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Wednesday, September 28, 2005 

Saving Money On Party Snacks - Savoury Grated Zuchinni Potato Mozarella Veggie Comfort Burgers

Mozzarella di Bufala - 200 GramI was watching Chef Emeril yesterday, pancake day, and he made fascinating looking Goat Cheese-Stuffed Zuchinni Pancakes. But while I don't mind goat cheese once in a while, I prefer the heavenly gooey chewiness of melted bocconcinni mozarella. So here's a more savoury, high-protein variation on Emeril's recipe using chickpea flour mixed with white flour, and both zuchinni and potato. Apologies for the inexact measurements. I also skipped the baking soda in Emeril's recipe, but if you want an airier texture, put 1 teaspoon.


  • 1/2 cup grated zuchinni, after wrapping in kitchen towel/ cheesecloth and squeezing out the water.
  • 1/2 cup grated potato. You can leave the skin on if you like, but it's probably better to remove it. To reduce cooking time, you can also add roughly-mashed cooled boiled potatoes (i.e., just potato, no cream, milk, etc.).
  • 3 canned shiitake (or other) mushrooms, finely minced.
  • 1/2 small onion, grated.
  • 1 tbsp Mom's secret garlic ginger paste.
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flake [optional].
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour for protein. It's known as "besan" in East/West Indian and Pakistani stores, and gram flour in Italian and regular grocery stores. You can grind your own from dried chickpeas if you can't find the flour.
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3-4 small (bocconcini) mozarella balls, sliced thinly but without falling apart. These are popular enough these days that any good cheese shop, Italian market, or even the deli counter at a large supermarket will have them. You can substitute bufffalo mozzarella, but it's more expensive. If you can't get either, regular grated or sliced mozarella will work as well.
  • In one bowl, combine all of the above ingredients down to the red pepper flake.
  • In another bowl, combine the flours then the egg. You want a fairly pasty consistency, so you may need to add a bit more water.
  • Now combine all of the ingredients together. With a large spoon, scoop up some mixture and see whether it'll fall off the spoon. If not, add 1-2 tbsp of water and mix.
  • Heat a skillet or non-stick frying pan on medium high with the olive oil and butter.
  • When the butter has melted, turn the heat down to medium high.
  • Cook in batches: Ladle a heaping tablespoonful of mixture into the hot oil, and dab it down to flatten into a disc. Place a slice of bocconcinni cheese in the center of the disc. Now ladle another spoonful of mixture on top to cover the cheese. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip over. Cook 2nd side for about 2 minutes. (Chickpea flour needs to be thoroughly cooked.) Repeat for each burger.

You can serve these pancake/burgrs like Emeril did, on a chunky tomato sauce or salsa, or with a dollop of sour cream, or with a slice of tomato on a burger bun.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005 

Saving Money On Party Snacks: Shiitake Onion Pakora/Tempura

When I've got a craving for a snack with a high mouth feel and belly satisfaction level, I like to have either Japanese-style tempura fritters or East Indian-style pakora fritters. But being the kind of foodie that I am, I always have to be different and try something hybrid. I lucked out one day with a great snack combo: shiitake onion pakura (pakora/tempura). They're easy to make, but do require a deep fryer and hot oil for best results. If you prefer, you can use a heavy cast iron frying pan and shallow fry the fritters. However, they will be denser, so you won't get the light, fluffy but crispy texture

  • 4 parts besan (chickpea flour). You can find besan in East/West Indian and Pakistani markets. If you cannot find besan, grind up dried chickpeas in a coffee/spice grinder.
  • 1 part tapioca starch or tempura mix (preferred).
  • Salt + pepper to taste.
  • Red pepper flake [optional].
  • 1-2 parts water. The amount of water will vary. You want to form a paste that's not too runny. It has to be able to bind the mushroom and onion filling.
  • 1 small onion, sliced into thin slivers and pieces separated.
  • 4-8 canned shiitake mushrooms, sliced very thinly.

  • Mix dry ingredients thoroughly with a spoon or fork.
  • Slowly add water until a paste, slightly thicker than pancake batter, starts to form.
  • Add the sliced onion and shiitakes and mix thoroughly.
  • Heat oil in some safe (heavy) pot or deep fryer.
  • Carefully drop in spoonfuls of batter.
  • Fry 2-3 minutes one side, then turn over fritters using a slotted spoon and fry 1-2 minutes on the other. While the fritters should be golden brown, keep in mind that chickpea flour is very high in protein, burns easily, and stinks when it does so. If possible, try to remove the tiny balls of loose fried batter as soon as they are cooked or they will burn. If you are using a deep fryer, this might be a bit difficult. It's recommended that you fry the fritters in a heavy stockpot. The alternative is to not make the batter too watery. This means you have to cook the fritters a bit longer, as they will be thicker.
  • Drain on paper towel (kitchen paper).

Serve with a mixture of hot and/or sweet sauces, including chutneys, sambal oelek, sriracha, plum sauce, sour cream, or onion dip.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Sunday, September 25, 2005 

Saving Money For Next Year's Vegetable Garden: Collecting Rain Water in Barrels

West Nile StoryIn the Northern Hemisphere, we're in the rainy season right now. (The suggestions in this post apply to the Southern Hemisphere, too.) If you've decided to have a little garden for your vegetables, it's probably a little late this year. But if you've got the space and the means, get yourself a good rain barrel (available at garden supply and home improvement stores). It's a perfect time to collect rainwater, and using a fine mesh screen you can filter out dirt and mosquitos (they breed in large bodies of water and carry West Nile Virus). Position your barrel underneath the drainpipe, if you live in a house. Or if you have a friend or neighbour that lives in a house, ask them if they'd mind. You can keep the water in the barrel all year. Just make sure that before winter comes, cover the barrel before the water level reaches the top. You'll want to leave several inches of space, since ice expands. BTW, if you can't find a barrel you like, the Center for Watershed Protection has a 2-pg PDF brochure on building a rain barrel.

