Cheap Healthy Good Turns 3: The Top 10 Recipes of Our Previous Year of Existence

Sweet readers! Don’t forget: tomorrow begins CHG’s No-Cook July. It’s all the food you’ve come to know and tolerate, minus any bacteria-killing heat. See you then!

You guys! We’ve been around for three years! Who knew that financial idiocy and an inability to cook would someday lead to a blog with over 120,000 George Clooney references?

But seriously, folks. It’s been a sweet year here at the CHG compound. Our readership remained aweradbodaciousicalsome. We even grew a little, with over a million visits since last July. We got a tad burned out. We came roaring back. We introduced Ask the Internet, which thanks to y’all, has been a thriving success/fab way to brainstorm. Our photos have become marginally better. (See here, then here.) We watched the Food Networks for 19 hours straight, and did not die. You guys totes chose my wedding beer!

Still, there’s always room for improvement, so we have to ask: How are we doing? What do you like about CHG? What do you hate about it? What would you change? Do you like my hair? The comment section awaits your wordage.

We also have to thank everybody who makes the blog possible, including MSN Smart Spending, Lifehacker, BoingBoing, Karen Datko, Donna Freedman, CNN, CBS Early Show, Time’s Money Blog, Money Saving Mom, Casual Kitchen, Kalyn’s Kitchen, Serious Eats, Get Rich Slowly, Wise Bread, Healthy Eats, Tip Hero, Thirty a Week, Brokeass Gourmet, Faithful Provisions, It’s Frugal Being Green, Paid Twice, The Simple Dollar, Owlhaven, Like Merchant Ships, and many more.

Of course, the most important part of CHG remains constant references to arcane sitcoms the frugal, healthy-like food. With that in mind, here, in the great tradition of our anniversary posts, are the Top Ten Recipes of our last year, in no particular order. (And then I promise we'll stop talking about ourselves.)

Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted from Chez Panisse via The Wednesday Chef.
I love this thing more than I’ve ever loved a thing.


Whole Wheat Pasta with Asparagus and Turkey Sausage
Adapted from My Kitchen Snippets.
Easy, healthy, delicious. It’s a troika!


Esquites
Adapted from David Schuttenberg’s Esquites in New York Magazine.
There’s corn, and then there’s corn. This is the latter.


White Bean Dip
Adapted from Ellie Krieger.
One of the simplest recipes on the site, and also one of the best. For a while there, I was making it weekly.


Salsa Couscous Chicken and/or Moroccan Chicken
Adapted from Ellie Matthews via Pillsbury.
This recipe won Pillsbury’s 1998 Bake-Off, with excellent reason.


Hot and Sour Soup with Baby Bok Choy
Adapted from Serious Eats and All Recipes.
Comfort food at it’s warm tastiest.


Maple Morning Polenta
Adapted from Mary Ostyn.
This immediately went into breakfast rotation, and has remained there ever since. We ate it yesterday.


Sardine Avocado Open-Faced Sandwiches
Adapted from Alton Brown.
Sounds bizarre, tastes heavenly. A sublime tuna fish substitute for mayo haters.


Gingersnap Oatmeal / Oatmeal with Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, and Scallions
Adapted from Kitchen Bitsch / Mark Bittman.
Can’t decide between savory or sweet oatmeal? Now you don’t have to.


Veggie Burgs
Adapted from Mark Bittman.
Stellar version of a vegetarian standard.


Honorable Mentions: Baked Loaded Potato Skins, Basic Tomato Soup, Breakfast Burritos, Chickpea Cutlets, Carolina Barbecue Seitan Bites, Grilled Bananas and Chocolate, Italian Turkey Sliders, Pasta with Zucchini and Chickpeas, Sourdough Sausage Stuffing, Summer Panzanella, Sweet Potato Kugel, Tofu Banh Mi, Tomato and Avocado Salsa, Veggie Lo Mein.

And that's it. Thanks again, to all you guys, and we'd love to hear about ways we can improve the experience. Have a lovely Wednesday!

~~~

If you enjoy this post, you might also dig:

CHG Best of June 2010

Holy moly, there was a lot of cooking happening this month. Special thanks to all the turkey sausage, corn, and tofu that made the sacrifice. And special thanks to all yis readers, who make writing this thing so very worthwhile. Ups!

JUNE RECIPES
Baked Radish Chips
Basil Tofu Salad
DIY Microwave Popcorn
Fruit Gazpacho
Greek Tofu Salad
Green Garlic and Garlic Scapes Pesto
Grilled Tofu Steaks
Italian Turkey Sliders
Lemony Couscous with Chickpeas
Spanish Black Beans and Rice (Moors and Christians)
Summer Panzanella

JUNE ARTICLES

We took 46 fabulous answers from a kid-concerned Ask the Internet question, and turned them into Cooking For Small Children: 15 Hows, Whys, and … Honey, Please Put That Cleaver Down.

We took a Zen approach to cooking, blogging, and uh, moneying with Food, Finance, and Judging Others.

And we asked the hard stuff, like Should You Read Cheap Healthy Good? Take This Quiz and Find Out.

As for Ask the Internet, we inquired merrily about the following:

FOR MORE CHEAP HEALTHY GOODNESS...

1) Have your say!
We love reading creative comments and participating in thought-provoking discussions. There’s even our fabulous Ask the Internet column, where readers can write in with various inquiries and/or offer helpful suggestions. Sweet.

2) Spread the word!
Like us? Link to us! Refer us to a bookmarking site! (We have StumbleUpon and Digg buttons now!) Or just talk us up to your Girl Scout Troop. That’s nice, too.

3) Behold our social networking!
Subscribe to our feed, join our Facebook page, or check out our Twitter … thing. They’re super fun ways to kill time, minus the soul-crushing frustration of Bejeweled.

4) Buy from our Amazon Store!
If you click on the Amazon widget (lower left hand corner) and buy anything from Amazon (not just what we’re advertising on CHG), we get a small commission. And that’s always nice.

5) Remember: There is no greater gift than a pedicure.
Just in case you’re wondering.

Ask the Internet: Eating More Leafy Greens?

Sweet readers! Don’t forget: Thursday kicks off CHG’s No-Cook July, our month-long journey into Joseph Conrad’s heart of darkness meals made without heat.

But first, today’s question! It comes from the lovely Rebecca. She asks:

Q: My boyfriend loves him some leafy greens and I'm trying to, really really trying to, but a few years ago I lived in a co-op where they fed me nothing but leafy greens and it's kind of ruined it for me. We even make a bunch of recipes that use greens on your site, but still no go. I think I have a mental block towards them or something, who knows.

Do you have any suggestions for tricking myself into eating more of these great-for-you vegetables? (No, I'm not six-years-old, but the strategy is probably similar!)

A: Rebecca! My buds with co-op memberships are having very similar issues right now. Apparently, it’s purslane season.

My favorite trick is sautéing anything down – kale, spinach, chard - and shoving it into egg dishes. Omelets and quiche take very well to leafy greens, and are fairly easy to throw together. You can use half a bunch in one sitting, especially if you're feeding two. For more recipes beyond that, Cheap, Healthy Leafy Greens: 246 Recipes for Cabbage, Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard, and Beyond might be of some use.

But enough from my piehole. Readers, what think you? How do you sneak leafy greens into your own diets?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Summer Panzanella: An Open Letter

NOTE #1: Today on Serious Eats: Greek Salad Skewers from Giada DeLaurentiis. This no-cook, veggie heavy, completely delicious appetizer can only mean one thing: the big-bosomed Italian scores again.

NOTE #2: Sweet readers! July is NO-COOK MONTH here at Cheap Healthy Good. Starting with Leigh’s Veggie Might column on Thursday and continuing through August 1st, all our recipes will be heating implement-free. (Because frankly, we Noo Yawkuhs are freakin’ dyin' ovah heah.) See you then!

Dear Panzanella,

I admit it. You had me fooled.

I knew you were essentially bread and tomato salad. I knew you included other foods – olives, onions, herbs – for kicks. I knew people liked you, and you were a staple of Italian cuisine.

But I never considered you to be healthy.

You seemed to be excessively rich. You had too much olive oil. You contained obscene amounts of cheese.

How much cheese constitutes an “obscene” amount of cheese? It’s a lot, lemme tell you.

So, I never made you, Panzanella.

Oh, I dreamt of you, to be sure. Your squishy, tomato-soaked baguette. Your red onion crescents, just enough to provide a little punch. Your fresh basil, sprinkled like verdant ribbons across the plate.

But then, one day, Moosewood’s Simple Suppers came along. Finding the cookbook was a fluke. Serendipity. A trip to the library gone wonderfully right. Five recipes tried, five winners consumed.

And you were the last.

And you were the best.

You had so much flavor, and so little extraneous oil. Heck, to be totally honest, the first night, I even found you a tiny bit dry. But when Husband-Elect slaughtered two filled-to-the-brim bowls without coming up for air, I knew we were on to something.

It’s pretty common knowledge that if you let certain foods sit for a day or two (chili, soup, etc.) their flavors will meld and improve. Boy, Panzanella, was that ever the case with you.

Forty-eight hours later, you were PERFECT. I could have cried.

I almost did, when I finally finished you.

Summer Panzanella, we can be friends now, right? I’ll make you. You’ll feed me. We’ll all be healthy and happy.

If not, just promise you’ll write.

I love you, as much as any woman can love bread salad.

Wish you were here,
Kris

