Posts Tagged ‘cheap tuesday gourmet’

It’s been a while since we’ve gushed about Not Far From The Tree.

If you are unfamiliar with this awesome Toronto non-profit, here’s the Coles Notes version of what they do:

  1. They find home owners who have fruit trees on private properties (who are often a little frustrated with their tree – too much food for one person and a lawn full of apples has to be cleared before one can cut the grass).
  2. The find volunteers to harvest the tree.
  3. One-third of the fruit goes to charity (food banks and shelters who are often short of food and almost always short of fresh fruit), one-third to the owner and the remaining to the volunteers.
  4. Most of the fruit is now distributed by bicycle power.

They picked more than 8,000 pounds last year.  That’s an abundance of free fruit and while it’s Toronto-based those of you who are in other places could find a similar arrangement by talking with your neighbors.  I don’t know a single person who uses all of their fruit from a single tree (it can actually be overwhelming).

Speaking of Not Far From the Tree is organizing an annual fundraiser to get the year off to a running start.  While they are always looking for volunteers, they are also looking for funding to help secure the time and materials for these harvests as well as their educational campaigns, public events and workshops.

The fundraiser takes shape in the form of a film screening and party.  Tickets are a very reasonable $15 and those who purchase them in advance will benefit from a free drink ticket.  Knowing that Chef Sharon Bergey (Jamie Kennedy Kitchens) has come up with a theme-inspired cocktail means that these tickets will be well worth having!

I should also mention that each encounter we’ve had with NFFTT has been full of friendly people who have been a whole lot of fun.  There will likely be some lively discussion after the film and a lot of friendly people to share the experience with.

Here’s the details:

Thursday, May 20th
At The Toronto Underground Cinema
186 Spadina Ave, entrance off Cameron Street, just north of Queen St W
Doors open at 6:30
Screening at 7:30
Reception following the film.
Advance tickets are $15 and include a cocktail

Tickets available for online purchase (http://guestlistapp.com/events/20325) or by calling (416) 908-3022.

Hope you enjoy – we’re going to try to make it out – send us a message here or on Twitter if you are going and we’d love to say hi.

We started this series of posts in response to many things – an undeniable motivator (as previously shared) was the focus on poverty and eating well and a particular scene in Food, Inc which spoke to the cost of good food vs. `filler`.  The entire series of affordable approaches to good food is here.


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The title of the post pretty much says it all!

We bought homemade bulgur pasta from Mennonite family at a local farmers market.  They made the pasta from their own wheat and were selling it fresh at Whychwood barns farmers market.

The pasta didn`t look like a cheap Tuesday gourmet meal item – it was $5 for a small ball.  The producer (and a loyal customer) explained to Dana that it was really heavy and that a small ball could feed two with plenty of leftovers – almost 4.  I found that tough to believe – I can eat plate after plate of pasta.  The truth is that they were right – we didn`t come close to eating the amount we had.

Since we were picking dandelions, we also grabbed some leaves.  The leaves are easy to get; look for concentrated clumps of dandelions and you`ll see a pile of the leaves.  They are bitter – especially as they age so this is best done in spring.

As your pasta cooks, add a bit of oil, lots of garlic and equal amount of finely chopped onion (we used a quarter cup of each) and briefly cook (less than 30 seconds) at a medium-high heat.  Add the greens to wilt and constantly stir until they are dark and mangled.  Toss your unrinsed pasta into this mix, toss and serve.

This was one of the most filling meals we`ve had this year – total cost was reduced by the foraged dandelions and would cost around $2 per portion.

There were two key learnings from this experience for me:

  1. a reminder that some whole foods simply fill you far faster than their high-quantity cheaper alternatives and just because a small amount looks expensive you may find the portions are drastically different and more affordable than on the surface.
  2. it was ironic that we noticed at least 5 friends on Facebook with statuses related to frustration about removing dandelion weeds from their lawns.  People are struggling to eat economically healthy meals, many of te most expensive restaurants are featuring dandelion greens as a seasonal ingredient (including the luxurious Langdon Hall) and so few of us recognize them as food.  This was our first time ever harvesting them – it won`t be the last.

We started this series of posts in response to many things – an undeniable motivator (as previously shared) was the focus on poverty and eating well and a particular scene in Food, Inc which spoke to the cost of good food vs. `filler`.  The entire series of affordable approaches to good food is here.

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We just got back from New York City – 8 amazing days where we walked, ate and sampled beverages.