When the spring thaw comes, if you have a barrel with a spout, fill up a bucket to water your seedlings with. Having a barrel with a faucet's probably a good idea if you've got the barrel over with a friend. That way, you won't have to move the barrel around. And just think, with all the "conserve water" days that some communities had this year (at least in North America), your garden will be nice and lush and you won't have to break the law, or spend money on water. And the money you save growing your own vegetables and herbs will pay back the cost of the barrel, probably in one growing season.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Friday, September 23, 2005 

Saving Money on Party Snacks: High-Protein ChickPea-Battered Pakora (Vegetable) Fritters

Pakora MixDeep Foods Samosas - All Natural Vegetable Entree, Frozen Food, 8 ozIf all you know about East Indian food is papadums and samosas, you're going to love pakoras. The batter is made from chickpea flour - known as "besan" in East and West Indian groceries. The filling is up to you: diced vegetables of all kinds. Just make sure you use firm vegetables (i.e., stay away from delicates like peas, snow peas, celery, sprouts). I'm not a beer-drinker myself, but as with samosas, word is that pakoras are great with beer. Keep in mind, though, that both items are very high in protein. Don't over-indulge.

In the interests of keeping my recipe posts shorter, I'm trying a new, non-traditional format, the summarized recipe, for some dishes. If you don't like (or if you do), drop me a line.

Ingredients: (1) Besan/chickpea flour (or grind your own from dried chickeas); (2) water to form a batter; salt and black pepper, crushed red pepper flake (optional) and a 1/2 tsp of curry powder or ground cumin; (3) onion, diced potato, eggplant, zuchinni, cauliflower - all cut into large chunks.

Preparation: (1) Place the chickpea flour or ground chickpeas in a mixing bowl. (2) Add salt, pepper, chili flake, and curry powder or cumin. (3) Now slowly add about 1/4 cup of water at a time, and mix with a fork. When you have a thick batter that isn't runny, add another 1/8 cup of water and mix thoroughly. (4) Add all the diced, raw veggies and mix so that the pieces are all coated. (5) Wash your hands and dry carefully. (6) For best results, deep fry heaping tablespoonfuls of batter and veggies as individual "balls". If you prefer shallow frying, use about 1/2 inch of cooking oil in a cast-iron pan. The latter method produces flatter, denser fritters. The former method produces fluffier but crispy bulging spheres. Cook fritters on high heat until almost golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, then flip over to cook the other side (about 3 minutes). Note: these fritters tend to burn sooner in a cast-iron pan, so you may need to reduce cooking time and/or heat slightly. (7) Use a slotted spoon to remove fritters, and move to a plate lined with a double-layer of paper towels (kitchen paper).

Presentation: Serve with tamarind dipping sauce, raita (sour cream w/ small-diced cucumber), mango chutney, sriracha hot sauce, or even ketchup.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Thursday, September 22, 2005 

Tips On Saving Money: Growing Your Own Bean Sprouts, and a Recipe for a Quick Bean Sprout + Mushroom Stir-Fry

Joyce Chen 14-Inch Carbon Steel Wok SetBean sprouts are incredibly cheap, highly nutritious, and versatile enough to add to a lot of dishes (stir fries, fried rice, vegetable curries, salads). But they spoil quickly. If you enjoy eating bean sprouts but find yourself throwing a lot out, why not save even more money and grow your own? All you need is a jar of water, mung beans, and a couple of days.

Once you've got your sprouts, try out this simple mushroom stir-fry recipe. Remember that with stir-fries, you want to quick the food very quickly on high heat. For that reason, have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go, and try to use a proper wok; however, a non-stick frying pan will do. Do not use cast-iron, as they'll burn your ingredients. Definitely stay away from electric woks (they can't get the heat you need for a proper stir-fry).

  • 1-2 tbsp cooking oil (canola or vegetable).
  • Small drizzle of sesame oil [optional]
  • 1 small onion, cut in to 1/8ths.
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced.
  • 1 slice of ginger, peeled, finely minced [optional].
  • 2-3 button mushrooms, sliced.
  • 1/2 bell pepper (green and/or red), slivered.
  • 1/4 cup carrot, half-disks or julienned.
  • 1/4 cup celery, sliced on a diagonal bias.
  • 1-2 cups bean sprouts, depending on how much you like them.
  • 1 tsp corn starch, diluted in 1/2 cup of water. (Stir with a fork until the starch dissolves.)
  • 1 tsp Oriental black bean-garlic paste, hoisin, oyster sauce (or vegetarian oyster sauce).

  • In a wok or non-stick frying pan, heat cooking oil on high heat.
  • When oil is hot, add sesame oil, onion, garlic, and ginger. Sautee and toss for a minute or two.
  • Add mushrooms. Sautee and toss for 2-3 minutes. Do not add salt and pepper yet, as that draws out water from vegetables and makes your stir fry runny.
  • Add bell pepper. Sautee and toss for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add carrot. Sautee and toss for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add celery. Sautee and toss for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the bean sprouts and toss.
  • Stir the diluted corn starch once, then add whatever sauce (black bean paste, etc.) you're using to the solution. Stir to incorporate.
  • Add the corn starch-sauce solution slowly to the stir-fry. Toss the vegetable mixture with a spatula to distribute the solution well. Let the most of the liquid burn off before you turn off the heat. If you prefer a mostly dry stir-fry dish, skip the corn starch/water mix and just add a bit of your paste choice to the stir fry. Keep in mind, however, that these pastes will tend to burn very quickly and become bitter. So toss frequently, for 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat and serve.

Serve plain or on a bed of steamed rice.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 

A Top 5(+1) List For Overcoming Food Budget Anxiety - A Few Tips To Save Money

Senseo HD7810/65 Single Serve Coffee Machine, BlackFood budgeting is an odd thing. It's relatively easy to sit down and make out a budget for your monthly food bill, but its altogether much harder to actually follow it. I've found that I just cannot stick to my budget most of the time if I just set a dollar value. It's frustrating, and every time I go to the grocery store, I get kind of anxious about whether I should buy this or buy that item.

However, if I look at my budget from a different point of view, I get better results. Instead of just trying to meet my monthly food spending limit, I try to divide this number by approximately $30 days. Let's say my budget is $120/m for ALL types of meals, including a night out at a restaurant and eating lunch at the company cafeteria. Then I cannot spend more than $120/30 d = $4/d, on average. Ask yourself, can you possibly get by on $4/d for 3 meals? Can you come up with ways to reduce the cost of each meal you consume?