~~~

If you think this looks like something you might want to eat, you might also want to indulge in:
~~~

Summer Panzanella
Serves 4.
Adapted from Moosewood’s Simple Suppers.


1 loaf crusty whole wheat French or Italian Bread (about 8 cups)
4 tomatoes, diced (seeding is optional)
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded (cut into ribbons)
2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinaigrette (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2) Fill a small bowl with ice water. Soak red onions ten minutes. Drain.

3) Slice bread in half lengthwise. Place on a baking sheet and bake 5 to 10 minutes, until crisp. Remove and let cool a little. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.

4) To a large serving bowl, add tomatoes, mozzarella, red onion, basil leaves, and olives. Pour red wine vinegar and olive oil over mixture. Stir to combine.

5) Add bread to bowl. Stir thoroughly to combine. Let sit 30 minutes to marinate, stirring once about halfway through. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir again. Serve immediately with vinaigrette if you like OR store it in the fridge for a day or two, then serve. It will be phenomenal.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
320 calories, 13.1 g fat, 5.2 g fiber, 14 g protein, $1.86

NOTE: Numbers for the whole wheat baguette are averaged from Fresh Direct and Calorie King, but your overall calculations may be slightly different depending on your choice of bread. (Oh, and the size of your olives. Mine were pretty huge.) Consequently, take the math this time around to be a bit more of an approximation than usual.

Calculations
1 loaf crusty whole wheat French or Italian Bread (about 8 cups): 580 calories, 5.1 g fat, 13.3 g fiber, 23.1 g protein, $1.99
4 tomatoes: 89 calories, 1 g fat, 5.9 g fiber, 4.3 g protein, $1.96
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella: 288 calories, 18 g fat, 0 g fiber, 27.5 g protein, $0.99
1/2 medium red onion: 23 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.8 g fiber, 0.5 g protein, $0.21
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves: 6 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.8 g fiber, 0.5 g protein, $0.99
2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives: 175 calories, 15 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $1.11
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.03
1 tablespoon olive oil: 118 calories, 13.4 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.12
Kosher salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
Freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
TOTAL: 1279 calories, 52.3 g fat, 20.8 g fiber, 55.9 g protein, $7.42
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 320 calories, 13.1 g fat, 5.2 g fiber, 14 g protein, $1.86

Saturday Throwback: Cheap Healthy Good’s Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Equipment

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG archives, which are coincidentally located in the same warehouse where Indiana Jones stashed the Ark of the Covenant. This articles comes from November 2007.

One of the most popular, frequently-posted-on topics in all of cooking blogdom is Kitchen Equipment. Everybody (including me) wants to know: what should we buy? In what sizes? Why would anyone need a freezer thermometer, unless he’s trying to preserve a body? (Note to self: maybe cut back on Dexter a bit.)

The problem is, there are oodles of clashing opinions, because everybody comes from different culinary perspectives. In other words, equipment suggestions from a pro chef will be way out of step with a mom of 27, and her advice might be totally useless for a prison lunch lady (who, I assume, is big on gruel).

With that in mind, I took an all-encompassing approach to creating this CHG guide. First, I gathered nine different lists from wildly diverse sources. Then, I counted how many times a particular piece of gear was mentioned across the samplings, and finally, compiled the findings into one great big master list. My references consisted of:
The results are a bit surprising. I expected more folks (even the pros) to mention the slow cooker, and didn’t think quite so many would suggest keeping a rolling pin on hand. (I use mine in Halloween costumes, only.) All in all, though, this seems like a good, comprehensive lineup. When paired with the suggestions from CHG’s Pantry of the Gods post, it should create a solid beginner’s kitchen.

(Coming next week: Where can I get this stuff on the cheap, without sacrificing quality?)

THE ABSOLUTE BASICS
(MENTIONED SEVEN TIMES OR MORE)
Cake pans (8” or 9” round or square)
Can opener
Casserole dish (9x13 or 8x8)
Chef’s knife (8” or 10”)
Colander
Cookie sheet
Cutting board
Dutch oven, stock, or large pot (8+ quarts)
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Mixing bowl(s)
Pairing knife
Roasting pan (9x13 or larger)
Saucepan (medium – 2-4 quarts)
Saucepan (small 1-cup to 1.5 quarts)
Serrated knife
Skillet (10” and 12” mentioned most often)
Spatulas (Metal, Rubber, and Flipper-style)
Vegetable peeler
Whisk
Wooden spoon

HIGHLY USEFUL STUFF
(MENTIONED FIVE OR SIX TIMES)
Blender (Blender/food processor combo)
Box grater
Glass liquid measures (2+ cups)
Hand mixer
Kitchen shears
Microplane grater
Pie pan
Rolling pin
Tongs

NICE TO HAVE
(MENTIONED THREE OR FOUR TIMES)
Bottle opener
Cast iron skillet
Cooling rack
Knife sharpener
Ladle
Loaf pan
Mandoline
Meat thermometer
Muffin tin
Pastry brush
Pepper grinder
Salad spinner
Slotted spoon
Steamer
Timer

OCCASIONALLY CONVENIENT
(MENTIONED TWICE)
Bulb baster
Carving/slicing knife
Coffee/spice grinder
Coffeepot
Corkscrew
Juicer
Kettle
Masher
Melon baller
Microwave
Nutcracker
Pressure cooker
Rotary eggbeater
Sifter
Skimmer
Slow cooker
Spoons
Toaster or toaster oven

DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY
(MENTIONED ONCE OR NOT AT ALL)
Apple corer
Boning knife
Bread machine
Butcher knife (I took this to mean cleaver.)
Candy/frying thermometer
Citrus press
Cooking fork
Cotton flour-sack towels
Countertop convection oven
Custard cups
Double boiler
Fondue set (pretty, but useless)
Food scale
Freezer thermometer
Funnel
Garlic press
Griddle
Jar opener
Mortar and pestle
Oven thermometer
Pastry blender
Removable-bottom tart pan
Rice cooker
Ridged grill pan
Ruler
Skewers
Springform pan
Wok
Vegetable brush

(All photos courtesy of Flickr.)

Top 10 Links of the Week: 6/18/10 – 6/24/10

Man. If the links are any indication, it's gonna be a good weekend. I can feel it, folks. Happy June.

1) stonesoup: the absolute beginners guide to the art of seasoning [5 ingredients | 10 minutes]
Man, this blog just keeps getting better. Today, it’s on seasoning your food well, and what to do if you under- or overdo it.

2) NY Times: Saving Time and Stress with Cooking Co-ops
Oo! I love this. It’s like a potluck, but in take-home Tupperware. Sure, there are drawbacks (one dastardly participant relied too much on Hamburger Helper), but cooking one meal for many, and then getting six meals back, seems like an all-around win. (Photo is from the piece.)

3) Casual Kitchen: On the Benefits of Being a Part-Time Vegetarian
The CK household cut their meat intake by a few meals per week, and the benefits have been totes faboo. Here, Dan explains why, what happened, and how you might embark on the same glorious path.

4) NY Times: Food is the Thrill at Some Bachelor Parties
