Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 57- Building Dinner

Made polenta again. I really like polenta. It's super adaptable. I don't know if that came across yesterday. You can cook it until it's thick, spread it in a lightly greased pan, chill until it firms up, then slice and fry- great for bruschetta-type snacks. You can serve it soft, or add different liquids, or top it with just about anything.

This time I used the last (I fibbed a bit about finishing all the Easter stuff- this is the real last of it) almond cream sauce in the polenta. It made it lighter and creamy. If I had them, I'd blend in sun dried tomatoes. Instead I added garlic powder and Italian seasoning.

If you had it or prefer it you could use
  • veggie or chicken broth instead of water
  • milk (any) instead of water
  • fresh tomato
  • tomato sauce
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • cracked wheat instead of cornmeal
  • rice instead of cornmeal (gotta call it risotto then)
  • wine instead of *some* of the water
  • cheese
Toppings are just about anything. This has got to be the best thing I learned from the "veggie thing".

A basic, cheap veggie meal starts with a base- sweet potatoes or white potatoes, or rice, or bread, or this polenta. You can add flavor to your base, but if you flavor it all you limit what you can top it with. Soy sauce is bad in rice pudding.

Add something sauce-y on top (this is where the protein and veggies hang out). Or you can mix it in and cook it- like casserole or fried rice. This is actually the bit that makes the whole thing really affordable.

If you use *flavor from the topping* to make the base taste good you can use less of what people normally use for flavor in food- meat, cheese, fat. Spices cost less per serving, and they're probably better for you, too.

Think about it- which is better? Spaghetti covered in sauce (doesn't matter what type) or dry spaghetti with a grilled slab of chicken and some peas? Obviously sauce *and* snazzy good thing is better- Chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and ice cream is better than just chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, after all- but I work with what I've got.

Sorry if this is a bit more scattered than usual. I'm listening to 4-Hour Workweek on CD, and I can't bring myself to stop listening. So incoherent post is all my fault.

oh, and I topped my polenta with the same thing as yesterday. The vegan cheese quandary is no more. Cheese is gone, too.

So, what's your favorite (cheap) base/ topping combo? I like chili over rice, soup thickened and poured over stale bread, and home-made Indian-style *anything* over bread or rice.


  1. Mom used to make us fried "mush" and we'd butter it and put syrup on it for breakfast. She was never good at pancakes, haha.

    My favorite base/topping combo is super cheap and simple. Pinto beans and raw onion on top of cornbread. :) Before I go to work I just throw the beans in the crockpot. When I'm ready to eat all I have to do is make the cornbread and dice onions. I'm an onion freak, too.

  2. I second the beans and cornbread. But, beans and rice is another good, cheap combination. This is one of my favorite beans/rice recipes:

    The only changes I make are to cut the rice in half and use a chicken broth base (veggie broth works just as well).

    It's pretty versatile. Make it thin, and eat it as a soup. Make it thick, and eat it plain, scoop it with some chips, or pile it into a tortilla and top with some cheese.

    PS- I love your blog. I'm taking a trip this summer and need to save some cash for it fast. I've been toying with the idea of doing something similar (though not near as drastic). I can never seem to find the motivation to do it though. So, kudos to you!

  3. I mostly did the dollar a day thing for most of the week.

    Today I spent more on breakfast and soda than I did the whole last week.

    And now I've spent that much again on clearance Easter candy. 90% off chocolate bunnies at Target. I figure that I can chop them up and make chocolate chip cookies and such.

  4. @Alyse- cornbread, huh? I think I've got stuff to make that. Do you make sweet or unsweet cornbread? I tried a "traditional" unsweet recipe before and couldn't stand it...

    @Phd- That recipe looks good, but very plain. I'd probably attack it with every spice in my kitchen. I have everything to make it though- might have to do that tomorrow with salad. Om nom nom. Good luck saving for your trip.

    Also- you seem to be much better at sticking with your "diet"- any suggestions?

    @laughing- Meh, you would have spent the money this week anyway. So net savings! I actually missed easter bunnies this year. The last couple I've picked up a dark choco one, but I didn't finish last year's. Terrible, I know.

  5. Actually, I had a coupon for breakfast, which saved us about half of what he would have spent on breakfast or lunch. And I saved enough last week to buy all that chocolate, which will save me about fifty cents each time that I don't buy Hershey's or Reece's between now and Halloween. Between the holiday chocolate and the places that sell discounted gourmet, I haven't bought any regular candy bars in years.

  6. I make it sweet. There's milk and egg in it but I'm sure you could find something to substitute.

    I hate cornbread by itself but I love it in beans with onion.

  7. I do best when I have food ready to go. I'm pretty into my work, so by the time I realize I'm hungry, I'm seriously STARVING. I eat whatever I have on hand... which can be a good or a bad thing depending on whether that happens to be a bag of chips or leftovers. So I started devoting one of my off days to cooking and portioning out food. Everything is in a grab-and-go container or sandwich bag when I'm done. My fridge looks a little like OCD-heaven, but it works for me. And considering I'm not far removed from my college/grad school days, it totally doesn't bother me in the slightest to eat the same thing every day for a week.

    It's not a perfect plan, and I totally slip... a lot... but it does curb the slipping.