Your answer is probably an immediate "no". But consider whether or not achieving this goal matters to you. If you can afford to spend more than $120/m on food and meals, and have no motivation to stay within a budget, you probably will spend more. But if you are willing to develop some discipline to achieve this goal, then you can probably manage. Here are some suggestions, in no particular order. Many of these, you won't like at first, but could probably get used to. Others you'll have no problem with.

  1. Stop drinking coffee in the morning, unless you brew it yourself at home. Many coffee-makers can make a cup of coffee in 30 seconds, or be programmed to start brewing at a certain time each morning. Your coffee'll be ready before you are.
  2. If you're used to going out for lunch on a working day, try taking a sandwich to work at least 2-3 times a week. To keep it interesting, try a couple of different types of bread or wraps. (Freeze any bread that you don't use right away, and use it later for things such as French toast.)
  3. Reduce the amount of meat that you use in each dish. In many Asian and European countries, meat is an accent, not the main ingredient. By decreasing the meat and increasing the quantity of vegetables and even broth, you not only reduce the cost of the meal, but you make it generally healthier.
  4. Stretch your dollar by buying a "family pack" of ground beef, or better yet, chicken or turkey. When you get home, portion off the meat into one- or two-person servings, place the portions in freezer bags, and freeze all but what you plan to eat for a day or two. When you're out of thawed meat, take a bag out of the freezer in the morning, and place it in the fridge. (It's a bad idea to leave it on the kitchen counter all day.) To further reduce your costs, if you happen to have lots of space in the freezer portion of your fridge, or fortunate enough to have a separate freezer unit, consider buying meat in bulk from your local butcher. There are more and more small businesses open to the public that will butcher as little as a 1/4 side of beef or what have you, and cut it/grind it to your specifications. Some will even deliver. What's more, some sell only free-range meat, which hasn't been injected with all kinds of hormones harmful to humans and animals.
  5. Try making your own soups at home. Put in lots of nutritious ingredients such as vegetables and beans/legumes (which are high in protein). Use a small portion of meat and cut it into small pieces. Alternatively, spoon in a few dabs of ground meat for mini-meatballs.
And finally, one last tip, which I suspect may have the most opposition:
  • Reduce the amount of food you eat. I'm not telling you to go hungry. But the honest truth is that many of us have very busy lives and we eat on the run, or just quickly. This means we aren't chewing our food; we end up swallowing chunks of it. These chunks are probably going to sit in your belly improperly digested. I won't get into it here, but this in turn promotes all manner of bad health. Try this: the next time you eat something, anything, close your mouth and chew very slowly. Chew at least 20-30 times per bite. Initially, this is very frustrating and your temptation will be to swallow before chewing fully. So keep trying this consciously. Nutrients from food, to be properly absorbed into our bodies, need to be pre-digested by saliva as much as possible. What's more, when you do chew slowly, you'll find that your body/belly tells you that it's not so hungry after as little as half your normal food intake. If you can manage to discipline yourself to chew every bite of every meal slowly, you could effectively reduce your food bill by half, absorb more nutrients than you are right now, and find yourself slimming down because of the reduction in calories.
Is any of this motivation enough for you, to reduce your monthly food bill and improve your health? Note: As always, before changing your diet drastically, please consult your doctor or alternative health practitioner.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005 

Tips on Saving Money: Indoor Gardening: Herbs and Sprouts

Burpee Seed Starter: A Guide to Growing Flower, Vegetable, and Herb Seeds Indoors and Outdoors (Burpee (Paperback))Hydroponics For The Home Gardener: An Easy-to-follow, Step-by-step Guide For Growing Healthy Vegetables, Herbs And House Plants Without Soil.
Short of owning your own greenhouse, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere in a cold country, you're probably out of luck for growing any more vegetables until next spring. You can, however, grow herbs and start seeds in mini clay pots on your window sill. (Grow some wheatgrass for your cats, if you have any.) Starting seeds indoors in early spring is also a great way to get your backyard, deck or balcony gardens going when the warmer weather comes. Sprouting seeds are also great for salads, high in chlorophyll, protein, and nutrients. And you can grow many of them without soil.

You can save money on spices, too. In fact, this applies all year round: Buy whole spices and grind them yourself, when you're about to use them. Pre-ground spices cost more in most stores, and they should be used within 3-6 months, preferably less, else they go stale. With fresh ground spices, you get the full aroma - something that pre-ground spices often lack. I like mixing up small batches (enough to last me 2-4 weeks) of unusual whole spices and dried herbs, including tea. I find that unless I put in something extremely contrasting, any mixture I concoct will either work with a dish, or in a soup.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Monday, September 19, 2005 

The Best-Kept Vietnamese Secret: French-Style Baguette Sandwiches (Subs, Hoagies, Rockets)

If you read my Curry Elvis Cooks blog, you already know that I'm enamored of Vietnamese food. I've lost track of just how many posts I've written about this cuisine. You'd almost think I don't eat anything else. Well, the truth is that I am a big fan of noodles, whether Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese. But of all of these cuisines, my observation is that Vietnamese restaurants are consistently inexpensive. Two people can each eat a satisfying bowl of pho (pronounced fuh) for the cost of one entree at most other restaurants.

Vietnamese food, plain and simple, is satisfying and affordable. I've had a very few friends say that they think Vietnamese foods are bland. I surely don't know which restaurant they went to, but I've eaten Vietnamese food in at least 7 or 8 cities without ever thinking it bland. If you try the rich broth of their (pho) soups, I doubt you'll ever think that. The plain vermicelli noodles with grilled meats do, I admit, need some hoisin, hot sauce, or dipping sauce to ad some flavour, as the noodles themselves have texture but not flavour - I'll admit. It's the accompanients that provide the flavour.

But if paying under $5 for a "small" bowl of rice noodle soup and meats is too expensive for you, try the best kept Vietnamese secret: their submarine sandwiches for between $1.50-2.50. These sandwiches use crusty, chewy mini-baguettes (the French occupied Vietnam for some years), with a couple of slices of meat, pickled radish and carrot, parsley, sometimes a liverwurst spread. These sandwiches are inexpensive, and one makes a nice snack, two a meal. But if you're buying these sandwiches prepackaged at a local Oriental grocer, watch out for the tiny serrano/bird chiles, which are sometimes accidentally inside the sub.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Grandma's Mushroom Veggie Burger

In one of my Curry Elvis Cooks posts, I mused about a delicious, juicy mushroom and chickpea flour fritter that my great-grandmother and grandmother both used to hand-feed me while I sat on their knee as toddler. The entry in this blog refers to that recipe (ignore the references to zuchinni blossoms). The veggie burger here is healthier than my last version.

