I have been on a domestic kick lately. I started looking for jobs, but who is going to hire me when I’m leaving for seven weeks in less than a month; and I gave up trying to study because I won’t have time to keep it up while I’m gone and will have forgotten everything by the time I get back. So, I’ve been lazing around and doing long-neglected household chores. Between Andy and me, we’ve gotten most of the stuff that’s been “stored” on the floor or tossed haphazardly into closets or the computer room put away, so it’s looking unprecedentedly tidy in here.
I’ve also started knitting again. My total knitting output since learning to knit in college has been two scarves, and I’m now about a third of the way into another one. If that goes well, I might try a sweater next.
In keeping with my domesticated mood, some rambling about cooking and a few recipes follow.

I have no intention of ever writing a cookbook, but if I did, I would call it “The Sort of Cheap, Sort of Quick, Sort of Healthy Cookbook.” My cooking is the product of triangulation between these three points. Our budget doesn’t run to the exotic, they-don’t-sell-it-at-Meijer-we’re-gonna-make-you-hunt-for-it-as-well-as-pay-through-the-nose ingredients that most Healthy cookbooks call for. (I once read a column about healthy cooking on a budget. The columnist offered one recipe: toss cooked pasta with canned beans and frozen vegetables. Well, I would definitely lose weight on that diet since I lose my appetite just thinking about it.)
Even though theoretically Healthy Cooking costs less because you buy less meat and junk food, in fact while dried beans and rice are pretty cheap, if you want to vary that menu the next cheapest items are probably hamburger, pasta, and potatoes, none of which are extremely good for you. And vegetables really aren’t very cheap, especially outside of Michigan’s two-day growing season. Healthy Cooking, in addition to yucky ingredients (such as sun-dried tomatoes and tofu), and ingredients that don’t sound like real things (quinoa, tomatillos, oat groats), frequently calls for ingredients that are worth approximately as much, by weight, as gold bricks (boneless skinless chicken breasts, grouper). So there you go. It’s a pickle.
Then there is the Quick Cooking angle. I usually don’t like to spend much more time making something than it takes to eat it, it makes me feel like I’m wasting my life. Unfortunately, Healthy Cooking tends to take quite a bit of time (all that chopping of vegetables) and so does Cheap Cooking (which eschews convenience foods, like flour that you don’t grind yourself).
So, I try to find a happy medium, food that won’t bankrupt us, won’t force me to stay out of the job market forever because I spend all my time making dinner, and won’t kill us right away. Here are some recipes that I like which more or less meet the preceding criteria.
Bean & Rice Burritos
I’m not sure this one qualifies as a recipe since very little actual cooking is involved.
One can refried beans (Or, one can kidney or black beans, rinsed and drained)
One cup brown rice, prepared according to package (This takes like an hour, which is against the Quick principle, but can be made the day before)
Salsa (About a 16 oz. jar or equivalent, to taste)
Tortillas (I look for the no-trans-fat kind, although without either lard or vegetable shortening, I’m not sure what’s holding the things together. I can only assume it’s some sort of witchcraft, but I think I’m okay as long as I don’t have any Evangelicals over to dinner. Ha ha, poor joke).
Cheese, if you have some around.
Mix the beans with the cooked rice. Mix in the salsa, heat mixture. Heat tortillas with a bit of cheese in microwave for 10 seconds or so. Wrap the bean/rice stuff in the tortillas burrito-wise and put them in the microwave for another few seconds.
Crock-pot barbecue chicken
Chicken pieces (3 to 4 pounds)
1 (18 ounce) bottle barbecue sauce
3/4 cup regular cola
Place chicken in a slow cooker. Combine barbecue sauce and cola; pour over all. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until chicken juices run clear.
Also works for ribs. It doesn’t seem to really need the cola, but adding an extra ingredient makes me feel more like I’m actually cooking.
Tuna or Chicken and Noodles (without cream of mushroom soup)
People laugh when they see me using the Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook that I got for Christmas when I was a child, but it’s one of my favorite cookbooks and I use it all the time. This recipe comes from its recipe for Chicken Pot Pies, which leaves out the pasta and bakes in the oven with refrigerator biscuits on top as the crust. That’s good too.
2.5 cups milk (skim doesn’t thicken, but 1% or more works)
2 cubes chicken boullion (or 1 tablespoon granules)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground sage (if you like it)
dash pepper (if you want)
Vegetables (mixed or whatever is around: 1 16 oz. can, drained; an equivalent amount of heated-up frozen; or fresh cooked)
2 cans tuna (the normal small size, drained) or an equivalent amount of canned or leftover cooked chicken
Cooked pasta (a reasonable amount, say 1.5-2 cups)
First, you have to heat the milk with the flour, boullion, and sage until it thickens. The BHGNJCB says this should take 6-8 minutes, but it actually takes much longer and nearly always scorches to the bottom of the pan. Here is a method which helps prevent this:
Whisk flour into milk until no lumps remain. Add boullion and sage. Put in microwave for 30 seconds or so–just until the milk is about room temperature. Heat over medium heat on stove top, stirring slowly and constantly, scraping the bottom and using the whisk if flour lumps appear; until the mixture bubbles. Keep stirring over heat until thickened.
Stir in chicken or tuna, pasta, and vegetables. Done.
Barbecued lima beans
This is adapted from a more baked-beanslike recipe, and is another one that violates the Quick principle. Doesn’t take much effort, just time–can you tell I haven’t had a job outside the apartment for a while?
1 pound dried lima beans (you could probably use a more conventional type of bean)
6 cups water
1 cup chopped onions (or more, according to taste)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup barbecue sauce (I used KC Masterpiece)
Rinse and sort beans. Then:
Either: Soak beans in cold water overnight in covered pot;
Or: put beans in large saucepan, add water to cover by 2 inches, bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 1 hour.
Or: (haven’t tried with this recipe) Mix beans, 5 cups water (boiled); cook in crockpot on high for 3-4 hours, then low for 7 hours.
Drain and rinse beans, discarding water. Return beans to the saucepan, add 6 cups water, onion, and salt, mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and summer for 1.5 to 1.75 hours, or until beans are tender.
Drain and discard liquid. Stir in the brown sugar, ketchup, and barbecue sauce. Transfer to an ungreased 2-quart baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 minutes longer or until bubbly.
One Potato Soup
I know I said earlier that potatos aren’t good for you; but some say they are and some say they aren’t. The bottom line is that I like potatoes and will continue eating them no matter which side prevails.
There are as many potato soup recipes as people who have made potato soup. This is one.
4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1/2 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 small onion, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Dash or two of ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, bring potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, broth and salt to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until potatoes are just tender. Do not rinse: mash mixture slightly. Stir in milk.
In a small mixing bowl, blend butter, flour, parsley, and pepper; stir into potato mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.
The original recipe from which this is derived (in other words, which I more or less copied) adds 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese at this point and stirs until melted, then lets the soup stand for 5 minutes before serving. It’s good that way too, though less Cheap and Healthy.
Somewhat healthy corn muffins
I adapted this recipe by using yogurt instead of sour cream. To my surprise, it worked.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I might try using part whole-wheat flour next time)
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 6-oz or 8-oz cup plain yogurt
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl beat egg and yogurt until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients until moistened. Fill greased muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes (according to the original recipe, but I used a mini-muffin tin and started checking after 8 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Coll for 5 minutes in pan, then remove from a pan to a wire rack.
Cookies aren’t supposed to be good for you
but I tried making them a little healthier, and the result wasn’t entirely like eating lightly sweetened cardboard. This is adapted from the BHG cook book.
3/4 cup baking butter with canola (haven’t tried this with this recipe yet, but have used with other things and it worked fine).
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces (optional)
Beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium speed about 30 seconds or til combined. Add sugars, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat till combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla till combined. Bean in flour; stir by hand when the mixture becomes too stiff for the mixer. Stir in the rolled oats and chocolat chips.
Drop dough by approximate teaspoonsful about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees about 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

