Category Archives: fall

Socca

714d7163-69e7-4477-bfa8-965537149405As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m no stranger to making my own pizza. At least, I wasn’t before I became a parent. These days, however, I’m not only short on time, but recognize that eating a big slab of white bread with cheese is probably not the best idea if I’m trying to keep energy levels up. Socca, a sort of flatbread made with ground chickpeas, is not only pizza-like enough to sate a craving, it’s inexpensive, gluten-free, full of protein and, best of all, can be made quickly and easily in a single cast-iron pan. It can also be topped with anything you happen to have on hand. You don’t even need cheese! (This time I’ve used feta, but other times I’ve gone without and it’s been just as great.)

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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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Apple sauce muffins

IMG_5196Before I had a child, I always mentally classified apple sauce as a foolproof kid food. It’s sweet, it’s fruity, it doesn’t require chewing…what isn’t there to like? According to my son, a lot. For whatever reason, he hates apple sauce. Like, will throw a tantrum if I so much as imply that apple sauce might be present within 50 feet of his lunch or dinner plate. I knew this when I purchased a large Grocery Outlet container of apple sauce for the spice ornaments (which are still fragrant on the tree, by the way) and had intended to eat much of it myself, but even I can only eat so much monochromatic, unsweetened apple mush. Thankfully this old family recipe (one of my husband’s childhood favorites, the recipe hand-lettered on an index card by his grandmother) is an easy, inexpensive, KID-APPROVED use for leftover apple sauce.

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Oat groats with roasted acorn squash, kale & Parmesan: $1.32/serving

Another acorn squash ripened last week, and though it was tempting to roast it and freeze it for baby food or another winter-squash soufflé, I knew I had enough on hand to turn it into a light meal on its own. Any whole grains would work here—barley, farro, rye berries, etc.—but you may need to add a little more liquid, as oat groats are on the quicker end of the whole-grain cooking scale. Likewise, other greens (chard, spinach, et al.) can be substituted for the kale. I’m not a huge fan of acorn squash (yes, yes, I know I’m growing it; it came out of a “harvest variety” packet of squash seeds, so I kind of got blindsided), but this dish really brings out its sweetness, and roasting really improves the texture. In fact, I fully anticipated to be either studiously avoiding or resignedly picking at the squash chunks in my bowl, but they ended up being my favorite part.

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Winter-squash soufflé: 73 cents/serving

Starting our winter squash in the greenhouse this year has paid off—a good bit of it is already ready to harvest. So far we’ve gotten a medium-sized green turk’s turban, a small acorn squash, an enormous hubbard squash, and a small white gourd of indeterminate origin. Given that more are on the way, I felt no compunction in roasting what we had, puréeing it, and freezing it to use as baby food*. I did, however, reserve about a cup’s worth to use in a soufflé, the flavors of which turned out to be a delicious fall preview. In fact, it’s a great catch-all recipe for any winter squash you may have and not know what to do with; no need to worry about texture or flavor, so long as it’s vaguely squashlike.

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French onion soup with bacon: $1.52/serving

For some reason I’ve been really craving French onion soup this week. Trashy French onion soup—extra-cheesy, extra sweet. It’s been hot (read: not soup weather), but as anyone who’s been pregnant knows, once there’s a craving, it doesn’t ever really go away until it’s fulfilled. The budget obviously precludes going out and ordering food at a restaurant like a normal person, so my only solution was to spend part of an 80-degree day sweating over the stove. Thankfully, it was worth it. This is a much different take on the French onion soup I made a few months ago; sweeter, with a little smoke from added bacon. (In the past I’ve complained that bacon overwhelms the soup, but this time I only added a tiny bit and it was perfect.)

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Chiles en nogada (fruit-and-pork-stuffed chiles in white walnut sauce): $2.09/serving

As you may or may not be aware, chiles en nogada is the official dish of Mexican Independence Day, Sept. 16.  As you no doubt are very much aware, it’s currently March. But here in the land of eating on $35 a week, chiles en nogada is also the official dish of discount pork butt and spectacularly attractive and inexpensive poblano chiles found at the Mexican market. For those who have never had chiles en nogada, it’s a more sophisticated, nuanced and CHEAPER (minus all that cheese) version of chiles rellenos. The contrast of the sweet pork and fruit with the spicy poblano and creamy, nutty sauce is not to be missed. (For authenticity’s sake I’ll note that it usually has pomegranate seeds and not cilantro, so as to depict the Mexican flag, but no pomegranates could be found on sale.)

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Splurge: pumpkin crème brûlée: $1.38 each

It probably goes without saying that we rarely—if ever—eat dessert. It’s not in the budget, and thankfully we’re not big dessert people to begin with. I do, however, make dessert when we host Thanksgiving each year (which, unfortunately, does not make for a $35 week), and because I like to make something different each time, it usually requires a bit of practice.

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Cassoulet: $2.26/serving

I have to admit, I don’t love “real” cassoulet. The enormous, greasy confit duck leg; the whole sausages; the unnecessarily large beans—there’s just something unsettlingly phallic/barbaric/Renaissance dinner theater about it. Just looking at a bowl of it makes me feel like I have to go to the bathroom.

The original recipe for this wildly inauthentic version (which I’ve since made even more inauthentic, if that’s even possible) was unearthed during a cleaning-out of my husband’s deceased grandmother’s storage unit. I don’t know where it came from—an old issue of Gourmet, I think—but it’s been in the fall rotation at our house for a few years now.

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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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