  • 2 mushroom fritters, from the Curry Elvis Cooks recipe.
  • Hamburger bun
  • Cheese slice, swiss or mozzarella
  • Mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tomato slices
  • Lettuce - Boston, romaine, or whatever you like

  • If the mushroom fritter is cold, heat it up in the microwave, or in a non-stick pan with 1/2 tsp of olive oil or butter.
  • Toast the hamburger bun when the fritter is almost ready.
  • Place a slice of cheese on the fritter while it is still hot.
  • Spread mayo or your favourite sauce on the bun.
  • Layer on the lettuce and tomato, then the fritter and cheese.

Serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Serve with apple juice, grape juice or a ginger ale.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Saturday, September 17, 2005 

A 15-Minute Inexpensive Veggie Burger, and Why The Packaged Kind Are So Expensive

When vegetarian food started becoming very popular in North America close to a decade ago, all kinds of prepackaged vegetarian burgers and entrees started popping up. I don't know about your city, but in the places I've lived in the past decade, I needed a small bank loan to buy some of these things. You'd think vegetarian food would be inexpensive - come on, there's only vegetables - but the prepackaged stuff isn't. Wondering why? Well, I can't offer you any specific references just yet, but meat is subsidized by all kinds of marketing boards. And the volume of meat sales helps keep the prices down. Vegetarian entrees and burgers and such are relatively new, have a smaller market, presumably spoil faster because they don't tend to have as many preservatives, and have "new-to-develop/ new-to-market" costs to cover.

So if you can't afford those packaged veggie burgers, I'm going to offer you a few alternatives, starting with this post. Alright, I know that this isn't the healthiest of veggie burgers, but if you want something relatively quick, it's easy to make and satisfying. If you are still eating meat and aren't sure you want to increase your veggie consumption/ decrease your meat consumption, this is a good starting point. I've made the following "veggie" burger for many people, including vegetarians, and had a very positive response.

  • Potato patty, thawed or frozen. If you've ever had breakfast at a fast food place, these are those breakfast potato patties (aka Hash Browns) that most places serve.)
  • Hamburger bun
  • Cheese slice, cheddar or mozzarella
  • Mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tomato slices
  • Lettuce - Boston, romaine, or whatever you like

  • Depending on your preference, prepare the potato patty as per instructions. You can use an oven, toaster oven, or microwave. If you do use a microwave, you'll probably want to fry it up a bit in a bit of butter or cooking oil, in a non-stick pan, to crisp it up a bit.
  • Toast the hamburger bun when the patty is almost ready.
  • Place a slice of cheese on the patty while it is still hot.
  • Spread mayo or your favourite sauce on the bun.
  • Layer on the lettuce and tomato, then the patty and cheese.
Serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Serve with tomato juice or something similar.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Friday, September 16, 2005 

A List of Food Budget Tips From My Father

As I said in a previous post, my father has managed to keep his monthly food budget very low by some disciplined eating. Here are some of the things he does:

  1. Eats meat only once a week. This saves him a considerable amount of money. I don't recommend this for everyone, especially if you are not used to it. Start by eating smaller portions of meat, then try to skip meat one day a week. When you are okay with that, see if you can add another day. It helps to have good, delicious vegetarian recipes that don't make you miss meat. I'll have such recipes coming up in future posts. Ultimately, you may only be able to skip one or two days of meat, which still reduces your food budget.
  2. Substitutes meat protein with legumes and lentil. Dal/lentil soup is easy to make, delicious, nutritious, and very high in protein. If you have never tried it, you can actually go to an East Indian temple and have a serving of dal and rice for free. They hand it out to whomever comes. I know a lot of punk rockers over the years that learned about Indian food when they were poor and living in Toronto, Canada. They went to the nearest temple for "prasad" (the name of the free offering). For the most part, no one will force religion on you. Everyone is welcome. Some Buddhist temples offer food as well, although I think that is less common in North America.
  3. If he misses the texture of meat, he'll have some meaty mushrooms or some red kidney beans. This of course isn't the same as meat, but it can be a satisfactory substitute until your "meat day".
  4. Fasts once a week, on Mondays, for health reasons. Warning: Do not do this without some expert supervision. My father studied advanced yoga for five solid years when he was in his early 20s. He's able to manage this. The best I can do is half a day. And that's mainly because, when I'm on the go, rushing here and there, I don't want to faint. If you have health problems, don't this at all.
  5. Eats only when hungry. Too often, we fall prey to media. Who isn't feeling a little peckish after watching a pizza commercial on TV. Or reading a food blog :D Try to snack on homemade stuff instead of buying expensive bags of peanuts or party mix. I'll have some party mix recipes posted soon.
Again, I caution you that some of the tips above require a fair bit of discipline, and some you should consult your health practitioner before attempting.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Thursday, September 15, 2005 

Iron Chef-ing Your Food Budget - A Challenge To Save Money

Iron Chef: The Official BookIf you're into food and cooking shows, chances are probably good that you've either heard of or seen the original Iron Chef TV series. It's the one where a guest chef battles it out in a high-end cook-off against a Japanese "Iron Chef". Each chef takes their own food background and infuses it into the secret ingredient, which is revealed by the flamboyant host, Chairman Kaga. (The show's huge popularity has spawned a successor, Iron Chef America. While interesting, it's now where nearly as addictive as the somewhat campy original.)

The show's general concept is actually something that goes on in cooking schools across the world. At the end of a course, students have to prepare what is sometimes called a "black box" meal. Each student is given a station to work at, along with a black box of several secret ingredients including meat, vegetables, starches, spices and condiments. Every student in a class is given a random combination of items. Their goal: produce a creative meal within the given time limit.