Move over strippers, here come Bruschetta Chicken Dippers. Or something. Point is, engaged peeps are apparently forgoing traditional bachelor and bachelorette parties for full-on gourmet experiences. Is it because Americans are getting married at more advanced ages, thus reducing the demand for some chick/dude in spangled undies to flash her/his bosoms/pecs? Beats me. I just want some pork belly.

5) Get Rich Slowly: The Battle of the Bulge, and the Battle of the Budget
On the link between debt and fat, and how going cold turkey may not be the best approach for either. You’ve heard the message before, but never in so entertaining and thorough a manner.

6) Salon: The dark side of the farmers' market boom
Are farmers heading to cities to sell their food, leaving their less affluent neighbors to make do with Wal-Mart tomatoes? Sounds nefarious. Salon explores.

7) Consumerist: Restaurants Want You To Spend More, But Won't Stop Selling Cheap Food
Oops. You know all those dollar menus and special deals that fast food joints offered during the recession? Now that our collective money situation isn’t quite so dire, restaurants are having problems weaning customers off the bargains and on to more profitable meals. Not so good for business.

8) CNN: McDonald’s Warned: Drop the Toys or Get Sued
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (or CSPI, presumably) might/is sue/suing over the inclusion of toys in Happy Meals. They claim tiny Buzz Lightyears and Shreks entice kids to choose unhealthy food. As an ex-McDonald’s employee, I can only say … I guess? I don’t recall. It was 1996. Bringing them up from the basement was a big pain in the tuchus, though.

9) Food Politics: Alaska Fishing Politics – Fish Processing
Marion Nestle is doing a blog mini-series on the fishing industry in our northernmost state. It’s more complicated than you think, and an interesting microcosm of our issues in the lower 48.

10) Chow: 9 Cooking Apps Worth Downloading to Your iPhone
Dunno if this applies much for the frugalists out there, but Husband-Elect would become Ex-Husband-Elect if I didn’t link to these apps. (He loves apps. Apps, apps, apps. It’s all I ever hear about. “Hey honey, did you get those apps?”)

HONORABLE MENTION

Eatocracy: 5@5 - Chef Eric Ripert
See? Hot, world class French seafood chefs make mistakes, too. (Photo from site. Also? Humina.)

Epi-Log: Volunteer Options for Food-Loving Teens
Hey kids! How are you spending the summer? Here are four food-type volunteering organizations that could use your free time.

Hillbilly Housewife: Spring Cleaning One Room at a Time – the Oven
I move to a new apartment every year specifically so I don’t have to do this. Then, last month, it caught up with me. The experience was … I don’t remember. I blocked it out.

The Kitchn: 10 Ways to Use Pesto Besides Pasta
You knew “sandwich spread” was gonna be in there, but the rest are pleasant surprises.

Serious Eats: Supreme Court Makes its First Ruling Genetically Engineered Crops
It’s a strike against Monsanto … I think.

Slashfood: Throw That Wrapper Away or Pay
Lawmakers in San Francisco might start taxing fast food customers for garbage disposal. It’s half environmental measure, half fundraiser for the city. But is it right?

AND ALSO

Cracked: The 10 Most Important Things They Didn’t Teach You in School
For MAD's snotty younger brother, Cracked sure has some spectacular web pieces. This one is no different, with #10 and #9 being must-reads. (Due warning: They're profane must-reads, but must-reads nonetheless.)

Thank you so much for visiting Cheap Healthy Good! (We appreciate it muchly). If you’d like to further support CHG, subscribe to our RSS feed! Or become a Facebook friend! Or check out our Twitter! Or buy something inexpensive, yet fulfilling via that Amazon store (on the left)! Bookmarking sites and links are nice, too. Viva la France!

Veggie Might: Grilled Tofu Steaks of Victory

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Whenever a barbecue looms, I’m overcome by a swirl of emotions: joy at the prospect of dining outside for a change; happiness with the anticipation of seeing my friends; and irritation from wondering what in the name of sweet Maude in heaven I am going to put on the grill.

I used to just buy a package of veggie burgs or dogs on the way to the party and be content. But I don’t really eat that way anymore. Okay, when I’m at a baseball game, I will track down that one stand that serves a veggie hotdog, but that’s baseball.

Now I try to get creative, or at least a little healthy. At Kris’ barbecues past, I’ve slapped marinated portabella mushroom caps and tempeh/veggie kabobs with peanut sauce on to the wire fire. This time I decide to try tofu; and I’ll admit it—even I was scared.

Tofu steaks can be delicious or disgusting—there’s really no in between—and two things can make or break you: texture and flavor. Well, that’s the case with any food, you say. But no! I counter. I dare say, no other food comes out as tasting like a damp sponge if not handled properly. (You’ll let me know otherwise in the comments, I’m sure.)

Through my careful planning, Kris’s Husband-Elect ‘s deft (and rain-soaked) grilling tongs of, and the watchful (and surely helpful) eye of my Charming Boyfriend, all at the Rainy Barbecue of Love and Togetherness enjoyed nearly perfect tofu steaks alongside all their other actual meats.

Your 4th of July, Canada Day (or Leigh Day, as it’s known around here), or any other grilling affair can too revel in Grilled Tofu Steaks of Victory. Here’s how:

Press the crap (water) out of the tofu
1) Place the tofu block(s) between two dinner plates (preferably ones with a little bit of a lip), and put something heavy, like your trusty cast iron skillet, on top.

2) Let the weight squeeze out the water for 15 minutes.

3) Drain off the puddle.

4) If your blocks are getting funky-shaped, give them a turn. Repeat steps 1 through 3.

Slice into cute little triangles
Geometry time. The number of pieces you’d like to get out of a block of tofu will determine where you make your cuts. I did mine like this:

Four pieces per block

You can also do this:

Eight pieces per block

Note: I used fresh tofu from the Korean grocery on the corner; each block weighs about 6 to 7 oz., yielding 4 pieces and two 3-oz servings per block. Water-packed tofu usually comes in 14- to 16-oz blocks. You’ll get the same number of 4-oz servings from a package of tofu that I got from two blocks of fresh tofu. Or you will get twice the number of 2-oz servings. Or you can go rogue and get 1 serving per block. I won’t judge you.

Lubricate well
Oil is your friend when grilling tofu since there is no drippy fat to keep things lubricated. I supplied the Husband-Elect with about 1/2 cup of oil for 7 blocks of tofu, and he used it all.

Coat the triangles in oil before putting them on the grill. Then baste them during cooking. Pretty simple. A little salt and pepper couldn’t hurt.*

*Use your best judgment if salt is your nemesis.

Don’t blink while grilling
According to CB, it only took five minutes to scorch these babies. Darlings, it’s all in the spin. That’s what we, in the food biz, call blackened tofu. After H-E got the hang of it, it only took about 1–2 minutes on each side for perfectly grilled tofu steaks.

To recap:
1) Place tofu slices on grill. Cook for 1–2 minutes.

2) Flip.

3) Cook for 1–2 minutes.

Serve with Fiery Chili Lime Sauce
A delicious sauce is not crucial to the perfect tofu steak, but I like one. I whipped up this little number from what I had floating around the kitchen. Amend to your tastes and pantry stash. While it’s packs some heat, it has beau coups of that flavor I mentioned earlier. Again, victory!

