Tag Archives: mint

Whole-grain salad with leeks, sun-dried tomatoes & Parmesan crisps: $1.26/serving

This is another hot-weather whole-grain salad in the vein of the whole grain & celery salad I posted back in April; it can be served cold or at room temperature, and there’s no danger in letting it sit out awhile since there’s no meat or mayo. When I devised the Parmesan crisps I had the idea they could be broken up over the salad, but they were more pliable than I thought they’d be, so you could even turn them into edible scoops or bowls for hors d’oeuvres. Use them as you see fit, or eliminate them altogether and substitute some grilled slices of non-budget-friendly haloumi cheese, as is featured in the original recipe from Maria Speck’s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.

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Bulgur-lentil soup with mint: 63 cents/serving

Few things are more healthily filling than the combination of bulgur and lentils, and few things are more simple and inexpensive to make than soup. Why not combine them? (And use up some more of the weed-like mint that has now aggressively popped up in almost every part of the garden?) This soup certainly won’t win any awards for innovation, but it’s warm, comforting, and so hearty that B. and I were completely stuffed after our single 63-cent servings.

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Asian noodle salad with peanuts & mint: 90 cents/serving

I wish I could lay claim to this so-simple-it’s-genius salad, but believe it or not, it’s all Martha. I admit it’s more of a late-summer meal, especially given the cucumber, but given my aforementioned mint problem, it might be switching seasons. A word of advice: If you’re going to have leftovers, only dress one serving at a time, as the acid in the lime juice can break down the noodles and turn them mushy as they sit.

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Splurge: mint chocolate chip ice cream: 34 cents/serving

A few words of warning: This is not the kind of all-natural, organic, wholesome and virtuous ice cream you sometimes see in those impossibly chic, soft-focus DSLR photos on other food blogs, the kind written by women who sew their own aprons and write 600-word ruminations on how their backyard heirloom pear tree looks against the winter sky. This ice cream uses artificial coloring—FROM GROCERY OUTLET (I bet you didn’t even know they sold artificial coloring, did you? That’s because it’s hidden away next to the 50-cent bottles of pre-ground spices that look like they spent the last decade in a moldy shipping container)—artificial flavoring, and For Maximum Value chocolate chips, otherwise known as the sub-store-brand brand. “Why is she doing this,” you might ask, “when she has a perfectly good mint plant in the backyard?” Reason No. 1: Because the chickens have stomped on most of the mint plant, which is now in the process of regenerating behind a shield of chicken wire. Reason No. 2: Because B. likes mint chocolate chip ice cream this way, and because he is the best husband in the entire world, it’s how I make it when there’s no real mint around.

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Larb gai (Thai chicken salad) lettuce wraps: $1.65/serving

Now that the sun is setting at, oh, 5 pm, super-quick dishes are of even greater import. I lose a lot of cooking motivation while sitting in traffic in the dark, and knowing I can crank something out in the time it would otherwise take to check my email keeps me from considering one of the myriad bad decisions post-work life has to offer. (*cough* fishing Domino’s circular out of the recycling *cough*.)

This recipe is adapted from a similar one in “The Essential New York Times Cookbook” which, for my money, ranks up there with Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” in terms of usefulness.

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Stir-fried Thai-style beef with shallots: $1.73/serving

Among the other indignities of owning an electric stove is not being able to cook with a wok. Not properly, anyway. I do own a flat-bottom wok for supposed use on electric stoves, but it heats unevenly and nothing particularly outstanding has ever come out of it.

So, for the most part, for Asian stir-fries, fried rice, and sturdy noodle dishes like pad see ew, I use a cast-iron skillet. It approximates that restaurant-style “wok smell” and allows for an even sear.

This super-quick takeout-style dish was originally inspired by a stir-fry in Cooks Illustrated that involved peppers. I tweaked it to use less meat and give it equal billing with something tangy and sweet (the shallots, which absorb the vinegar in the sauce).

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Buying meat

It probably goes without saying that we don’t eat a lot of meat. When we do, it’s usually treated as a garnish, or plays a very minor non-speaking role in a dish. My general rule is that beef and pork should not cost more than $2.99/pound, and chicken should not cost more than $1.99/pound. (Although I usually buy whole chickens and break them down myself in order to use the bones and carcasses for stock, and for those I never pay more than 99 cents/pound.)

The easiest way to meet this budget is to buy in bulk, but at the rate we use meat it ends up sitting around for a bit too long, wearing out its welcome with freezer burn and off flavors.

Enter my favorite area of the grocery store: the discount meat bin.

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