I used to tell friends, before I ever saw my first Iron Chef episode, that if you gave me a main ingredient (meaning meat, though), I could come up with pretty much any meal. I used to sometimes pick a cuisine at random, as well. It's a lot of fun, as well as a way to keep your meals varied. I've never made exactly the same meal twice. You can do something similar, whether it's for a vegetarian or non-vegetarian meal. Many large groceries package up vegetables and fruits that are nearing their prime and list them at a discount price. Meats are sometimes on sale as well. Grab a few sale items at random and see if you can't come up with something. When in doubt, a stir-fry or curry almost always works.

My mother has been doing this for a while now. Being a strict vegetarian, she's already saving on the cost of meat. She saves even further by buying sale-priced fruits and veggies. You can buy in small quantities and eat the items quickly and still enjoy their flavour. I haven't added up her food bill, but it's probably under $100/m.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005 

Living on $10,000 A Year - Tips For Controlling Your Food Budget

Eating CheapThe title of this post is a bit misleading, but I want to illustrate a point about food budgets and finances. About 10 years ago, a politician (from the province of Ontario, Canada, if you're keeping track), said that welfare recipients should be able to get by on a food budget of about $80/m. Of course, there was an outcry about this. The average single person back then might have been spending about $120-160/m on groceries. Now this was when gasoline was literally about 1/4 the price it is now. So delivery costs hadn't pushed up the price of everything.

About 2 years ago, I mentioned this food budget fiasco to my father (divorced and living on his own), and he said that he actually managed to get by on about $16/wk for groceries. Now keep a couple of things in mind:

(1) This was 2 years ago. Gasoline was about two-thirds its current price. Some food items have gone up considerably. (Which is why I prefer to go to Oriental groceries and Farmers' Market.)

(2) My father is in his early 70s and doesn't eat much as he used to.

(3) He consumes almost no animal protein. Maybe a bit of fish at most once a week. He gets most of his protein from lentils and legumes, and some mushrooms.

Inspired by this, for the past two years, I've been trying to follow his example. While I cannot get my budget down as low as he has, I seem to be able to average about $20-22/wk over a month, but only for some months. My biggest cost is usually meat. (I was a vegetarian for several years, but because of health reasons, I have to have some meat protein.). I have, however, managed to keep my food budget mostly in check. In future entries, I'll post some of my father's vegetarian recipes and his tips for stretching your food budget.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005 

Kitchen Gadgets and Garage Sale Items

OXO Grind It 41201 Spice Grinder with Empty JarCuisinart DCG20N Coffee Grinder - WhiteFactory-Reconditioned KitchenAid RKP2671XWH Professional 6-Quart Stand Mixer, WhiteKitchen gadgets - Every time an email or paper flyer comes my way for kitchen gadgets, I drool. I'm currently drooling over one of those sexy, multipurpose KitchenAid mixers. I dated a girl once who begged me to buy her one of those, with all the extras. Sorry sweetie; I get the first KitchenAid I buy. And if you're lucky, I might let you use it.

However, when I recall the basement cold space full of kitchen implements collecting dust, I come back to reality. Every once in a while, though, I'll splurge a small amount of money to get some multipurpose gadget that I know I'll actually use. The gadget currently getting the most use by me right now is my coffee grinder. Except I don't drink coffee, so I use it for spices. (If you want to grind coffee and spices, get two separate units - unless you like curry-flavoured coffee.) I often the best deals for kitchen equipment at places like K-Mart (Canada, US) or Canadian Tire (Canada). The big department stores are almost always more expensive.

While I only spent $14+tax on my spice grinder, I noticed a few used ones at a garage sale recently. At this time of year, a few months before the cold season sets in, whole neighbourhoods set up the tables and bring out their wares. Check out a few of these bargains. You might find something useful as well as something you like. (Just remember to wash it thoroughly, in case any crawlies are hiding.)

Reader Note: The images in this post are affiliate links created using Zoundry Blog Writer software. As I do not live in the United States and thus do not qualify for their Zoundry Service, I do not earn any commissions if you purchase any of the items shown here. However, Zoundry will earn the commissions, which is fine by me, in support for their great free blogging software.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Monday, September 12, 2005 

Coupon Clipping For Food Items and A Simple Flatbread Stir-Fry Pizza Recipe

Chef Paul Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning Blends ~ Pizza & Pasta Magic Hot & Sweet, 3.6-Ounce BottleBaker's Secret 14-Inch Pizza PanSassafras 15-Inch Round Superstone Baking Stone with RackI remember, years ago, when I was a kid, my mother clipped coupons. she had stacks of newspapers that she went through, clipping out coupons that she would and could use. She was both frugal and discplined. Me? That's another story.

If I used food coupons, I'd probably need a moving van to deliver items that I'd not normally eat. This is, of course, no way to save money. And my point, of course, is, only save coupons for items you'd actually eat. Don't even clip out the other coupons. Or if you do, give them to someone you know would use that product. I'm not sure if charities can use the coupons, but it wouldn't hurt to ask your local food banks if they take coupons to hand out.

That said, I have to be honest and say that even over the past 4 calendar years, I have seen fewer and fewer coupons in supermarket flyers and newspapers. What I mostly see are coupons for fast food joints. Especially pizza. Save yourself a few bucks and make your own flatbread pizza (recipe below).

You could use a pre-made pizza shell, if you like, but any sort of flatbread that has a bit of thickness works quite well. Do not use tortillas, unless you want to eat your pizza with a knife and fork. Keep in mind that even thick flatbreads are generally softer than pizza shells, so hold hot pieces with care.

If I'm making any dry stir-fry, what I like to do is keep a bit of the dish aside for a flatbread pizza later in the week. This way, your pizza takes less time to make. What's more, if you're a mushroom fan, try pre-sauteed mushrooms on your pizza instead of raw slices, and you'll know why I do this. I've never tasted a more heavenly pizza than one with pre-sauteed mushrooms.


  • Flatbread - the thickest you can find, or pre-baked pizza shells.
  • Olive oil (or in a pinch, canola oil) [optional]
  • Spaghetti sauce or plain tomato sauce.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano. When baked in an oven, oregano produces a wonderful aroma that suits Italian-based cooking. You can substitute with any pizza seasonings.
  • Crushed red pepper flake [optional]
  • 2-3 tbsp of stir-fried veggies and meat (bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, beef or chicken strips). Make sure that you strain off any liquid. Pat the mixture dry with paper towels (kitchen paper), if necessary.
  • Grated cheese - your choice. I like to mix mozzarella and cheddar.

