Category Archives: produce

Fancy apple chips: $1

fe02b018-b9f3-4853-b122-6176a97796bbYou may have seen packages of these at your local upscale grocery store for anywhere from $3-$6, but did you know that with just 10 minutes of labor and a food dehydrator, you can make two bags’ worth for a buck? They’re sweet, they’re crunchy, they’ve got no added sugar or preservatives, and you can make them year round. They also keep well for vacuum sealing, and are a great holiday-season hostess gift when packed in a cellophane bag with a nice ribbon. Read on for the secret that makes them so inexpensive.


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Carrot cake muffins: 5 cents each

A few months ago, we purchased a Breville juicer with all the money we saved from not drinking this year (we did slip up a couple times in February, but we’re over the hump now). Not only is it a tangible reward for our efforts, but it’s another great way to clean out the crisper, since pretty much anything can be juiced, from lettuce and cabbage to carrots, ginger, and fruit, to make an inexpensive liquid snack. Of course, with carrots being so inexpensive (especially at Costco), that’s what we find ourselves juicing most often. This is my first time owning a juicer, and I have to admit I was surprised by now much fiber was left behind. Two cups of carrot juice can yield almost two cups of desiccated orange fluff. I started accumulating the fluff in the freezer, knowing I’d come up with a use for it eventually, and this week I finally did: these muffins. B. has declared them to be the best muffins he’s ever had, and I have to agree they’re shockingly good. I don’t know if it’s the fine texture of the carrot fluff or the amount of sugar that veers them dangerously close to unfrosted-cupcake territory, but if you have a juicer, they’re a must-try. (If you don’t have a juicer, you can probably substitute grated carrot.)

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How to make fresh herbs last for a month or more

It’s happened to us all: You buy a bunch of parsley or cilantro, use about a quarter of it, and three months later find yourself excavating a bag of green slime from the bottom of the crisper. At our supermarket herbs average anywhere from 49 cents to $1.99, which, for a one-time use, adds up fast. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way.

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Groceries: week of Feb. 4-10

I’ve been asked several times in the past couple weeks what a typical grocery-store trip looks like for us. As I’ve mentioned before, we shop once a week at the regular supermarket for perishables to supplement the bulk staples we buy on thrice-yearly stock-up trips to Costco and Winco. (Our basement looks not unlike a fallout shelter with buckets of rice, dried beans, and sugar; 50-pound bags of flour; gallons of canola and olive oil; and a chest freezer full of individually wrapped portions of meat bought on markdown.) This is in addition to whatever is harvestable from our garden and the eggs we get from the chickens. Because sometimes the perishables last for more than a week, such as a bunch of cilantro or a block of cheese, this requires planning all our meals several weeks in advance. It doesn’t exactly leave room for spontaneity, but at the same time, we’re never left scrambling. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of this week’s purchases and what we plan to make with them (some meals are using produce left over from past weeks, some of what we bought this week will carry over into future weeks). Because we plan so far in advance it’s difficult to shop based on what happens to be on sale, but because seasonal produce pretty often tends to be, our planning is always done with that in mind.

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Garden Tips: winter crops

This is the first year where I’ve attempted to keep right on gardening through the winter months. In times past I’ve just called it quits around the time of the first frost, letting unripened tomatoes rot on the vine and the slugs to do what they will, but that’s clearly not happening with a $35-a-week budget. Now I’ve got to actually pay attention to what to plant and when, and what survives a hard frost and what doesn’t.

We’re in USDA Hardiness Zone 8b, so for my first winter-gardening foray, I’ve chosen to plant fennel, cabbage, lettuce, spinach and arugula. I planted these from seed, right in the ground, back in August or so. I’ve also still got parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, apple mint, sorrel, rhubarb and beets in the ground. So, how are they doing now?

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Roasted carrot & red lentil ragout: 36 cents/serving

My affinity for roasted carrots is no secret: They’re the poor man’s sweet potato and butternut squash. I’m a little more lukewarm when it comes to lentils. Red lentils, brown lentils, green lentils…lentils, to me, taste of dirt, depressing diets, and that one time you ate a tofu dog with sprouts and tried to convince yourself it was as good as the real thing but it really tasted like cardboard and B.O.

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Green-tomato soup w/bacon & bread toasts: 81 cents/serving

Given that daytime temperatures here in Portland have been struggling to reach 60 degrees, I’m finally calling it on our tomato plants. I’d like to say they had a long and fruitful run, but I would be lying.

Every year I insist on growing obscure heirlooms from seed, and every year I find myself in utter despair at the sight of my friends’ and  neighbors’ fecund hybrids; pound upon pound of enormous tomatoes from starts they bought for $2.49 at the fucking grocery store. Will I learn my lesson next year? Probably not.

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Slicer-tomato rigatoni marinara: 61 cents/person

My next door neighbor grows a lot of slicer tomatoes. Pounds  upon pounds of slicer tomatoes. It’s the end of September, for crying out loud, and her plants are still groaning with big boys and beefsteaks while my spindly little San Marzano bushes are already starting to yellow.

Thankfully she’s also very generous with the tomatoes. Even though deep down inside I know they’re slicer tomatoes and will yield nothing but a pot of seed-filled red water,  I can’t not make sauce out of them. I’ve tried pureeing. I’ve tried roasting. And even though I knew it was predestined to be an epic failure, I even tried my usual go-to favorite, Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter (link), which required stubbornly boiling 5 pounds of tomatoes for two hours to get a consistency even close to something resembling sauce.

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Strawberry-basil risotto: $1.22/person.

Yes, I realize it’s not strawberry season, but this spring our strawberry patch yielded THREE POUNDS of strawberries. And they weren’t particularly good strawberries, either. They were a bit on the small size, and tart. I made a few halfhearted batches of strawberry frozen yogurt and ended up freezing the rest.

Come September, all that was left was a sad little baggie of about 2 cups’ worth, threatening to die a sad and lonely death of freezer burn. Because of the tartness I figured they would lend themselves better to a savory application, and I was right. Granted, I love risotto so much you could make it with roofing shingles and cat turds and I probably wouldn’t notice, but I have to say this wasn’t bad.

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