~~~

If you cried with joy over this post, direct your puffiness to
~~~

Fiery Chili Lime Sauce
Makes about 1/3 cup of sauce/about 4 1-tbsp servings (but a little goes a loooong way)

1/4 cup sriracha sauce (or any other prepared chili sauce)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp agave nectar (or honey)
10 mint leaves, finely chopped

1) Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

2) Whisk together.

3) Serve over gorgeously grilled tofu to exclamations and accolades.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
Tofu Steaks: 190.5 calories, 13.9g fat, 3g fiber, 12g protein, $.42
Fiery Chili Lime Sauce: 22.4 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.09
Tofu Steaks + Fiery Chili Lime Sauce: 213 calories, 13.9g fat, 3g fiber, 12g protein, $.50

Calculations
Tofu Steaks
2 6–7 oz. blocks tofu: 492 calories, 24g fat, 12g fiber, 48g protein, $1.50
2 1/4 tbsp olive oil: 270 calories, 31.5g fat 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.18
Totals: 762 calories, 55.5g fat, 12g fiber, 48g protein, $1.68
Per Serving (Totals/4): 190.5 calories, 13.9g fat, 3g fiber, 12g protein, $.42

Fiery Chili Lime Sauce
1/4 cup sriracha sauce: 60 calories, 0 g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.15
2 tbsp lime juice: 9.5 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.10
1 tsp agave nectar: 20 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.05
10 mint leaves: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $.04
Totals: 89.5 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.34
Per Serving (Totals/4): 22.4 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.09

Tofu Steaks + Fiery Chili Lime Sauce
Totals: 851.5 calories, 55.5g fat, 12g fiber, 48g protein, $2.02
Per serving (Totals/4): 213 calories, 13.9g fat, 3g fiber, 12g protein, $.50

Should You Read Cheap Healthy Good? Take This Quiz and Find Out.

Here at Cheap Healthy Good, we usually reserve Wednesdays for long, academic posts in which the conclusions inevitably boil down to “eat more vegetables” and/or “do what’s best for you.” (The internet: where non-answers are the best answers.)

Today, we figured we’d try something a little different: a quiz. It’s designed to determine whether you should start, continue, or stop reading this blog. In a way, it’s kind of like asking, “How good are you at applying all this stuff?” or "Kale is awesome, right?"

So, using a pencil and a piece of paper, record your answers as you go along (or, you know, just remember them). At the end of the post, evaluate yourself using the provided key.

Have fun and good luck.

1. You have five dollars to feed yourself for two days. You buy:
  • A) Bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes, beans, peanut butter, bread, and a dozen eggs. What? You had coupons.
  • B) Two boxes of pasta, a jar of decent sauce, and a bag of salad. Breakfast is gonna be weird, but you’ll get by.
  • C) Five junior cheeseburgers off the $1 menu. Then, you load up on ketchup and salt when your cashier is distracted by the senior bus tour.
  • D) The latest issue of Maxim. Hopefully, it will keep you so distracted you won’t need to eat.

 2. It’s Friday night after work. In your fridge are two eggs, half a jar of salsa, and a hunk of bread. What’s your reaction?
  • A) Time for Shaksouka! With herbs from my victory garden, of course.
  • B) Scrambled eggs with salsa and toast. Not too shabby, sports fans.
  • C) “Hello, is this Kam Sing? … Yes, I’d like a pint of Pork Chow Fun … yes, a pint … of Pork Chow Fun … Pork Chow Fun … a pint … one pint … Pork Chow Fun … No. Pork Chow Fun … one pint … Pork Cho- … Fried Rice is fine. Thanks.”
  • D) What’s an “egg”?

3. Your favorite food publication is:
  • A) Saveur. So beautiful. So erudite. You want to make crazy tantric Sting love to it.
  • B) Cook’s Illustrated. So practical. So methodical. You want to spoon and make it a mix tape.
  • C) Every Day with Rachael Ray. So colorful. So fun. You want to give it a friendly high five and a girly, non-boob-touching hug.
  • D) Highlights Magazine. So Gallant. So Goofus. You want to learn math and simple decision-making skills from it.

4. Your favorite food is:
  • A) Tout plat favorisée par des paysans français. Ils sont les meilleurs, c'est exact?
  • B) Turkey Chili. It’s delicious, surprisingly filling, and uses all the odds and ends lying around your refrigerator.
  • C) Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. If you use skim milk and halve the butter, it’s not so bad. Plus, it comes in Shrek shapes! I can eat that damn cat!
  • D) Cigarettes. Mmm … tabacco-y.

5. Given five bucks and a choice of chocolate bar, you’d buy:
  • A) Theo. It’s free trade organic cage free humanely raised Omega-3 other words.
  • B) Lindt’s. Delicious, a little upscale. A real treat.
  • C) Hershey’s. IT’S ALL YOU KNOW.
  • D) A 40 of malt liquor with an M&M accidentally dropped in the bottle.

6. Your favorite Food Network show is:
  • A) Barefoot Contessa. You would kidnap Ina Garten and keep her in your basement if you were sure it wouldn’t upset Jeffrey.
  • B) Everday Italian. Giada knows what she’s doing. Also? Claw hand.
  • C) Quick Fix Meals. You don’t necessarily like it, but it’s tough to break from Robin Miller's uncomfortably intense stare.
  • D) Down Home with the Neelys. HAHAHAHAHAHA, PAT, AH LUUUUUUUV YOU BABY, AND NOW WE’RE GONNA MAKE SOME ITALIAN BARBECUE, RIGHT BABY? IT’S REGULAR BARBECUE, BUT WITH A BASIL LEAF. HAHAHA, BABY? (*Pat shoots self in face*)

7. Your definition of healthy food is:
  • A) Organic, whole foods bought from local vendors and/or free trade organizations, prepared simply with a little oil. Julienned if possible, just because you like the word.
  • B) Anything that will eventually decompose.
  • C) Diet Coke and Weight Watchers Amaretto Cheesecake Yogurt.
  • D) Moonshine without too much dirt.

8. The biggest problem with the American food system is:
  • A) Not enough fennel.
  • B) Too many chemicals. Useless government regulations and regulators. Unchecked corporations. Food deserts. False nutritional claims. Marketing junk to kids. … Wow, this is depressing.
  • C) Um … well, Hot Pockets are kind of gross.
  • D) Not enough heroin.

9. Quick! Make up a haiku about food!
  • A) Pastured, grass-fed cattle / Mooing gently on the plain / Tomorrow’s sirloin.
  • B) Though I loathe salad / I know it must be consumed / For good aorta.
  • C) Long Island Iced Tea / has iced tea in it so it / has to be good, right?
  • D) Beans. Beans. They make you / smart. The more you eat. The more / you … uh … umm … like art.

10. Your favorite food book is:
  • A) Anything by Michael Pollan. In fact? Yesterday, you snuck into his office at UC Berkeley, stole his diary, and were startled to discover it reads exactly like the script for Taxi Driver.
  • B) Kitchen Confidential. It inspired you to quit your job, start washing dishes for Babbo, and buy a Ramones box set.
  • C) Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. They’re meatballs! But they’re also rain! From the sky! Yay!
  • D) Me no read book. Me eat book. Book good. Book have fiber. Book make butt feel good.

KEY

If you answered mostly A, you should start your own food and frugality blog. Your favorite activities include calculating unit costs and taking landscape photographs of the Whole Foods bulk section. Your coupon organizational skills would put Encyclopedia Britannica to shame. It’s entirely possible you spent your formative years hidden in a cupboard in America’s Test Kitchen. You are most likely a chef, a mother of ten working off a $13/week budget, or Christopher Kimball.

If you answered mostly B, you should continue reading Cheap Healthy Good. While you enjoy a fulfilling life packed with engaging activities, you occasionally spend an hour contemplating the financial and flavor advantages of cremini over button mushrooms. Your worst enemies are jarred garlic, bottled water, and late-era Paula Deen (though you would still like to visit her at Christmas). You have used your food savings to pay your mortgage. You are most likely a single person in an urban area, a married person in a rural or suburban area, Johnny Depp, or my friend M.

If you answered mostly C, you should start reading Cheap Healthy Good. When it comes to feeding yourself, you have the best of intentions, but they’re often usurped by insatiable cravings for Lunchables. In a mental smackdown between convenience and frugality/health, the former leaves the latter naked and bleeding in a sewer grate. You are most likely a college intern, somebody on Glee, or my brother.

If you answered mostly D, you are obviously in the wrong place. It’s entirely possible you were searching for Cheap Healthy Dudes or Keep Wealthy Moods or something similar. You are most likely a poor speller, a third grader, or a tad unsavory.

That's it, sweet readers. Thanks for playing, and stick around for Wheel of Fortune!

