Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 122- 1/3rd of the Way Done and a New Challenge!

First though, I actually cooked and ate yesterday. A lot.

I didn't even spend much more time than it took to make rice. I know, because I filled and started the rice cooker first.

kinda channa masala

This is my super lazy, ultra cheap kinda channa masala thing. Really, it's just chickpeas, cooked onions, salt, tomato paste, and curry powder. Chop and fry the onions (and some garlic) in some oil, when they get soft, add everything else and some water, and cook until it thickens a bit.

I did this whole thing (and started/ rinsed black beans from dry in the crockpot) while the rice cooked. I even had time to do some dishes so the kitchen was just about clean when I finished. Not bad, right? This is one can of beans, so probably two servings for a normal person- Less than $2 as made, less (lots) if dried beans are used. Probably get it down to about 30 or 40 cents per serving, including rice.

Black beans cooked, I rinsed them and made my own version of the black bean salad/ salsa.

black bean salad

Now, normally this would have half an avocado, some lime juice, maybe some cilantro, and a handful of frozen corn in it. But I don't have any of that stuff, so it's ultra basic-
  • 1qt cooked black beans (est)
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/3 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • oil
  • vinegar
  • salt
Dump it all in a bowl and nom away.

  • chopped avocado
  • chopped cilantro
  • roasted or frozen corn kernels
  • lime
  • all ingredients, really
  • corn chips for efficient salad intake
really, super easy. I think the most expensive ingredient might have been the oil. Or maybe the 16 cent tomato.

ok. So on to the challenge.

This time the challenge is pretty much all make at home.

I challenge you (yep, you out there) to adjust a recipe that's expensive to make the "right" way so that it's more affordable. The goal is 20% savings, with out it taking more than a couple extra minutes hands on time, and without seriously changing the flavors. Most people won't notice if, for example, you use cheap long grain rice in a recipe instead of basmati, or if you use legs and thighs for your chicken skewers instead of boneless skinless chicken boob.

And just to make it more... interesting, it should be something you wouldn't be embarrassed to serve to guests. Extra invisible points for larger savings, pictures, side by side price breakdowns, and whole menus. Same $5 shopping limit as last time.

Think next Friday sounds like a good deadline? Ooh, and extra bonus-y bonus points if making it cheaper *also* makes your recipe healthier.

Any questions? Does that sound fair? Anyone know what they're doing?


  1. Chickpeas are something I never got used to. I just can't seem to like their texture/flavor, though I know they are soooo good for you. Then again, I don't like oatmeal either...

    I'll have to think about this one, but I'm game. I'd say I know where to cut the costs, but we already make a lot with very little, so no big savings to be found...

    And darn it, I just got rid of some chicken bones (this morning!) which would have made it easy to get bonus points! At least I went grocery shopping yesterday. Thanks for the challenge. I'll try not to procrastinate.

  2. That looks like an awesome recipe, and pretty much identical to the recipe I got from my friend from Bangladesh. Add cumin seeds, and you've got it. So, it's pretty authentic I'd say.

  3. TJ- i like them better in falafel and hummus, honestly. And cooked at home always seems to give better thexture than the ones from a can. I don't know why, but the canned ones are always undercooked. Maybe they were old when canned? or they just need longer processing to cook? Dunno.

    It wouldn't be a challenge if it were easy. I have no idea what I'm going to make... Sushi maybe?

    Marcia- I made it with a big can of tomato sauce until recently. I guess I just really like tomato. I don't know that there is *one* authoritative recipe for chickpea curry- it's eaten across a huge area. But it tastes good and it's cheaper than driving to the Indian restaurant, so it works for me! I'll have to look for cumin seeds (and t.. t.. cilantro seed), since they seem to pop up in a lot of recipes.

  4. Wow, this is going to be a hard one, since I don't really use expensive ingredients to begin with. But my new Bon Appetite just came in the mail, so maybe it has some inspiration in it!

  5. Hmmm...this is much easier said than done. Not only do I not use expensive ingredients but I also have a tendency to cook primarily from scratch. I think I'll attempt my lasagna but I will only use what I have in my garden and in my cupboards or refrigerator. That's really the only way I can think of that would allow me to participate!

  6. Just to clarify, this doesn't have to be something you usually make. It can be just about anything that you would serve to people you're not related to. So if you have a recipe for risotto that takes arborio (sp?) rice and $20/ bottle wine, you could work with that one. Think dinner party or at home date night, or even a side dish for a barbecue.

    Oh, yeah, and points will be deducted for replacing kalmata olives with black olives. Just on general principles.

  7. When I read this yesterday, I was overwhelmed by the challenge... but now I read it and I realize I do this quite often. Except for I am not sure my replacement ingredients are flavor-change nuetral... that's the aspect I'm struggling with.

  8. It's really a pretty basic cooking technique. I thought it would be something for people with not so much kitchen experience to play with, and more of a math/ flavor experiment for more experienced cooks.

    It doesn't have to be *totally* flavor-change neutral, either- if the recipe is for (example from mom's kitchen) tequila lime shrimp, swapping chicken for shrimp would be ok, but changing to rum as well would probably be out- the major flavor should stay about the same.

    Did I pick something too hard to be fun?

  9. Hummas bought in the store is too pricey for me and the fam (it runs upwards to $5 for the smallest -tiny!- container) and I found a recipe for Black Bean Hummus that I'm thoroughly addicted to:

    1 clove garlic or a healthy dose of garlic powder
    1 (15 oz can) black beans drained
    2TB lemon juice
    1 1/2 TB Tahini (I know you don't like the stuff but it goes a long way in this)
    3/4 tsp ground cumin
    1/2 tsp salt (or less. I found it too salty)
    1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

    *Throw everything into a food processor and blend until smooth*. That's it. Super easy, tastes just like the hummus bought from the store, and addictive on bread, pita, chips, etc. The tahini can run up to $3 but if you factor in how many black bean hummus mixtures you can make, it's insanely cheap in the long run.

  10. I'm in on this challenge, but I have a challenge within the challenge. I already make pretty much everything with a mind toward budget (even exotic-seeming foods I can make pretty inexpensively), so here's my question:

    Is it permissible to make something cheaply that would normally be very expensive to buy? Or is that too similar to the last challenge? I found this really cool granola bar recipe that I think I could make pretty inexpensively. But granola bars are about a billion dollars to buy when compared to the cost of making them.

  11. just dropping in to answer a question-

    Allie- I don't see why you couldn't. I won't stop you, anyway. Got a good recipe?

    Ok, back to "vacation".

  12. Enjoy your vacation! It's almost over (which always make me sad), so make the most of it!

    Yes I do. This recipe makes me want to eat these, very badly:

    Don't those just look incredible?