Our typical day consisted of 12-18 hours of walking with two meals and a lot of great conversation thrown in.  We spent just over half our trip in Brooklyn, shopped at about 8 stores in total and visited 2 galleries.  It is odd to admit that we spent more time in public parks (Central and Prospect) than we did in all galleries and shops combined.

Our best lunch was admittedly over the budget of Cheap Tuesday Gourmet ($5 per person though most days are well under $2).  However the concept of what we did for one of my favorite lunch memories endures (we were not setting out to create a post or do this for Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – although it was easily our most affordable meal with the best view).  It can easily be scaled up or down and was the best view, lunch and memory I have of all of our lunches and was at a fraction of the price (and certainly cheaper than typical fast food would have cost for the two of us):

Our picnic consisted of a locally made ciabatta (it was stunning and I don’t normally get excited about such things; hard and crusty on the outside and soft and forgiving in the middle), a cheese with a unique story and ham that came from a 4-generation farm that cures their own meats.

The store we bought these from a minimum 1/4 pound serving size when ordering from the counter.  Buying it prepackaged or finding a store without a minimum order (this was the first time I have ever run in to such a policy)or substituting one of the products with something more healthy than simply meat and cheese (an apple would have been a lovely pairing with the cheese and a pear with the meat) would be other ways to influence the budget on this meal.

Beyond cost, consider the phenomenal view of Manhattan that we had:

This will definitely change our plans for the summer – many more picnics are in the plans for the year.  The trip was a great reminder that our best memories often come from the conversation and moments shared with the one we’re with and not by the cost of entry.

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Since it`s heat week and it`s Cheap Tuesday Gourmet, let`s talk about making your own amazing hot sauce at a fraction of the price.

Start by buying the dehydrated peppers of your choice (we used Chipotle which are expensive at $24 per pound; you could easily substitute for others that are 3-4 less though you only need 2 ounces – or less). We used $3 of chipotle, $0.50 cents of canola oil (grape seed oil will also do) and a pinch of salt. You can also combine different hot peppers if you would like. This recipe is extremely scalable.

Heat the peppers in a dry frying pan for a minute a side. Use care – too much heat can create a dry smoke which can get into your eyes and lungs making your kitchen not so fu to be in. We just warmed them up on a moderate heat, mixing them around to get the oils going.

Cover the peppers in a bowl with boiling water for 15-30 minutes. I covered the bowl to retain the heat and stirred every 5 minutes to move the peppers around (the pictures below were taken in 5-minute intervals):

The finished peppers will be pliable – much closer to feeling like roasted peppers than dried.

If you want to lower the heat, remove the seeds now (kitchen gloves are a great practice here). Toss them in a blender or food processer with a pinch of salt.

Add 2 tablespoons to a pot and warm your pepper purée in the oil for a few minutes until the oil becomes rich in colour – use more oil if you want; the oil can be used with the paste or separated later (with a spoon) to add to anything you want.

The flavour is superior to commercial hot sauce – in addition to heat and smoke, there`s a woodsy, earthy awesomeness that comes through in this dish that just takes your dishes to a higher level than mass production can muster (at a portion of the price).

But we`re not done yet!

Remember, these were chipotle peppers. If you haven`t tasted Chipotle`s yet or don`t know what they are you will need to know that they are Jalapenos that are smoked and often dehydrated (you can buy them in adobo sauce as an alternative to the dried product). They are moderately hot and feature a giant smoke flavour.

The smoke flavour is dominant in our paste – and our leftover water that we rehydrated the peppers in (you didn`t think we were going to throw that out, did you?) The leftover water that the peppers bathed in is essentially Chipotle Tea – my own version of liquid smoke. I add it to the pot I cooked the peppers in (there is some residual oil and pepper flavour) and reduce it in half. Liquid smoke is an amazing addition to bbq sauce or any meats (and even veg) you cook on a grill. If you`re apartment bound and don`t have a grill you can add smoky flavour to indoor cooking like this too.

A jar of chipotle hot sauce is typically $6 or more. Liquid smoke is about the same. For under $4 we have made a condiment that will go with eggs, salad dressings, any sauces, soups, cooked foods and more that will elevate our cooking to the next level. Most descriptions of these pastes say they will last for several weeks in your fridge – our experience is they will often last for even more.

There’s not much to look at with this one – you can see the idea by looking at the photos of the Chipotle’s in water – this “tea” is the basis of many smoky-spicy barbeques to come this summer!