  • Since all of the ingredients are pre-cooked, you could use a microwave, but the result will be soggy. If you do use one, ignore the references to an oven, below, and heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, until the cheese melts. To avoid burning your mouth, let cool a bit before eating.
  • Before you start preparing the preparing the ingredients, turn your oven on and preheat to 325 Fahrenheit.
  • With your clean fingers, lightly and gently rub no more than 1-2 tsp of oil on the surface of the flatbread. Use a very small amount The thinner the flatbread, the less you should use.
  • Similarly, using the back of large spoon, spread 1-2 tbsp, maximum, of tomato or spaghetti sauce over the surface.
  • Sprinkle on the salt, black pepper, oregano, and crushed red pepper flake.
  • Spoon on the stir-fry veggies and meat, making sure they are evenly distibuted. If the flatbread you are using is small, spoon on less mixture. You don't want a heap of mixture; just enough for taste and texture.
  • Evenly distribute the cheese to cover the veggies and meat.
  • Place the flatbread pizza on a cookie sheet or, if you have one, a pizza sheet or baking stone. The pizza sheets that have perforations in them will allow the bread to crisp up a bit.
  • Bake for no more than 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Cut in quarters and enjoy with a drink.

Reader Note: The images in this post are affiliate links created using Zoundry Blog Writer software. As I do not live in the United States and thus do not qualify for their Zoundry Service, I do not earn any commissions if you purchase any of the items shown here. However, Zoundry will earn the commissions, which is fine by me, in support for their great blogging software.

(c) Copyright 2005-Present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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Sunday, September 11, 2005 

How Does Your Garden Grow Pt II - Things To Compost Your Garden With

Above, a large globe eggplant from my mother's deck garden.

It's probably a bit late this year to grow anything more than a few herbs indoors, unless you live in some nice sunny climes. But for next year, if you decide to set up a small barrel to grow a few veggies and herbs in, here are a few things that you should consider saving:

(1) Egg shells, crushed
(2) Used tea bags or coffee grounds (plain, no flavoured coffee)
(3) Any fruit or vegetable cuttings that you don't use

The first two items, at least, can be saved in a large, air-tight cannister without smelling too bad. For vegetable cuttings, if you're saving them until next summer, you'll need to get yourself a composter and the necessary compost worms - in which case, get one that locks up or you may have racoons visiting if you're within 5 miles of a forest. Eggshells and tea bags/coffee grounds add rich nutrients to soil, which helps your garden grow faster and healthier. Fruit and veggie cuttings are break down and get converted to soil by compost worms.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,
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Saturday, September 10, 2005 

Day-Old Bakery Bargains and a Recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Ham on Croissant

I don't know what it's like in other countries, but in Canada, we love our donuts. Now while fresh is preferred, day-olds don't usually taste all that bad, and they cost less. Most bakeries, or the bakery section of your supermarket, offer day-old specials on other baked goods as well. Items such as day-old croissants aren't half bad with a dab of mayo or pesto mayo. Here's a simple recipe I threw together the other day with day old croissants. I used mini-croissants, but it's up to you. Caution: this sandwich is quite rich, so if you're watching your diet, you may want to drop a few items such as the mayo and marinated artichokes.

  • Croissant. I used day-olds to save a bit of money.
  • Mayo or pesto mayo [optional, since most croissants are pretty moist from the butter content] Pesto mayo can be made by combining about 1/2 or 1 tsp of pesto for every 1 tbsp of mayo. [I'll post a recipe for pesto soon, as basil is in abundance at the Farmers' Markets right now.]
  • Boston lettuce. If you don't eat a lot of lettuce, buy a small head so you don't end up wasting it. You can also substitute other leafy greens such as spinach or arugula.
  • Roasted red pepper. Make your own or buy it. I only eat a small quantity at a time. So instead of buying a large jar or can, I just get a small plastic container's worth at the deli counter. It's a bit more expensive, but it's less than wasting most of a large bottle. Slice one pepper lengthwise into whatever size will fit on your croissant.
  • Artichokes, marinated [optional]. Break up the pieces so that they'll lie flat on your croissant. I've found small jars at 99 cents at my local Farmer's Market (at a cheese vendor), compared to the same size for $2.49 at supermarkets. Of course, as I've mentioned previously, artichokes are a love or hate kind of food item.
  • Sliced meat - I like something like turkey or chicken for this sandwich, because they enhance the rich flavours of pesto, roasted red pepper, and marinated artichokes, all of which have a large oil content - so non-oily meat gives a nice contrast.

  • Slice a croissant in half, lengthwise.
  • Spread a small quantity of mayo or pesto mayo on one side.
  • Lay down the lettuce on top of the mayo, followed by roasted red pepper strips and artichokes [if using].
  • Fold each slice of meat loosely in half and layer on a few slices.
  • Close up the sandwich, cut on a bias, and voila.

Serve with a few homemade potato chips and/or a bowl of soup.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Friday, September 09, 2005 

Homemade Potato Chips

With the cost of gasoline rising out of control, our enitre lives are affected. Food, especially, seems to be rising in leaps and bounds. I've heard store owners tell me that wholesalers are increasing the price of some items by as much as a whole dollar all at once. It makes for some very unhappy customers.

Another trend that I've noticed over many decades is how the potato chip industry increases their prices. They'll come out with a new, medium size bag at a slightly increased price, drop the smallest size, then bring it back later at a higher price. They've been doing this for years. I don't want to sound like some silly old man reminiscing about days gone by, but I do remember when a standard "family size" bag of potato chips (or crisps as they call them in England) was only 25 cents. But with all kinds of competitors in this multi-billion dollar industry, the prices are all over the map.

Anyway, if you're stressed out from the cost of food and want to just kick back with some party food without spending a lot of money, you can make your potato chips. It only takes a bit of effort, but the results are quite satisfying.

