. Use the crackers and breadsticks for snacks and soup nights. AND on and on and on and these just aren’t expensive, are good for you and keep the need for amounts of the expensive things like cheese and meat DOWN!

Total for an AMAZING spread of cheese and goodies for 4 (on a special occasion. Jared came up from DC to visit) =

$15.35

(and making the soup and naan was around $9, the molassas is $8.99 for a years supply and ice cream was $4 so dessert cost $4.50 max)

That is a dinner party for 4 that comes in under $30.

Enjoy life cheaply.

Additional note: We had soup leftovers. Enough for bowls with sandwiches the next night for dinner and we have about 3 servings we can freeze still!

Troys Join a CSA

April 29, 2008

I am so excited. Can barely contain self. We received notice yesterday that there was a slot available (wait lists CAN pay off!!!) and we have just joined our local CSA:

http://www.hellgatecsa.com/

What is a CSA? Take a look here:

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

Why is it called Hellgate? Well, it is by the “Hellgate” in the East River running between Manhattan and Astoria, Queens. To be brief, there is a TWEE BIT of a current there. Kills people and all! Google if you want more info as this is NOT a history lecture, peeps.

Anywho, I am beyond siked for June 10th to roll around. That glorious date will begin 5 months of fantastically fresh locally farmed produce in my home and a fun “challenge” for me. I’ve signed us up for a Basic Produce Share, a Fruit Share and two basil shares. The BPS and the Fruit Share are weekly and for approximately 5 months. The basil shares are once a month (you can sign up for 8 times total if you want but I signed up for just two shares, one a month in August and September…feel FINE about that!). Total cost to us: $599. It felt like a lot paying (it works out to less than $30 per week, though) for it all in one chunk but with the economy like it is, food prices like they are…and blah blah blah… I think it is going to be a major bargain for our family. First of all, I think we will end up eating more fruits and veggies due to it and I also think I’ll make myself use the food (as I already do with what is in our freezer and cupboard and things that are on sale). Second of all, Boogie is getting into table foods and this will be a way to save on his food AND get him eating quality fresh bebe cuisine. AND of course, it is good for the environment to go with locally grown food as well as being good for your local economy and generally just a good KARMA thing to do. Farm aid on a small scale. Woot!

This CSA also has a dairy, honey and meat component that you may order from on an as needed/desired basis with or without being a member. We may find ourselves with some local meats and dairy this upcoming summer and fall as well.

Currently, I’m trying to think of a realistic financial bar to keep our grocery bill during that 5 months under. I think that $50 may be unrealistic as we’ll need dairy for certain (yogurt for Boogie, cheese for us and milk for the house), some meat (am thinking we’ll have meat maximum 3 times per week to keep costs down and truly utilize the veggies), oil and such, starches other than what comes in the share, such as rice, flour and pasta and some items for ease of life. Am thinking that the goal should be set at $75 per week. An additional goal should concern my pantry. I currently have 6 types of flour (all-purpose, cake, self-rising, whole wheat, semolina, rye), 5 kinds of rice (risotto, black risotto, chinese-italian wild breed of rice, white basmati and spanish paella rice), whole wheat couscous (technically pasta), Four types of pasta (ORECCHIETTE, linguine,MOSTACCIOLI and CELLENTANI)… I need to use these all some time!

So, I think what I’ll be striving for is creative ways to use the CSA distributions, what is in my pantry and $75 or under food budget per week. It should be fun and very satisfying. I also hope, as CSA’s notoriously OVER provide in distributions, to share some of our bounty with friends over the months. YIPPEE! 
 

NOTE: When considering how far $75 will go per week in your neck of the woods, consider that a Gallon of milk here that is antibiotic free is $3.50 and up. Yogurt is an average of 99 cents per 6 oz. container. Antibiotic free chicken is $5 and up a pd. Laundry detergent is $6 a pop. AND it goes on and on and on. Forget brie. I’ll get cheese twice a  month if I’m careful.

Re-Post

April 28, 2008

Just updated the Tapas Night post to include tips about making it affordable and using ingredients for other meals other nights.

Tomorrow, hopefully, will have time to cover tips on economical cheese plates for small dinner parties.

Happy Monday!