2 Responses to “recipes”

  1. Kim says:

    I think I had your potato soup a long, long time ago and I recall enjoying it, so I might have to try it out myself now that you have shared your secret ingredients.
    Since I only work 25-30 hours a week now, I have been cooking like a madwoman for months and have found a few great tips/ ideas for cheap, healthy, and (fairly) quick food:
    Idea #1: lots of Asian food, especially stir fry. You have all your major food pyramid components in one dish, eliminating the need for time-consuming side dishes; a minimal amount of meat is required (I only use about 1/4 or 1/2 lb. of meat for 3-4 servings, so it’s a lot cheaper than having meat alone as a main dish); rice is super cheap; frozen veggies also add an element of convenience and cheapness; some soy sauce, ginger, onion, garlic, or other hot and spicy sauces add some unhealthy sodium but much needed flavor so you don’t miss the flavor that greater quantities of meat would add.
    Idea #2: Soups. Again, going with the one-dish solution so you don’t need to prepare three courses to get all the nutrition you need (or you can just serve bread or a salad on the side). Not a lot of meat required (if any), lots of salt in the broth to provide flavor. I got on the lentil bandwagon in the last year or so and have found that to be a super-cheap yet tasty option for soups. The other great thing about soups is that, while they may take a little longer to prepare (chopping veggies, etc.), many recipes usually make something like 8 gallons of soup. I would feel a lot worse spending 45 minutes making a soup and 5 minutes eating it if it weren’t for the fact that I have 2-3 lunches from the leftovers.
    If you’d like any specific recipe ideas, I’d be happy to email you some!

  2. michele says:

    Kim, I drove past your old place in Chicago yesterday. The old neighborhood looks about the same.
    I would like some recipes, especially for stir-fry. We do teriyaki chicken, adapted from the Vietnam Fried Rice recipe in the More with Less cookbook, but I’d like to expand our repertoire a bit. Stir fry is really fun to make too, and it makes the vegetables look pretty.

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