YOLO COUNTY NEWS

Food & Drink

12 for $40: Cooking from the edge … of the store

By From page A5 | June 20, 2012

Nutrition has been getting a lot of press lately, which isn’t unusual during bathing suit season! In particular, reports on the increasing number of calories in the American diet, the link between processed foods and obesity and the health benefits of home prepared foods have all of us taking a good look at our menus — and waistlines.

The solution to the problems posed by all three of these reports, and one often proffered by nutritionists, dieticians and moms, is to stay out of the center of the grocery store. The least processed food is to be found around the edges: fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fresh meats and whole grains.

When you do venture into the middle ground, look for ingredients with no more than five ingredients (excluding spices). Our menu for the week calls for tuna, frozen corn, canned tomatoes and canned olives. None of those are easy to replace, and all of them are a good part of a healthful diet.

While we’re working on the health angle (while still keeping to our budget) we might as well select a mostly vegetarian diet. That’s an eating style that often works well in the summer, when people are looking for lighter meals. If this particular menu is too scanty on the meat protein for you, adding a bit of ground beef to the chili and maybe a little sliced turkey to the rollups would still leave you with a slimmer waistline and a fatter wallet!

Eating a mostly vegetarian diet does work better if you choose whole grains over processed ones: whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat couscous and brown rice all offer much more protein than their white counterparts, and a good bit more flavor as well. When combined with the beans, cheese and tofu in these recipes, those whole grains will make for a protein-rich and delicious set of meals.

Planning is everything in sticking to a food budget, and we aim to help you with six days worth of menus, which should feed two adults dinner six nights a week** for around $40.

These menus assume you already have some cooking skills, and own a basic reference cook book.
Below the menus are tips for cooking, or for cooking ahead. If you see “In the fridge for future meals” then save those items from this meal for later in the week. That’s been included in the shopping list.

Saturday
* Quick Chili
* Cornbread
* Green Salad
In the fridge for future meals:
Chili
Grated Cheese
Lettuce
Tip: Home cooked beans are better — and cheaper — than canned. Just soak overnight in water to cover, rinse and simmer with salt and a clove of garlic until tender.

Sunday
* Vegetable Couscous Salad
* Corn Bread
In the fridge for future meals:
Frozen Corn
Tip: Leftover cornbread is delightful toasted.

Monday
* Cheese Quesadillas
* Chili
* Sliced avocado
In the fridge for future meals:
Tortillas
Tip: Just in case — butter two tortillas, put grated cheese in between them, cook in a fry pan until cheese is melted and tortilla is as brown as you want it.

Tuesday
* Tuna Cakes
* Green Beans
* Rice
In the fridge for future meals:
cooked green beans
cooked rice
Tip: Salmon cakes are also nice, if you happen to have some around.

Wednesday
* Tortilla Rollups
* Corn salad
In the fridge for future meals:

Tip: This corn salad travels well for picnics and lunches.

Thursday
* Fried Rice with tofu and vegetables
Tip: This style of recipe is easy to adapt to almost any leftover vegetables or protein. Egg is great in place of the tofu.

**(Everybody needs to go out, or share potluck with friends, or otherwise enjoy life once a week!)

Shopping list
Our shopping and recipes are scaled for two adults. Increase or decrease as needed to allow for your household.
We shopped this list at the Co-op on June 17, 2012. We chose organic wherever affordable (marked “OG” on our list), and picked what we’d use at home — the best value rather than the absolute cheapest. We also assumed you had a few things in the pantry, which were not included in the shopping total. Our total: $40.50

In the pantry:
salad dressing
soy sauce
hot pepper sauce
vinegar
oil
mayonnaise
prepared mustard
sugar
baking powder
salt
red pepper flakes
lemon curry
ground cumin
dried oregano
garlic

Produce:
Green beans OG, 1 lb.
green onions OG, 1 bunch
carrots, 3
lettuce, 1 head
onions, 2
bell pepper OG, 2
Cilantro OG, 1 bunch
cucumber OG , 1 small
mushrooms, 6
avocado OG, 1

Dairy & cheese:
sour cream, 8 oz.
eggs, 3
feta cheese, 3oz
jack cheese, 4 oz
butter
tofu, firm
flour tortillas, 8

Grocery:
tomatoes, diced 28 oz. can
corn, frozen
tuna, 1 can
olives, 1 can chopped

Bulk:
pinto beans, 1 1/2 cup dry
cornmeal, 1 cup
whole wheat flour, 1 cup
brown sugar, 1/4 cup
couscous, 1 cup
dried bread crumbs, 1 1/2 cups
Rice, 2 cups

Recipes

Quick Chili
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. oil
4 cups cooked pinto beans
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
dash of hot pepper sauce

Drain and rinse beans under running water. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Sauté onion and pepper until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, tomatoes and spices. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Improved Corn Bread
1 cup (170 g) cornmeal
1 cup (130 g) whole wheat flour
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup milk or water
2 eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil

Grease an 8×8 pan. Heat Oven to 425°. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a cup, mix together sour cream, milk, eggs and oil. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until just combined. Bake 20 minutes.

Vegetable Couscous Salad
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup couscous
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped olives
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup salad dressing

Bring water to a boil; add salt. Pour over couscous and let stand, covered, 10 minutes while you chop vegetables. Add other ingredients. Toss well. Serve warm or refrigerate to serve later.

Fish Cakes
3 green onions, finely minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. mustard
1/4 tsp. lemon curry
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 egg
12 oz canned tuna
1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
Drain tuna. Mix together everything but bread crumbs. Form fish mixture a teaspoon at a time into small flat cakes. Dip in bread crumbs and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment.
Bake at 350° until golden, about 20 minutes. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

Tortilla Vegetable Rolls
4 oz. firm tofu
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. hot sauce
4 green onions
1 cup grated carrots
2-3 cups shredded lettuce
Chopped olives
(chopped cilantro, optional)
4 tortillas

Puree tofu with salt and hot sauce. Thinly slice white and tender green parts of onion and add to tofu. Heat flour tortillas in microwave or pan until pliable. Spread tortilla with tofu mixture and top with layers of carrot, lettuce and olives. Roll and secure with toothpicks.

Simple Corn Salad
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 a bell pepper, sautéed
1/2 an onion, sautéed
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
salad dressing
salt to taste

Mix together vegetables. Add dressing and toss.

Simple Fried Rice & Vegetables
2 Tbsp. oil
1/2 a bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 an onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
6 mushrooms, quartered
1 cup frozen corn
Handful of cooked green beans
2 cups cooked rice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
4 oz tofu
1 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Cook onions, pepper and carrots in 1 Tbsp. oil for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook two minutes. Throw in corn and green beans and cover pan. Let steam 2 minutes. Remove lid and push vegetables to edges of pan. Pour remaining tablespoon of oil in center of pan and add rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until rice is hot through, about 2 minutes. Mix remaining ingredients together and drizzle over rice. Stir and serve.

Julie Cross

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