Reviews

April 26, 2008

http://www.auroraristorante.com

Last Friday night, my friend Deborah and I went to Aurora after a bit of imbibing. Deborah’s mother is from Florence and so she is my #1 go-to about Italian things, especially food. Truly authentic, relaxed lovely food…atmosphere is rustic, relaxed and COULD be a date place if you wanted and got a corner table. Lighting is VERY date condusive! I’m definitely going back with my husband. We started with a cheese plate which had 2 pieces of, I kid you not, 12 cheeses, plus bread, a cherry (?) confit, walnuts and honey. Usual suspects were spotted…talegio, ricotta salata… but a wide variety of really wonderful items. I spotted La Tur for certain and a pecorino, of course. Second item (we shared everything) was a frisee salad with a lemon vinagrette and a rabbit loin coined. The loin had been stuffed with cranberries and roasted. A dotting of chilis was on the side for you to enjoy with the dish or not. It was brilliant. The rabbit was perfectly moist and flavorful while the frisee was crisp and the dressing still carried a fresh tang to it even with the hot item placed on top. I enjoyed a Nero D’Avola which went perfectly with the rabbit and the cheeses. By then our neighbors, two gentlemen from Brazil, had made friends with us and shared a lovely wine called Rosso Di Costanza with us (harmless…the place is set up to be almost family style in seating…it is easy to engage neighbors in conversation and encouraged). That was a truly remarkable wine…the rich cherry finish was to die for…still taste it days later and only had a half-glass. We then enjoyed a dish of gnocci, crabmeat, baby tomato and a hint of lemon with crisp glasses of dry Italian white wine. We had NO room for dessert although I did have an espresso to stave off tipsiness from the 3 glasses of vino.

Over the past week, have been working for this elderly lawyer writing a book on company time. Had been trying to remember where I’d heard of this club he was writing a history of…:

For some reason I can’t seem to save the actual link but go to http://www.nytimes.com and type in “search for baker direction”. Article is about a club in Manhattan called the Century Club that has a traditional cookie it cannot do without.

SO on last Saturday morning, taking my wee babe to the bagel store on Ditmars I decided to look for the bakery. Turns out it is across the street from our bagel shop. I had to know if these cookies were worth an article in the New York times so we ventured in and I just went up and asked for the cookies. They are important. I’ve never really considered myself a macaroon fan but these cookies are crazy little almond joys. The Times reviewer did sum up the cookie pretty well although I didn’t get from them the degree of urgency I think these cookies require. The woman behind the counter simpered proudly when I asked for them, although I had half expected to be told that they only sell them to the club and not the public. As I left, I asked her if they had gotten the contract. They have! Turns out the cookies will then be available to me for quite SOME TIME! Yippee!

Tapas night

April 20, 2008

Tonight I decided to make Tapas night for a “date night” at home.

Menu:

– slices of spanish ham thinly sliced (purchased 1/4 pd. thinly sliced)
– aged 1 year monchego w/ membrillo (quince paste)
– olives
– potatos (made the home fries with smoked paprika and put them in a casserole to bake like a cake or quiche)
– bread
– chorizo cooked in red wine
– spanish sardines in oil and lemon juice
– rioja (my fried Sarah gave me….)

We lit some candles after “Boogie” went to bed and just chilled out with this lovely simple meal and some very good wine. Riojas can be heavy on the tannins and well, a twee bitter sometimes but I love a rich full bodied wine and this one was not bitter at ALL. Went down very smooth and worked well cooking the chorizo. YUM!

ADDITION:

I just read an article about how gourmet recipes are “bankrupting” the common cook due to the enormous jump in food prices even in the last year (something like 20%). This is how I accomplished the above without spending a fortune.

As noted, I purchase 1/4 pd of the ham. That means I spent $5 on it so think of that as one of the major items of expense. Next, the montchego…I always buy around 1/3 of a pd. of cheese… you don’t really need that much for up to 4 people to have SOME. Olives tend to be cheap. I can get a very tasty spanish olive mix from the deli section and it is usually around $2 for a 1/2 pd. container. The potatos were prepared with ingredients that I had around and used for many other dishes. The potato bag should last you 2 to 3 meals depending on what you use it for and it should be around $1.99. The sage is around $2 but you use it in many things and wrapped properly, it lasts about 2 weeks. The red pepper can be used for two dishes, depending, as can a large onion. As for the bread, I like to buy an 18 inch baguette and use only half fresh. I take the other half and cut it half (so two fourths:) and freeze. I used one of the frozen fourths for the above and it was plenty. That works out to be around $.75 worth of bread. I got one pound of fresh chorizo for $3.99. I took half of it, wrapped it and put it in the freezer to use in beans and rice some other time (see cheap eaties entry). I used the wine we would be drinking to cook with. I also freeze any left over wine to use for braising and such occasions. The wine was a gift but you can get a VERY good rioja for under $10 at Trader Joe’s wine store. The Spanish sardines were $2.99 for the tin. We ate about 3/4 of the tin that night but then I saved the rest and made this sandwich the next night for myself (hubbie was at class):

– 5 or 6 inches of baguette or tuscan panini type bread
– left over sardine sprinkled with fresh lemon juice
– slices of baby tomato distributed on bread evenly
– arugula (sp…ugh) or watercress
Quick dressing: mayo, dash of lemon juice, red wine vinegar and olive oil…whisked together and drizzle over contents of sandwich.

ENJOY!

*giggle*

April 18, 2008

OMG! 

Your Slogan Should Be
Katy, the Other White Meat.

My friend Sarah sent me this link to determine my slogan. Yeah…could this BE more perfect?