~~~

If you enjoyed this post, you might also dig:

(Photo from DK Presents.)

Green Kitchen: Tofu Salad with Herbs, Two Ways

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

Happy belated solstice, everyone! For us northern hemispherers, yesterday was the longest day of the year. That's happy news for druids and lovers of late-evening sunshine, but oh, if only that meant the hottest day of the year were behind us as well. Unfortunately, the sun's just getting started pumping the atmosphere full of heat, and the sweaty months of summer stretch into the distance ahead of us, as if into a hazy, humid infinity.

Hi. Sorry. It was 95 degrees in New York City yesterday. Project no-AC goes strong, but still. Stepping into the midday sun is like ... whoa. That stuff hits you hard.

So, even though I keep my windows closed and curtained during the day, and my apartment is still surprisingly bearable, it's not like I'm about to crank up the oven and start baking and broiling. I don't even really want to turn on a burner.

I could pretend it's for Mother Earth, but really it's because it's freaking hot out!

Lucky for us wilting flowers, there is plenty we can do without igniting a single pilot light. If you can muster the energy for a few minutes of smushing stuff up, you can make a delicious, protein-packed salad full of vegetables, herbs, and smooth, cool tofu. Two of them, in fact!

Yeah, I said smushing stuff up. Super appetizing, I know. But go with me here. We mix crumbled tofu with herbs, vegetables, a little fat, and a little acid. Two different combinations give us two very different, equally refreshing dishes – one Greek(ish), one (sorta) Italiany – that can be enjoyed sandwiched in bread, tossed with more veggies for salad, or spooned out of a mug while you lie prostrate on the cool kitchen tile floor. No heat in the kitchen, plenty of delicious in your mouth.

I like the Greek tofu smush (I need to come up with a better name for these!) with a dab of extra mayo and mixed into a big bunch of greens. Purslane, for example, is a wild green I can get at the farmers market for cheap. Being wild means it hasn't been cultivated to be all leaves and no stems, so it takes some prep time, but the little leaves are full of omega-3 fatty acids and other wild-green goodness, and make delicious salad.

The basil smush goes brilliantly with arugula, spinach, or, really, on its own. It's a little saltier and richer, but still creamy and refreshing, and the slightly more substantial of the two recipes.

I should probably call these tofu salads rather than smush. But whatever they're called, they are delicious, easy, and – most importantly right now – cold.

~~~

If you dig these recipes, you might also enjoy:
~~~

Greek Tofu Salad
Serves 4.
Adapted from PPK's Tofu Salad.

1 lb extra-firm tofu, pressed
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
¼ cup light mayonnaise
1 t salt
generous handful fresh dill, chopped
1 cucumber, diced fine
1 small (or ½ med) red onion, diced fine
½ red bell pepper, chopped

1) Soak onion is salted ice water for at least ten minutes. (This smooths the oniony bite, and minimizes your risk for onion breath!) Drain.

2) Crumble tofu by hand into a mixing bowl.

3) Add mayo and vinegar. Stir & smush until mixed.