This series of hot pepper posts will beget new content daily for the next week. If you`re looking for all of the articles published so far, click this link. The entire series covers different types of peppers, different uses and some of the myths around spicy food. Hope you enjoy!

We started this series of posts in response to many things – an undeniable motivator (as previously shared) was the focus on poverty and eating well and a particular scene in Food, Inc which spoke to the cost of good food vs. `filler`.  The entire series of affordable approaches to good food is here.

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We`ve had a lot of meaty Cheap Tuesday`s lately.  This weeks recipe is easily vegetarian (though we used a touch of chicken broth because we had leftover chicken bones from last nights dinner and made a 2-cup stock by simmering them in water and reducing; replace with vegetable stock to make this vegetarian).

I`ve been thinking about cooking something like this for a week and after eating two bowls of it I actually wish I`d cooked more.

2 tablespoons of olive oil, an onion, minced garlic (as much as you`d like), a teaspoon of ground cumin, 2 cups of chick peas, 2 cups of tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, a teaspoon of honey, a teaspoon of lemon juice, 2 cups of chicken broth, salt pepper and fresh parsley.

We use dour home-canned stewed tomatoes ($0.75), chicken broth (don`t know how to price this – bone-in chicken is cheaper by the pound than boneless so we actually saved money to buy this ingredient; let`s call it $0.50), $3 of chick peas and less than $2.50 for the rest equal a total of $6.75 for 4 dishes (less than $1.75 per).

The price should have been far more affordable – dried chickpeas could have been brought back to life in water (that would have cut the cost by at least $1) and rice or couscous could be served with this – a $1 addition that could double the portions.  This would make 6-8 portions for the same total cost but lower the portion cost to $1 or less per.

Cooking this is easy:

  1. Heat the oil (about 2 tablespoons) over a moderate-high heat.
  2. Add onions.  Cook till soft.  About 10 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic.  Cook for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the cumin and stir for about 2 minutes – this will mellow it`s flavour
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the parsley).  Bring to a boil on high heat before reducing to a simmer and leaving for 20 minutes (ar longer as desired).  If foam appears during boiling, skim and discard.

Top with fresh parsley when you serve.

The flavours are fresh, filling and fantastic.  I know that`s a lot of f`s but it was really that good.  Would love any other ideas for chick peas – they`re a favourite here.

We started this series of posts in response to many things – an undeniable motivator (as previously shared) was the focus on poverty and eating well and a particular scene in Food, Inc which spoke to the cost of good food vs. `filler`.  The entire series of affordable approaches to good food is here.

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Taking a break from Spring Preserving to delve into Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – a weekly series on eating affordable, sharing tips and, often, how preserving can lower your dinner bill.  The last few weeks have been a little obscure  for some – baked eggs, turkey necks and the mighty rutabaga are a little too edgy for some (tongue firmly in cheek).  We`ll head back to a vegetarian option next week (I am so excited for the plans I can barely wait) and this week we`re heading back to the Lord of the Flies – yes, the mighty pig.

If you`re vegetarian you may still be interested in the first section (in fact the majority of this article has very little to do with cooking meat and is useful to those who bake or brine anything).

This week was fairly simple.  We hit the St Lawrence Market late in the afternoon and found a pork special – buy 6 butterfly (boneless) chops and pay $2.99 a pound (as opposed to $3.99).  6 1-inch chops were just over $12.

The first step to elevate the chops is to brine them.  We sat them in a 3% mixture of salt to water for 24 hours in the fridge.  Here is one of the coolest things »I learned this year (and one of the most compelling arguments I can make to support cooking with the metric system):

  • Volume of water (in millimeters) is equal to weight in grams…

What does this mean for the every day cook?  It means that calculating ratios is easy (i.e. 30 grams of salt in 1000 millilitres of water is exactly 3%).

If you`re new to metric or mathematically impaired, take great comfort that I had a speech impediment for many years and achieved 17% in grade 12 math without skipping a class.  Be patient with this post and it will show you love…I promise 🙂

Before we get to math, let`s talk for a moment about why measuring salt by weight is a big deal to bakers and others instead of relying on it`s volume as many recipes call for.

Consider how much room a standard pack with 500 sheets of paper consumes.  Imagine crumpling each individual piece into a ball and think about how much more room the crumbled paper would take.  The larger the balls, the bigger the space – even though it`s still just 500 pieces of paper.

Salt is the same as the balls of paper.  The smaller the grains of salt, the more sodium that fits into  tablespoon.  To demonstrate this from an absurd exaggeration, imagine that we had access to salt grains that were .75 tablespoons each.  Only one would fit in the tablespoon before the others fell to the side.  If we had salt with smaller grains we could fill a separate tablespoon full to the brim – thus it would contain more salt than the first one.