  • Potatoes, scrubbed and washed, then patted dry. I like to keep the skins on, but it's up to you.
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Italian seasoning (mix of dried basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, etc.)
  • Crushed red pepper flake [optional]
  • Paper towels (also known as kitchen paper)

  • Slice up the potatoes very thinly and soak them for 10-15 minutes in a large bowl of water to remove some of the starch.
  • Pat the slices dry and lay them out, unlayered, on a cookie sheet or plate lined with paper towels. WARNING: Make sure they are completely dry, or you'll spatter hot oil all over yourself.
  • If you are not comfortable frying with a large quantity of oil, shallow fry the slices a few at a time in a heavy cast-iron frying pan with about a 1/2 of oil. Remember to turn the slices over so they don't burn on one side.
  • As soon as the slices are golden brown, remove to a cookie sheet lined with paper towlels. Immediately sprinkle with seasonings and toss to coat.
  • Continue with the next batch of chips.

Eat plain or serve with dip.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash

Thursday, September 08, 2005 

Bad Grocery Shopping Habits? - Fixing Food Fright

No one's done a study on this that I know of, but there's something about a bag of grapes that consistently makes me waste most of it. I eat some of them the day I buy the grapes, but after that they sit in the fridge and rot. Some therapist somewhere might tell me that it has to do wth some grape-related trauma that I suffered as a kid, but I've only being doing this for the past 4 calendar years. I find that my mother does the same thing with cucumbers, almost without fail. I do the same with cucumbers, but to a lesser degree.

When I realized how much money I waste on foods that I like but for some reason don't eat, I had to do something about it. If you have similar odd food-related habits, here are a few suggestions for reducing your food-fright related waste. I am specifically referring to any raw ingredients that you find yourself wasting.

(1) With fruits, set aside a portion that you'll eat the same day. With the rest, make yourself a smoothie or milkshake or fruit juice, and store in an air-tight container. If you don't plan to consume your luscious drink soon, freeze it.

(2) With most vegetables, you can make a soup out of them, then puree them and store in air-tight containers. Again, if you're not going to be indulging right away, freeze the containers. You can also make a salsa with many raw vegetables.

(3) Obviously these tips don't apply to meat, cheese and certain other items. However, if you have a slab of meat, trim it and remove any bones. Now cube the meat. Using a food processor, grind up the meat. You many need to add a touch of cooking oil to lubricate the blades. Do not use a blender or you'll end up with a meatshake :S Now you can store the ground meat in freezer bags. (I always put the meat in a low-quality freezer bag, seal it, then place the bag in a higher-quality freezer bag. This way, I can reuse the good bag for non-meat items, if necessary.)

Alternately, you can mix the ground meat with salt, black pepper, a bit of soya sauce or worcestershire sauce, a bit of sesame oil, finely diced onions or green onions, and mix it all together, then form burger patties. Separate the patties with parchment paper cut to fit, then freeze them. If you want to save time and electricity, you can also first partially cook all the patties on both sides (3-4 minutes each side) at the same time, then freeze them. Later, when you want to eat just one, you can finish cooking it. This takes less time and electricity than if you cook each patty separately from the raw state.

(4) With whole fish, unless you're good at filleting, get your fishmonger to do it for your. You can ask for the fillets to be packaged separately so that some of it can go in the freezer.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 

More Farmer's Market Food Finds - Rack of Lamb

I know I've been going on about Farmers' Markets and such, but my personal opinion is that, most of the time, vendors at markets have far better deals than your local supermarket. However, with the recent rapid increases in the price of fuel, that seems to be changing. Nevertheless, even with summer almost over, you can still get the last batch of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as great cuts of meat.

Case in point, two summers ago, at one of the bigger of 4 area Farmers' Markets, I found one vendor with a tantalizing full rack of lamb. Fifteen bucks per pound. No matter how much I asked, though, he wouldn't let me buy half. I had just barely over $15 left after a morning of shopping. And lo and behold, the rack of lamb only weighed a smidgen over a pound. Sold. I took it home, trimmed off any silver skin, carefully cut the rack into 8 small chops. That's not quite $1.90/chop.

I put 5 of the chops in a zippered freezer bag, each separated by parchment paper. With the other 3 chops, over 2 days, I created a new dish entirely from scratch: Ladyfinger Lamb w/ Curried Sesame Potatoes and Tomato Corn Salsa. I use the first day to invent a dish, the second day to fine tune it. Then on some future third day, I try to perfect a dish while serving it to guests. The third day came, only a few weeks later when some friends invited me to cook for them. I added fresh-made Pork Wonton Soup as an appetizer. The final meal mixed elements of Mexican, Italian, East Indian, Chinese and French cuisines. [Note: the recipes for this meal will be posted over the next few days at my Curry Elvis Cooks blog. When they are, I will update the links here.]

So what's the difference between the Farmer's Market and supermarket meats? Well, some but not all Market vendors raise free-range livestock. While some supermarkets also carry free-range, they're not as common. If you have never tasted free-range eggs, poultry, lamb, etc., you're in for a nice surprise. The livestock are not penned up; they get to roam free, which usually makes for a healthier animal. These food products aren't filled with all kinds of additives (usually delivered through the livestock's feed). I am NOT a radical of any sort; not even when I was a strict vegetarian purely for health reasons. I have found, however, that my many allergies seemed to decrease significantly when I switched to free-range products. Free-range products also seem to taste better, in my opinion.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Sunday, September 04, 2005 

Stretching Your Budget - Mushrooms and Other Fungi

[CAUTION: Potentially offensive language ahead. If you are of a sensitive nature, please read with caution or visit another food blog.]

There are two food items that I love more than anything else: any form of noodle or pasta, and mushrooms.. If you're not a mushroom fanatic, no point in reading any further. If you love mushrooms and can't get enough, but find that your fresh mushrooms spoil because you can't eat them fast enough, this blog has some suggestions for stretching your fungal food dollar...

I love going to my local Farmer's Market and buying fresh mushrooms, usually at unbelievably low prices. One vendor I visit every Saturday has several types of mushrooms, even oyster mushrooms and Japanese shiitakes for only $1.25/pint. With fresh mushrooms, I almost always cook them within 2-3 days. Leave in them a closed paper bag and they'll last up to 5 days, but usually dry out afterwards. Never store fresh mushrooms in a plastic bag. They rot quickly and your money's wasted.

[ASIDE: If you've purchased either Oyster or Shiitake mushrooms and don't know what to do with them, try a stir fry. Both types, fresh, have a great sponginess that holds well in a stir fry. The simplest dish I've made with them is to cook them up with a bit olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings. Add strips of bell pepper, slices of celery, and slivers of onions if you like - throw into a pita or tortilla for a wrap - but don't over cook either mushroom. They are quite delicate and taste best when their moisture is retained. Try to eat fresh mushrooms quickly.]