4) Stir in onion, cucumber, dill, salt, and red pepper. Mix

5) Chill for at least 60 minutes in the fridge to allow everything to meld.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
172.5 calories, 9.1g fat, 2.8g fiber, 11.1g protein, $1.06

Calculations
1 lb extra-firm tofu: 387 calories, 20.5g fat, 5.1g fiber, 39.8g protein, $1.79
4 tsp apple cider vinegar: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.05
¼ cup light mayonnaise: 200 calories, 19.7g fat, 0g fiber, 0.4g protein, $0.49
1 teapsoon salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
generous handful fresh dill: 1 calorie, 0g fat, 0.1g fiber, 0.1g protein, $0.15
1 cucumber: 24 calories, 0.3g fat, 1.4g fiber, 1.2g protein, $0.33
1 small red onion: 21 calories, 0.1g fat, 0.9g fiber, 0.6g protein, $0.40
½ red bell pepper: 55 calories, 0.5g fat, 3.6g fiber, 1.8g protein, $1.00
TOTAL: 690 calories, 36.5g fat, 11.2g fiber, 44.3g protein, $4.23
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 172.5 calories, 9.1g fat, 2.8g fiber, 11.1g protein, $1.06

~~~

Basil Tofu Salad
Serves 4.
Adapted from the PPK's Basil Tofu Ricotta.

1 lb extra-firm tofu, pressed
2-3 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes (easily found at a health food store, or Whole Foods, and *very* delicious)
½ pint grape tomatoes, quartered
Large handful basil, chopped
Dash red pepper flakes (optional)
Dash black pepper

1) Mix lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt in a mixing bowl.

2) Crumble in tofu by hand; mix well with a big spoon or spatula.

3) Stir in nutritional yeast, red pepper, black pepper, and tomatoes.

4) Chill 30 minutes or so in the fridge for optimal flavor melding.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
158.3 calories, 7.6g fat, 3.8g fiber, 13.7g protein, $1.19

Calculations
1 lb extra-firm tofu: 387 calories, 20.5g fat, 5.1g fiber, 39.8g protein, $1.79
2-3 teapsoons lemon juice: 4 calories, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.33
2 teaspoons olive oil: 84 calories, 9.3g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.08
1 clove garlic: 4 calories, 0g fat, 0.1g fiber, 0.2g protein, $0.02
¼ teaspoon salt: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes: 107 calories, 1.3g fat, 6.7g fiber, 12g protein, $0.74
½ pint grape tomatoes: 45 calories, 0.5g fat, 3g fiber, 2.2g protein, $1.25
Large handful basil: 2 calories, 0.1g fat, 0.2 g fiber, 0.3g protein, $0.50
Dash red pepper flakes: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.02
Dash black pepper: 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.01
TOTAL: 633 calories, 31.8g fat, 15.1g fiber, 54.7g protein, $4.75
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 158.3 calories, 7.6g fat, 3.8g fiber, 13.7g protein, $1.19

Ask the Internet: Healthy Snacks for Little Kids?

Holy cow! Did you guys know that the Ice Cream Man/Woman makes between $400 and $900 a day in the summer, depending on the weather? Wow. Time for a career shift.

Speaking about fun foods, reader Rachael wrote in with a question pertaining to last week’s Cooking for Small Children post:

Q: I have 3 children 3 and under. My two oldest love to snack! I have plenty of fruits and veggies for them, but sometimes they aren't the easiest on the go. I'd like to steer clear of snacks like cheddar fish or crackers, even. What are some delicious whole, nutritious, on the go snacks?!

A: Thanks for writing, Rachael! While I don’t have kids of my own, my cousins/friends/guy on the corner really seem to like Sabra’s single-serving hummus tubs. They’re portable, cute, and ain’t nothing wrong with a little chickpea dip. If you’re concerned about environmental factors, you can buy a larger tub and scoop little portions into a smaller piece of Tupperware.

But sweet readers, I know you have more on this. What are your little ones’ favorite healthy snacks?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

Lemony Couscous with Chickpeas and a Hidden Gem Cookbook

Today on Serious Eats: Potato Salad with Green & White Beans. It’ll make a crowd giggle with delight.

You know, how sometimes, when you discover something no one else knows about, you get all excited, but a little hesitant to share your newfound knowledge, because it wouldn’t be JUST YOURS anymore?

I used to feel that way about music. My friend H. introduced me to Jeff Buckley in 1995, my freshman year of college. His Grace album became a touchstone of our existence, with the final track, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, as its crowning achievement. And even though H. shared Buckley with me, I was hesitant to pass him on to anyone else. I felt like it would take the specialness away.

Well, here’s the thing. If something’s really good, odds are people will find out about it anyway. Buckley drowned in 1997. In 2002, The West Wing used Hallelujah for a death scene. Two years later, it popped up on the season finale of The O.C. Now, Simon Cowell counts it among his favorite tunes, and it appears on American Idol every other second.

I’m okay with this. Because, I figure, the mass acceptance of Hallelujah will nudge Buckley toward … man, I hate the word “immortality” in this context, but I can’t think of another one … so, immortality. It’s good for him. It’s good for his family. It’s good for music.

Subsequently, I resolve to share things that are good. It makes no sense keeping them to myself. And Moosewood’s Simple Suppers may be my new favorite thing on Earth, never mind just the Cookbook category.

I’m trying to experiment with a wider range of recipe tomes, so I’m not so reliant on my favorite sources. A quick trip to the library yielded Simple Suppers, which has now produced three smashing dishes. I go into the other two in detail at Serious Eats. White Bean and Mushroom Ragout is here. Potato Salad with White and Green Beans can be found at the top of this post. They are both drool-worthy.

The latest dish is Lemony Couscous with Chickpeas. It’s a delicious simple grain salad you can customize to your heart’s content, because it will still retain its essential, uh, lemony … couscousy … chickpeaness. Yeah. One batch gave us food for DAYS, and we served it both hot and cold.

So readers, what are your favorite little-knowns? Let us know, and maybe we can make them big-knowns. It could be a good thing.