This is why weight is an important factor in measuring baking ingredients – especially those that are not liquid.

Now onto the math and some simple metric:

  • Everything works in base-10.  This means that we count by 10`s for everything.  10 millimeters make a centimeter, 10 centimeters(100 millimeters)  make a decimetre, 10 decimetres make a meter (100 centimeters), 10o0 meters make a kilometer.  Note that cent (as in `century`) represents 100 and kilo is a 1000.
  • Volume (of cooking proportions) is often measured in millilitres and liters.  1000 millilitres is a liter.  250 millilitres is roughly a cup, 500 millilitres is half a liter and so forth.
  • Weight is in grams.  We typically deal in grams and kilograms (1000 grams) – 500 grams is the same as half a kilogram and we may mention either.

I should mention that most of our stores still sell items in your choice of metric or imperial even though we officially changed to metric almost 40 years ago.

So here`s the clever thing: 1 liter of water (1000 millilitres) weighs 1 kilogram (1000 grams).  This means that a perfect 3% brine can be made by mixing 1 liter of water with 30 grams of any size salt you can buy.

If you`ve read any amount of baking books, this is the reason many push you towards weighing things and often in metric.  I have a $30 scale that will convert between Metric and Imperial and wouldn`t be too heartbroken if I couldn`t get mix mixture absolutely perfect;  every recipe goes trough some form of personal interpretation after all.

We brined the pork for just over 24 hours.  We patted them all dry and placed 2 in the freezer for another day.  We cooked four of them – 2 for dinner, two for later in the week.

A quick sear in a frying pan before being put in an oven-safe covered pot (use foil if you don`t have a cover) and place the works in the over at 325 degrees farenheit (yes we cook in Imperial :)) for 25-30 minutes.

We paired this with homemade apple sauce ($0.40 per plate), pressure-canned beans ($0.50) and sliced organic potatoes cooked with a touch of milk for moisture ($1.50).  This is our most expensive dinner so far at a grand total of about $4.75 per plate.  Most of the meals have been coming under $2 and replacing the chops with pork tenderloin (still bringing and searing) would be a way to lower this price considerably while still maintaining the spirit of the dish.

Any converts to trying out metric?  If it still sounds confusing, let me know and I`ll try again – it`s ultimately very simple.

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet originated in response to scenes in Food Inc.; there are more than a dozen articles and solutions for better eating at afforable prices there.

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To eat economically, I let the market choose my meal.  This week started as a struggle – I was at a very expensive (though fabulous) grocery store in suburbia and needed to find the ingredients for Cheap Tuesday.  To give you an idea of how expensive they can be; an organic chicken is over $30.  I thought my chances of finding anything were slim.

The moment I saw these, I knew I was set:

Almost 5 pounds of turkey necks – just over $5.  If you think the idea of Turkey necks is inferior Turkey, then you`ve never had awesome gravy (unless, of course, you are Vegetarian).

We start by making a basic stock.  Throw some veggies (we stayed local and seasonal – carrots, onions and celery root – we used all of the carrot tops from our week of carrots), the turkey and cover in water and simmer lightly for a few hours.  We added pepper, don`t add stock at this point.  We then let it rest overnight (I soaked some black eyed peas at this point to add a lot of body to our stew and take it away from being soup-like).

The next day we strained our stock and picked the turkey apart with our hands.  This is easy work, even for the uninitiated.  Bones and undesirables in one pot, yummy dark meat in another.  We cooked the black-eyed peas separately (otherwise we would be risking our stew drinking all of the broth) and added them to the soup before seasoning with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes.

I also grated two sweet-potatoes into the mix to thicken things and add even more flavour.

On the downside, I had too much carrot and it sweetened things up a lot.

I also made some quick scones which included our dehydrated onions and cranberries.  These were a last-minute idea and a great addition.

The total cost was under $10 and is easily 6-8 hearty servings.

I know there`s not an exact recipe here.  Follow what you have on hand.  Don`t be afraid to experiment – any root vegetables will do here.  I want to emphasize that lesser known or `desirable`cuts of meat are fantastic ingredients which often have more flavour than alternatives that others chase.

It did occur to me that I had better ingredients for pot pie than for a stew.  I went for stew to lower the amount of calories we would consume in a single sitting but this would have made a divine pie if thickened a little more and had less peas added.

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