If you are a busy person that's not home often, try canned or dried mushrooms. Canned mushrooms don't taste half as good as fresh, but they're convenient and don't spoil fast - until you open the can. Once you open the can, if you don't use the whole thing, put the rest in a container that you can see through. I can't tell you how many mini, fuzzy science experiments I've ended up with because I forgot about half-used mushrooms. As canned mushrooms go, I love shiitake and straw mushrooms the best. The canned variety of these two types have a luxurious, silky, semi-firm taste that's utterly orgasmic. (To stay on the side of a G-rating, I won't go any further.) They are particularly good in Oriental or fusion cuisine soups, but also do quite well in home-made fried rice. Suggestion, canned mushrooms are usually far less expensive in an Oriental grocery than in a regular grocery's international section.

Another option, if you find that you aren't using the canned variety often, is to get yourself a large bag of dried Chinese mushrooms or even black fungus. Once again, go to your fave Oriental grocery. Regular grocery stores anywhere from $2.99-$3.99 for a tiny package of dried mushrooms. They last a very long time- upwards of a year - with no discernible difference in taste or texture. In an Oriental grocery, you can usually get a large bag for $2.99-$5.99, a far better deal than at a regular grocery.

The best way to prepare dried mushrooms or fungus is to let a few pieces soak in warm or even boiled water, in a large, shallow bowl. Usually, 40-50 minutes is good, if you are going to use them in a dry dish. For a soup, 15-30 minutes is fine, as they'll get more moisture from the soup. [In fact, you can put them in a covered bowl of warm water when you leave for work and use them when you get home. However, it's safer to refrigerate the bowl while you're gone.] Once you have soaked them, remove the mushroom or fungus pieces and give them a quick rinse. You can dice or slice them at this point. Save the soaking liquid. It's a rich source of vitamins and flavour that you can make veg or meat stock with, add to your soups, or even a delicous, rich mushroom tea for a cool evening. Do, however, strain the liquid a couple of times to get rid of grit. I find dried mushrooms to be the most economical for single, busy, people; canned mushrooms have the most palate-pleasing textures; and fresh mushrooms have the best taste and fragrance.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Saturday, September 03, 2005 

Stretching Your Budget - Don'tcha Wanna Haggle?

If you've never been to your local Farmer's Market, go have a look. Saturdays are usually the busiest, so if you're not a big fan of crowds, go later in the day, say an hour or two before closing. In fact, not only are there usually less people later in the day, you can often get some amazing bargains. Many vendors would rather drop their prices to get rid of stock than pack it all back up, carry it out, and store it elsewhere until the next market day (which for some markets is a week). Vendors at these markets are used to haggling (bargaining). They may put up little cardboard signs advertising the price drop, or even shout it out like an auctioneer. Others will give you a discount if you ask. Don't be afraid to ask. I usually set my budget at $20 and end up leaving with bags of fresh fruit and vegetables, and sometimes cold cuts and other food items. The same items in a "no frills" type of supermarket might be $25-30. In more expensive grocery stores, I've spent closer to $35 or more. You really can save that much, sometimes more if you're lucky.

But the draw back of bargaining is that you sometimes end up with a basket of something that you normally don't eat a lot of, just because you got a deal. A few weeks ago, I ended up with a basket and a half of field cucumbers. I was figuring on pickling them, as I love pickles. Except I couldn't find all of the ingredients I needed, nor the bottles, let alone the time to do it. I ended up having to eat 2-3 cucumbers a day so that they wouldn't spoil. Of course, if you buy in bulk, you can freeze certain items (as I mentioned in my 10 Tips For Stretching Your Food Budget).

Another great place for saving on groceries, at least in North America, is in Oriental markets. If you know what you're buying, you don't have to worry about the language barrier. Although I'm finding that more often than not, there's usually a younger employee that knows English. I find all kinds of cool fruit at Oriental markets that are either unavailable at regular supermarkets, or cost a fortune and have usually spoiled. At Oriental markets, the demand for these items is higher, so they can keep a fresh supply coming. [Occasionally I will publish a post, at my Curry Elvis Cooks blog, a photo of an exotic fruit, a description of its taste, and a few ways to use it.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

Thursday, September 01, 2005 

Stretching Your Budget - Thrice-Fried Rice

Thrice - Red bell pepper half stuffed with fried rice. Sprinkle with cheese and pop in the oven for a delicious meal. Thrice-cooked rice. Posted by Picasa

Three recipes from one idea? Sure. Want to learn how to stretch your budget by using the same ingredients, without ending up eating leftovers? Read on.

(1) I started with some very basic ingredients: red bell pepper, shiitake mushrooms (canned okay), onions, green onions, nem nuoung (Vietnamese bbq pork sausage), and a number of flavour enhancers including a dash of sesame oil, crushed red pepper flake, Italian seasoning (or any mix of dried parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil), plus the old standards, salt and fresh-ground black pepper. With these ingredients, I made a stir fry, adding a bit of Oriental black bean paste and a bit of "vegetarian oyster flavoured sauce" (diluted in a 1/4 cup of water). This formed a broth, so I served the dish over steamed rice.

(2) The next day, I had all of the ingredients leftover, including rice. So I made fried rice, adding only beaten egg to the ingredient list. Okay, I mixed in a bit of hot Vietnamese hot chili paste (called sambal oelek in some Asian countries) because I enjoy culinary flame-throwing :)

(3) Realizing I had some leftover fried rice, I spooned it into a bell pepper half and snapped the photo you see at the top of this posting. Although I didn't do this, you can easily add some grated cheese on top, pop it in a pre-heated oven, and enjoy the result with a nice red wine. [However, making one portion is an awful waste of electricity. What you can do is freeze the leftover fried rice until a day when you are using the oven for something else, say a caserole or lasagna for freezing. Just pop in the pepper at the same time.]

Watch my Curry Elvis Cooks blog for these recipes, appearing soon.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj, Kumar Dash,

About me

  • I'm blogslinger
  • From Canada
  • Writer, author, former magazine editor and publisher, amateur photog, amateur composer, online writer/ blogger, online publisher, freelancer

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