~~~

If this recipe seems enticing, these will tempt your pants off:
~~~

Lemony Couscous with Chickpeas
Makes at least 8 side servings.
Adapted from Moosewood’s Simple Suppers.


1 1/2 cups plain or spinach couscous
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups boiling water
2 lemons
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped black olives (about 20 large)
1/8 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Optional (but use at least one):
2 tablespoons dill, minced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup mint, chopped

1) In a medium bowl, combine couscous and salt. Pour water on top. Cover. Walk away for ten minutes. Water should be gone and couscous fluffy when time is up.

2) Meanwhile, zest both lemons into a smaller bowl. Then juice them to get 1/4 cup, and pour that into the same bowl. Add olive oil. Whisk together.

3) Fluff couscous. Add chickpeas, olives, dressing, and herbs. Stir thoroughly to combine. Salt and pepper to taste if desired (but you might not need it). Sprinkle with almonds. Serve hot or cold.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
With parsley and scallions: 263 calories, 8.1 g fat, 4.6 g fiber, 7.5 g protein, $0.80

Calculations
Note: I used parsley and scallions for my dish. Those are being factored in here.
1 1/2 cups plain couscous: 976 calories, 1.6 g fat, 13 g fiber, 33.1 g protein, $2.28
1/2 teaspoon salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.01
2 1/2 cups boiling water: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, FREE
2 lemons (zest & 1/4 cup juice): 16 calories, 0 g fat, 0.3 g fiber, 0.2 g protein, $0.66
3 tablespoons olive oil: 358 calories, 40.5 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.36
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained: 500 calories, 4.6 g fat, 18.5 g fiber, 20.8 g protein, $0.66
1 cup chopped black olives (about 20 large): 125 calories, 10 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.91
1/8 cup slivered almonds, toasted: 85 calories, 7.5 g fat, 1.5 g fiber, 2.9 g protein, $0.23
1/2 cup parsley, chopped: 11 calories, 0.2 g fat, 1 g fiber, 0.9 g protein, $0.99
1/2 cup scallions, chopped: 32 calories, 0.2 g fat, 2.6 g fiber, 1.8 g protein, $0.33
TOTAL: 2103 calories, 64.6 g fat, 36.9 g fiber, 59.7 g protein, $6.43
PER SERVING (TOTAL/8): 263 calories, 8.1 g fat, 4.6 g fiber, 7.5 g protein, $0.80

Saturday Throwback: 10 Thrifty, Healthy Ingredients to Improve the Quality of Your Meals

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG archives. Today's article comes from November 2007.

For the first 25 years of my existence, my food stood alone. Meat went unseasoned, starches sought no accompaniment, and vegetables … hermits, all of them. Only recently have I discovered the wonders of spices, sauces, and assorted flavorings. I had heard they made edibles better, but discounted it as a blasphemous rumor. Y’know, like gravity.

In honor of these fine, zestful components, today’s article will expound on joy and wonder of my favorite ten. The following foods generally aren’t the main focus of a dish. Instead, they’re simple, easily attainable additives that will boost the quality of your spread immensely. Some cost a few cents more than generic or mass-produced items, but in most cases, a tiny little pinch goes a super-long way.

1) Freshly ground black pepper
Along with its sister salt, black pepper is one of the most widely-employed spices globally. Alas, according to sources, it starts losing its flavor immediately after grinding, meaning the five-year-old jar on your shelf is little more than grey dust. Investing in a solid mill and Costco-sized package of peppercorns will juice up almost every meal you make, at minimal cost over time.

2) Fresh herbs
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme aren’t just tremendously soothing Simon and Garfunkel lyrics – they’re also a grade-A way to turn a dish from crappy to credible. Though price is contingent on time of year, every spent cent is rewarded. Casual Kitchen makes every other good point there is to make about this, but I’ll add that some herbs last much longer than you might think. I’ve had thyme survive my fridge for more than three weeks.

3) Stock/Better than Bouillon
When heated in stock rather than water, many foods (pasta, rice, veggies, etc.) assume extra flavor. While homemade stock is always preferred, Better than Bouillon is a good alternative to cans and cubes. A dense paste, it makes 38 cups of broth per 8-oz jar. Priced at $5.95 on Amazon (and a rumored $2.99 at Trader Joe’s), it comes out to $0.16 per cup, or about half the cost of on-sale Swanson broth. (EDITED TO ADD: These are 2007 prices. 2010 prices may differ. - Kris) I used it in Thanksgiving prep at house, and the eaters were pleased. (Three cheers to Rachel, the Cheap Healthy Gourmet for the tip.)

4) Wine
Thanks to Trader Joe’s, the internet, and an expanding world of wine appreciation, a passable vino is becoming easier and easier to find. Five bucks will nab you a bottle suitable for braising and/or deglazing, which ups the flavor in meats, sauces, and vegetables.

5) Decent cheese
Whether you’re dusting penne with parmesan or grating sharp cheddar over potato soup, a smattering of frommage can invigorate a dish with mad flava. BUT, the quality of cheese matters, tons. Case in point: last night, I went to a generally reliable Irish bar for dinner and ordered a vegetable melt. Sure, the choice of produce was bizarre (broccoli, carrots, and zucchini) but the dish was totally sunk by the over-processed, barely-warm slices of Grade Z American cheese. Buying less expensive dairy is understandable, especially if it’s used in bulk (a la enchiladas), but if you can swing it, slightly better brands in small doses do wonders. (As god as my witness, this will never touch my pasta again.)

6) Real lemon juice
Frequently a main component of dessert or dinner, the lovely lemon (not to be confused with Liz Lemon) can also brighten the flavor of a sauce, salad, or slab of meat. Still, there is no substitute for having the actual, physical citrus fruit on hand. My Ma’s been a staunch ReaLemon supporter for most of her time on Earth, and I’ve always found it tastes like dishwater. At $0.25 to $0.50 a pop, go with the real thing.

7) Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
I am not a supporter of breadcrumbs on macaroni and cheese. I think they take away from the main event. That said, I ate the beloved dish topped once with panko, and completely flipped my wig. Crunchier, lighter, and only slightly pricier than American-style breadcrumbs, panko ups the ante on everything. Try it with pork chops, chicken, and fish.

8) Anchovies
Discovering a whole dead fish on pizza might be enough to make you swear off anchovies for the rest of your life (and the next one, if you’re into that kind of thing). Yet, the tiny, economical add-on will give dips and dressings a much-needed kick in the pants. This simple, healthy dip by Kathleen Daeleamans is a great example.

9) Garlic straight from the bulb
This one’s a tad personal. Ma and Pa, who are righteous in every other way, cook with pre-minced garlic stored in huge jars of olive oil. Pa believes it saves some time and maybe a dollar, but he always has to use twice the amount called for since the pungency is severely compromised. Fresh garlic is delicious, un-diluted, and according to a new New York Times article, good for you as all get out. Plus, there’s the vampire-repellant factor, and that can’t be overlooked. (BONUS: Special mincing instructions here. )

10) Condiments
Soy sauce, tabasco sauce, teriyaki sauce, mustard, honey, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce – every one of these guys can stand on their own, or be incorporated into a grander concoction. And when employed in moderation, they enhance rather than overwhelm the taste of a meal. You can purchase according to your own taste and/or buy in bulk for savings, but coughing up an extra buck will make a difference in the end product.

Also worth mentioning: capers, bulk nuts, olives, fresh seasonal veggies (as opposed to canned), flavored vinegars, various pastes, fresh hot peppers, chutneys, salsas.

Any other suggestions? I’d love to hear ‘em.

Top 10 Links of the Week: 6/11/10 – 6/17/10

Between Chinese menu misspellings, Sandra Lee’s lasagna, and the campaign to bring LeBron James to the Knicks, the links are a bit NYC-centric today. But, why not? It’s a helluva town.

P.S. Don’t do it, LeBron! You saw what happened to Patrick Ewing! (Poor, broken Pat Ewing. He has permanent unsmiley face now.)

1) New York Times: Hummus Catches On in America (As Long as its Flavored)
Hummus has taken America by storm the last few years, but it’s not necessarily the traditional chickpea/tahini/garlic/lemon concoction found everywhere in the Middle East. This neat article discusses its U.S. evolution from simple garbanzo dip to the Baskin Robbins of bean spreads.

2) Shades of Gray: Breaking the Cycle - Raising a Daughter With a Healthy Self Image
Julie has one little girl, and is pregnant with another. In this longer, thoughtful post, she talks about raising them to respect their bodies. My favorite line: “So, my goal is to find some magical way of reinforcing a healthy life style without making it about size.” Yes.
(Thanks to Casual Kitchen for the link.)

3) Jezebel: Why Wedding Weight Loss Isn’t About Health
Somewhat related to link #2, here’s an uncomfortable confession: I made it a priority to drop a few pounds (13, to be exact) before I started shopping for a bridal gown. Because, as much as the whole fat-shaming wedding industry irritates the hell out of me, I … I was out of shape, and didn’t want the pictures to reflect that for my great-great-great grandchildren. It’s a personal decision, and certainly not one I’d force on anyone else. But I can’t help but wonder if I’ve been had – by the media and my own neurosis. Gak.

4) Surviving and Thriving: You Just Gonna Toss That Bottle Cap?
Do you like free movies and soft drinks? No, I’m not asking you on a date – I’m telling you to read Donna Freedman’s piece about the magic and wonder of bottle cap redemption. (Though, if you’re not busy tonight…)

5) Serious Eats: You Might Be a Foodie if…
Favorite answers:
“…your bathroom reader is a cookbook.”
“…when you have eight tabs open on your web browser and they're all food-related.”
“…the thought of pre-chopped, jarred garlic makes you shudder.”
“…you would accept a slab of bacon over flowers any day.”
“…your 8-month old son loves Coq au Vin.”

6) New York Times: Putting Sandra Lee’s Lasagna to the Test
Andrew Cuomo is running for governor of New York. His longtime ladyfriend is a certain Ms. Sandra Lee. Recently, a TV news reporter asked Matilda Cuomo, the former first lady of New York and Andrew's mom, if she was cool with Aunt Sandy’s version of lasagna (see: cottage cheese, tomato soup, evil). MC was very kind in pointing out that SL’s recipe is totally insane. The New York Times made it anyway, just to taste. Results lie herein.

7) Village Voice: 17 Inadvertently Meaningful Chinese Menu Misspellings - An Annotated List
This is practically an art form in NYC. It warms my heart to see so many in one place. Crispy colorectal, anyone? (Photo from the Voice.)

8) Chow: Do You Tip on Takeout?
I do. Usually a few bucks. More for inclement weather. Readers?

9) The Atlantic: The Constitutional Right to Misleading Food Ads
We know that food packaging makes lots of bizarro health claims. But do we know why? Here’s a hint: legislative loopholes. (Er … okay, so that was more than a hint.) Marion Nestle reports.

10) stonesoup: How to Master the Gentle Art of Braising (Even for Vegetarians)
You see lots of braising posts, but few on braising vegetables. And the accompanying mushroom recipe just looks divine.

HONORABLE MENTION

Apartment Therapy: Before & After - Painting Kitchen Backsplash Tile
I didn’t even know this was possible. Opens some decorating doors, don’t it?

Cheap Vegetable Gardener: The Most Profitable Plants in Your Vegetable Garden
Good: leafy greens and herbs.
Okay: cucumbers and tomatillos.
Bad: cabbage.
Poor cabbage. It ain’t get no love, never.

Eater: Mario Batali Jumps on the Lebron Lovin’ Bandwagon
Man, I should have played basketball. Or rather: Man, I shouldn’t have totally sucked at basketball.

The Kitchn
10 Quick and Easy Stir-Fry Dinners
10 Ways to Clear Out Condiment Clutter
Link #1: Stir fry - all you need is oil and a dream.
Link #2: Living with two men (Husband-Elect and our roommate), this couldn’t have been better timed.

Serious Eats: The Crisper Whisperer - 10 Small Ways to Eat Joyfully this Summer
Love this simple, happy-go-lucky description, straight from the author herself: “a gentle reminder to love the food you're with, and ten small ways to do it.” Ahhh … summer.

Shelter Pop: 5 Kitchen Trends to Avoid
Remodeling? Here’s what not to do.

Slashfood: Pork’s “White Meat” Slogan Goes Dark
After two-plus decades, “The Other White Meat” is being ousted. Suggested replacements:
Pork: It’s where bacon comes from. Kind of.
Pork: All the manliness of beef, minus the endemic heart attacks.
Pork: It rhymes with “spork,” but it’s different.

AND ALSO

Failbook: Calculus Jokes Are a Slippery Slope
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Veggie Might: Fruit Gazpacho for the Overcommitted

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

We’ve all had these weekends. One day the calendar is empty; you are free to do as you please. Then suddenly, you find that every hour is booked with something Very Important—much of it fun, but still—and your weekend looms like a wobbling Jenga tower.

If you’re like me, the quivering shadow does not mean you will scale back or reprioritize. No. You will keep stacking the pieces, praying to the Scheduling Gods that no one pulls out the wrong block. But I usually do.

However, when one of the activities is a Sunday afternoon potluck/barbecue for 13 foodie adults (plus two wild-eyed cherubs), this recipe for fruit gazpacho will save your sanity.

Fast, cheap (depending on seasonality), and totally manageable, the steps are make a fruit salad, and zap it in the blender. Even chilling in advance is optional; a few ice cubes will do the trick in a pinch.

The peeling and chopping took about 40 minutes, but I found the mindless labor soothing after the blocks took a tumble Saturday afternoon. Once chopped, the fruit needs just a few minutes in the blender or food processor, and you’re done.

Because the fruit is well in season, there is no need for added sugar. The mint adds that je ne sai quoi that all my friends are catching on to. It used to be my secret weapon, but it’s become a trademark. Add mint to just about any fruit dish and you will receive praise to the stars.

Use just about any fruit you like. I found watermelon to be a terrific addition because it was on sale (!) and provided a good amount of liquid. If you opt out of the melon family, you may need to add more juice.

My little fruit soup experiment was a surprise hit at the rain-soaked barbecue. It was delicious if I do say so, and refreshing on what started out to be a sticky, hot day. Despite the rain, it was a perfect Sunday afternoon. I didn’t even care when half the gazpacho hit Kris’s kitchen floor. The blocks had fallen the day before, perspective had been regained (thanks CB), and I was among friends.

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If you’re tickled by this recipe, you’ll flip for
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The Last Strawberry Fruit Gazapacho
Yields about 16 oz and approximately 6 servings


1 cup watermelon
1 cup pineapple
1 cup mango
1 cup mixed berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.)
1 cup orange juice
2 tbsp lime juice
10 mint leaves, chopped

1) Wash and chop fruit into coarse chunks. You don’t have to be neat about it; it’s all going into the blender/food processor.

2) Whiz the lime juice, watermelon, and yellow fruits together in the blender 1 minute or until smooth. Pour into large bowl or storage container.

3) Combine berries and orange juice in the blender. Zap for 2 minutes or until completely pureed.

4) Add chopped mint leaves and blend for couple of minutes or so.

5) Strain out the berry seeds if you want/have the patience (I didn’t bother). Pour the berry mix into the watermelon mix, and stir to combine.

6) Chill for at least 2 hours or cool down with a few ice cubes to serve immediately.

7) Garnish with mint sprigs; serve to mmms and wows.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
60 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 1g protein, $0.58

Calculations
1 cup watermelon: 46 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, 1g protein, $.56
1 cup pineapple: 74 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 1g protein, $.75
1 cup mango: 107 calories, 0g fat, 3g fiber, 1g protein, $.50
1 cup mixed berries: 65 calories, 0g fat, 5g fiber, 1g protein, $1.03
1 cup orange juice: 112 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 2g protein, $.50
2 tbsp lime juice: 14 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $.13
10 mint leaves: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $.02
Totals: 358 calories, 0g fat, 11g fiber, 6g protein, $3.49
PER SERVING (TOTALS/6): 60 calories, 0g fat, 2g fiber, 1g protein, $.58